Tuesday, September 29, 2015

6 years abandoned

Ever wonder what a geocache looks like when it has been abandoned for 6 years? Well here's your chance to find out! After a nice long day hike in the Slickrock Wilderness, I decided to stop for a cache that has been archived for over 6 years now, called Tail of the Dragon. I learned about the existence of this cache when I found it's sister cache, Head of the Dragon a few months ago, which is still very much active. As I investigated what had become of Tail cache, I noted that the owner had archived the listing due to land management issues with the GSMNP, but no one had ever posted that the cache was in need of maintenance or even missing, and the owner didn't mention retrieving it either. That didn't mean that he hadn't retrieved it, but judging from the cache page, this cache was located in a slightly extreme location that not many people could even reach and I suspected that the ammo can was simply left there.

So after driving down the Dragon Road, I pulled over close to the coordinates for the cache and went about climbing the steep hill (more details about that in my log for the cache). Sure enough, the ammo can was there, mostly buried under pine duff but otherwise in great shape. I don't think the previous finders could have hidden it very well, it seemed to be almost out in the open, but so much the better for me.
A 6-years abandoned cache
I ended up retrieving the container and contacting the CO to see what he wanted to do with it. He wasn't that interested in getting it back to use himself, so I'm going to re-purpose it for one of my next hides, or maybe use it as a door-prize at my next event. The cache was pretty well stocked with goodies, and while slightly stale, nothing was in trash condition.
 It was a pretty awesome finish to my day, finding this old abandoned cache. Makes me want to hunt for more archived caches, I bet there are abandoned caches just waiting to be found.

Monday, September 28, 2015

The Fugads Wooden Nickle

In the course of 4 years of geocaching I've come across many cool signature items from other geocachers. But until now I haven't had one of my own. Introducing the Fugads Wooden nickle!
My wife made these for me just last week. Just another reason why she is the best woman in the world! the design is simple with a picture of me heading out towards the Organ mountains with all my climbing kit, and my geocaching name of course. I've already started dropping them in geocaches around the area, so look for one near you today!

How many boots and shoes does it take to go 1000 miles?

What is it about big round numbers that make us want to celebrate achievement of some kind of milestone? I once wrote a log at this cache about how milestones can be just about anything. From the cache size, to the species, to the D/T rating, to how many in a certain month, or on a certain day, or... just about anything. Numbers are everywhere in this game, and in life in general and when you want to go looking for them, they surround you. But that doesn't change the fact that numbers that trails a lots of zeros from them are especially favored. And for geocachers on of the favorites of these is 1000. Usually this means 1000 finds, and is a goal set by many cachers to reach. Once they reach it, it is not uncommon for the local group of geocaching friends to celebrate the achievement with an event, and the presentation of a golden ammo can, or some other such ridiculous geocaching trophy. My own 1000th find was at a particularly challenging challenge cache which had got me thinking about numbers of a different sort, from the outset of my geocaching addition. The cache, 100,000 Ft Challenge, involved keeping track of the elevation gain on geocaching hikes you have done, and trying to accumulate 100,000 ft of elevation gain. This is quite a lot, and the cache remains elusive, with only 15 finds over 7 years. It was also a challenge I was determined to meet, and I diligently kept track of all my hikes. After nearly two years of hiking and geocaching, I finally crested 100,000ft, and it was a wonderful feeling to go and find the challenge cache and add my name to the short list of other serious geohikers.

Elevation gain wasn't the only thing I kept track of though, I also recorded miles traveled since it just made sense to me. And I happened to notice that I was getting close to passing the 1000 mile mark back in July when I passed the 200,000' elevation mark. A few months later, and with a nice 12.8 mile hike in a wilderness area in North Carolina, I finally passed 1000 miles!
My book keeping has some quirks, making it not so straightforward to determine how many distinct hikes/runs this encompasses, but it is roughly 230 different instances. My average outing is 4.71 miles in length. My maximum outing was 26.5 miles on a huge wilderness hike with my friend Birddroppings to find Reed's Peak. The minimum is a bit wonky since I typically do not record a hike or run that is less than a mile unless it had over 200' elevation gain, in which case I did because that was one of the criteria for the 100,000' challenge cache. Basically, if it is a relatively short walk, I don't feel like it is worth recording. This probably cuts out hundreds of additional miles, since out of the nearly 3000 caches I've found, only 230 of those "trips" qualified as hikes/runs, so the majority were quick grabs with little significant mileage, and all those add up I'm sure. But to me, they just didn't seem worth keeping track of. By this methodology, 0.3 miles on a cache called Navajo Bill Hill, was my shortest hike, and it just barely popped over 200' elevation gain, making it short but steep. There were quite a few short but steep caches in New Mexico, the topography lends itself well towards placing caches on random high hilltops out in the desert.

In the course of hiking and running over 1000 miles, I've gone through 3 sets of running shoes and 4 pairs of hiking boots. But in all those miles, there is hardly an injury to be found. The worst thing I can recall that happened while out hiking for caches was getting severely dehydrated in the Organ Mountains. Hopefully, I can keep this safety record up and garner many more 1000s of miles. Here's to getting out and having fun!

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Slickrock Creek: Hiking into one of North Carolina's Lonely Wildernesses

A little over a month ago I hid a letterbox/hybrid cache along the Dragon Road, Hwy 129, and the cache was promptly attacked by a bear. I ended up taking the family up to Fontana Lake the next weekend and replaced the cache with the same type of container, an empty peanut butter jar. I kind of knew that the container might be what is attracting the bears in the first place, but I didn't have a nother container handy at the moment and figured this time it would be ok. Well, a few weeks later I get a note from a letterboxer that the cache was hijacked by an animal again, probably a bear, and this time the stamp and logbook went missing along with the peanut butter container. So not only was I going to have to replace the container, but now I needed to recarve the stamp and make a new logbook (can't used simple ruled notepads since the lines don't look good for people's stamps). It took a bit of time, but I finally got around to carving up a new stamp and I purchased a decent container that hopefully will be of no interest to bears or any wildlife. Now I just needed an excuse to ride the dragon again.

My excuse wasn't much of one, there is great hiking in Cherokee National Forest and it was a simple matter of finding a hike that looked awesome and picking a day to go when my wife could stay home with the kids. The hike I took an interest in was in the Slickrock Wilderness, also known as the Joyce-Kilmer/Slickrock wilderness. There are two geocaches deep in the wilderness that rarely get found and looked to promise a good day, crossing streams and splashing in waterfalls. I was fully planning on going solo, since my regular hiking partner, Jake, wasn't free this weekend, but then thought I'd see if I could find some geocachers interested in coming with me. Two particular geocachers came to mind, Lullabye4U and Kaput360. I had met them a few times before and they were always very friendly. They also create some of the areas coolest gadget caches, and I knew we'd have loads of good geocaching discussions if we went hiking together. But most importantly, they are good hikers. I often see their names on the hiking geocaches in the Cumberlands, and they were the first (and so far only) finders of my geocaches on the Obed River section of the CT, which is a pretty hefty 14 mile thru-hike. If they could handle that they would surely be interested in this hike wouldn't they?

To be fair, I wasn't exactly sure how long this hike was going to be. My plan was to take trail #42 from the Tapoco trailhead, pass by Lower Falls and GC13HVN at about 3 miles. From there the Slickrock Trail (#42) continues on eventually reaching Wildcat Falls and GC1EM4V which would be our final destination and turn around point. but after a bunch of online searching I couldn't quite figure out how much further along Wildcat Falls was. It looked to be about 4 miles beyond Lower Falls, but with all the meanderings of the stream (and trail?) I was worried it could be more like 6 miles. If it was indeed that far, our roundtrip hike would be 18 miles long, which was pretty ambitious, but still within what I thought would be doable, at least for myself. But would Lullabye and Kaput think so? I contacted them and they seemed eager to give it a try, so I packed up for a long day of hiking, including headlamp, extra flashlights, water purifier and emergency blankets. If we ended up getting caught out. However long the hike was going to be, I wanted to be prepared.

I left the house at 6am and drove solo up the Dragon Road. The plan was to meet at the trailhead at 8am, but I made good enough time that I decided to stop at my Letterbox Cache on the Dragon Road. The letterboxer who found it last had cleaned it up nicely, there were no toys or broken containers laying about, and it looked to be in decent shape. I added my new stamp/logbook container and dropped off a few travel bugs (one with a dragon theme), picked out all the broken pieces of tupperware that remained, and the cache was good to go. Then I was off the meet Lullabye and Kaput. I pulled into the trailhead parking area about 10 minutes early, and they were already there waiting for me. It took me a few minutes to get my kit together, but we were soon off, hitting the trailhead right at 8 o'clock sharp.
Kaput and Lullabye4u at the start of the day
The trail started off nice and wide, a few hundred feet above the lake below and to our right, but soon started climbing up the embankment and getting narrower. At point it got very narrow and looked to be almost entirely eroding away into the steep hillside, but there was always enough tread for us to make steady progress. After a mile or so, it turned up the Slickrock creek drainage and away from the Tennessee River, or Cheoah lake or whatever it is you call that body of water. The river here has been dammed in so many places I get confused as to whether you call it a river or a leak, and if it is a lake, what name it gets. Kaput always just called it "the lake", so maybe I'll stick with that. Once the trail moved up to follow slickrock creek, it immediately earned its namesake, with several sections of slick wet rock that we had to negotiate over. Definitely not the easiest trail around, but not too bad overall. The best part was that since the trail stayed along the creek, we never had much of a steep incline to contend with. Just a gentle grade up the ravine.

We made decent time, and were soon at our first destination, the geocache called Slickrock. I don't often geocache in with a group of people, but when I do, we usually just comb out and whoever finds the cache first just yells something out, usually "found it!". But I had heard of other ways to cache as a group that sounded kind of fun. One method of group geocaching is to use an old childs game called Huckle Buckle Beanstalk. To play this way, when one person finds the geocache, they keep looking for a while, then yell out "huckle buckle beanstalk" and wait in a pre-determined location. The remaining players continue to look until everyone has found the cache. The idea is to allow each cacher a chance to find the container on their own, and get the "full experience". I think I heard about it on the geocaching forums, but we had a small group and Lullabye and Kaput seemed game to try it out.

As luck would have it, I found the geocache first, and after continuing to pretend to search for a bit, I yelled out that I had found it and went to the gravel bar beneath the waterfall to wait for them to make the find. I took my shoes off and waded into the ice cold water, took tons of pictures and ate an apple as the others kept searching. Eventually, I started yelling out hints until they made the find. I thought this game was pretty fun and was grinning ear-to-ear. Lullabye and Kaput were not so amused, as they were sweating over their search while I leisurely relaxed in front of the waterfall. I think some disparaging words were spoken, and it was quickly settled that we wouldn't be playing this "huckeberry foolishness" at our next cache. "But I thought it was fun" I exclaimed. "That's because you found it first," Lullaby retorted. Touché.
Playing Huckle Buckle Beanstalk. Yes, it's a blooper picture!
The waterfall, known as Lower Falls, that we were at was exceedingly nice. I was sorely tempted to take a swim, but resisted the urge knowing that we still had many miles of hiking ahead of us, and not wanting to do all of that in wet shorts.
The trail beyond lower falls involved half a dozen or so stream crossings. The creek wasn't too high, but it was high enough to make the crossings challenging. And the creek also lived up to its name, with the rocks being very slick. Nevertheless, I nimbly hopped across boulders and managed to keep my boots dry at each of the crossings. This eventually became somewhat infuriating for Lullaby and Kaput, who both ended up with wet boots. Sasha was only one who didn't seem to mind getting her feet wet, and was happy to trot across the streams, looking at us like we were crazy.
Getting boots wet

Negotiating one of the many crossings

One of the more creative stream crossings
We didn't see much wildlife along our hike, but I feel like I often don't when I'm hiking with Sasha. She tends to make a lot of noise and alert wildlife to our presence pretty well. Lullabye did spot a nice sized red spotted newt in it's eft stage though.
We also saw a bunch of neat mushroom specimens. Both Lullabye and Kaput seemed pretty interested in mushrooms, and I did my best to recall what little I knew about some of the types of mushrooms we found. There were some very nice bollette species, and of course, many Russalas. Also some bright orange chantrelle like mushrooms growing in the moss along the stream. I'll have to dig up my Mushrooms Demystified book, perhaps even loan it out to them.
We finally reached Wildcat Falls at around 1pm and settled in for a late lunch. I took a quick swim beforehand and the water was icy and refreshing. The pool underneath the waterfall was deep and clear, with a few early autumn leaves floating peacefully around in the eddy currents. The waterfall has a couple different tiers and each with fun bathing opportunities. Alas, it simply was not hot enough outside to merit a long swim, and I was soon very chilled. Lullabye and Kaput looked like they briefly entertained the idea of hopping in as well, but thought the better of it once they were up to their knees.
Wildcat Falls
We found the cache here pretty quickly, despite a not having great satellite coverage and a mostly useless hint of "laurel/boulders" in an area festooned with laurel and boulders. I made the find again, ad now Lullabye and Kaput seem to think I am a super-finder. Really I'm not! I just got lucky this time around. This cache has only been visited 4 times in 7 years, a nice lonely cache to be sure. Man, the geocachers around here don't know what they are missing! The waterfall is gorgeous and remote, pristine and peaceful. What's not to like? I traded out some of the swag, swapping an emergency blanket for the sewing kit, and leaving one of my new signature tokens. I filled up a page in the logbook with some musings, then we rehid the cache well, so that the next adventurous geocachers will have something to enjoy other than the stunning natural scenery.

Group shot in front of the falls
Upper tier
Looking down at the main plunge pool
Lullabye and Kaput in the photo nook
Negotiating the slick rock

A third teir of waterfall about 200' upstream that looked to have an amazing cliff jumping spot. It was heard to get a good picture of this waterfall, but it was just as nice as those below.
As is often the case, the hike back seemed to go faster than the way in. I continued to hop gracefully across the stream crossings as Lullaby and Kaput grumbled at me and got their feet wet yet again. They had changed into dry socks earlier, but those were now wet also. We happily chatted about hiking and geocaching while we hiked and I learned that they are relatively new hikers, getting into it in the last year or so because of geocaching. I think I may have talked them into getting some new gear, like a lightweight water purifier which I had brought with me so we wouldn't have to carry so much water, and good hiking socks. I put in a plug for my favorite hiking sock company, Darn Tough Socks, of Vermont. I can't tout having good socks enough, if you are seriously hiking a lot, you need to take care of your feet, and good socks really do matter. Even more so than good shoes I think. But that's my product placement spiel for now.

It also sounds like Lullabye and Kaput have one heck of a cool geocache series they are working on. The amount of work and thought they put into their caches is incredible and I'm looking forward to seeing the new caches when they come out. As geocachers go, they are pretty new to the game, having started a little over a year ago. And already they have over 1000 finds, and in places around the country and world.  It was quite a treat to be able to go hiking with them and I feel pretty confident that they will play a big role in keeping this game fun for this area for years to come.

Despite making great time on the return trip, we were still all getting tired, especially Sasha who would fall asleep if we stopped for more than 60 seconds. To shorten our return hike, we consulted a trailmap I had with me and decided to take a slightly different trail that would shave maybe a mile off our hike. Trail #45, or the Ike Branch Trail, bypassed Lower Falls and went up over a ridge line before descending down to "the lake" along a steep streambed. It would mean more elevation gain, but promised to get us home a bit quicker, so we went for it. The trail started off fairly steep, and also had quite a bit of treefall. But after several tree crossings, ti leveled off to a reasonable incline and was clear and easy going. Lullabye and Kaput swapped out for dry socks again to try to stave off blisters on their wet feet, and then it was just a steady march up over the ridge and then down to the lake. Turns out trail #45 did save us 0.8 of a mile, but at a cost of 400ft elevation gain. Plus it was much hotter and drier getting away from the stream system. I drained the rest of my water quickly, and was actually sweating pretty hard for the first time all day. Oh how I would have liked to jump into the Lower Falls then, but we had bypassed the falls entirely.

We stumbled back to our cars right at 5:40pm. Tired but still in pretty good spirits. Fresh clothes awaited us in the cars. I asked Lullabye and Kaput if they were going to stop at any caches on the way back, half thinking that perhaps they would want to see my Dragon themed letterbox, but they had only one thought in mind, going straight home and relaxing. Me, I still had a little bit in me... but that's a story for another post.
End of day shot
Some parting thoughts: It was a pleasure to hike with Lullaby and Kaput, I hope we get together for more hikes in the future. They are funny, friendly and excited geocachers and they also really appreaciate a good hike. Seems like these traits aren't so common with most geocachers, so I am grateful that we could get together for this hike. The hike ended up clocking in at 12.8 miles, with about 1500' elevation gain throughout the day. A long hike, but not terribly long in my mind. We also didn't see a single other hiker, even though there were several cars at the trailhead. Makes me want to tackle some more wilderness hikes in this area. There are some more trails and remote and lonely caches out here just waiting for cachers like us to go find them. And if it was up to me, we'd be right back out here next weekend, enjoying another fine fall day.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Quality caching with my little girl


I took my daughter for a caching run today targeting a bunch of caches in the Kingston area. A number of these were puzzles I had solved a while back, but hadn't found since I'm not in the area often. It isn't far away, but is also not somewhere we tend to drive by. I packed up a picnic lunch, the dog and a bunch of toys to trade, then we were off, down highway 95 and 58.

Our first few stops where at rather typical caches, but ones that my daughter would enjoy. Traditional type caches with a size designation of Regular, so that there would be a good chance of finding some toys. The first one took us on a nice little stroll in a little park, and we scored our first trade items. The next one was in a thorny area and was full of water.

We finally got to a cache that I was really interested in seeking called !AMAZBALLS! by Lullabye4U and Kaput360. This duo has created some very memorable caches, some of which I have blogged about before on my family blog. This one is another piece of engineering and machining work that is something to behold. A huge slab of aluminum was carefully milled out to have a maze on both sides, with several passages that connect one side to the other. Completing the maze wasn't actually that difficult, and yielded a code which was used to open up a locked box, but I couldn't help but sit and admire the craftsmanship and thought that went into this cache. If it weren't for the swarms of mosquitoes buzzing around us at GZ, we might still be there.

Aftre such an awesome cache I was thikning that the rest of the caches on our tour would be let-downs. But our next stop brought us to another nice cache, one that my daughter fell in love with. It was a simple fire pull station mounted to a dead tree trunk, but what made my daughter really love the cache was how all the toys inside were arranged neatly on little hooks. There were some travel bugs, necklaces, rings, nail paint, all sorts of little princess toys and she was in 3-yr-old-girl heaven. It took her quite a while to finally decide what she wanted to trade for, an emerald ring, and we left a big plastic toy truck for the next lucky kid.

The name of this cache is Fire at Will, and it is by the same COs as !AMAZEBALLS!. We ended up finding two more caches by these COs, GC5NHD3 and GC5JNB9, both fun little puzzles and great hides. This took us to a nice park on the shores of Watts Bar lake, where we had a pleasant picnic under the sun. There may not be a ton of caches in the Kingston area, but there are certainly some very good ones there, making it a worthy destination for any Tennessean cacher.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

A hidden in plain sight cache that I am not fond of

A lot of caches in urban settings (and rural, wilderness settings as well) are meant to camouflage well. So well, that they can be in plain sight but you would not suspect them to be a geocache container. From mushrooms, to fake dog-pooh and rocks, or water spigots and coax cable junctions, there are a lot of ways that geocachers get creative in hiding caches out in the open. This is all well and good for people playing this game, but I am not usually a fan of these caches because they end up encouraging some odd behaviors that are at best just suspicious, and at worst kind of dangerous or damaging. I recently found one that was very well done, but left me feeling a bit unnerved. I won't post the GC code so as not to spoil it too much, but of course just posting these pictures is a kind of spoiler... you've been warned.

There are a few subtle hints that alert you to the fact that you are looking at a geocache here.
There are other electrical sockets on this building, but none of them are mounted in this way, with an extra piece of wood between the cover and the wall. That alone makes this socket seem suspicious. The presence of a useful prying tool is another hint, although I suspect that it is not always there. Opening up the outlet cover reveals a very normal looking electric socket. The GFCI buttons can be depressed, but it doesn't have any obvious means of a cache, or place where it can be removed. It does jiggle slightly though, suggesting that you have to pry out the socket.

This is what makes me very nervous. Aside from the subtle clues mentioned above, there isn't a good way to see that this is a geocache and not an actual circuit. I suppose one could plug in some kind of tester plug, but I doubt that most geocachers will have one handy. Instead you are left to start tampering with the socket in order to see if it is a geocache. I very cautiously did so and the whole socket started to come out. That is when I got really nervous. AS the socket began to pull out, not very easily I might add, I could see what appeared to be copper conductors attached to either side. A big red flag went up in my head then, since that could mean that this is actually hooked up to a circuit. IN the end though, I kept working at it since I was getting a "geocache vibe" fromt he outlet, and indeed with a  little more prying the whole outlet popped out, revealing a cavity behind which contained the cache log.
It is apparent that the creators of this geocache went to great lengths to make it look very real, which is what good camouflage should do, but this authenticity also led me into some pretty risky behavior, prying at an electric outlet without really knowing if it was live or not. I really ought to be more careful. On this day, my hunch was correct and the outlet was indeed a geocache, but in other locations I might not have been correct. There are a lot of other geocache locations where there is electrical equipment, or plumbing of various sorts (high pressure gas, water etc...) and if you go into those situations with a mentality that you may need to tinker with components in order to locate the geocache, you could find yourself in serious trouble. I have seen several instances where irrigation sprinklers near geocaches were destroyed, and suspect that it is because cachers tinker with these in their search. I'm guilty of this myself. On these high difficulty, well hidden caches, you begin to get a mentality that it could be anything, and start to tinker with everything in sight, even to the detriment of the equipment.  I feel terrible about this kind of thing, and really ought to curb this behavior in myself. I suppose I have partially, since I do not go after high difficulty urban caches as much anymore.
My final thoughts on these caches is that they can be done very well if they have some kind of geocache identifier placed on the cache, something like a small geocaching log sticker on the inside of the cover, or the GC-code written on it somewhere. Having an identifier like this would let geocachers know that what they have found is indeed the cache, and they needn't worry about destroying public property. It does defeat the purpose of making it difficult to find, although it keeps the cache well hidden from non geocachers still. I think that the cache shown above could have a GC-code written, or labeled somewhere inside the cover and it would still be fun to find. Cachers would then know that they needn't worry about those exposed electrical conductors, that it is just part of the disguise.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Mystery of Fontana: Part 2

It is exceedingly difficult to say something about Part 2 of Mystery of Fontana cache hunt without spoiling some aspects of the cache. I tried to be vague in my previous post and will try again here, but be cautioned, if you intend on tackling this cache it is best experienced without any spoilers. A big part of the fun of a cache like this one is not knowing what lies ahead, and discovering it as you go ahead. That said, I cannot help but post something about finishing this wonderful cache.

Pokerluck deserves a lion's share of the credit for organizing the final hunt. I was all set to try to do it on foot, which would have been a long trek. There is an easier way though, and David took it upon himself to make all the arrangements to finish the cache in style. Once he had made the plans it occurred to me that I could take my whole family with us. There wouldn't be an arduous journey, but rather a pleasant cruise to the remaining stages. I was thinking that my wide and the kids wouldn't be that interested, but they were so we made last minute plans to do an overnight camping weekend up by Fontana lake so we would be there bright and early to hunt the cache on Sunday.

We camped at the Cable Cove campground which turned out to be a great campground. The sites were nicely spaced out, but there were also hardly any other campers there. They may have been scared off by the cooler weather. Instead of being hot swimming weather like our last few trips up to Fontana, a cold front moved in and the temps dropped to the 60s-70s during the day and into the 40s at night. Quite cool, but just about right for our camping gear (sleeping bags). We didn't arrive in the campground until late afternoon, but it was plenty of time to set up and relax for a while. Levin and I took a nature walk to find a nearby geocache and catch some salamanders, we had an excellent dinner of grilled chicken kebabs, and finished the evening with s'mores.

The next morning we got up bright and early to get ready for our adventure. Luckily, we only had to drive 10 minutes down the road to where we were to meet the other cachers.
Breakfast of marshmallows and hot cocoa
If you've ready this far, then you are probably going to keep reading. But here is where the spoilers start. You've been warned.
We met Pokerluck at the Fontana Marina where he had reserved us a pontoon boat. A couple other TVG cachers also met us there, Geologynut, SgtLee and SaltyPirate. Having a group made the boat rental more affordable. We cast off slightly after 8:15 and were headed to our first destination. The morning was cool and mist was vaping off the lake as we sped off. The light was superb, and since we were all bundled up against the cold and wind, it was a pleasant journey.

We only had a short walk to get to the clue for Stage 5, but it was a muddy and steep walk. Luckily, I found a faint trail that made the going much easier, but I didn't find it until half the members of our group got very muddy. We found the clue quickly (it is pretty obvious) and spent a little while poking around before heading back to the boat. Getting to the final involves computing coordinates based on info from this stage and after we did so, we saw that getting to the final by boat would be the easiest way. I had initially thought that we would be able to do this last stage after returning the boat, thus keeping our boat rental expenses to a minimum, but doing so would have been pretty hard, and was definitely much harder than many in our group wanted to tackle. So we motored off for the easy, if not pricey, way to the final.

The location for the final was actually in a place that I had guessed we might have to visit, although I thought we were going to ahve to visit it earlier as part of a different stage. It is a great spot, but we made a mistake of landing the boat in the wrong spot which made our hike to the cache kind of extreme. In fact, it was so extreme that only 3 members of our group tackled it, while the rest retreated to the boat in order to move it to a better spot. I found the cache buried under quite a bit of leaf litter, maybe 6" deep. But otherwise it is in pristine shape.
Not long after the boat showed up with the rest of our crew and we were able to get the cache down to the boat so that everyone could check it out. It contained to conclusion to the Gavin McGinney saga, as well as a number of lonely trackables which we rescued.

Success at last! Every aspect of this cache was well done, from the locations for each stage, to the physical and mental challenge, to the involved story line. It really was a grand adventure and definitely worth a couple trips to complete.
As a little bonus we decided to check out the Hazel Creek Virtual as well. It wasn't too far out of our way and hardly anyone in the group had found it before. Aside from being a neat historic site, we also spotted fresh bear tracks including some baby bear prints. Always cool. But by the time we had finished exploring Hazel Creek, the kids were getting cranky since we hadn't packed lunches. We beat feet back to the marina, said our farewells to our fellow cachers and went back to our campsite for a little PM relaxation. All in all, a great weekend out.