Thursday, March 14, 2013


(I rounded it off and made 3)

Best day of the year in my book, and the joke never gets old. Sort of an engineer's Christmas. Since I got some other stuff going, will attach what I consider one of my best Geocaching logs from a couple years back (the cache page is here)... Oh - for the uninitiated, 'CO' here is 'Cache Owner'

What follows is the cumulative journal of my quest for this cache. Since logs are character limited, I had to break it up into pieces. I didn't record the exact dates, so I am logging these notes all on the day I did the final. As I recall, it's been about three weeks from the start to the end of the quest.

Stages 1 & 2:
We started off from the parking area at the 28 overpass. It was the day of the marathon after the runners had gone through - the morning after a night of rain. The trail was a muddy sloppy mess. We mud skated to stage 1 then circled for a while. Nothing. My wife finally found it laying on the ground. We sort of poked it back on a nearby tree and slimed away to stage two. 

Same deal with stage two. We finally found it in a sheltered location on the ground in the flood plain. How the heck did it stay there through the flood? We saw an amazing tree near here - so large three people could not hold hands and circle it. It was in a clearing by itself - as if all the other trees have moved back in respect... truly awesome... We headed for home - the rest of stages will have to wait for another day.

Stage 3:
With just me and the dog, decided to try for stage three. Looked & looked - nothing. Found some toilet paper in a likely location. I'll choose to believe that it was not used... 

Stage 3 redux - Stage 4: 
Armed with Stage 4 coordinates from CO, replaced stage 3 then on to stage 4 with the wife. She and the dog abandoned me at trail exit indicating they would walk while I pursued this foolishness... I searched & searched - nothing. I returned to the Jeep dejected - my wife was right again...

Stage 4 - 1st try:
Got word from CO that 4 - 5 - 6 had been replaced in the rain on Saturday - crazy fool! We jumped at the clear weather Sunday to go after them from Hemlock. Oops - the river is way up. We got word from other hikers that the stepping stones are under water making approach from that direction impossible. We went for long walk in other direction instead.
Stage 4 second try - 5 - 6 first try:Two days later I got a chance to go out again, just myself & Dog. Hummm - 2 miles as crow flies from Hemlock parking, 80+ degrees - what could go wrong? Long hot stroll to cache - Dog is "dogging" it as I didn't give him enough time to wade in the water along the way. I circle & circle - there! I copied coordinates and away we went. Dog really started slowing down, and I'm not doing so well myself. At stage 5 - circle, circle - Ugh! A collapsed makeshift tent - checking... good - no dead body visible.. circling - there! These markers are beginning to look a lot like grave markers that you see in minimalist graveyards. 
A long hot droopy walk back toward Hemlock. I decide to take horse trail shortcut. the first obstacle I came to was a small stream crossing. The dog happily wades in. I jump, hit the culvert on the other side, loose my balance, then grab and break a small branch before sinking half way up to my calf in mud. The next obstacle is a larger stream. This time I wade right through - hummm - feels good - I think I see why the dog likes this.
As I near Hemlock, I realise the coordinates that I got for stage 6 are wrong - it places the stage on the other side of the river. I'm ok with walking across a stream (now), swimming the river: not so much. With feet squishing, I make it back to the Jeep, pretty much dehydrated as all my water is now almost boiling hot. Who am I kidding - cramping muscles, etc - this is borderline heat exhaustion. The dog on the other hand is quite happy - he got a 10 minute swim at the stepping stones. The things we do for our pets... 
Stage 5 redux - 6 second try:Got correct coordinates for 6 from CO. Since I was sure that had copied them down correctly, I decided to return to 5 to check the sign, then get 6 on the way back to Hemlock. With just me and the dog, started out on a pleasantly cool day. Since it was so nice, we avoided to horse trail shortcut and took the long way to the cache. Well, that and I didn't want to walk for miles in squishy water shoes. The dog was not particularly happy about this turn of events so he made is displeasure known by insisting on stopping and sniffing every bush up and down the hills of the bypass.  

Upon arrival at stage 5 I verified that the wrong coordinates were on the stage. Note to wife: I am right again! Just in case, I had brought a sharpie with me to correct the issue. Unfortunately the signs are rather small so my correction may be hard to read. If your reading this for hints, the correct coordinates are XX XX.6XX XXX XX.XXX. We took the horse trail on the return. This time I made it around the first stream ford point without incident. Wading through the second stream was much less pleasant today - I told the dog he was crazy to like such cold water. 
I had a nice little climb to 6. I was starting to curse CO (again) when I spotted the stage a whole 10 feet from what my GPSr indicated was the perfect placement. The dog likes the challenge of climbing hills. However, he usually does not agree with my route selection. I am guessing that has something to do with the difference between having claws and squishy water filled shoes. 

Saw something unique on the way back. There was a tiny quarter sized turtle in the middle path. Dog blissfully walked right over it, then wanted to eat it when I stopped and looked at it. I resisted him and moved it off the path. About ten feet on was an large empty turtle shell. Circle of life and all that... Made it back to the Jeep without incident. 

Stage 7 - first attempt:Rainy crappy day. Wife actually agreed to accompany me & the dog today walking from Hemlock. As we made the turn at the river toward the cache, an odd thumping in my chest reminded me I had forgotten to take some critical meds. Proceeded to return to the Jeep shuffling like an old man on the way to bingo. Nuff said...
Stage 7 reduex & 8Nice day, so wife accompanied me & Dog so she could do her trail maintenance thing while & I continued on my quest. On the way to 7, passed a jogging group of several young ladies following a young man. About a minute behind them was an older gentleman who insisted he was "bringing up the rear, because someone has to". I choose to take this at face value and press on. Veered off the trail at likely location for 7 and after poking various tree holes with a stick, found stage 7 (dog was unimpressed). Loaded the new coordinates in the GPSr and was off... 

As I zeroed in on stage 8, passed wife struggling with moving a branch or something from the path - she should get some help with that... Spotted stage 8 from impressive distance of 4 feet. Recorded location for 9 in GPSr and settled down for victory drink of water before return trip to Hemlock (wife was unimpressed). 

Returned to Jeep and at Hemock with minimal pain & effort. Wife is strangely silent on trip home. I think she is in awe of my geoacaching prowess... 
Stage 9Lovely day for a stroll. The pollen seems a little thick, but the weather channel says air quality is "Good!" so mowing my lawn before the stroll should be no problem. Set out on quest for 9 and beyond from Bull Run Marina parking with Dog and wife. At trail turn off wife continues on leaving me & Dog to our own devices. A short time later later while getting cross with Dog for his hill climbing path selection, spot stage laying in the open.  

I copied the coordinates & replaced it in its likely hole (No Dog, I'm sure it's not a snake hole - snakes don't live in tree stumps). We proceeded down the trail toward next stage (and somewhere up ahead) wife. After going what seems a mile while getting marginally closer to the stage and no sign of wife, I decide to turn around. My eyes are getting blurry from the pollen and I must stop every once in a while to cough up clouds of the stuff.  

By the end of the trail Dog is acting as a seeing eye dog as my vision is completely blurry and I am gagging and spitting like a cobra. Somehow Dog finds the Jeep and we settle down to wait for wife. When she returns and gets in the Jeep she ask if I had a pleasant walk. I am strangely quiet on the trip home. 

Stage 10Another hot sticky day. Pursued this one with youngest offspring & Dog. Proceeded straight to this one from the trail turnoff. Jumped a deer near the GZ, which which very entertaining and educational for the dog and youngest offspring, what with all the jumping, barking, pulling, and cursing.  

At the GZ, while I was making the rather intricate route and direction calculation to assess the most likely tree hole for investigation, youngest child notes "hey, here it is in this tree!". Dog is unimpressed. 

After recording the next stage coordinates I assess it is too far to pursue in the time available today. We begin the trek back to main path. Youngest child, now full of wisdom, asserts that we seem to be going the wrong direction. I regale him with my unassailable logic and navigation methods. We are soon faced with a steep drop of the old road bed we are following down an unfamiliar hill. Recalculating, we return to the GZ. We then take the right road bed back to the main path and eventually the Jeep. 

Stage 11 - First try:Alone with Dog, took a quick spin out to try to find this one. After 30 minutes of digging unmentionable muck from various tree holes, Dog became bored. Returned to Jeep, then home to write another pleading missive to CO. 

Stage 11 & 12:CO responded to my missive with the remaining coordinates. Set out with Wife, Dog from Wolf Run Shoals to drop a replacement for 11, then go on to look for or replace 12. The cooler weather made the pollen effect a little more bearable. Wife stayed with me up to the cut off for Stage 12 then wondered on to do her trail maintenance thing. After much circling, I determined that Stage 12 was gone and I dropped a replacement. Near GZ was a large beech tree (I think) with an ominous deep hole visible at its roots. I don't think I want to poke a stick in there..  

I found an old car gauge near GZ. You have to wonder how these odd strata of civilisation come to be in the places you find them in. I also am in awe of the workmanship of the gauge, which has laid here for probably 20 years, yet is still intact and not rusted clean away. It is a rare piece of random fortune.
The Final(e):Wife & Dog accompanied me for the quick grab of the final stage from Fountainhead. As with all other stages, I mis-estimated the proper approach and came at it from the wrong direction. In any case, after investigating in all the wrong places to the point that Dog was bored enough to begin repeatedly sitting down, I made the find. After such a long quest I sort of expected that CO would have rigged up a hidden band, flashing lights, or a speaker in the trees intoning "CONGRATULATIONS!". Instead, all I heard was Wife asking from just a little ways away on the trail "Are you done over there yet?". I singed the log and dropped some fake money in the cache. 

After the find walked a little more with Wife to try to pick up another cache or two. As we were going down the trail, a tall guy we were passing stops and ask if I am me. It was the venerable CO. Turns the description I gave him in an earlier email as "fat guy with a big white dog", the etrex held discretely in my left hand, and that I had told him I might try for the final today, was enough for him to recognise me. CO & I had a good conversation about my journey here and his (much shorter) original quest for the cache. 

In addition to CO, the trail was thick with cachers - I also ran into don77ames. The conversation with Don was necessarily short as he was on the hunt to some challenging caches (and he stole my pen!). Yesterday I bumped into JohnMolineaux. We didn't talk long either as he also had a cache to do before the end of the day. 

As we returned to the Jeep, I reflected on how this trail, with it's mishmash of history, hills, and random beauty is truly a wonderful place to walk, and how fortunate I am to live close enough to walk it almost daily. I thank the kindly CO for his encouragement and support, & Wife, Dog, and other family members for their patience as I have pursued this quest. For those who have read this far, I encourage you to give this cache try - oh - and look out for the fat guy with the big white dog! 

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