While we were on our St. Louis vacation, Hiccup and I met up with Chris and explored a couple random buildings and the Cotton Belt Freight Depot.
After visiting the Arch earlier in the day, Hiccup and I met up with Chris that afternoon down by the riverfront. We decided to start by checking out a nearby building that the St. Louis guys had found that seemed to have a flooded underground chamber underneath it.
We headed down to the building and, when no one was looking, slipped in through some open windows. It looked to be some kind of old industrial building from the inside, and someone seemed to be renovating it. We creeped around a little bit and came to a wet area surrounding a grate in the floor. A ladder led down through an opening in the grate and we could see water below.
I went down the ladder until I was standing just above the water. Sure enough, there was a fairly large underground chamber. It wasn't a basement, because the walls were natural rock and the chamber looked to be manmade and mined out. The water, however, looked about five or six feet deep, so there was no point in breaking out the waders we'd brought with us. I could also see that the chamber continued on farther ahead and went around a corner, and I could hear water dripping heavily somewhere ahead. Unfortunately, it would've taken a small raft to explore the chamber.
Back up, we continued exploring the building and found another hole in the floor that apparently also led to the underground flooded area. It seemed to be the place where I'd heard the water dripping earlier. There just wasn't any easy way to get down there and check it out. If I'd known, I might have brought my inflatable boat with me.
After that, Chris led us to some sections in the back of the basement where cinderblock walls had been put in place over what looked to be tunnel entrances. One of the walls had a gap between the top and the ceiling, so I jumped up and hauled myself through the opening.
The other side had a large chamber, which was full almost to the ceiling with mounds of dirt. I decided to check it out anyway, and it was good that I did. Off to the side, through a hole in the wall with jagged pipes sticking out, I could see some kind of tunnel. I slipped down inside and found myself in an old steam tunnel. It stretched away as far as my light would shine so I started heading down it.
Every so often I would get a glimpse of the building through small holes in the tunnel. It appeared to run the entire the length of the building. At the end, it simply came out on a catwalk at the other end of the basement. The area hadn't looked like anything of interest when we'd entered the building, and we'd never have known it was there otherwise.
I ran back down to join Hiccup and Chris, but I found only Hiccup when I got there. Chris had bailed over the wall after me and had gone down the tunnel as well. So, Hiccup and I headed back down to the other side of the basement to meet him where he would come out, and we got there about the same time as he did.
Since we'd seen about all there was to see without a small boat, we climbed out of the building and started talking about where to go next. While we were talking, Chris mentioned about a building next door that was supposed to have some kind of sub-basement in it. Since there was an obvious opening into the building near its foundation, I decided just to crawl in and have a look.
Inside the opening near the foundation, I found myself in yet another steam tunnel running the length of this building, this time perched over a six foot drop. I had to shimmy down a large pipe so that I could drop down into the tunnel. At the bottom of the tunnel, a rusted air vent gave way enough for me to slip inside, although it was a dirty experience.
I found myself in a pretty typical basement, although it was full of old junk. It appeared that someone had been storing a lot of stuff down here and hadn't touched it for quite some time. There were clothes, furntiure, and pretty much anything else you'd expect to find at a garage sale.
I wandered around the basement a bit, looking for any indication that there might be a sub-basement. I ended up finding a door that was labeled sub-basement, but it only led into a different area of the the basement. It didn't appear that there was an actual level lower than that basement.
I went upstairs, thinking maybe I could walk out of the building through one of the doors. However, it didn't take me long to discover that all the doors were locked from the outside or simply didn't open at all. I found the door Hiccup and Chris were standing outside and yelled to tell them what I was doing. In the end, though, I just went back to the basement and crawled back out of the air vent.
Next, we started to head over to the Cotton Belt Freight Depot, but we had a strange experience. Sometime before, Chris had met a couple guys taking pictures there who were familiar with Underground Ozarks and knew about me. Well, when we walked up to the building, those guys were there again. We introduced ourselves, and they were very excited to meet me. It was cool. I felt sort of famous.
We headed inside the building after that and started checking it out. The bottom floor was filled with all kinds of random junk, again just stuff you'd expect to see at a garage sale. We also found something we hadn't expected to find--stairs. On memory_machine's visit to the depot, they'd only found an elevator. However, we found a door that was nearly rusted shut that hid the stairway. It was fine with me, because I hadn't really wanted to mess with hauling my chain ladder up the elevator shaft and lowering it down for the others.
We went floor to floor after that, walking the length of them. For the most part, the floors were completely empty. There was some random graffiti and markings on the wall for the freight, but that was about it. Sometimes, to get from one section of floor to the other, we would have to force open another rusty door, although we weren't damaging them.
At the top floor, in the middle of the building, we found a square hatch in the ceiling that went to the roof. There was no ladder, but someone had propped a rectangular piece of scrap against the wall. I climbed up it and bailed up through the opening onto the roof. I ran from one end of the roof to the other, trying hard not to be seen, and then found a small building at one end of the roof with a ladder going down below. I climbed down and yelled for Hiccup and Chris to come down where I was and climb the ladder to the roof.
We spent a while up there checking out a handful of small buildings on the roof. They were mostly empty, with some junk, although one contained tanks for what was probably once a sprinkler system. We also saw the two guys from before wandering around down below taking pictures and waved to them. They had us pose for a few shots on the edge of the roof.
After that, we went down a few floors to a rusty door that we'd been unable to open. We worked on it for a while with a piece of metal and a shovel, and we finally wedged it open. Inside, unlike the other sections of the building, we found all kinds of junk. Judging by the looks of it, a bum had apparently been using this part as their apartment. From there, we were able to go down a floor to another section we hadn't been able to access, and it was the same way. It looked like someone had been stockpiling clothes and toiletries.
With that, we'd seen about all there was to see of the building. We headed out the way we'd come, stopping to take a few pictures of the exterior of the building, then we headed back to our cars and called it a night.
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