“It’s been so long, what have you been up to?” Part 2: Milestones, Geo Art, and Power Trails

They say that once you get over writer’s block that the words will just flow with you.  They aren’t kidding around.  I began writing my previous post on 12/30 and it took 3 and 1/2 months to get that posted (and it still isn’t quite finished since I have to update it with pictures once I find them all), and now I’m finding myself with tons of inspiration to get things caught up.  This post will be a bit out of character for me, as I am going to be running through quite a bit in this post.  I’m going to try my hardest to keep my long-windedness down…but we’ll see how well that goes.

If you’ve read previous posts, you’ll know that I am all about the group cache runs.  Whether it’s hooking up with another cacher to help them achieve a milestone goal, or a large group getting together to find caches and have fun, I’m all for it.  And it was because of this that I was finally able to realize the 1,000 find milestone.  But it took quite a bit of caching to reach that milestone.

MWGB 2012 ended up being our 800th milestone.  For those paying attention, MWGB 2011 was our 400th, so we were able to double our find count in a year…not bad, but not where I expected to be either.  Especially not after doing a portion of the HWY 127 power trail.  And after doing all the number crunching for the Mingo trip and the failed Toledo late night power run, I got the itch to plan some more runs.  And as it turns out, our geographical location puts us in a pretty prime spot for such runs.

In Louisville, just before GeoWoodstock X, a Geo Art project entitled the Big Blue Smiley appeared.  This was a series of puzzle caches (56 caches with clues dispersed between them to resolve the coordinates for 3 bonus caches) that formed a big smiley face on the map.  The puzzles were easy enough if you either know your UK basketball history or have some good Google-fu skills.  I fall squarely in the latter category (IU fan here).  I had actually solved all the puzzles prior to GWX for a run I had intended to do with the rest of the Minions, but due to temperatures that were just south of 100 and a faulty air-conditioner in the Minion Mobile, that was aborted after just 1 find.  So when a conversation between my brother (Team Duckman) and our partner-in-crime (TeamAdorkable) about a cache run, naturally the BBS was the candidate.  We chose a Sunday in November when all 3 of us were free.  The weather, as it turned out, was perfect for our trip.  It started out in the upper 40s but by the time we had finished the temps were just below 70.  I had spent several days routing out our trip.  Knowing full well that some of the neighborhoods were a bit rough, I made sure we’d hit those GZs first to maximize daylight and minimize the potential sets of eyes from watching what we’re doing.  All in all we found all 56 of the regular hides but skipped the 3 bonus hides as we kinda forgot to be on the lookout for the clues until about halfway through.  It took us a little over 8 hours to complete, not counting the hour we spent at lunch or the emergency bathroom run that took us 5 miles out of the way.  And the effort was definitely worth it, as the image below will show.

It went from all blue to smiley yellow!

It went from all blue to smiley yellow!

While experiencing the high of grabbing that many caches in a day, I didn’t want to stop.  There had been talk of hitting the HWY 127 trail again to grab the balance of caches we didn’t find the first time, but since TeamAdorkable had already found all of them during a run a couple weeks after ours with several others, we scrapped that idea.  It was then decided that we should do another, new Geo Art project that had been published a few weeks prior in Indiana, called the Back Home Again In Indiana series.  This series consists of 125 caches hidden in The Middle of Nowhere, Indiana and would satisfy my craving.  Being Geo Art in a relatively populous area, naturally this meant all the caches were once again puzzle caches requiring Google-fu skills and I had them all answered within a couple hours.  But doing the math I realized that one of these caches would end up being my 1,000 find, and that just would not do.  TeamAdorkable were unavailable to do the series the following weekend so my brother and I decided we’d hit a puzzle power trail to the northeast of me that I had been meaning to do for some time.  This trail should give me enough caches to hit the magical milestone number on one that I actually wanted.  So the plan was set for the following Sunday to hit that trail, the PT-109 Puzzle Trail.

While the trail itself consists of 41 caches, we were unfortunately only able to find 25 of them as others were either missing or completely infested with muggles.  But that didn’t matter.  Those 25 put me just 3 away from find 1,000.  I already knew which cache I wanted to do for the 1,000 milestone, so that was where we headed, Indy’s Largest Cache.  The name is very apropos, as you can see.

Open says me!

Open says me!

Signing the log, literally!

Signing the log, literally!

Woo hoo!

Woo hoo!

It's official!

It’s official!

With that milestone out of the way, nothing was going to stop the momentum of these runs.  The following week I spent most of my free time trying to figure out the best route for us.  Most of the groups that had attempted the series at the time were stating it took anywhere from 8-13 hours to complete.  A 5 hour swing was just too wide for me and led me to believe we could do better.  I know it’s never a race, but I just couldn’t shake that, with an optimized route, this could be done in 6 hours or less.  So I poured over the coordinates, and then calculated and recalculated the routes, optimizing as best as I could to minimize not only backtracks, but also the best starting point.  My last calculation told me that we could do it in under 5 hours, and with that I was satisfied.  I shared this information with my brother and TeamAdorkable, and the goal was set.  At the last minute another cacher joined us for our adventure, brcross95, and we met up at a gas station about 2 miles from the designated first cache.  The series itself is in some backwater locations I had never known existed.  All country roads, there were times when we didn’t see another car for close to an hour at a time, so to say this was pretty secluded is an understatement.  A couple times we ran across some hunters, and some far off gun shots could be heard, so we tried not to stay in one place for too long.  At one point we were running almost 20 minutes ahead of schedule, but one misplaced coordinate number caused a massive stumble that left us stumped on one cache for almost 30 minutes.  Our last-minute buddy had his own solved coordinates written down and it was noticed that I had superimposed a number and this caused us to be about 500 feet due south of the actual GZ.  But when we went to check that out, we came up empty handed too, so we went back to the original coords and looked some more.  Not satisfied, we split up and went back to the other coords and it turns out we just didn’t look hard enough and the found was finally made.  30 minutes and a fair amount of pride later, we were on our way, hoping to make up for lost time.  When all was said and done, we finished the entire series in 4 hours and 52 minutes.  Still a bit bummed that we lost so much time on that one cache, but still very proud of the fact that my number crunching was almost spot-on.  Plus, just look at that map!

Just gorgeous!

Just gorgeous!

Now most of you are probably thinking that this would have been a good stopping point.  Doing the math, you already know that in the span of 3 weeks we had found a combined total of 209 caches, which is nothing to sneeze at.  Surely this should satisfy whatever numbers hunger I was having, right?  Obviously you don’t know me very well.  All this did was excite me more.  And I knew there was one more numbers run left in me.  And this one was going to dwarf the others.

A few months prior it had been brought to my attention that there was a power trail in central Illinois that I hadn’t heard about yet.  It’s called the I’ve Been Everywhere series (IBE for short) and is 185 caches split into northern and southern legs.  We had been discussing this run for several weeks and locked in 4 members of the CIA group to do it: myself, my brother, TeamAdorkable, and DynamicDs.  We decided to try for it in the middle of December. So far it had been a fairly mild fall with no real snowfall of note, so we knew we would have to do this sooner rather than later, or else we’d have to wait until Spring.  We chose a Saturday (12/15) so that we would have a buffer between our run and the next workday to rest.  The start of the run was a little over 3 hours away, and with my number crunching, it was expected to take about 10 hours total for the trip.  I ended up crashing at my brother’s house that night so that I wouldn’t have to wake up even earlier to drive to him.  We set out around 5, picking up the others at TeamAdorkable’s house just short of 6.  The day was shaping up to be rather miserable, weather-wise.  It began drizzling about 40 minutes into our trip and became a steady downpour just after we crossed into Illinois.  As we got closer to the first cache, things improved a bit, and the rain had finally let up, but a bone-chilling wind was beginning to kick up, and by the time we started our run, it became apparent that the original forecast of 50s and partly sunny skies were never going to happen for us.

It took us just over 2 hours to finish the first leg, and it was pretty obvious that had we not been such a well-oiled machine and easy to get along with, this would have been a brutal trip.  Jumping in and out of a car over and over gets old pretty quick.  The caches were easy enough to find, but with the ground wet and the wind blowing over 20MPH at times, with little shelter from them, it was easy to get a little frazzled.  So we stopped at a gas station to take a break, use the restroom, and grab something to snack on.  We then made the short trip north to the starting cache for the last leg and finished that one off  2 and a half hours later.  As you can see, this was quite a trail…had they been connected I don’t know if we could have done it without going insane and killing each other first.

The southern leg

The southern leg

The northern leg

"Ding dong the trail is dead..."

“Ding dong the trail is dead…”

Stopping at such an odd number like 185 was not really something we wanted to do.  Since we were making such great time, we decided to grab lunch and then try to hit 200 for the day.  We made a bee-line for the B-dubs (see what I did there) and had a nice celebratory lunch and some alcoholic beverages before looking for a place to find some more caches.  DynamicDs had mentioned earlier that day about a cache we should try for, a 5/5 liars cache by the name of Forrest Stump.  Looking at a map of caches around this one, there appeared to be a cache series that ran along the road we were to take to get there, so we weren’t going to be hard pressed to find 14 more caches.  This was probably my favorite part of the trip, not just because it was impromptu, but also because our goal was simple and we had already done what we set out to do so there wasn’t any pressure to get this done as quickly as possible.  We ended the day with 203 finds.  To date this is my best day ever.  I’d like to think this is just circuit training for the inevitable run at the E.T. Highway Mega Trail.  Sick, aren’t I?

I thought it said Forrest Dump!

I thought it said Forrest Dump!

If you’re paying attention, you’ll notice that this has caught us up to December.  It’s mid-April, so certainly I have more to tell, right?  Actually, there really isn’t.  After an extremely eventful Fall, we’ve taken a bit of a break in regards to caching.  We’ve already gotten our major milestones out of the way, and managed to increase our find count by 564 since the end of July, so I think that it’s time for a bit of a break.  But this doesn’t mean I’m giving up on caching.  Far from it.  There are some interesting things brewing and I will be sharing some details shortly on the next CIA epic trip.  Also, there’s the Spring Picnic coming up in a month, and our annual trek to MWGB in July.  Things will be picking up again soon, and there also might be a guest contributor or two joining the ranks to add more to this blog.  So stay tuned.

Categories: A tale from the GZ | 1 Comment

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One thought on ““It’s been so long, what have you been up to?” Part 2: Milestones, Geo Art, and Power Trails

  1. Pingback: Here we go again! | Tales from the GZ

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