Saturday, April 12, 2008

Western Maryland Caches, Part I

There is a cache in here somewhere. I still don't know where. I know where it should be. I've looked there already. But other people have said they missed it. So I don't know. If it's there, I'll find it. Someday.

I did not have much time to look for it because I have been finishing up my class. Instead of geocaching on Saturday, I was here at the training center.

The training center is in Cressaptown, Maryland. That's pretty far west. But there were caches further west than that which are part of Cache Across Maryland. This is a named road that I am on here, by the way.

And this is the view (less blurry in real life) from the road. The peaks in the distance? Yeah, that's where the road was that I was supposed to be on.

While I was on the road, I drove past many of these trees marked like this. I'm not sure why. I am sure it has some meaning.

This was a clear indication that I was not where I was supposed to be in my geocache hunt. I thought briefly about going back out and seeing if I missed a turn somewhere, but I just decided to get out of my car and walk past the sign to find the cache. That was an error.

So I left my car behind--really far behind, eventually--and walked down a path for a while, and came to this clearing. That was the last easy walk I had for about two hours after that.

After about a half hour of wandering off into the woods and making my way down to the river (hey, I pay attention to Man vs. Wild and Survivorman), I came across this tree with blue and yellow stripes. I figured that meant there was some sort of trail here, although I didn't know what type or where it lead. So I just walked along the river.

I had been walking around 45 minutes when I spied this bucket. It could have been a cache, but really, it was just a bucket. Apparently it was swept away by some swift moving water and deposited on this fallen tree limb.

I should mention that I was looking for a cache near Cascade Falls. These are not the falls. Which is OK, since I was nowhere near the cache yet. Basically I had made my way down a mountain to a river in the middle of the woods and that was it. Still, the whitewater was nice to see.

About an hour into my trek, and still a long walk to the cache, I was coming to the realization that I was on the wrong side of the river. That was bad for two reasons. One, there was no convenient way across the river, and I really didn't want to be wet and wandering around the middle of the woods. I really wasn't prepared for that. And two, it meant that the possibility that I would have to climb up the other side of the valley was a very good possibility. I was also at something of a crossroads, seeing as how if I continued on, I would really be pushing it in terms of getting back out of the woods before I ran out of daylight. So I could either turn around with certainty of making it back to my car while I still had sunlight, or go forward into uncertainty.

Of course I made the natural choice. Uncertainty. I crossed on the log, bear-hugging it (more or less) the whole way. I might have been able to walk on it, but the whole point was that I didn't want to get wet. And walking on this thing might have got me very wet when I fell off it and into the river, not to mention injured. In the middle of nowhere, you really don't have to worry about how silly you look. You do kind of have to worry about breaking your leg or your GPS receiver, especially since the sun, which you could use to help you get back to your car, is about to go night-night.

So about another half hour goes by, of me climbing up the other side of the mountain, and then I come to this post.

And next to this post? Another road. The road I should have been on. My GPS receiver is pointing down the road. So down the road I go. You think the road is safer than walking through the woods in the middle of nothing?

I almost stepped on this guy. He was in the middle of the road. That was not a good place for him to be at some point, because he was dead. I don't know what kind of snake this is, other than a dead snake. Nowhere near dead as long as the one whose skeleton appears in my previous blog entry, but long enough that rigor mortis had set in.

This was a good sign to finally see. I was finally very close to the cache.

I assume this sign explains some part of the blue and yellow markings I saw on the trees.

No vehicles after 10 p.m.? I had been the past two hours without my vehicle! You know what is funny? This sign is right next to a parking lot that is probably 300 feet from the cache. I had just clawed my way through something like a half mile of forest and down one mountain and up another. Isn't that funny. Ha. Ha. Funny. But honestly, I knew within about five minutes that what I was doing was too extreme for a cache that was part of the CAM event. What I expected to find was exactly this. I could have turned back after a few minutes going obviously wrong, but I didn't. I figured it would eventually turn into something right.

So here is a picture of Cascade Falls through the trees.

And here a picture of the falls from a rock that is kind of in the middle of the (Potomac) river.

So off I went in search of the cache. Obviously, some of my fellow humans had been here before. When I can spot the tracks, they must be obvious. Maybe more obvious than they are in this picture. But I saw shoe prints in the mud. That weren't mine. They didn't lead straight to the cache, but it was obvious another hunter had been here.

Cache found. And now I had another challenge. My trusty GPS device was kind enough to tell me that there was about an hour until the sun set. That's not such a problem, except that my trek through the woods has taken over two hours. I decide to walk back along the road instead. I kind of had an idea how I could walk along the roads back to my car at this point. What I didn't realize was just how long that would take. But it does go quicker. For instance, instead of clinging to fallen trees to cross rivers, you can use things like this bridge.

There are also shelters along the road. Which if I am going to be out here all night on the mountain in the cold with no jacket and no way to make a fire, and no food, at least I've got shelter taken care of.

Onward I walked and found another shelter along the road, the North Prong Shelter. So yeah, it's a shelter, but it still might have been a bit breezy in there.

Well, as I walked, I realized that my plan of following the road was going to take a lot longer than I wanted. My car was parked at the top of one ridge and I was on another ridge. I was debating going back into the woods when I saw this foot bridge which would take me across the river so that I could make it back to my car. It was about this time that a random guy appeared out of the woods on the road behind me wearing a white T-shirt and camouflage pants. That was kind of weird and maybe a little unsettling. But it didn't deter me from walking off the road and down a very steep slope to the bridge, where I crossed to the other side and proceeded back into the middle of nowhere.

I stopped in my hiking through the woods to take a picture of the moss on these rocks, which you can plainly see grows only on the north side of the rocks. Except for where it is also growing on the east, west, and south sides of different rocks. At this point I am back in the middle of nothing, only this time with about twenty minutes of daylight left.

Eventually, well after sunset, I made it back to my car. Once I was in my car, I drove back along the road to get to the spot where I should have taken the turn, which isn't well marked. Here's a sign for the state forest headquarters, near where you turn off to go to the cache. Notice that it is dark . . . .

The official name of the area in which I was officially publicly recreating. Apparently, I still had about 45 minutes before my misadventure turned me from a geocacher into a camper. But, having found the cache here, I wanted to head out before that happened. Because, after all, there were two CAM caches in far Western Maryland, and I was bound and determined to find them both while I was out this far so I would not have to come back later. So one down, one to go, which is kind of bad, since it's already after 9:00 p.m. at this point.

Not too late for one little bonus cache on the way to the other one. It just seemed a shame not to hit this one on the way to the other one. Of course, that made me even later to try to find the other cache. But not too much!

On my way to the other cache site, I passed through Luke, Maryland. This is interesting because I have a first cousin once-removed named Luke. So I took a picture of the sign.

This is another prominent sign in Luke. It sits at the corner of a right angle turn, just before you get into the town.

Presumably, these people never made it. I pulled over and was trying to decide whether or not to take a picture of this. While I was making up my mind, another group pulled over and took a picture of it. So once again I have ended a blog entry with pictures of a memorial to the dead. That's just the way it is. After this I made my way back to Cressaptown, and then on to near Cumberland to hunt one last cache before going home. But that will have to wait until the next installment.

Saturday, April 12, 2008 

Category: Life

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