Written by Concrete on . Posted in Rochester, Underground

Sometimes blogging at work has its positives… like discovering am explorer sits at the desk right next to me! We decided to take the first Sunday of spring and go to the drains and play with some fire and glow sticks.

Explorers in their natural habitat:

Garrett the fire god:


Now entering RGB color space

What else are you supposed to do when you find a dead mau5 while you’re exploring?

Eventually we just smashed the glowsticks and went Jackson Pollock on the place.

Groundhog Day (Again)

Written by Concrete on . Posted in Concrete, Rochester, Underground

The subway seems like it always was and always will be here. It’s been abandoned for 55 years now, and while a piece here and there gets filled in sometimes, it’s unlikely to ever see another train, or really any reuse other than the de facto graffiti gallery it’s become.

Every year since 1994, the Concrete Discussion Group has come here on or near Groundhog day to explore the tunnel and eat Dinosaur Barbeque. This year was the 20th, and, I’m starting to think, last time we celebrate the eventual end of winter and start of another exploring season. There are a lot less of us now, and, worse yet, no flow of new people coming in, and even as it becomes the latest instagram craze, exploration is dead here in Rochester, close to where it all began. But it was as good a time as any to forget about all this for a while, bring out the beer, and just get underground for a while!

Mines of Moria

Written by Concrete on . Posted in Buffalo, Outdoors, Underground

The best and weirdest ideas begin with beer, specifically the consumption of it in the outdoors. (like this:)

Not that any of you didn’t know that I’m not normal, but with some liquid inspiration and the right friends, even something as strange as a weekend bike trip to Niagara Falls makes perfect sense, and less than 24 hours later we were off riding into the night, basically in search of the unknown, to go sleep in a cave.

After 55 miles or so, we found the cave entrance, and in the morning it was time to explore.

From all we knew, the Akron cave would be a rather dull straight line route like Norton’s cave; we could not have been more wrong, as soon as we lost sight of the entrance we were in a maze of twisty passages all alike.

It goes on and on… we didn’t dare venture too far in though still having to ride to Niagara falls and part of the way back

Somebody many years ago seems to have left an offering.

These are rotten wooden columns, apparently holding up the entire mine system…

Our ride home brought us back along the lake, camping in some park we weren’t supposed to be in along route 18

And, yesterday, my hipster bike died suddenly and tragically, at mile marker 29 of the Lake Ontario parkway. After four flat tires in less than an hour, the cause became apparent: the frame had come unwelded, and I had to finish the trip quite ingloriously, packed in the back of a friend’s Prius, wedged under my bike’s corpse. But at least it was an adventure, even if it would prove to be an expensive one!

Going Nowhere Fast

Written by Concrete on . Posted in Industrial, Rochester, Underground

Wednesday, May 23. It was the tenth day of Laura living with me, and things weren’t getting any better, crying and fighting all the time, sitting around with nothing to do but watch old episodes of Red Green, or on a particularly lucky day, some obscure French film from the library. I rather enjoyed these things when I could still have another life. There were times where I was happy around her, while there was still a place to hide, but that was getting closer and closer to impossible, sharing a studio apartment downtown, never being able to get more than a few feet apart, and not even being able to plan much when she’s always there seeing who I talk to and about what. There was no doubting it, this would be my last time exploring, one last plan that I’d made “before”, a chance to go back out one last time with some of the people who started it all for me. It was supposed to be a weekend trip out to the Catskills or something, but with things getting even worse for me I was willing to accept a poorly planned out, rainy Wednesday morning; nothing else had ever gone as planned, why should the finale? The last two places, appropriately enough, were to be the first two: Laundry Machinery and Densmore to end it where it all began.

We got to Laundry Machinery in a pouring rain, just like it had rained all spring long, flooding the place until it grew moss and algae. Brendan had brought waders for us to get into the flooded tunnels, but they came in handy much earlier than expected!


Unfortunately, when we thought we had steam tunnels, all we actually found was a foul, flooded basement.

The “tunnels” just got smaller and smaller, and led approximately nowhere. Oh, and they had 4-foot pits in them under the rotten water, so we all managed to find at least one during the explore and come out of it a stinky mess.

If there was any positive, it was that the sewer at Densmore couldn’t possibly smell any worse than we already did on the ride there! Only problem was, Densmore was blocked off by a brand new 12 foot steel wall. No way I was getting over that.

So we finished the morning at Norton’s cave instead, despite all of us not really caring to go back there. Just like my whole exploring career to that point really — almost make it, then flump! right back into the pile of shit. The “cave” is basically just a half mile of straight line this:

And this is where I thought it would all end. One last look into the world of adventure Laura was tearing me away from into our private little domestic hell.

I finally escaped on Sunday, hopefully to return to my own normal life not too long from now. One thing I can be certain of is this won’t be my last time exploring anymore.

Triple Word Score

Written by Concrete on . Posted in Buffalo, Underground

So, after going with Shane to those caves, and getting shaken down for every little bit of information I had about underground Rochester, he finally held up his end of the deal: taking me draining in Buffalo. I already knew exactly what I wanted. I’d even been to the entrance of it once, when the water was too high. It took some convincing to go here instead of Lockport but once I showed him what I thought I knew, he was all about it.

Right from the entrance Scajaquada is an epic drain: instead of an outfall, and going upstream into smaller tunnels, this was an IN-fall, taking in an entire small river into a 25×50 foot concrete pipe!

One of my favorite sights in all exploring: what’s beyond the bend?

Off of the giant tunnel there are a series of older brick branches, sewers and storm drains that once flowed into the creek and are now diverted into what appears to be an even more massive, inaccessible tunnel under this one

These branches are the perfect draining drains: ancient brickwork that is just tall enough to stand up in.

I even managed, by mostly dumb luck (I admit it) to get a drain shot I actually like. When I saw this I started to think maybe I got my artistic eye back from wherever I lost it last week.

This is Shane, with the giant flashlight cannon that made the previous shot possible.

The tunnel finally ended after close to six miles, in Forest Lawn Cemetery, after dark, with one of those wrought iron impaler fences. needless to say, it was a bit of a tight escape, and even once we got out we were basically lost in Buffalo, 6 miles from Shane’s car, soaking wet and in waders. Oops. I don’t think we took into account just how weird we’d look when we got back topside.

We got onto a bus, after a bit of a hassle when Shane for some reason unknown to all of us decided we deserved to board without paying the fare. I’m sure the driver didn’t even want us there, smelling like sewer and all, before Shane’s libertarian antics, but whatever. I was glad when we got back to Cheektowaga and off of the bus without even being suspected of much… but as soon as the reward was over, and the reeking boots stowed in the trunk, Shane made haste to the nearest bar to loosen me up and try to get any more information I had out of me. I guess exploring with a scumbag is just the price to pay for not having a car, but I really get the idea none of this was for planning future trips together.

Again And Again

Written by Concrete on . Posted in Rochester, Underground

Even though it hadn’t been the best of times for the group, I still managed to get a real explorer in town. Which is an unusual enough opportunity for me I never quite know what to make of it — an explorer with experience, talent, and a car willing to take a weekday afternoon and explore with me is certainly enough to miss class for! It seemed like quite a waste, but she only wanted to see graffiti, so we went back to the easiest and most colorful places I knew.

Cobbs Hill water towers:


I thought this little one was pretty clever, despite far from high art

Then we stopped by the rave tunnel at Iola because Christina had never seen it and missed all the raves. It isn’t the same anymore; we lost our electric hookup that had made the place possible. A few buildings do still have power so there’s some chance of saving it, but being here in the darkened green room was almost funerary now.

In the daytime, a few miserable beams of light do fall into the tunnels through air vents.

I do hope with some extension cords and dubious engineering this place will at least live to see its anniversary in January

Finally, we decided to go through the abandoned subway, despite Laura begging me to come home in time for dinner. Probably if it weren’t for her we would have kept exploring all night, but it’s clear now who’s in control. I wonder how much longer I’ll get to explore at all now that I’m stuck going on weekdays and hiding it behind skipped classes?


In this light, even our ugly old Genesee looks like something