Minneapolis / Saint Paul / Twin Cities urban exploration

 THE GREAT BIG GOD-DAMNED
 RED WING CAVING ADVENTURE
   August 12, 2001
   Max Action, Dag Jefferson, BenFro, and Not-Nate-You-Idiot

 

Oh my GOD did it feel good to get all that sand showered out of my hair, my ears, my toes, and my asscrack. It's 10: 57 PM, and I just got out of the shower. Today was the day Action Squad took on Red Wing, Minnesota. Needless to say, we won.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. I'd been hearing rumors about some caves and/or tunnels in the bluffs of Red Wing ever since we went public with our website. These rumors all seemed to have two things in common; one, that there was a tunnel system that went all over beneath the city, and 2) that the entrance had been caved in by a golf course that had opened up sometime in the last 10 years. My instincts told me that both claims probably had a core of truth to them, but that I shouldn't take either without some salt. Every tunnel system from some out of the way town winds up being described as running "beneath the whole city," it seems (for example, see the section on the Cambridge mental institution tunnels). Rarely is this true (although, for a counter example, see the section on the Saint Paul utility tunnels). As for the second claim, well Action Squad has succeeded in infiltrating enough places that some people labeled "impossible" to give us a certain cocky confidence that we cannot be thwarted. (I know, sooner or later we're all going to get killed. Until then, however, we're going to have some fuckin fun.) Secondly, sealed up cave and tunnel systems seem to have a knack for coming unsealed. And we were of course willing to do our best to help this process along, if it came to that.

And so, after months of not getting around to it, we left Minneapolis shortly after noon, with nothing but directions to Red Wing, a couple flashlights, and a big bag of compilation tapes for supplies. We got off to a rocky start when I went to pick up BenFro and Not-Nate, discovering that both had their mohawks up. Not-Nate's was bigger, but BenFro's was bright pink (he insists it is red. It is not.) I'd kind of figured they'd have conspicuous hair, and had even brought two baseball hats to cover it up, to help us stand out less in a town of antique shops and antique people. But there was no way in hell a cap would work on the impossibly stiff hair styles they were sporting. So much for Plan A; the thought of the group of us looking innocent while wandering around on a golf course in a town where little butterfly tattoos are no doubt considered dangerously radical was a hoot. Yes, I said "a hoot."

But, hey, we're nothing if not flexible, so the trip went on. A compilation tape or so later, we pulled into Red Wing, the car on the verge of overheating for no good reason. We drove through town and back again to get a feel for the lay of the land, and got out near a golf course to follow a promising-looking trail that lead nowhere. We wandered around for much of the afternoon, climbing bluffs and traipsing through the woods. While fun, we weren't finding anything of the underground variety. We were up on top of Memorial Bluff when a car with four adolescents drove by, turned around, and came back up to us. They wanted us to buy them booze. We agreed, in exchange for $5 and whatever they could tell us about caves and tunnels in the area. This turned out to be not a heck of a lot, in terms of details.

They did, however, give us a general idea of where to look, and soon we found ourselves heading into a long tunnel/cave up near the top of Memorial Bluff. This dead-ended without much fanfare, but we'd tasted success and were determined to taste some more. We wanted to save the sealed off system near the golf course for last, so we next headed over to (NAME?) Bluff, where there were supposed to be some tunnels. The tunnels were almost entirely caved/filled in, sadly. However, the old triple entry arches were quite impressive, and there was a small area to explore after climbing up past the pile of cave-in rubble. It was time to try for the cave/tunnel system that all sources indicated was no longer accessible (the local kids had concurred on this point).

We're a stubborn lot, and the evening was still young. We found (NAME) Bluff, and the first thing we found was this hellacious, narrow crack straight out of an Indiana Jones movie. It split a big chunk of the bluff, and went down about twenty feet. I was not looking forward to going down it. Since we had no idea if it went anywhere, we opted to make a trip all the way around the bluff and see what options we had. Along the way, we saw several places that seemed to have once been cave entrances before being sealed by some officious dorks with too much power. There was a hole in the ground into the bluff just wide enough to wiggle into, going down at about a 45 degree angle. So I wiggled into it until just my feet were sticking out, only to find a dead end around the corner. Wiggling back out was a test of my not-being-claustrophobic, especially as it was at this moment that I remembered that Red Wing was timber rattlesnake territory.

Further around the bluff was a horizontal crack that I would have happily bypassed had we not felt a cool breeze coming from it. So yours truly got to crawl in with only enough room to lay flat and pull myself along with my arms. You become very aware of the weight of the entire bluff pushing down on the space you occupy in a situation like that. The horizontal crack opened up into a space with room to stand up, but then dead-ended. Some kind of animal had made a den in the far back corner. I left.

Other than a series of what looked like old bomb craters or something, the rest of the circuit around the bluff was uneventful, and we soon found ourselves back at the vertical crack. I gave my friends my car keys, so that if I got stuck, hurt, or dead down there they could go to get rope, paramedics, or the coroner. The trip downward turned out to be not too bad, as the crack was narrow enough to control the rate of descent quite nicely. At the bottom, I wormed ahead through the crack, and whoo hoo, into a large cave system. Wayne and BenFro came down, while Not-Nate waited at the surface. But then BenFro had a panic attack or something almost immediately and scooted back topside, muttering "I've got to get out of here" repeatedly. I blame his pink mohawk.

There was a lot of graffiti from when the caves had been easily accessed by local stoner kids, and we found a notebook they had left in a nylon backpack. It contained their "commandmints" and plans for installing lights in the system (including a lava lamp!) and was hilarious enough that I kept it. Sadly, the series of small caves did not lead us to a tunnel system under all of Red Wing. Maybe it did once, who knows there were a LOT of caved-in exits.

So we came and saw and kicked its ass, and then we left. And then we went to Perkins again to wash the sand out of our throats. And then we went home. And then we split up. And then I took a shower. And then I wrote this. And then you read it. And then you sent me $1,000 in cash.

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