YES, YES, YES!!! I did it! I don’t know what got me more excited, this cache find or my personal records. As of this find I have been caching for 463 days (263 days with finds), my longest streak without a find has been the last 19 days, this is the oldest cache I have found, and my find number 900. So that’s my stats.
Now the trip. For find number 900 I wanted to get the oldest cache in Orange County, CA (GCAB). It was originally planned as a family outing, and one by one they dropped out. Things got busy, but today I had enough with the working world and needed to get out. Since this was determined to be a milestone cache I had to go get it. So I grabbed the SUV (my wife didn’t understand why I didn’t want to take the company van) and headed out alone at 5:30 pm. I stopped just after turning off the road and called in my intended hunt to “The Podcacher” podcast hotline.
Then I was off bouncing happily along Trabuco Creek heading for the trailhead 4.5 miles away. Shortly I arrived at the parking area and geared up for the trip. It was 6:13 pm and sunset was at 7:35 pm. As the crow flies I have 1 mile to go, but it was 1.75 miles as the Cobra goes. Walking past the cabins and noticing their self-sufficient ways, I remember an old friend, Elliott Miller had a place up here and loved it. A truck passes me on the road, muggles looking for newts. I will soon leave them behind on the trail. Aha, the trailhead!
A gentle walk in the grotto-like canyon, temp 63 degrees. Cruising along at 2-3 mph enjoying the sights and sounds of the canyon, I’ve made two creek crossings so far. Not much water due to lack of rainfall this season. The trees ahead had huddled together forming a tunnel to walk through. Normally I listen to my iPod, but this trip was special and I didn’t want to distract from it in any way. Birds, lizards, squirrels, and rabbits all rustle the leaves in the nearby brush. Frogs gently croaking; the creek trickling over rocks. These are sounds that I have come to enjoy on the trail.
I spot the antennas on Santiago Peak high above me. I was up there with my two older kids for my birthday last year, but we drove and had a bad experience. Flat tire, lost son, hot and smoggy. Yeah, my 20 year old son showed up after tire was fixed, figures. He was bummed because we originally were going to hike it, but we got too late of a start and decided to drive. Once on top I discovered the tire problem and afterwards I just wanted to go home without any caching. They gave me a video game, so I was happy again. Now I’m wishing we had made the hike and I am thinking about making plans with them to do it.
It’s funny that my scouting experiences (I’m an Eagle Scout) caused me to be driven from the wilderness, and it took geocaching to pull me back in. I enjoy hiking a few miles in a day for one cache, more than getting twenty LPCs. That wasn’t always the case, but after dragging my girls up a few local hills, they jumped ship and I got hooked into the hill hikes. I know that I need more than a water bottle and my GPS for these trips and I am slowly increasing my geopack. I started off with my pockets and moved to a fanny pack. Which I still use for quick hikes like this. I tried a hydration pack, but the water has to be changed to keep it fresh. I like to grab and go. I am looking at full frame ultralight backpacks, so I can get back to the whole outdoors experience with the right stuff.
Oh look, I’m closing in about 300 feet to the left, but that’s a lot of bush whacking…...Ok, it’s not that way, let’s stay on the trail and see if we can find another way. I believe that I am one of those rare people who are not affected by poison ivy. People talk about being all around certain locations, but I can run through the area butt-naked and never have a problem. Until I looked it up in a nature book I wasn’t sure if I was seeing it or not. It appears that I was.
Aha, so it does turn! Holy Jim Falls right, cache left. Boy I’d love to see the falls today, but I’m on a mission to find the cache. Continuing on up the trail, this is why I enjoy the hill hikes. Views and more views, and views of views! The canyon walls rise to mountain peaks, towering above me as if to remind of the greatness of GOD. Rising out of the grotto area into more arid ground I can see where I came from below me. I’m getting closer now, the last turn of the switchback has me on a direct course with the cache. Remembering the logs and a small amount of bushwhacking….the cache is mine!
Well it’s 7:13 pm and the cache is in hand. I hiked 1.75 miles and I am at an elevation of 2400’(about 1,000’ change from the start, but so gently it was hardly noticed). I have signed the log and I would love to hit the falls, with sunset looming I dare not venture that way today. A return trip to the falls is already forecasted! For now I must make haste to return before dark as I forgot my flashlight.
The trip back is just as enjoyable. The sights and sounds take on a different feel. As the night approaches shadows overtake the sunlight reflecting off the green foliage. My vision has decreased and it appears like to lush grotto has grown into a creepy bog just waiting for the fog to roll in. Then old man in overalls and no front teeth appears telling me to beware of the night crawler. I carry on and can’t resist searching for “Creekside Trickle”, but lack of light forces me to abort my search quickly. Sun has set and darkness engulfs the grotto. Previous night caching trips have reassured me that I am fine. Sometimes I wonder if we have been trained as kids to be afraid of the dark or is it a natural instinct. I got less than a mile to go and it’s still an enjoyable trip. If I had some camping gear it would be a kick to camp back here by the falls. I know it’s not allowed, but it’s just a thought. Joyfully, I walk-run down the trail towards my car.
Eventually I make it back safe and sound. It’s 55 degrees. Bouncing back out of the canyon and into cell reception. At 8:15pm I called my milestone find into my family, friends, co-worker, and “The Podcaster”.
I was just kidding about the old man. It just made the story sound better. I’m just not sure about the night crawler. That character may still be out there. One more stat, this is the longest log I have written.