Tunnels, Granite and Music
There is a lot going on up on Donner Summit. This summer we took off down the train tunnels and snow sheds, owned by Union Pacific. The railroad was commissioned by Lincoln around 1865 and built by Chinese indentured servants. A massive rock wall seen from old highway 40 held the tracks. It fits together like a jigsaw puzzle, no mortar. The tunnels were picked from the granite or blasted with nitroglycerine. Many Chinese died in the harsh winters, by explosions or by falling from the rock face where they were tied in wicker baskets.
Tracks have been removed from the snow sheds. One side of the sheds is granite with all the beauty and form that granite carries. The other is an immense cement warehouse that goes for miles along the side of the mountains and is a pallet for incredible street art. I can’t seem to get enough of this dichotomy. There are little windows giving some light. The walls of the sheds are actively tagged and most of the tagging is kid appropriate (some not). Some of the art in those sheds is down right mind blowing. When we emerged by Sugar Bowl, through the first tunnel, a sax player was jamming solo in acoustical perfection with the granite.
I recommend this unusual walk to anyone. Its level and it is almost all in shade. Start in the parking lot on the Sugar Bowl side across from Donner Ski Ranch. You will not be alone. Any given day the rail road bed is full of people, dogs and a variety of vehicles including the occasional Union Pacific truck.
Bring a flashlight, the first tunnel is dark and has a lot of puddles in it. Because of vehicle traffic be ready to scoop up small kids and get out of the way. This walk is worth taking!