Expedition 1: 12-2-98
Operatives: Freak and NinjaBoy
I won't say which building this is, just that it's fairly public and we were able to pursuade a worker there to let us stay late. We used this time to go around popping ceiling tiles untill we found a small trapdoor. Much rearranging of furniture allowed access to the attic, where we immediately went. As no light source had been brought, an emergency floodlight was liberated from the wall and its self powered twin bulbs let us see the entire large, windowless attic. Eventually we discovered an extension cord, and were able to activate a pair of antique 200 watt bulbs which lit the place up nicely. NinjaBoy just happend to have some paint, so large messages were written upon the ceiling beams. I doubt if this space is ever used, since the layer of dust upon the coiled extension cord was thick. During our artwork, NinjaBoy had a near-death experience. While tagging up, he stepped off the wooden beams and went straight through the plaster with one leg, almost puncturing the ceiling tiles in the room below. He managed to escape with minor injuries, but I hope no one lifts those ceiling tiles anytime soon! Another room revealed a simmilar attic, in which a light switch turned on not lights, but a sparking, noisy ventilation fan which caused us to flee in fear of discovery.
Expedition 2: 2-8-99
Operatives: Freak and NinjaBoy
I'm still embarrased over being caught at this one,
someday, when I've left the area and the people who know my real identity
are less likely to remember this, I may post the whole story, but for now,
I can only offer some tips on how not to get caught. (this applies to buildings
as well as steam tunnels).
1. Don't fuck with the lights! If they're on, don't turn them off! It may provide less cover, but it looks suspicious to see them go off in an "empty" building or tunnel. And, naturally, if they're off don't turn them on (unless in a sealed room or attic as we were in expedition 1)
2. Always have an escape route: We got ourselves cornered when we could have had a perfectly good escape route with some planning.
3. Keep a lookout posted: When trying to jemmy open tunnel doors, don't just concentrate on the job.
4. If caught, tell the truth if possible, and be respectful. If you admit being somewhere you shouldn't be and promise to be good, they'll sometimes let you go.
5. Leave everything as it was: It looks a lot worse if you broke or pilfered something. If you were "just looking around" it's only tresspassing and not theft or vandalism.
Infiltration.org has some excellent tips on how to avoid capture in tunnels and buildings, I suggest you check their site as well.
Expedition 3: 4-20-99
Operatives: Freak and NinjaBoy
Previous attempts to penetrate the only good drain
in Sitka had ended at deep water, which consistently ran cold and dark
at a level greater than our boots. We did not want to wade further, as
wet boots are heavy, cold, and chafe, and we didn't like the idea of walking
knee deep in water on an uncertain surface. We vowed to return with some
kind of hip waders, but put off buying any.
After about a week from our last failed drain expedition, we were able to borrow some small, short kayaks from a freind. We headed for the drain at high tide, with several flashlights, a camera, and some other supplies in case we needed to pursuade a manhole into opening. I strapped my waterproof flashlight to the front of my kayak and gave NinjaBoy one of my other lights (which the bastard would later lose).
We were able to paddle directly into the outfall, a 7ft diameter corrugated steel pipe coming out of the hill beneath a parking lot. We rode the small wavelets up to the first shape change, beneath a circular surface grating just at the top of the tunnel. We had reached the deep part that stopped us before, and could hear the sound of rushing water around the turn ahead.
Paddling slowly up the tunnel, now a 7x7 ft square concrete tunnel, we rounded several curves and passed a small downpipe, the source of the rushing water sounds. the water at this point was still about 3 feet deep, and the walls were 7 ft apart, leaving us plenty of room to paddle through the drain. We passed under several sets of stalactites suspended from cracks in the cement ceiling. strange pipes and metal rods protruded here and there from the walls, and at one point we passed a pair of breifs snagged on a rusty nail. At one point the drain's angle changed, forcing us to exit the boats and drag them over a small sandbar(!)
Soon we came to a small room in the drain, extending 12 feet up to the surface, where a square hole had been blocked with peices of wood. A 2 ft diameter culvert led off to one side at an angle, and the upper part of one side of the shaft appeared to have a small bricked up door or hole of some kind. Ahead, the tunnel became a low, half flooded corrugated section with a waterfall coming down from the top. We carefully manuevered past the stream of water, getting slightly wet, and came upon a 2nd room, identical to the first, but with a square grating set in the ceiling above. We decided we must have passed under a road of some sort, with the two rooms being gutter-box like structures. The section passing under the road had been the deepest, at about 15-20 feet below the surface.
Continuing up the driain, we passed a jagged, 6 ft long log stuck between a change from the square concrete to the round metal-type drain. Seems those lazy city engineers don't often check the place. Also there was absolutely no graffiti in the drain, which we attempted to remedy but had only brought a Sharpie brand marker which was crap. We glimpsed light ahead, and the drain took a steep (to us in the boats) turn upward towards the surface. after much clawing and jamming of paddles into the sides, we managed to get up the slope against the moderate current that flowed down it. This led us to another segment of concrete squares, which boasted a pool filled with rusty scrap metal, car parts, and small logs which was barely navigable.
Finally, we emerged into the light, out into a marshy stream and someone's backyard! A woman showed up and wanted to know what the hell we were doing in her yard, so we just said "Oh, you know, we paddled up from the ocean, we're doing a study on runoff and how it affects fish migration." She failed to immediately summon authorities so we quized her about other area drains. She reported a small culvert further up the stream, but it sounded like a waste of time (and we were too lazy to haul the boats throught the bushes and marshy ground). I climbed a small hill to see where we had emerged, the slope segment had seemed much longer than it really was, and we were sure that we were at least a quarter of a mile inland. Surprise! a survey of our location revealed that we had gone only a few hundred yards straight in, and only another fifty yards or so with all the twists and turns. Deciding it was dinner time, we slid back down the sloped pipe (fortunately plastic kayaks are sturdy), missing the Sharp Log of Doom, but decided to take a break at the grating chamber. After climbing up on some narrow concrete ledges, the grating proved lift-proof, and sticks thrust through faild to attract the attention of pedestrians. We continued down the drain, faster than before, and NinjaBoy realized he had somehow mislaid my 2nd best light! also his only light source, so we had to rely on my fading waterproof light and a smaller penlight I had. We exited the drain, returned to the dock, and called it a day.
Later surveys revealed that the drain passes under several stores and a laundromat, and that the grating we were at is farther from the sidewalk than we thought.
To see a map of our drain, click Here. Pictures can be found here.
Expedition 4: 4-30-99
Operatives: Freak and NinjaBoy
Censored until the statute of limitations runs out
Expedition 5: 11-29-99
Operatives: Freak and Pirate
The bridge... long a target of exploration, it has been climbed, jumped from, and fallen off of. But apparently no one has gotten onto the catwalk beneath it, probably left from it's construction. A manhole in the roadway leads to this catwalk, but can only be popped safely at night, and then the only way to escape without being caught would be to jump off and be picked up by a freind in a boat. (The Coast Guard station is right at one end of the bridge, and the forest service ranger station dock is at the other end, both in full view of the manhole!) However, one can see, as they drive by, some small square hatches in the sides of the bridge beams marked with stuff like "High Voltage, Stay Out" "Confined Space, Toxic Fumes May be Present" and other propaganda to keep people out. Fortunately, while on an unrelated trip, I noticed that on the far side of the bridge (The Japonski side) the hatches were open...
An expedition was formed, this was a source of much excitement, as the hollow part was thought to exstend along the entire length of the bridge, accessing the catwalk and possibly the towers.
Upon reaching the site, we climed up the hill to the overhang just below the bridge, where it became an earth ramp down to the island road. The steel supports were indeed hollow, and some suspicious looking sleeping bags and blankets were strewn about, along with rotting jars of smoked salmon and books of philosophy. Entrance into the bridge proved moderately difficult, on one side, all the hatch bolts but one had been removed, so the hatch hung loosely under the opening and was hard to use as a climbing aid. Eventually we got in, and discovered more blankets, books, and a bag of dogfood. (At this point we were really hoping not to run into any dogfood eating drug junkies). The close end of the 6x3ft hall was welded shut, and was an excellent spot for some tags, including our aliases and e-mail address. (White-board dry erase markers work great on steel, don't rub off, and come in a variety of colors). Walking up the hallway led to a bolted section which seemed to be holding the bridge together, and which contained some odd stains and old fireworks (I would'nt want to be setting off fireworks in a confined space like this) Farther along, the bridge passage came to an end. A welded panel covered the place where the first cable support entered the structure, and blocked any attempt at access (the support on the other side is theorised to be solid steel as well). We tagged up discretely behind a beam so as not to ruin the decor for the homeless people, and got back out to check the other side.
The south side of the bridge was easier to access, as a large water pipe facillitated climbing in. This side contained more used fireworks, a rotten rope, and a 70's era coke can. Same story with the welded panel, so we left.
Eventually my overpowering curiosity will probably lead me to do something silly like seeing what's on that catwalk late at night. I suppose a 60 ft. drop into 40 degree (F) water wouldn't be all that bad...
Expedition 6: 4-23-00
I figured that no one would be working at the old pulp mill on
Easter, so I biked out to have a look around. Unfortunately I wasn't able
to infiltrate the main complex, since there were two security goons giving
me funny looks as I rode around the former office buildings. I noticed
a dich running alongside the road which ended in a chunk of concrete with
a hole in it. Hmm, I wonder what's under there? After stashing my
bike in the woods I climbed down to have a look. At first glance
it seemed to be only a small 4ft diameter RCP, but I could see a chamber
of some kind at the very farthest extent of my light. I pulled out my headlamp
and started wading down the narrow drain, which had only a minimal flow
Upon reaching the chamber, I found another 4ft RCP going at right angles to the first, and at a lower level. The second section went off to the right of the first, the opposite side of the chamber had a dry 1ft pipe, and there was a rusted manhole in the top of the rectangular chamber. There was also a pool of water about a foot deep in the bottom. I didn't have boots on, so I stashed my backpack in the side pipe and climbed over to the other RCP. After going several meters down this pipe it became too uncomfortable due to the rocks and gravel at the bottom. The debris reduced the height of the pipe to about 3 feet, and I ended up crawling through the water on slimy rocks, brushing cobwebs out of my hair. (There were LOTS of spiders in this drain, I'm glad we don't have any poisonous ones here).
I turned back after seeing only more of the same ahead. I took some pictures and wrote my website address on the wall. The concrete was coated with some sort of dust or paint that made it hard to write with board markers, but I left a computer disk in a plastic bag as well.
I knew from library research that this drain went under most of the complex before turning again and dumping out under a pier. I decided to find the other end, figuring it would be bigger after draining more of the mill site. I climbed down on the beach and wandered around a rusted fence with a no trespassing sign ("Really, officer, I thought that sign only meant to stay off the dock"). I scared an otter which was sleeping on a rock, but otherwise encountered no resistance in going under the dock. The beach under the dock was coated with some kind of decaying rubber mat, and the dock was supported by metal pilings driven into the bottom of the cove. I was attempting to take a picture when my camera broke (Yes, that's the second one in a month, maybe I should stop buying cheap cameras from second hand stores). The shutter release button jammed and then the camera spontaneously rewound, so at least my other pictures should be OK.
After this I headed back into town, I'm going to try and get copies of the drain maps so I can locate a better entrance, or a larger drain.
Other minor infiltrations have included a flooded bunker near the dump, a polluted death swamp formed by an overflowing sewer manhole (It didn't look like sewage, and the concrete column was so rust-coated that I think the flow has been going for a long time) and some houses and a bomb shelter in an abandoned neighborohood.
Research in our freindly local library has revealed that yes, salmon do migrate up the storm drain! also, there is supposedly an underground communication base somewhere around here, physical evidence of which remains elusive. Sadly this bunker is probably just another urban legend or something that the army never got around to building, but which still got listed on the facilities description sheets. We went around popping every manhole we could find in Millerville and the surrounding woods, but only found an old oil pipeline and 1940s sewers. (And this)
Steam Tunneling at the University of Alaska Fairbanks:
Expedition 1 - 3
I checked out the construction at the Duckering building, the first time without a flashlight, so even though I thought I had located an entrance to the tunnels I didn't want to investigate without at least one light. I took lots of pics of the construction and got into most of the rooms on the basement level. The next day I returned with a light and camera, and went a little ways through the tunnels, up to the point where I could see into the library mechanical room area, I then headed back since I was worried about running into security near the library. A few days later I returned, and explored most of the three main tunnels accesible from my original access point, via the library junction. Urban Exploration is much more intense when alone, especially with clanging pipes, dripping water noises, and the constant fear of running into someone, whether an employee or some crazed drug addict (You think of some pretty strange things when tunneling alone!). After this I decided to either ask some seniors about the tunnels or get a few people together to go exploring.
Operatives: Freak, Mutton
We went the length of the Rassmuson - Bunnell tunnel, but didn't go further due to seeing a new set of lights turned on in the power plant tunnel. We both ran around in Duckering some more and looked at the progress being made on the foundation repair. I took more pictures (Gotta love digital cameras, at that time the library was still renting out Sony Mavicas).
Operatives: Freak, Mutton, Labb, MT
Grabbed a larger group of freinds, and headed back to do the main tunnel system. We explored the full length of every open tunnel, including the cramped ones leading to Signers Hall and Gruening (which were sealed at the ends). We also managed to find a way into part of the library mechanical rooms. The first space we entered was a large, noisy, cold (compared to the tunnels) space about 7 feet wide, 50-60ft long, and 20 feet tall. There was a big aircon duct at one end and a set of fans at the other end. In the middle of the room was a passage into a round corrugated steam tunnel coated with tar, leading to an impassible crawlway into the Brooks Building. Also in the middle of the room was a ladder up to a balcony, which we used to climb onto some pipes 8feet off the floor (never do this) and get into the aircon duct, which we hoped to use to access some more of the mechanical rooms. The duct ended about 15 feet in and around a corner, where a screen blocked a large fan blowing air through the duct (someday we're going to hang a model plane in there, there's enough wind to make it fly on the end of a string). Returning to the balcony, we cautiously opened a door that we had ignored before, and found ourselves in a long dark room above the round steam tunnel. This room contained large unused transformers, and a vent to the outside of the library. A door at the far end led to a number of smaller rooms with piping, fans, and more outside vents. One room had a ladder down to a lower level, where we found more electrical panels, the main fire alarm control, and a computer terminal hooked up to a sewage pump of some kind. We could have gone into the library from here, but it was after hours and we figured that the library itself would be patrolled by the campus safety officers. We also could have gotten into more ducts through some small doors, but we left that for another trip (which never happened).
This time we intended to access the air ducts we had skipped before, but when we reached the library junction we found that the gate into the other mech rooms was unlocked. We quickly took this opportunity to investigate the excellent utility area, containing many huge machines, fans, pumps, etc. We found 2 more steam tunnels, one of which we went down. After passing several side passages and sealed manholes we were able to take a side passage to Wickersham Hall, where we found a nice little map drawn on the wall with marker pen, and some graffiti about "Alan's cool car". Returning to the "main" tunnel, we ran into difficulty, as this tunnel quickly became shitty. It became aproximately 3 feet by 5 feet, with only about a foot of clearance to squeeze by the pipe supports every few feet. After about 10 minutes of hot backbreaking travel through this passage, the way opened up a little, but was filled with steam! We got past this obstacle, finding the way straight ahead into Chapman blocked by pipes. The side passage here was nice and open, and a little cooler than the previous tunnel, so we set off down it. However almost immediately Labb sustained injury when he ran into a sharp obstruction in the tunnel. We headed back in search of band-aides, or at least some duct tape, and managed to find something when we finally reached Duckering again. (We joked with the unfortunate victim about him leaving DNA samples all over the floor). Thus ended our expedition of that night.
Final Expedition 7
Special appearances by: Officer Steve and Officer Sam
We returned to the library mech rooms in search of coolness, and got into most of the little nooks and crannies of the off limits basements. We found a tiny door leading into the concert hall, where a night class was in progress, and a tunnel that led through the foundation supports of the library. We went back into the tunnel we had been in the day before, and headed up the first side passage, a 6ft diameter corrugated metal pipe with pipes and wires on each side. After trudging up this for a long time, we had to crawl under / around a poorly placed pipe leading to a fire hydrant on the surface. A few yards further there was a pool of icky, oily water which we had to cross on a thin pipe. Another of these pools (fortunately shallow) was further up the pipe, and a concrete side passage led past the Police station to a locked gate into one of the dorms. Farther up, the main tunnel turned back into the normal rectangular concrete and a series of short side passages lead to the various faculty houses on either side. We talked about finding the tunnel to the frat house and closing the valve on their sewer pipe, but first of all we didn't really want to mess with anything and also we couldn't find the frat house. Many of these houses seemed to have direct access to the tunnels through their basements or in some cases the basements were part of the tunnels. Talk about a great place to live! In one basement / tunnel we found a rug lying across the pipe to dry, and a little door which seemed to lead into someone's bathroom, we could hear voices so we didn't stick around. Eventually we came to a split in the passage, each end being blocked about 20 yards past the split. We headed back down the long, seemingly endless tunnel to the original concrete passage that started at the library. From here we continued to where Labb hurt himself last time, and went as far as we could south from there to another security gate.
At this point there were no other tunnels that we were able to access anywhere in the current network without breaking something, so we decided to go out through the Wood Center (it was sort of a spur of the moment descision). We managed to get into the basement, and started running around taking pictures of various cool air vents and piping. We even found a tunnel to the strange grating under the Wood center stairs, which you can see from above in the lobby. This was our undoing, as unbeknownst to us there was someone working late in the Wood Center (it was close to midnight), who heard us walking around and whispering, and called the cops.
We were about to leave, and had stopped for a final picture when the door to the stairs opened, and in walked two uniformed officers and the Wood employee. From that point it was: "Hands at your sides, put down the camera, kneel facing the wall, hold out your wrists, where's your ID?" After cuffing us and removing our wallets and pocketknives, the cops took us upstairs and wrote out tickets for trespassing, as well as giving us a lecture on why we shouldn't have been there. One cop wanted to take us to jail on the spot, but the other was very decent and simply let us off with a court summons. Each of us were escorted out and given back our wallets, flashlights, water bottles, cameras, and knives (they never completely emptied our pockets or packs). We were also told to see the chief of the campus police department before returning to the Wood Center or Duckering building.
Thus ends the steam tunnel expeditions of our still unnamed group (and hotel infiltration, and rooftopping, and most everything else for the rest of the year). Now we have to look harder for storm drains, of which there seem to be none here.
Mine Reconnisance (Juneau, Alaska)
Hiked up basin road behind downtown Juneau. Went to small mining museum and hung out for a while, then climed up the hill behind it and looked at the rail yard and old mine cars. hiked along the tracks out to the dual portals of the AJ adit, one is collapsed and the other blocked with tin roofing, wouldn't bee too hard to open up if I had a crowbar. Saw lots of porcupines and got a pic of one close up. Climbed down the hill from the last portal and slid down part of an avalance pile of snow from snowslide gulch. Inspected the AJ drainage tunnel but found it to be full of water and blocked off. Again crowbar or boltie accesible but there were some electrical boxes inside which may be alarms. Walked back to the bridge over Gold Creek and past the Ebner adit up Perseverance Trail. wandered past Ebner Falls into Silverbow Basin (eventually) after taking an unnecesary detour on a side trail. Finally got into Silverbow Basin and got to the end of the trail, nothing but brush and water. Got wet feet, crashed through brush and into a lower valley inside the basin. (which I now know is an open pit mine type feature called the "Placer Pit") Found a flooded shaft and an adit that was blocked 6 feet in with chicken wire, easy to bust through but I didn't feel like exploring it with just a mini maglite (it didn't look too stable either). Found the Glory Hole just over the hill (the adit probably exits into it). Looked around and took some pics, then hiked the rim to a concrete tower and some ruins. Found a sloping tunnel under the ruins leading down parallel to the glory hole but didn't explore that either. Hiked along tailings piles past old mine cars and a flume, then down into the valley again at the north end, where a stream disappeared into a partially collapsed tunnel. This could be the upper end of the Gold Creek Drainage Tunnel but I'm not sure. Took pics and walked back to town. (I now think the flooded tunnel in the placer pit is a drain merely for that pit).
Went across the bridge to Douglas and wandered around the Treadwell mine ruins. Found two glory holes with a thin rock bridge between them carrying a flume and railway, plus a big arch/hole in the rock bridge wall connecting both glory holes. Hiked down to that, kind of unsatisfied with automatic camera, as the lowest zoom is not wide angle enough. Climbed back up and poked around more, walked the beach to an eroding concrete box/tower with a pipeline leading into the channel, then back along the roads and trails to the water filled glory holes. Someone went to a lot of trouble to make the main glory hole safe, the cliff of dead cars is fenced off and the two tunnels I remember from years ago are collapsed on the trail side and cemented shut on the glory hole side (although someone has tried to dig under the concrete and hit rock). Climbed down into this one and took a picture of the pile o' cars under the cliff. Climbed back up and noticed bubbles rising to the surface all across the lake, plus several oil slicks. Tasty.
Fairbanks, Fall semester 01
9-14-01 Biked out to a place where there was supposedly an old mining dredge (near Ester) Found a large dredge that I couldn't get to and a smaller dragline crane of some kind, as well as a big tractor that looks like a Jawa Sandcrawler from Star Wars. Climbed around on the dragline and tractor (apparently a mobile ore crusher). And took some video with a school camera.
9-15-01 Tried to get a ride with some people out to the dredge, however they went off to a party somewhere so I borrowed a bike again. I had to wait a while at Ester for some construction workers to leave the gravel pit (which the road to the dredge goes through). Then I just biked in and hiked around the pond to the big dredge, scaring a bunch of beavers. I got on board via an unsafe ganplank, it looks like the dredge pivots around a spud (piling) and so the gangway isn't always touching land, it would kinda suck to get stranded on the dredge if the wind shifted, although I could probably make a raft out of planks and oil drums. I climbed up all the gantrys and towers, explored the main deck and the tailings conveyor, but didn't get to the sub-level holds or even all the internal decks. Took more pics with a school digital camera and tested out my new LED headlamp (pretty good for close range). Hiked back to my hidden bike and rode out the same way, I wanted to scout a possible back route to the dredge pond but by then it was getting dark.
I was supposed to get a ride again but the guy with the car went somewhere else. I biked out again with another guy (a fellow tunneler from last year). We didn't have time to go the the large dredge (and it looked like it was floating around randomly), so we checked out the dragline and sandcrawler again, and took some pictures (I forgot disks for the digital camera, D'oh!). I think the dredge was at one time anchored, but the beavers built a dam and raised the water level enough so that it's now floating, and drifts around with the wind and currents. We may have to buy a small inflatable boat for next time.
I got back to the dredge this sunday, I hadn't had a chance before now and I was itching for some exploration. I tried riding my bike in by a different way but soon resorted to thrashing through bushes and crossing streams, etc on foot. I did find a less conspicous way to the pond at least, I've been bothered about going through that gravel pit when people are around.
Once I got there I noticed that the dredge had moved with the wind, although it seemed to be farily well stuck aganist the shore. It was in the opposite orientation from last time I was there, the tailings conveyor stuck out over the trees and I boarded from a ramp at the rear. I explored for about an hour checking out parts I hadn't seen before and getting pictures with both a borrowed digital camera and an old SLR with black and white film. After starting to climb the rear ganty I noticed that the wind had shifted and the dredge was moving, in fact the ramp I had used to get on was now over the water! I contemplated spending a night huddled in a corner against sub-zero temperatures and decided that I'd rather try to make a raft out of old oil drums and wood. Swimming wasn't an option with two cameras and a scanner, plus I didn't want to ride my bike for 4 miles while wet.
Fortunately it turned out that I didn't have to resort to my half-assed boat building skills. Another ramp which had been over the water was now approaching land, and even though the door to it was boarded up I was able to crawl through an ore chute and get to it. I got back to land and took some photos from a hill above the dredge, then left since it was getting dark (another problem with winter at high latitudes).
October and November
Returned to the Dredge a few times, did some filming for a possible amatuer film and brought some other people on one trip. Its getting too cold for much outdoor exploration.
Return to UAF steam tunnels
In order to releive stress from the finals from hell (TM) I went on a UE spree, and along with another guy got into various library utility rooms, saw the cargo elevator in Gruening, and did tunnels again after a year away from them! First we tried to get onto the under-construction 5th floor of the library but failed due to chained doors. We then headed to the unlocked roof hatch where I climbed up and took some crappy photos, I wanted to jump down onto a series of succesivley lower library roofs and leave that way but I decided against it due to the library still being open and staffed. After this we cruised the rest of the library and then Gruening. Checked out the graffiti hallway and found an open door on the 2nd floor (one level underground) that revealed the mythical utility elevator and some antique electrical junction boxes. The brain store room in the psych department was looked at, but not entered. Then we went over to Nerland and bugged the film club crew and some other people. We rounded up more criminals and went into the tunnels, on past Lathrop, Stevens, and the cafeteria, to the power plant where we probably set off an alarm in the student trap for that tunnel (we noticed a magnetic sensor on the other side of a door after opening it). We hauled ass back to Latrhop, popped out and went back to Nerland where we attempted to explain to the front desk attendant how we entered the builidng twice in an hour without apparently leaving.
Had another string of good luck. I went to renew the digital camera rental and opened the padlock on 5th floor with my masterlock padlock key. After entering and locking up behind me I couldn't get it to open with my key again, so I have no idea what happened there. I must have some kind of padlock karma. Checked out some of the new mechanical rooms and holes in the wall (new air vents), then left by another stairwell and propped the door, intending to return (but never did). Returned to the tunnels via Nerland hall with some people. Got into the SRC through a miniature elf door and cruised the mech rooms briefly. Found a window into the pool that I'd never known about, maybe if I swam more I'd have seen it. Traveled up under the sled hill towards West Ridge, but turned back somewhere between the greenhouse and the supercomputer center. Traveled all the way back and then went towards Wickersham hall. We got to the other side of the gate that stopped us last year, and then when at Wick some noise seemingly associated with a flood alarm made us scram back to Nerland. Probably nothing, but it may be a good thing that we quit while we were ahead.
Remote semi-abandoned lighthouse (southeast Alaska)
The Cape Spencer lighthouse is a US coast guard lighthouse that was built in 1925 and manned by coast guard crews until sometime in the 1980s when most of the lighthouses around Alaska were automated. This one has a short, square tower topped by a round light room, under which is a square "Art Deco" building where the crews lived. On the same rock as the lighthouse is a helicopter pad, a boathouse, and a crane used to launch boats, as well as some radio towers and telecom trailers.
I’d had my eye on this for a while, I’ve been working on a fishing boat this summer and we’ve been in the area of the lighthouse for the last few days. My first attempts to kayak to the rock failed, although a friend of mine managed to do it with exactly the right combination of tide and wave action. I finally got a chance to go with two other people who had an inflatable skiff, and who I’d mentioned the lighthouse to. We got dropped off by a larger boat near the lighthouse rock and rowed in, landing on a ledge below the cliffs and hauling the skiff up above the tideline.
After climbing the cliff, the first building we looked at was the crane winch house. There was no dock here, so crews had to launch boats with the crane and pick them up the same way. At the top was a platform to put the boats on with a boathouse and tram rails on which the boats could be slid into the boathouse. When we looked in there we found that the boats were gone and there were only some tools and lumber. An old sign recommended safe and courteous behavior for visitors or “visiting privileges may be revoked”. (There were a few humorous signs like this, my favorite was the “Goggles must be worn while operating this machine” posted over the toilet)
The tram rails led up a boardwalk past the helipad to the main lighthouse. There were also some equipment trailers from the phone company and fuel tanks for the generators which power the lighthouse and radio equipment. Previous visitors had told me that nothing was locked up, so we entered the lighthouse by the front door. As we came through the first door into the entryway I could hear a beeping noise from inside, but there were no alarm sensors on the door so we decided it was something else. The second door did have a magnetic sensor on it, and when we got in we found the following sign: “Welcome to the Cape Spencer Lighthouse, when you entered an alarm was activated and a response team was notified. You are trespassing on government property, if you are in distress, a radio, food, and water are (locations given). Damage to equipment can result in a $250,000 fine” (this isn’t the exact wording, I’ll have a picture of it eventually). We located the source of the beeping as a carbon monoxide detector, and since the last visitor a few days ago hadn’t caused a response we figured the alarm wasn’t hooked up.
The main room we came to first was the lounge, with couches and tables, a kitchen, and some paintings and maps on the walls. Three bedroom/offices were off to one side, and the bathroom, a storage room, and an electronics room were on the other side. There was a surprising amount of stuff left; food, magazines, files and papers, bedding and clothes in the lockers (along with graffiti from the crews about how much the place sucked). In the back were the generators and a stairway leading up and down. We ascended the rough concrete stairs, which were in poor condition, up to a square room filled with weather monitoring electronics, and then up a spiral staircase to the glassed-in light room. The light itself was a new addition, the original rotating mechanism being rusted solid in a shaft which led all the way through the structure. The lens on the new light was spinning slowly but the light wasn’t on (It was still daytime). A video camera was duct-taped to the window, pointing out towards the fishing grounds (probably to monitor the sea conditions for the weather service). After getting some photos up in the tower, we went down to check out the basement.
In the basement we found a pool table complete with cues and balls, and some graffiti that looked like it had been done with the cue chalk. More miscellaneous equipment like portable generators and cans of fuel and paint were down here, but mostly it was empty. Parts of the basement were floored with the natural rock of the island, which was very uneven in places, but most of it was a concrete floor.
After we’d photographed and examined most of the lighthouse we messed around outside for a while, one person climbed to the top and posed standing on the roof of the tower. I looked around and found some foundations from former buildings and fuel tanks, as well as a lot of metal scrap and other trash that had been thrown over the cliffs and into crevices. We finally decided we’d seen everything and returned to our boat, launched off the cliff “SEAL team style” as someone commented, and left without encountering the mythical “response team” which would probably take at least an hour to get there by helicopter anyway.
More UAF stuff
I'd scouted the fine arts complex a few days before, and found a relatively easy way into the section that was under renovation. After checking out some of the catwalks and passages around the concert hall, I found a way back into the section of tunnels I had been in two years ago. I left this for later and checked out some more of the building before my camera ran out of memory, then decided to return later with more people.
The next night I got a crew together, but one guy dropped out, so there
ended up being only two of us. We got into the building the same way, and
moved straight to the tunnels rather than looking around the building again.
After traveling through some tunnels and air vents, we came to the Library
mechanical rooms which are a major tunnel junction for the Eastern campus.
First we went west, then north past the police station through the round
corrugated tunnel. We reached a point just past Walsh hall which had a
new bulkhead door installed, this was locked with a combination padlock
which aside from a few tries we didn't feel like hacking. We went back
south to the junction with the square concrete tunnel between the library
and the Wood Center. I didn't feel like going through the cramped part
towards the wood center, so we went back to the library junction and then
into the southern tunnels. We looked for the supposed new tunnel section
between the library and Signers hall, but didn't find it. Then we went
through the generic library-Bunnell tunnel and exited Bunnell just in time
to mingle with people leaving a movie there.
We took some photos with my new digital camera and I tired some time exposures.
12-19-02 West Ridge tunnels
Operatives: Freak and <hasn't come up with an alias>
On almost exactly the 1-year anniversary of my first forray into this tunnel system, I managed a return and sucessful exploration. Due to some Asbestos abatement the security gates have been left unlocked lately, I hope that this trend continues as it makes accessing different sections through diferent buildings unneccesary. Basically every tunnel on campus is now open to me, except for the three or four sections I have never been able to get to.
I first noticed the lack of locked gates a week ago while visiting a section I hadn't been to since being arrested. I immediately decided to return to the West Ridge area through the long uphill tunnel past the gym, which was now open. Unfortunately I could not get anyone I knew to come along with me, all citing more pressing issues such as final exams, alcohol consumption, and social lives. I pestered three or four people that I could usually count on for the rest of the week, and finally got two to agree to a mission. One dropped out at the last minute after discovering some unfinished christmas shopping, so it was a two-man mission only.
We set out with full gear, although only I had brough water (knowing how long the trip was). At the gym we visited the pool window and found a crawl-tunnel around the base of the pool which was left for later. I heard something about an alarm on my police scanner, so we left the area and went up under the sled hill towards West Ridge. Thes are some of the bigger tunnels, but are also very hot, so we stopped under the several vents to breathe in cool air. My legs hurt from crawling through a 4ft drain the night before, but I kept on knowing this might be the only chance to see these tunnels before the gates were locked up again. After what seemed like miles of the same tunnel, we came to the side tunnel to the museum, which I hadn't explored fully before. WE went up this and came to an odd junction with a tunnel above us, which lead into a greenhouse nearby. there was no ladder and I ended up burning my hand trying to climb the pipes, so we left that for later. The museum was bricked off from the tunnels, although several manhole exits were nearby (some are locked from above).After returning to the main tunnel we passed the escape / equipment hatch (good entrance now that I know how the lock works) and finally passed the point I had turned back last year after my team got tired and paranoid (myself included).
As we neared the supercomputer center I thought I saw a locked gate, but it turned out to be open! the computer building had a ladder into the mech room, which we looked at but didn't explore further. I found two keys on a nail in the tunnel, and contemplated stealing them untill I realized that I already had a copy of one! (another story). The other was some wierd electrical box key and didn't seem worth it. Just before the computer building there was a stairway at right angles leading up to another tunnel, this one going north under the Arctic Health building. We passed beneath this strange, biohazard-filled building and eventually reached the Irving complex (seperate page on the crack-induced architecture of that one). We looked around the maze-like subbasement and found the pipe chase that leads to the roof penthouse, but couldnt' find a way in. One room of the subbasement looked like a ship's engine room, with large engines and machinery. I thought I heard someone in the area above this, so we scooted back to the tunnels. Farther north, near O'Niell, the tunnel changes levels with a two-layer catwalk/ladder switchback and a door into O'Niell. Westward the tunnel goes down again, and sort of wraps around the bottom of the three Elvey Buildings. I got confused with all the switchbacks and probably messed up my map, but we found a way out at the end of the tunnel and decided to called it a night.
1-22-03 West Ridge buildings
I've been visiting West Ridge in search of new explorations for a while, but the buildings tend to get locked up around 5 or 6 (they're all on different schedules). Since I got tired of the messed up schedules I eventually just decided to go up early, spend the afternoon wanderin around, and explore after security had locked up and the grad-student organisms had either gone home or passed out in their offices. This made me a bit conspicuous as I wandered around, but the Onie'll and Irving buidling system is complex enough that I rarely had to pass the same area twice. I got into some of the mech rooms and interstitial levels, looked around the tunnel area but found things locked up, and went back to look at the small crawl-tunnels under Irving II (or is it Irving I? I can never keep those buildings straight). I crawled around in there for a while, even though I had new clothes on and hadn't intended to get too dirty. I then climbed as far as I could up the interfloor shaft, but couldn't get to the top level. I went over to Oniell and checked for ways into the mech rooms on the first floor, I thought I found a way in through an air vent in the 1st floor interstitial level, but almost fell through the floor in an air shaft into a tunnel of some kind. I couldn't find a safe way down into it, so will have to return with climbing gear sometime. I tried finding a way back into the Irving engine room in the sub-basement, but as I messed with the lock one of the grad student creatures appeared and gave me a suspicious look. I figured it was a good time to leave since it was getting late and I hadn't really found anything new, so I left the area.
When I got back to my room I turned on my scanner just in time to hear the police respond to a report of a "suspicious person, dark clothing, hanging around Irving". I had a good laugh about that, since it had taken quite a while for the student to report it, and longer for them to respond. I listened for a while but they didnt' say much more about it, maybe it will be in the police blotter next week.
On Saturday I set out on my bike for Fox and points north, the original plan was to find the Dome Creek Dredge and camp there overnight, as well as possibly locating the Davidson Tunnel under the intersection of the Elliot Highway and Old Murphy Dome road. After getting into Fox I biked past Dredge #8 ( the tourist attraction and historical monument one) a few times, climbed a tailings pile, and took some pictures, then headed out another road past the back end of a “keep out” sign. I also stopped briefly to photograph the Alaska Pipeline where it came out of the ground, it burrowed under to the south to pass beneath some roads, and to the north to go over and through a hill. I circled around the Steese highway and Goldstream road to look at a closed “mining camp” tourist attraction, they had part of a rail loop and some tour train cars, plus some kind of tunnel. Then I continued up the steese past the NASA station (a log-cabin checkpoint with razor-wire fencing blocked the road to the big dishes) to look for a turnout where I’d seen some kind of tunnel last year. After biking a few miles up this I hadn’t seen it, so I turned around and went back to the junction with the Elliot Highway. I took a few photos of Fox on the way through, it just confirms my theory that the entire town is composed of gravel pits, salvage yards, and open pit mines. The place must have the most dead cars and old mining equipment per square foot of any place near Fairbanks.
I stopped off briefly to fill up my water bottles at the Fox springs, then follwed the Elliot highway (mostly walking the bike due to my heavy pack slowing me down too much) up to the sharp left-hand turn where my map showed the Davidson tunnel ended. I went down the bank and followed a road a way, but stopped when I appeared to be walking into someone's front yard. Then I went back, biked farther up, and went down through the trees to the road past the house, I saw the end of it from this side and walked closer, it turned out to be a storage shed full of junk. I then followed another road down to the real house (cabin really) which seemed to be unoccupied judging from the lack of tire tracks in the road snow. From here I followed a ditch, which the tunnel was supposed to supply water to, around to a sereies of collapsed timbers and a promising dark spot in the side of a small embankment. I found the tunnel, which even had rails going in (I'd thought it was only a water tunnel) but it was collapsed severely, it even had collapsed every few dozen feet back from the adit, with pits and subsidences showing its path towards the hills. Dissapointed, I headed back up the hill to my bike and continued up to the summit of the road.
At the top I passed Old Murphy Dome road, then another two miles down the other side of the hill I spotted the probable road down to the Dome Camp area (I’d lost my map printout that showed this area). I bounced down this through the slush and mud to a gate at the bottom, which I easily lifted the bike over (there were four padlocks in a chain arrangement, apparently 4 different people have access to whatever is down there, but none had bothered to put up any trespassing signs).
I’d seen some water and dredge-like ponds off to the left on the way down, so I first headed in that direction, I got stuck in bushes so I went back and followed the road farther. This brought me to a gravel pit area with a tunnel into the hillside across a creek, I stashed the bike just off the road and headed down to take a look. First I climbed a tailings pile to check for the dredge off to the right (towards the Pedro Dome radar site), but no sign of it. I checked out the tunnel briefly, it had some freaky ice crystals and a sloped floor coated in ice that could have sent me skating to the bottom if I’d gone past the berm partway up. (this separated the first, corrugated-metal section from the excavated section, and trapped some frozen water in the corrugated part). I didn’t go further than the berm, but I plan to come back sometime (although it looks like this is an active mine at least part of the year, there’s a cabin and some old sheds and a bus).
I then headed up the hill behind the tunnel, and after getting nearly lost in a series of odd intersecting and crosshatching trails and old roads I found a small cabin and another gravel pit. I followed the gravel pit north, past another active open-pit mine and another cabin, until the sun started to go down over the ridge to the west. I then gave up on finding the dredge in that direction and set up camp in a small stand of trees. I cooked my chili and went to bed, read for a while and then went to sleep.
Woke up early and tossed around, repeated this several times throughout the morning from about 5 to 10:30. Got up, broke camp and headed back. Found the mine and my bike again withough too much trouble, after crashing through some more woods. Decided I had time to follow the dirt road past the mine a little farther, so I set out. I dropped off the bike and most of my gear part way since it was weighing me down, then kept walking past the apparent end of the dredge tailings towards some dirt piles. Rounding one I finally spotted the dredge in the distance, I eventually reached it and found the hull and half the lower deck entombed in ice. This didn’t stop my boarding and exploration, in fact it made for some really cool photos. As I explored the upper decks some pissed-off ravens screamed at me, I later saw their nest on the bow gantry. I spotted another bus parked near yet another gravel pit to the east, up towards Pedro dome. It must be a law of nature that you can’t go for more than a few miles up an Alaskan dirt road without finding an old bus that some redneck, hippy, or miner has lived in.
After checking out the dredge pretty throughouly, and running the digital camera’s batteries down, I returned to my bike, pushed it back up the hill, and had lunch at Hilltop Truckstop (a "Gold Dredge Cheeseburger" and enourmous slice of chocolate pie). I then rode and pushed to the real summit of the highway, and spent the rest of the day on the way back to campus.
A freind of mine wanted to go tunneling with some of his freinds (most had been in once or twice before, so we did a bunch of small sections in various areas of campus. We started with the construction on West Ridge, heading in through the trench and cut-open tunnel in front of O’niell, then proceeded past the worthless security gate (lock is long enough to allow squeezage) where I ripped open another crappy pair of pants. We then played with the lights a little and left through the AHRC elevator since it was a long hike to anywhere else and they didn't bring water or good flashlights. Then we went down towards the gym to look for a way into the pool window area, we looked at the homeless cave briefly while waiting for two cops to leave the area, then I <censored>. It opened, but there was no ladder in the vent shaft. After that we went from Ducking to the library, ran around the side vents area, then went through the main mech room and the vents to the fine arts center. We had just come out of the small door into the aucoustic baffle area and were getting ready to leave by the main door when <> spotted someone outside the one-way mirror cloth. We all froze as a janitor walked down the aisle of the concert hall, it seemed almost certain that he would hear us, but he started up his vacume and we left back through the air vents.
We still wanted to do the pool window, so since D&D geeks were blocking the best way in we used another route. Unfortunately the damn bike lock was back on the gate, so I took us through the narrowest tunnel on campus (enhanced with fiber-optic Christmas lights for a nice glow effect) and out one of the dorms, where the front desk attendant was confused by 4 people leaving without signing out. Headed home after a successful mission, the others were willing to go further but we decided it wasn’t really worth it since there was a gun show at the gym which would mean increased security.
I biked out to Ester again to take better photos of the Sandcrawler and dragline crane. I left the bike in the usual area and hiked over the stream and hill, then walked around the dredge pond to the machines and started climbing around and taking photos. I was up on top of the sandcrawler when I caught a flash of light out of the corner of my eye, it looked like the reflection off a car window coming through the trees around the curve down to where I was. I ducked behind a motor, then slid down the ladder and hid under the sandcrawler. I could see part of an SUV across the small stream, but I couldn’t tell if anyone had gotten out. I thought about just walking out and saying hello, since there were no signs around and it wasn’t clear that I was trespassing. However, I wanted to see if they’d leave so I could finish exploring. I could have walked back from the sandcrawler through a pond, keeping it between me and them, but the pond had small trees growing in it and I would have made too much noise. After what seemed like too long, they eventually turned around and left, and I proceeded over to the dragline crane. I explored the inside first, looking out the occasional window to see if the car was returning, then finally went outside and climbed the support gantry. I got some good photos, but didn’t stay long since I’d be instantly visible if anyone returned. The dredge was still frozen into the ice, but the ice didn’t look safe to walk on. The skiff had been moved, it may come in use once the lake thaws.. After finishing up my photography (part on my backup memory card in case anyone demanded to see or erase them) I hiked back to the bike and returned to campus.
Anchorage, Alaska (Summer 2003)
Mid May, 2003
Arrived in Anchorage, did some scouting of local UE opportunities even before getting an appartment or shopping for food, ah priorities... Discovered a few drains, but nothing even equalling the small ones around Sitka, apparently the rains here are too infrequent to require much drainage, and the streams are kept in a more "natural" state rather than being piped into culverts and paved over. I was able to biek out to the Nike Point base and do some recon of the Laucnh bunkers, unfortunately they've been turned into a golf course and ski area and all the bunkers and tunnels are welded shut. I got on a few rooftops and into some sewer manholes, and found some blueprints of the bunkers and tunnels in one of the launch structures that's being used as a ski chalet. I then biked up to the control area, but all the buildings had been bulldozed. A few crawlspaces and steam tunnels were leftover, but nothing that was worth spending the effort to fully explore. In general the area makes an easy trip for anyone interested in seeing what a Nike Base looked like (if you ignore the golf course and parking lot and picture more razor wire) but there isn't much for the Urban Explorer to do without resorting to vandalism for access.
Just returned from Whittier, a small town connected to the road system through a single lane tunnel that's shared with the Alaska Railroad. I took the train there for the weekend and spend two days exploring the area. I meant to do some kayaking and/or hiking as well as investigating the many tunnels and the large abandoned building, but the weather prevented me from doing much (I could have on the first day, Sunday, but I delayed untill Memorial day monday when the wind and rain were too bad). The train ride from Anchorage was fun, I was able to spend a lot of time in the rear RDC control cab, including the ride through both tunnels. Once we arrived I spent a little time around town, visitited the Begich tower where most of the town lives to see if I could get on the roof or into the tunnels, but found the place too unfreidnly and spooky to hang around (cameras everywhere, no decorations, wierd smells, wierd people, and most of the interesting parts locked up tight). I then walked over to the Buckner building, the large abandoned Cold War relic that I'd mainly wanted to see. I circled the structure once, it's quite large, then entered and looked around briefly on some of the lower floors. My full pack was getting heavy, so I decided to stash it in an out of the way place and continue exploring. I went up to the top of the building, past the highest full floor and up two floors of an elevator penthouse, where I found a place to leave my gear behind a motor. I then got what I thought I'd need (camera, headlamp, and survival kit) and explored the building floor by floor from the top down.
I tried to methodically examine the building, and after the two days I think I'd seen everything, but the first full exploration was the most inteteresting. I found most of the interesting areas mentioned on websites and elsewhere, and saw that the place was not as "stripped" as I had somewhat expected. Most of the furniture was gone, but there were a lot of remaining bathroom fixtures, pipes and utilities, and built in fixtures like bars and kitchen equipment. The vandalism was pretty heavy, almost every window was smashed and there was grafitti everywhere. Water damage was also very extensive. All the roofs are flat, with raised lips that collect large ponds in some areas. The drain pipes are cracked and broken, letting water run down through the building and soak through every level. Decaying sheetrock makes a calcium sludge on the floors and creates stalactites and other cavelike deposits on the levels below. The elevators are all stalled on various floors, some of the doors have been pried open to reveal the dark shafts filled with water at the lowest level, and a few of the elevator cars have been broken into. 4 elevators and 4 main stairways provide paths through the building, along with fire escapes at each end of the side wings that extend out from the main building. A large hallway runs down the center of each floor serving as a main street of sorts, although in some of the areas reserved for officers this is blocked by double doors. The building is actually made of 6 independent sections with a 6in gap between each, allowing protection from earthquake damage. A lot of the wood and metal panels covering these gaps are missing, allowing a view down 6 floors to the basement. The floor numbering system is rather odd, the upper 4 floors are called 1,2,3, and 4, but the floor below 1 is the ground floor, even through it is only at ground level at the rear of the building. The "basement" is at ground level and has exterior doors on three sides, and below that are several sub-basements and standing-height crawlspaces connected by small utilitiy tunnels. Some of the steam tunnels likely extend out of the building to other areas of town, a book about Whittier described twin pedestrian and steam tunnels connecting the Buckner and Hodge (Begich) buildings, and a manhole between the two is stamped "steam". (Update: this was found to be a vault accessing buried steam lines)
I searched for the connecting pedestrian tunnels with at first little luck. I found one tunnel, which seemed intended for public access by it's size and the setup of stairways and handrails, but it was at the wrong end of the building away from the rest of the town. At the bottom a large cluster of pipes seemed to deny the public access idea, but a welded and bolted door led out under the street, and a camera pushed through a hole showed a wide tunnel beyond. I later talked to a few locals about the potential tunnel under town, and from what I was told it seems that this tunnel led to the power plant near where a boat yard is now (I found a large concrete column or shaft in a cliff crack near here, it seems the tunnel parralells a road above it, then drops down to the flat area where the power plant was). The pedestrian route then branches off under the rest of town, a store clerk traced out an unlikely-looking web of tunnels on a map, saying they were partly from WWII and partly from the 1950's when the two buildings were constructed (there were supposed to be 10 large buildings, all connected by tunnels). I wasn't able to get into the one that I'd found without better tools, although it looked like the local kids had tried in a halfhearted manner.
I looked around the eastern areas of town a little more, at the docks and trails and a couple old rail cars being converted into gift shops. I went back up to my gear and sat in the doorway of the mechanical penthouse for a while sorting through my digital camera's photos and deleting or resizing some to make room for more. While I was sitting there two people walked out of the next penthouse, glanced my way and continued across the roof to stand and look out over the town. I walked over and said hi, they turned out to be a couple from near Anchorage who were interested in abandoned buildings and tunnels, they'd even explored some of the same dredges I had while they were living in Fairbanks. We talked for a while and exchanged contact information, I was excited to find more people who were interested in UE. They didn't have boots and so couldn't explore a lot of the building, but I showed them the jail and some of the other rooms in the basement. After they left I kept looking for tunnels, then walked around the rail yards and over to the rail access tunnel where I found a small pipeline tunnel and a few bunkers (I'd scouted the bunkers by looking at online satellite photos, I was pleased to find that my interpretation of the imagery was accurate).
While wandering around in town (there's not much of it) I'd seen two storm drains that looked like they'd be worth exploring, but they were all difficult to enter without attracting attention. One had a completely collapsed corrugated entrance, and a grated upper end, while another had a wooden lattice covering the upper end and the lower apparently somewhere under the rail dock. The newer pedestrian tunnel under the rail yard passed along parallel to one drain, with a possible connection, but I didn't think it was worth spending too much effort to get into them.
After exausting myself hiking all over town and up the hills a little way, I went back to Buckner and found a place to camp in one of the upper common rooms. I'd wanted to try the roof, but it was starting to rain and there were few dry areas. I found a dry protected spot on the 4th floor (actually the 6th in any normal numbering system) and secured the tent with a line to a support pillar and one to a heavy light fixture that had fallen from the ceiling. I cooked my chilli and read some local brochures, then went to bed. Aside from a few odd dreams and the occasional sound that could have been a local kid I spent an uneventful night. I slept somewhat late in the morning, then decided to get up and see about renting a kayak for the day. Unfortunately the weather had become very bad, even with my previous experience the rental agency was reluctant to let me go out on my own and didn't think I'd get my money's worth ($40) so I hung around town the rest of the day instead. I had lunch at a small tourist cafe on the shore, then looked for a museum without luck. I checked out Begich tower a few more times, and did another walkthrough of every floor in Buckner. I got pretty bored waiting for the 6pm train, I ended up sitting around reading tourist literature in the penthouse doorway again. By the time the train got there I was quite ready to leave, it came early so I waited for a while inside various harborside stores, then just got on board and sat around untill the rest of the passengers showed up from cruises and other local tours (mostly curises, there's nothing else to see). I spent the ride back primarily in the rear RDC cabin again.
Summit Missile Base II
operatives: Freak and Spartacus
I'd kept in contact with the people I ran into in Whittier, and this weekend we decided to check out a local missile base. "Spartacus" came over to pick me up around 10:30 on Saturday, and we drove up to the ski area near the missile base. There were a few hikers in the area, and we saw some people doing maintenance on the somewhat abandoned ski lifts (another possible exploration). We parked and started hiking up to the top of Mt. Gordon Lyon, along a trail that appeared to be partly military road and partly park trail. We saw a black bear running along the side of the mountain, he was going somewhere fast. We also came close to a moose with two calves, which avoided us.
When we finally reached the top we checked out a few utility manholes first, since they were along the roadway to the site. One seemed to be communication cables heading down to the launch area (we went to the radar area first) and another set of manholes and a small building turned out to be the small sewage treatment facility. After poking around this for a bit we walked up the rest of the way and entered the main IFC (Integrated Fire Control) building. We explored the entire building and all three radar towers, the towers were identical inside, although one was higher and had a tighly curving spiral staircase inside a concrete column for access. The building was in poor shape inside, with paint peeling (6 or 7 layers of different colors), asbestos hanging off of pipes, toilets smashed and some parts with burn damage. The small utility tunels under the floor led into crawlspaces and would have gone to another nearby building if not for a flooded and frozen access vault. I found a gunnysack labeled "Rhodesian Asbestos" and an old soda can, Spartacus found some edible MREs probably left over from military training excercises. All the barracks areas were pretty simmilar, and the only remaining equipment was the heavy stuff like the large boilers and diesel generators. Newer radio towers were nearby, and two of the old buildings had been converted for some modern use (possibly as generator rooms for the radio gear). When we emerged onto the roof we found that fog (actually a cloud) had rolled over the summit and the radar towers were almost invisible. I couldn't get any good overview pictures of the site, but the atmosphere was very cool.
After exploring everything we could find, and poking into some manholes without finding more than small vaults, we walked down towards the launch area. When Kujo and Labb came up here in 2001 they'd missed that part of the base, and their pictures hadn't shown much of the IFC area either. We detoured a bit to look at the view, once out of the cloud we could see Eagle River and part of Anchorage. As we came down the road between the IFC and launch area we found piles of belted .308 ammo from an M60 machine gun, it looked like there had been several machine gun posts set up along the road as part of the excercises. We collected some of the belt links and the spent blanks, ammo belts are hard to find and expensive in surplus stores, and there were enough so I didn't feel that taking them would detract from the enjoyment of future explorers. Later on we found some live ammo and a pocketknife that must have been left behind during a nighttime training excercise.
We continued down the road, stopped to look at the two explosives storage bunkers along the way, and then entered the missile area through the wide open gate. We first went to the top of this small hill to look at the two launch bunkers, I found a spent smoke grenade in front of one and we saw used fireworks all over the ground and the floor inside. The lower level was flooded, but we got into the small tunnels under the missile rails and saw the cables and rail cart transportation system. The second bunker had a few murals inside, it's lower level was dry but in neither bunker did we find any of the extensions out to excape hatches that seemed to exist at Site Point (the Nike base near the airport). We checked out the nuclear warhead magazine bunker (empty) and a tiny bunker identical to one at Site Point that I'd thought was a tunnel entrance. It was a small chamber with a smaller one next to it, a vent led out of the bigger chamber and a stencil on the door listed a loading limit of two people. We figured it must be some kind of ammo storage, although you'd have to squeeze hard to get two people into the chamber. Down the hill from this was a building which turned out to be kennels for guard dogs, and a small utilidor that was infested with squirrels. The utilidor turned into a red metal gantry that led out of the hill and into the power plant, I walked along it onto the roof and then down a ladder while Spartacus looked around inside. We chased a squirrel through some pipes in the floor and I tried to take a picture of it, but no success. We contemplated salvaging the huge wooden ceiling beams and the working vehicle repair crane, then looked at the fuel tank and the vehicle repair shop just up the road. A third building seemed to be a warehouse of some sort, it had two vehicle doors, a high celing, and another overhead crane, but no obvious function.
After seeing everything here and realizing we'd been there most of the day we started down the mountain, taking a shortcut down from the launch site instead of the longer road. We found some kind of military cable strung down the mountain, and some other bits of metal along the trail we followed down to the gate onto the ski area road. We walked back to the truck and left, tired and hungry but with full cameras another successful mission behind us.
Went on a work-related trip to the small fishing town of Cordova (via bus through the tunnel to the Whittier port and then by boat), then on a bus up the 50 mile highway-to-nowhere to look at the Million Dollar Bridge. The bridge and some other relics are leftover from the Copper River and Northwestern Railway, of which there is still some track between the bridge and Chitna. Farther north the railway reached McCarthy and the Kennicot mines, another place that I've wanted to visit for quite a while. I hiked partway up the mountain above town to look at and infiltrate a ski area and some radio towers, I also had time to look at an old fuel tank and some shipwrecks around the harbor, but exploring in business attire isn't a good idea (I dropped my palm pilot down the hold of an abandoned barge and smashed it). I looked all over between the ocean and the large lake that lies just on the other side of town, I felt sure there would be a large drain but there was nothing. If I ever return I'd like to check out some of the nearby gold and coal mines, and the ghost town of Katalla which at one time had up to 3 competing railroads and still has a few leftover steam engines and rail cars.
Operatives: Freak and Spartacus
Retun to Whittier! A town more pointless probably dosen't exist, but I keep finding reasons to go back (there's a machine-gun shooting expo on the 4th which I might attend). Spartacus and I went to the 2nd annual "Walk to Whittier", a free open-house type event where 300 random people walked through the 3mile tunnel from Bear Valley to Whittier. I brought my own hardhat and was the only one nerdy enough to have a headlamp on it, although there was a Ham radio nerd with an antenna sticking out of his. We set a failry fast pace through so we'd have time to mess around in the Buckner building on the other side, although we stopped at one of the safehouse shelters to look around. I took some nice time exposures which came out really well in the tunnel lighting, and a lot of flash pictures which didn't come out at all (reflective signs eat all the light).
When we got to Whittier it was raining sideways, so we took the bus into town rather than walking and looking at the tank farm and other areas near the tunnel. When we got to Buckner we decided to look for the pedestrian tunnels again, starting with the power plant tunnel. <censored> and the tunnel was magically open! We headed down this past a third place where an anti-stoner barricade had been erected and later breached, then found that the tunnel past this point was inhabited by large boat engines and enough spare parts to make a small hardware store. I thought for sure that there would be a side passage into Whittier Manor, but we went all the way to the old powerhouse without seeing any cross-connections or even manhole entrances. At the bottom was a dead end under the former site of the power plant, and a stairway up to a concrete lid with a steel hatch in it. Later we were able to find this entrance on the surface at a boat yard where the power plant site was. The tunnel doesn't follow the route I had thought, so we still don't know what the concrete column in the cliff behind the boat yard is for.
We looked through the basements of Buckner some more, but found no other pedestrian-size tunnels. We followed the drain under the railyard on the surface, looking down manholes but not finding any that could be easily opened without attracting attention. The regular 6pm train had arrived with an extra passenger car to take the last of the walkers back to the Bear Valley parking lot, so we said goodbye and good riddance to Whittier again. on the way back to Anchorage we stopped to look at the ghost tosn and rail yard of Portage (where angry seagulls live), and at a small microwave repeater station along the railroad tracks.
Just got back from the roadtrip to Kennicot. We started when Dajur showed up in Anchorage on Friday. Went to some bars and hung out in Anchorage for a while, Dajur didn’t want to go to the hostel, then changed his mind right when it closed, so we ended up sleeping in the car. Some cops came and told us to get the hell out of the library parking lot after we’d been there for a half hour, so we found some other place to park and sleep.
Saturday: went shopping in Anchorage, bought some shit for the trip and some other stuff (I got a discount coat and some FRS radios). Drove up to Palmer to find that those assholes had sealed up the entrance I found into the Satanist tunnels, I looked for others with no luck. Waited for Dajur in the rain while listening to everyone else at the fair using the same FRS channels we were on, and to Dajur whining about picking me up amidst the traffic and construction even though he was going to drive there anyway. Got more food and drove out to Chickaloon to camp, went to a bar there and explored a redneck car graveyard. Used my extra tent since Dajur lost the poles for his somewhere.
Sunday we drove back to Wassila to get Dajur a new tent, which I paid for since he was broke already. Finally got underway and made it to McCarthy after driving all day, stopping at some scenic viewpoints and information areas, etc. Checked out an interesting bridge on the old railroad grade on the McCarthy road. We camped in the “closed” state campground near McCarthy since the others were expensive and we were broke (I spent $200 in Anchorage somehow, and Dajur kept buying shit even though his debit account was supposed to be saved for rent). On the way to McCarthy we helped a guy named “Alabama” move his trailer out of the road where he’d gotten his RV in the ditch and blocked it.
Monday we hiked into McCarthy and took a shuttlebus to Kennecot, I wanted to explore the mill but Dajur wanted to hike up to the mines even though we’d heard they were recently sealed by the National Park Service. We started on the Bonanza trail but took off on the Jumbo trail since the bus driver had told us it was less explored. The alder was pretty thick, so I scouted ahead while Dajur bitched and whined over the radio the whole way despite it having been his idea, he also got pissed off that I kept outpacing him and wouldn’t wait for his slow ass to catch up. I got up to the halfway station and took some photos, after a lot more griping Dajur came up as well and we left most of our gear there. We planned to continue up the mountain that day and camp in the halfway cabin when we came back. Dajur kept complaining about everything, and was even slower on the second half even with me carrying our remaining gear. He finally gave up at the base of the rock glacier while I went up the last 1000 feet to the Jumbo mine. By the time I got to the top he was calling over the radio every 5 minutes wanting to know if I was there and when I was coming back so we could leave, he now wanted to go all the way back down that night and camp in Kennecot. I got to the Jumbo mine pretty tired, snapped a few pictures, and then left, wishing I had time to look around the tunnel or at least check the lock situation for next time, but by then Dajur was threatening to go back down and drive home without me if I didn't move my ass. I surfed down the loose tailings to the rock glacier past a mixture of copper chunks and rusty tin cans, then rejoined Dajur and headed back to the halfway point. We collected our gear and went back along the alder trail (it actually extended farther towards the rock glacier than the bus driver had said) and down to Kennecot. We got in an argument over where the campsite was after Dajur refused to read his map correctly, so we went on an extra loop around the town in the dark looking for his nonexistent campground. Then he bitched some more when we had to walk another mile to the camp that actually existed (where I’d said it was) and we just gave up and camped in a flat spot on the side of the trail.
Tuesday: Hiked back to Kennecot, I explored the mill while Dajur hung around (he wanted to leave without actually seeing anything, after driving 200 miles and hiking to nowhere all day yesterday). I said I’d only be 10 minutes (meaning 5 minutes to him and 15 to me) and ran up to the top of the mill. I found a way underneath, crawled over a door and then through a hole in a wall into the locked part, then made my way onto the tour route (normally $25 for 2.5 hours) and followed this rapidly through much of the mill, snapping pictures and wishing I had more time to look around. I finally got to the bottom, found a door that was unlockable from inside, and came out only a few minutes late. We hung out waiting for the bus for another half hour (that I could have spent exploring) and then went back to the car, packed up, and left. Stopped in Copper Center to see the model of the CRNWRR in a bar (Dajur’s car lost some plastic bits in the parking lot and a weird guy in the bar tried to make us think it was a gay bar). Took pictures of the trains, had some beer and messed with the bar cat. Drove to Glennalen and got some illegal fireworks, then drove to Tok hoping to see HAARP or a White Alice site (we missed both). Had dinner in TOK and got directions to HAARP from a waitress (she told us about an unguarded radio tower nearby that we could climb) but since it was behind us quite a ways we decided not to go. Camped at some lake campground.Wednesday: Got up early, packed, drove to Fairbanks. Vowed never to go anywhere important with Dajur again (we were both ready to kill eachother by then).