Sunday, January 3, 2010
Ahhhh...nice walk by the river. I feel refreshed now. Hope you do too. We'll sit down again and I'll continue my story. Don't you love the sound of the river in the background? Nature is better than any theme music!
Waiting for that movie to end seemed forever! I couldn't really get up and run out. Not in my nature to do that so I had to sit still and wait...and wait...and wait. Finally! Movie over - I rushed out to the nice women behind the counter. I told them I had a really stupid question to ask. (Are there really any stupid questions?) I asked them if there was any chance that there was a list in the park or in a historical society or library or ANYWHERE of the people who had worked on the tunnel. I thought they'd shrug it off. How could they know how important my question was to me? They were amazingly paying intense attention. I told them I knew my family had been in a place called River Portal in 1910. Their attention was obviously growing. I told them the family was Irish and that they were immigrants and that my great grandfather had been a miner. I told them about the hat in the movie. I told them I was suspecting that my great grandfather had possibly worked on the tunnel. I told them I'd tried to find River Portal and couldn't - but that the movie had mentioned it in relation to the Gunnison Diversion Tunnel. Their attention had really grown and I could sense their excitement. But why? I was puzzled. Why would my "stupid question" and comments inspire their excitement? I didn't have long to wait for an answer. They told me that 2009 was the 100th anniversary of the Gunnison Diversion Tunnel! THE 100TH ANNIVERSARY!!! In honor of the centennial celebrations park rangers had been working to document the history of the tunnel! Oh be still, my heart! It was pounding out of my chest! Remember now...I'd been here before. I'd seen the movie before. Why was this all happening NOW? It was astounding! They wanted me to stay and talk to the park rangers. They were very insistent about it. I could see that the rangers were extremely busy with several bus loads of young children. I didn't want to disturb them - especially since I only had gut feelings - not proof. I left them alone - but the women took my name & contact info and I got the name of the ranger in charge and his contact info. These nice women also told me something extremely important. They told me that River Portal no longer exists - but that the "remains" of it were down at the bottom of the gorge - down that "East Portal Road" that I'd seen the sign for at the entrance. They warned me that it was a VERY steep road (no kidding!) a 16% grade. They told me it had been much worse at the time of the tunnel building! YIKES! It was bad enough the way it was. We braved the trip down and there we were at the bottom of the gorge - next to the Gunnison River. Yup...right where we're sitting now! It was beautiful and peaceful - just like it is now. There was a dam with water flowing heavily over it. Did you notice it over there to the right? Pretty, isn't it? It's called Crystal Dam. There was very little here (as you can see) - and nothing that indicated to me that a little town had ever been here. I felt something though. I knew my family had been here. Not near - but right here. I knew it! There was one little old house there with a nice little neat garden (see it over there? Isn't it cute?) Then a man appeared and he was piling up branches. I did it again - the "stupid question" thing. I didn't really want to bother him but I had to know. I asked him if he could tell me where the remains of River Portal were. He told me I was standing on them! He told me that he lives in the house which is the only remaining one from that time. He told me that he works for the water company that controls the dam. We had a wonderful conversation! Turns out that he and his wife had taken up genealogy over the winter. (Life must be difficult at the bottom of a deep gorge in the winter in Colorado!) That very morning he'd made a huge discovery - a very emotional one - on his own family. This man understood my quest! I asked him if he knew where the tunnel was because I couldn't see any tunnel and I assumed it was somewhere else. He replied, "Let me get the key!"