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Archive for May, 2010

The Good, The Bad & The (not so) Ugly

When the likes of wvcoalcat puts out three caches in Snake Hill WMA  and names them The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, you pretty much know what you are up against.  And yet I, the seasoned cacher and maker of decisions ranging from Poor to Very Poor, felt overly compelled to run out and get my hands dirty (and most likely my legs cut up and my feet sore and possibly my arms bruised).  And since my loyal and trusty (and far smarter than I) sidekick was busy with his master plan to expand our fish pond to make it the envy of the neighborhood, I called upon my standard victim / fill in babysitter, Aquacache.

Being uncharacteristically sluggish we didn’t reach the parking coordinates for The Good until well after 10:00 am.  And since we’d heard reports back that the cache had taken anywhere from 3 hours to 5 hours we figured we had plenty of time to take a completely different approach. After all, we were going to cache smarter, not harder. Thus armed with a fancy waterproof topo trail map of Snake Hill, a printed topo with the caches  plotted, topos loaded in the GPS, descriptions loaded in the phones and the Palm, we set out to show wvcoalcat what type of MAGPI we were. There were bad decisions just begging to be made. And time was a wasting.

THE GOOD. As the cache description indicated it was, well, not too bad which made it inherently good. We chose the proper path, didn’t have to bushwhack and the next thing we knew we were right on top of it. Almost literally. Aquacache indicated that he was clearly standing on top of  the cache.  I was already feeling that a goodly amount of time had passed since we had begun our outing and I had not lived up to my reputation as a champion BAD decision maker. And so, with my reputation to uphold (and being the nice cacher that I am) I offered to go into the dense shrubbery for The Good.  Typical of my caching style, I plunged right into the thicket of shrubbery, which was not awesome since I was wearing my big backpack and my big fancy Seattle Sombrero and my last remaining pair of sunnies. While I was thusly entangled, Aquacache decided to descend via a nice wide open path and found the can before I could disengage myself.

After I had freed myself and we’d signed the log, noted (and photographed and plugged into the Garmins) one half of the coords required for The Ugly,  Aquacache and I took stock of the situation.  (And I steal this next bit straight from his log) “While looking down off the rocks in the direction of the next cache in the series, I had serious doubts that I would ever make it back up that hill alive, so I suggested an alternative route … it would be longer, but MUCH flatter. Thankfully, SSPG agreed and we headed back to the Jeep. I was really starting to get worried when we once again made all the correct choices and made it back to the parking way too easily. Something is going to go very wrong on these next two …”

THE BAD. From the cache description “about a 2.8 mile trek from the parking area  and the terrain varies from mild to strenuous (this makes it bad because, remember, one has to hike back out of here).”  Since we’d decided that instead of undertaking terrain of possible doom (and having the topo we knew what we were avoiding), we headed out past where Villain used to live and began our descent Down the Cheat. And yet Karma was going to find a way to get back at us for thwarting our natural instincts to make poor decisions. Oh yes. It wasn’t going to be the straight forward drive down to the Hole That Ate Ppro’s Jeep. Not this time. Nope.

We had not gone very far when faced with our first obstacle. Overhanging shrubbery. Now I’m not talking about some nice arbor vitae that can be arranged by your front porch or some barberry bushes to plant under windows. No. I’m talking about overhanging vines and saplings and all kinds of twisted mess that was, as far as we were concerned, a net. Sure, the ATVs that frequent this road made it through but the AquaJeep was just a tad bit larger.

Karma is not very nice.

We had no choice but to start chopping shrubbery with the machete (that’d be Aquacache, not me. I’m strictly prohibited from even harboring thoughts about having a machete, let alone using one) and throwing it over the hill (my job, no one can say I don’t pull my own weight on these expeditions).  Needless to say our descent took at least twice as long as it should have and completely wiped me out. I was covered in dirt (yes, yes I fell), scrapes and generally pretty much worn out. Which was not very exciting since once we got to the Hole That Ate Ppro’s Jeep, we had a 6 mile round trip hike ahead of us.

Even though we had to gain altitude to reach the cache, we did so mostly via a nice big logging road and so while going up is never fun, it sure beats (I’m assuming anyway) coming in from the top of Snake Hill, or rather going BACK UP to the top of Snake Hill. We chose wisely on several occasions when presented with multiple road options (this rarely happens when I’m along) and were eventually rewarded with a path that seemed to be heading us exactly where we needed to be. Arriving at Ground Zero we started our search. Thankfully it wasn’t too long before I heard the familiar sound of hiking pole striking ammo can. We settled in to sign the log and I made the wretched mistake of taking off my pack and finding a comfortable sitting spot. Not exactly my smartest move since I was approaching really rather exhausted at this point.

To plagiarize borrow once again from Aquacache’s log…..”With us making all of the right decision thus far (except for SSPG going the wrong way around the rocks at The Good), things were definitely going to get Ugly soon and one of us would probably end up in the hospital … or worse.”

THE UGLY. Gathering ourselves to face the inevitable,  Aquacache & I slowly struck out from The Bad and headed toward The Ugly. We had lots of choices to make and we were exhausted. Due to mandatory road maintenance mentioned early just getting to Down the Cheat had taken it’s toll. We were hungry, our feet hurt  and I really wanted a nice cold Coke. if it was going to go (figuratively) downhill, this is when it was going to happen. Tired people make bad decisions.

But not today my friends. Not today. Today we chose the perfect path from The Bad to The Ugly. There was no bushwhacking through 1/4 mile thicket of thorns, no scaling a 50 foot rock cliff, no backtracking, no confusion. Just a nice stroll. In the woods. To an ammo can placed by wvcoalcat.  An ammo can that I found handily, retrieved handily and put back without so much as a thorn getting stuck in my skin.

Today we marked a new page in MAGPI history.

chris on May 3rd 2010 in Geocaching

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