Funny "munchkins" ham-it-up the road to where we hoped to find the tunnel.

Spelunking on a Saturday Afternoon.
Bonnie McGuire
(Oct. 27, 2001)

It began as a lazy Saturday morning, until the phone rang. Sue wanted to know if I'd like to join her, Cheryl, Bradley and Katie later that afternoon to explore a tunnel near the old Red Dog town-site between Greenhorn creek and You Bet. "Bring your flashlight, and wear shoes you don't mind getting wet," she advised before hanging up. How could I refuse? Shivers of anticipation tingled through me.  Leave it to Sue to motivate us.

Around 2 pm we piled into Sue's car and drove approximately five miles up the road, crossed Greenhorn creek, and then parked opposite from the rutted road that leads uphill to the tunnel. Finding the tunnel wasn't an easy matter. I remembered being here during the Brady Tour, but no one mentioned the tunnel.


The old trenches once drained away the water from giant monitors used for hydraulic mining. These ditches weave through rock, brush, and scrubby trees. To top it off, we could hear guns shooting nearby. It turned out to be some out of town folks scoping their rifles against the backdrop of the diggings. Surprisingly, they told us where to find the tunnel, and advised us to yell when we left the tunnel and they would stop shooting.


I'd seen the tunnel many years ago, but today the path somehow seemed different...steeper.


Watch your step...It's like descending into another world.

...And finally I can see the entrance to the tunnel.


Helloooo down there!


Katie, Bradley, Sue, me and camera-gal Cheryl are ready to enter
the dark world of the Tommy-knockers.

Naturally the kids lead the way, followed by Sue, Cheryl
and me bringing up the rear.

Some day these tiny droplets if water may grow into beautiful stalactites.


Our path becomes a narrow ledge along the wall above the pools of water below. For some reason we all started humming and singing "Amazing Grace," until Susan shouted for us to stop singing funeral music...


The trick of maneuvering is to brace against the walls, with your flashlight in your mouth so you can see where you're going....


....or where you've been. This is getting ridiculous. Grammy's too fat, legs are too short and rickety, and I'm not going to clench my flashlight between my teeth. I'm taking the low road, which means....


.....getting a little wet. Brrrrrrrr. Sweet little Katie keeps telling me that I can do it! (coward that I am). What amazes me is how she could do it. Along the way we notice a small opening in the roof of the cave.  Here is a large one that gives us an idea of how deep beneath the surface we are.


It sheds some light on the subjects below.

Hmmm. Could it be the atmosphere? Sue tells me that not far from this point the tunnel begins to narrow down to nothing. I'm already getting tired for the return trip, so I decide to go back to the beginning, and where I'll wait for them (Besides...I'm slower.) The return trip brings a few surprises. Their fading voices distort like wailing ghosts. Spooky.
I discover I cannot climb the elevated, slippery waterfalls  so I have to brace my back against one wall, my feet against the opposite wall and maneuver sideways and upwards over these difficult places. I even learn to clench my flashlight between my teeth, and groan "What am I doing here?" What a relief to step through the opening into the light, sit down on a nearby rock to rest and wait for the others. 
"Are you all right?" a voice queries. One of the men who gave us directions is looking down at me from the rim above. I assure him all is well, and he says they're leaving so we don't have to worry about the shooting.
How strange this place is. In 1852 the mining town of Red Dog suddenly came to life after a man named Wilson and two companions (from Nevada City) were poking around the area and discovered gold. News about this brought crowds of miners seeking their fortunes. By the Spring of 1853 the town had two hotels, three or four stores, several saloons and about thirty dwellings.  During the sixteen years of it's existence, Red Dog suffered from terrible fires. In June 1862, a fire burned the Chinese portion of the town, and in August the town was completely destroyed in less than half an hour. The brick store of J. Heydlauff was the only building standing. The town was quickly rebuilt and the population at that time numbered about two hundred. Soon after the mines became exhausted, and the people began moving away. By 1880 the only places left in the town were the unoccupied brick store and one other building. Here's what it looked like in the 1930's.

Today there's not a trace of anything having ever been here, other than an apple tree down the road and the Red Dog Cemetery. My meditations, like the town, have come to an end. I hear the voices of the kids as the first ones emerge from the tunnel...


....and once more climb up and out of the diggings to our waiting car that will take us home. Despite my occasional groans, It's been a wonderful adventure we'll never forget.