Newbie urban explorer in the Bay Area.
May 31, 2007 6:52 PM   Subscribe

I've always wanted to try urban exploration, but I don't have anyone to do it with. How does a newbie urban explorer get into the hobby? Are there any urban explorer groups or meetups in the Bay Area friendly to beginners? What's the best way to find abandoned buildings or otherwise appropriate structures in a specific area? Thanks!
posted by archagon to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (12 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Just go exploring.

I'd been urban exploring for years (generally with a big-ass camera) without realizing it. There are a couple of good sites on the net but often it helps to have done a bit before hand for credibility. Usually there are monthly outings or something similar. I don't know about your area but Toronto is crawling with this shit.

I've never had the slightest problem with trespass / B&E. Most times what you are doing is *technically* against the law, but you are more likely to get into an interesting conversation with someone that a confrontation. That includes security guards. As long as you are polite, apologise and leave when you are asked, I've not had any problems.
posted by sweet mister at 7:21 PM on May 31, 2007

Best answer: NB I say 'Just go' but let me add:

Where: anywhere you find interesting and seems to have been abandoned. Especially if homeless people etc have already made useable entrances. Whenever you see a trail, follow it. Look for areas which are in between abandonment and redevelopment.

Rules: obey them. Clothing, shoes, telling people where you're going, and so on. Lots of UE sites have them so I won't repeat them here.

I've been some amazing places: abandoned power stations, abandoned cold war listening stations, abandoned mental hospitals.

The main rule I obey is "If you have a bad feeling, get out".
posted by sweet mister at 7:28 PM on May 31, 2007

I second Sweet Mister. Just go for it. And bring a friend. Or two. Never go alone. Always bring a flashlight. And if you want a really good guidebook, read Access All Areas.
posted by fvox13 at 7:35 PM on May 31, 2007

Love this UE story.
posted by autojack at 8:07 PM on May 31, 2007

Best answer: SW has it right: following the feeling and going with a friend. You could always take someone who is simply curious and not specifically interested in UE.

Finding places depends on the area... industrial zones and shore lines are always a good bet.

Also, clothing is very important; wear stuff that is tough and flexible; my Dr. Martins and a heavy cotton shirt have saved me lots of booboos.
posted by Binliner at 8:47 PM on May 31, 2007

Sweet mister, are you by any chance a member of Action Squad? If so, thanks for letting me live vicariously. If not, check them out, they're right up your alley.
posted by cosmicbandito at 8:49 PM on May 31, 2007

Best answer: There are lots of great places to explore in SFCA. Presidio buildings, Hunter's Point (watch out for the cops!) and my favorite, Treasure Island. Lots of downtown buildings have security holes you can waltz through as well ... loading docks usually. I've heard of MUNI and BART tunnels being accessible but I myself would not go into any of them and wouldn't recommend that.
posted by luriete at 9:44 PM on May 31, 2007

No, I'm not a member of any squad. In fact, I do break rule#1 by usually (always) going alone. I do the same with rural exploration, much to my wife's annoyance.

I find the key thing is to keep your eyes open. Most of the interesting places are in a state of change. Sometimes the window of opportunity is very small/short. I am not into the ridiculous golden-gate bridge kind of access, much more interested to find something stupid but interesting like a dump site for municipal road graders or similar (there is a fantastic one in Collingwood, Ontario, for example).
posted by sweet mister at 10:05 PM on May 31, 2007

Best answer: Errrrr....

I can't suggest going alone. Ever. I'm nowhere near the most safety-oriented person on the planet, but crawling around in derelict buildings by yourself is just asking for trouble. If you twist an ankle, you're in for one hell of a time.

Are you hiding a body, or just walking around for kicks? Getting caught in groups of 2-4 people looks less shady than getting caught alone. In my experience, getting caught with one member of the opposite sex almost guarantees you're off the hook. Even the meanest, grumpiest rent-a-cop will assume you're looking for a place to make out and just tell you to go home. Yes, even if you're far from being a teenager.

I'm a big believer in "follow the feeling." Most of the coolest places I've been that I wasn't supposed to be came about by one of those "where does that open door go/is that iron gate really open/can i really walk there," but the same weird part of your brain is responsible for "eek we should leave now." If you listen to one, it makes sense to listen to the other.

Don't be drunk, don't have anything illegal on you, don't be a prick, and don't go alone. If you see someone with a badge, don't run. You can either act like you're supposed to be there (which somehow works more often than it should) or fess up, say you were wandering around, and prepare for a few minutes of being yelled at.
posted by onedarkride at 3:55 AM on June 1, 2007

Best answer: I typically go by myself and have no problems finding buildings in older industrial areas of town. Be safe is the number one rule. There are many hazards in an abandoned building. Mold, asbestos, rotten floors, darkness, crazy people, police, etc. Be prepared for all of them. Spend money on a good respirator.

Know as much as you can about the building before entering. In one large complex I had actually found a map showing tunnels to get from building to building. Scout it out and find where various entrances and exits are. Make sure you have a good sense of direction for larger buildings. I've been in places that were easy to get lost in. If at all possible get permission. Also if you do go alone, let someone know where you are for emergency purposes.

My last advice for never getting caught is don't be obvious. Never park your car in a location that makes it obvious for patrolling cops that you are in there. I have other ways to make it appear that I am there on official business but I don't want to give away trade secrets! Use your creativity.
posted by JJ86 at 6:00 AM on June 1, 2007

Best answer: Also, if you're in a big facility and manage to get on the inside, scout other possible entrances from there. It's much easier to find them once you're in, and if you ever want to return your primary entrance may be a no-go.

Also, realize that the city planning office can be your friend. I've gotten big storm drain maps and other wonderful bits by calling their office and pitching them a story about being an engineering student who is working on a presentation about city planning.
posted by craven_morhead at 8:18 AM on June 1, 2007

For me, and for most of the people I've done things like this with, the impulse usually comes: "I'd like to get into that">>"get into "that". And not... "i'd like to start... X"

I mean... find something you cant live without getting into... then get into it. Yes?
posted by cadastral at 12:52 AM on June 2, 2007

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