Hillbilly Cluster – the Search for the Treasure

So a new series of caches went live and they seemed oh so right up my alley. There were some obstacles to overcome, however.
1. They were about 1.5 hours away
2. They were beasts of terrain ratings
3. They absolutely required supervision

So how does a resourceful cacher like myself overcome those issues? She sends out a call for cachers and hopes for the best. Please note the word HOPE because it will be very important later.  Those who answered my plea were: pbump, mrs. pbump, 89SC, and Gentleman-Carpenter. And my god have mercy on their souls for doing so.

We rendezvoused in Salem and hung out waiting while pbump did a little grocery shopping. Perhaps he had a premonition that we were going to be gone all day and would need a healthy heaping helping of food and beverages. Or maybe he just thought that since we were in a grocery store parking lot he would knock off the weekly shopping trip while the rest of us straggled in to the meet up area.

Whatever the case, we all had high hopes of not only having a great day in the woods, but of returning home with bragging rights for finishing off this monster of a quest. Oh yes, we were confident that by the time we drug our weary bones home, we’d have 5 new smilies under our belts. By know we should oh so know better. But we MAGPI are a simple group and blind stupidity is a good trait on occasion.

We were very much hoping to be able to take the low water “bridge” over and make our lives easy. But as it was, the water was flowing a little too high for pbump’s comfort (apparently he is hydrophobic…although I don’t think it’s contagious).  And since none of us were familiar with what the low water “bridge” looked like when there was no water, his decision to not attempt a crossing was most likely the sole good decision of the day.

Thus obligated to do some serious hiking we parked on a ridge and set out targeting Hillbilly Hideout – Ridgeline. Seemed simple enough and like a fairly good way to start our trek. Except that if we had used our brains we would have considered the possibility that the final cache may also be here. And since 2 of the 4 required caches were NOT in this area that posed a slight problem. However, blind with ambition and good intentions we began our descent.

The early part of the day was like a lot of MAGPI outings in the Mon National Forest. We walked, we talked. We didn’t seem to get much nearer the cache. We crossed water. We reviewed topo maps. And eventually when we were starting to think that we would never, ever find the cache, we found the cache.  89SC went the high road and I took the low road – being short does sometimes have advantages – and while he was trying to come up with novel ways to maim himself (or at least that’s what I suppose he was doing while looking for the cache) I struck metal.

Before re-hiding the cache and moving on we double and triple checked that the required piece of the puzzle was in my possession AND safely zipped inside my pack along side my equally secured and tethered keys (I drove one of the cars). And so with that we had our first inking of what the puzzle might be.  Four caches, four parts of a map with some strange writing on it. Oh joy. Still pretty confident that we were going to have PLENTY of time to find all four caches, solve the puzzle and then FIND the final. Oh yes. We were that confident. Never mind that the mighty trio of Big Cat & CTeam had taken two days to do what we proposed to do in one.

And so fresh from the victory of finding Ridgeline we set out for Hillbilly Hideout – Watercrossing a multi. And not just a multi, as we discovered, but a multi with it’s own bit of puzzle to solve.  It was on the way to find stage one that we passed the coolest old house.

And if you decide to take on this cache, do go to the Jug Store and talk to Gladys about this house. It happens to be the house where her grandparents raised 16 children. And she has a photo of what the house looked like in its prime.  Anyway, we were slightly concerned that after coming upon this house we would lose 89SC for the rest of day. After all his penchant for finding and exploring derelict buildings (and dozers) is legendary. It was no great surprise to us that while we were poking around the out buildings he made his way inside and was suddenly on the 2nd floor walking around as if he owned the place.

After coaxing him down (and knowing of course he would be back) we headed off to search for stage one of Water Crossing.  Since it was not looking like a good day to go wading, we had not choice but to tackle what 89SC would later call “the swingingest swinging bridge” he’d ever been on. It swung and lurched, especially when 89SC went trotting over it at a rapid pace. Poor Gentleman-Carpenter took one step on and then stepped back off. After all, no one wants to be the last person crossing – you get some serious bounce. Once we all made land on the other side (and regained our land legs) we coaxed G-C over.

Surprisingly we managed to find the first stage without too much issue, with me taking the low road and 89SC taking the high road. This time though, being short was of little help, but I did redeem myself when presented with a perplexing set of numbers that didn’t so much resemble the latitude and longitude for which we were looking.  “AHA!” I shouted. “It’s __________!” which it turns out, it was. And that was more or less my last redeeming contribution of the day. Plugging the new coords back in we knew (obviously) that we had to go back over the very swinging bridge. And we assumed that’d be the worst of it. Until we arrived at ground zero for the cache.

What greeted us was a more or less vertical hillside with about a million places to hide an ammo can. The ground was loose and damp and the leaves scattered about were not much help. We scrambled around like mountain goats, trying not to knock too much of the hillside down and hoping gravity didn’t haul us back to the flat land. We were starting to get frustrated (and dirty and tired and hungry) when 89SC came up with the find in a place both he and I had searched earlier.

And THAT was the last good thing that happened. It more or less went downhill from there – or uphill to be literal

I will suffice to end this tale with a short wrap up. Unless you know for sure that a better way exists, in terrain like this, go back the way you came.

chris on May 3rd 2010 in Geocaching

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