I know it’s been awhile since my last post, and I had promised to be better about that, but things have gotten away from me here lately and I apologize for that. I had originally intended on adding a couple guest contributors to this blog, and that may still happen, but the 2 people I had approached for this have shied away. So for now it’s still just our family blog and the frequency of posts will be, unfortunately, sporadic. But as you can see, my posts are never wont for details, so I firmly believe in quality versus quantity. Now, onto my post.
A few months back, several members in a Geocaching Facebook group had put together a group outing to seek Earthcaches in Kentucky. I must admit, I have done few of these in the past as I am more into history than geology, and the requirements on several can be rather daunting for someone who has difficulty remembering to bring a pen along with them, let alone pages of notes from the cache description page, and various measuring equipment for some of the more involved Earthcaches. But the idea of going along with a group of people made it more desirable as we would all find it together and I wouldn’t have to be solely responsible for figuring out the details. So my brother (Team Duckman) and myself decided to tag along.
As the days grew closer to the outing, it became apparent that the weather might be against us. Every day that passed brought with it an updated forecast that would fluctuate from partly sunny skies and temps in the upper 60s/lower 70s to showers and thunderstorms. Since the area we were going to be Earthcaching in was off-trail and most likely treacherous during rainy weather, it was decided the day before the outing to cancel. But if you know anything about me from this blog, you know I always plan ahead.
My brother and I had talked quite a lot about the possibility of breaking away from the group and doing a cache run of our own if we ended up getting bored with the Earthcaches or couldn’t handle the terrain difficulty (we’re both a bit on the heavy side so anything a normal person can do requires twice as much effort for us to accomplish). As the conversations started to turn towards the possibility of canceling the outing, I had suggested possibly hitting a Power Trail that is in Kentucky. For those that don’t know, a Power Trail is a stretch of road/rail trail that has a massive number of caches along the way, usually at the minimum distance of 529 ft between each cache. There are several well known Power Trails in the United States, the largest and most popular being the Extraterrestrial Highway Power Trail, which will soon have 2,000 caches along the 98-mile stretch of Hwy 327 in Nevada. These Power Trails are meant for those cachers who ARE about the numbers and are looking for the epic “# of caches in a day” milestones. If you’re at an event and overhear someone making the bold statement of getting 1,000+ caches in a single 24-hour period, this is how they do it.
The HWY 127 Power Trail in Kentucky is nowhere near this saturated. Along the ~92-mile stretch of HWY 127 between Glencoe (actually about 10 miles northeast of the town is the northern terminus of the Power Trail) and Danville (about 7 miles north of town for the southern terminus) are, at last official count, 270 caches. As you can see from the map below, that’s a lot of caches. The majority of the cache containers are 35mm film canisters, with some pill bottles and other containers of like size interspersed throughout. These are definitely meant for quick grabs.
Prior to the cancellation of the Earthcache trek, I had decided to spend the night at my brother’s house as the breakfast event/meeting place for the group was in his area and I live about 20 miles away. This made planning for the new outing much easier as I was able to load all my caches into the GPSr the night before and plot out our best plan of attack. Our original intent was to grab every cache between I-71 in the north and Danville to the south, leaving about 20 or so north of I-71 not to be found. We never had any preconceived notions that we’d find all of them (at the time of the trip there was only 262 available). I spent the better part of two hours trying to figure out which caches were on the northbound side of the highway as the majority were obviously southbound but some caches were denoted as being northbound while others were not. We had also decided at this point to give ourselves a team name for signing the logs as it would take a lot longer for each of us to write out our full caching names on the logs. We settled on Team HoBros, which incorporates both our last names and the fact that we’re brothers. We also agreed that to save even more time we could log finds as THB if we felt so inclined. As we were taking his vehicle, that left me in the positions of navigator and gopher, so it would really come down to how tired I was of writing our team name. Feeling comfortable that I had sorted everything out, I went to bed around 1am, anxious for our day ahead.
We awoke at 6am and left shortly thereafter. We stopped at a convenience store to pick up some caffeine-laden drinks and headed for Kentucky. It was rather foggy that morning and that gave us an ominous feeling that the day could end up very wet. It took us about 2 hours to get down to the starting point, and as luck would have it, there was a little hole-in-the-wall greasy spoon right off the exit. Since neither of us had eaten anything at this point, we figured it would be best to begin on full stomachs rather than hit the trail and get about 30 miles in and start having hunger pangs hit when we’re nowhere near any food options. Since we’re in what can be considered “The South”, I knew there was a good chance for some old-fashioned biscuits and gravy, so it sounded like a plan to me.
About 20 minutes later, with our bellies full, we headed out. As luck would have it, the first cache was in the parking lot of the restaurant. I grabbed it, signed it, and we were off. About a half-mile down the road was the next cache and it became apparent real quick what type of hides we would come across. If it wasn’t on a guardrail, it was attached to a sign. And if it wasn’t attached to a sign, it was hanging in some road-side tree. Things were easy-going for the first 15 minutes, until I realized that my southbound GPX had northbound caches in them. When I checked the northbound GPX, I saw that it had the same number of caches as the southbound. It was then that I realized that all that hard work the night before had been for naught as I had accidentally duplicated the same original GPX and only renamed them, not edited them for cache placement. So I had basically deprived myself of almost 2 hours of sleep for nothing….oh well, lesson learned.
Over the course of 4 hours we snagged just short of 100 caches along the ~45 mile section of 127 between I-71 and Frankfort. During this time we both hit milestones, our 600th and his 700th find.
I also learned something unexpected…Power Trails are hard work. Looking at it on paper, it sounds like the easiest, most-convoluted method to score a find and pad your numbers. You’re finding caches that had little thought put into their placement, no real effort put on their cache page descriptions (most are copy/paste from the lead cache page for the trail), and a lack of imagination on the container. Everything would point to this being the worst caching experience ever, but I had a flipping blast and was tired when it was all said and done. Not only do you have to work out logistics for the trip, planning out your route and, in this case, making sure you know which side of the road you need to be on, but then there’s the very physical toll this type of caching takes on you. You don’t realize it when you’re on a normal cache run because you’re not in a rush to leave the GZ and move onto the next. You’re taking your time, usually tens if not hundreds of feet away from the nearest road, with not a care in the world other than what you’re currently doing. We wanted to make it so that we spent no more than a minute at each GZ. That including getting out of the car, locating the cache, signing the log, re-hiding the cache, and getting back into the car. That leaves very little wiggle room to enjoy the sights, take pictures, or even collect your bearings. So all that getting in and out really becomes a bit of a workout.
Once we got into Frankfort around 1:30, we were beginning to get a little hungry so we decided to stop for lunch in town and take a break. We had been on the trail for just over 4 hours and at 92 finds we were making tremendous time. We figured we could go another 2 hours or so before we needed to make our way back north so we continued south after lunch. This is where things get dicey. Up until Frankfort, 127 is a 2-lane highway meandering through the hills of the Ohio Valley. South of Frankfort and I-64, however, 127 becomes a 4-lane divided highway that gets an awful lot of semi traffic. The hides were the same, attached to road signs, guardrails, and other roadside landmarks, but with the hustle and bustle of the midday weekend traffic and the increased speed limit, it became decidedly more treacherous. Also, the entire first half of our trip we saw absolutely no law enforcement at all, lending us to feel comfortable about our caching. In a 3-mile stretch since leaving Frankfort, we saw 4 police cars, including a pull-over.
We managed to snag 7 finds heading south of town before a run-in with an angry driver decided to make us turn tail and head back north. The GZ for this particular cache was at the end of a guardrail next to the driveway of a mobile home located on a hill a ways ahead of us. I had just jumped out, grabbed the log, and had put pen to paper when I heard the blast of a car horn right in front of me. The owner of the house or a visitor had somehow managed to pull up behind us and laid on the horn as we were unfortunately blocking the entrance to the driveway without us seeing her. I had left the car door open when I jumped out and watched in horror as my brother quickly pulled away in fright. I freaked out, replaced the log as quickly as possible, all while hearing the person in the car shout an expletive at me. I jumped into the car and we quickly left, having a good laugh in the process. But this left us both shaken and we decided it was just way too busy to continue our trek south. We knew we had missed a lot of northbound caches on the first leg so we decided we’d grab a few caches in downtown Frankfort before heading back towards home and collecting the balance of northbound caches.
Since I had not planned for this deviation, and because we were finally within good 3G data range, I whipped out my iPhone, pulled up the geocaching app, and began searching for nearby caches. Because I am unfamiliar with the city, I didn’t want to just chance doing an impromptu cache run that could cause us grief in finding caches down one-way roads we didn’t know about, I decided to look for a park or nature preserve that had several caches within that we could park and walk to. Leslie Morris Park on Fort Hill fit the bill nicely. Located on a hill overlooking the Kentucky River and downtown Frankfort, there were 4 caches there just waiting to be found. So we headed to the park (which is very cumbersome to get to) and grabbed our walking sticks, and headed out. We ended up grabbing 3 of the 4 caches as one of them was just too far of a walk for us to make as we were running low on time. Two of the caches made the side trip worth it. GC1JNWG – Hole in a Hill is located near a sinkhole/cave that provided quite the harrowing view…if it weren’t for the grate covering the hole.
About .2 of a mile away from that was another cache overlooking the Kentucky River, GC3051K – Kentucky River View Cache. While there wasn’t anything remarkable about the cache itself, the surroundings were gorgeous and provided us with a great view.
Unfortunately, this park is fairly neglected and there was a lot of trash around. I tried to perform a little CITO but found out that nowhere in the area of the park we were in was a trashcan to be found. So I packed in my random bits of trash and we headed back towards 127, picking up another 48 caches as we headed back the way we came. In the end, we managed to find 140 caches. We started our run at 9:10am, took our lunch at 1:30pm, and grabbed our last cache at 5:43pm. Definitely not a record cache run, but it has been our best single-day run yet. We are short 130 caches from completing the entire trail, and on the leg that we did do, we still managed to leave 46 caches un-found, either because they were located in shrubbery off the road that would have cost us precious minutes, or we blew past them too fast as my GPSr would lock up for a minute before updating our location well past the GZ. We have both vowed that we would return in the fall to pick up the balance of caches we left behind…I, personally, cannot wait.
Oh, and the weather that day….partly sunny and 72, with a stray sprinkle that lasted about 30 seconds.