Crater Tunnel
Yes, this is a bit of an odd name, but I generally start referring to most tunnels by their most salient feature.  As cool as this tunnel is, the most interesting part of the journey was discovered when we came into the light.

At any rate, this was a tremendously difficult tunnel to first of all find and then, ultimately, to explore.  But it was so worth it!  It's a long story, but I think you will enjoy.  Read on...

While circling downtown looking for tunnels, I spotted a canal/stream that I was certain must originate at a major tunnel, and I was bound and determined to find out.

This image is from part of that stream.  The bridge in the foreground is a RR bridge for the FW to Dallas commute, while the larger bridge is part of I-30.

I scouted part of the way beyond this, but eventually gave up since I didn't have my boots or the energy to go much further.

The next day Dani came back with me and we pressed on through the wilderness in search of urbania.

Again, we were not wearing boots, so we couldn't just stick to the stream where the growth was less dense.

Finally we came across this really awesome cave... but it turned out to just be a bridge.  (You can probably see the light just beyond it in this pic.)

Looking at aerial photos, this area was not nearly so overgrown a few years ago, and this was apparently a railroad bridge.  There are RR tracks on either side of here as well.

Then suddenly!  Yes, we finally found the elusive tunnel!

I'm plagued by a lack of a frame of reference, but the height from the surface of the water is about 4 ft.  The water is 3 ft deep right at the entrance (I had to use a huge stick to probe it!). 

The tunnel is to the far left in this image.  Dani is standing on a boulder covered by a large piece of carpet padding that washed downstream.

Just behind Dani is an easy exit onto some train tracks.  This spot is only a few feet upstream from the cute little stone RR bridge a couple images back.

Determined as we were, I bought an inflatable raft and we returned a few days later.

This pic was taken by holding the camera behind and above my head.  This is about halfway to the arched tunnel visible just ahead.

Just beyond the beginning of the arched section we ran across an infernal railroad tie sticking out of the water and leaning against the wall such that it blocked our way.

Trying to get past this tie meant squeezing the raft between it and the wall.  Unfortunately, the wall had a sharp piece of iron protruding from it.  Not cool!!!  Guess what happened to the raft?

Here's Dani all wet.  We quickly aborted the mission when the air started leaking, but naturally some water poured over the sides before we completely exited the tunnel (we were about 150 to 200 ft into it when we made our retreat).

All our gear was quickly unloaded to the shore at the left of the frame so as to prevent any from getting soaked.  I really did not want to lose another camera so quickly!

Guess where I'm standing?
(for answer, see below!)

Sure, it doesn't look all that deep here, so I figured I would try to walk it. 

No way, buddy!  Just a couple feet in front of me the water drops another half foot, then another six inches a couple feet further.  I had to turn back.

Fortunately, this was otherwise very clean water.  Prior to the turbidity we kicked up in our frolicking, this was crystal clear.

Additional details about this trip can be found in a more lengthy write-up posted on my Journal page.  Jump right to the account of this expedition here.

Continue to Part II