Wednesday, December 12, 2018

A gray day trip to the Moonville Tunnel

The legendary Moonville Tunnel, carved through a remote wooded hillside in southeastern Ohio's Vinton County.

Occasionally I get the yen to photograph WEIRD THINGS and November 30th (2018) was just such a day. The day dawned damp, cold, and foggy - perfect for my mission. I hit the road long before dawn, and arrived at my destination around daybreak. My target, the Moonville Tunnel, abounds with tales of ghostly lore, so I didn't want to shoot it on a bright sunny day as that'd take the edge off the place's alleged creepiness. So the misty dim light of the wooded Raccoon Creek valley in which the tunnel lies was perfect.

The brick "Moonville" name above the tunnel is falling apart, as it is on the other entrance. The decrepitude is understandable. The tunnel was blasted out in the mid-1850's to facilitate a railroad line that was decommissioned in 1988. The nearby town of Moonville is long gone, its remnants nothing but obscure foundational rubble, overgrown by forest.

A marker carved into the tunnel's stone commemorates the tunnel's 1903 refurbishing. Unfortunately, graffiti (this is NOT art, at least in this case) vandals have severely defaced the tunnel, spraying their gunk the length of the passage, as well as on the outside entrances.

Tales of ghosts are frequent here. CLICK THIS for more on the supernatural. I had the place to myself on this dark foggy morning, and spent over an hour in and around the tunnel, mostly within. Didn't pick up so much as a ghostly vibe. The tunnel is MUCH darker than this photo suggests. To bring out the architecture and interesting staining on the bricks - and unfortunately the atrocious graffiti - I took five successive exposures covering at least five stops of light, and fused them as a High Dynamic Range (HDR) image.

The young successional forest outside one of the tunnel's entrances. The dim foggy morning lent a bit of a Blair Witch Project feel to the overall ambience - perfect for this sort of subject matter.

I passed by this long-abandoned country chapel on the way to the Moonville Tunnel, and resolved to stop on the return journey and make some images. There is, I think, great symbolism here but I will leave that to you to ponder.

The long disused doors dangle ajar. Probably the only regular occupants these days are occasional opossums, raccoons, and black rat snakes. The nameplate was so faded and overgrown with trumpet-creeper vines that I couldn't make out the first part of the chapel's name.

Beautiful Raccoon Creek, which carved the valley in which the Moonville Tunnel sits. Once severely impacted by acid mine drainage, the stream is and continues to be an ever-improving environmental success story. Its reclamation has largely been shepherded by the Raccoon Creek Partnership, and thanks to their hard work the creek's water quality is far better these days.
After roaming about Zaleski State Forest for a while, making various photographs and wildlife observations, I stopped at the Nature Center in the midst of Lake Hope State Park before heading home. I hadn't gotten both feet out of the Jeep when I heard the chuckling rattles of red-headed woodpeckers! Yes! A real bonus!

The open oak woods around the center is full of the crimson-headed beasts, and what was there to do but attempt some imagery? Several family units were in the area, and the pugnacious woodpeckers were glaringly conspicuous as they grabbed and cached acorns. Above, a stunning adult props itself on a white oak.

Plenty of dapple-headed juvenile woodpeckers were present, such as this one who has chosen a nontraditional perch. I only had about an hour to work with the woodpeckers, but look forward to a return trip and the chance to attempt more photos of these amazing birds.


Anonymous said...

Loved this article !

Jim McCormac said...

Thank you!


Woody Meristem said...

It's interesting to see some of the many abandoned railroad tunnels, there's one not too awfully far from where we live. Beautiful photo of the adult red-headed woodpecker.

Jim McCormac said...

Thank you, "Woody"!

Unknown said...

Somewhere in my Hundreds of packages of pictures, I have a picture of a train coming towards the Moonville tunnel,circa 1985. It was sad to return years later to see it abandoned; harder to get to as well with the tressel/bridge gone. Thanks for the memories!
I really enjoy your diverse articles and great pictures! God has truly blessed you with a great many talents!

Jim McCormac said...

Thank you Trish, and that would have been something, to see trains roaring through that tunnel!

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