In keeping with our themes on extreme and urban hiking, here’s something you may not have heard of before (officially anyway): Urban Exploration. No, this isn’t what you do when you vacation in NYC and it’s not a sport you’ll see REI sponsoring anytime soon. However, urban exploration is a fun way to explore the environment and it uses some of the tools you rely on when camping and hiking the great outdoors.
Growing up I was always into suburban exploration: finding old rusty cars in the woods, diving into culverts and big stormwater pipes, exploring construction sites, etc. Although *technically* tresspassing, urban exploration is generally a victimless crime and the fact that it is illegal in many cases actually adds to the excitement. (note: it is also potentially dangerous and did I mention illegal? if you get injured or arrested, don’t blame me!)
In college a friend and I explored the steam tunnels underneath Duke University (is there a statute of limitations on this?). We always geared up with all our best outdoor stuff: headlamps, hiking boots, canvas pants and sweatshirts – the whole nine. Our favorite route started beneath a ventilation grate outside the Social Sciences building, went through a machine shop and a lighted corridor through the hospital, and eventually put us out underneath a dining facility across the quad more than a quarter mile away. We probably inhaled an unhealthy amount of asbestos and rat feces (is there a healthy amount?) as we low crawled through some tight spots but it didn’t matter – we felt like Magellan finding a new route around the world!
As an adult I’m still curious but these days I do much of my urban exploration vicariously through the writers at Infiltration.org (the site is down today – I hope it’s not permanent). The writers at Infiltration have explored abandoned missle silos in New Mexico, crumbling factories in Canada, and catacombs in France, just to name a few spots. Cool stuff.
If you’re never heard about Urban Exploration definitely read up on it – it may just scratch an itch you didn’t realize you had. Of course I don’t condone it myself – I’m just an admirer 🙂