|Fort Snelling Drainage Tunnels - 11/98|
| We were tipped that there was what appeared to be an entrance to a tunnel of some kind in the woods near Fort Snelling by my sister, who was working for the county parks and recreation in that area at the time. She could not tell us exactly where the entrance was or where it led, only that she had seen what appeared to be a tunnel entrance down by the river. I figured that we’d have fun running around in the woods and climbing the sandstone cliffs in the area even if the tunnel was a bust, so I rounded up four of my friends and set off to check it out.
On the way there, we had to scale a large fence (they were building a highway in the area), and Vlad managed to get his wrists slashed by the pointy tips of it as he went over, which effectively put him out of commission for the rest of the trip, as he strove to keep his wounds clean. Down in the woods, we did the expected cliff climbing and running about, and also found a small bit of explorable drainage pipe to get into, accessed by a vertical shaft hidden in the brush. Then we set out to find the actual entrance to the tunnel my sister had spotted.
Down river a ways, we found it: a human-sized tunnel up a small mineral-encrusted cliff with water pouring down it. Although not high up at all, it was somewhat difficult to scale directly, but we managed to get up without anyone falling on their head: Vlad, however, opted to wait for us outside rather than try to climb with his slashed wrists.
The tunnel was really old and was made of natural rock. We started in, straddling the water flowing out the center of the shaft. As we moved away from the entrance, it got progressively darker, and we had only my old dim headlight for light. A little ways in, we started seeing weird moths on the walls: they hung by two feet, did not move, had reflective red eyes, and were covered in beads of condensation. Deeper in, the tunnel merged into a more modern drainage tunnel with cement sides. A small shaft led off to the left, but we decided to see where the main shaft led before checking it out.
Deeper in, we quickly learned to keep our hands off the walls, as they were absolutely blanketed in pale crickets. It was straight outta an Indian Jones movie. Well, the main shaft went in for a ways, and then ended in a vertical drain shaft without a ladder or easy means of ascent, so we turned to head back … and my light caught something on the ceiling. It was the biggest spider I had ever seen that wasn’t one of the hairy kind. Black, glistening, and mean-lookin’ … and it was hanging down such that I must have missed brushing it with my head by sheer luck. I said, “fuck! Look at that spider!” Merle jerked and said “what?!,” but as he looked up, my beam (mounted on my head) was already moving, as I looked over a few feet and saw … another spider … and another, and another. They were all over the place, and we’d been so busy paying attention to the crickets that we hadn’t noticed, what with the single dim light.
This was too much for Merle; he is arachnophobic, it turned out. So he made a screaming beeline out of tunnel to find Vlad, which left just Coal and I. Keeping an eye out for the evil looking spiders, we made our way to the junction we had noticed before. It was only about thigh high, and I told Coal to wait in the main tunnel while I crawled through to check it out. Then she notice that there were a few bats hanging directly over her head (how we missed those, too, on the way in is beyond me), and then SHE took off too. I yelled something derogatory about the amazing similarity between my friends and the female genitalia, and went to explore the small side shaft alone.
It was cement and full of spiderwebs. I hate crawling through spiderwebs. Blagh! But it was also very short so it wasn’t too bad. This led into a vertical shaft about four feet across with rusty and occasionally broken rungs sunk into one side. The bottom of the shaft was filled with a few feet of scummy water with four or five dead mice floating in it (I think we saw more wildlife in this tunnel than all other tunnels we have explored combined). I climbed upward about 60 feet or so (I’m awful with distances) to the very top, where a small amount of light shone in through a metal drainage lid. No matter how I heaved and pushed, it would not budge. About 10 feet down, however, there was a horizontal tunnel leading outward, on the side opposite the ladder rungs. I turned around backwards, and kind of jumped into it, and then pulled my lower body in behind me before it could pull me back out and send me down to float with the mice. It was actually quite easy, but it was still fun and seemed pretty damn cool at the time.
This led to a short vertical shaft leading upward, which was topped off by a light grated drain cover. I pushed it free and pulled myself into the sunlight … and found myself emerging from the curb at the edge of a huge parking lot … with a family of 6 staring at me with their jaws hanging open. I supposed I looked pretty weird, as I was covered in spider webs and dirt, and was wearing fatigues and a head light. Oh, not to mention I had just pulled myself out of a drain. I waved to them cheerily, and trotted toward the cliff to find my friends. It had been a simple but fun adventure.
(I’ve gone back to the tunnels since then with different people. It was still fun, but there were no bats and way less bugs. The mice, however, were still floating around. Oh yeah, and Wop was absolutely unable to climb the slippery route up to the entrance for like 20 minutes.)