Sunday, May 21, 2006

Trapped Beneath Nicollet Island


Location: Nicollet Island
Crew: Cheese, Deadhead Bob, Spaz, & a friend
Mission Time
: 40 mins
Difficulty: Challenging

It is a story that goes to show, keeping a cool head, and not panicking, can get you out of what could otherwise be a very difficult situation.

It was the final weekend of Art-A-Whirl, and I had spent most of it looking at galleries, or crashing all night at my friend's place. We had been discussing making a return trip to Satan's Cave, possibly with some mapping equipment, such as a compass, to better understand the tunnel system. After considering a midnight run, we opted to go the next day. Though the next morning, having spent the night on the PS2 and Game Cube, no one was up for going when I brought it up.
After half a dozen phone calls, I finally got the entire crew to commit. Of course, it was much later than the planned meeting time that they all showed up at my place. Apparently it took them all two hours to buy some snacks that we planned on taking down with us, and to change it to appropriate attire. So once again we set off to Satan's Cave.
When we arrived, we realized that we had not brought the crowbar with us, and had no way of opening the manhole. For the next half hour we looked for a suitable lever, breaking several wooden sticks in the process. Deadhead and I scoured the near by railroad tracks, while Cheese stayed by the manhole, and our friend, already rather uneasy about the whole plan, looked around in the tall grass for... I'm not exactly sure what he hoped to find.
I was about to give it up when Deadhead found exactly what we were looking for, a strong metal rod, about four feet long, lying near the tracks.
Before we opened it up, I brought up the idea that we should close the cover over us to prevent any careless passerby from following us, and to not arouse suspicion. The idea sis not go over too well and Cheese informed me that, "If you want to do that, you're gonna have to do it yourself."
So one by one, we started down. I was just about to bring up the rear when I saw an old lady ambling up the path. I froze. What had she seen? What was she going to do?
I backed off from and walked as casually as I could around to the other side of a tree. There I waited, not daring to go back to the hole and tell the guys what was happening. All she gave me was a mildly disapproving stare. She was walking away when, echoing up the open manhole, came Cheese calling, "hey, what's going on?!"
What, of all the possible reasons for me not coming down, could yelling at me like that, for all the world to hear help? I watched the old lady, and to my relief, being hard of hearing I guess, she just continued to walk away.

Moments later I was starting my own decent.
"I'm gonna close the cover." I called down the shaft.
My friend protested and I decided to only close it half way. What good closing it half way would have done I still don't know, but in the my rush after one close call, it seemed to be a good idea. Unfortunately, round objects slip, and just as I got the heavy cover about half way over the hole, with a deep grinding sound, it slid soundly shut catching a bit of my finger in the process, and for the second time that evening;
Fuck! (followed by)
"What the hell did you do?"
"You fucking moron"
"God damn it!"

I gave the cast iron disk a few testing pushed with one arm, to no effect.
Climbing to the bottom, I let Cheese, being the biggest out of all of us, take a try.
For the next 10 minutes or so, Cheese tried the manhole cover, pushing his arms, or the top of his head. Over and over there was the grinding of rusty metal on rusty metal, followed by a sharp thud, and the manhole cover fell the inch or so Cheese was able to raise it.
Our friend wasn't taking all this well, and when I asked him what was wrong, he informed me, for the first time, that he was claustrophobic.
He knew where we were coming, he had seen photos, I had warned him that once we were down, we were down... And NOW is a good time to be telling me this?
I'm getting pissed now. Frustrated.
How are we gonna get out? What if we can't? Our friend's brother knows where we are, so eventually, our some family will come and haul us out, but we'd get in a shit load of trouble. Worst would be the cops coming along too. We did bring plenty of food. Maybe if we knock or yell, someone walking by will come over...
My confidence isn't improved when my friend starts thanking me for bringing down with us, what great friends we have been, ect.
Cheese is getting worn out, and Deadhead is positive that although he is a hobbit up to the rest of us, he can do something. I agreed, he has spent a lot of time camping in the Boundary Waters, and can be very resourceful. Shortly though, he reports that there is no way he is going to get it to budge. I am the next smallest, so I decide to head up too, to see if there is room for both of us to get there and do something, but there is not.
I'm set to try it on my own one last time. This will pretty much be our last shot. I brace with my back, lift with my legs, body, and arms, and the manhole gives. I push myself up through it and move it off it's base. Moments later, everyone is up, and the only thing keeping them from killing me is the joy of being on the surface.
So we spend the next few minutes enjoying the food and drinks we brought, on a spectacular night, with an excellent view of downtown, before everyone heads home, and gets ready for school the next day. I still had homework.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Nicollet Island Utility Tunnels (Satan's Cave)/Introduction


Location: Nicollet Island
Crew: Dead-head Bob, Cheese, & Spaz
Mission Time: 1 1/2 hrs
Difficulty: Easy
The origin of Urban Decay, and our journey into urban exploration.....
There is an entire city's worth of places that most people don't know a thing about. Tunnels, caves, canals, all right beneath our feet, or behind a barred iron door. There is a community of people who explore these places. Sometimes they are called crooks, sometimes trespassers, other times fools, but they are explorers. They go places people are not supposed go to, and see things others do not see. "Why?" Curiosity. Adventure. A generally inquisitve nature. A search for answers. Urban Explores generally suffer form one, or a number of the above mentioned mental dissorders.
So do I. After having spent far to much time reading the sites of
other urban explorers such as Max Action, I decided to give it a try, and use my camera for something other than tormenting my friends. One evening as I was walking along some railroad tracks near my house with a few of those said friends, I brought up an idea that I had been thinking about for a while, that we should try and find Satan's Cave. I had done my homework, reading "mission logs", examining satilite maps (not really that usefull), listening in on a little first hand testiomony, and stomping around on the island my self, I was certian of at least one enterance.
So it began, around noon, next day, we packed flashlights, extra batteries, and water, and biked to Nicollet Island. When we got there, we ditched the crowbar that we had tied to Bob's bike in some tall grass near the entrance, and locked our bikes up on the other side of the island. The three of us then returned to the manhole cover, and began our climb down, into the pitch-black abyss...

Railroad tracks near my house, the day before the expedition.

Some local wildlife we found where we locked up our bikes. There was a pretty cool garden snake there too, but it slithered under a rock before I could snap a photo.

Deadhead Bob sits on the pipe that runs the length of the brick tunnels. Often times we had to walk along the top of it, as it would be flanked by water and deep mud.

The brick tunnel was comfortably sized, but just not quite tall enough to stand in.

Cheese Standing in the entrance to the first cave, after crawling through a side tunnel.

The first cave is one of the largest on the island, and connects to the brick tunnel on the other end.

Left to right: Spaz (me), Deadhead Bob, holding a sign left by a previous expedition, & Cheese.

When we reached the end of the first cave, we reentered the brick tunnel, and followed it a little farther to the right, and came upon another small hole in the brick-work, that dropped down in to another large sandstone cave.
/////*Map of Satan's Cave*/////
________| | <-shrine area
| ___.____ |
| |______| |
| ________|
| | <--drop down into cave
=========== (brick tunnel)

From there, we made the first right, walked down another large sand stone tunnel (though not quite as big as the first cave), and made a left in to the shrine area. On the way out we made a right, and found ourselves walking through a different section of the cave. At the end, we made another left, and walked back to the drop, where we made use of a broken plastic milk crate and rope to climb back up.

Demon faces carved into the sandstone walls around the shrine area of Satan's Cave.

The shrine, covered in candles, surrounded by empty beer bottles. I can't believe that I forgot my matches back at my place.

The wax head, very freaky!

The shrine.

After spending a while in Satan's Cave, Cheese and Deadhead Bob wanted to leave, so we backtracked through the first cave, down the tunnel, and up the man hole.