Yes, I am one of those dorks who loves taking pictures of approaching tunnels. There’s the one before descending into Yosemite Valley with the phenomenal long-shots, and there’s also the Eisenhower Tunnels along I-70 deep in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. I drive under the water of Mobile, Alabama through the George Wallace Tunnel and there’s a short one on the east side of Lake Tahoe (see Circumnavigation from September 2013) that cuts right through a single rock tower. I adore tunnels and find them interesting for no obvious reason. In fact, I’ve driven through tunnels I don’t even remember, and then there are three in Wyoming I can name off the top of my head: the Cody Mountains Tunnel on the way west towards Yellowstone National Park, the Green River Tunnel near the town, not the waterway, along I-80, and, of course, the series of tunnels through the Wind River Canyon.
When I see them ahead I get excited and I want to text the entire planet to tell everyone what I am approaching. “Hey world, I’m heading towards another tunnel! Look what us humans have built!” I suppose if you drive through one every day on your commute, they are boring, and perhaps even exhausting. But if you stumble upon them unexpectedly while on a circle-route home to your cabin in the Bighorn National Forest, traveling a two-lane US Highway 20 north of Shoshoni, Wyoming, paralleling the Wind River, you perhaps ought to realize that these canyons are too narrow for a road and a river. The only option available for humans requires them to dynamite their way through the rough rock to cut a path northward through Fremont County. Stop in Boysen State Park (see The Meraids Of Old Florida from June 2021) or don’t – Thermopolis lies just ahead anyway – because if you’re passing through, you’ll be awestruck enough.
When I was going through my divorce, people used to tell me there’s a light at the end of the tunnel, but let’s be honest: when you are going through divorce, that light at the end of the tunnel might be a 200-ton locomotive headed straight towards you – or towards me. As I now tell others going through the same process, you won’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. One day, you’ll look around you and realize you are no longer in the tunnel. I don’t tell them about the train headed towards them, even if navigating a train tunnel feels like a frighteningly real experience people may be enduring. I arm them with this, not as a sense of never-ending darkness, but a reminder that they will be outside again, and the sun will shine brightly, and you never know when that will happen. But it will.
One day, you’ll be driving on a long June day, following along a river of joy flowing nearby. You’ll have forced yourself to try something new, to take an alternate route, and to go somewhere you’ve never been. Don’t be afraid that you may be traveling it alone. In fact, be grateful if you are. There will be no one to chatter and disrupt you from the scenery. You will look around you and see the beautiful lights and shadows and rocks and ridges and you will be amazed at what you have stumbled upon as you drive this road to somewhere new. You’ll be so awestruck by the way the river cuts through the canyon, that you’ll pull over and realize that over there, on the other side of the river, are the train tracks headed into the train tunnels. You’re not facing a train head-on, but instead you drive along a different path, safe from the blinding light, enjoying, instead, the sunshine on your face and the new life you’ve discovered just north of Shoshoni, Wyoming. Or maybe it’s just me living this life.