Tunnels, Snow Sheds and Music

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!

River, Fire and Music



The rivers have been sweet this summer.  We spent several days on the Trinity.  It has been running high but is starting to drop.  I started guiding again. With the kids it’s about ego but with me it is all a matter of self preservation. I’m a better guide than I remembered.

Sara Hoxie

Our wonderful  river co-op took a trip, spending time on the Trinity and the Klamath.  The Klamath is vastly underrated in terms of wildlife.  We saw a large bear, a pine martin, 3 otter (maybe more). There were osprey and bald eagles with nests full of fledglings.  One of the kids counted 49 turtles.  A bald eagle clobbered the water between the IK where Glenn was floating along and the boat where I was and took from the river an award winning steel-head.  We all applauded as she flew up river with her catch. The Klamath needs our protection.  It needs dam removal and the respect due all mighty rivers.


We spent a day in the pouring rain on the Witchepec Canyon.  This is a place where when the weather is warm and dry and the river is low we have spent some wonderful layovers. This time it was fishing season.  The local Native Americans were patient with us.  A gentleman gave Glenn a beautiful piece of dried salmon.  There were gill nets everywhere.  We were quiet and respectful and we picked our way past the floats.



My 20 year old thrill seeking, adrenalin pumping, testosterone warehouse of a son,  Ben has been driving past forest fires to reach class 5 whitewater.  It seems nothing can quell his passion for the gnarl so off he goes in to the Burnt Ranch Gorge.  An area below Big Flat, known as Del Loma has been burning.  I was hoping the fires would slow him down.  Alas, not.  So his father and I worry.  We wait for the phone to ring and for him to tell us how it went.  We know he has the love, a respectable amount of talent and brains when it comes to white water.  We want to know when he goes in and when he comes out.


There are other fires.  We could smell one tonight on the Coyote Porch.  It may be far away or it may be in the neighborhood.  There is no way of knowing. Sometimes down in the canyon the place will suddenly fill with smoke from a fire 60 miles away or more.  It drifts like ghosts and you can’t always know the origins.



This is a huge thank you to Albert and Joanne DeGroft for helping to redesign, print and press the new CDs.  We found a picture I took on the Rogue River a few years ago of Will (my youngest) standing by a waterfall.  Its the Waterfall Boy.  It’s perfect.  I now have about 50 stickers to stick on stuff.  The CDs are printed.


Tim and I played Barista’s the other night to a full house. Our next concert will be August 17 at 8:00.  I’ll send out reminders.



This website is here because Robb Lightfoot obtained my name   I’m a dot com.  Who knew?  Thank you, Robb.  My learning curve is straight up and you are an awesome teacher!