The day finally arrived. A group of geocachers who had solved the puzzle portion met up at 8AM on the morning of June 3 to find the physical 5/5 (hardest difficulty/terrain rating) cache in our area. I wanted it to be my 100th find.
Coming back from a friend’s son’s birthday party with our kids, Sue & I scheduled a stop on the way home to rent a canoe. I had emailed Dianne at Nashoba Paddler a few weeks ago to see if I needed to reserve a canoe. She was very helpful and let me know that one would be available. It had rained most of the day on June 2, but it was clearing up as we approached Groton. Five minutes before we pulled in to Nashoba Paddler, a downpour hit. Dianne was incredibly helpful in getting the canoe on our car in the monsoon and giving us a few tips on how to avoid capsizing (I don’t think we inspired much confidence). I can’t say enough good things about the business.
Rain was forecast for Sunday, but except for a few early drizzles, it cleared up nicely. We met up with 11 other cachers from the area to attack this together. It was great to put faces to names of the most prolific cachers (some have over 3000 logged geocaches) I seem to always see in the logs we find. 5/5 caches are tough, and the extra eyes and brains would come in helpful. Plus, the river was flowing pretty good, so we got a little safety benefit too.
My family of four in our canoe looked ugly, I’m sure, getting the hang of padding in such a swiftly flowing current. There was much zig-zagging across the river and colliding with the banks early on. We got better as the morning progressed.
Based on the existing logs on the geocaching web site, we were able to determine there were at least 5 waypoints. The first waypoint was on dry land, so Sue and I went up to Pepperell during lunch a few weeks ago to find it. Our GPSr got us very close, and I noticed a feature of landscape I had seen before. Investigating further, surrounded by mosquitoes, we were able to come up with the offset coordinates from waypoint #1 in less than 5 minutes. Cool.
When we showed up Sunday, we has also determined that the second waypoint was upriver. In fact, we had scoped it out during our first Pepperell visit, but couldn’t get to it, due to the river being in our way. Going upriver was tough; it had a good current going from the inch of rain the prior day. Struggling to stay in a vaguely straight line, we were the last to arrive in our canoe at the next waypoint. It had been found by the time we finally “anchored” into some trees. It was important to grab onto trees along the bank while searching, or the current would pull you downriver. But the nature of a geocaching group is that you share the info. So, feeling a bit down that we hadn’t helped, we moved on to the next waypoint.
Again, from previous logs, we had determined the next waypoint cache would be above us somewhere on the river. We kept up with the group this time and were among the first to arrive. We got lucky this time. Where we had anchored gave Sue a perfect view of the next coordinates. The high river made it a different find than it otherwise may have been. The same was true of the next few waypoints — we were able to get into some tight places in our boats that normally I would think you’d have to slog your way through in marshy ankle-deep water.
On to the next waypoint, we were last to arrive (we had come close to tipping, taking on a bit of water when we lurched to the side trying to avoid a fallen tree), but got lucky again. Three boats had already passed where we finally anchored. As we waited to hear of the clue discovery, I noticed a small artificial looking item amongst the plants on the bank. Pulling up closer, sure enough, there was some writing on it. We got to read off numbers again while everyone jotted them down and did the math to find the next location.
Eventually, we got to the final geocache location. I put my first Travel Bug into the container hidden there. It may not be “found” for another year. I don’t want to give too many details away, but on my way to finding this puzzle cache, I ended up solving complex ciphers, paddling over two miles, climbing trees, floating through saw grass, avoiding fallen trees in the river, and bushwhacking through small streams and foot-deep mud. It was a great experience to see what it takes to log a 5/5 cache.