September 28, 2019

Big Stone Gap Greenbelt Trail

  • 5.74 miles
  • 2:12 duration
  • 96 feet elevation gain
  • 16 geocaches found – all FTFs (First to Find)
  • 1 DNF (Did not Find)

On Tuesday, September 24 a new series of geocaches along the Greenbelt Trail in Big Stone Gap published. I kept watch on them all week and miraculously they had not yet been found on Saturday morning. I decided to load my bike in the truck and drive up to search for them, hoping to log some FTFs.

It was a sunny day and about 75° when I arrived in Big Stone Gap. I had visited this same trail last year to find another series of geocaches. That trip had been on foot, and starting at Bullitt Park. This time I parked on the opposite end of the trail, nearest the first cache in the new series.

I climbed on my bike and rode across the parking lot to the trail head. The first cache was right behind the information kiosk and I was thrilled to see that no one had signed the first line on the log sheet. This gave me hope that I would get a few FTFs for the day.

I stopped briefly at the location for the second cache, but not finding it right off I decided to move on down the trail and come back for it later. I made my way toward the third cache.

Suddenly, I was surrounded by a herd of teenage boys jogging toward me on the trail. Rather than all passing to my left as one normally would on any trail, they literally swarmed me, passing on both sides and barely parting enough for me to ride through. I honestly thought I was going to hit one or two, but they darted out of the way at the last second. Just before I reached the next cache, a smaller group of teenage girls walked past me. They were chatting and taking their time, moving aside politely unlike the boys.

I stopped to look for the cache, and as I stood there both sets of teenagers passed me going in the opposite direction. The girls had decided to jog by now, but were still bunched together talking. The boys seemed to be racing each other, intent on being the first to reach whatever goal had been set for them.

Stampeding teens, passing me for the second time.

It took me a few minutes to find this cache, but once I did I found another clean log sheet. Another FTF. Back on my bike, I continued riding the trail.

Unlike my last bike ride (see the post for the Mendota Trail on August 31), this was a very nice paved trail. It was mostly flat, and a very pleasant ride along the South Fork of the Powell River to my left. On the right were neighborhoods with modest homes. It would be lovely to live in one of them and be just steps from this great trail.

I soon approached soccer fields, and realized this was where all the teenagers had come from. They were apparently just finishing up a practice session, and the coaches were calling out encouragement as they jogged past again. The next cache on my radar was in a tree near the fields. Fortunately, the coaches were far enough away that I was able to find and log it without arousing their suspicion.

I continued along the trail, finding more caches. I kept expecting to see other cachers out in search of these new hides, but was on my own. There were plenty of other bikers, walkers and runners along the trail, but no one seemed to be in search of geocaches.

The day began to warm up as I rode and cached. I passed a car wash that was crowded with people taking advantage of the warm, sunny day to clean their vehicles. It certainly did not feel like fall, despite the date on the calendar.

I began to notice a few mosquitos biting at me, so stopped to spray myself down with repellent. I began using natural repellents that use essential oils a few years ago. I have mixed my own at times, but what I had on hand today was a spray I had bought at Mac’s Medicine Mart in Kingsport. It has a mixture of essential oils, including some citrus, and seems to work very well.

I soon passed under the bridge carrying Wood Avenue, and stopped to check it out. I didn’t remember the beautiful murals from last year, but soon noticed that they were dated 2019. They certainly brighten the route!

Colorful murals under the bridge.

At the next cache location I circled behind a tree looking for the container. In addition to the cache, I found that this tree had outgrown some metal brackets that were attached to it years ago. One end of each bracket was now deeply embedded in the tree. Nature is amazing.

I had just stopped to log another cache when a couple of women approached on foot. I heard one say, “What’s that smell? It smells like lemons!”

“Hello!” I called out, “That’s my bug spray.”

“Well, you smell good!” she replied.

I’m pretty sure that is the first time that I have been told I smell good when I’m in the midst of sweat-producing exercise. Just one more benefit to the bug spray!

The cache that I had stopped to find eluded me for several minutes. I finally spotted it hanging in the branches of a bush, well camouflaged by the foliage. I unscrewed the lid, extracted the log sheet and went over to my bike to use the flat surface of my seat to stamp my name on the log.

When I turned to replace the log in the cache, I couldn’t find it again! It took me a couple of minutes to relocate it so that I could put the log sheet inside and seal it back up. I decided it was time to have a cool drink and a snack.

Refreshed, I continued a short distance along the trail and stopped to look for the next cache, number 13 in the series. The coordinates showed that it was at a small section of woods. I remembered a cache being hidden here last year, but it was further up into the woods than the coordinates showed for this one. I searched and searched for it.

The hint said that it was a hanging preform tube. this was how all of the caches I had found so far had been hidden. A preform tube is what 2 liter bottles are made of. They begin as a hard polyethylene terephthalate (PET) tube about three inches long with a cap on the end. The tube is heated and then blown into the shape of the soda bottle that you commonly buy.

This particular preform was nowhere to be found. I spent at least 30 minutes here searching for the cache. I looked high. I looked low. I circled the area, widened my search. Nothing. I messaged the cache owner and got the reply that it was hanging in a bush and had a white cap. Duh.

No cache to be found here.

I finally gave up on the search and moved on. I learned later that the cache owner went out to check on it and found that the coordinates were off about 80 feet and that it was on the opposite side of the trail from where I had been looking.

The next cache was at the far end of Bullit Park. As I stopped to look for it, I noticed several emergency vehicles parked on the other side of the baseball fields. They did not have their lights on, so I knew it was not an emergency situation. It appeared that they were having a Touch a Truck or similar kind of event for kids.

I found the caches in the park, and then continued on the Greenbelt past the park until it ended, collecting the remaining caches. I then had a choice to ride through town to my starting point, or turn around and ride back the way I had come. Since I had skipped the second cache, I decided to ride back along the trail.

At Bullit Park I rode through the parking lot with all the emergency vehicles so that I could get a closer look. I considered stopping to explore some of the vehicles, but decided not to look like some weirdo, predatory adult and kept going.

Nearing the end of the trail, I stopped to look for the cache I had skipped. It was hidden differently from all the rest – under a rock rather than hanging in a tree. It took a few minutes to discern its location, but I was finally able to sign the log sheet, bringing my total of first to finds to 16 for the day.

It was just 1:00 pm, and I was not in a hurry to get home because Deban was in Charleston, SC. I decided to check the geocaching app for other possibilities in the area. I ended up visiting an EarthCache between Big Stone Gap and Appalachia called Roaring Fork Falls. The waterfall was barely trickling rather than roaring, so I decided I need to come back and visit it after more rain. In addition to the EarthCache I found a traditional cache here.

Trickling Falls

I then drove through Appalachia and on to Norton so that I could check on the status of the swag in the cache I created for this year’s Woodbooger event. While there I decided to log some additional caches that I had not had the chance to hunt for on previous visits to Norton. This included another EarthCache and a Letterbox Hybrid that was a lot of fun.

Great Wall of Norton – site of an EarthCache
Letterbox Hybrid Cache

While driving home from Norton, I stopped off in Duffield for a bio break. I noticed that there was a nearby BackWoodsAng hide that had not been found in over a year and decided to hunt for it.

This turned out to be an adventure all its own. The name of the cache is UFF Da Hill so I knew it wouldn’t be a simple park and grab. As promised, after parking at the end of a gravel road I had to climb a steep hillside through the woods.

I found the spot where the cache was supposed to be hidden, but it was missing. I managed to drop my phone while I searched, and it slid down the hill requiring me to climb down a particularly steep spot to retrieve it.

After reuniting with my phone I texted Ang and confirmed I was in the right location. With his permission, I decided to replace the cache. This required a hair-raising trip back down the hill. I took a different route which meant going through a lot of briars and across loose, broken shale. Back at the vehicle I prepared a new container, hydrated, and then began the tough climb back Uff Da Hill.

As I knelt to replace the cache, I lost my hold on my Cedar Hiking Stick (created for me by Ang) and watched as it slid down that same hillside my phone had gone earlier. Par for the course for me.

I finally made my way back to the truck, and managed to arrive home just in time to go to dinner with the rest of the family.

This had turned out to be a very productive day with a total of 26 finds. Just another day in the Adventures of antbedy.

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