Expedition 3 - Eastern Colorado Army Corps of Engineers Explosives Training/Test Range - Infiltration
aka: Subciety meets the Arapahoe County Sherriff's Office
Well, planning for Expedition 3 wasn't real extensive; we had received a lot of feedback from friends and acquaintances stating they were really jazzed up about going with us for a return to the site from Expedition 2.
We decided to take another trip down there to expose a few more people to Subciety in a known environment. It was a good plan but as the day approached lots of folks started dragging their feet about going.
Turns out the only other person that showed up at VI for the pre-expedition briefing was Sub-Commander Big-E (WARNING: VI "Patty Melts" should NOT be consumed before entering any confined space with anyone you want to consider a friend thereafter unless extensive measures have been taken to protect oneself from flammable/poisonous gas environments!).
I made some phone calls and checked in with some other friends but was unable to add to our party. We discussed our plan for the evening and being two of the most adventurous souls of the group we decided to bag the trip back to Expeditions 2's site and to check out some other possible missile bases more closely located.
I had recently completed work on my "Super Light" an un-holy blending of a million candle power spotlight, a motorcycle battery and a hard hat. I was spurred to create this device after the poor performance that "off the shelf" spotlights had provided on Expedition 2. Tests showed the light had a life of at least 4 hours and it was really, really bright, not too heavy and not too uncomfortable. I was really excited about trying it out on a real mission.
Without any maps and just a vague recollection of location from a previous drive-by we located what we believed was the entrance to another Titan Missile Base. A small pull off by the side of a road led to an underpass where a vehicle could be stashed without being too visible from the road (unless of course your local sheriff is used to chasing teenagers out of said underpass on a regular basis and they stop to check it). We walked about 100 yards back to the gate and ducked under the fence.
Without any good Ariel pictures, or confirmation we were in the right spot, I decided it would be a good idea (it wasn't, trust me) to stash a duffle with some of our gear in it just a few dozen yards inside the gate. I figured if we found an entrance I could come back for the ropes, spare lights and such I had in the bag.
It was a brisk night, Big-E and I decided we were lucky we hadn't brought any skinny folk with us or they would have frozen. The sky was clear and we had a good half moon, plenty of light to spot the trademark giant concrete pads and silo openings we were hoping to find.
We hiked about a quarter to a half mile up the road, realizing that the two dirt track road we were following wasn't exactly standards for missile bases, but we figured the road had been covered in dirt and weeds had grown through.
We thought we had hit paydirt when we found the sign that said in large friendly letters that we were entering an 'Air Force Installation' that was patrolled by guard dogs and that we had no right to be there. Exactly the kind of thing we look for.
The fence was down and we had a hard time reading the part of the sign that told us to leave because it was thick with graffiti. Deciding that graffiti covered enough of the warning that it was at best "vague" we kept hiking.
It was a pretty good hike up to the top of the hill where we located a small cinder block building with several windows and a couple of doors.
The building was tagged and all the windows were broken. The doors were unlocked and we headed in. Little bathroom. Interesting door labeled "Ammo Room" - empty cinderblock room. A "coat room" that had some coat hooks on the wall and a few empty beer cans strewn about. There was another room with a large mural on the wall showing a soldier with an evil grin on his face setting a charge of C4 "Permission to Destroy Granted By Ranger Controller!" or some such thing on the wall led us to believe we were in some kind of demolitions range command center.
There were several large (20-60 feet high) burms just West of the building so we climbed up one to take a peek. More burms. From our high vantage point we put the super light to work looking for the telltale signs of a missile base. Nothing. Not a silo door, not a vent stack...nothing. Just 5 or 6 big earth burms 40 - 60 feet high that formed kind of a valley, we assumed that was the "range" itself where the army played with explosives back when the facility was active (I'd guess late 60's early 70's from the bits of technology we encountered).
We decided we had to travel up the road from the range control office - it headed East and North from there. We trudged along the road and spotted a drain pipe, investigation showed it to be a culvert under the road, sigh.
A bit further up the road we came to another fence with a bit more gate attached to it, but still the way was not blocked. Another Air Force Installation sign (facing the gate) led me to believe we were leaving the facility. Big-E was enthusiastic enough to get me to go a few hundred more yards up the road - Nothing.
We turned back and when we got back to the sign we decided to head cross-country. We went pretty much straight West and a little South keeping our eyes out for ankle-killing holes. We noticed some structures on top of a rise and headed toward them until they were identified as port-a-john's - two of em, in the middle of nowhere... They were pressed against a fence that ran north/south; we turned south, came over a rise and found ourselves back at the range control building.
On the north end of the building where we hadn't looked before we saw a really big chunk of concrete and some man hole covers! We popped one open...latrine...not our night. We also noticed a door on the north end of the building we had missed - we peeked in, looks like a mechanical room with a strange water heater in it, some telco junk...nothing to write home about.
We went back to a big power box just south of the building and dropped gear to have a smoke. I fiddled with some of the big electrical switches on the south end of the building but nothing lit up, no secret passages opened, they didn't even hum. Big-E stepped inside to get a few pictures of the mural I described earlier.
Cigarettes were distributed and enjoyed by all. We were puffing and wondering which way we should head next in search of the elusive missile base. About this time we noticed some activity on the road below us where we had parked.
We watched as a car slowed down and stopped just past the bridge under which the truck was parked. His lights went out. Great! A few minutes later a fast moving car came in from the other direction and did pretty much the same thing on the other end of the bridge, Goody!
We decided to start the hike back, hoping that if they were cops they would get bored or find something important to do on the long walk back.
The idea of teen-agers heisting Big-E's stereo put a bit of spring into our step though. The cars we behaving strangely. They would light up and move out like they were leaving, get to the top of their little hill, kill the lights and wait. I'm now guessing they were trying to flush us out from under the bridge and didn't realize we'd actually gone up the hill.
One of the cars pulled right down next to the truck, we left the road and went cross country hoping to avoid bumping in to anyone coming up the dirt road. We took a break to see if they would just leave, and while we were waiting we heard a girl scream, not a bloody murder scream, but a "You spilled beer on me" kinda scream. We popped up and figured we'd have to explain ourselves to some high-schoolers out partying. Looking back I'm not sure what that sound was, we thought it was a girl-scream, who knows.
We stayed off the road and crossed a dry river bed that we knew ran right by the truck (and under the bridge, duh). We got to a big line of trees with big fat trunks. It was at this point I noticed the little reflections on the doors of the cars as they passed each other driving back and forth over the bridge, yup, cops. I decided having a 6 inch reflector mounted to my head wasn't exactly "stealthy" at this point, so I hung it around my neck. We watched em driving back and forth a bit and decided we'd wait until they left.
We were fairly close to where I had dropped the duffle bag full of gear (now you understand why it wasn't a good idea) so I decided to leave Big-E where he was and dash across the riverbed to pick it up. I left the super light there (the motorcycle battery was getting heavy...so sue me).
I was just over the bright white sand of the dry river bed and onto the wide-open weedy embankment when the cops turned on all their lights. I made sweet love to the ground while thinking very small thoughts as they flashed their spotlights up the hill and lit up the night with their strobing roof lights. We were still a couple hundred yards from the fence line so even if I stood up I doubted they would see me, better safe the sorry, I kissed dirt.
They gave up their Vegas routine after a few minutes so I went skulking over to the trees, wrong trees though, no duffle, it was still about a hundred yards closer to the gate.
I didn't want Big-E to get busted holding the bag by himself, besides, he was my ride home, so I dashed back to where I left him (now, I'm pretty nimble for a fat man, but running "quietly" across 50 feet of sand in the dark is harder to do than it sounds so this was quite a feat - now consider that I smoke, I'm guessing my hoof beats were drowned out by my wheezing).
I got back to the tree line. No Big-E...great...now what? Do I holler for him? Did the cops get him? Should I wait till the cops leave then use the cell phone to get a hold of my wife for a ride? Then I saw him, he had tucked himself into a cool little crook made of four or five big tree trunks, perfectly hidden.
"What's the plan?"
After a few minutes of pondering our fate in the cold Officer Friendly started using his PA to get the message out to us. "IF YOU DON'T COME OUT IN ONE MINUTE WE WILL TOW YOUR CAR!" and "IT'LL BE A LONG WALK HOME IF YOU DON'T COME OUT!" and who can forget "WE DON'T LIKE PLAYING GAMES! COME OUT NOW!"
"What should we do man?"
"Man, I'm sorry, it's your truck, it's your call."
"They can't tow my car...Can they?"
"I don't know, I think it's on private property so..."
"WE'VE CALLED A TOW TRUCK! IT'LL COST YOU $400, COME OUT NOW!"
"They're bluffing, let's hold up."
"Your truck man, your call, we could use the cell and call in to report it stolen!"
"Nah, that would make this mess even worse."
"<Big-E's name> COME OUT NOW! WE DON'T WANT TO PLAY THIS GAME ANY MORE!"
"Dude! They ran my plates..."
Anyway, we decided the best idea would be to ditch all the gear we had on us in the crook and amble on up to the cops like we didn't know what was going on. Superlight, gloves, Titan Missile Base plans...shit. We wanted to look like harmless curiosity seekers, not hardcore speleologists.
We decided the best bet was to walk right up the river bed so they wouldn't think we were trying to be "sneaky". We got within a 50-100 feet of them, they still hadn't seen us. Officer Friendly kept letting us know what a pinch we were in.
It was only about 20-50 feet from the fence and he was still giving us his spiel, must have had the windows up because I don't think he heard us calling to him..."Over here! We're Over Here! WE DON'T LIKE TO SNEAK UP ON PEOPLE WITH GUNS! WE'RE OVER HERE!"
"WHERE ARE YOU?!"
"OVER HERE, OVER THE FENCE!"
"OKAY, GET UP HERE!"
We helped one another through the fence. To be honest I have to say the guy was fairly decent about the whole affair. He said they'd had trouble with kids partying in the underpass and that's why the stopped to check out the car.
He explained to us that even with the lack of signage that we were trespassing on private property.
We explained that we'd "Come across some place on the internet that said there was a missile base out here somewhere and we just wanted to check it out." He said there were 5 missile bases out there...we stopped just short of asking him where they were...
He explained that he'd let us go without a ticket after running our ID's for warrants, and he was good to his word.
Now I've heard some horror stories about trespassing and was afraid we'd get the rifle-but to the head treatment, but he seemed fairly laid back about the whole thing, realized we were grown ups and weren't out to damage property and let us go. A cool cop? At the very least a reasonable man and I think that's about 90% of being a good cop.
Now the tricky bit! You see, my wife had a disposable camera she'd taken hiking with friends a couple week backs, still had 20 pictures on it, so I'd figure I'd take it with me on Exp3. Of course, it was in the duffle bag. On the other side of the fence. Where I was now "Officially" not supposed to go. I'm not sure if any of you has a wife, or is into scrap booking yourself like my wife is...but losing that roll of film would get me in more trouble than $200 of pay-per-view porn on the cable bill at the end of the month.
Did I get it back? I'm neither confirming nor denying that...let's just say my wife still encourages my little underground hobby.
Superlight - Warning - Draws Cops Like Moths
Ol' Building 12