|I guess I was doing a little urban exploration before I knew what it was called. For example, on a bicycle trip last year, I climbed down into the bowels of a derelict bridge in Pennsylvania; I walked around Princeton and Yale, "sneaking" into empty classrooms and onto a couple of rooftops; I climbed up an abandoned ski jump. |
But most of these forays were pretty timid -- hardly recreational trespassing at all.
Years ago, living in Victoria, I heard someone mention the "Hall of Wonders." I did a little research online, scoped out Bowker Creek, and found a couple of entry points. Still, I just daydreamed about it for a long time, longing to explore, but not quite daring.
About a year ago, I did more research, and came across Reduxzero's "Bowker's Tomb" story on his (excellent) website. I was finally, eventually, inspired to put on my boots one weekday afternoon and climb down into my first drain.
It was thrilling, and terrifying. Periodically deep resonant rumbling sounds reached me; I had no idea what they were. I came out into a long tunnel with lots of headroom punctuated by sunlight shining down through grates, like a road at night lit by streetlights. The sounds got louder as I reached the "end" of this street. I paused, looking into the pitch blackness, out of which came a clattering reverberating roar, like the sound of a gargantuan Satan's bowels digesting souls. I could not go any further.
I later figured the sound was probably gravel being dumped somewhere around the construction site aboveground, by the mall. I never made it to the "Hall of Wonders."
I looked more closely at Drains of My City, and found a link to infiltration.org, among others. I browsed, and made a mental note to do more.
But my moment of revelation came about six months ago when, shortly after moving to Burnaby, I finally checked Access All Areas out of the library. I read it breathlessly in a day or two. Something about this urban exploration thing struck a very deep chord in me. It appealed to the wanderer in me, the ruin fetishist, and perhaps most strongly, the antiauthoritarian. There's nothing I hate more than a rule or a sign that tells me what not to do, without any explanation why. There was also of course the commonplace allure of forbidden fruit. And Ninjalicious's stories of "social engineering" (a terrible, because ambiguous term; I guess I'd prefer "human hacking") made me realize that this could be a hobby that would enlist every part of oneself: charm, intelligence, ingenuity, quick wit. I could see connections between infiltration and improv, an art form I've long been fascinated by. And above all, urban exploration obviously required one to seize the day, and to make every moment count -- because you never know if that open door will still be open when you come back later tonight.
Well, I immediately ran out and "infiltrated" such daunting locations as the "On Duty Employees Only" back hallways of my local mall, and countless stairwells in office buildings, and so on. I didn't have much luck, or chutzpah, at first. But the world had suddenly taken on a fascinating new sheen: every unmarked or "Authorized Personnel Only" door, every construction site, every hotel, indeed every building everywhere, now seemed to be a portal to adventure. I just had to step through.
In this (my first) thread on UER, I will post some photos and stories of what I've been up to these last few months, since my awakening.
|There's nothing I hate more than a rule or a sign that tells me what not to do,|
|Welcome to the club! That last picture is fantastic. |
|Excellent first post, look forward to seeing more of your exploits. |
god created the au/mc to test the faithful.
|Thanks guys. |
|So. Wandering around the business parks and warehouselands of Southern Burnaby one night, looking longingly at fences I might hop over, I came across this warehouse that appeared to be half under construction. Not a fence, and not a single "No trespassing" sign! God bless you.|
I went inside and took a few photos. A radio was playing somewhere in the building, and when it turned off, I got nervous (well, nervouser), and skedaddled.
|There's about two hotels in my immediate neighborhood. I've been in each of them several times now, without being able to get anywhere really interesting. The pools are both cardlock protected, of course. |
The very first time I went into the H Hotel, I took the elevator up to the 15th floor and took the stairwell the rest of the way up. Roof door locked, of course, and the door of the Posh Members' Lounge on the 18th floor I didn't even try, figuring it must be cardlocked, if one can just ride the elevator up there.
But one can't. I've never been able to since. The elevators must have been off security that day. Now I can't even get up the stairwell anymore. Damn! Should have seized the day.
Here's a hotel by Willingdon and the #1 Highway. Couldn't get in the pool, did get in the stairwell, couldn't get on the roof, took a photo through a small window on the top guest floor.
|Speaking of hotels. |
I found the pool at the Hotel V downtown, and found its door open. So I went back a couple weeks later with my girlfriend, and we found its door still open -- the cardlock not engaged. We hung out in there to get out of the cold and the rain for half an hour.
I went back another couple of weeks later with my swimming shorts on under my business-casual exploration uniform. In the stairwell between floors, I stuffed my jacket and button-up shirt into my beach bag (having deposited my laptop shoulder bag, tripod, and camera at the art gallery coat-check across the street), and emerged onto the appropriate floor in T-shirt and sandals and looking, I thought, a lot like a guest who's just come down from their room for a relaxing swim.
The door was locked.
One evening my girlfriend and I rode the elevator in the FPR Hotel randomly up to the 18th floor, took the stairs randomly up another couple of floors, and stumbled completely at random upon the fancy staircase leading down to the Gold Members' Lounge. We had the nerve to help ourselves to a couple of desserts, but not enough nerve (or too many scruples) to take advantage of the honor bar. We nibbled our chocolate squares, trying not to look as uncomfortable and guilty and poor as we felt. It was lovely.
I've since gone back a couple of times and, of course, the elevators won't take me anywhere.
Earlier this week I finally got into a pool and went for a swim. The main, cardlocked entrance to the fitness centre at the FS Hotel was, well, locked, but for some reason the "back" door was propped open. I walked in. One of the trainers saw me come in but didn't say anything. Another asked if I was "John." I said I wasn't, and after helping myself to a cup of water, asked where the men's locker room was.
I splashed around in the heated outdoor pool, in the rain, with the smell of frying steaks wafting through the air. Fuckin' posh.
No photos. Didn't want to make myself conspicuous.
|A few months ago I eventually got up the nerve to enter my first construction site. It's a ~45-floor residential high-rise in a part of Burnaby I like to call Rotown. It's situated in a busy location near a Skytrain station, so I waited till about 1:30 a.m. on a weeknight before putting on my hardhat and squeezing between the padlocked gates. (No security on site.)|
I was extremely nervous the whole time. I kept thinking I heard voices, and sirens.
The stairwell was blocked by scaffolding at about the 40th floor (the building wasn't finished yet), so I didn't get on the "roof."
A few days ago, I noticed a section of fence around the site was gone. The only thing keeping would-be explorers out was some caution tape. I figured the building must therefore be locked up tight, but felt obliged to check it out. I grabbed my hardhat, and after being scared off a couple of times by passing vehicles, finally strolled in, trying to act like I owned the place. This was about 11:45 p.m. on a weeknight.
No problem. The place was still wide open. Outwardly, the building appears to be more or less finished now, so I was able to get onto the roof. Here's the same view as the last photo, but from a dozen floors higher. The dark swath beyond the condos is Central Park.
The shell of (one of?) the penthouse apartment(s):
Enjoying a beer on the roof, my original goal.
It was chilly, and though much less nervous than the first time, I was not relaxed.
|One of my favorite pastimes lately is visiting condo display suites. These weird fake apartments are like museums of 21st century life curated by aliens. There will be nothing but a six-pack of Red Bull in the fridge, five identical shirts in the walk-in closet, a pair of never-used reading glasses sitting on an obviously never-read book lying open on the night table. |
Usually the salesperson will leave you alone to snoop around and take pictures at your leisure. I've often been tempted to steal a Red Bull or a bottle of wine. Or a shirt. I guess the occasional theft must be adequately covered by the $1.5 million price tag (the cost of these 25th-floor suites located across the street from the art gallery downtown. Penthouses: $8 mil).
Here's me in my downtown camouflage.
Does this count as urban exploration?
|My second construction site was an office tower. |
It was midnight, Christmas eve, and the streets were empty, but I was still worried someone might be working late in the next building, and see me.
First I climbed stairs to the roof. Man, I hate heights.
Gadget and doodad room on the roof.
Then I went down into the parking garages, where some motion sensors clicked as I walked by, and spooked me.
|Posted by billgeorge|
Does this count as urban exploration?
Sort of, IMO. Interesting setup; and I like the museum analogy.
But don't swipe stuff.
|Active places don't have any decay. |
|Well, sometimes I get discouraged finding locked doors at the top of every stairwell. |
So how delightful for a change to find a totally unlocked door leading out onto this rooftop patio:
The only thing keeping me out was a computer-printed 8.5 x 11 sign saying "Private Property -- This Area Monitored -- No Trespassing Past This Point."
That and sixty flights of stairs.
I was tickled by the idea that I could be squatting in what must be one of the most expensive condos in Vancouver. (Huge two-floor penthouse with rooftop pool, etc.)
Though presumably real estate agents come through occasionally with clients.
Other things I like about urban exploration: It's good exercise; and it's free.
|Well, those are my credentials. |
All you local explorers should now message me with your cherished POEs and invitations to go rooftopping, draining, tunneling, and craning. Yeehaw.
|The one about the demo condos makes me almost cry. So much spectacular garbage it hurts my head. Cool explores, keep going! |
|Nice work. |
|Posted by billgeorge|
... "social engineering" (a terrible, because ambiguous term; I guess I'd prefer "human hacking")
Perhaps a still better term would be "acting" -- or "lying."
|Visited my third under-construction residential highrise in Rotown. Old hat. Yawn.|
Actually, though the sights are starting to look familiar, the getting in is still pulse-quickening. Hopped over a rattly fence at 2:00 a.m. on a weeknight in full view of Kingsway.
I read somewhere (I think it was in Bradley Garrett's "Explore Everything") that the author finds sites like these, once he's inside, to be oases in the city, private sanctuaries where he can really relax.
I don't feel that way. My procedure is still to get in, climb to the top, take some pictures along the way, and get out as soon as possible.
The pictures are generally lousy -- panic shots.
I look forward to feeling less anxious when doing this. On the other hand, obviously part of the fun is the adrenaline. For the most part, the places I have been inside have not been inherently wondrous. Just deliciously off-limits.
Here's a blurry view north.
Perhaps the wind was blowing, or perhaps I was shaking while holding the tripod out on the ledge, while leaning over a 2x4 barrier on the 40th floor.
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