This was a cold December night. The ground was covered with a fresh layer of snow and the air was crisp and full of adventure. Biff and I had plans to meet some fellow urban explorers in Temple of the Drowned Cat, so off we went. We headed out with very little information about where exactly the entrance was to the "famous" drain, but felt confident as we had explored the area quite extensively the week prior. We were told where to park, which way to head, and to simply follow the footprints. We walked around looking for what was vaguely described to us for an hour or so and turned up with nothing. Cold and frustrated, we decided to trek back to the Jeep and call it a night. On our way back, Biff noticed footprints leading up the bluff and we decided it was worth a look. Little did we know, we had just accidentally stumbled upon the epic Candy Man Caves.
The entrance to the cave is sketchy at best. The climb up the bluff proved to be more difficult than we had imagined. Biff took a little ride down a good part of the hill on his rump, only to come to an abrupt halt with the help of a downed maple tree. After poor Biff gathered his belongings and navigated his way back up the bluff, we braced ourselves at the hole in the ground and agreed that it was go time. The warm underground air blew a steady plume of steam into the frigid night air, so naturally Biff and I followed the rope intertwined with an extension-cord down into the warm earth.
Candy Man Cave is one of those caves that have been filled in with construction material and other debris in hopes of keeping people like Biff and I out. After some time, the concrete and metal underground jungle opens up to wide tunnels filled with graffiti and beer cans.
Candy Man Caves were obviously home to partying local teenagers and graffiti artists for decades. The caves have been sealed and closed for years, but thanks to the work of determined urban explores, the caves are open and accessible to crazy sons of bitches like us again.
Our banter soon ceased when we noticed a single light heading towards us through the darkness. Was this our acquaintances that we were planning on meeting? A law official risking his life simply to apprehend urban explorers and make an example of us? Nope. Just a kid, no more than 19 years old, tripping on some narcotic, lost from his own group of urban biffs, pupils as large as nickles. We wished the lad the best of luck and continued on our journey deeper into the unknown.
Eventually, the caves dead-end and we were forced to turn around and head back towards the exit. But, before we returned to the surface, Biff and I had to check out what is known as the Stairway To Heaven/Hell. The stairway, if you can call it that, is a vertical shaft carved in the sandstone that goes up 75 feet or so and mysteriously ends in a wet crawl-tunnel.
Looking up the "stairway".
Looking down at Biff bravely following me up the stairway to Hell.
Safe and sound back on the surface, we were overjoyed with our discovery of the caves and happily walked through the freezing night air towards the Jeep. Biff and I were chatting about how we were more than okay with not meeting up with our underground posse in the elusive Temple of the Drowned Cat when suddenly we both froze in our tracks. "Why would so many footprints be surrounding a manhole right here?" , Biff asked with a mischievous twinkle in his eye. So, down Biff and I went into what is known as Temple of the Drowned Cat.
As Biff and I traveled along the tunnel, the air became warmer and soon the graffiti became less frequent. Thankfully Biff and I both had on our knee high Biff-boots, so we made good time underneath the streets of St. Paul. After some time we finally reached our destination admired and explored the unique underground architecture.
The large circular grate has holes the size of small pumpkins that trap debris before emptying into the river.
Looking up a utility ladder that ends in a room close to the surface streets.
This night was one for the record books. We discovered far more than we had ever hoped to find. We were both cold, dirty and hungry and ready to chalk the night up as a complete success. Biff and I were proud of ourselves. We set out to find one particular site and inadvertently found a cave that we had been looking for, as well as a forbidden and unique drain system.