May 17, 2019

Kingsport Greenbelt and Downtown

  • 13.92 miles
  • 4:38 duration
  • 275 foot elevation gain
  • 6 traditional geocaches found
  • 1 Wherigo completed
  • 2 mystery caches found
  • 1 challenge cache found
  • 1 EarthCache found
  • 1 multi-cache found
  • 9 favorite points awarded

All week I had been cooped up in the office while the sun shined beautifully outside. My bike was still in the back of my truck after the rainy day excursion at Phipps Bend on Sunday, so I decided to leave work a couple of hours early on Friday to ride again.

My goal was to log a few caches along the Greenbelt in Kingsport that I had not yet found, and to also visit downtown Kingsport in order to complete the Wherigo there.

Before starting my ride, I stopped to grab a couple of caches on the way toward Kingsport. Neither of these are included in the totals above. The first was a mystery cache created by LakeBum (Rob) that I had solved months ago but never looked for. I happened to spot it on the map before leaving my office, so decided this would be a good day to stop for it.

The solved coordinates took me to a piece of undeveloped Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) land along Fort Patrick Henry Lake. I parked at the end of a residential street and followed a clear path into the woods. From parking, the cache was .1 mile as the crow flies.

There were faint trails throughout the area and I followed them whenever they seemed to be leading in the right direction. I soon arrived at the edge of the woods and could see the lake far below me. The cache was hanging in a cedar tree right at the edge of a cliff. Fortunately, I could safely grab it without being in danger of plummeting into the lake. I signed the log, took a photo of some pretty flowers, and headed back to the truck. I awarded this cache a favorite point because it was a fun puzzle to solve and the cache was in a great place I never would have known about or visited otherwise.

I’m lichen these ‘shrooms!
It’s a long way down from here.

Premium (paying) members of geocaching earn one favorite point for every ten caches that they have found. They can then award those points to caches that they enjoyed for one reason or another. When I am traveling to a new area, I will often look at the map for caches that have a large number of favorite points so that I can know I am looking for worthwhile caches. Over the years I have earned a total of 354 favorite points, and have awarded nearly 300 of those to great caches I have found. Today I found so many great caches that I handed out 9 favorite points!

I stopped again in Colonial Heights to find a cache I had attempted to log the week before. I had not been able to get close to it on that visit because a flat-bed 18-wheeler was parked right next to it. Today, there was no one around so I was able to pull up next to the cache location and quickly make the find.

This was a cache that published recently while I was out of town, and was hidden by BackWoodsAng. The hint had mentioned finding “Charlotte” and as I parked I spotted what I thought might be the location. When I got closer, I saw that it was indeed inscribed with that name and knew I was right. I’m not providing further details because I don’t want to spoil the hunt for others, but despite the fact that I texted Ang to complain that “Charlotte stinks,” I gave this one a favorite point as well for its sneakiness and creativity.

I drove to my starting point of the bike trip – the parking area near Ocean Quest Mini Golf. From here I could ride in one direction on the Greenbelt to reach the downtown area, and another direction to log several caches I was missing along the Greenbelt.

I started off by riding toward downtown. Along the way I stopped to look for a cache I had not been able to find on a previous trip. This one was hidden by DMflyer (Dennis) in 2004. I was still unable to locate it, so employed a TAF (text a friend) for help and moved on down the trail. In Rob’s reply he described the same place I was looking, so I felt certain it was missing. I texted Dennis to ask permission to replace it which he happily granted. I would stop back by here on the return journey to do that.

Shortly after that stop, I left the trail and pedaled uphill along Old Gibson Mill Road. All of the riding on my stationary bike this winter paid off, because I was able to make it to the top of the hill without stopping to get off and push.

I had come this way because there was a cache along this road that I had not found. As I neared, I realized it was in the parking lot of a place I had visited a few months ago. This was the rehab facility where my good friend Rudekoolaid (Angela) had stayed after her stroke. I smiled as I considered the great progress in she has made in her recovery since I visited her here.

I parked my bicycle at a corner of the parking lot next to the cache location, and chuckled as I thought of a technique I like to use to shield my activities from muggles – the car (or truck) block. I had used it earlier when looking for “Charlotte”. Unfortunately, a bicycle does not work nearly as well as a truck, so I had to act very nonchalant so as to not attract attention from others in the busy parking lot. Fortunately, this spot was in the shade, so I was able to sit on the curb next to my bike as if I were just taking a break from my hot hide. It was in the 80s after all, so this was a plausible excuse.

I drank some GatorAid, and when no one was looking, checked under the lamp skirt for the cache. Unfortunately, it wasn’t there, so I looked around in the bushes a bit thinking I had been wrong about the location. I texted Angela, knowing that she and her daughter Lost Guide (Savannah) had logged the cache during her stay here, and she immediately called me back.

She confirmed that the cache was supposed to be under the lamp skirt. She also said that she and Savannah were geocaching nearby and could come replace it. I told her I had a container in my bag and could do that. The person who had originally hidden this one is no longer active, so I felt safe in replacing it.

Once I had finished my business, I climbed back on my bike and made my way downtown to the starting point of the Wherigo. You may have read in some of my previous blog posts that Wherigos are a type of geocache where you use a different app to navigate through several stages until you reach the final location. They provide information at each stage, and you must answer questions about what you have learned or observed to advance to the next stage.

This Wherigo was created by Cache Cracker Jacks (Tom and Dori, aka Team CCJ) and educates you on the history of Kingsport, visiting various stops along the Heritage Trail, a self-guided walking tour. I wheeled around town, stopping at each stage to learn and answer the questions posed.

My route took me past the location of a traditional cache, and I stopped to log it as well. This was another cache hidden by Tom and Dori and took me to a very interesting sculpture I had passed many times without noticing. Engraved on all sides of this monument are scenes depicting various industries that have contributed to the history and progress of Kingsport. The cache itself is a tiny nano – a cache the size of the tip of your pinkie finger. These can be very challenging to find, and this one was no exception. I awarded another favorite point here for a clever hide and great location.

One of the stops of the Wherigo took me to the original Pal’s store – a local chain of restaurants which is very popular. Along with the instructions on how to proceed to the next stage was a suggestion to enjoy a PB milkshake. Since peanut butter milkshakes are my absolute favorite, and I was burning all kinds of calories pedaling around town on a hot day, I took that suggestion to heart.

As I started toward the door, I saw a familiar face inside. It was Savannah, Angela’s daughter! I said hello to her, and asked if her mom was nearby. She pointed and I turned to happily greet her as she crossed the parking lot. Every time I see her, she is making more strides in her recovery.

I bought my milkshake and some ice water, and sat at the outside tables to enjoy them. While I sat, I studied the nearby mural that gave me the info needed for that stage of the Wherigo.

Captain Jack (Tom) messaged to ask if I had made it to the final stage yet. I told him I was taking his advice and enjoying a milkshake which made him happy. He then informed me that the cache container might be missing. I told him that I would replace it if I had an appropriate container with me. Tom described the container – a small vial with a magnet to hold it in place. I did not have something like that, but thought I might have a nano in the truck that could work.

When I had finished my milkshake and water, I climbed back on the BAT-bike and continued my journey. I soon arrived at the final stage of the Wherigo and discovered that the container was indeed missing. I messaged Tom to let him know, and told him that I would bring back a nano after I finished my ride. The I awarded the fourth favorite point of the day to this Wherigo. I am beginning to really enjoying doing them. I have now done eight, so only have 17 more to go to qualify for the challenge cache requiring 25. This may take a while!

I rode back toward the Greenbelt, stopping along the way to find a mystery cache. It is hidden at the posted coordinates, but finders are encouraged to visit several additional waypoints throughout downtown to learn more about Kingsport’s history, and then write about what they have learned in their logs. Since I had just visited many of those locations while doing the Wherigo, I felt that was qualification enough to log the cache.

I also stopped to find a cache hidden by another geocaching friend RedRider99 (Lois). This was a nano hidden near the Harvest of Hope Community Garden. The vegetables grown here by community members and organizations are donated to area food pantries and kitchens.

I was very lucky at this stop. As I mentioned earlier, nanos can be very difficult to find. However, when I reached ground zero, I felt this one in the first spot I touched! This hide in a special place earned another favorite point.

Back on the Greenbelt, I stopped to replace the DMflyer cache that I had looked for earlier. I then rode past my truck and started working my way along the trail in the other direction.

The first stop was to find a cache in the Obi’s Lost Bones series. These were hidden several years ago by Team CCJ in honor of their boxer Obi. Sadly, he died a couple of years later. This was the only Obi’s Lost Bones hide I had not yet found, so was glad to complete the series. As always when finding one of these, I said a little prayer of thanks for sweet Obi and smiled as I remembered the first time I met him and Dori.

A little further up the trail, I paused to look for a cache in the KBT series (Kingsport Bird Trail). I was not able to locate it, and rather than continue searching through an area full of poison ivy I decided to keep going and leave it for another day. I had other fish to fry!

Next up was a challenge cache called the “Social Butterfly Challenge” another Team CCJ hide. In order to qualify for this cache, you must have attended at least 100 events. At the time that it was hidden in January 2017 I had only logged 83 events. Since I have now attended 123, I am now qualified to log this one.

The cache was hidden under a bridge along the trail. I parked my bike, but then had to sit by the bridge for several minutes to wait for bikers and walkers to pass. I didn’t want to attract unwanted attention from curious muggles.

As I sat there, I looked at the cache page. This cache was last logged as found shortly after it was hidden in January 2017. It went missing, and was replaced by Tom and Dori in September 2017. I was not very hopeful that I would find it because I knew that Reedy Creek had flooded the Greenbelt several times since then.

I finally got my chance to crawl under the bridge. This was not easy because there was not much headroom above, and below me was a jumble of large rocks. I finally made my way far enough under that I spotted a pile of rocks on a ledge where the bridge met the bank. Moving a couple of those aside, I found the cache container!

It had a couple of inches of water inside, but the log sheet was inside a plastic back so it was dry. This was a cache resurrection (finding a cache that had not been found in more than a year) as it was last logged 28 months ago. It received another of my hard-earned favorite points for many reasons. 1) Much of the reason I qualified for this cache was because I have attended so many events hosted by Team CCJ. 2) This was a cache resurrection. 3) It remained in place despite being underwater multiple times since it was last found. 4) It was challenging to get to under the bridge.

I put the container back in place, and continued with my ride. My next stop was along a boardwalk adjacent to the trail that allows you to view a wetland, an area where water covers the soil or where the soil is saturated much of the time. This was the site of an EarthCache by Team CCJ. I enjoyed observing my surroundings and collecting the info needed to answer the questions and log the find.

I finally arrived at the furthest point on the trail for today. Here was a multi cache that had not been found since October 2016. I stopped to look at a sign and use information there to determine the final coordinates. I had done this in January 2017 but at the time did not try to reach the final cache location.

I knew that it was across another stretch of wetlands in a wooded area about .1 mile from the posted coordinates. I had determined back in 2017 that it would be necessary to take a long way around the wetlands to reach the cache but had not taken time to do it that day.

I had decided before leaving work today, that this would be on the agenda, and despite the lateness of the day (6:05 pm) I would not be deterred. I loaded the coordinates into my phone, and then rode my bike another .1 along the trail to a point where the woods are just 20 or so feet from the paved path. I then walked my bike through tall grass, and found a place to hide it out of sight of the trail.

Even here, the ground was saturated and I my shoes quickly became wet and muddy. As I entered the woods, I saw an unexpected sight – an open umbrella that must have blown from Mary Poppins’s hands during a storm. I half expected to see her appear singing about spoons, sugar and medicine.

I made my way deeper into the trees until I found dry ground, and then started toward the cache location about 700 feet away. I was growing tired by now, so stumbled over a few roots. I picked up a small stick to wave in front of me as I walked, knocking down spider webs so they wouldn’t wrap around my face.

My phone finally let me know I was near ground zero, and I checked the cache page to see how big a container I was looking for. There was no hint to help me, and the size was not chosen. I grumbled a bit, wondering if this hunt would be in vain.

I spotted a likely looking hiding place, and made my way to it. It was a very large fallen tree with two trunks, each nearly 50 feet long and two feet in diameter. I knelt to look, and BINGO! A red, metal ammo can was hidden beneath one of the trunks. I reached in to pull it out, and discovered it was firmly wedged in. The weight of the tree on top of it and the mud that had washed downhill and settled around it made me wonder if I would be able to extract the cache.

Rather than describe the insanity of the next 25 minutes, I will provide you with a short video showing the highlights.

Once I had finished logging the cache and had placed it back in its hiding place, I made my way back through the woods toward my bike. I kept an eye out for the umbrella so that I would know where to exit the woods, but never saw it. Perhaps Mary Poppins came back to retrieve it.

I was happy to finally spot my bike. I rolled it back onto the trail, earning some strange looks from a muggle that was walking by. I mounted the BAT-bike and began my trip back toward the truck – a distance of about three miles.

I strapped Signal to the handle bars where my phone usually rides, since it was nearly dead and I didn’t need to navigate to any more caches. He enjoyed having a forward facing view of the return trip instead of riding in the side pocket of my backpack as he usually does.

Thankfully, the city has supplied water fountains along the trail, and I paused at the first one I came to so that I could fill my GatorAid bottle with water. I drained it and filled it up again so that I would have more water for the rest of the ride.

I stopped at one point to take pictures of some cute little baby ducks in the creek. I was able to get a photo of mom, dad and all the babies, and thanked them for posing for me.

I was happy to arrive back at the truck well before sunset, despite the length of time I had been out caching. This was a great day filled with a variety of quality caches and great adventures. I am blessed to live in an area where the geocachers create exceptional geocaches for me and others to experience. I’m proud to say that many of those geocachers belong to my nCo family.

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