Fun with crumbling infrastructure

March 16, 2022

One of my kids — let’s just call her the one in the top middle — likes to visit abandoned places. This would be cool, except for the part where abandoned places are almost always heavily posted with “danger” and “no trespassing” signs, and I’m tired of having the “we could just climb through that hole in the fence” argument. No, kid, I am absolutely not into the idea of being crushed to death by unstable debris or worse, becoming a prosecuted violator as per that sign over there. 

Graffiti at the mouth of the Loleta Tunnel

Occasionally, we find an abandoned place that’s not totally off-limits, or at least doesn’t seem to be totally off-limits in that someone on the internet posted turn-by-turn directions and there are no “keep out” signs anywhere. Neither of which is an absolute guarantee that you’re allowed to be there, but at least it’s easier to plead ignorance.

A couple of years ago, we did find this very cool abandoned railroad tunnel, and I can 100% confirm that it’s open to the public based on this partially legible sign at the trailhead. Of course, it also appears that no one has been maintaining the trail, which both adds to the awesomeness of the experience and also makes you kind of wonder if maybe they just haven’t gotten around to posting the “keep out” signs.

The trail isn’t super long — about a mile out and back, which normally would have dissuaded my hiking-averse children but the promise of an abandoned railroad tunnel at the end was enough to overcome their initial reluctance. Plus, the trail is really overgrown and cool, and even includes a collapsed bridge that you have to circumvent.

Yes you are seeing that correctly, there’s nothing but air under this section of track.

The trail itself follows some very old railroad tracks, part of a railway that ran for 114 years moving lumber from the Eel River basin to Fields Landing. It’s roughly 1/3rd of a mile long and gets creepier the further into it you go. If you tried walking through the Loleta Tunnel during the zombie apocalypse, you’d be undead by the time you reached the other side because it’s really, really dark inside and impossible to tell what might be lurking in the shadows. It’s also flooded, even in September, which means we didn’t actually make it all the way to the end.

The old Loleta Creamery building

Bonus: the trailhead is adjacent to the old Loleta Creamery building, also abandoned, which most definitely has the requisite “Keep Out” signs.