August 4, 2018

Geocaching in Western North Carolina

  • 15 geocaches found
  • 3 geocaches not found (DNF)

Deban and Chip decided to make a spur of the moment trip to Cherokee, NC one Friday evening, so I tagged along. I knew that I could do some geocaching while they slept in the next morning, and that if I was lucky they would want to spend more time playing in the casino. I have found all of the caches in Cherokee, but there were many in the Maggie Valley area for me to search for. 

We arrived late in the evening, and checked in to our room. Deban went to the casino, Chip took a nap, and I mapped out a plan for the next day, and then turned in so that I could get up and started early in the morning. At some point, Chip got up and went to the casino, and then they both returned to the room at about 4:00 a.m. 

Signal the Frog and I left the hotel around 8:00 on Saturday, knowing I would have a good four hours of caching before I needed to go back and pick them up. While waiting for the valet to bring the truck around, I bought a bagel in the hotel lobby, and then ate it as I drove across Soco Gap toward Maggie Valley. 

Before heading down into the valley I took a left-hand turn, heading toward my first cache. It was called Mountain Car Wash and had 116 favorite points, so I knew it would be a good one. The route took me on some very narrow, winding and rugged roads. When I finally arrived at GZ, I was not disappointed. The “car wash” was a creek flowing across the road that you had to drive through to continue along your route. To the left, uphill from the road, was a lovely waterfall. I forded the creek, and then looked for a place to park so that I could seek the cache. 

I pulled off the road as much as I could, and got out to find the cache. I spotted a butterfly lying in the grass near my truck, the first of many that I would see this day. When I reached the creek and checked my Geocaching app, I realized that the cache was on the other side. While it is shallow enough to drive across, the creek is too deep and swift to walk across, so I made my way back to my truck, turned around, and drove back through. I then found another place to turn around, and again pulled off the road as far as possible so that I could get out and find the cache. 

It was easily found, behind a hand-painted sign reading “Mountain Car Wash”. Signal wanted his picture taken sitting on a bench by the waterfall, so I obliged. I then returned to the truck, drove through the creek one more time, and continued on toward the next cache. 

The next cache was named “Who *Was* Wayah Zooshuga?”. This is because it was on a sign for the road bearing that name. Nearby was another cascading creek that was quite lovely. I later tried Googling Wayah Zooshuga to see who he/she was, but never found anything. The mystery remains, but at least I found the cache. 

I turned around and made my way back the way I had come, fording the creek at the Mountain Car Wash one more time. Finally reaching Soco Road, I continued down toward Maggie Valley. 

My next stop was at a place I have passed by for years and never stopped to experience. It is a small gift shop, and next to it is a nine story high observation tower that promises the “most photographed view in the Smokies.” It was also the site of another geocache.

Actually, I had stopped there once before while driving this route with my Czech friend Jana. We both needed to use the restroom, and this was the first stop coming down the mountain. She had also just experienced hot boiled peanuts for the first time the day before, and wanted to buy some more. 

We went into the store that day and asked for the restroom. They very rudely said they didn’t have one. I asked about boiled peanuts (since they had a sign outside advertising them, and they said they didn’t have them either, and that we wouldn’t be able to buy them anywhere this time of year because they were “out of season.” I chose not to point out the fact that we had bought some nearby the day before, and decided to drive on to a more hospitable store. 

I decided that I would give them another chance today since I wanted to climb the tower. There were muggles near what I believed to be the cache location out front, so I went on inside. Today’s staff were much friendlier than the last visit, and I soon found myself climbing the tower. 

It was certainly a beautiful view, and I enjoyed it for a while and took a few pictures. I then started back down the steps, and immediately got those cramps that you get when you’ve climbed a lot of stairs and then turn around to descend. Or maybe that’s just me. At any rate, the muscles I had stretched climbing were being stretched in a different direction on the way down, and it didn’t feel good. 

When I reached the bottom, Signal asked for another photo op with the new friend he had just met, a cute little bear. I took a picture of him on the bear’s head, but then things turned ugly. The bear jerked his head, tossing Signal into the air and deftly catching him in his mouth! I managed to snap a quick photo before rescuing him, and he was no worse for the wear. 

Once back in the parking lot, I still had to wait a little while for muggles to move on so that I could log the cache. I had an idea I knew where it was, and messaged a friend who had found it previously to confirm. I was correct, and while waiting actually spotted what I thought was the cache peeking out of its hiding spot. When the area cleared, I was able to grab it quickly, sign the log and replace it without notice. 

I then made my way down toward Maggie Valley, making a detour off the main road in search of another cache. Only after looking for a few minutes without finding it did I read the logs and see that it had not been found for quite some time. I then noticed that, as a previous hunter had written in their log, the bridge that it was supposed to be hidden on was quite new. Apparently, the cache had gone the way of the old bridge. This was the first of three DNFs for the day. I did, however, see dozens of butterflies in the flowers along the side of the road here, so it was worth the detour. 

Continuing into the town of Maggie Valley, I stopped off to find several geocaches on the right- hand side of the road. When I was nearly to Lake Junaluska, I turned around and started caching my way back up the other side of the road. I detoured once again to find a few caches off the main road, and had another DNF experience. This cache was most likely missing as well, since a previous finder mentioned finding no container but did find a log sheet out in the open. Since it was under a bridge, it may have been swept away in high water. 

I had to skip looking for yet another cache, because muggles had set up a tent right next to it where they had items for sale. Since it appeared they were there for the day, I decided not to bother looking for it. Another cache was located underneath a cool-looking old truck with a strange looking character in the driver’s seat. I posed for a photo with him after logging the cache.

By this time, Deban had let me know that they wanted to play for a little while, and that I didn’t need to get back to the casino until 2:00. I decided I could expand my adventure a bit, and leave the main road again. 

I headed up toward the Cataloochee Ski Resort. There was a cache on the route toward the resort, and this one took me quite a while to find. I had a pretty good idea of what I was looking for based on the hints and the fact that I had found a similar cache hidden by this cache owner. I surmised that it was a fake rock, but there were so many places in this mountainous setting that it could be hidden. I searched for quite a while before spotting a rock that looked just a little too perfectly shaped tucked under a boulder. That was it! I  also spied some beautiful bee balm on the other side of the creek here, and took a photo of it. I didn’t notice until looking at my photos a few days later that I had captured a butterfly in my photo as well. 

I then made my way on up to the top of the mountain. the next cache was called “A Thing of Beauty.” The “thing” described in the title was the beautiful view of the surrounding mountains. I took some photos here as well, along with logging the geocache. 

Nearby, just inside the entrance to the ski resort, was another cache. I stopped to look for it, but could not find it – my third DNF of the day. This was clearly a failure on my part because it had been found recently, and has been found since. But, I didn’t want to spend a lot of time here, because there was another nearby cache that had definitely caught my attention.

Reading the description, I saw those magic words, “near a waterfall.” I couldn’t resist the chance to see another waterfall, so I headed on to the parking coordinates for that cache. Deban had texted “2:30?” to which I laughed and responded, “Sure.”  I was happy for the extra time. I followed the trail toward the coordinates and found the cache easily, and then headed to the side trail leading down to the waterfall. It was a steep, slippery and rugged trail, but there were cables along each side making it much easier. 

The waterfall was beautiful, and I spent some time there taking photos before making the climb back up to the main trail. I then rushed back to parking, and headed back to pick up Deban and Chip, passing up a couple of caches that I didn’t have time to stop for. I didn’t worry about missing them, because I knew I would need to come back someday to look for the one I hadn’t been able to find. 

As I was driving down the mountain, I got the welcome text saying, “3. Last time. Love you.” I was happy she had pushed the meeting time forward once again, because I knew I wouldn’t be making it back by 2:30. 

I saw some beautiful flowers along the roadside, and used my extra time to stop and take more pictures. Once again, there were butterflies on them, making the photograph even more interesting. 

As I neared the casino, I got another text saying, “Last time. We r coming at 3:30.” By this time, I was past the point where I could find more caches, so just drove on. When I was just rolling into town, Deban called and said they would meet me at 4:00. I stopped off at a gas station for a pee break, snack and drink, and then sat in the shade until time to pick them up. 

It had been a very successful trip for all of us. Deban and Chip both came home with much more money in their pockets, and I had a full day’s worth of smiles and adventures to remember. I’d call that a win-win-win day!

 

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