tunnels struck as us strange, compared to the other U of MN steam
tunnel systems we'd explored. The Saint Paul system is mostly shallow-level,
unlike the deep tunnels beneath the Minneapolis campus. In some
places there are multiple levels of tunnel, one right over the other,
and shafts shoot off in seemingly random directions and heights
constantly. The tunnels slant up and down at angles that are ridiculously
steep in places, and there were no signs letting us know where we
were. To get our bearings as we explored, we popped up into various
campus buildings and looked for helpful signage.
poked around in Haecker Hall, and then got into the "Meat Sciences"
building, where we found the "Processing" and "Cutting" rooms, filled
with giant bone saws, super-sized freezers, and the coppery stench
having our fill of the butcher school classrooms, we returned to
the tunnels, checked out a couple of other buildings, and then found
a manhole cover in the tunnel ceiling that, when we opened it up
a bit, admitted a breeze laden with the distinctive smell of large
mammals. Too cocky, probably, from our previous trips up into campus
buildings, we decided to check it out.
went first, pushing the manhole cover across the concrete as quietly
as possible. Well, to be honest, I'm not sure that I tried as hard
as I should have to keep the noise to an absolute minimum. This
was almost two years ago, and we were a bit sloppier then.
up out of the tunnel, I looked around and found myself in a room
with several barred-in animal enclosures, and a sign reading "Large
Animal Hospital." It occurred to me that this was the kind of place
that held not only large animals, but most likely animal tranquilizers,
as well … which, I understand, are quite popular with the drug-kid
raver crowd. This, of course, meant it was highly likely that they'd
have someone on staff all night, and/or a security system. I turned
to tell the other guys not to come up ... and that's when I heard
whipped around toward the sound, just in time to see a woman walk
out from around a corner, about 30 feet away. She was looking right
at me. I was wearing a headlamp, covered in filth, and standing
there at 1:30 in the morning.