A blog about the adventures I have whilst finding geocaches. Don't worry, there are no spoilers as I wouldn't want to ruin the fun for anyone else. I go by the cacher name Miss Chief and I've been geocaching since 18th May 2014.
I was coming up to my 400th find and wanted a cache that would be memorable. On numerous occasions, various cachers have told me about a night cache called Zombie (GC2A3MP) and they all say the same... it is a must do. I have to agree; the puzzle element is very well put together and is difficult without being unsolvable. The physical part, although in need of a little maintenance - up to 30 fire tacks? We came across about ten - was still an enjoyable adventure.
As this was a milestone cache for me, I wanted to be a little creative with the log which - unsurprisingly - was a little too long for the Geocaching website and so I have made it into a blog post. Enjoy ;D
"Legend has it that lurking in the woods in a place called Croxley, is a man guarding a terrible secret. At least, he used to be a man until others greed and hunger for profit and power forced him to make a tremendous sacrifice. Tales of geocachers going missing in search of this tortured, soulless being are whispered in country pubs all over the Home Counties at Geocaching events. It was at one such get-together that I first encountered utterings of the tale of Dr. Elgin and discovered the existence of his journal. My curiosity piqued; I took it upon myself to investigate this story further.
Progress was slow at first; there is such secrecy surrounding what happened five years ago at Croxley Biomedical Research Facilities that distinguishing fact from fiction was proving to be a challenge. One thing I knew for certain though was that Elgin's Journal held the key to everything; I just had to gain access to it.
For many nights, I worked on the diaries, unlocking it piece by piece. I had mixed feelings as the story unfolded in front of me ranging from anger to empathy and then to doubt. Harbinger's zealous pursuit for riches led all those connected to the project down a devastating path of destruction. Was I being arrogant too? Was my thirst for the truth leading me down an equally dangerous path?
It was late one night when I uncovered the final piece of the puzzle. This was of little comfort however as I sat in a dark room with nothing but the glow of the laptop for light. What started out as a mere need to satisfy my curiosity had become an obligation, a duty, to protect all that Dr. Elgin has sacrificed himself for. I'm just a geocacher though, with only 399 finds to my name, what were my chances of survival against the undead?
Going alone to find Elgin would have been suicide so at a recent geocaching event I recruited a few other cachers to join me on my mission. They needed some guidance with the journal which I was happy to provide. After all, it was essential that they read it so as to understand the gravity of the task at hand. Nobody could go into this blind; too many lives were at stake.
Today was the day. Today I would help keep humanity a little safer for a little longer. All the necessary preparations had been done, a rendezvous time was set, we would reach the coordinates stated in the journal just after sunset. I tried to carry on as normal during the day and not think about the horrors that awaited us this evening but it was futile. The prospect that I may end up as Elgin's next meal was unsettling to say the least. The relentless rain hammering on the windows that day intensified the inauspicious feelings growing in my gut.
The rain had stopped by the time we got to Croxley. Whether or not this would turn out to be a good omen or not was yet to be seen. The woods were dark and unwelcoming; the mud thick beneath our feet. The fingers of tree branches dripped water like blood that spattered on our heads and for a moment I questioned the sanity of what we were about to do. Then I remembered that the future of mankind was at stake, secrecy about the project must remain intact. We were here to ensure that nobody had discovered Elgin or any of his work, just as other geocachers had done before us and many would do after us.
Negotiating our way through the woods proved to be problematic because there was no clear path for us to follow as promised. According to the stories, there should have been a "breadcrumb" trail left by Elgin to show the way but it appears that time has devoured them. Fearing that we were going round in circles, we retraced our steps to where we started. I called a friend, codename Smokeypugs, as I knew that they had undertaken this task before. Though his words were cryptic, his message was clear, we had to persevere in our search for Elgin, we were close, so very close. With a feeling of foreboding, we continued on our quest, still unsure about what we would find so deep in to the woods. And then we got separated.
The journey home was pensive, each of us lost in our own thoughts. I know now that nothing could have prepared us for what we saw that night. The smell, the sound, the sight of a man that once was. It will haunt my nightmares forever more. My encounter with Dr. Elgin invokes feelings of empathy as well as disgust and horror. It is imperative that the world does not learn of his whereabouts; if the virus ever got out it would mean the end of the world as we know it.
I am getting a little concerned now as Nigel's health doesn't seem to be improving…"
When a new cache gets published on Geocaching.com, I don't go rushing out to find it. If you have premium membership to Geocaching.com, you can set it so you receive email notifications when a new cache is published. I have set it up for a radius of only 5 miles from my home location. Even so, I don't tend to go out to claim FTF (First to Find) unless the cache is less than half a mile from my current location... I'm just not that motivated to make the effort. I have been caching for nearly a year now and my FTF count is a grand total of two caches; one found by chance and the other found practically on my doorstep!
Having said that, I do sometimes like to run a search on Project GC- a nifty little site that can perform all sorts of wonderful geocaching tasks for you including profile stats and challenge checkers amongst others - for unfound caches. This last week, I found one such cache that was published on March 10th and had yet to be found. It is a Mystery (aka Puzzle) cache called In the Footsteps of Sgt Palmerby cachers bill&ben. As I perused the cache page, I felt I had a good chance of getting FTF on this one even though it was 20 miles away from home so started work on solving over the coming week.
I failed to get FTF, I was so very close but was beaten to it at the last minute. For a brief moment, I was a little gutted when I got the notification that someone else had found it... who wouldn't be? The epic adventure I had finding this cache totally made up for it though.
The log that I wanted to post for this cache was too long so have decided to post it here instead and is as follows:
Mission debrief by Agent K
Monday Access to PGC is possible again after Pi Day fiasco. Have performed a search for incomplete missions. Will start work on following Sgt Palmer's footsteps soon. No other agents have found it yet and it's been out for a while, so haste is needed.
Thursday It took a lot of patience but after identifying the cypher in the video, I painstakingly wrote it down and decrypted it. Now awaiting confirmation that I have the correct coords. Still, no other agents have completed this mission. Am monitoring the situation carefully.
Friday Morning - Received email confirming I have coordinates correct. Today is the day. A quick check of my field kit and I can set off.
Midday - Arrived in WGC, I am unfamiliar with the area however my GPSr has adequate maps and the mobile network coverage is good enough that I didn't need to find a wifi hotspot. It's a bright sunny day, wishing I had left my big coat in the car now as I am starting to get hot. The coords have led me to a beautiful area of WGC but there are civilians everywhere out enjoying the warm weather. Fortunately, there's nobody at the coords so I make contact with Commander Ross and await further instruction.
Early afternoon - I have arrived at the next location but had an encounter with a man in a wheelchair on the way here that delayed me slightly. At first I thought it may have been an enemy agent when he stopped me in the street, however he just wanted to tell me how beautiful I was and that my smile had made his day. After a few minutes, he let me on my way and I continued on to gather the information needed to find the next location.
Mid afternoon - I'm feeling pretty hopeless now. I may not complete my FTF mission. I went wrong with the numbers; the location I derived from them was clearly incorrect, they took me to a stable yard. I have returned to the bus station and am sitting on a bench awaiting back up. I sent a message to HQ on my way back here to double-check my numbers; the reply confirmed my suspicions... I only had two correct numbers.
Late afternoon - Agent N has arrived which has given me renewed optimism. We make a great team so hopefully we can solve this. We are going to visit a couple of nearby locations to go over the numbers and will then go for dinner at a nearby Indian restaurant where we can reassess the information.
Evening - By the time dinner had finished we had some likely coords put together. We messaged HQ for confirmation however, time was of the essence so we headed out without it. We had yet to receive a reply when we got to the coords, although as we scouted the area, it soon became clear that this was not the correct place either. Have decided to head home and try again tomorrow.
Morning - No notification yet that any agents have intercepted the cache. I have received a message from HQ confirming all but two of our numbers are correct. More frustrating however, is that I have to go to my day job today. It is important to maintain my cover. I will rendezvous with Agent N at 18:00hrs when we will head back out to WGC. Agent N has worked on the numbers today, we are feeling confident.
Evening - Rendezvous aborted for now. I received notification half an hour before I finished work that the cache had been located by other agents. Fortunately they are friendlies so the cache is still safe. They have left a TB to be moved on. Our mission is still active though but there is less urgency now.
Morning - We were feeling "Chirpy" this morning. The coords that Agent N had derived yesterday looked good on the satellite images so we headed out to search for our next instructions. It was another beautiful day with the sun shining and few clouds in the sky. We found parking near the coords and also found many civilians in the area, these were mainly dog walkers, cyclists and horse riders. Stealth would definitely be needed if we weren't to compromise the cache location. The GPSr picked up the info needed for the final location; a surge of excitement and relief went through me. When we got to GZ, we had to wait for a few dog walkers and a jogger to pass before we started our search. Coast clear, we soon found the location of the cache. We took it away from GZ to open as more civilians were coming into sight; could not risk this falling into enemy hands. We left our mark and took the TB left by Ed2Ed.
This was most definitely a challenging mission and is not one to be undertaken lightly. It requires patience, tenacity and stealth. Enemies may lurk at every corner. Thank you bill&ben at HQ for your assistance whilst I was in the field, it was greatly appreciated. I will mark this cache with a FP and urge all friendly agents to accept this mission if they can.
I don't like walking without a purpose, I get bored of that quickly. That's one of the reasons I love geocaching. I could quite happily walk for miles to find a geocache. Everyone has their own reasons for getting outside and finding hides; it might be to find as many as possible, to complete the Alphanumeric Challenge, to claim the coveted title of FTF or one of many other personal goals. For me it is all about the adventure.
The majority of caches out there are relatively easy to find and are run of the mill. Don't get me wrong though, I appreciate every single one of those hides and fully understand the time and effort that goes into them. My own two caches are of the 'run of the mill' type. Each one has its own merits and each one is special in some way.
There are cache owners out there however that go completely above and beyond, some would say insanely so, but they do it in spectacular fashion.
Our mission last weekend was to find one of these "extreme" caches. These types of caches have cropped up in conversation many times when we talk to fellow cachers at events so our 'to do' list is steadily growing. Are You Afraid Of The Dark? is the cache that we had heard most about, so this is the one we decided to undertake. Seeing as it would be quite a drive to get there, we spent the night before looking for caches in the same area.
Sunday came round and we set off for Hoddesdon where today's adventure would start. We began with a small circuit of caches set in the woods consisting of eight traditionals and a multi bonus called HPW. Then we went into Hoddesdon itself to pick up a few in that area. The were all easy finds and served as a warm up for the more difficult ones later on.
So far so good. We had found eleven traditionals, a multi, a Travel Bug and a Geocoin. We were on a roll.
"So what's the next one?" asked Nige as we got to the car.
"A small series called 'Off Yer Trolley'. Seems simple enough, the first is a cache and dash in a supermarket car park. How hard can that be?" I replied.
As we arrived at GZ, we realised that this would be challenging to say the least, but I thought I'd give it a go anyway. Nige parked up, I jumped out of the car and headed to where my GPSr said the cache was just as a car parked up in the space next to it. I looked back at Nige, he just sat in the car laughing at me. I tried my best to have a look around but my attempt at being stealthy just made it look like I was checking cars out to boost! So before security was called on my suspicious behaviour, I ran back to the car. This was our first DNF of the day. We decided against the other two caches in that series, figuring we would encounter the same problem. Not to worry though as, we still had a church micro, a traditional and the main event to go for.
The traditional and the church micro were found without a fuss so we headed for our final cache of the day. Before continuing, I should tell you a little about the things that scare me. The list is quite short as I am not phased by an awful lot. My biggest fears are planes, dentists and spiders. So on with the cache, Are you afraid of the Dark.
We found a parking spot across the road from where we were told to start this cache. Crossing the road we found a gap in the bushes and ducked through. We had high expectations of this cache and as we climbed down to the tunnel entrance we were not disappointed. I shone my torch inside and the beam was swallowed by the darkness. As I stood in front of this pitch black tunnel, it suddenly occurred to me that this is exactly the sort of place that spiders like to call 'Home, Sweet Home'. I was here now so I just had to suck it up.
In we went. I led the way. We had heard from others that the tunnel has water running through it sometimes, but not today, it was just very slippery. Being a shorty, I had the advantage over Nigel and could walk through without stooping. On the downside, I was practically doing the splits trying to straddle the uneven brickwork on the ground. I shone my torch above me and that's when I saw Them. So many different types of spiders. On the walls, in the pipes, potentially on me! From that point on, I concentrated the beam of the torch at my feet. With logic that only makes sense to me, I figured that if I couldn't see Them then they weren't really there.
Sunlight had disappeared behind us and there was no sign of it ahead. I had no concept of how far we had travelled through the tunnel, it seemed never ending though. We stopped for a brief second and turned the torches off. The darkness was absolute. I don't have a problem with the dark and for a moment I forgot what was living in this tunnel.
We continued making steady progress and it wasn't long before we saw the end of the tunnel ahead. We emerged into the sunshine and I gave myself a mental high five for not freaking out about the spiders.
'I used to be a kickboxer. One of you hairy little suckers touches me and I'll slam you into next week!' I thought as I headed back into the tunnel. I lead the way again but this time I actually had to look for the cache which meant shining my torch on the walls and ceiling. This seemed to highlight every single spider in the tunnel. Every nook and cranny I looked in seemed to house a spider and they seemed to be getting bigger and uglier the further we went in. After a few sweeps of the torch, something caught my eye.
"It's here!" I shouted trying to contain the urge to jump up and down, thus cracking my head on the ceiling "you can retrieve it though cos I ain't touching it!".
I took a few steps back in case removing the cache from it's home unleashed an arachnid avalanche on my head. We signed the log and took the time to replace the container exactly as we had found it. It was time to head back up the tunnel. Nigel turned to me and asked
"What would you do if a velociraptor came up the tunnel right now?"
Yes, we have some strange conversations sometimes, but it's wise to have a plan for all types of eventualities. Before I could answer, however, we heard the cry of an animal. Now, I'm pretty sure it was a horse, but I wasn't leaving anything to chance and started back up the tunnel post haste... With Nigel behind me of course!
We finally emerged from the tunnel, triumphant and elated. We had done it! This cache took us to a new level of geocaching that we had yet to experience and straight away we started discussing the next one to go after.
A big thank you has to go to the cache owners, Noztradamus and JackNano, for taking the time and effort to hide this amazing cache. This is certainly one that we will not be forgetting any time soon and will definitely be recommending it to everyone.
'Tis the season when many a fair-weather geocacher packs away their GPSr for the winter, the inboxes of cache owners get a well deserved break as logs on hides begin to dwindle and everyone begins to get ready for the onslaught of Christmas. Only the hardiest of cachers will venture out at this time of year and, as I have discovered myself, this can be a magical time for geocaching adventurers.
I haven't blogged for a while as I have been busy as of late; demand for my time has been divided amongst family and friends, work, the forthcoming festivities and an ageing dog. However, I have made time for a little caching where I can, whether it be solving puzzle caches, finding caches or attending events. I won't bore you with all the details though, instead I shall tell you about a few of the highlights.
Before I do though, if I don't get the chance to blog between now and next year I hope you all have a...
Zreel Puevfgznf naq n Unccl Arj Lrne! *
All For a Good Clause
The most recent event Nige and I attended was BBH#84 ~In spitting distance of all 3 counties, held at the Red Lion pub in Dagnall, Hertfordshire. We had a great time at the event catching up with some (now) familiar faces and meeting some new ones. We have been to a few BBH events now but this was - so far- the most fun one we have been to. Alibags did an amazing job of organising this event and it was, as is usual for any BBH event, very well attended.
Of course, there was plenty of talk of geocaching but also the event organiser had put together a few games of pass-the-parcel, something that many of us have not played since we were children. Prizes included boxes of chocolates and the coordinates of a yet-to-be-published geocache, the winner of which would be able to claim the coveted title of FTF.
This event was not only special because it was the last BBH event before Christmas and New Year, but also because a fellow cacher called IB Searching - who is the first geocaching friend I made - was there with a mission to raise some money for charity. Before I tell you how he was going to achieve this let me show you a picture of him...
That's a mighty impressive crumb catcher he has there.
"Following numerous queries about when I'm going to have a shave, I have decided that it is time that my 'Santa's Whiskers', as someone dubbed them, come off" said IB Searching and he would be doing it "in aid of The Brainstrust Charity."
The pub wouldn't allow the beard to come off inside the premises - which is understandable as it is a food establishment - so we all bundled outside to strip Santa of his beard.
The transformation was remarkable and fortunately not a drop of blood was spilt as nearly everyone had a go at chopping bits off.
With the face fur gone, we retreated back to the warmth and our drinks to continue the party. Everyone dug deep that evening and a lot of money was raised for charity, so congratulations to IB Searching, I'm guessing a scarf is high on his Christmas wish list now though.
If you would like to know more about Brainstrust then please follow this link. If you are feeling generous and would like to help IB Searching's fundraising attempt then please click here.
If you would like to see how we mutilated Santa, then there is video evidence!
Santa gets a shave! - YouTube
Like I said earlier, I haven't been out caching as much as I would have liked to over the past few months. With the shorter days, I have found it better to go out and find single caches here and there rather than the trails that we were doing in the summer months. Although the cold weather can easily dissuade me from going outside, I have found that the different sights and colours that Mother Nature can paint at this time of year make it all worth it.
It was late afternoon when Nige and I arrived in Woburn, Bedfordshire to find a multi cache called "Dear Abi" located on the stately grounds of Woburn Abbey. We parked in the free car park as suggested and started our walk up towards the Abbey and Gardens. We have visited the Abbey before but have only ever driven through the surrounding parts until that day.
We got to the ticket booth and as we were unsure whether the hunt for the cache would take us away from the "free" footpaths, we paid a small fee to gain entry. It was only later that we realised that you only need to pay to gain access to the Abbey gardens and the tea shop, neither of which we had the time to visit after finding the cache.
As we walked around, the sun was beginning to go down. It didn't take us long to find the first stage of this multi. The going was very muddy in places but the views were amazing and I got some great photos of the deer. We couldn't believe how many of them there were.
When we approached GZ of the final stage, there was a moment when we thought we weren't going to be able to get to it as there was a huge herd of deer right where we wanted to look. We waited for a while and eventually they moved on.
At this point my GPSr began to play up (turns out the batteries were beginning to die) so we had a little difficulty finding the cache. There were only a few possible locations to hide a cache though so we spread out and, using the hint, found the cache in the end. We had a wonderful time finding this cache, it is such a beautiful area and it was great to see all the deer up close. We even saw some reindeer which only served to remind how fast the festive season had crept up on us!
It wouldn't be Christmas for us without a trip to London. This year had the added bonus that I was now a geocacher! Despite my best intentions though - pocket query of a thousand caches downloaded, a few puzzles solved and a couple of select caches as recommended by some fellow cachers - I managed to find a grand total of two! And not even very good ones at that! Ah well, there is always next year. I managed to snap some good photos though and it's always fun to visit Hyde Park at Christmas.
A couple of weekends ago, Nigel and I attended our first Mega-Event Cache and with it came a few more firsts for us that weekend. The 25th October saw us heading off to Wakerley Great Wood near Corby for the annual Halloween Mega 2014. A Mega-Event Cache is an Event Cache that is attended by 500+ people. This year, 1,339 adults and children descended on Wakerley Great Woods for a day of "Creepy Caches & Halloween Hides" and with over four and a half thousand favourite points given to the various caches by attendees, I think it is safe to say that everyone had a mega time that weekend.
With a potential 64 caches to find during the event, Nige and I were set to break our record for "most finds in a day". Okay, so this wasn't going to be a difficult record to break - our previous total was only seventeen - and the caches themselves were not going to be difficult hides, but we still found it a challenge. Not including the event itself, we found and logged 61 caches that day including 10 lab caches, a letterbox cache, an earthcache, a mystery cache and a multi cache!
It took us twelve hours and about fifteen miles of walking. I got covered in mud, I busted my knee, and I managed to smack my head pretty hard on a branch in the dark, mainly because of my stupid decision to wear this during the evening:
At first it seemed like the Best Costume in the World Ever until we ventured out into the dark forest; I found that I couldn't see a damned thing and kept standing on my beard when ducking under branches. Despite all that we had an amazing weekend.
I nicknamed this little chap Bones
Attending an event of this magnitude shows just how diverse the geocaching population is. Young or old, two-legged humans or four-legged canines, alive or undead... we met them all. As we walked around from cache to cache, we kept bumping into people we had only just met that day and by the evening our brief "Howdies" to these strangers evolved into friendly banter and conversations of shared experiences. There was a sense of camaraderie that you rarely get at large events outside the geocaching world.
Everyone was so friendly; we had help from and gave help to many people throughout the day. We joined up with a group of zombies to help them solve the mystery cache, they were the slow moving George A. Romero kind though and we were on a mission so left them behind after a while. We had help from another group of cachers to find the multi cache and we worked together with others on the lab caches.
Heroic moment of the whole day though goes to Nigel and another man (whose name I didn't get). We were blessed with fantastic weather that day, being October I was expecting it to be either raining and/or cold, but within the woods the temperature was moderate enough that we didn't really need our jackets. However, the preceding week had been a bit of a wet one which transformed the area into swamp-like conditions that even Shrek would refuse to inhabit.
"You've got to be kidding!"
We had met a few people at the event that day that were in wheelchairs and mobility scooters and, all credit to them, they were getting about the woods remarkably well considering. However, conditions were anything but improving as darkness descended. We were walking along a particularly sloppy footpath when we heard a bit of a commotion behind us. We looked back to see a group of cachers that we had met earlier in the day. One of them was a lady in a mobility scooter, except it wasn't so mobile at the moment, it was wheel spinning in the mud and leaning precariously to one side. Just as the woman was about to receive a complementary Wakerley Wood face pack, Nigel and the unnamed man leapt into action through shin high mud and guided scooter and rider to sturdier ground!
Now onto the caches. Every single one of the unique cache containers were an amazing find and the organisers of the event, The Halloween Crew, deserve every single favourite point and then some for the effort they put into them all. There are too many to write about here so I shall just tell you about my favourite day and night caches from the event.
Spitting Sid - day cache. It was approaching dinner time for me when we came across this cache so I didn't pay much attention to the name of it. Ground Zero was slightly of the beaten track, as were most of the caches throughout the day.
In my excitement at finding the container to be an ammo can - it's always a bit special to find one of these in the field - I rushed to open it up only for Spitting Sid to live up to his name! There was a mechanism inside the box that when opened caused Sid to squirt water right at his unsuspecting victim. Much to Nigel's amusement, I not only got wet retrieving the log but stupidly got another soaking putting it back!
This was the last of the day caches that we found. Whoever created this beautifully gruesome piece of brilliance has a twisted mind! I loved it! It's probably a good thing that all the caches were replaced with Tupperware containers at midnight; can you imagine coming across this whilst in the woods out on your own? You wouldn't want to stick around for long that's for sure. The log book accompanying this creepy little dude was concealed in his cup. Fortunately, this one had no nasty surprises when you opened it up.
This was my second favourite cache of the whole day. A cache with a shocking twist! - I'm sorry, that was a terrible joke. This genius piece of engineering was far from terrible though. There was a box on the side of the chair that contained the log book. When opened, the chair started to 'charge up' and everyone nearby took a nervous step backwards. As the sound reached it's crescendo the poor soul in the chair began shaking violently and lit up like a lantern!
Even though this cache has made an appearance at previous Halloween Megas, it still remains a firm favourite amongst event goers.
As with most of the caches we seeked out during the day, there was a small crowd of cachers surrounding this one as we approached. Being small, I could not see what was up ahead, I didn't need to see it though to know that this find was going to be special.
As I wound my way through the gathering of people to get a look at the cache, a chilling sound arose from the darkness ahead. There were gasps and nervous laughter from all around me. I emerged from the crowd, looked up and stood in awe at what I could see above me. About 20 feet up in the trees was a giant spider hanging from it's web. The log book was inside the skull that you can see at the bottom of the photo.
We couldn't see how the sound and movement was activated, we guessed that it was when someone attempted to retrieve the log book. I kind of wish that there had been no other cachers there when we found this one as I bet this would have been super creepy to find on your own.
This was by far the most impressive cache for me at the event, not just for the fact that it was the most monstrously nightmarish hide there, but also because of the time, effort and skill to put something like this together. I have heard that it took about 3 hours just to put it in place!
That is definitely not something you would like to come across in the woods at the dead of night on your own! Except if you're a horror fan like me and think that, although scary, it would be awesome!
The above videos were filmed by Adam of caching trio the3maslankas. Please take a little time to visit his youtube channel by clicking here.
Overall, Nige and I had an amazing weekend, even though we couldn't move the next morning because we ached so much! If you have never been to the Halloween Mega Event before then I urge you to go next year... we definitely will be.