Center Branch Sunday

Back in the early years of geocaching, Team Kuclick (purple monkey dishwasher, sidekick engineer, myself & sidekick little wooden boy) would get together for an annual event called “Team Kuclick Takes a Long Walk and Makes Poor Decisions“. After a few years of making poor decisions in the gamelands of Pennsylvania our tradition fell off.

Sunday, I decided it was high time this tradition was revived. And if it couldn’t be Team Kuclick, then a gaggle of MAGPI was going to have to do the job.  Originally it looked like we were going to have a rather huge assemble which would absolutely raise the level of poor decision making to an art form. But obligations get in the way of even important events such as this, so upon rendezvous there were five brave souls: pbump & mrs. pbump, Aquacache, sidekick Little Wooden Boy & me. Still plenty of people to start making some poor decisions [even though I had promised that i would exercise EXTREME CAUTION (for me) as a condition of being allowed to participate].

Our first target was In a Van, Down by the River which had prompted the cache owner to post “SSPG, be careful of the arm on the van cache. I don’t want to be responsible for you getting broken again. The other caches should be OK.” I see that my reputation preceeds me whether I want it to or not.

Our first decision on this trip was in fact a good one. Instead of plunging into the shrubs when the arrow swung 90 degrees (this is most likely because I was not allowed to lead this expedition) we walked a little further and found a slightly more navigable way to the Van. At which point we stopped and started and figured we were in for either a super speedy find or several hours of agravation. After some hesitant poking and proding, remembering of course that the van did not need to be disassembled to find the coordinates to stage one, we read the clue. And this is where sidekick stopped outside the box. He took that clue and RAN and RAN and RAN. Which is a problem when you start thinking too hard about clues and the cachers who place them. For all we knew that clue belonged to the final.  With sidekick shouting his thoughts about the clue, we circled the Van like a pack of animals trying to figure out the best way to take down our prey…until Aquacache started reading us numbers.

Stage one achieved we all plugged in the new coords and stood baffled for a moment, for they were not that far away.  Tenatively we fanned out in the general direction of the arrow and realized we had a bit of a problem. The terrain wasn’t exactly broken-pony-friendly.  pbump began talking of going back to the cars and around here and there. Meanwhile I, exercising EXTREME CAUTION (for me), surveyed our possible and most direct route to the final. Upon review I declared, “Uh, I’m going that way. I’ll be careful. I promise.” Which pretty much left everyone else little choice but to follow and remind me to be careful.

Gingerly and carefully picking my way down a partial, semi-wet mud flume of possibly danger I found myself on level ground. Ha! Take that! I can effectively exercise EXTREME CAUTION (for me).  From there we approached the mighty waterway and picked our way across it. Thankfully it was no Maxwell Run (I think I was the only cacher with extra shoes back in the car). Arriving at what appeared to be ground zero (+/- 40 feet) I realized how much it sucked to be broken. Because the wall of rocks confronting us was not something that made it easy to exercise EXTREME CAUTION (for me). So I stood there, trying not to whine, while everyone else fanned out. It took maybe 5 minute for me to run out of patience (and it helped that no one was looking at me too) before I began to slowly pick my way around the rocks, dropping my recently returned Garmin 60CSx in the process and scratching the screen.

While the rest of the gang called out (and possibly cursed) I did my own little pathetic searching and finally made the top of the rock pile in time to hear the tell tale sound of hiking stick on ammo can. And it was a darn good thing i did because the can must have been well hidden. So well hidden that what I heard was, “Great…I’m gonna have to climb in there….” said with much grousing. Ha! HA! Spotty Spotty Pony Girl to the rescue! My hiking stick had the basket-thing on it….perfect for hooking a stubborn can!

Ok. With that cache under our collective belts it was about time to start making some poor decisions. After all, the day wasn’t getting any younger. Fortunately for us we had a situation tailored for poor decisions. In our merry group were not only the FTF of X Marks the Spot, but the 2TF.  Clearly this should have meant that all 3 of them would be able to easily direct me to the easiest access to the cache location. You’d think….

First we overshot the “road”. Then there was some indecision about whether we were on the right road at all. So we turned back and went UP hoping to approach the cache from the same height. Which was pretty much a bad idea from the beginning since we couldn’t find any path or road or even pixie deer trail that seemed to go in the right direction (and I had my map on Track Up to lend to the confusion).

We ended up looking across a field that may or may not have been timbered. That may or may not lead to the cache area. That may or may not be passable. And that basically seemed like a really poor choice. LET’S GO! I even said to the rest of the group, after calling sidekick to go with me, that they could wait and meet us back at the cars if they liked.  Throwing caution to the wind, they decided to follow in our (rather stupid) footsteps. YAY for togetherness. After all, the more people we have, the better chance of making poor decisions!

At long last we stumbled upon a nice little road (of sorts) to the cache site. I was so exhausted it was all I could do to focus enough to try to find the cache. When I finally found it, I had to have sidekick retrieve it because my brokeness was getting in the way.  And then the final insult came because as we rolled down the nice right of way (and pbump found a turtle) we realized we were super close to where we’d originally started to look for the path….an eternity or so ago – before the poor decisions began. (although Aquacache will tell you he was voted down in regards to taking the “easy” way to the cache in the beginning.)

It was nearing on time for lunch but we had one more cache to get on this side of the WMA – The Lost Dozer. Everyone but Aquacache this time had already found this cache. So again, you’d think we could walk right up to it. You would be wrong. Dead freakin’ wrong.  The only good news was after seeing Aquacache, sidekick & I approaching a verticle mud-path of possible injury, the Bumps turned back to look for the proper path. We, of course, kept on going.  And predictably stumbled upon the Lost Dozer just where it had been before.

After that last bit of stupidity we went to lunch. Because we were tired. And sweaty. And hungry. Did I mention tired?

Center Branch, Round 2

Bellies full, we headed around to the other side of Center Branch WMA to try our hand at GeoDad56’s caches. From the parking coords they were (as the crow flies) pretty close. So in an attempt to perhaps make a half-informed decision, instead of a plain outright poor one, I pulled up Center Branch or Mt. Clare? on my Garmin & Aquacache keyed up Because It’s There, figuring we’d make our deicision about which cache to get first as we got closer. And when we were upon the spot that indicated a Turn Right to go to Because It’s Up There….we kept on walking toward Center Branch of Mt. Clare?  Why? Because we aren’t that stupid (or we weren’t that stupid YET to be more accurate).

After a narrow mishap where I considered sliding back down a small hill, running the risk of wiping out Aquacache in the process and causing sidekick to have a stroke, we arrived at Ground Zero where pbump had already made the find. After a short break, we headed down the hill and toward our date with Poor Decisions…..

[Heading to this appointment with senselessness we had a slight scare when there was a scary rattling noise coming from a dilapidated and collapsing shack as we walked nearby. True, it was on the other side of a copse of trees, but I had a sudden urge to shout ZOMBIE!!!” and start knocking down my fellow cachers in order to make a clean getaway. As it was sidekick & Aquacache convinced me that most likely it was “just a deer”. I was not convinced but I was fairly certain I could outrun anyone in our group.]

Back to the narrative at hand…So our wilted  soppy sweaty merry group, still on high alert due to possible zombie attacks, stared in disbelief in the general vicinity of where the arrow was pointing. For those of you who have cached with me, you may be vaguely aware that I have a tendency to blindly follow the arrow while those around me stare in abject horror.  Well today my friends, I looked at the arrow, looked up the hill and myself stared in abject horror. It was THAT bad. (However, if I ever need to train for the Rachel Carson Challenge again, I’m totally coming here.)

With little choice, other than to abandon any thoughts of the cache, we waded through the swamp, gingerly picked our way through the thistles – they are mean when they are taller than you – and started UP through high grass and very tall stinging nettle. Oh boy, my favorite. (I’d been smart enough to wear long pants for a change, thankfully.)

The super tragic disappointing unfair part of this particular hill of death is that it was so (*&^%#@ steep, that when you thought the top was sooo close and you began to rejoice, you hit the plateau and realized there was more UP, way…more…UP.  Sidekick led the way for the most part, stopping so the rest of the motley bedragged and cranky crew could have half a chance of  keeping up.   Somewhere around the half way point (before we reached the road that ran perpendicular to the hill mountain we were scaling), we lost pbump. 

I nearly had to bow out (before I gave any of my babysitters a stroke) when I slipped and went down on one knee.  I had my hiking pole in my right hand so I instinctively reached out with my left (broken) arm to steady myself. I had fingers touching the ground before I heard someone behind me growling at me and I pulled back. Disaster averted.  Sometime around here I took a look at the lovely little depiction of our climb on my Garmin. I really, really should not have done that…..

FINALLY the arrow swung 90 degrees and sidekick, Aquacache & I headed into the tree line to find this cache. I staggered to it and with much relief pulled out the log book. Thankfully the cache was near a nice comfortable log and I rested my weary bones on it while we caught our breath and tried not to think about how much it would suck if we rolled down the hill. Those stinging nettles – they sting. Alot.

The good news is while our descent was painful (knees, my knees) it was QUICK. Also, there was no falling – that’s a bonus! Safely back on the trail I noted to my fellow cachers that I’d just found my 900th cache. So sidekick took a photo to memorialize….well the fact that I’m insane I think.

So in closing I’d like to leave you with this….

chris on July 29th 2009 in Geocaching

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