On a quiet, dark night, we trudged through a field of snow in an industrial area. An old, familiar feeling grew inside me, anticipation of the drain trip soon to come. A manhole we'd scouted days earlier sat as we'd left it, but didn't budge when I attempted to open it. Our previous scouting, wherein I'd opened the lid for a quick look, had allowed moisture into the collar and the manhole was now frozen shut. We searched around, and despite a couple minor injuries managed to procure a piece of rebar (which is soft and was quickly bent); and then a stronger steel bar that I used to successfully budge the lid. We wasted no time getting down the ladder into the warm, sheltered pipe below.
Walking-height 1950 RCP was in abundance, but more interesting was the section of arched (A-shape) pipe just meters away. The delightful arch was only about 20m long, and soon we were walking through more RCP. Throughout, the joints between pipe sections were stained by minerals leaking through, and the water was sometimes tinged a slight orange.
The drain slowly turned left, then right. Sand began to fill the bottom of the pipe, forming a layer that varied from one inch to a foot deep. It had been about four and a half years since I'd last explored this drain (back in Aug 2002), but one thing I did remember was walking through the sludgy sand.
We reached a junction where the 1950 RCP joined a large oval pipe. We followed a second branch of RCP to the north, and went through a couple more delightful sections of arch pipe. These arch (and monolithic) pipe sections are located directly beneath railway tracks, and I assume the shape is used because it is stronger than RCP. I really like the arch sections; most of them were over six feet tall, with flat bottoms- a cross-section that made for easy walking. Unfortunately, after walking for about twenty minutes the bottom of the RCP began to fill with more and more sand, and we decided to turn back.
We walked into the oval pipe, heading into the unknown. I couldn't remember what was ahead, only that I'd been there before and there was sand and deep water involved. The minutes ticked by, and we walked. Sure enough, the sand accumulated in larger deposits, joined by large rocks.
The drain made a hard left turn, and the water suddenly got very deep. I think this section of pipe has settled somewhat more than the rest, causing the pool. Luckily we were wearing our tall uber-boots, and were able to wade through without trouble. After this, there was more trudging through a mixture of water and quicksand. At first step, the bottom seems solid, but as you put your weight down the water-logged sand under your boot quickly begins to dissolve and shift. It takes a lot of effort to walk through, and slowed us down considerably. Perhaps this should have been named, "Davies Quicksand". The pipe also had several sections, each with its own distinct smell: motor oil, then dish soap, then rotting garbage with a hint of greasy meat.
Strangely, I only saw one of the white "pollution bags" floating in the drain; whereas four years ago I'd seen several. I'm not sure if the city has removed the pollution detection bags (which are basically bundles of petrochemical-absorbent white material), or if they have simply been washed away during a storm. There was a thin, oily film floating on the water's surface most of the time, and I wondered how much polluted water was constantly seeping into the drain.
Eventually, we came to a junction where slimy water spilled from a 1650 halfway up the wall. We posed for photos, and with Nancy Drew's help I climbed into the smaller pipe for a quick look; it was small and stank. Although there was lots more stinky, quicksand-filled oval pipe left to explore, we'd had enough of the sights and decided to turn back.
After a long walk spent whistling old TV show themes, the warmth of the drain gave way to the frigid night air. We trudged back to the road, following our tracks through snowy fields, and went home.