The South Coast’s “Indiana Jones” Solves A Tunnel Mystery

If I were lost on the South Coast, I would want to be with John Vonderlin!

The Missing Tunnel

By John Vonderlin

Email John ([email protected])

Hi June,

Some time ago I posted about my search for a mysterious tunnel just up the hill from the north parking lot at Pescadero Beach. Several oldtimers talked of visiting it in their youth and related its possible function. Despite clear directions I had been unable to find it.

Then by examining the 1972 pictures on California Coastal Records Project (CCR), I was able to see a path to an area that corresponding to the alleged location. Walking around the area, I found a now barely visible, slanted, ledge-like feature up the slope to a slight anomaly in the hillside that I assumed had been a graded dirt road leading to where the mystery tunnel had been.

When one of your readers, Bobbi Pimentel, read that posting, she contacted me, and in an email, validated my theory and provided other interesting information.

Bobbi, a member of one of Pescadero’s oldest families, remembered visiting the tunnel as a child with her father after WWII.

She helped me solve the mystery of the tunnel. Now maybe someone will come forward with a photo of it before it was filled, and/or provide firsthand information on the other two cliffside tunnels just north of there. Then my curiosity about the tunnels will be fully satisfied.

Here’s an excerpt from my email to Mrs. Pimentel and her reply. The only thing better then mysteries is solving them. Thanks to both of you for helping me in finding the answers to this one. Enjoy. John

John Vonderlin (JV): Were you in the tunnel just up the hill from what is now the parking lot of north Pescadero Beach? Was it where I thought? Do remember how deep it was? The longest serving ranger in the area (about 25 years) knew nothing of it. He was familiar with the next one north. That’s the one I climbed in, the one in a cliff face above the ocean. The other cliff face observation tunnel I’ve written about, the one the Pranksters were in, just north of Pomponio, was well visited until the 1970s when it was plugged and filled for safety reasons apparently.

Bobbi Pimentel (BP): Yes, the cave that I remember most is the one above the parking lot…It has brush and weeds growing so thickly around it that for several years, it looked unaccessible. Since I was so young when Dad took me to these places, I really can’t judge length, but a guesstimate would be 40’…the brush on the ocean side kept the tunnel out of view. It was rumored that Japanese subs were traveling the coast. There were guns and ammunition stored there as well as dynamite. (My Dad worked on the road department during the war, worked for the Federal Government (as a maintenance man) and did some other work for them…he used explosives on a regular basis. He went into farming for a few years and in the early ’50’s worked for the County of San Mateo where he was using explosives again…

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