Saturday, September 24, 2011

Geocaching Adventures: Beech Mountain

 - or - 

How I Lost My Trusty Hiking Stick, But Still Found A Cache

It is Saturday, and I am both a) not on call for work, and b) not on the hook for babysitting a toddler.  So... what is one to when faced with such a predicament?  Yep, time to go caching!

Todays adventure brought me to the town at the highest elevation east of the Mississippi:  Beech Mountain North Carolina.  Near the town is the Creek Pond Trail.  My mission for the day was to hike that trail and find all the caches today.

I don't want to ruin the suspense, but let me start by saying that I did find 10 caches today. However the most interesting one was the second one, and is the focus of this blog post.

The cache is located 528 feet down the Creek Pond Lower Trail, a very rough and rugged trail that follows the creek through a series of small waterfalls.   It had rained the night before so the trail was muddy, wet, and slippery.  Armed with my geo-bag, my GPSr, and my trusty hiking stick I started down the path, not knowing what adventure awaited me down that trail.

I knew from the cache description that the cache was in "something resembling a cave".  When I got semi-close to GZ (ground zero) I did indeed notice a rocky structure that resembled a cave.  However I was still 40 feet away from GZ so I kept going.  A bit further down the trail, real close to where my GPS said was GZ was another cave like structure down near the creek, about 10 feet below where I was standing.

This second cave like structure looked promising, so I diligently started working my way down the bank and got to a point where I was standing on some wet rocks close to the creek...  Oh, remember when I said it was slippery?  I wish I had.

Picture in your mind a dancer who gracefully pirouettes and spins around as if touched by angels. With precise fluid movements she moves around her environment with poise and ease.  Can you picture it?  Well if you can, you have got the exact opposite image of what happened next.

My legs slipped out from underneath me and I hit the rocks on my butt. As luck would have it  I kept sliding right into the creek with a thundering splash.  I ended up thigh deep in the clearest mountain water one could ever hope for.

If you are wondering (and I am sure you are) It was at this time that I lost my trusty hiking stick.  As I fell I tossed the stick away so I wouldn't land on it, and it went flying down the next waterfall, never to be seen again.  I liked that stick.  It has been my trust companion on many a hike.  It will be missed.  Someday it may float into the Gulf Of Mexico, so if you see a stick headed south in a river that looks like it was owned by a Canadian, let me know.

After splashdown, I quickly regained my composure and thankfully nothing was hurt but my pride. I slowly got up and sloshed back onto the bank, sans stick, and went to investigate that cave.  Since I was already wet and dirty I slithered under the rocks without hesitation to check it out. But alas I was foiled. No cache. Hrm... nuts.

I clambered back up the bank to where the trail was, and figured I'd go check out that first rock structure that resembled a cave.  I crawled into the cave mouth, spelunked my way deeper (I'm a big boy, slithering into small cave mouths isn't exactly what the Good Lord was thinking of when he designed me) and found the more glorious of sights.  An ammo can.

So with a sigh of relief I signed the log, put it back, spelunked my way out, and sloshed back up the trail, soaked to the skin from the waist down, and dirtier than I have ever been.  When I got to the trailhead I raised my hands in victory for I knew I had just conquered the most challenging caches of my career.

However my day was not yet complete.  This was only my second cache!  I had 8 more to go.  So I headed up the Pond Creek Upper Trail and continued on with the days adventures.

I learned several things today:

1) rocks are slippery after a rain fall
2) Hiking boots help, but are not to be completely trusted for traction
3) Mountain streams are cold
4) Sometimes it pays to go with your gut
5) To paraphrase Bilbo Baggins: "It's a dangerous business, going out your door to cache.  You step onto the road, and if you don't keep your feet, there is no knowing where you might be swept off to." - a very wise Hobbit.

I was also reminded of the thing I like most about being a geocacher: going on an adventure that you would have never done otherwise.  This adventure definitely qualifies as one of those adventures that stretched my abilities, gave me new experiences, and memories that will last a long long time.

There were benefits of getting soaked: my third cache of the day was called "Will You Cross The Stream?" and it involved crossing the very same creek about a mile up stream.  Since I was already soaked to the bone it was an easy decision.  A quick trudge through the creek bed and I had my third cache of the day in hand.

As I headed back down the mountain on my way home I was treated to this lovely vista.  Isn't geocaching grand?