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The Graffiti Hunters

Urban explorers risk trespassing violations, injury, and even death to photograph a hidden world of aerosol art for all the world to see.

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This tunnel wasn't one of Jurne's pristine discoveries or one of Mike's waterfalls. People outside of the graffiti community have found their way in, too, but they've left behind whimsical additions, including a candelabra lit with battery-powered lights, a toilet protected by a lacy shower curtain (and accompanied by an old copy of Vogue), and, best of all, two swings hung with long ropes from the grates. I pulled myself onto one of the wooden seats and sailed back and forth. After I jumped off, I couldn't resist skipping through the stream. My legs were wet, but I didn't care. And I had long forgotten about the zombies and the potential flood.

After two hours underground, we emerged from the tunnel and into a pink and purple twilight. I felt lighter than I had felt in a long time, and I could see why nearly everyone I spoke to referred to exploring these places as therapy. As an adult, the world can feel deceptively known and predictable. We have our set routines and responsibilities. There is something magical in finding a world of rainbow colors and fantastical creatures concealed below these well-worn routes. Like the best museum art, the tunnel walls shook my brain off its normal course and reconnected me to a sense of mystery and awe. And I left wondering what other treasures might be hidden just out of sight.

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