I wrote this poem after walking the tunnels on two separate days with author and friend, Lisa Redfern. I took the photos on the second day during the tail end of the first major snowstorm of the season, this past weekend. We were on an adventure for the purposes of research for Lisa’s writing project during our MoMS Writing! Weekend Retreat. It was educational and a fun adventure on my birthday weekend!
The poem is a true story. Walking in the first tunnel on the first day, at the nearly halfway point, I became overcome by the feeling of the presence of people, not critters. There was no one else there but us at the time. I tried to understand it through the lens of “perhaps some homeless person is lurking in the shadows, taking refuge from the wind and snow?” This made no sense considering the elevation and a complete lack of any type of homeless services. My mini key-chain flashlight and Lisa’s cellphone flashlight came on and the mood of the adventure dramatically shifted to somber with a healthy dose of fear as we instinctively walked closer to each other until we reached the brightness near the end of the first tunnel. Back out into the open at the end of the tunnel the feeling was completely gone.
The feeling did not re-emerge for the rest of the tunnel walk, nor did it the second day we walked through the tunnels. Strangely, the experience brewed within me for two days until this poem emerged.
The featured photo at the top of this page is the beginning of a very long (1659′) tunnel that curves around the mountainside – you can see a shot of it as the featured photo here: Chinese Tunnels / Snow Sheds Donner Summit Truckee California – A Poem and below.
The span from my vantage point to the opening of the tunnel is the top of the “China Wall.” The history of the area is fascinating and enlightening considering the forces at play when the Central Pacific Railroad Company was building these tunnels with Chinese labor. The last train on this line ran through in 1993.