We took a few weeks off from geocaching (first there was Comic-Con, then there was the epic case of con crud that kept Ken out of commission for a couple more weeks) but now we're back. The first caches we did last weekend were "Helen Bach" and "Helen Bach's Dirty Little Sister," which were hidden in a drainage tunnel near UCSD. We actually lucked out a bit by finding an "urban exploration" meetup page from a group that explored this tunnel last fall. (It was led by the guy who placed these geocaches, actually.) So we had pictures and stories and knew what we were getting into. I've occasionally said that I'd be interested in urban exploration if I weren't so slow and clumsy and generally law-abiding. Well, here was our chance!
The view from where we parked. The entrance to the tunnel is on the lower right, below the concrete wall. We just needed to get down there somehow...
Relic of a bygone era.
The perspective of this one's a little hard to figure out, but Ken's about fifteen feet below me, down the concrete slope. I was, shall we say, reluctant to try to get down there, but the dead iceplant actually provided a decent amount of traction.
And we're down. There was just an inch or two of water in the bottom of the culvert. The pipe we needed to enter is at the far end of the picture. We parked up above it.
Here we go. No way were our shoes escaping unscathed.
At least it was a nice big tunnel. It wasn't really dirty or smelly or anything like that. The water was mostly not stagnant, and there was even decent airflow. In several spots there was running water or dripping from side tunnels or shafts, and we could hear cars passing high over us. Sometimes we were wading in ankle-deep water, but for much of the time we were able to stay at the edge of the concrete bottom and keep our feet dry. There was a surprising amount of variation in water depth and how much debris/rocks/etc there was as we went along.
I just like the psychedelic effect from the camera shake here.
Daylight faded as we went farther in...
Not creepy at all, then. (A fair bit of junk had washed into the tunnel, since it channels rainwater.)
Eventually, we saw the red reflector that signaled the location of the first cache.
Oh, sorry, did we neglect to mention that the cache was up a ladder? A wet ladder up a little shaft that was dripping constantly despite the fact that it hasn't rained in months? Yeah.
Unfortunately, the cache was missing. We started second-guessing whether we were in the right place at all, but it turns out we were.
Ken went up the ladder by himself; I waited below, in the dark drippy tunnel. I took this video to kill time. No, you can't see much.
Finally we conceded defeat on the first cache, and continued on toward the second one. Which was going to be even tougher, because there wouldn't be any reflector this time; it was just a tiny black magnetic thing stuck... somewhere. GPS is useless underground, of course, so we just had to keep our eyes open as we walked along.
And finally I found it. It actually wasn't as bad as we'd feared; since the whole pipe was metal, it could've been anywhere, with no landmarks at all. But the cache owner put it on another ladder, and I was stopping to investigate each ladder, so I found it. (The cache is the tiny black thing on the support for the ladder.)
Taken with flash. As we went farther along, the tunnel became more oval than circular, crushed by the sheer weight of earth above it. I'm surprised I wasn't getting claustrophobic.
There was deeper water near the end of the tunnel, and instead of a nice concrete bottom we had corrugated metal underfoot. The water only came up to a bit below our knees, but we kept slipping on the corrugated surface, and we decided it would be easier to turn around and backtrack the 3/4 mile or so in the tunnel than continue forward. Otherwise, we'd have emerged a mile away from the car anyway, and needed to walk back on the surface.
A light at the end of the tunnel.
And finally we're out. Now we just needed to scramble back up the side of the concrete culvert.
Yep, our shoes were pretty ruined.
So that was a pretty cool experience, even though it was a bummer to only get one of the two caches hidden down there. The cache owner told us how it was hidden, and there's a small chance we missed it, but it's also possible that it just washed away after a rain. We're not too keen on going back to double check, for some reason. It was fun once, sure...
I ran our shoes through the washer three times, so at least we can have them next time we decide to go walking in a drainage tunnel. (Hi, Moly!)