This is part two of a multi-part retelling of a cache run of epic proportions. Click here to read part one.
The day of departure had arrived. We had agreed on a meeting place and a time of 6pm. Our cache list was finalized and we laid it out to allow one of our group to hit her 800th find milestone at Mingo. Below is the list of caches we set out to find during our trip and the time estimates I had made:
|GC# and Cache name||Estimated arrival||Estimated departure|
|GC3EWXM – Whitch Cemetery Is This?||6:41pm||6:46pm|
|Enter Central Daylight Time|
|GC2D2WM – The Cross!!!!!!||7:40pm||7:45pm|
|GCHWFZ – Great Kaskaskia Dragon||8:29pm||8:34pm|
|GCEBC8 – Firefighters Memorial||11:19pm||11:24pm|
|Gas stop 15 minutes|
|GC20NN1 – Supercache||1:50am||1:55am|
|GC37 – Missouri’s First – Watts Mill||2:18am||2:23am|
|GC698E – Atomic Cannon on I-70 Virtual||4:29am||4:34am|
|GC1W28C – Rimrock Park||4:45am||4:50am|
|GCBB05 – I Like Ike||5:20am||5:25am|
|GC57FC – Cathedral of the Plains||7:13am||7:18am|
|GC30 – Mingo||8:59am||9:10am|
|GCZ230 – The Big Picture||9:53am||9:58am|
|Gas stop 15 minutes|
|Enter Mountain Daylight Time|
|GCQTWK – Thrilla in Manilla||11:48am||11:53am|
|GCND0E – Garden of the Gods Earthcache||1:28pm||1:33pm|
|Multiple Pikes Peak Caches||2:43pm||3:43pm|
|GC8811 – 168 Virtual Cache||4:53pm||4:58pm|
|GC1T2Z9 – KJKlock’s Farewell Seed Cache||5:20pm||5:25pm|
|Gas stop 15 minutes|
|GC2KCRP – LoDo TB & Geocoin Hotel||6:39pm||6:44pm|
|GC32FDE – Odd Boxes||6:52pm||6:57pm|
|GC52E2 – Denver Benchmark||7:05pm||7:10pm|
|GC30C82 – The Geocacher’s Guide to the Galaxy||7:20pm||7:25pm|
|GC2TD8M – Head Case||7:53pm||7:58pm|
|GCHHJY – Northglenn Veterans Memorial||8:23pm||8:28pm|
|GC20V75 – G&K’s Still Lost||9:06pm||9:11pm|
|GCG0E3 – Swetsville Zoo||9:28pm||9:33pm|
|GC1ME6T – Hoodoo Hideout||10:16pm||10:21pm|
|GC946E – Cheyenne GPS Calibration||10:49pm||10:54pm|
|GC6D47 – An Original||11:02pm||11:07pm|
|GC502A – Wyoming Wind||11:30pm||11:35pm|
|GC93C2 – Tri-State Corner||12:46am||12:51am|
|Enter Central Daylight Time|
|Gas stop 15 minutes|
|GCB989 – Where the Handle Meets the Pan||4:35am||4:40am|
|GCKVDB – Saving Private Ryan||6:01am||6:06am|
|GCHRB3 – Amber’s Revenge II||9:40am||9:45am|
|GCB88C – A Song in His Heart||9:55am||10:00am|
|GCP5GZ – You be da’ nose!||10:08am||10:13am|
|GCGJJG – L&C “Chauvin”-Hamburg-McKissock||11:26am||11:31am|
|Gas stop 15 minutes|
|GCE32C – Tom ‘n’ Huck Cache||4:21pm||4:26pm|
|GCA8E6 – Mark Twain||4:32pm||4:37pm|
|Enter Eastern Daylight Time|
As you can see, I went ahead and set some lofty goals for how much time we’d spend at each cache, as well as stops for gas. The caches we chose for this trip ran the gamut of types of hides. We tried to focus mainly on regular and large-sized containers, as well as hides with high Favorite Point counts, an earthcache, virtuals, a letterbox hybrid, and webcam caches. Noticeably absent are LPCs and guard rail hides, although we did end up doing a couple to help pad our numbers, as you will see that things didn’t quite go as planned.
As 6:00pm came and passed, everyone who was scheduled to be at the designated pickup point was there…except the 2 drivers of the minivans, Chutch1035 and his wife. With it being rush hour, on a Friday, we weren’t too concerned at first. Well, some of us weren’t. I was nervous as all get out. Being the one who ultimately set the route for our trip based on the caches we wanted to grab, I knew that each minute we weren’t leaving meant an extra minute was added to our arrival time at the end. As you can see, after factoring in the amount of time it should take to retrieve each cache or take our pictures/answer questions, our trip time had increased from 43 hours to 52.5 hours. Since we were leaving in the late afternoon, we were looking at a late-evening arrival, which would hurt for those of us having to wake up early the next day. But I wasn’t panicking. We already had a contingency to drop caches along the way to make up the time, so as long as we got underway shortly, we shouldn’t be in too bad a shape. Unfortunately things weren’t working out for us in this department. Our rides didn’t make it to our location until almost 7:00. It was like everything was conspiring against us. There was only one person at the rental place working the counter so it was slow as molasses in January. Once they got the vans, one of them was low on fuel so they went to fill-up and noticed on the way there that the brakes were atrocious. When you’re planning on ascending and descending one of the highest peaks in the lower 48-states, good brakes are an absolute must. So they had to return the van to the rental company and get a replacement van, which they thankfully had available. We finally headed out around 7:15, so we really only lost about 75 minutes. “We’ll make it up on the road”, I assured myself.
Our first cache on our journey took us to a secluded cemetery. This was the be the meeting point for the final member of our group, Lucky Chavez. Since they live out this way, it made more sense to just meet them at a cache nearby than to have them drive east for an hour if we’re just going to head back their way anyway. See, we is smart! The GZ was not a long distance from the road, but years of growth had all but completely obscured the cemetery from view and there was a bit of a climb to reach it. As there were so many of us, we decided to let a handful tackle this one while the rest of us got situated and chatted briefly about the road ahead, to save time. About 10 minutes later, with the cache found, we said goodbye to Lucky Chavez’s husband and children, and hit the road….but not before making an unscheduled stop to grab a phone booth cache at the exit onto I-70. You know, why not? It’s just sitting there, waiting to be found….it would be a shame to pass it when it’s so close.
For the first leg of the trip, the occupants for the vans were as follows:
|Van 1||Van 2|
|Amber (Chutch1035’s wife)||Chutch1035|
|Lucky Chavez||The Lawson Family|
While I would have preferred to been all in one vehicle, this was about as even a split as we could make it. None of the vehicles were overloaded and we were able to sit in relative comfort. The trip to the next cache was about 2 hours so we filled that time with idle chit-chat, joke telling, and various conversation. I can’t speak for the other van, but ours was filled with excitement and humor. As the afternoon turned to evening, anxiousness built as we neared our next cache, The Cross!!!!!! (exclamations are the fault of the CO, sorry). For some of us, this is the furthest west we had traveled strictly for caching, so this was something extra special.
Just as twilight was beginning to give into darkness, we arrived at the GZ. I’m not a religious person by any means at all, but I must say that the sight of this massive cross is something to behold. It’s sheer size makes you feel miniscule in it’s presence, and I can only imagine what it must be like to stand in it’s shadow during the day. We made quick work on finding the cache, then huddled for our first group photo.
Unfortunately, not everyone made it into this first shot. The Lawson Family was feeling a bit under the weather at the time, to the point that he almost decided to pull himself out of the trip and head home. We were very concerned for him, but he didn’t want us to fuss too much. We stopped at a gas station nearby to fill-up (yes, we’re early on filling up…the stops listed above were merely estimates), grab some gas station snacks/drinks, and use the restroom. We got some pain reliever into Lawson to hopefully help him out and got back on the road. The next cache was about 45 minutes away, and with night upon us, time was melting away.
The next cache, Great Kaskaskia Dragon, was definitely a favorite of mine. Located across the street from a liquor store, this steel behemoth stands at the corner of a street, menacingly staring at everyone who passes by. The dragon is really cool by itself, but there’s an extra special surprise that hides within it’s bowels that grabbed the pyrotechnic youth in me…
Yes, fire makes everything cooler, and the dark of night really made it pop for the picture. With the picture snapped, we quickly got the log signed and then headed back to our vans, but before we left, an art project began.
By this point we were running about 2.5 hours behind schedule, which I didn’t harp on too much because I didn’t want to stress anyone out, but of course I was a little nervous as the math alone told me that, if we met no obstacles and hit everything that we were scheduled to, we’d be getting home just after 1am Monday morning. But that’s a small price to pay for the fun we were having so I left it at that and onward we went. We stopped in St. Louis at a gas station (Chutch1035 would have you know that it was no ordinary gas station, but a QuikTrip) and it was here I made my big blunder of the trip. I technically hadn’t eaten anything substantial since the morning before we left and since I have a bit of an issue with motion sickness when I ride anywhere but in front, I didn’t want to chance giving myself ammunition, if you know what I mean, so at this point I was only taking in water and ginger root pills to help contain my motion sickness. While I’m happy to report that the pills did the trick, I should note that the 5-Hour Energy I downed with a 1-liter bottle of Mt. Dew without any food whatsoever in my belly was the dumbest thing I could have done. I promised Lucky Chavez I would stay up to be her navigator and this seemed like the best way to do this, but within an hour of this oversight, I was doubled over with some of the worst stomach pain ever. It literally felt like someone was kicking me in my stomach every 5 seconds. It was so bad that I had to wave off grabbing the next several caches and wouldn’t be ready to attempt anything until we were well into Kansas, which is a shame because apparently while attempting to find Supercache the group were chased away by coyotes and they had to grab another cache nearby. And while they were off having a blast, I was laying in the fetal position next to the van…all because someone locked the van up before I had a chance to get back in. So for the next 4 hours of the trip, I tried to get some sort of semblance of rest, hoping that the pain would dull itself. I probably should have tried to eat something to soak up the insane amount of caffeine ravaging my stomach, but for some reason food didn’t sound appetizing at all. It’s a shame that I was trying to be dead to the world because apparently I missed some amazing views:
It was about the time that we reached the Fort Riley area near Junction City, KS that I began to come out of my funk. Luckily, this was the location of a virtual cache, Atomic Cannon on I-70 Virtual. On top of a huge hill overlooking I-70 and Marshall Field across the interstate, this cannon is a reminder of the nuclear arms race and the lengths we went to in order to protect this nation. There was a switchback path up the hill to the top, and I attempted to reach the top with several others, but I only managed to get about 3/4 the way up before the lack of sleep and food reared it’s ugly head and I was forced to turn back around. But those who did make it up there grabbed some breathtaking shots:
As we loaded up to head to our next destination, it was discovered that another cache had been hidden in the park we were at (Freedom Park). DynamicDs grabbed a GPSr and a pen and was there and back within 2 minutes. We then made a quick stop in neighboring Junction City to pick up a Letterbox Hybrid and then made a stop at a gas station so people could freshen up as we were about 4 hours from Mingo at this point. It was here that I mentioned to Chutch1035 that we were seriously behind schedule and that we were now jeopardizing our chances of getting to Pikes Peak. The road to the summit closes at 6pm and, if we kept at our current pace and attempted all the caches we had planned to grab, we would be rolling into Colorado Springs just as they were closing the road. So we decided to skip the next 2 caches and head straight for Mingo. Luckily we only had to skip one, as a gas stop took us to the exit where Cathedral of the Plains was located.
After our stops, there was nothing between us and Mingo but about 39 miles of corn fields and blue sky (pretty much the only things you’ll find in Kansas). Even though we’re all bleary-eyed and looney with lack of sleep, to say we’re excited is an understatement. The past month of planning was about to pay off in a big way.
As you pull up to the GZ, you don’t really get a sense that something historic is nearby. In a nondescript corn field in a nondescript part of western Kansas, it must have looked like a group of people had gone mad, congregating on this dirt-covered access road off of I-70, staring at the ground. But once you near the actual hide, you really start to feel the importance of the cache. We’ve heard and read the stories of the cache that would get muggled every couple hundred finds. The near-archival of the cache after someone thought a dropped bison tube container would be an appropriate-enough hide to keep it going. The actual cementing of the GZ that physically made it impossible to rehide the container the same way it was originally hidden. Just 4 months prior things were looking very grim for this cache, and here we were, standing over it’s hiding place, about to become part of the relatively few to claim that we had found the oldest active geocache in the entire world.
After we had signed the log and took our photos…things got fun. The big inside joke for our group was always that we were going to Mingo not to find it, but to muggle it. Since this thing is muggled so often, we thought it would be in incredibly bad taste to joke about muggling it…don’t judge! So we took a series of pictures and posted them to the Indy Area Geocachers group letting everyone know what we had done.
After all the fun and frivolity had died down, it was time to get serious. We met our initial goal and found (and muggled) Mingo, but that was just the beginning. We still had Pikes Peak to concur, and we were running low on time. It was time to get back on the road.
To be concluded…