March 18, 2017

Bays Mountain Park and Greater Kingsport

  • 3.35 miles
  • 3:19 duration
  • 726 elevation gain
  • 10 caches found, 2 visited (previously found)

What today lacked in distance, it made up for in terrain and elevation gains. It was a day made up of many short jaunts through the backwoods in search of caches that we wanted to clear off our maps. In fact, several of the caches were hidden by our friend BackWoods Ang, with terrain ratings of 3.5 – 4 (on a scale of 1-5). The numbers you see above are cumulative for the whole day. It was also a day of hunting for caches that have eluded us in the past, or that we have delayed hunting for one reason or another.

I started out the morning attending an organizational meeting of Trail Friends of Bays Mountain Park, a volunteer group that will focus on trail maintenance in the park. Also attending the meeting were caching friends Mrs. Jack of Team CCJ (Dori) and LakeBum (Rob). We are excited about the opportunity to help make the park a fun and safe place for everyone, and to learn the basics of trail maintenance.

After the meeting, Dori and Rob joined me in a short, easy walk to log a cache near the meeting space. We then headed out on a little longer walk down into Dolan Gap so that I could log a multi cache and a puzzle. The multi was one that I had first tackled a little over four years ago. At that time I visited the first stage and got the info needed to find the second. But, when I went into the Gap, the footbridge across the creek was closed for repairs, and I wasn’t able to get to stage two. I’ve meant to come back ever since, but never got around to it.

The puzzle cache is an amazing adventure called Claustrophobia that requires you to climb into a dark hole and search for the coordinates for the cache location. In the dusty, musty crawl space I met up with one of my least favorite creatures, a gnarly looking spider. But, I persevered, found the coords, and emerged victorious and ready to visit the final which is just on the other side of the creek. In drier weather it is possible to rock hop across the creek, but it was flowing high and fast,so we ended up having to hike back up to the bridge so that we could cross there.

While at the bridge, I took the time to stop and take a few photos of the waterfall. Some members of New Cache Order spent a day cleaning it up last year, picking up trash and hauling debris out of the creek. Their efforts make the spot much more photogenic. After we all took a few pictures, Dori left to go do some errands, and Rob and I continued our journey. We made the trek back downstream to log the cache, and then had to hike back up to the road, and then follow it up to the car that was parked in the highest lot. This whole excursion took us a little over an hour and was just under a mile with an elevation gain of approximately 200 feet.

We then drove down the entrance road to a gravel parking area from which we could access three caches. These were ones that we have neglected to visit during prior visits to the park because we are either rushing to begin our adventures, or are tired and ready to go home after a long hike or paddle. We have always just passed them by and vowed to return some day. Today was the day.

This leg of our journey took us off trail and through some very challenging terrain. At one point, we had to detour around a huge area of impenetrable, thorny overgrowth to reach our next cache. On this excursion we also discovered that someone had stolen the cache container at one cache site. Having found this cache in the past, I knew that it was a great container, and I was sad to see that it was gone. I found some strange looking animal bones that we cannot identify on the way to the next cache, and I found an interesting piece of swag in the third that I took with me to turn into a trackable in the future. This leg took us just under an hour, and was a distance of 1.19 miles with an elevation gain of 275 feet.

After finally returning to my car, we drove a little further down the road to park and search for a cache that I first attempted about 2 1/2 years ago. On that day, I had parked beside the road and was looking at my phone in preparation for looking for the cache when a park employee pulled up and told me I couldn’t park there. I abandoned the search, and have never gotten back to look for that cache.

This was another short hike of just over .5 mile, but again through some very steep terrain. The cache was hidden on a very steep hillside overlooking a beautiful little waterfall that looked as if it would be fun to slide down. However, we discovered that the solid rock face of the waterfall was surprisingly “grippy” which allowed us to actually walk up it through the water. After logging this cache, we took some time to just sit and enjoy the beautiful surroundings. This is what geocaching is all about for me: seeing places that I never knew existed.

After returning to the car, we moved it another short distance down the road so that Rob could log a cache that I had found some time ago. It was a short enough walk from the car that I didn’t even bother to track it.

We then left Bays Mountain Park and stopped off at a nearby church so that I could find a cache that I had failed to find in the past. It was located in a cemetery with graves dating back to the late 1800’s. It was sad to see the number of families who had lost multiple young children. One family plot included three children and the grave of the mother who had died just seven days after the youngest child.

We finished up the day by hunting for two more nearby BackWoods Ang caches, and a puzzle cache that Rob had previously solved and found. One of these involved another short, but steep ascent through the woods to the top of a hill overlooking Moreland Drive and John B. Dennis Highway. By this time, my legs were like jelly and ready to call it a day.



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