Archives for: February 2005

02/20/05

Permalink 04:56:20 am, Categories: Urban Exploration, 1372 words   English (US)

carthage underground

We did some pretty productive exploring this weekend, specifically the night before last. We also managed to check out one of the coolest finds in the area.

I started off the night by meeting up with Sertile in Springfield. He wanted to climb the mill after reading my blog entry about it. So, even though I swore I was never climbing the thing again, we did just that. As it turns out, it's not so bad when you actually do it during warm weather, with gloves, and without a ton of gear strapped to your back. And it was nice because I got to see the view from the roof in the daylight.

Before we left, we also checked out the basement, which I hadn't thought to examine last time, and it was one of the most disgusting places I've had the displeasure of exploring. The floor was covered in an inch-thick layer of black gel that resembled tar but smelled like manure from a dairy barn. Add to that, there was solid mass of cobwebs from one end of the basement to the other, and I mean solid. I looked like I was covered in gray fur by the time I walked out of there.

After we were done there, we drove out to Carthage to meet up with Dru. There was a huge, abandoned mine in the area that Dru had been to before, and we were finally meeting up to check it out. We grabbed Dru from his house, drove down to a suitable parking spot, and he started leading us out into the woods to the mine. The entrance, one of many entrances we later found, was back in the woods against a bluff. A massive opening, easily big enough to drive a dump truck into, led back into the hillside.

The inside of the mine was, of course, extremely amazing. It was just a huge, empty space cut out of the solid rock and going in all directions. The ceiling was about twenty feet high, with rock columns as big around as an SUV at even intervals to support the ceiling. They were spaced fairly far apart so that trucks and equipment could literally drive around the mine, and you could still see the makeshift dirt roads and tire tracks going throughout the place. It also looked like they had intentionally torn up the area around the entrance so that no one could drive a vehicle inside, because there were limestone boulders mounded up near the entrance that obviously hadn't fallen from the ceiling.

I immediately broke out the tripod to take some pictures. I had my 10 million CP spotlight with me, which I thought would allow to take some long exposure shots. Unfortunately, even though the spotlight lit the mine up beautifully for us, it was too focused a beam to take any decent pictures with. So, I left the tripod at the entrance and settled for taking flash pictures. They were turning out pretty dark, but I figured I'd just come back with a bright kerosene lantern to take some decent ones.

We basically wandered aimlessly around the mine after that. We'd see something interesting and head that way, then see something else and go a different way. There were places all over where we'd find big piles of boards. Some of them were obviously structures that had collapsed, while others were just loose boards thrown into stacks. We also ran across various bits of destroyed machinery, lots of metal pipes, and other random junk, and we found several additional entrances to the mine.

It wasn't long before we stumbled across something that elevated the coolness of this place several notches. We were walking along inside the mine when we started coming up on what appeared to be a really long ditch. As we got closer, we saw that it wasn't merely a ditch. It was some kind of gigantic trench, several feet deep at least and running about a hundred yards wide. When we got close enough to see the bottom of the trench, we realized what it really was. The trench sloped down at an angle, way down, and led to another large opening in the ground.

The trench was actually a road leading down into another level!

We were immediately excited and started heading around to where the trench sloped up to meet the ground. I'd never even heard of an underground quarry like this having two levels sandwiched on top of each other. I'd always figured something like that would be too unstable. When we walked through the opening and down into the second level, we were again shocked at what we saw.

We were standing at the shore of what amounted to an underground lake. There was another fully developed level of the mine stretching out in front of us, looking equally large as the one above, complete with rock columns and high ceilings. The only difference was this one was flooded with several feet of crystal clear green water.

It was both amazing and frustrating. We all desperately wanted to explore the second level, but there was no way we were wading chest high into freezing water. We decided we'd come back as soon as possible with either a canoe, a large rubber raft, or maybe even kayaks. We were extremely curious about whether it was possible there was yet another level underneath us, one that was completely underwater.

We headed back up to the main level after that, and then wandered out of another entrance to the mine to look at an old building we saw outside. Outside, we found one more entrance, this one sloping down at an extreme angle. It was yet another entrance the second level.

As we were heading down the new entrance into the second level, we found something even more interesting. Off to the side of the tunnel, there was a ladder going up to the ceiling. From there, it went into a large metal pipe and out of sight. There was also a steady stream of water raining down from it.

Since no one else was stupid enough to get soaked, I volunteered to climb up. I had Sertile and Dru brace the ladder, which looked unstable as hell, and climbed on up. It was about ten feet to the metal pipe, and the metal pipe ended up being about another ten feet long when I got to it. However, I could see once I entered the pipe that it led up to the main level of the mine.

I climbed up out of the pipe, which was about four feet in diameter, and walked around. It was the same area we'd just exited from, but somehow we hadn't seen the pipe. It also looked for all the world like something out of Super Mario Bros. with my climbing out of a pipe that jutted a few feet out of the ground. I took a few pictures to show the guys and climbed back down the pipe.

We continued on down to the second level, but it was the same story as before. The road sloped down to meet the water, and there was no way to continue. We could see that the second level was definitely just as big as the main one, though, and it just renewed our determination to come back and explore it by boat.

After that, we headed back to the main level and explored a little further, finally finding where the mine ended at one side. It was also flooded in that section of the main level as well. We rested there for a while before deciding that we were all tired and had seen enough for the night.

When we started heading back, we realized we didn't really know which way to go. All of us had a different idea about where the entrance was. We finally settled on following landmarks in the mine we'd seen before, and, eventually, we found our rubble-filled entrance. I grabbed my tripod, loaded up my crap, and we headed on back to the car. One of the few times I've ever gotten turned around in an underground place.

02/08/05

Permalink 02:57:26 am, Categories: Urban Exploration, 792 words   English (US)

weekend caving

I spent both Friday and Saturday night caving, and I was sore the rest of the weekend. You use muscles you didn't even know you had when you spend the night wriggling through tight spaces on your belly.

Friday night my brother, my stepfather, my uncle and my cousin and I all headed down to the woods of Carroll County, Arkansas. There was a cave they'd found earlier in the day while they were riding three wheelers, but they hadn't been prepared to explore it at the time.

Although the cave was fairly large inside, with plenty of room to walk around in, it was just a typical cave. It had a couple decent-sized chambers and several small tunnels just big enough to crawl through that didn't really lead anywhere. The only remarkable thing was that in the back of the cave the floor was sand, rather than dirt, and the walls in the rear of the cave were made of some kind of sandstone. There were also chunks of sandstone all over that would break underfoot. Despite that, the cave didn't seem particularly unstable. It was just different, because I'd never seen a cave like that in the area.

Saturday night, we all went to check out yet another cave, although my stepfather decided to sit this one out. This time we were headed to a cave in Stone County, Missouri that I'd known about for years, but had never bothered to check out. If I'd known what the cave was really like inside, I would've been there a million times by now.

The cave was out in the middle of a field and had a very strange entrance. A concrete structure had been erected over the entrance, which was basically just a man-sized hole going straight down, and it appeared to have been barricaded at one time. We all squeezed in through the structure and were blown away by what we found.

Inside, the cave was huge. We were standing on a huge slope leading down into an enormous chamber. It was easily three stories high inside. I was suddenly glad I'd hauled my ten million CP spotlight down there with me, because it was the only light we had bright enough to light up the chamber.

Further in, the cave had tunnels going in several directions. We chose the only one we could walk into and started moving. The tunnel led back a few hundred yards easily, and it was big enough to drive a truck through. At the end of it, there was a place where the ground dropped into a huge pit, then rose up again on the other side as the tunnel went on. We headed through it, shedding gear and clothes as we became too hot.

Before long, we came to a small creek inside the cave that began running along the tunnel. At this point, the tunnel became just low enough to be uncomfortable to walk inside. It also changed from rock to hard packed mud that sloped down from each side to meet the creek. It was slick as hell, and we all busted our rear ends several times.

Occasionally, we'd come to places where the tunnel would become just a crack in the rocks, and we'd have to squeeze through. At least one of those places required us to crawl on our bellies between two slabs of rock for about thirty yards. But, on the other side of those tight spaces, we just kept finding more huge chambers and tunnels that led on forever.

It wasn't long before, by our best guess, we were well over a mile deep. I'd been in caves with bigger chambers before, but this was turning out to be the longest non-commercial cave I'd ever explored. It was also one of the only caves I'd ever been in where I actually thought I could get lost. We'd been walking and crawling for hours with no end to the tunnel in sight, and we hadn't even checked all the branching tunnels we'd found along the way.

Eventually, we decided to turn around and head back, partly because it was getting way too muddy and we hadn't been prepared for it, and partly because it was getting late and my uncle needed to head home. It took us a full hour just to get back to the entrance. Best of all, some kind of animal, probably a coyote, growled at us from the dark as we climbed out.

We'll definitely be heading back to that cave again in the near future, though. There were dozens of side tunnels we didn't get a chance to explore, and I don't think we were even close to finding the end of it.

02/05/05

Permalink 05:25:06 pm, Categories: Urban Exploration, 803 words   English (US)

mfa mill

The other night I checked out the old MFA Mill in Springfield. I'd driven by it a million times over the years, but I never knew it was abandoned until someone pointed it out to me. A couple weeks after I found out the place was abandoned, I saw an article in the paper about how they were going to renovate the old mill for homeland defense research. I immediately moved it to the top of my to-do list, because I wasn't about to set foot in there when they started construction on that.

So, of course, I snuck into the old mill. I started out by checking out a catwalk on the outside of the building. From there, I mistakenly climbed about five stories up a ladder that I thought would lead into the upper part of the mill. Instead, it lead to a little room overlooking some kind of grain tank, and I got to climb all the way back down.

Inside, on the first floor, there was usual grain equipment that I had no idea what was for. I also found the way to the upper floors, and it was a little disheartening. I'd heard that there were no stairs in the entire building, and it was true. The workers apparently used a manlift, a small elevator for taking them up and down, to go about the building. The manlift was gone, and all that remained was a ladder going up between the rails. If you wanted to go up, you had to climb about fifteen stories (or however tall the mill is) straight up.

Climbing the ladder turned out to be a lot harder than I thought it would be. Partly, because it was below freezing outside, the ladder was metal, and I had forgotten my gloves. And partly because I was carrying a backpack full of junk and a tripod on my back, all of which barely fit through the opening around the ladder. Every few floors I had to stop and warm my hands up.

Somewhere around ten floors high, I came to a long room that sat on top of about a dozen huge grain storage tubes that went all the way to the ground. There were doors on either side of the room that led out on top of the tubes. I took the opportunity to walk out on both sides and take some pictures, even though anybody paying attention below could've seen me.

The next floor or two up, I ran into a problem. There was a big metal pulley in the middle of the ladder that stuck out about a foot. If I wanted to continue up the ladder, I had to somehow climb up and over that thing while carrying all my crap. Then I noticed a catwalk outside a window, with a ladder on the side of the building going all the way up to a window on the top floor.

So, out the window I went, which turned out to be an even worse idea than climbing over the pulley inside. The wind was horrible at that height, the ladder was ice cold, and there wasn't even a cage around the ladder to protect me. If I fell, I was going down.

But, I didn't fall, and, once I made it a few more stories up the outside ladder, I crawled inside the window of the top floor. Inside, the room was full of machinery, like all the other floors. The only thing unique was that this room was set at two different levels, with a ladder leading down into the lower area.

After that, I found the ladder to the roof and went up top. There was a few rusting structures up there and something that resembled a storage tank for grain. Of course, the best part was the view. I could see for miles and miles away, and I spent at least half an hour up there taking long exposure shots of the city. And if I thought I was cold before, I was wrong. The wind was vicious up there, and I was freezing my ass off.

Eventually, I headed back down, which took forever because my backpack and tripod kept catching on things in the tight space and trying to come up over my head. I'd spent a lot longer there than I intended, and, honestly, I'd been ready to leave just a minute or so after setting foot on the roof. But I had to make sure I took enough pictures, especially from the top. Because I was pretty sure I was standing on the second highest building in Springfield, and because I had already made up my mind that, even if they didn't renovate the building, I was never climbing those damn ladders again.

Permalink 01:52:05 am, Categories: General, 74 words   English (US)

praise from the master

The great Ninjalicious of Infilration fame made my day today by giving some high praise on the Underground Ozarks Blog:

http://infiltration.org/usufruct/

For those that don't know, Infilration and Ninj were a big inspiration for this site. In fact, I purposely modeled the site after his as a bit of an homage.

Usufruct, the official blog for Infiltration, will be going on the Blogroll as soon as I finish tinkering with it.

Underground Ozarks Blog

Here you can read about White Rabbit's day-to-day explorations and adventures.

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