The Gates of Hell
One of the things I’ve always enjoyed about the SCA is all the little adventures you can find for yourself. Life is chain of moments. It’s up to each of us to seek out them out and hopefully make a chain of them worth remembering.
Due to a series of unfortunate events, I was unable to attend Maidens this year, but that is no reason to sit around. I got up Sunday and did my traditional non-event Sunday morning hike, about 12 miles. Today I found myself thinking that maybe I’ve visited this park too many times or maybe all the parks kinda look the same in January, all scrawny trees and mud. I looked for somewhere new to visit.
Every town has something amazing hidden in it, often a large number of somethings, if you’re willing to look for them.
Hell’s Gate was something I’d heard of years ago but I had to look up where it was. Ironically, it’s mere feet from a pizza joint we’d normally attended after fight practice for a decade, before I moved out of Columbus.
Parking the van near a hipster grocery store in the art gallery and craft beer district, I blatantly ignored all the no trespassing signs and squeezed through holes cut in fences to visit what would normally be a large drain tunnel under a major road.
What makes this tunnel special is the artwork it’s accumulated over the years. Nearly every square inch of it is covered in graffiti. What sort of thing would you say or what picture would you make in the dark, in a place few will ever see?
Hell’s Gate, also known as the Blood Bowl, is a place of urban legend. It was once a makeshift skate park, and as the story goes, a skater died (or was murdered) at the site cracking his head on the ground. His spirit still remains. Spooky.
Officially, the large iron gate is in place to keep large debris from entering the street drain. Normally this drain is dry, but as you can see from my pictures, there was a healthy amount of water on today’s trip.
As I entered the tunnel, the water didn’t seem to be a problem as I could stay on the sides of the round tunnel, but as I came to the 1st turn, the tunnel changed shape and squared off. I was up to my ankles in cold water. At that point, all light from the entrance was left behind. It was completely dark.
Sadly, I couldn’t take pictures and use my phone as a flashlight at the same time. I had a few Doom 3 moments of standing in complete darkness while switching between modes.
In the tunnel, you can hear the sounds of the street above, but the way the earth filters out many of the sound frequencies, the sounds you can make out are reminiscent of a burning digestive tract. The tunnel rumbles with the traffic overhead, and sometimes you can hear odd noises that sound like talking. It’s a bit unnerving.
As I progressed I slipped a bit, completely soaking one side of me before regaining my balance. I took a moment to reorient myself and push out the crazy ideas that you start having alone in the dark, wet and surrounded by odd noises and vibrations.
I decided to tread through as quickly as I could, which fortunately really wasn’t that far. Maybe 80 yards total? Once I could see daylight again, I took more pictures and admired the artwork once more.
Someone put a lot of time into something that is part an act of disobedience and part creation of something beautiful. Many see this is random, or a crime, but these street artists are doing what so many hope to do, to leave a mark somewhere in the world that says.”I was here”.
Eventually, the drain opened up to a small meadow, and I climbed up a steep bank to once again find myself mixed in with coffee shops and mothers taking their kids to sporting events, never knowing what adventures await them just out of sight from the everyday path.