CIA-NEA13 Day 4: “It smells like Vermont in here”

This is day 4 of 5.  Click here if you wish to read from the very beginning.

Amazingly enough, sleep came very easy to me.  Yes, I was sleeping in a van.  Yes, I was sitting behind the wheel.  And yes, I was sitting at probably a 35% angle and shouldn’t have found much comfort, but in all seriousness, as soon as I closed my eyes, I was soon off to la la land.  At least, that’s what everyone tells me, as I don’t hear MYSELF snoring.

Morning came much too soon.  Even though this was now the longest stretch of uninterrupted sleep I’d had this entire trip, I still felt like I had only been out for maybe an hour before it was time to wake up.  The sun rises a whole lot earlier on the east coast than it does in our neck of the woods, so by the time 6am rolled around, it was already past the tree line and beaming down on us, beating us senseless with its brightness.

Since we managed to stop at a rest area, you’d think it would be a fairly familiar site for staffers to see people roll in with various toiletries for sprucing themselves up.  However this was not the case at this rest area/welcome center.  The person behind the counter was pretty rude and acted like they didn’t want us getting changed and cleaned up in the restrooms.  Yeah, you just try to stop me.  So we all did our business, washed up and primped as best as we could, then left.  I stopped by the vending machines to see if I could find something that looked appetizing for breakfast.  Unfortunately they didn’t have much in the way of breakfasty foods, so I settled on a Rice Krispie Treat and some nasty “organic” fruit juice that basically tasted like extremely watered down apple juice with some strawberry finishing notes.  I was pretty nonplussed with this Breakfast of Also-rans®.

I had left my phone off overnight since the battery was running low and we wouldn’t be running the van while sleeping to charge it.  Upon powering up, I received my “Bazinga” notification that I had mail waiting on my caching-specific Gmail account.  Sure enough, it was from the CO of The Depot, the awesome letterbox-hybrid cache we had to abandon the hunt for the previous night.  We were technically only about 60 miles away and, had we no agenda for the day, would have definitely followed the advice he gave to finding the cache and redeemed ourselves.  But seeing as we still had 3 states to make finds in, locate and photograph the oldest triangulation station (benchmarking) in the country, and photobomb the “Welcome to Scranton” sign made famous in the opening credits of NBC’s The Office, we just didn’t have the time.

The rest area happened to have a cache, Welcome to New Hampshire located within it, so we made this our cache for the state.  It was a little jaunt into a wooded area near the entrance ramp back onto I-95 but it was easy enough to grab and, barring the extra trip back to the van to grab the pen that neither DynamicDs nor I thought to bring, was found and rehid in a flash.  There’s nothing quite like waking up to get a smiley.

During the planning stages of this trip, I noted pretty early on how densely-packed the northeastern states are and remarked on how quickly we would be passing through states.  For some reason I discounted just how short of a trip it would be from the Massachusetts border to the Maine border in New Hampshire it would be for us….16 miles.   No sooner had we gotten on the road and were getting into the groove of driving were we coming up on the Maine border.  Our Maine cache was just on the other side of Piscataqua River.  As soon as we crossed the bridge we got off on the first Maine exit and headed towards the parking coordinates for the cache.  Unfortunately due to a miscommunication with our driver, TeamAdorkable, we drove past the road we needed to park on and headed straight for the on-ramp back to I-95.  See, I had the parking coordinates on my tablet, but our GPS had the GZ coordinates, so instead of telling us to turn left, it told us to turn right.  The cache is actually in a wooded area in the center of the on-ramp loop that has no vehicle access so we were to park to the south of the GZ and then walk through the woods to it.  After explaining this to her, she quickly stopped the van and was about to go into reverse when a car got onto the ramp behind us.  She pulled us to the side of the road to let the car go past, and then made to try to turn around when a truck then entered the ramp.  At this point, frustrated with this turn of events, we got back onto the interstate and headed back over the river and into New Hampshire to turn back around and try for another cache.  Since it was just barely 7am at this point and we were obviously not fully awake yet, we decided a park & grab would be a much better choice for a cache than attempting to traipse through the woods in a drowsy stupor.

Thankfully I had a list of nearby caches already on hand for just such an occasion.  I chose one that looked easy, Kittery One and One, and quickly loaded the coords into the GPS.  There really wasn’t anything of note regarding this cache, other than the surrounding woods were very tranquil.  One thing I noticed during our brief time in Maine was that, even though it was rush hour on a Monday morning, there really wasn’t much traffic to speak of.  But that wouldn’t last for long.

After we grabbed our quick Maine cache, we quickly made our way back into New Hampshire and soon started heading west for the first time the entire trip.  We had just made our apex of the trip and now we were beginning the long, slow trek towards home.  But there was much still to do.  We had one more state to grab a cache in that we didn’t have yet….Vermont.  This was our next target.  We were running about 3 hours ahead of schedule at this point as we were technically still supposed to be in Massachusetts finishing up The Depot.  Since we had deviated from our original plan to spend the night near Boston and then wake up and do The Depot before heading to Salem in morning daylight, we were sitting on a sizable lead over where we were supposed to be.  Lucky for us we had such a commanding head start, because we were about to get hit with some serious gridlock rush hour traffic.

Looking back, I’m actually glad we were ahead of schedule.  Had we been in Boston, on a Monday, during rush hour, we surely would have ended up way behind schedule the rest of the day and, most likely, would have had to skip caches and possibly cut our trip short just to get home on time.  My pessimism is caused by the fact that it took us over an hour to drive 30 miles along I-495.  Thankfully I wasn’t behind the wheel at this time because I would have been a bundle of nerves and anger at how slow things were progressing.  But since I was a passenger, I was able to take in the beauty of New England.  As we headed towards I-91 we meandered through the foothills of the Northern Appalachian mountains.  Once again I was amazed by how much wilderness was surrounding us, not far from the most populous areas in the country.  Looking at the satellite photos of the area, it’s a vast sea of green dotted with the gray of civilization.  Yep, that sounds about right.

It was just before 11am when we reached our Vermont destination, Welcome To Vermont TB Motel.  As the name implies, this cache was located at the Vermont Welcome Center a few miles from the Massachusetts border on I-91.  This was a perfect stop for us all as we had been traveling a few hours now and needed an opportunity to stretch our legs.

We quickly parked in a spot that was relatively close to the GZ while far enough from everyone else that we would arouse too much suspicion.  Needless to say that was a pretty futile effort as we had to walk a little ways down the exit ramp we used to get to the welcome center in the first place, so all who drove by could see what we were up to.  It was around this time that we began to notice a rather peculiar, pungent odor.  We couldn’t place where it was coming from because it was seemingly everywhere.  The best way to describe the smell is that it was like a mixture of wet dog and rotting fish.  I know that the Connecticut River was about a mile east of us and a small creek that drains into it meanders just inside the tree line where we’re at, but it smelled like it was coming from all directions.  I don’t know why I thought Vermont would smell like maple syrup and Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, but this was definitely a startling discovery.  Now, whenever our group encounters any weird smells, someone will say “It smells like Vermont”.  Ah, inside jokes!

After finding the cache we headed to the welcome center to freshen up and prepare to head towards our next destination.  The center looked like a huge barn and the inside was done up real nice with all sorts of Vermont memorabilia.  I was feeling a little remorseful at this point that we weren’t having a proper vacation on this trip as I’d love to have been able to visit the Ben & Jerry’s factory or take in some more sights.  While my bucket list for visiting every state was getting smaller, my bucket list of things to do in America was actually growing larger.  Sigh!

I took the wheel for this next leg as I had been itching to drive a long stretch of road that wasn’t bumper-to-bumper traffic.  Late morning on a Monday in the middle-of-nowhere New England was sure to itch this scratch.  Unfortunately because I passed the reins of navigator to someone else, I forgot that our next destination was supposed to be Bennington, VT and instead had TeamAdorkable enter the coords for the benchmark we were going to grab as our next destination.  Oblivious to this blunder, we headed south back into Connecticut and, eventually, New York.

For our next stop, we were seeking out the oldest existing Triangulation Station in America, dubbed Buttermilk.  DynamicDs is a pretty prolific benchmarker and this one is in particular is the must-get for benchmarkers as the site actually contains the original mark that was set into the ground in 1833, in addition to a more modern azimuth mark placed about a foot away in 1938.  While not an avid benchmarker myself, I do love the history surrounded these things.  I had done a bit of research prior to our trip and discovered that the land the benchmark is on was at one point owned by John D. Rockefeller and that it wasn’t until recently that the land was turned over to the state for use as a park.  Getting there, however, was not as easy as I’d expected it to be.  Using the GPS, I was able to get within 1000 linear feet from the location, but when it chimed that we had reached our destination, we were on a divided highway with no place to park.  Surely this wasn’t right.  I pulled over to the shoulder and pulled out my tablet to get a satellite view to see what went wrong.  Sure enough, I saw that we were routed to the closest main road to the benchmark, but not to the actual spot.  Since benchmarks are more of an afterthought on, there aren’t any parking coordinates or anything of that sort to give us a proper indication of where we should go, so it was up to us to figure it out.  I tried to trace the best route to get there, but not being familiar with the location, I ended up having Google Maps route us.  Unfortunately this would once again prove fruitless as it routed us to where we SHOULD have gone, but then proceeded to send us back to the same spot we pulled over at.  Frustrated, we decided to stop for a late lunch (it was now almost 3pm) at a nearby Applebee’s and ponder our next move.  Being out of the van and all gathered around a table, we were able to figure out where our routing had gone wrong and discern where we needed to go.  My brother decided to drive this next leg so once we were finished, we loaded back into the van and headed towards where we needed to be.

The turnoff looked to be leading to private property and we were all a little apprehensive to proceed.  DynamicDs attempted to contact what we believed to be the property owner to make sure we had permission to be there but this proved fruitless.  In the end, we decided to just go for it.  The worst that could happen is we’d be told we need to leave and that would be the end of that.  The initial drive was pretty easy.  The road was paved in asphalt and we seemed to be on a road leading towards houses.  That soon changed once we passed the houses and suddenly we were on a gravel and dirt path that took us way too close to the edge of the hill we were on.  Watching the GZ on my phone, we were inching ever closer to benchmark, but that was short lived as we rounded a bend in the road and were suddenly heading away from it.  While I wouldn’t necessarily call it panic, we were a bit perturbed that we had come all this way and now it seemed like we weren’t going to see it as there wasn’t any apparent roads leading to the location.  The satellite photos did not give us much help in this regard as they were taken during summer and the tree cover was too dense to make out anything save for a clearing that we were approaching.  It was here that we decided to try to walk to the site.  I thought I had seen what looked like a wide path leading further up the hill when we were rounding the bend so I suggested we try that and see where it would take us.  If nothing else, we could just backtrack and try another way.

TeamAdorkable was feeling a bit under the weather at this point so she chose to stay behind with the van.  I led the way with my phone in hand and we headed towards the path I saw.  When we neared it, I could just barely make out what appeared to be ruts from vehicles.  The ground was completely overgrown with field grass but it was obvious that vehicles of some sort had been here at one point.  The grade wasn’t too steep but with the overgrowth it was slower going than normal.  After about 200 feet the path turned right and leveled off at the apparent top of the hill.  The growth was even higher here and there was a thicket of trees in the middle.  My phone’s GPS was bouncing us all around.  I started to head in the direction it was pointing me towards when all of a sudden my phone shut off.  I could not get it to power back up.  That’s when I noticed that it was probably the hottest I had ever felt it, leading me to suspect it overheated and shut itself off to protect the internals.  Of course, none of us had a proper GPSr so we were now flying blind, only knowing that my phone said we were withing 60 feet of the GZ.  We started fanning out and began our search.  At one point I spotted a very large bolder that had what appeared to be an old, rusty spike driven through it.  I later found out that this was one of the reference points for the triangulation station.  Not able to get any further in the direction I was headed, we turned back around and made our way back to the spot where my phone died.  I remarked that my phone originally had me heading southeast from our location towards the thicket of trees so we slowly bushwhacked our way in.  Not 30 seconds past before I heard DynamicDs squeal that she found it.  I quickly caught up and saw what she had found.  There on the ground, surrounded by high grass and weeds, was a clearing of rock.  On one side, the bluish-green azimuth mark I have come to know in my short benchmarking career, and to the right of it, an old, decaying, roundish dark spot with a spike in the middle.  I recognized it immediately from pictures I had seen posted online.  We had found Buttermilk.

<insert pic>

After we took our obligatory photos of the historic spot, we headed back to the van and an ailing TeamAdorkable.  Thankfully we had left the van running with the A/C on because it has gotten quite hot, what with the traipsing through the vegetation and cloudless sky and whatnot.  We caught up our sick companion about our journey and discovery on our way to a gas station as we were very low on gas at this point.  Once gassed up we entered the coords for our next cache, The Sultan of Swat.  This cache is located a mile or so away from Buttermilk in the neighboring town of Mount Pleasant.  I chose this cache due to its large amount of Favorite Points and the fact that it was a virtual in a cemetery.  I didn’t really give much thought to its name, although I really should have.  You see, the cache takes you to Babe Ruth’s final resting spot.  One of his nicknames just so happens to be “The Sultan of Swat”.  Der!  I was completely surprised by this and totally couldn’t pull it off that I totally knew where I was taking us.  Can’t believe I missed this one.

babe ruth

The Great Bambino, The Big Bam, Jack Dunn’s Baby, The Caliph of Clout, The Behemoth of Bust

Once we had finished taking our photos and figuring out the answer needed to satisfy the find, we left the cemetery.  On the way I happened to read that there were several other famous people buried in the cemetery and was about to suggest we figure out who they were using the coords provided in the description when we noticed that the caretaker of the cemetery was beginning to close the front gates.  We are used to cemeteries being accessible until close to dusk but it was going on 6 and there was still a good 2 hours of daylight left.  We hurried out before he could shut us in and I abandoned hope on figuring out who else was there (which I later learned was  Conde Nast and James Cagney – Charles Schwab was originally interred here but has since been moved).

Our next destination was not geocaching-related, but was exciting nonetheless for my bro and I, the “Welcome to Scranton” sign featured in the opening credits of “The Office”.  Originally located along a stretch of highway, the sign was moved to the Steamtown Mall in downtown Scranton due to fans constantly stopping on the side of the road to take pictures, causing a road hazard.  We were about 90 minutes away and I knew we needed to get there as quickly as possible to avoid being shut out as the mall closes at 9.  We encountered a bit of traffic crossing the Hudson River but once we got away from the NYC burbs things got going at a good clip and we made it into the parking garage of the mall just before 7:45.  TeamAdorkable was knocked out and since she wasn’t a fan of the show, we decided not to wake her and make this a quick visit.  After some initial confusion as to where the sign would be, we stopped at the Information Kiosk and asked for help.  The website stated it was located near the Dunder Mifflin Store but when we went to where the store was supposed to be, the location was empty.  The helpful mall staff told us that the store had closed now that the show was over and that they had moved the sign to a less-prominent location away from the crowds, which was upstairs near where we entered the mall.   After a short bathroom break, we quickly snapped our photos and then made our way back to the van and our ailing friend.

Total Dunderheads!

Total Dunderheads!

At this point in our trip the sun was setting and we were technically done for the day.  We were supposed to find a rest area to pull off for the night but my brother graciously decided to get us a room for the night, his treat.  Now we just needed to find one.  We were still a little over an hour away from Centralia, our next stop on this trip, so we wanted to make sure we were as close as we could get.  We wound up about 40 miles down the road in Hazleton in a Residence Inn.  This was a much better sleeping arrangement then Sunday morning at the Quality Inn – Staten Island.  This time I didn’t have to sleep on the floor and the room was very spacious.  There was a Sonic Drive-In next door so we had ourselves some decent eats for dinner.  Sleep was definitely very much needed this night, I tell you, and I took all that I could get.

Leg 4

Trip Statistics – Monday 6/17

Miles traveled

512 miles

Total miles traveled

1768 miles

Caches found on leg

4/1 benchmark

Total caches found on trip


Categories: A tale from the GZ | 1 Comment

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One thought on “CIA-NEA13 Day 4: “It smells like Vermont in here”

  1. tina

    reliving the trip Great job BFAM!!!!!!

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