Thursday, January 1, 2009

Out in the snow we go!

We had a legitimate reason to go there. We weren't just driving to the top of a hill, out of our way, to spend some sisterly time together. Karyn, Tiffany and I climbed the road to Shanty Creek in Karyn's van earlier this afternoon to find the tubing hill and buy tickets for us and the kids. We thought we knew where we were going and there were no signs telling us to turn onto any roads for tubing. So we continued on the way Max, Karyn's GPS, told us to go. Yes, another geocache was in our sights. Mine and Tiffany's fourth and Karyn's third in the past week.

We told the parents, who had so kindly vowed to watch our five children, that we were just going to get tubing tickets. But my sister's and I knew there was a cache up there called Schuss Village and since we thought the tubing hill was there as well, we decided to cross two things off our mental list at one time. How time saving of us!

Where the cache owner wanted us to park was a bit far to walk in the snow to the cache, so we keyed in the actual cache coordinates and parked in the almost deserted parking lot of some condominiums. We saw a groomed cross country skiing path just before the parking lot and from what my new handheld GPS unit (given to me by my son Devin for Christmas) said, that was where we needed to start.
This is when I can say my sister's and I have become addicted. We weren't exactly wearing tennis shoes, but the boots we had on our feet weren't made for deep snow. One of us was pushed out the door so fast, she was still in pajama bottoms!
The path we walked was easy going. If the wind hadn't been blowing and freezing our lips so we slurred our speech like we had too much champagne to ring in the new year, we'd have walked a little slower. We still enjoyed the beautiful winter wonderland that is one of the attractions of our hometown.
The GPS units wanted us to step off the groomed trail. We were OK with that because we found ourselves following a cross country skiers trail. Not flat and packed down like the previous one, but still good. Then our coordinates went off the trail and up and into the woods. Sure Bellaire had a 50 degree day and one with a down pour of rain, but it had snowed a bit more since then and one day of unseasonable weather does not spring it make! There was still a lot of snow on the ground and we soon found ourselves up to our knees. But there was a cache up there and we were so close!
Tiffany broke through the snow and I and then Karyn followed in her boot marks. Karyn and my GPS counted down in degrees, Tiffany's counted down in feet and as the three of us got closer, we started looking around, mumbling the hint and thinking, If I were a cache, where would I be? Almost at once we saw a very large tree with three trunks coming out of the middle of it. It fit the hint, Between the trees, perfectly, and was a spot we would have chosen to hide a cache.
Karyn broke formation and made a dash for the tree, something that would have been funnier had I recorded a video and not just taken a picture of it. She took one side of the tree, Tiffany took the other and I took some more pictures. Then Tiffany called out the find on the backside of the tree and we gathered around to watch her use her pen to pry open the frozen side locks.

We weren't too impressed with the tradeable contents, so we signed the log book saying we took nothing but left something. I left a mini glow stick and two quarters, but I don't recall what my sisters put in.
We put the camoflauged lock box back in the exact position we found it and followed Karyn's boot prints back. We were so involved in watching our feet and chattering about our find that we were surprised to look up once we reached the skier's path to see a woman with snowshoes on, standing there and staring at us!

She didn't ask us what we were doing, three woman coming down and covered to our knees in the deep snow of the woods with no snow shoes or warm pants on. (Tiffany was the one wearing pajama bottoms! LOL) We greeted her with a Happy New Year! and giggled like little girls, but actually adult sisters who are closer today than they ever were as younger siblings.
We speed walked back to the van and called the house and made up a flimsy excuse about what was taking us so long, something our father saw cleanly through, I'm sure!

Later that afternoon, we did it again!
This time though, Karyn stayed back with grandma and the kids while Tiffany and I took our sister Jennifer, dad, and Jennifer's cocker spaniel Capulet. (They have another dog named Romeo.)
As we scanned thru the caches in the Bellaire area that week...ok. We'll admit it. Karyn, Tiffany and I looked at these caches in the weeks before our arrival in preperation! This one caught our eye because it was off the walking path in Bellaire, close enough that you didn't have to leave the path to get it.

It was a little bit further than we wanted to walk from the house in the cold, so we parked behind the senior center and set off on the path from there. My handheld said we had about half a mile to walk and in the lead I set off on a brisk pace. Jennifer mentioned something about me setting a march a drill sargeant would be proud of.
As a cross country skier, Tiffany said it was bad etiquette to walk in the lines of a ski path, but it was easier walking through the snow in those grooves than the uneven snow on the sides! Except for two skiers of that kind in front of us, there were no other Muggles in sight.
We made it to a boardwalk over a bit of swamp I hadn't been to before. I actually tried the previous summer with my boys in the double stroller, but the mosquitoes turned me back around. Now in the heart of winter the only things we heard and saw was snow being blown off the top of trees to fall to branches below, bending many before finally landing silently on the ground.
My GPS said to turn left and we all did our part in destroying the crisp, clean trail of the cross country skier who had gone this way as well. I stopped just short of a wooden bench piled high with snow and pocketed my GPS unit. It had brought me to the location plus/minus 30 feet. Now I had to trust in my noggin and my eyes.
The clue for this hidden cache was, Have a seat. Front and center. In front of us was a bench. We couldn't sit down because the snow was piled just about as high as the mattresses in the classic fairy tale, The Princess and the Pea. We looked under the buried bench, but nothing there. My dad got down lower and looked under the boardwalk, but reported nothing. There was another bench down the path about 20 feet and we did the same thing there. Still nothing. The cache said we wouldn't have to go far from the path to find it, but we began spreading out farther than I thought we should have to.
We stopped and started again with the first bench. It was overcast, late afternoon and it was dark under the elevated, wooden path. My dad's glasses have transistion lenses, so he was looking through something tinted dark from the cold into something shaded from daylight and missed the camoflauge taped small plastic box hidden there.
I found it this time and pulled it out for a picture taken by Tiffany. My dad had to use his knife to pry open one side though. Water had gotten inside and the box was 1/4 ice cube. We weren't too impressed with the contents of this cache either, but we had a great walk and worked together to find it. That's the fun of geocaching. I put in a sea shell from N.C. and added a key chain flashlight for Karyn. Tiffany added her item and signed the log book for all three of us. I put it back under the boardwalk, but on top of one of the wooden supports and out of the ice that would eventually become a lot of water.
We saw one cross country skier go by fairly quickly, but no one noticed us on this other path or what we had taken some time to find. Anyone coming down that path later might be curious about how many people had actually been on that twenty foot section after seeing most of the snow packed down and pushed off!
Jennifer enjoyed our chilly caching adventure. She asked if we were going on anymore before we left and was disappointed when the answer was no. She was eagerly anticipating a conversation with a co-worker about what she had seen and learned.
We'll be back in the spring, Jen!