Archive for September 4th, 2009

Fear Factor Saturday

With the arm nearly 13 weeks healed I was having a serious case of cabin fever (although it’s not as if I had been trapped in the house all summer). The best remedy I know of is to put out a call for cachers and see who takes the bait.  The targeted cache was Otter Creek Cache GC1VE27 by 89SC (who I had always considered a nice guy, but more about that change of heart later).

To get additional volunteers for this trip, the prospect of spending a Saturday hiking around the Mon National Forest in search of geocaches was sweetened by the possibility that I would cry like a baby – because to get to 89SC’s cache one has to cross a swinging bridge. And I fear loathe don’t like swinging bridges AT ALL. I like them even less when someone purposefully makes them swing.  And since there was a fire tower nearby that was reputed to sway noticeably that was thrown into the mix, how could I refuse? Because everyone knows what a big fan of heights I am.  Oh yes, huge fan. So the question was, would the lure of a geocache be enough to force me to overcome my fears? Welcome to FEAR FACTOR SATURDAY ladies and gentlemen.

The good news was that this particular swinging bridge didn’t so much swing nor did it bounce much, despite attempts by certain persons who wanted to see me crawl to safety.  TEST #1 – Done and done.

Once safely across the not-so-swinging-swinging-bridge-of-doom we were met with our first obstacle on the way to Swinging Bridge….a steep hill and a GPS that indicated the cache was UP.

If left to my own devices I’d have seen that arrow point up and taken off straight up the side, paying no heed to the rambling game trails or the stinging nettle in my way. However I was trying to be polite since colecops had never cached with me before [I also thought maybe if I violated my “good pony behavior” parole sidekick would keep a closer eye on me until I was fully released by my doctor.]  So there I stood, looking at my map and pondering when someone said, “Well are you gonna stand there all day?” I explained that I was trying to be nice. At which point 89SC agreed that if it was just him he’d already be up at the top. That was about all the encouragement I needed. Up we went, stinging nettle and mud be damned. Which thrilled loyal sidekick who happened to be wearing shorts on this trip.

Much to my delight the hill climb was not so easy and the signal bounce was about medium which meant that the 60CSx was saying the cache was there…no wait THERE….oops, definitely THERE! [Pretty much this is the same thing all the GPSr’s were saying so no shame to mine. Not much you can do when the darn cache won’t hold still.] The good news is that most of us have been hunting Lock-n-Locks & Ammo Cans long enough that we’ve got a pretty good sense of where to look (foreshadowing). So after looking in about 35 places, 89SC and I saw the 36th that was the winner! Yay!

Log signed, cache replaced we hurled ourselves down the hill, through the stinging nettle (long pants are awesome) and back to the trail. Onward to Otter Creek Cache & some really nice photo ops before the rain caught up with us. (Including a shot of Gentleman-Carpenter’s sweet made in China hat for his gi-normous noggin. You just can’t beat an $8 hat. Especially when the $50 hats won’t fit.)

Despite the heavy tree cover & stupid rain (which thanks to the heavy tree cover really didn’t get us wet) the cache was found handily. Of course it always helps to have the cache owner with you saying encouraging things such as, “Yeah I only had 60 ft of accuracy here.” Yep, that’s why we invited him along all right.  We were rather hoping that since it had been a near monsoon at home that Otter Creek would be running high so sidekick could get some awesome photos. I’m not sure how it was possible for the area to be so wet in general, but the creek to be so low. But it was. Mother Nature…go figure.

After crossing the not-so-swinging-swinging-bridge-of-doom again (net result, despite tries to get it to swing the worse that happened was that we staggered ON the bridge as if drunk) and getting back to the cars it was time to head to Olson Tower, FEAR FACTOR SATURDAY Test #2.  I’m thrilled.  As we headed to the cars 89SC (who I still at this point thought was a pretty nice guy) pointed out that it wouldn’t be so bad on the tower today because the fog made it very difficult to see how far up you really were. Yeah, that’s encouraging. Thanks.

As we rolled up I could see that perhaps he may be right. We could barely discern the top of the tower from the parking spot. Maybe Test #2 wouldn’t be so bad after all! On the other hand, there did appear to be more of a storm brewing on the far tree line and that could not possibly be good news.  There I stood hand on rail, foot on first step, waiting. I’m not sure what I was waiting for (perhaps common sense to win out?) but I was waiting. Until I heard (again with the peanut gallery…) “What are ya waitin’ for?”  Anyone who knows me knows that I don’t like to be poked. And I considered that a poke. “FINE,” I said and started up, which seemed like a good idea for about 3 steps.

And then the wind started and the fog began to blow off and I realized I was WAY FREAKIN’ UP IN THE AIR….like above the tree tops (which is kinda where a fire tower has to be)

I was fortunate, on some level, to be at the front because I knew if I chickened out, I was going to have to let everyone (everyone but Gentleman-Carpenter who had sense and stayed on the ground to guard our cars) pass me. Man O’Day, those stairs are narrow and small. No way was I letting anyone pass me on those bad boys.

As it was, poor sidekick was in the middle of the pack and about halfway up the tower had some second (and third) thoughts about the brilliance of this plan what with the trees swaying like mad and the evil clouds which were now visible thanks to the dissipation of fog. However, after steeling himself (and figuring if I made it to the top and he didn’t he would never hear the end of the mocking) up he came. Not that he was happy about it.

Even less happy than sidekick was Colecops who probably only made it to the top due to the fact that she was directly behind me – the thought of being passed on those steps is a mighty fine motivator. Upon reaching the last platform she was happy to sit and hold tight while I attempted to get the cache.

I could see the cache. I could reach the cache. And I could even unscrew the cache. I held onto that log for dear life while scribbling our names on there. And then the moment of truth – putting the cache back. It was about then that I looked at 89SC who was laughing maniacally as the wind whipped through the tower and I could clearly see trees in the next state swaying wildly & I called him a name usually reserved for wvhunter.

After successfully replacing said cache (oh 89SC I really did used to think you were a pretty nice guy) I had a moment of courage so I took a shot of Gentleman-Carpenter WAY FREAKIN’ DOWN BELOW, just to prove that at least one of us had common sense.

The walk down was much faster than the climb up, although (to me at least) fraught with way more peril since I could see all the way down to the forest floor which was WAY, WAY below.  Safely on the ground I realized how bad my legs must have been shaking on the way down because my quads were a big mess of uncomfortable. None-the-less, FEAR FACTOR SATURDAY Test #2 – done.

After a brief recovery, we headed out to find Flanser Trail (where we were pretty sure a pack of velociraptors would be waiting at the cache site). The storm which had been brewing all day decided to send us some rain but we were soon under thick tree cover again, making the whole place that much darker, wetter and frought with possible axe murderers (and dinosaurs).

Clearly fed up with the lack of fear during FEAR FACTOR SATURDAY, 89SC parted ways with our group as we headed off to Canyon Rim Cache. The “road” to said cache gave the GCC Light a pretty good test of her durability, especially with the weight of 5 cachers & all their stuff. Upon arrival at the parking coords, Gentleman-Carpenter (in yet another display of common sense) volunteered to hang out by the car & direct traffic while the rest of us bumbled off to our date with Test #3 (although at the time I didn’t know there was a third test).

Unbeknownst to me there was a little side test thrown in for Colecops called “Don’t do what SSPG does.”  My standard disclaimer is, just because I did it doesn’t mean I expect you to do it.  Which is not to say I’m not above mocking someone who doesn’t live up to my high expectations, it just means I don’t expect other to be as foolhardy as I am.

Colecops test came in the form of a stream crossing. I (being the smart pony) was wearing my awesome Teva water shoes. So I hiked up my pants and walked through stream. Oh sure I could have rock hopped, but why bother. That’s why I bought the fancy shoes in the first place. Before anyone could stop her, Colecops hiked up her pants & waded through too – only she was wearing gortex hiking boots…and the water was over the top of the boots. To which Aquacache said, “You’ll learn not to do what she does.

Eventually we made it down the very mountain laurel-y trail and the arrow swing to 90 degrees and there was a big ol’ rock face staring at us. Uh, what? I had not read the cache description. Certainly it wasn’t UP THERE…but wait. This cache was placed by seneca rocks….oh yeah, and Aquacache had already found it. And he assured us it was indeed UP THERE. Oh freakin’ yay.

And this was when I realized that sidekick was pretty much over telling me what I wasn’t allowed to do any more. Not sure if he was just tired of saying no and getting wicked looks or if, quite frankly, he didn’t care any more since I was so close to being turned loose. At any rate I was mightily grateful to be able to clamber around on the rocks without being chastised. And then the rain started. Oh boy did it ever. By the time I scrambled into my rain coat it had stopped, of course, but that extra layer of protection meant I was ready to go hard core my friends. No thorns were going to stop me now! Which was good because around that time we decided to read the cache page and realized we were, in fact, on the wrong pile of rocks.

By the time I made it through the thicket of mountain laurels and other shrubbery and up the side of the correct rock formation I was tired, hot and thinking that perhaps this had not been my most brilliant plan of all times. And then I saw the Tupperware. “GOT IT!” I shouted to which I heard a disembodied voice say, “Where ARE you?”

After scrambling safely down we headed back to the trail and the overlook.

After a long day of caching we headed to Cool Springs for a delicious post-caching meal of goodness. Of course since Colecops had not found the Cool Springs Teepee cache we mandated that before being allowed back in the GCC Light she had to give it a go. And she was willing to make it every start of the 5 start terrain it was rated.

And because we have no common sense, despite being exhausted and sore and now stuffed with food, we headed out to Marquess so that Gentleman-Carpenter & Colecops could try their luck at Marquise du Poney Apercu and so I could procure the DM09 token. It turned out to be a good thing that I was along as Gentleman-Carpenter’s GPSr was pretty much done caching and was of very little help after stage 1. I think, in fact that it was trying to kill him by pointing him across the road. Loyal sidekick, Aquacache & I looked on in amusement for some time before the two seekers asked for a hint.

By the time they had final in hand poor sidekick was on the verge of delirium and I wasn’t far behind. It was time to call FEAR FACTOR SATURDAY done and head for home where ibuprofen was plentiful and couches were soft & comfy.

Thanks for playing gang.

chris on September 4th 2009 in Geocaching