Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The Principle of The Thing

There is an odd dynamic when it comes to historical buildings and places. If they are relatively recent, they are not sacred. They can be bastardized for tourism, “restored” to something they never were, converted into an artificial playground for self appointed intellectuals, converted into condos, or simply demolished.

Once they are old enough, then they suddenly become a sacred part of our past, and are not touched, except to keep them from falling down entirely. Nevertheless, with many of these old structures, it would be considered blasphemy to clean them out entirely and replace their decaying parts.

In any case, the preservation of such a place is for the purpose of remembering history. History tends to be places where bloodbaths occurred or where people prayed, or so one would think from just visiting “historical” sights. And yet, all around us, our history is slowly fading away; our forts and temples and battlefields are well preserved, but what of the real past?

The real past is almost dead in memory and is dying in its physical reality. The real past is the great infrastructure that was once the lifeblood of these cities. Outdated, fallen out of use, the drains, tunnels, plants, factories, and everything that allowed a city to exist in this place has since been abandoned, in our memory as much as they have been physically.

Those places, rusting, rotting, crumbling, are much more our history than any site filled with modern material and deemed “restored.” Like decaying Greek temples or crumbling European castles, they are much more real to their past because they have been untouched since their past. To travel to such a place, to see the machinery and brickwork, is to see the past as it was, simply a little bit aged.

And this, to me, is what urban exploration is. It’s not about busting into businesses and bragging about trespassing. It’s about living a time that is rapidly disappearing, sinking under a new city. The undoctored past is a rare thing to have the privilege to experience, especially because this is not the past of kings or generals or millionaire mansions. This is the past of sewer and drain workers, factory workers, builders, tunnelers – ordinary people who built the labyrinthine hive of humans, that maze of rooms and halls above ground and under that we know as – a city.

- Jacques

Sunday, September 23, 2007

"Temple Of The Drowned Cat" Drain

The storm sewer drain that the Action Squad has dubbed the "Temple of the Drowned Cat" drain is pretty cool too, but we had some weird adventures even before we got in there. The only parking spot near the drain is about a fifteen minute walk away from the entrance, and it happens to be the home of some pretty shady characters at night. As we pulled into the parking lot, another car pulled in behind us, parked, and the driver proceeded to sit in his car with his lights off. SKETCHY, right? But what can you do. As we were walking towards the drain on the bike/walking path that follows the road, we heard some sirens coming towards us, which, since we weren't near.. y'know, fuckin anything, was slightly unsettling. When it got close enough, we realised that the siren was just a fire truck, but as it passed us, it slowed down and then stopped, shined it's light on us (to which we gave it a 'wtf, mate?' look) and then continued. A couple of minutes later, an ambulance drove down the same way as the fire truck and pulled over when it saw us. The guy inside leaned his head out the window and asks us, get this, asks us "You guys seen a fire down here?" More befuddlement all around, but to top it all off, when the ambulance pulled away, it decided it couldn't be bothered to get back on the road and just drove down the bike path!! It was awesome. We kept walking and pretty soon the fire truck and ambulance drove past us again. (The ambulance guy waved at us. It was cool.) It must have been a prank call, but it was pretty fuckin weird.

We eventually got down near the drain and sat on a log on the bank of the river while we waited for some boats to pass so we could climb in. While we were waiting, a little rafty boaty type thing with a blinking blue light on top putted past us. It was a frickin police boat! Luckily, they didn't stop, and we had some good answers planned out even if they did. After about five minutes, they came back and, holy shit, docked their boat at the dock RIGHT NEXT TO THE DRAIN! It was crazy. Goxkok snuck up to check if the coast was clear, and when it was, we all ran up and into the drain, right under the coppers' noses. It was rock'n'roll as shit.

Inside, the sewer was refreshingly large, and conveniently didn't smell like total fucking ass (like the helix drain did.) You might even call it nice. We walked a super long way (passing an open manhole cover that we're pretty sure lead to the heavily populated area they have right near the drain. It was a little scary, because it wasn't that late at night, and I think there was some shindig or something going on there)

We noticed a second temple type thing on a small offshoot from the main drain. It's a lot smaller, but it has some ladder action too. We didn't go up, though, since the ladders were covered in garbage and leaves from the last time it rained (or the last few times).

We eventually found the "temple." It's this big um.. catch basin? I think is the term. I didn't really pay attention to how it worked, but the gist of it is that water falls a really long way and it's this big weird metal thing. There's some ladders on the sides so you can climb up and get on top of it, but it constantly dumps water on you. Luckily, Gox thought it would be funny to bring an umbrella in his bag and take a picture of us with it underground. It worked pretty well, but it wasn't that big, so Jacques said fuck it and braved it alone.

Needless to say, we got ridiculously soaked by the water that seemed to fall for hundreds and hundreds of feet into this strange cistern thing

Here is a shot of the huge cistern looking down from the ladder. The water droplets catch the light from the flash in a weird way, so its sort of hard to make out.

From on top of the temple, you can climb up even more ladders (there had to be a couple hundred feet of ladder) and eventually you get to a manhole cover. I'm not really sure where exactly that manhole cover is, but it's somewhere near-ish my house, and Gox looked out (bad idea) and said he saw some shoes thrown over a telephone wire, so I'm thinkin I'm just gonna have to search around for an easier way in there. It might come in handy for avoiding cops... or those creepers down by the river.

Here, we turned back after a farwell look at the Temple and started our long trek back to the outfall to re-sneak around the cop boats

That was enough exploring for one day, so, feelin' rock and roll, we drove to Mac and Don's for some shitty delicious cheap food, and called it a night.

-Franklin Delano Nothing OUT!

Island Station Power Plant

The Island Station Power Plant has been abandoned for like... fuckin forever. It's this big eerie behemoth down by the river that you can pretty much always see lurking in the woods. They were gonna turn it into condos a while ago, but I think that plan fell through, so I don't know what the deal is now. Probably just gonna get demolished

It's frequented pretty often by taggers, so the fuzz have been slowly but surely making it harder and harder to get in. We eventually found a pretty inconspicuous entrance that I really hope nobody wises up to, (SO DON'T FUCK IT UP FOR US, PUNKS!) and made our way inside.

We landed on the first floor, among some amazing sights. Crazy ladders going everywhere, furnaces and girders criss crossed in all directions

Our first stop was to the basement, which was especially sweet, since it was the only place in there that I hadn't already been. It was way more epic than I could even describe. There's all this creepy machinery and shit down there, and it was totally black except for our flashlights.

Jacques found this ancient watch, which was pretty rad, but there was also some seriously fucked up shit (ie, a used condom, some DISGUSTING porn, and a page ripped from a dirty novel that someone had highlighted the uh.. best parts of... as it were... sick.) There was also about fifty billion folding chairs. Creepy.

Here, Franklin poses among some crazy-ass rusted out machines in the basement. Anyone have anyclue as to what this shit does??

After that, we went and explored the upper floors which were filled with other sweet machinery and some amazing graffiti. This huge hook was suspended from the cieling of a truly massive room where there was some weird exercising machinery and piles of bricks.

More weird-asss piles of bricks stacked next to Franklin. To HIS right is the old elevator shaft going from the basement to the roof above us.

This catwalk spans the room where the huge hook is hanging

Jaques walks along a sturdy catwalk that runs parallel to the coal conveyor, that we think delivered and dumped the ground coal into the furnace.

We just kept climbing up and up more and more stairs

We eventually made our way to the roof. Holy shit, dudes, the roof. It's amazing. The view is gorgeous, and we were there right as the sun was setting.

Franklin poses with the water tower on top of the building. We dared not climb that ladder out of fear of being seen by someone on the ground and having the police called on our asses ... we generally stayed low as to keep out of sight.

Plus, the best graffiti is up there. And so is the smokestack, which doesn't look that big from far off, especially compared to the working power plant nearby, but when you're right up next to it, HOLY SHIT!

The sun was getting pretty low by the time we exited the roof and headed back down. We didn't want to have to use our flashlights inside when it was dark (good way to get caught, that is) so we made our way to the "exit" we had created for ourselves.

Here is Jaques, carefully clambering out of the plant, getting ready to slide his bag down this hooked pipe we found.

By this time, it was almost completely dark, so we stumbled through the woods till we got to Jaque's car, parked maybe 5 or six bocks up the road. Thoroughly punk rock, we proceeded to the Temple of the Drowned Cat drain for the night's next adventure.


Island Station Drain

Franklin Delano Nothing had discovered this opening a while back, but he wasnt quite prepared to explore it without the proper equipment. So, while we waited for the sun to go down for other, riskier, entrances we decided to go on a jaunt to this drain. We didnt know if it was an extensive maze of drains, or too small to navigate in or flooded or... a sewer or whatever but we decided to take our chances.

The Island Station storm sewer is apparently an original discovery to the urban exploration world. We haven't heard about anybody else getting in there or seen any pictures of it anywhere, and it didn't seem to have any signs of recent activity, save for the tag CANCER (we toyed with naming it CANCER drain) all over the concrete tube leading down to it.

Angler and I found it in the woods while we were looking for a new way into the Island Station power plant. It looks like it used to have a manhole cover on top, but somebody pulled the entire concrete bit off, so it's just sitting there open. I guess it's sort of hard to describe what I mean, so um... fuggedaboudit

We decended into the drain, down a solid flight of rungs. Note the drug related tags...we love drug related tags. We think they are funny.

Once down in the drain, we were pleased to find it walkable and mostly dry. We heard loud noises coming from down the drain, only to later realize it was cars passing above us on a very busy speedway.

Franklin Nothing poses with his 3D Maglite LED Black Flashlight, looking like a complete badass.

We followed the drain a ways towards the river ... it swiftly dead ended in a big pool where we declined to go. We turned back, disappointed and expecting got get similarly pwnt by the other direction from where we had originally descended.

Luckily we were completey wrong. As we followed the tunnel the other direction, it widened up and allowed us to walk upright. It snaked a long way back into the city, dotted with side tunnels that led to all sort of strange catchbasins and weird rooms.

What made it stand out, though, is that it's got some pretty sweet architecture. At the entrance, the sewer is made of brick, but as you go farther in, it alternates between that and concrete every hundred-ish feet. After a while, though, the brick/concrete duo gives way to just straight up carved sandstone. It appears that they just drilled straight into the rock and then covered the bottom with brick. I think you can see some of that shit in the pictures

This tunnel continued for a good distance before coming to another side tunnel.

Another weird thing is that every so often you can see big chunks of exposed cinderblocks, like maybe it borders the side of a building, but I can't imagine what building it would be.

Here, GoxKok (the photographer) explores this narrow side tunnel (it leads up a long ramp where a catchbasin makes its home)

The tunnel ended abruptly at a large room with a waterfall running along the far wall. Above us is another large passage, clearly a continuation of the tunnel that we had just walked down, but without the proper climbing tools, we couldnt ascend the twenty foot or so climb. Maybe in the future we'll come back better equipped to learn what this drain hides. Many other manholes showed themselves during our search, but alas, we were lacking in rope so we had no way of descending into the voids. We continued on our travels toward the abandoned power plant near the river.

Kittsondale Helix Drain

A classic Twin City urban adventure is the Kittsondale Tripe Helix Drain. We found out easily where it is online and set out by car, then by foot to reach its outfall. We scrambled down the embankment to the HUGE opening in the hill.

We paused, however, to take a serene picture by the marvelous graffiti.

Look at this crazy dragon drain. Its maw is open and awaiting its meal. It seems to live up to its reputation as a popular spot... graffiti coats almost every open place here.

A waterfall cascades down from a hole in the ceiling getting us drenched and making the way super slippery. Of course, we all took a tumble into the shower ... the rounded walls make it impossible to walk around the slimy goop.
After a LONG ass hike back and back and back into the city, we came to our turnoff. We took a right and entered a much smaller tunnel leading to the first long, spiral staircase. The tunnel was just barely small enough thaty I had to crouch or skin my head. Here, Franklin and Jaques pose sexily for a shot. After climbing up the RIDICULOUSLY long mufucka, making sure not to succumb to the thin, stationary air in the stairwell, we found a ladder leading up to a little dome-y shaped room carpeted with graffiti. The cylindrical drain leads to a huge catchbasin full of skummy water.

Here, Jaques and GoxKok pose cheesily for a glamour shot...but underground.

Some plastic rungs to OUR left led us up to a smaller room that looked up on a manhole cover. We declined to climb the rusty ass rungs, valuing or life over knowing were we were.

We descended the long ass spiral staircase back down the way we came ... down down down down back into the bedrock of the city. Imagine Franklin's sexy ponytail bobbing up and down as we descend into the earth in this photo...

Lots of hiking, lots of wet shoes and lots of singing led us back to the outfall and to fresh air that tasted so good aftr encountering a sanitary outlet near the end of the tunnel.

And were out! Off to go get some shitty energy drinks to celebrate and drink while playing counterstrike and falling asleep on Jaques comfy floor, dreaming of our next adventure.

It was pretty sweet, even if the blog is making it sound boring. We only went up the first helix, but word on the strasse is that there's 2 more, and a sister drain that has fourth helix, so you might see some more pictures from there sometime in the not-so-distant future.