Saturday, May 29, 2010

Renegade Canoeing and Urban Spelunking

We're at it again. Or were, earlier today, exploring places we probably shouldn't have been. In this case, a drainage tunnel that runs under Holly Hill Road in Lake Charles.

Adventure Chick and the Newanderthal launched the canoe near The Landing on Prien Lake Road and found the tunnel, a culvert about 5 feet in diameter. The water in the bayou smelled like a mixture of mildew, sewage and rotten death. Ahead, the culvert yawned like the waiting mouth of some hungry serpent.

And into the darkness we paddled. The water in the drain pipe was only 6-8 inches deep and, despite my preconceived notions, had no scent whatsoever. The scorching sun was left behind and our eyes soon became acclimated to the dim lighting. We were each equipped with a small headlamp, and shortly after switching them on, mine began to flicker. I made a mental note to throw away the aged light and purchase another as soon as possible.

The water was too shallow to paddle, so we propelled the canoe forward with our hands. After no more than a hundred feet, we were beached. The slight incline of the drain pipe had reduced the depth of water to just a few inches and even the shallow draft of the canoe was too much. Now it was time to get dirty.

Our adventure pants came in handy as we removed the legs, converting them to shorts. We slipped off our shoes and proceeded on foot through the ankle deep water. We tried to avoid stepping on the numerous catfish swimming around, and were quite successful. Occasionally we aimed the camera out of an overhead storm drain and snapped a few shots as a reference so that we might discover where we were going.

We walked, hunched over for a few hundred more feet before the tunnel grew taller and we were able to stand upright. I'm not ashamed to say that I smacked my head more than a few times and added a couple new scratches to my well-worn adventure hat. After a half hour or so, we decided to turn back. The battery in the camera was fading and we were both getting hungry (crawling through drain tunnels works up the appetite).

Once we emerged and returned to the truck, we followed the route by locating houses and signs we had seen from the storm drains and discovered that the tunnel runs beneath Holly Hill Road and we had followed it for over half a mile before turning around.

We need some rubber boots, better head lamps, full batteries, and perhaps a video camera, in case we come across the Ninja Turtles or that freaky clown from IT. Speaking of that freaky clown, we did find evidence that he's around here...

Thus concludes our Renegade Canoe trip and first adventure in Urban Spelunking.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Renegade Photography

Renegade Camping is camping in a place you're not supposed to, like the clumps of trees near an exit ramp beside the interstate or in some bushes outside a large bank.

Renegade Breakfast is when you take advantage of the complimentary breakfast of a hotel when you're not a guest.

Those are two of my favorite things to do and partaking in such activities provided excitement and tasty treats while on my Walkabout. But there's another activity I enjoy and that's Renegade Photography.

Renegade Photography is when you have to break the law to get the photos you want. Such as crawling through an already broken window into an abandoned building so you can snap shots of old jail cells and broken toilets.

Sound fun? It is. Especially when you get to play with giant levers that slide the prison locks into place or look out the barred windows overlooking town and see how the inmates saw things back in the early 1900's.

In the DeRidder jail, which was used around 1914, there are currently 2 light bulbs that are still burning. Their yellow light casts an eerie glow over the shadowy stairwell that spirals through the heart of the concrete building. The dust is half an inch thick and every metal surface is covered in rust and flaking paint. The walls are peeling and glass crunches beneath your feet as you walk.

There's old locks and beds and toilets and showers. The sunlight throws beams of light across the floor. Nothing moves.

Try finding that without trespassing.

I go on these Renegade Photo Shoots because I love abandoned buildings. I'm not sure why. Maybe it's the abundance of strange textures. Maybe it's the silence. Perhaps the eeriness attracts me. I feel like an explorer when I'm in there. It's an adventure, like crawling through the ruins of some ancient culture long, long forgotten. In a way, that's true, if not entirely accurate. These are ruins, left over from the early part of last century, forgotten by modern society.

It's like I'm Indiana Jones, only there's no giant ball of stone rolling after me and fewer pygmies with blowguns.