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.