Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Phalen Drain -Part 2

After weeks of bitching and moaning and shit getting in the way, we finally made it deep into the bowels of the East Side via Phalen Drain. Phalen had so much interesting stuff to offer, from ever-changing architecture to beautiful underground vistas and even some interesting stonework. Its really really long though, so we expect to be exploring the remainder of Phalen later.

We woke up early after a debaucherous weekend (Halloween!), early being 10 AM on a Sunday morning. I met Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Jacques over in Como and we trucked off to the East Side to begin our subterranean adventure. Lacking a third flashlight, we ended up using the light off my bike in conjunction with 2 maglites and brought a shitload of extra batteries.

Those that had brought footwear suited up, and those who didn’t promised to not bitch and moan. Our previous scouting mission showed us that we needed to go downstream to get to the drain itself, so we followed the flow of the water into a huge drain and sloshed through some goop before we could get into the MASSIVE part of the drain.

We followed the downstream path of the water and ended up in a large underground room, which was lit by the outfall. This room had some huge pillars on one side and connected up with the other half of the drain.
Outside the outfall we could see the bright, November sunlight reflecting off the Mississippi. Here is a shot of Jacques and Franklin as Jacques check his new waders. “How the hell do these things work?” he wonders to himself.

The water was absolutely filled with tiny fish that you could feel bump up against your feet in the boots. As we sloshed through the second tunnel, back from where we came from and away from the outfall, we stirred up colonies of fish that would jump desperately out of our way.

As we wandered back up to the Trout Brook intersection up this second tunnel that runs alongside the tunnel we had traversed previously, the air started to get much much cloudier, until picture taking with a flash was no longer possible.

We shortly arrived at some crazy hinged valves that had generated some huge mineral deposits. However, the mineral buildup made these valves into crazy stone monsters! The premier exploring group in the area called them “gargoyles”, and I’d have to agree: though they look like fucking monsters at the same time. Check these things out!

Looks sort of like a dragon too, spewing crazy orange minerals rather than flame.

These dragons guarded the entrance to a side passage that was clouded by steam at the entrance. This tunnel was much smaller than the original Phalen drain and was coated in orange minerals. Mini fountains sprayed up from an unknown source and looked cool.

We continued down this new orange tunnel until we reached a very interesting and sort of unsettling (at least for me) object. The tunnel become much larger and featured some sort of corroded set of doors. Where these doors lead to is very unclear, but it WAS clear that we did not want to be there when they opened. Here is Jacques checking out these mighty floodgates

Another photo of the first layer of floodgates being examined.

An interesting side passage led away from this room. Jacques clearly has balls as he marches down the passage. He reported a ladder that led upwards to a set of horizontal doors that must open up onto a sidewalk somewhere, and that light was coming through.

We marched back towards the main tunnel, passing the guardian dragons and the floor fountains, back through the huge drain and back to the intersection of loud-ass tunnel and big-ass tunnel.

We explored a LOT this day and I really don’t feel like including it all in one post. So far in this post, we have documented what we saw from the entrance to the outfall and back to the entrance. Much more of Phalen will be posted later!

To put it into perspective, here is a crude map depicting this part of phalen drain:
More later! Stay tuned

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Davern Drain Revisited

Hey fellow explorers, both armchair and actual!

Me, Rooster and Jacques took a quick jaunt down to Davern Drain the other day to fill our thirst for underground exploring. Neither Roo nor Jacques had been down to D's Drain, and since my batteries ran out the last time I had been there, I figured it'd be good to snap a few good photos.

We had previously tried to get in a week or two prior, but the constant rains had made the water level so high that access was impossible. The second time proved to be be the charm, and we hopped in after some tricky maneuvers around the still-deep puddle of water at the base of a ladder into a round tunnel.

We knew Davern Drain has a much more extensive second tunnel going off to the left, but the deep water and our total lack of appropriate footwear dissuaded us from exploring the deeper, longer and much older parts of this cool-ass drain. So, shoes first, we plunged into the RCP, headed under the West Seventh district.

After passing through some shindeep pools, we entered the triangular section of the tunnel which sets Davern Drain apart from all the other drains in the Twin Cities. The teardrop/triangular shape is fun to walk through and looks very cool.

We saw some weird fluffy thing laying in the tunnel. Upon closer inspection, it turned out to be some very strange kind of mold formation and it squished slightly under my shoe. Weird.

A medium length jaunt through the Trinagular drain ended at the coolest part of Davern Drain: the Atrium. The Atrium, as detailed in our last post on Davern Drain, is a huuge open "room" under some intersection. I'm really bad at guessing distances, but it must be at least over 15 feet high and a good 30 to 40 feet long. The Atrium is a great change from the semi-claustraphobia enducing tunnels underground.... the cielings are high, a breeze is always bringing fresh air from the grate above and a good sized waterfall is constantly pouring down from the upper drain levels.

I like it down there. A lot.

We headed back out and used a side entrance to climb out of the drain in order to escape further foot wetting. We pried open a manhole and scurried away into the woods.

Phalen is next, we only need nice boots. Stay tuned!


Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Phalen / Trout Brook

Hey folks. It's about time we got down to some serious exploring. Actually, that time was a few weeks ago but here we are nonetheless. We left off last time empty-handed while scouting for the Phalen drain, but this time we struck gold.

Jacques and I had gone out previously and located the outfall of the Phalen drain, only to find that a canoe would be necessary to enter Phalen by outfall. So began yesterday's search for a secondary entrance with Rooster and Franklin that ended up with us deep in a cold, wet drain up to our shins in freezing creek water.

We had a pretty good idea where to find this side entrance, so we set out from the car, down a bunch of hills and began our search in the bowels of Saint Paul. It did take quite a bit of wandering around to finally pin down the entrance, and in the end we heard and smelled the entrance before seeing it. The entrance turned out to be a creek that intermittently disappeared into tunnels underground before resurfacing again 100 feet later. Pleased at having found the entrance to Phalen at last, we happily jumped right into the trench and started ambling off.

We were a little confused for a few minutes: why was the flow of water going away the Mississippi? Where we were standing, the water seemed to flow NW while the river was clearly SE of us. We went with our guts, disregarded logic and trudged downstream and underground into a large, rectangular drain.

We quickly realized that we made a mistake by not going out to buy some knee-high boots before this expedition, we were going through not only cold water, but through some deep mud. Goxkok, in front, has some tall rubber boots from canoeing trips in the past, and so he tested the mud for deep spots and the folks without proper foot protection followed closely. The drain quickly doubled in size as a second tunnel with rushing water joined ours and we found ourselves standing in a behemoth. This drain must have been more then 16 feet across and 10 feet tall with strange, ripple cieling made with pretty red bricks. The base of the drain also was pretty, with brickwork covering the floor.

At the first intersection of the BigAssTunnel and the LoudAssTunnel, we took a hard left and abled up the LAT towards what looked like a spout, pouring water into the drain at a quick pace. As we got closer, however, the water kept getting deeper and deeper, and without boots, none of us wanted to continue getting soaked. We backtracked to try our luck with the BigAssTunnel instead.

The BAT was certainly not boring like other drains we had been in, there was lots to look at. The walls were all colored orange and black, with srings leaking into the drain from all sides. Dropshafts peppered the walls and very very old stepirons led up to manhole covers just a few feet above the top of the drain.

There were also tons of smaller pipes pouring water into the drain, some of which were very corroded with bright colors and nasty looking deposits, like this one

We also came across a strange protrusion in the drain floor that ended up being part of the brickwork being pushed upwards into the drain by some unknown force. This sort of gives you the idea of what the floor of the drain looks like...pretty bricks.

We ended up at another junction in the drain where tall cement pillars separated the drain we were in from one that seemed to run parallel to Phalen for as far as we could see. We poked around for a bit at the junction, then decided that this would be a good place to head back in order to return with proper footgear.

We trudged back to the Troutbrook / Phalen divider (at least, thats what we think it is) and slipped and slid through the mud back to the open trench area and quick hopped out ninja-style back onto the sidewalk and declared this night an amazing sucess. Here are the mudsoaked heros, emerging from the mucky depths to fight on another day.

We may not have explored much of the drain, but we found the drain, got into it and discovered a need for more equipment....that compared to the endless stumbling around in the dark we've been doing recently made this expedition a success. We look forward to going back with better gear and more stories! We're hoping to make Phalen a whole day thing, so a long expedition is just around the corner.

- Goxkok

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Phalen Scouting

Hey folks

This summer has been fucking nuts, and exploring has gotten a bit shafted because of the insanity this summer has shown.

Earlier in the summer, Jacques and I planned to find the Phalen drain outfall and head into the massive Phalen complex. We trucked out to where the creek hits the Mississippi and walked for a good long bit. We came across a few outfalls, including a very large one that should be the Phalen system. However, similar to the drain in Minneapolis that foiled our exploring plans, this drain would require a boat or something to get into, which we neglected to pack.

We scouted around the area where this huge drain emptied into the Mississippi, coming up with some huge manhole covers. We spied through the holes of the manhole and found a huge tunnel underground, but we did not have the adequate tools to open this fucker, and we were pretty damn close to a large highway...and it was only about 9 or 10 at night.

We brought some hot tea in a thermos Jacques had, so we sat down after our walk and sipped off of hot tea on a chilly night on a nearby bench, contemplating the drain and other possible entrances. Is it a manhole a few blocks away? An outfall in a park nearby? A large grate like Minnehaha?

More research must be done on this drain before we are to enter it. Yet another scouting mission turns up dry.


We always forget that the biggest part of exploring is the scouting. When people think of "exploring", its always the glorified wandering around in tunnels, getting grimy, seeing amazing shit and telling some great stories. What people (including myself) constantly forget is that most of exploring (at least for us) is poking around in the woods, or the river, or endless reasearch online, or maps or just talking to other trusted explorers.

But hey, that shit is fun too, and makes the drains that much more enjoyable.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Spring 2008

Hey folks

All of the snow is almost melted and we are anxious to get back on track with exploring. The Winter hiatus that began with the epic toe freezing in Lucky 13/St. Anthony Drain deterred us from most underground exploring, but we are back on track and prepared for some grand adventures! MORE EXPLORING!

A visit to the store will provide us with waders so that our feet never get wet again and therefore making our exploring balls grow six sizes! Upcoming updates will include:

•Waterfall Drain
•Phalen/Trout Brook
• ToT
• Tailraces
• Loads of other cool abandoned shit.

Ill never forget extra batteries again <3


Tuesday, February 19, 2008

National Geographic Caves

Hey folks
Due to lack of an update for a while Ill throw up a quick recap of a short exploring adventure from a few days back....

I got a call from Jasper asking me if I was free that night to go explorin with Ebenezer. Nothing much was going on that night, so I ran outside and got picked up by Ebenezer in his car with Jasper along in the passenger's seat.

The plan: some interesting sandstone caves on the West Side of the river. We were hoping to explore some extensive caves, though after much mucking around suspiciously along the bluff, we settled for exploring the National Geographic Caves. Jasper led the way and we snuck around an abandoned building and through a small hole into the cave.

Fucking sandy! Sand piles everywhere and getting all over my shoes. It was like being on a beach, minus the heat. And the Sun. We set off into the cave, passing by some cool carved staircases that wound up into the bluffs. I really wanted a photo, but my camera batteries were being a little selective in what they wanted to photograph (blah blah blah I know, bring spares).

Here, Jasper shines a 4D LED Maglite down one of the many long sand passages

The tunnels were maybe ten feet high and wound all through the bluffs. Lots of bats hung hibernating on the walls and we walked carfully around them, carful not to wake the poor bastards up. We came across a table with loads of beer bottles and empty Karkov Vodka handles (classy!) and a threating note to some kids who apparently had been trashing the place.

The most interesting part of the cave system involved a awkward climb up a huge sandy pile. At the top was a huuuge underground room with high arching cielings made of a different kind of rock (limestone mebbe? I dont know my rocks) Tea candles littered the scene and a freaky plastic halloween pumpkin sat on top of the underground hill. I fucking wish I could have gotten a photo of this place, but the camera seriously was on Ambien or something. Ill definetly come back here with more tea lights and ighters galore to take waaay better photos because this subterranean room is really sweet.

Further exploration revealed a lot of storage for what seemed like random junk, mostly scaffolding and other building equipment. We poked around a bit more, and headed back as we all had class tomorrow and it as getting past midnight.

A panic attack was had by all when Ebenezer couldnt find his keys, then we all calmed down 5 minutes later when we got back to the car and they were sitting on his hood!

More on this cave later


Monday, February 4, 2008

Mouser Week IX Awards Ceremony

Hey folks!

The kickoff to Mouser Week IX was a great opportunity to meet a lot of people from around the Metro Area. We had a great time getting to know so many people from the community and have a chance to talk to some really interesting folks.

We headed out from St. Paul and took 3 different busses to get to the Perkins, the 84, the 16 and the 2. We had no idea what to expect when we got there, so we sort of wandered in awkwardly and were warmly greeted by everyone at the table. Dinner was great: the combonation of the food, conversation and people was perfect. We sat mainly with Katwoman, Gatsby, Ben Again and Jasper, though many others stopped by to chat, get our names and share stories.

Here's a shot of the gang by Ben Again:

After dinner, Franklin, Jacques and I carpooled over to West K with Ben Again and Spaz. We slid awkwardly down the embankment and headed up the drain to the final helix, where we waited for the rest of the group. Spaz and Ben had other plans for the night, so they headed out and we waited with our lights turned off at the foot of the helix.

We sat in the dark, chating as we watched the lights bobbing slowly towards us in the distance: two LEDs, one red light and occasionally Freak's gigantic spotlight lit up the tunnel. Watching these lights coming down the drain was one of the weirdest sights we have ever seen: the lights bobbed mysteriously and hypnotically as we stared them down.

Here are Goxkok, Jacques and Franklin Delano Nothing , after wainting a good 15 mins for people to get to the meeting place.

Then someone who clambered up the slippery incline of slime found a wandering cat in the upper drain levels!! He brought it back down to our level and we found it didnt have an eye and was limping. Someone lent their bag to Freak and he and DC hauled it out of the drain later and brought it to a hospital.

The awards started after Freak lit a few bag lanterns and tea lights and the upper part of the Helix was packed with explorers. Stories were shared, amazing homemade awards were handed out to the winners and still more introductions were being made. So many people to meet!

Jacques, Franklin Delano Nothing and I needed to bus back to Jacques house, so we ducked out right after the awards and trudged with Robin and his fiancee back to the outfall, clambering around and slipping on the huge ice-pwn-wall near the entrance.

We made it back safe to Jacques and passed out after a hot bowl of soup.

Hopefully, this was just the first of a few explorations this week. Check back soon!