GW9 or BUST

Barely back from New England a week and a half, I found myself (list in hand) running around like a lunatic assembling GPS’s (two Garmins), laptops (two of those), a tablet, SPOT device, cell phones (two of those and really I didn’t need to worry about forgetting them), walkie talkies (two..of course), and a bluetooth GPSr. Clearly a sign that either we were planning on running away in the dead of night & did not want to get lost – although having a SPOT device kind of negates that theory – or heading to a big geocaching event.

And so bright and early Thursday morning I finished jamming all our geocaching gear into the little black jeep and headed to Warren, PA, sight of Geowoodstock IX. No, really. I’m being serious. Stop laughing. At any rate, we were heading to the middle of nowhere (approximately four hours away) so we could hike in woods that were quite similar to woods located much closer to home. Yes, it’s a strange hobby we (ok, mostly I…poor Chad he just got sucked into it by proximity) have. But at least it’s mostly good for our health (please ignore the multiple bushwhacking scars visible on my legs) and it gets us into the great outdoors (where I’ve stepped in bear poop one too many times) and takes us to see places we’d never have known about otherwise (Jake’s Rocks).

Back to the story. We arrived as early as possible, foregoing caching on the way up because I’d had some issues with the hotel. Thanks to Purple Monkey Dishwasher’s magnificent planning ability I’d book two rooms in NOVEMBER. Yes, that’s right SEVEN full months in advance. I’d booked them on the hotel website and I’d booked (as a wise person would have done) rooms to accommodate plenty of people – after all PMD and sidekick engineer have 400 Babies and a dog. As you may imagine I was slightly irritated, angry, seething, just shy of scorched earth insanely angry when I called to check on the rooms and was told (by several different people) that I had not in fact booked specific rooms and I would get best available when I showed up. So I should show up early. Did I mention the hotel was sold out? Right.

And so my goal was to get to the hotel no later than 1:00 p.m. and do my best to:

1. Not act like a raving lunatic about to go postal

2. Get the rooms I booked.

It actually worked out pretty well. I was nice and pleasant (I know…really it was me) and upon finding we had a King size room & a room with two doubles (er…really, so 2 adults and 400 Babies were supposed to fit in there where?) I marched down to the reception desk – where they handled reservations on paper, in a very card catalog sort of way – and requested a change. After about 30 minutes of me standing there smiling and trying not to act like a raving lunatic about to go postal, the nice (and slightly odd) person told me they could in fact get a better room but it wouldn’t be right beside us. Disaster averted. I guess it does pay to be nice after all.

Which means that yours truly was placated and it was time for delicious food before heading out into the great outdoors. Chad found us a local pizza place that had – are you ready for this? – Pizza Balls. Say it with me…Pizza Balls. How’s this? You can have pizza in ball form? I see…. Our review? Nom. Nom. Nom. Nom.

Nicely stuffed with Pizza Balls, we headed out to the nearest WMA we could locate because that’s the kind of cachers we are! You know, glutton for punishment. Because it was in the mid to high 80s and there were lots of bugs. LOTS AND LOTS of bugs. Chad does so love the great outdoors in July. Ask him. He’ll tell you.

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We set about to get a few caches that would culminate in a Spongebob Squarepants series. Each of the caches (which had a piece of coordinates for the final) were named after characters from Spongebob Squarepants and were supposed to have little stuffed likenesses of said character. I’m ready! I’m ready! I’m ready! Things were going well until a giant flock of gnats started stalking Chad and I discovered that someone had filched a few of the stuffies. None-the-less we persevered until we were able to free Spongebob – take that you stupid gnats.

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Dragging back to the Jeep I received the most pathetic text ever from wvhunter who wanted to know when we were gonna show up….he was sad and lonely and bored. Uh, newsflash Capt. OCD…we’ve been here for hours. Read our message board you goof. But since I occasionally show pity on the less fortunate I invited wvhunter to join us in our exploration of the fine and scenic woodlands of Middle-of-Nowhere Pennsylvania. After all, if we are going to be out sweating to death and fleeing giant hordes of gnats, why should wvhunter be sitting in his hotel room enjoying the luxury of a gnat-free, slightly chilled existence?

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Nothing like dragging two other people through the gnat infested woods! Especially when one of them looks at a slight decline on the trail and states he is staying there. Right. After I told wvhunter in no uncertain terms that he was coming with us (even if I had to shove him over and rolling him down the slight incline) he stopped his fussing and agreed. And so, aside from Loyal Sidekick leaving the keys in the jeep ignition at the parking area and wvhunter almost expiring due to the heat and hiking it was a good day. Well I thought it was a good day, and since the no one stole the jeep, Loyal Sidekick thought it was an adequate day (the gnat thing was getting to him). Wvhunter still isn’t talking to me, so I’m not sure what he thought. But since he’s not dead yet, I figure it must have been at least a nice day.

DAY TWO – THERE IS NO PLAN

And so Friday dawned bright and early and hot. Just what you want for a full day of caching…especially in the woods. In addition our little MAGPI cadre had grown by one since Aquacache was now holed up in the same hotel as wvhunter, LWB & myself. Since we needed a plan, and since MAGPI is not known for its good plans (please see any of our adventures) what we ended up doing was trying to satiate wvhunter’s desire for Earth Caches. That was our plan: get Earth Caches. Well you’d think our recent experience of the Earth Cache Brain Drain would have daunted me, but nope. Wvhunter was driving and all I had to do was sit back and try not to freeze to death in his “jeep” (he really uses that air conditioning).

And so our merry group headed out to the Kinzua Dam area for some Earth Caching. Wooo Hooo. Sometimes Earth Caches make my head hurt, but we did see some very nice spots and talked to some locals who volunteer at the Kinzua Dam Vistors Center. And (big surprise here) we ran into quite a few cachers – some of them over and over again. And that’s when we got sidetracked. Oh Earth Caches are all well and good, as are some nice walks in the wood, but when fellow cachers tells you they are working on a Busy Day Challenge and wvhunter is in your company you know things are going to get interesting.

“Busy Day Challenge? What’s that”, asked The Bastard, with a gleam in his eye.

“Oh,” said the cachers that we really did NOT want to hate, “is when you get as many types of caches in one day as possible.”

“As many types,” wvhunter repeated, while ringing his hands in glee, a far off look in his eyes.

“So how many would you say….” “Six,” said the cachers we were now really trying hard not to hate.

“I see…….” said wvhunter. “I see.”

And can you guess what we did the rest of the day? Oh yes, we went after as many cache types as possible. But there was a hitch. Down where we’d just Earth Cached was a Whereigo cache. Awesome! But….we didn’t have the cartridge (stupid thing to call it) downloaded. And one is NOT able to download the cartridge over the browsers we were using on our Android phones. Big deal, right? Just download the mobile version of Firefox (with which one IS able to download said cartridge).

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(What’s that bald eagle have to do with caching? Well the Whereigo cache was about Bald Eagles which happen to nest in the Kinzua Dam area, that’s what. The photo is not so great as I only had on the walkaround lense on the SLR.)

Sure, we’ll do just that. In the land of nearly no data. Yeah, that’s right. Minimal data available in these parts. So with Loyal Sidekick in charge of the downloading, wvhunter drove slowly until we found a scenic overlook that had decent data and we waited….and waited….and waited. (MAGPI: Where preparedness is overrated.)

Having finally managed to get the Whereigo cartridge downloaded and working we headed BACK to the site of an Earth Cache and pretty much retraced our steps. Ok. Good. We now had the following different types of caches:

1. Traditional

2. Earth

3. Puzzle

4. Whereigo

5. Webcam

There was a bit of goofiness at the Webcam – stand here for 7 minutes on the cacher’s porch looking at the webcam while flashing the peace sign (Loyal Sidekick) and holding a sign indicating where you are from (me holding LWB’s WVU baseball cap). Also, try to pay attention. And Aquacache don’t do a back flip over the railing. Right. We all know how that worked out.

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We knew we’d end up with an Event (or Mega-event) later that night and so we were on the prowl for a multi-cache in order to maximize our achievement and show off our awesomeness (especially since it was inevitable that wvhunter was most certainly going to be placing a Busy Day Challenge in the near future). Our first attempt at a multi which was so terribly close to our hotel ended in abject failure after the four of us gave ground zero – a gazebo – the shakedown of a lifetime. It was starting to get late, we needed to get to the Event over at the Warren County Fairground and we were getting desperate. After a quick regrouping we had a new target. Off we sped and oh boy did we do a MAGPI. Stage 1 – easy. Stage 2 – under the (apparently very amused) gaze of the gentleman across the street, we took the hard (stupid) way to the cache that involved muck. None-the-less we got our multi-cache. Onward to the event. That’ll be SEVEN different cache types in one day.

GWS Pow-Wow on The Little Brokenstraw Creek. Two words sum it up: Trackable ferrets.

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Little Wooden Boy signed the Teepee (hey a log book you could live in…nice)

As did yours truly. I signed a bit bigger than he did.

DAY THREE – GEOWOODSTOCK IX

Our troops were a little slow to muster to GW9. The previous day had been a little exhausting and there was that sun hangover with which to deal. None the less our little gaggle of MAGPI arrived before our self-appointed 11:00 a.m. photo shoot. Which was good, because I had stuff to see and cachers to wrangler and I was waiting to hear from PMD, sidekick engineer & the 400 babies (and Harper the dog) that they had arrived.

I was in the middle of force marching the MAGPI that had assembled (as per instructions surprisingly) near the ExploreWV booth when PMD alerted me to their arrival. Which put me in a conundrum. Here I was force marching people (albeit about 100 feet) who were not going to hang around unless they were yelled at and threatened (I’m good at both) but PMD was here. What to do? What to do? Send LWB after PMD while I got the MAGPI rabble into a semi-decent state and recruited a (very bemused) photographer from the throng of cachers.

Apparently our large group caused a bit of amusement…or perhaps the people were laughing at me as I threatened everyone with serious bodily harm should they not behave for our group photo! At any rate having been photographed I became concerned as LWB had not returned with PMD and family. Again, What to do? What to do? I’ll tell you what to do…I told the group they were in no way done and that they had to STAY THERE OR ELSE (or else what I have no idea…be publicly humiliated later when I tracked them down I supposed) while I went to see if I could hurry along PMD & family. Apparently I scared everyone enough because by the time I’d located the stragglers and gotten them back to our group photo spot, not only were the original participants there…but we had additional MAGPI join us. I suppose sometimes it is good to be feared!

That under our belt it was abject chaos. Well not really, but since I was way overstimulated that’s how I remember it. After all the trackable ferrets were back. There were all kinds of cool ideas to steal (t-shirts, stickers, trackable ferrets) and plenty of cachers to meet. Even Little Wooden Boy had some recognizition when a fellow Tick fan spotted him and wanted to talk SPOON!. And of course PMD & family were there. So yes, for me it was abject overstimulating chaos of the best kind!

Sometime around, it’s too freakin’ hot o’clock a splinter group – me, LWB, wvhunter, Aquacache, SnowXracer & Greenie333 – headed off to grab some caches. It was hot, it was humid. We had a tile saw in the jeep (best not to ask). But still we carried on.  We made ridiculous decisions (Let’s park our 4WD vehicles here at the bottom of this grass covered road to the cemetery). We made poor decisions (Yes, I will go down the side of this creek/drainage ditch and assume that Aquacache knows where he is going). We nearly DNF’d a cache I had literally stepped on until wvhunter started channeling wvcoalcat and came up with the container. None-the-less, we carried on until LWB voiced what everyone else was thinking – we need food and air conditioning before we die. Judging by all the lanyard tan lines quite a few of us were going to be in need of some aloe as well.

DAY FOUR – 2000 and BEYOND

My ritual for each night was to log my caches before falling asleep, otherwise I knew I’d have one heck of a backlog. In reality what would happen is I’d be logging away and fall sleep mid type. It made for a few interesting cache logs when I went back to review. At any I knew I was getting close to (what I would consider) a milestone. The elusive 2000th cache find. Now had I been back home among the hills, I would have planned to go after something epic – a 10 mile hike, uphill both ways that ended in a scenic view possible only in the Mountain State. But I was not home. I was here, among some other hills, when I noticed that Pennsylvania’s oldest cache – State Game Lands #109 (GC184) – was only about an hour away. Target acquired.

Not wanting to miss out on such an old cache, and because like most cachers he also lacks common sense, Aquacache threw in his lot with us. And so the three of us found ourselves in the crowded little parking area for State Game Lands #109. We set out through the tall-ish weeds (itch, itch, itch…so glad we hosed down with DEET) and soon were veering off course for this very old cache. Which meant I was one happy pony. Number 2000 acquired. And since there were more caches nearby (and by my measure they were REALLY nearby), we were not done. After all who were we to thumb our noses at the other caches?  Off we went, applying more DEET and trying to not sweat to death. It was tougher than one may imagine.

DENOUEMENT

All adventures must come to an end, as must all vacations. And this was no exception. Fun is hard work. Fun in the sun, battling bugs and sticking one’s hands in questionable bits of the wilderness is even harder work. Thanks for all the fun Geowoodstock – see you in Searsburg, Indiana.

chris on July 20th 2011 in Geocaching, Travel

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