A few weekends back, we ventured down to Arkansas to check out Coin Harvey's abandoned resort, Monte Ne, then finished up by checking out the Eureka Springs Underground.
I was the first to arrive at Monte Ne, because I'd taken off work a couple hours early. Although I had directions, I'd never actually been there before and I'd been a little afraid I'd miss the place. However, that proved to be almost impossible, because as I drove by I not only saw the three story building that stands there, but I also saw probably a dozen cars parked in front of it and people everywhere. Apparently, the place was pretty popular on the weekends.
I started out by checking out the three story tower that was all that remained of an extremely long building called Oklahoma Row. A long concrete foundation, probably a hundred feet or so in length, led right up to the tower from the parking area. I went inside and milled around with several other people.
There was more graffiti on the inside than I've ever seen in an abandoned building. There were literally layers and layers of paint sprayed upon the walls. It was insane, but it was also kind of beautiful. The floor was separated into different rooms, and three of them contained fireplaces. There were also no stairs or ladder to the upper floors, but I could see on the outside of the building where wooden stairs had once been.
I moved along with the crowd from there and went down along the lake shore. There, some small chambers extended under the foundation of Oklahoma Row. People were moving in and out of them constantly, and I got to overhear lots of strange theories people had about what they believed they were. In reality, they had been the servants' quarters of the building above it.
When I had poked around there a little bit, I went back and started examining the tower again. This time, I saw that there someone had chiseled handholds into outside of the building where the stairs had once been, and they led right up to the door in the second floor. I decided to give it a try and promptly fell off the building in front of a group of probably a dozen people. Fortunately, only my pride had been hurt, so I gave it another go and was able to haul myself up.
The interior of the second floor was pretty much identical to the one below it. There was almost as much graffiti, and there were also three fireplaces. There was a large rectangular hole in the ceiling where the wooden stairs had once been, as well as another irregular hole nearby that had crumbled in on its own. Either that, or someone had busted the second hole open.
Again, someone had cut handholds into the wall going up to the third floor, and again I decided to climb on up. This one was a slightly trickier climb, but I reached the lip of the rectangular hole and pulled myself up. It was pretty fun to do it, too, with small crowd of people watching curiously from the ground.
The third floor was, predictably, just like the other two. A few rooms, three fireplaces, lots of graffiti. I wandered around up there for a bit, enjoying listening to the people on the ground wonder how the hell I'd gotten up there. A few people even started to climb up to the second floor, realized it was harder than it looked, and went back down. It was pretty amusing.
In the ceiling, there was a hole just like the one in the floor where stairs had once gone to the roof. Unfortunately, the hole in the ceiling was situated right over the hole below it. I looked, but I didn't see any handholds cut into the wall this time. Apparently, whoever had cut the others was willing to risk falling one story but not two.
I headed back down after a little while, which was quite a bit easier than going up. All I had to do was hang off the lip of each hole and drop the few feet to the floor or ground. I started following a trail in the brush from the tower, figuring it must go somewhere. It pretty much had to, considering there were people coming and going down it constantly.
Off in the trees, I came up on the remains of a building. Pretty much all that was left was the chimney and a pile of enormous concrete blocks. There was also a rock wall running a pretty good length in front of it.
I went down toward the lakeshore from there and found lots of people checking out some rock-brick foundations at the waters edge. It was pretty obvious they were normally underwater, but I couldn't tell what they were. I thought maybe it was the famous amphitheater I kept hearing about, but it just didn't look like an amphitheater. I wondered if maybe this was just part of it and the actual amphitheater was under water again. I just didn't know enough about the place to be sure of anything.
I headed back down the shore farther after that, trying to make sure there wasn't anything else to see. There was just empty shoreline as far as I could see, though, so I turned around and went back. I took lots of pictures of the foundations, then started heading back toward the tower. I figured I could get my picture taking out of the way before the rest of the gang got there.
I went back down to the servants' quarters first and took lots of pictures of it. Then, I returned to the tower and made sure to get several pictures of each floor before climbing to the next. It was easier climbing it this time, but I had just as many people watching me curiously.
At the third floor, when I was done taking pictures, I decided to hang around up there until everyone else arrived. I only had to wait about five minutes before I saw Anne, David Keetz, and Sertile walking up from the parking area. I waved at them, but they already knew the crazy guy standing on the third floor of the building with no stairs had to be me.
I went down to the second floor to talk to them easier and told them how I'd gotten up. They looked it over a little and decided they'd rather use the rope Sertile had brought with him. They tossed up the end to me, and I realized there was nothing close to attach it to. There were no windows or holes nearby. Fortunately, the rope was just long enough to reach one of the windows on an adjacent wall and still have a few feet to hang out to the gang.
The guys climbed on up, and we had Anne hold on to the end of the rope while we pulled it up. We almost pulled it out of her hands in the process, but we managed to jerk her up through the door. We all looked over the way up to the third floor and decided it wasn't going to be anywhere near as easy to use the rope to get to that floor. No one really wanted to climb the handholes either, so I volunteered to go to the car for my cable ladder and went back down.
I returned with the ladder, tossed it up to the guys, and climbed back up. Then I went up to the third floor, had them toss me one end of Sertile's rope while they tied the other to the cable ladder, and I pulled the sucker on up. There was a good place to attach the ladder right there beside the hole, so I locked it in and everyone started climbing.
At that point, we proceeded to waste a bunch of time trying to figure out a way onto the roof. We tried several times to get Sertile's rope and small grappling hook out through the window and down through the hole in the roof, but it just didn't have enough weight. So, it was back down to my car for my heavy grappling hook.
That did the trick, and we were able to get mine out the hole and back through the window. We used the rope on my hook to pull Sertile's sturdier one up through the hole in the roof and back through the window, then we used his clip to cinch it down tight against the building. However, even after all that work, the rope was still too loose for climbing, and we couldn't figure out how to remedy that.
I started looking around closer at the wall underneath the opening in the roof, and it turned out I had been wrong. There were handholds cut into the wall. However, they were cut into the end of the wall, where it ended in a doorway. From there, a person would have to climb up to a square hole in the wall, then sit in that hole and pull themself up onto the roof from there.
Doing it was probably just as nerve-wracking as it sounds, but I did it. I went up the wall, sat in the square hole, and hauled myself up to the roof. Up there, I immediately ran into another problem. I couldn't see anything that I could attach the cable ladder to. There were three chimneys, but they were all just a few inches tall. The roof was flat and featureless and completely wrong for what we needed.
After much thinking and looking, I noticed a place on the back of one of the chimneys where there was a gap between the chimney and the roof. It wasn't much, but it was just enough to hold the cable of the ladder and keep it from slipping off. So, I wrapped it around the chimney, pushed the cable under that lip, and locked it in place.
Finally, everyone was able to come up to the roof. We all stood in triumph on the roof and enjoyed the curious and amazed stares of all the people milling around on the ground below. People kept constantly asking how the hell we got up there. It was great. It made me wish we had an audience for all the stupid things we do.
Eventually, we saw a group of about four or five EMO kids come down the toward the building. Two of them were ballsy enough to climb to the third floor, andone continued up our ladder to join us on the roof. I rewarded him with an Underground Ozarks sticker for his trouble.
We stayed up there for a long time, but we were forced back down by the receding daylight. It was slow-going, too. Everyone would climb down the ladder, I would unhook it and climb down the wall, and repeat. We did use the rope to get down from the second floor, though.
I went around with Anne, Keetz, and Sertile for a bit while they checked out everything else, but we were supposed to meet Hiccup in Berryville. It had taken us so long to get down from the tower that we were at least going to be an hour late. So, I told them I was going on ahead since I'd already photographed everything (or so I thought) and headed on down the road.
An hour later, I grabbed Hiccup in Berryville and we headed toward Eureka Springs to meet back up with everyone. Traffic must have been kinder to them than me or something, because they were already at our meeting spot when I got there. We got a quick bite to eat and headed to downtown to infiltrate the famous Eureka Springs underground.
We parked a ways off and walked down to one of the tunnel system's entrances. Hiccup and I had chest-high waders, since I didn't feel like getting wet, and we took a moment to strap ourselves into them. When we were set, we all started crawling.
The tunnels under downtown Eureka Springs are basically just one linear tunnel with a few small side tunnels here and there. In some places they're so small you have to crawl, and in other places a six foot tall person like myself can walk fully erect. They're also made of rocks formed in an arch and look ancient. And there's water the whole way, sometimes up to a foot or so deep.
Keetz and I had both been in the tunnels several times, but it was new for everyone else. We gave them the basic dime tour of the main stretch. We took them clear down to where the tunnels became almost too uncomfortable to traverse and stopped to peer out onto Main Street through a gutter box.
With that, we made our way out of the tunnels, walked back to our cars, and drove down to a gas station so everyone could change clothes and rest. I burned everyone's pictures to CD with my portable burner, and we sat around and talked for a bit. When everyone decided we'd had enough fun for one day, we packed up our junk and started heading back to Springfield.
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