February 24, 2018

Boyd Pond

  • ~ 3 miles
  • 3:30 duration
  • Very moderate elevation gain
  • 6 geocaches found (5 different types)
  • plus 2 geocaches found prior to visiting park

We spent this weekend in Aiken, SC visiting family and attending the Heart Show. This was the 40th anniversary of this play, which is written and directed by Deban’s uncle Jim Moore. Proceeds from ticket sales benefit the American Heart Association. This year’s show was called “Airport Blues” featuring Elvis music, and was set in the Memphis airport in 1974.

I had mapped out a plan for my geocaching adventure a few weeks prior to the trip. There was one cache in particular that I wanted to find because it had a difficulty and terrain rating that I needed. I had also solved a handful of puzzles ahead of time, and was planning to cache along a walking trail between Aiken and Augusta, GA.

However, after we arrived on Friday afternoon, as I was talking with family members about geocaching, I pulled up the map on my phone. As I was checking out the area, I noticed a spot on the map that had several different icons signifying different cache types. Looking more closely, I discovered that I could possibly find six different cache types in one day by visiting this location. The most that I had found previously in one day was five different types, so this appealed to me.

I still wanted to log the 4.5/3.5 rated geocache near Augusta, so I headed there first on Saturday morning. I had solved an interesting puzzle to learn the coordinates for this cache, which explained the 4.5 difficulty rating. I wasn’t certain what to expect with a 3.5 terrain rating, but felt it was worth a try. When I arrived I discovered that the cache was only about 25 feet from where I had parked my car with a total elevation gain of about five feet. I have found caches with a terrain rating of two that involved a hike of a couple of miles and bushwhacking up steep hillsides. Of course, it is all up to the discretion of the cache owner, so these ratings can vary widely. There were a lot of thorny bushes that I had to fight my way through, and had it been summer instead of February the heat, humidity and mosquitoes could have been brutal. At any rate, I’m not going to complain because the find helped me mark off a spot on my D/T grid that has been taunting me.

Next, I stopped off to find another puzzle cache on the way back toward Aiken. I had spent two days solving the puzzle for this one – not to learn the coordinates in this case but to learn the code needed to open the cache. I had worked so hard on it I just HAD to stop and log it. It was a great cache called The Daily News. The cache container is an old newspaper box in the woods. The code I had earned by working the puzzle allowed me to open the padlock that secures the cache. Signal the Frog® posed atop the newspaper box for pics. He is such a ham. Once I was back at the car and ready to move on, I realized he wasn’t with me. Retracing my steps, I found him still sitting on the box. Silly frog.

After retrieving my travel companion, I made my way to Boyd Pond, a 210 acre park owned and maintained by Aiken County. The weather was warm and mostly sunny. Spring has already arrived in Aiken, with many of the early-blooming trees already in full bloom.

Parking near the pond, I began my adventure by going to the starting point of a Whereigo. This is an activity that involves following clues that lead you on an interactive tour of a place. Whereigos can be cross-listed on the Geocaching.com website, and have their own icon. It requires you to visit the Whereigo website and download a game cartridge. At each point in the journey, you answer questions about what you see in order to get the next location. At the final location, there is often a physical geocache container.

I had found only one Whereigo previously – hidden by my friends Team CCJ (Tom and Dori) in Bays Mountain Park. I have struggled with learning to download the cartridges, but finally discovered an easy way to do it and wanted to try this cache type again.

This Whereigo tour lead me around Boyd Pond along the nature trail. However, I detoured from the path several times in order to find other geocaches. First was a traditional geocache very near the trail. The second was a Letterbox Hybrid. Letterboxing is another type of treasure hunt the involves using clues to find hidden containers. These boxes typically contain a stamp that you can use to stamp your notebook, and then a log that you can imprint with your own personal stamp. Like Whereigos, Letterboxes can also be cross-posted on Geocaching.com.

I took a rather roundabout route to reach this cache, and at one point may have actually wandered onto private property. I had walked through an open gate in a fence onto a paved road instead of bushwhacking through more thorn bushes. As I walked down this road, I noticed a very large, ornate gate at the end of it and realized it was a private driveway. As soon as possible, I climbed back over the fence and thanked my lucky stars I didn’t get caught trespassing. By this time I was sweating buckets in the summer-like South Carolina heat.

After finding the Letterbox, I returned to the trail of the Whereigo by a more direct (and legal) route. On the opposite side of the pond from where I started, I detoured from my route once again to find another traditional cache. This one was called “Signal Says” and included a field puzzle. Inside the plastic cache container was a wooden box with a picture of Signal the Frog® on it. My Signal enjoyed posing for photos with it. When you open the lid of the wooden box, it begins to play tones and lights begin to flash. This is a miniature version of the electronic Simon game. To learn the three digit code needed to open the portion of the box that holds the logbook, one must do as Simon says and press the buttons in the correct order. I enjoyed playing with this very nice cache.

Back on the nature trail, I soon came to the last waypoint where the app gave me the info needed to find the cache container for the Whereigo. Once I had found it, I continued on around the pond, detouring from the trail once again to visit the site of an EarthCache. This is yet another type of geocache in which you visit a place of geological significance and learn more about it. In order to log an EarthCache on the Geocaching.com website, you must answer questions about what you have learned. Unlike the other caches that I was finding on this journey, EarthCaches do not have a physical container with a log book to sign.

After gathering the information I needed, I returned to the trail and made my way across a boardwalk bridge on the far end of the pond. On the other side, I tackled a Mystery or Puzzle cache. This type of cache can take many forms. Some require you to solve a puzzle ahead of time to learn the coordinates, as I did with the first cache I found this morning. Some require you to solve a puzzle ahead of time in order to be able to access the cache, like the newspaper box I visited today.

Others involve visiting the coordinates and then solving puzzles based on what you see there to learn the coordinates for the actual cache container. That was the case with this latest cache. At the posted coordinates I had to count the number of platforms in a tree and use that number to determine the next stage. At the next stage, I counted swings and ropes and did some math to determine the coordinates for the third stage. A sign at the third stage gave me the info needed for the fourth stage, and another sign at the fourth stage gave me the numbers I needed for the final coordinates. This journey had me backtracking across the bridge to find clues and the final location of the container.

I then recrossed the bridge and made my way to the first stage of my final geocache type of the day, a MultiCache. As indicated in the name, this type of cache also has multiple stages, often each having an actual container that includes coordinates for the next stage. Unfortunately, after a lengthy search I was unable to find the first container for this cache, so I was unable to log this cache.

I looked at the map for other MultiCaches in the area that I could possibly find so that I could accomplish my mission of finding six different cache types, but decided I did not have the time to do that. It was nearing time to meet the family for dinner, and then shower and dress for the show. I was a little disappointed to be thwarted in my efforts to log six different cache types, but was very happy with the caches that I did find on this day. The only thing that could have made it better would have been to have some of my great caching friends with me.

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