Monday, October 04, 2004

Too Much Adventure

Yes, yet another geocaching adventure, it's amazing how those things keep happening to us. Maybe I should start stamp collecting instead, as a nice, sedentary hobby :-)

We really wanted to find Oliver's Cave before hunting season in Vermont started. It sounded like a neat place, although it wasn't clear how hard it would be to get there. The cache description read "There are a series of VAST trails in this area, giving you cachers no reason to bush whack. However, the way we approached it and the way you go may be very different." That sounded good. But some of the logs didn't sound that positive "*&^%^&^% %$@#$%@ ^^%@$@^&()#^
This was the hardest cache we have ever lived through!"

It sounded like it really would make a difference which way in we took. We poured over the topographical maps in the atlas. Printed and studied on line topo maps. Read all the logs, and all the experiences, and decided that it would be best to come in from the North. We used the road that one of the logs stated would be a good choice. This one had a lot less contour lines, than the other choices had. And because there was supposed to be this extensive network of VAST trails, we figured that we would be able to hit on one soon, wherever we parked.

Dh was home, so I gave the kids the choice to either come with us, or stay home. I kind of encouraged the two little ones to stay home, just in case we would end up bushwhacking a lot. The two older boys were at camp, so we ended up going with a group of all females. My friend M, Tara, Jane, Mesa, Sylvia, and myself.

The way in took us on progressively smaller dirt roads, after getting lost a few times. We found a nice parking spot, close to where a trail headed into the woods. Got on the trail, followed it about a third of the way in to the cave, and then it went in the totally wrong direction, so we decided to bushwhack. No problem to bushwhack in, we saw a nice pond, lots of brambles, but it was usually not to hard to find an easier route, so we eventually made it to the cave. It took us longer than expected though, but that was ok, because from the description, it sounded like we should be able to find trails really close to the cave, which we could use to get back to the car. And trails usually make it a lot easier and faster to hike through the woods, for some reason.

It was an extremely cool place. Some fellow, who didn't want to fight in the civil war, had first lived in a tiny cave up there, and then decided he needed more room. So he lugged a railroad jack up the mountain, and built himself a bigger one. Stone walls all around, and a huge, flat granite slab on the top. Mind boggling how he was able to construct it. It was nice to go in and be out of the rain, and to try to imagine how he could have lived there. Jane wondered how he could live without a door.

Now we just had to find the cache. After all the bushwhacking and hiking, we figured they shouldn't make this too hard on us. They did anyway! Dense tree cover, so we kept losing reception on the GPS. Luckily Tara suddenly spotted the cache, phew. We did a quick trading, because it was getting later, and we did not want to end up in the dark again. Little did we know.

It was 5:50pm by now, and the car was about a mile away. Shouldn't be a problem to get there before it got really dark, we should easily be able to do that within an hour, right? Wrong!

We spent some time finding the trails that were supposed to be close to the cache. They were not where they were supposed to be, we couldn't find a single one. We didn't want to get caught in the dark, so we decided to just bushwhack in the direction of the car, and hope we would hit one of the trails.

One of the logs stated "i think we found every bramble patch and small pond in the area. i think some of the brambles came in from other areas just to meet us." We met the same brambles. They kept jumping into our path, and getting into our hair and clothes and feet. It's amazing how many brambles there were growing there, I lost count after 14,621 or so.

Did I mention yet that Jane was wearing her flipflops? She said that she liked them better than her hiking shoes... I didn't notice that till we were way out on the trails, and it was too late to change.

The going wasn't as fast as we had hoped, and the dark came much sooner than we had feared. Suddenly, we were hiking in the dark yet again, and found out that it is not good to have to bushwhack in the dark. There was no way of finding the best route, so we kept running into those darned brambles, into fallen down trees, boulders, ledges, bogs, saplings, more bogs, more boulders, and did I mention brambles? I don't remember how many time we wished for a machete, but I think that might be part of our geocaching gear soon.

Jane was crying and told us that she wanted to be home. We totally empathized with her feelings, we wanted to be home too. She also said that she wanted to be as small as Sylvia, so she wouldn't have to hike. Sylvia was crying too, because she was just sooooooooooooooo tired, and couldn't fall asleep. She tried nursing, but that wasn't either, she just was too tired and I think she might have been picking up on my stress, increasing it by her crying. My sling was falling apart, suddenly I felt her feet sticking out at a spot where no hole should be, so I had to carry her partly in my arms, didn't want her to slide out of the sling.

Tara lost her shoe a few times, thanks to the darned bogs. I lost my shoe once too, had to hike in the bog with one shoe and one bare foot, till I could find a dry spot to get it on again.Mesa's shoes were wet enough that she ended up with blue dye from her shoes all over her toes. Jane kept losing her flipflops. The going was slow and agonizing.

It was getting later and later. So much for taking less than an hour to hike to the car. I don't know how long we had been going, but we weren't even halfway yet. The nice thing about having the GPS is that we never felt lost, we knew exactly where we were and what direction we should be going. The not so nice thing is that the GPS got us into this in the first place, without a GPS we would never have been there at this time of the night! On the other hand, we would have missed out on the cool cave. I felt so bad for Mesa, doing this to my own kids is one thing, but doing this to some one else's kid seemed worse. Although both Tara and Mesa were real troopers, they didn't complain at all, just did what needed to be done, and were almost cheerful about it.

We were starting to get pretty desperate. I felt that I would start to scream if we stumbled upon one more bramble. OK, I didn't, but I have to admit that it was tempting LOL. M checked whether she had cell phone reception, and we decided to call 911 to try to have them find us a trail. We figured they might have a good local trails map, and since we could tell them exactly where we were, they might be able to direct us to a nearby trail. For all we knew, we could be 50 feet next to a trail, but never know it because of the darkness.

911 was not very helpful. They had the very same topo map that we had been using to plan our trip, which did not include hiking or VAST trails. They also did not understand how slow we were going, with four little girls, in the dark, in the brambles. I wish they had sent out some one to give us a machete, now that would have been helpful!

It took us a while to get through to the right person at 911, so we had a break, which was nice. Sylvia was still crying, she so needed to fall asleep, but somehow couldn't. At least we did have flash lights this time around, I don't think we could have done this one without flash lights. I was sooooo sure that we were not going to need them though, boy, was I wrong!

We hiked on and on and on. Met a few more brambles. Found a few more bogs. Stepped over more fallen down trees. Got called back by the state trooper to ask whether we had made it out yet. No, we didn't. They really had no clue about how slow we were going, having to go around all kinds of obstacles.

Finally, we made it back onto the trails. It had gotten later and later, although I hadn't realized yet how late it was getting. My mind was really more on taking step after step in the direction of the car, as opposed to keeping track of time. It wasn't like knowing the time made any difference anyway, apart from making us feel even more desperate.

Following the trail wasn't easy in the dark either, but at least we didn't meet any brambles. They had given up on us now that we had escaped to the trails. At some point, none of the trails seemed to be going to the car though, so M called 911 yet again, to beg them for another map reading. The trail seemed to be going East-West, and the car was due North. We totally refused to do any more bushwhacking, so we wanted to figure out which way was the best to go.

While we were on the phone with the state trooper again, we found a sugar house. Civilization!!!! Not only that, but Tara spotted a road close to it, a real dirt road as opposed to a trail! And the very best thing was, that that dirt road seemed to be going in the direction of the car! We might actually make it home tonight!

It was 10:30pm by the time we reached the car. I couldn't believe how late it was, we had spent a freaking FOUR AND A HALF HOURS to hike one mile. Unbelievable! It didnt' feel like that long, I guess the adrenaline helped to deal with it. We called dh and Mesa called her parents to tell them that we were safe. We had considered calling from the trail, but we didnt' really want to tell them that we were in the middle of nowhere and had no idea how long it would take us to the car, it seemed better to call when we were at the car. We had offered Mesa to call her parents, but she had declined, and I figured Sander would have reassured them that we were ok, might be having dinner somewhere, which had been our original plan. By now it was too late to do that though.

The kids started eating corn chips and cheddar bunnies when we were in the car, we had eaten snacks on the way, but I think they suddenly realized how hungry they were when we finally made it back. We turned to heat to high, changed and nursed Sylvia, and started on the way back home.

Got lost only once, ended up on some ones driveway. All those dirt roads look alike. But somehow it was so much more relaxed to get lost in the nice, warm car, as opposed to bushwhacking in the dark.

Jane fell asleep on the way home, she never does that, she was really exhausted. Mesa's dad was at our house to pick her up, and Kate and Erik were happy to see us. Kate was begging me to take her to the cave, I was not ready to repeat this experience!

OK, it's really late now, and we have a homeschool support meeting here tomorrow, so I am off to bed, but I had to write about this! And no, I still didn't get a query letter out, but I am wondering whether I can write articles about geocaching with or without kids, maybe including a list of essential items, like flash lights and machete :-)

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