Ghost Hunting with Geocachers
Author: WitzAbout, Colorado Springs
This past Saturday, we were invited to go ghost hunting as part of a group of Geocachers. A Geocaching friend, ‘QZ’, from outside Denver was making the less than 2 hour drive down to Colorado Springs for the weekend, and decided she wanted to check out the haunted tunnels she read about on Gold Camp Road in our area.
Gold Camp Road is a small road that used to be a narrow gauge railroad that ran between Colorado Springs and the gold mining area around Cripple Creek. It is the shortest path leading around the front-side of Pikes Peak, our 14,115 foot mountain Peak that dominates our area. But the road is no longer drivable all the way. It is currently closed to vehicles just a little way along from Colorado Springs. Now people drive the long way around the back of Pikes Peak to get to the gambling town of Cripple Creek.
Online, we read that the old railroad tunnels are haunted. You can drive through the first 2, but the road is cl
osed before the 3rd tunnel. The 3rd tunnel is supposed to be the most haunted, with stories of a bus load of children killed in that tunnel. I had read a while back that the road is closed because of a fire in that 3rd tunnel, which has made it unsafe to enter. But reading more online, we found out there never was a bus-load of children. But it does make it sound extra creepy!
We had spent the day working on the first part of setting up a Halloween maze, which would be a part of a major Geocaching event next month. At first, my girlfriend ‘KB’, was not too keen on going on a ghost hunt. It sounded just a little too creepy for her. I had suggested the possibility of doing some other activity that would be a little tamer. But as we worked with the other cachers building the maze, KB was gently convinced that we should go along. The plan was to meet up for dinner, and then head up the road at 10 pm – after it was completely dark.
We met up at a steak-house and had a good time chatting for quite a while. After the bills were paid, we headed out to the parking lot. We made room for the cachers who are hosting the Halloween event in our 4×4, as they only had their mini-van with them, and didn’t want to chance it on the harder part of the road. It turns out they probably could have made it with the mini-van, but it was more fun to have them along with us. It also meant that we were more obligated to go as far as they were willing to go.
Some of the group were handing out glow-sticks and light-up toys as we finalized the vehicles. That added to the festive nature of the adventure. It was a short drive on a busy highway with traffic lights, then up through a residential street to access the beginning of Gold Camp road heading into the mountains. There had been some severe rains earlier in the evening, so we thought we might be the only people on the mountain. But it turns out there were a number of other Muggle groups on the road that night.
We caravanned up the road – QZ with a passenger, was in the lead vehicle. We were in the middle followed by Big-Z behind us. The first part of the road is paved, and in pretty decent condition, other than some serious looking rocks that had fallen earlier in the day, probably from the heavy rain. As we drove up, the light rain lessened to a gentle mist. The road twists around a number of times, including a hairpin through a narrow cut. I was hoping no more rocks decided to break loose as we drove by. Just past the tight hairpin, there was a Geocache listed on the GPS. We stopped and chatted on the radios, but decided that it was too challenging to get this in the dark.
Passing a trailhead parking lot, Gold Camp Road gets narrower and turns into a dirt road with a few ruts. This is where we started to see some other cars and trucks. Seeing other people driving the road, made it seem a little less spooky. We came up to the first tunnel. We had to wait for another car to move out of the tunnel ahead before we drove in. After they left, we eased our way in. QZ stopped about ¾ of the way through. We stopped behind, and I could see Big-Z stop behind us, about halfway through.
QZ turned out her lights. Then I turned out my lights and engine. Then Big-Z turned out his. Someone whispered “There here!” al la ‘Poltergeist’ over the radios. We didn’t see anything unusual: no glowing phantoms, no noises that were not from our party, and no unexpected movements or shadows. But QZ decided after a minute that she had enough and we moved on. We parked just past the tunnel, as there was a geocache right nearby! It took quite a bit of searching in the dark, but we did find it! Nothing like darkness and misty rains to make a 1-1/2 cache into a 3 or 4 difficulty! While we were searching, another car stopped in the tunnel.
One of our group thought it would be fun to spook them. It sounded a little dangerous to walk into the tunnel in the dark with unknown drivers, but he came away with some teen-aged friends. Someone in our group decided to give a Myth-Busters inspired pronouncement on our investigations so far: “Tunnel 1, Busted!”
Then we moved onto the second tunnel. This one seemed a little shorter, but curved. We surmised that the curve would explain those that said that their cars were pulled to one side by ghosts! It was still a little spooky with our lights off., though exciting! We drove out of the second tunnel, parking just past and walked back in to see if there was anything haunted to see in the tunnel on foot. CV decided to startle a few people, but it was all taken in good fun.
As we came out, I noticed on my GPS, that there was a level-3-terrain cache somewhere above the tunnel. I decided to take a quick run at it. The ground was very steep and there were lots of marble-sized rocks making footing a little perilous. I was also exploring only with my mini-maglight, which added to the challenge. This point was the most haunted part of the trip for me. The GPS was jumping around like it was possessed. 30 feet this way, 60 feet that way then 90 feet back the other way. After going after a dozen phantom hiding spots all around the ridge, never getting better than 25 feet away, I decided to give up and rejoin the group before they got too worried about me.
We continued on the road until it came to another parking area. This is where Gold Camp Road becomes a hiking trail. It was late, and a promise of somewhere between 1-1/2 to 3 miles of hiking to get to the 3rd tunnel made the idea seem a bit questionable. But there was a promise of a couple of caches along the way that tipped us over the edge into making the trek.
We saw the teenagers from earlier just heading out on the trail ahead of us. We couldn’t be shown up by a group of Muggles! As we worked our way up the trail, it got darker and foggier. When we got to the spot for the cache, the GPS units were pointing at some boulders. We started searching, and as I worked my way around back, another cacher came in from the other direction and spotted it! Nice! So we passed around the log, taking turns signing before returning the cache.
As we continued up, there was another cache on the radar. But as we approached, the GPS was pointing about 200 feet up a steep hill. As it was only rated a 2 terrain, we decided we must not be on the right trail approach. Our flashlights did not show any easy trails, so we reluctantly passed on it. We were also starting to question going all the way on to the 3rd tunnel. It felt like we had been hiking quite a while. The rain was getting thicker and there were even slushy snow flurries mixed in. Some of us were seriously considering turning back. That was the point that the teenagers came back down the trail. They told us they had made it to the 3rd tunnel. Some of them looked a little out-of-sorts, like they were not sure if they were excited or scared. But it encouraged us to go on!
After about another 10 minutes, we made it up to the tunnel. The view showed us why it was no longer drivable: you can see how they closed off the tunnel from 100 feet away. There was a 20-foot tall, metal post fence covering the tunnel opening, looking like a large jail cell. Behind it there was chain-link fence that no longer blocked off the tunnel. While we were there, a person decided to climb around the fence, and check out the tunnel first hand. We turned off the lights. We didn’t see anything. The person in the tunnel made some fake blood-curdling screams.
We turned on our lights and took turns taking pictures in front of the tunnel. Later, when I checked the time stamp on the photos, it was only a couple of minutes past midnight. Which means we had our lights off at the witching hour, as the date clicked over to the 13th.
As a group, we announced: “Third tunnel, Busted!” Going back was downhill, and no caches or teenagers to distract us, we made it back to our vehicles pretty quickly. Overall, we didn’t see anything directly ghostly, but we had a grand adventure! KB was glad she decided to go along. She said this was the most daring thing she had done in a long time. I was glad to share an interesting adventure I probably would never have done if it weren’t for the cool people I’ve met because of geocaching.
— WitzAbout, Colorado Springs
photo credit: John Morgan