November 29, 2019

Black Friday at Bay’s Mountain

  • 2.34 miles
  • 2:44 duration
  • 423 foot elevation gain
  • 1 event
  • 1 geocache logged
  • 3 geocaches visited (previously logged)

I prefer to “opt outside” for Black Friday rather than shopping. This year I decided to host a geocaching event and hike so I would be sure to have people to hike with me.

My geopup Andy and I arrived at the park at about 8:45 am. Just as we got out of the truck, the wolves began howling. Andy’s ears perked up, he looked around, and jumped right back in the truck. He wanted no part of whatever they were howling about.

I know we just got here, but I’m ready to go home.

The temperature was a cool 39° and the skies were partly cloudy. While I waited for others to arrive I pulled my gloves and beanie out of my backpack. I was wearing my Columbia hiking pants, a long sleeve t-shirt and my purple nCo hoody. I was happy for a dry day since the next few promised nearly constant rain.

The winds were calm, leaving a glassy surface on the reservoir that reflected the trees across the way and the cloudy skies. Most of the fall color is gone now, leaving only the evergreens and an occasional oak that is still clinging to its brown leaves.

As I took a few pictures, I kept Andy on a short leash. I didn’t want him jumping in the water on such a cool day. For once, he didn’t seem interested so he must have known it was too cold for a swim.

A small but mighty group gathered at 9:00 am. Joining me were Rudekoolaid (Angela), Lob the Huntsman (Ray), and Mrs. Steelers (Melissa). Melissa is the muggle of the group. Her husband Larry and son Tristan have always been more into geocaching, but she loves hanging out with the New Cache Order (nCo) group and loves to hike. With Larry and Tristan’s work schedules, we have been seeing a lot more of her than them at events lately.

I had marked a spot next to the reservoir at Bay’s Mountain as the gathering point for the event. We hung out there for about 20 minutes to make sure no one else would be joining us. After a quick visit to the Nature Center to use the facilities we began our hike.

Pete and Signal at the event site.

My goal for this hike was to log a very special geocache – GC7HTYV “The Cache Awakens: Cache Wars – Episode 1.” This is a puzzle cache, requiring you to solve a multi-layered online puzzle to earn the coordinates. Several members of New Cache Order participated in the creation of this cache, and it was hidden and is maintained by members of the group. Both Angela and I had solved this puzzle over a year ago, but had never made the hike up to log it.

It is a Star Wars themed puzzle that involves visiting several different “planets” online to collect the clues needed to obtain the coordinates. One of them is even named for me – BBEDY! I remember spending several hours over the course of a few months working on the puzzle.

I had seen the cache container before it was put in place, and had seen photos that previous finders had posted, so knew that it would be a real treat.

The hike to the cache would take us up the very steep Bay’s Ridge Trail. We walked across the dam – the easiest part of the trek – and approached the beginning of the trail.

Melissa taking pictures as we cross the dam.
Angela and Ray cross the dam.

“I don’t remember it being this steep!” Angela said. She and I had hiked it together over a year ago with other friends. I have hiked it a couple of other times as well, and knew it was going to be a whole lot of UP.

If you are a regular reader of my blog, you know Angela’s story. However, it is so amazing, I would like to share part of it again. On January 7 of this year, Angela had a major stroke. She spent 24 days in the hospital and rehab, learning to talk, walk, and everything else that we take for granted every day. The doctors didn’t expect her to be able to walk on her own, but today, less than a year later, she headed up that steep trail like a boss!

The beginning of Bay’s Ridge Trail. Photo courtesy of Melissa

We took it slow and easy. No one was in a hurry to climb that hill, except for Andy. He continuously pulled at his leash, ready to run all the way to the top. I briefly considered letting Angela wear his leash belt so that he could help pull her up the hill, but decided I would save that benefit for myself.

Tackling the hill.

Angela’s “bad” leg was cooperating nicely – not hurting as much as it usually does. But her “good” leg started cramping up almost immediately. She stopped occasionally to try to stretch it out, and Ray helped out by massaging it. She was in a lot of pain but still she persevered. We assured her that no one would think less of her for not continuing, but we were there to cheer her on if she wanted to keep going. Although she sat down a few times and I wondered if this would be as far as she went, she would get right back up and keep going.

There are several caches along this trail, but we had already logged most of them. After hiking about .5 mile, we stopped for a rest and so that Angela could log one that she hadn’t yet found.

It was down a steep embankment so Ray and I volunteered to fetch it for her. We carefully made our way down the slope that was slippery with leaves. I was glad to have Ray along because he remembered better than I where the cache was hidden. He pulled it out, opened it, and handed me the log book so that I could stamp Angela’s name on the log. In the meantime, Ray carried the container up to her so that she could see what swag it contained.

Angela with the cache. Photo courtesy of Melissa

While waiting for him to come back, I tried to get Andy to pose with me for a selfie. He is a bit camera shy, and rarely looks into the lens for photos. Or maybe he just thinks he looks better in profile.

I love you, mom.

When Ray returned, we placed the cache back where it belonged, and then returned to the trail to continue on.

Here comes Ray!

We had another .3 mile to go to reach the Star Wars cache. It was still uphill, but not quite as steep as before. I believe there may have been times that Angela considered quitting, but she didn’t. After one stop, she set off at such a quick pace that the rest of us were having trouble keeping up. Ray told her she didn’t need to be in such a hurry, but she replied that she was going fast to get it over with.

We continued climbing up, up, up. Finally, after hiking about an hour and 15 minutes we got to within 500 feet of the Star Wars cache. It seemed to be off trail to the left down in a valley. Looking ahead on the trail, I could see that it dipped down, and that from that point it would be easier to make my way down that valley from there than the steep hillside where I was.

Unfortunately, there was a group of hikers with dogs standing there. I didn’t want to walk down to where they were and then head off trail. That would look really suspicious. But, as we stood at the top of the hill, they moved on, climbing the next hill.

Waiting for other hikers to move on. Photo courtesy of Melissa

I suggested to Angela that she may want to wait at the top of the hill we were on while I went to find the cache. I told her I would bring it back to her so that she could see it in person. Melissa and I headed down the trail, and at the bottom I found a faint path leading into the valley. I began following it, not paying attention to whether anyone was following me.

I reached a place where a fallen tree was blocking my path. Knowing that Andy could go under it but I would have to go over, I let him off leash. I looked around and realized all of my companions had stayed on the trail. They were all waiting for me to bring the cache back up for them to see. Ray told me later that he thought I knew exactly where the cache was, that I was going to grab it and come right back.

After navigating past the fallen log, I realized that the distance on my phone’s Geocaching app was increasing rather than decreasing. Back over the log, I stopped to take stock and realized that the cache was up the hill to my left, still about 230 feet away. Rats! I had followed a game trail down into the valley, thinking it was what we call a geo-trail – one made by the cachers who have come before us.

I started the arduous climb up the leaf and thorn covered hillside. It was very steep at this point, and for the first time today I was starting to feel warm and winded. I made several stops along the way to catch my breath. Andy would bound ahead of me and then stop to check my progress. If he could talk he would have said, “Come on, human! What is taking you so lo

Finally, I reached the top of the ridge, and then followed it a short distance until I spotted the cache. Immediately, I realized that I would not be carrying this back to the trail for my companions to see. First of all, it was too big – bigger than I remembered from seeing it before it was placed. Secondly, it was secured in the ground with a steel rod. And thirdly, there was no way I was going to make that trek down the steep hill and back up again.

Terrain Walker in the wild

Instead, I used FaceTime to call Angela and show them the cache virtually. They were duly impressed. This cache is a true work of art. It is a Terrain Walker that was built by my hiking buddy LakeBum (Rob), using the parts from a toy and an ammo can. Inside the ammo can was a bounty of swag – much of it Star Wars themed, including a smaller Terrain Walker. Along with the log book was a nice collection of trackable items. Since these had been sitting in the cache since February I liberated them and traded in four trackables that I had in my pack.

FaceTiming. Photo courtesy of Melissa
Found it!

I took time to record a “field report” to share with my nCo family (which you can view HERE), replaced everything, and finally made my way back to where my friends waited. I was sad to leave the cache behind because I would have loved to have spent more time there basking in its glory. The way back was much easier as I was able to follow the ridge a bit to find a gentler slope. The next time I come here – and I’m sure there will be repeat visits – I will know better than to go down into the valley and then straight up the steep slope.

Once I was back with my companions, Angela pulled a tiny bottle of wine out of her pack to offer me a celebratory drink. She and I each had a sip.

I had considered continuing on up Bay’s Ridge to log an EarthCache and a few more traditionals that I had not yet found. However, I decided I was happy with this one cache for today, and ready to head back. The others seemed happy with that decision as well, so we began the hike back down.

I was hoping that stretching Angela’s leg in the opposite direction would ease her cramps, but now her other leg started to hurt. Still, our pace down the trail was faster than up.

Melissa was walking slightly ahead of us at one point. She stopped an pointed off trail about 20 feet and said, “Is that a geocache over there?” Since Ray, Angela and I had all found it on previous trips we remembered the spot and affirmed that it was. I walked over to camouflage it a little better so that it wasn’t visible from the trail. We wouldn’t want a muggle to see it and remove it thinking it was trash.

The trip back down took us about 40 minutes. Although our pace was quicker, we had to be very careful. The thick layer of leaves hid ruts, rocks and roots in the trail that had all of us slipping and stumbling occasionally. As we neared the end of the Bay’s Ridge Trail, Angela asked for confirmation that there was another cache nearby that she had not yet found. I pulled out my phone to see where it was, and stumbled even more as I tried to walk while looking at it.

I found that there was a cache just a couple of hundred feet away that she needed. When we reached the end of Bay’s Ridge Trail we took a sharp left onto Lake Road Trail.

Intersection of Bays Ridge and Lake Road. Photo courtesy of Angela

We followed it a short distance and stopped when our apps indicated the cache was just off the trail to the right. Angela supervised from the trail while Ray and I searched for the cache. It had been so long since I found it that I couldn’t remember where it was. Ray finally found it and picked it up.

Found it! Photo courtesy of Angela

The container was full of water and everything inside it was saturated and slimy. He tried to use a stick to pry open the cover of the log book so that I could stamp Angela’s name on it. I remembered that I had some log sheets and baggies in my pack, so pulled those out. I put Angela’s name on the log, put the new log sheet in the baggie and handed it to Ray to put in the cache. Just then, I remembered that I also had some pill bottles in the pack, so pulled one of those out to further protect the log sheet.

Poking at the nasty log book. Photo courtesy of Angela
Pete next to the cache.

Once we had replaced everything, we made our back up to the trail, and then walked to the dam. Halfway across it, we stopped to take a group photo with the nCo flag that Angela carries. I then reported to her that she had just hiked 2.34 miles – something to be very proud of.

This woman is a warrior!
Photo courtesy of Angela
Group pic on the dam

It was a super way to spend Black Friday. On my way home, I stopped at the Curbside Kitchen – a food truck run by my good friend David Frost. He and Edward whipped up a delicious meal for me to take home to Deban and Martha, and while we waited they gave me a piece of chicken to share with Andy. He gives The Curb five woofs for great customer service and delicious food.

Yummy eats at The Curb

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