15 April 2008
When we moved to Salem back in July, one of the few things I knew about it was its proximity to the entire spectrum of geography. You can literally be at the mountains or the beach in an hour and a half, and in the high desert in another hour. This past weekend, I did both sand and snow in 24 hours!
Saturday we got up early to head over to Lincoln City for the Community Days geocaching event. We got started about 8:30 and by 10 AM we were in the community center parking lot. Lincoln City is one of the most geocaching friendly towns you’ll ever meet, due in large part to the efforts of Parks and Recs Supervisor BostonMangum. On this day, he hosted a Geocaching 101 class from 10 to 12, then a three hour “Tour de Lincoln City” with a list of about 20 virtual stops to visit, most of which were near physical caches, where participants had to collect quiz answers in order to earn the event coin. Lincoln City also has a separate coin challenge, which can be earned anytime by visiting twenty specific LC caches to earn the coin on the link page.
The day started off with a surprise. As soon as I got out of the van, this fella I didn’t recognize walks up and says “Hi, Steve.” You know what that’s like. Someone obviously knows you, but you can’t remember their name! That’s why Baptists call each other “Brother” and “Sister,” we can’t remember each other’s names!
So anyway, I reply and start looking for clues as to who this dude is. Obviously a geocacher…hmmm…t-shirt says “Stop picturing me naked.” “Jim?” Holy Smokes! “Geogold!" With no beard and short hair!!
After the shock wore off and we decided to forego the GC 101 class in favor of hunting these things, we picked up our “passport” and headed out. By this time, our friends The Kensquaches and BeaverBeliever had arrived, and we began planning how to tackle these challenges. The first two were within walking distance of the community center; one beside the building and another across the parking lot at the huge Abraham Lincoln statue. Apparently, Ole Abe was offered the governorship of the Oregon Territory but declined. He must have been pretty nice about the rejection, because they named the city after him anyway!
With those two down, we tore out of the parking lot to find as many of the caches as we could before 12. Ever been “speed caching?” It’s interesting! It’s sort of a cross between Dave Ulmer and Joie Chitwood! Don’t take your eyes of that white Avalanche, or you might hit it! And when you arrive at the site, GET OUT OF THE VAN IMMEDIATELY if you want to actually “see” the cache, or they’ll have it found, signed, replaced, and be driving away before you set the parking brake! They had already found many of the caches on the list, but had to go back to get the “code word” to earn the coin.
We found about 7 or 8 before lunch, including one near a HUGE tree! We don’t have trees like this back in West Tennessee! It must have been 10 feet across. But we’re speed caching, so it’s run to the cache, ooolookitthebigtree, run back to the van!
We got back to the event a little after noon and discovered that the remainder of the event was to be spent out finding the caches! So we split with the Squaches for lunch and made plans to hook back up later. We had to be back by 3PM to claim our event coins, so we set off at a feverish pace. I forgot to mention the weather. This is the Oregon coast…in April. Standard fare would be windy…rainy…about 40 degrees…and deserted. Today, it was sunny, 65 degrees, light breeze, not a cloud in the sky, and everybody and their brother was in town! Made finding a couple of these caches interesting. At Taft Waterfront, we must have circled the parking lot a dozen times, just trying to find a parking place!
At some point we figured out that we had to have the event answers by 3, but could get the challenge coin anytime, so we concentrated on those answers, got our coin, then backtracked a little to get the remaining 5 or so caches. We visited the beach for a little while, at extremely low tide, which revealed some normally underwater treasures like the several huge starfish in this photo! We stopped at “Kids and Seniors” and let the kids play a little while we ate a bite and I grabbed the cache. Then we went to our last required cache, and maybe my favorite of the day: Sand Point. It is a secluded little 50 foot by 15 foot stretch of sand on the east side of Devil’s Lake, pictured in the first pic of this post. We got there about 5, and it’s the kind of place you could just sit for hours in the quiet and let the sun go down! On the way out, we stopped and picked up a flyer for a non-descript little 1,500sqft house on the road leading to Sand Point. Drop this same house in Memphis and you might get $100K for it. It’s only special feature was a small stretch of lake access with a rudimentary “dock” (which looked like two pieces of plywood on some large Styrofoam blocks). The asking price? REDUCED…to $600,000!!!!
On the way back to Salem, we stopped at “ProntoPups,” a little diner in Otis, Oregon that serves…you guessed it, Prontopups!
No, not THAT Prontopup,
Now, any good southerner is going to knows Prontopups, but I was stunned to learn that this little establishment is NOT a transplanted franchise, these things were invented right here in Oregon! That’s right, this little bit of deep fried crunchy goodness is NOT a southern invention. I thought we were the purveyors of all things deep fried! I was positively mortified when I found out that deep fried Twinkies were invented in (cue Pace Picante Sauce commercial) NEW YORK CITY!?!? Anyway, back to the pups, I can verify that they are authentic, crunchy, and entirely devourable; you can almost feel your arteries clog!
We stopped at a couple more caches on the way back home, including one 30 feet up in a tree that I decided to leave for another day, and made it back home about 8:30. A twelve hour day that we’ll remember for a long time!
And that was just Saturday!
On Sunday, after church, I met up with Ken to head east, specifically to hunt Lavascaler XXXL. It was a rare combination of difficulty and terrain that both of us needed for the Oregon Fizzy Challenge. An hour and a half drive later, we’d gone from sea level to 4,800 at Santiam Pass in the Cascades. On the way, Ken pointed out a cache that he had already found and was kind enough to let me stop to get it. Actually, I think he just wanted a cigarette, but I got a smiley, so it’s all good! I “rescued” a travel bug that I was sure had been sitting in this remote cache for ages, only to find out that our good friend Salmondan had just left it there yesterday!
We arrived at the side of the road parking for the cache and quickly sized up the situation, or so we thought! The pass is clear…on the road. There’s still snow on the lava fields. I’m in jeans and tennis shoes, Ken at least has boots, with cute neon blue laces, I might add. But we’re here, we drove a long way, and we need this for our fizzy, so we ain’t giving up without trying. Let me interject here that this was NOT the dumbest thing I’ve ever done…but that’s kind of a sad statement when you think about it!
We headed off into the snow and quickly found it to be ankle deep…then knee deep, then deep enough to sink my 5 foot walking stick!! Ken’s about 6’9” and 375lbs, so he was sinking even deeper than I was! But we’re here, we need this, yada yada. I spot a trail that someone (who didn’t log a DNF) had made recently, so I tried to follow it. By stepping in his (her?)partially compacted boot prints, I managed to never sink past my waist! 700 feet later, I get to what seems by my GPS to be ground zero and start an arduous search. If you’ve never been in terrain like this, the snow melts at the bases of the large trees, creating icy funnels around them. I climbed in and out of these things looking for telltale rocks or parallel sticks covering an average size container. Finally, I decided to use my cell phone to check the cache page to see what kind of container I’m looking for and check the hint. “A 55 GALLON DRUM?!?!?!?” You gotta be #%@#%me!! Alas, this means that it is definitely UNDER to snow, and now, after looking at the pictures from the last finders in October, I’m not even sure I was looking in the right spot. With frozen, soggy feet, discretion finally won out and I headed back, meeting Ken about halfway back to the road. After an arduous 10 or 15 minutes, I could see the road and started just sloggin through the snow, determined to get out as fast as possible, not caring about sinking anymore. I finally reached the last two steps before reaching the mound of piled up lava rocks at the edge of the road. I could see that the snow was only about a foot deep at the last step. Unfortunately, the NEXT to the last step was about four feet deep! I stepped with my left leg and sunk immediately. My right leg, which includes my previously reported injured right knee, did NOT sink! It folded! In half! My knee almost hit me in the chin! See, this knee brace I have prevent hyperextension, not hyperflexion. I howled in pain and flopped backwards, trying to straighten my knee to relieve the pressure as quickly as possible! After a few moments, I realized it hurt, but was not re-injured, and angrily clambered out of the snow.
A few minutes later, Ken arrived back at the roadside, and it’s a good thing to, because if he hadn’t been able to get out of the snow, about all I could have done for him is mark a waypoint for the rescue team to recover the body! We sat for a few minutes on the tailgate of my truck, letting out feet thaw in the sun and out socks dry on my bedrails! I could literally pour water out of my shoes!
Since we were already up there, we tried for another difficult terrain cache relatively nearby. It was one of those where you have to drive 5 miles of gravel road to get to the other side of a ravine to get a cache 300 feet away. Up and up we travelled, about downed trees that thankfully had been at least sawed in half. About two miles in, though, we hit deep snow, and had to turn around and head back. Now four hours into our hunt, and we hadn’t found a thing (except the one Ken gave me on the way here)!
We spent the next 3 hours heading back toward Salem, picking off a few caches that just happened to get in our way. We stopped by one of Ken’s caches in a cemetery, which was a Letterbox Hybrid (meaning it had a stamp in it like a letterbox). The key word in parentheses is HAD a stamp, as it was apparently gone. It had been glued to the lid. Folks, if it is permanently attached, IT”S NOT A TRADE ITEM!! “Oooo, look! A stamp glued to the lid! I think I’ll pry it loose and trade a marble for it!!”
There were a couple of others on the way home, but nothing could top those, both the finds and the no-finds! In two days, I’d gone west and hour and a half to the beach, and east an hour and a half to wade in 5-7 feet of snow! Gotta love a place like that!