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.

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