Explore West Virginia – Day 1

We at MAGPI are nothing if not a bunch of OCD overachievers.  And so when our core group found ourselves only a few caches short of completing all 3o of the ExploreWV caches we knew it was time. Time for a Group Hunt. But not just any group hunt, a highly organized, well choreographed overnight group hunt. Yeah, I can smell disaster, can’t you?

And so at 5:30 am on a bitter Saturday morning I found myself struggling from the depth of my warm, warm bed to pack my stuff into the Jeep and heading out. I don’t get out of bed that early to get to my job.  After meeting up with Aquacache & stuffing his belongings into the Jeep (you know, a wrangler does not have a lot of cargo space) we made way for Fairmont’s Evil Mart where Gentleman-Carpenter & wvhunter were awaiting.

It was incredible that we showed up at 7:00 am precisely and were underway by 7:05 am. This NEVER happens with MAGPI. Mark it down, it won’t happen again.

Still amazingly on schedule our two vehicle caravan arrived at the Spencer Civil War site only to find the gate at the bottom of the hill chained shut. Yes, still. Chained shut. Damn it. About that time the Bumps arrived. They also were less than thrilled to find the gate chained shut. (I can tell you that I found it an even bigger PIA since I already had this particular cache and I had in fact driven up to designated parking at the top of the hill.)

With no other choice, we walked. UP in the frigid COLD. Have I mentioned I hate mornings? Well I do. And I hate cold. Sucks. At any rate at least I had on all three layers of my new parka and probably gloves. Although for some reason I had neglected to actually put on the fancy long johns. They did lots of good sitting in my luggage in the jeep.  And as you can see by the next photo, I’m clearly not the only one that was UN-thrilled about starting our morning with some serious cold weather cardio. We MAGPI though are made of sturdy stuff or at the very least have no common sense. So it was upward we went, gasping for air.

At any rate, I helped the group not make the same stupid decision I had done on my attempt. As in, I said, “Do not follow the arrow. Do not go up to the top. Follow the nice path. Do not be idiots. Trust me on this one. ” Now I know, asking cachers to trust me is a big deal because everyone knows I just follow the arrow blindly. But I pleaded my case and sure enough, there was a nice clear wide swath for them to walk upon. I think they were secretly happy that I was willing to let them learn from my stupid mistakes (briars, thorns, brand new clothes).

Inexplicably our next stop was Walmart (yes, twice in one day and the day was young). Once we escaped the clutches of the Evil Mart we made a pit stop (ok two of them) so Aquacache & I could grab some of the Black Walnut Geotrail caches.  After all, if I was organized enough to remember to bring our passports for the trail (each cache has a stamp that you put on your passport), how could I pass them up?

After those little detours are caravan numbering 3 vehicles headed to Charleston to take on the State Museum, Booker T. Washington monument and Clay Center.

Assuming that wvhunter had left time in our schdedule so everyone could thoroughly explore the State Museum we meandered through. After much reading, learning and photo taking we found ourselves at the end of the line. Which is when we lucked out and ran into Robin (she who organized the ExploreWV extravaganza). Fortunately she recognized wvhunter, who is, after all, pretty hard not to recognize – either by sight or by sound.

From the Museum our merry little caravan headed over to the Clay Center. We pull up, spill out of our vehicles in our best caching outfits and see lots of really dressed up folks. Oh joy, we are so not going to stand out among these people. Especially not when we are doing things like inspecting the shrubbery.

I’m just glad I was the one taking pics for a change, as it tends to be me that’s caught arse end in the air. It was still pretty brisk out so we didn’t stick around too long. Well that and our clear disregard for a dress code made us seem a bit out of place. Piling back into our jeeps, we set sights on the lovely town of Milton and the Mud River Bridge.

We roll into Milton with your truly in the lead and what do we see at Pumpkin Park? Oh yes, a ton of people on the tiny island. Hmmm, wonder what’s up with that? What’s up with that turns out to be day release workers – you know, of the criminal variety. Well at least they can’t escape far with the little rowboat. After all, Mud River Covered Bridge is no longer on Mud River.

The real trick was for us to not get scooped up by the Department of Corrections and shipped back to jail, because honestly, we look shady. We just do.

After our quick escape we headed to Heritage Farms. Where we encountered the largest Unnatural Pile of Rocks (UPR) I have probably ever seen. Now I had already found this cache, so I was much amused by the look of sheer disbelief on the faces of my fellow MAGPI when they beheld said UPR.

Fortunately for them, they didn’t just trudge ahead – I must be the only trudger I guess. And so the find was not quite as difficult as one may presume upon arrival. Drat. I was waiting for a good laugh.

Poor Knight Who Says Ni was trying to rendezvous with us, but we weren’t making it very easy on her by doing a slight shift in cache order. But since we were as close to being on schedule as this gaggle of MAGPI could be, we managed to meet up with her at Ritter Park in Huntington. Well managed with one missed turn, but manage we did.

Since we had two Mr. Tall Cachers was with us, this group of MAGPI, unlike KWSN & I, didn’t have much difficulty retrieving the cache. (Also, I’d like to note it was not wedged in tight like it was when I found it….just sayin’).

I finally got to see the entrance to Ritter Park which is magnificent. I had missed it on my earlier trip as…well…we left the same way we entered. But today I was in search of a gas station since not only was my gas light on, it had been on. And the jeep is not noted for its awesome MPG capabilities. And  so my faithful navigator navigated us out the front of the park and (before I had to ask for a ride) to a gas station.

Properly gassed up, our caravan of MAGPI headed to Chief Logan State Park. Fortunately KWSN was well versed in parking location for this cache, having learned that there was better suited parking than what was mentioned on the cache page. I, for one, was glad because there was some sort of reenactment going on and I was pretty sure they would have been displeased if we’d all parked right there beside their teepee.

As it was, we were still faced with an uphill hike on leafy ground in the cold. Yes, it was still cold. It was still breezy. It was, after all, a typical West Virginia Fall. But we survived, although I managed to show my true caching form by falling uphill.

By this point I was saying we’d make it to Beckley, our designed overnight spot, by 10 pm., figuring it would be 11 pm. and hoping and praying it was not going to be midnight.

With that un-uttered thought in mind, I handed the keys over to Aquacahe and we led the gaggle to Matewan. And this is what I learned at Matewan:

  1. 95% of vehicles look black that late at night
  2. You should really look to see if the floodwall is open or closed
  3. Regular camera flash is REALLY BRIGHT in the dark
  4. Matewan has a cool flood wall
  5. Matewan is not really close to any place we needed to be

That aside, I really wish we had more daylight so I could have seen the entire floodwall. I took some photos, but didn’t really have time to enjoy the scenes. After all, we were getting to that point where we needed food and a place to stay and we still had one more cache between us and Beckley.

So we bid fairwell to Matewan, clambered back into the vehicles and set off for Lillyhaven. Where? Exactly.

We arrived at Lillyhaven in the pitch dark. So yes, I live in Morgantown. But even when it is the dead of night with no moon and a thick cloud covering, there is enough ambient light on my street to see things. Not so in Lillyhaven. Not so at all.

Knight Who Says Ni had been here before and was supposed to help us locate the parking. On the first pass my little black jeep still had lead car status and no amount of mappage proved helpful. So wvhunter chimed in that his Oregon said to go a different way. Still no dice. With no recourse, KWSN took the lead, drove us around the block a few times and then had her AHA! Moment where she recognized a narrow dirt road between chain link fences. You think I jest, I do not.

By the time we made the parking area I’m sure all of the fine town of Lillyhaven knew that a black jeep, a rock red jeep, a khaki cherokee and a silver BMW were all lost. We started out to the cache in the pitch black and soon saw flashlights bobbing ahead. As I was calculating who I needed to outrun and how fast I could unlock the jeep and get it in gear (power locks, where are you?) cachers appeared. Whew. (You know I was thinking zombie hobos.)

After conferring with the cachers we did our best to make our find in the dark without arousing too much interest from the locals.

And then it was time to head to Beckley, where we arrived, beleaguered, hungry & dirty before 10 p.m.

Dingleberry Margarita Anyone?

chris on November 22nd 2010 in Geocaching

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