so, when we were in idaho for my dad’s race, my brother david and I took a little time one day to do some exploring.  our original intent was to go to silver mountain and ride the gondola (the longest single-stage people carrier in the world), but sadly, it was closed.  after some debate, we decided on hiking instead.  we had driven quite a ways to get there, and at that point, we were pretty close to montana, so we figured why not?  let’s go hiking in montana.  we stopped at a teeny tiny little lookout point right on the border, and a nice guy there told us there was some great hiking if we went a few miles further.  so off we went in search of the hiawatha trail, a section of railroad converted to bike trails that runs through montana and idaho.  the drive was so nice all the way from couer d’alene to montana–beautiful mountains, pretty clouds and lots of gorgeous sky.

we found the trailhead, took a bathroom break, and then grabbed our backpacks and headed out.  we were in for a big surprise.  before I get any further, I should note that the weather was HEAVEN.  oh it was so wonderful.  it was nice and brisk–I had on jeans and a light jacket and oh my was it wonderful.  I am still not adjusted to life back in kansas.  [side note:  the heat index today was 115˚.  ONE HUNDRED FIFTEEN.  that is unreasonable.  I am going to die tomorrow at conditioning.]

here’s where things got interesting.  we learned once we got on the trail, that we would immediately be entering a tunnel that the trains used to go through this mountain.  a LONG tunnel.  we did not immediately realize how long this tunnel actually was.  I would be lying if I said I wasn’t a little nervous as we walked in.  do you see that there?  that pitch black?  that’s what we were in for for the next oh…..forty-five minutes.  as we took a few more steps in, I had to fight back the urge to grab on to david’s backpack and just attach myself to him.  we had no idea what direction we were going, what was around us, anything.  pitch.  black.  and scary noises too.  well, not too scary….just unknown.  well, not even totally unknown…the noises were all related to water.  water dripping, water running down things, water rushing.  we could tell the ground was a little damp, but had no idea what was going on with the water.  for the majority of the tunnel, it was running down the walls around us.  sometimes not at all, sometimes a little, sometimes with great force.  it did not help that about five minutes in, I walked directly under a big leaky stream and got dripped on.  this made me pretty nervous for most of the rest of the way, that we were going to walk under some big stream.  I kept thinking about the fury of the nile, and that part at the end where you go through that little tunnel and then under the water.  know what I’m talking about kc peeps?  only here you had no idea what was coming.  we gave our eyes some time to adjust, but “adjust” is not totally accurate, because really all that happened was we just got used to the dark.  we couldn’t see anything.  the only thing you could barely, almost see were these tiny, tiny little things on either side about every 15 feet.  they were about the size of golf pencils, and they were like glowsticks that were almost all the way burnt out.  you could barely make them out, but they didn’t let you see anything, they didn’t shine any light whatsoever.  they just gave you a general idea of how the tunnel curved.

we walked, and we walked, and we walked.  as soon as we got into the tunnel, it took a sharp curve to the left, and you could barely make out the light at the other end.  oh boy.  was that deceiving.  it literally remained the same size for like half an hour.  you kept walking, and walking, and walking, and you’d think you had made a lot of progress, but no, the little light at the end was no bigger, seemed no closer.  even as we did get closer to the end, it was still deceiving.  I remember commenting to david, “it’s getting bigger!  we’re close!”  and he would say “dude, we’re a good fifteen minutes at least.”  and I thought he was crazy, but then we wouldn’t be any closer several minutes later.  we started to figure out as the afternoon went on that the trail is really mostly used by bikers.  so there were people riding their bikes through, and they all had headlamps and flashlights.  and we were the idiots walking around with no lights whatsoever.  and nobody had a super powerful headlamp, so they wouldn’t see us until we were like 10 feet in front of them.  we tried to be noisy, but it didn’t help much.  and it was also deceiving where they were at in relation to us.  I’d turn around and see a few lights bobbing towards us, but they wouldn’t actually be very close, and it would be another two or three minutes til they actually got to us.  I suppose maybe my complete and total lack of depth perception probably didn’t help me much here.

here we are actually getting to the other side.  I really, really love this picture.  like a lot.  this part was kind of fun because we could actually see some of our surroundings, and see what the tunnel was like.  before we didn’t have much of an idea of how tall is it?  where are the walls?  what is around us?

here, on the other side of the tunnel, we stopped for a snack break.  or to take an engagement picture, apparently.  we sat on this nice little rock right by this rushing creek, and about 20 feet in front of us was a nice little waterfall.  david had brought the giant bag of chex mix (HOMEMADE CHEX MIX = the bomb.com) that he brought.  unfortunately, my dad had insisted that david take a banana in the airport or something, I don’t remember, but he had stuck the banana in his backpack too, and oh man.  we learned here that a ziploc bag is no protection from banana smell.  so we had some nice banana flavored chex mix.  actually, it wasn’t that nice, it was pretty gross.   really it was pretty sad, poor chex mix.  when we were younger people always used to think that david and I were twins because we looked so much alike.  I don’t know if that is as true anymore, what do you think?  also, david is one of the best people I know.

this is the point when we started to get confused.  we were planning on hiking quite a bit further past the tunnel.  but, there was a big mix-up, because we had unknowingly traveled into mountain time zone (from pacific) when we crossed into montana.  and then we actually crossed back into pacific time partway through the tunnel.  (we were totally unaware of all of this as it was happening.)  our phones weren’t getting reception, but the time they were telling us was actually mountain time instead of pacific time.  so we thought it was an hour later than it actually was, and got concerned about being back in time for our dinner reservations.  so we didn’t go too far past the tunnel.  we didn’t realize what had happened until we were on our way back to CDA.  I think I had to text scott and ask him because we were pretty confused about what time it actually was.  (“hi!  we went to montana.  what time is it really?”)

here is a picture on the map of where we hiked.  we started at the east portal and finished by that yellow marker.  (trailhead to trailhead.)  you can see where we crossed back into idaho, and how high the mountain is that we hiked through.

here we are from the west portal, looking at heading back.  how far do you think the tunnel was?

if you said 1.66 miles each way, you’d be right!  seriously?  it was pretty crazy to hike that far.  3 and a half miles of pitch black will make you a little crazy (although we did not get any jelly eye, for those of you that were thinking along those lines…JOHN TRUITT).

the way back was different from the way there, because of that sharp curve at the east end, we couldn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel pretty much at all, until we got right to it.  it was less scary though, and faster, because we were more confident of what we were getting into.  here we are about to make it back out to the east trailhead.

all of this is near taft, montana, which is pretty much a ghost town and hasn’t been around for a long time.  it was interesting to read about it though…it was known as “the wickedst city”, and it was crazy to read about how murder was so common that bodies melted out of the snow every spring.

honestly, our little adventure was pretty fun, and I loved getting to spend it with david.  it is funny to me how my brothers and I are SO different, but I just love them.  when we first started into the tunnel, I was thinking “can I seriously do this?  can I really, really do this?”  but I think it was good, and I am happy I did.  lots of things to learn from…lots of hope to find.  when my life feels crazy, or like everything around me is changing, it is good to know that I have hope, that it may be dark, but not forever.  it makes me very, very happy.

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