Not having cached for over 6 days I was starting to get some serious withdrawal symptoms by the time my birthday came around. Had the weather been better on the day we would have ventured out then but it spent most of the day chucking it down so we planned a day of caching for today instead. With free rein of choice and being my birthday treat there could be no complaints I opted to go for a combination of puzzle cache collection and nearby trads thrown in. I have a saved list of 70 puzzles that I have solved but not yet actually visited the caches so it was high time to tick some of these off. After studying the map I decided on Hemel Hempstead as there was a good chunk of puzzles there that I had solved and no shortage of traditionals to add into the mix.
I spent some time planning a route for us that involved a couple of short driving stages and then some walking to pick up a few caches at a time. Whereas quite often when we go out we tackle a series of caches which is all planned for us. The route is often well defined and in a lot of cases you end up where you started… so to speak. This was different I was attempting to string together a bunch of caches that were not connected and therefore it was up to us to do the leg work beforehand in terms of where to park and how to get from one cache to the next. I know what you are thinking… recipe for disaster! Lol
Now that we have been members of the Beds, Bucks and Herts Facebook group for a while we recognize quite a few of the caching names of the people on the group and seeing as we were about to hit Hemel it was par for the course that we were going to be searching for caches set by people we knew… or at least knew of. Strange now I think about it… I do feel that I know some of these people even though most of them I have only ever interacted with on the Facebook group and actually know very little about.
Our goals for the day were numerous, optimistic and quite frankly laughable. I had identified 17 caches in all taking in 5 distinct locations. Starting out the day on 237 finds, one of our goals was to reach 250. I also thought it would be awesome if we could find 15 which would be a new daily personal best for us. Our planned caches were as follows.
Paradise Lost (GC44DPP) puzzle cache by Smokeypugs
Gade Race (GC211PH) trad by philipnros
The Eye of the Beholder ((GC45KND) puzzle cache by Smokeypugs
Radar Sender Won (GC3B62H) trad by shadylady
Porcupine Tree (GC21BJD) puzzle cache by emgi
Yogi Scone (GCNCV6) trad by Yogi and Mags
Hit me with your Rhythm Stick (GC4ENH8) puzzle cache by shadylady
THINK BIKE-Alan and Dave’s Memorial Cache (GC3X1A2) trad by shadylady
Beware of Puggles (GC43H1C) trad by Team BareMagic
Smokeys Walk 1 – Down by the path (GC435PJ) trad by Smokeypugs
Smokeys Walk 2a – Unnecessary Signage (GC46T8N) trad by Smokeypugs
Puggle Puzzle (GC45131) by Smokeypugs
1.Shadylady’s Solve and Search (GC4CZ04) puzzle cache by Shadylady
3.Shadylady’s Solve and Search (GC4CZ04) puzzle cache by Shadylady
4.Shadylady’s Solve and Search (GC4CZ04) puzzle cache by Shadylady
I know what you are thinking… well actually I am not sure what you are thinking and to be honest I am not sure I really want to know, but if you were thinking what I was thinking then I do indeed know what you are thinking. That seems like a lot of caches to do in one day when they are not all part of a defined series. Hindsight is a wonderful thing.
Before we even set off to the first cache we had another little detour to make and this one was for us very exciting indeed. We stopped off a little distance from home and snuck our second geocache into its new home ready for me to submit it for publication. Being rather keen indeed I then went back to the car and whilst Sharlene drove us to Paradise Lost I used my iPhone to submit our new cache for review. By the time you read this it should be publilshed so you can go have a look at SNS002 NEVER BUY EAR (GC4Q7EJ).
Meanwhile back to the plot and on to Hemel. What can I tell you about Hemel Hempstead? You know… today I just can’t be bothered and it is a sure thing that we will return numerous times to Hemel so forgive me if I forego my normal fascinating and informative preamble about the location we are caching in, and stick to the basics. It is called Hemel Hempstead and it is just up the A41 from where we live… about 20 minutes…. Just on the left… past the chemist.
It was the infamous Rabbi Burns, possibly, who penned those famous words that “The best laid plans of mice and men aft gan a glay”. In a nutshell what the man was trying to say was be careful what you plan cos it probably won’t turn out the way you want it to. Now as to which precise mice plans he was referring to one can only guess…. And then again one can only guess that the man was off his head on drugs when he wrote it. Long and short of it is that our approach to the first parking spot was barred by some construction work and we had to wing it in terms of getting as close to the potential cache site as possible. This was a one off cache for us as I really wanted to pick this one up as the cache owner had very kindly checked on it to make sure it was there when I solved the puzzle a few weeks back. Nothing worse than doing all the hard work to solve a puzzle only to find that the actual container has been eaten by a squirrel or other similar woodland creature. After parking up and heading into some parkland we then realised that there must have been an easier place to stop as we seemed to have to cut round a few things and even through a couple of things in order to get to GZ. On the way we encountered the first of what was to be many hills today and then on arriving at GZ we were greeted by the first of a seemingly endless amount of trees for the day. Oh look an Ivy Covered Tree…. Oh joy! We nearly gave up at the first hurdle as we spent ages searching all the likely spots for the blasted cache but if you have read my blog entries before you will know that we are extremely reluctant to DNF the first cache of the day. I am not sure why… we just are. It will be interesting to see if we ever do have to resort to DNFing the first cache on a day out whether we just curtail our days caching there and then and go home, pretending that we never meant to go caching that day anyway. In the end Shar spotted the little bugger and we could breathe easy again. Back to the car it was, pausing only briefly to snap a couple of pics.
Phase II saw us drive a short distance and plot up near Gade Park. When we arrived we found it quite difficult to find a spot as half of the car park was taken up by an extraordinary array of large strange vehicles. The nature of these vehicles lead us to believe that there was some location filming going on nearby but we never found out what or where as there were very few actual people around. On arriving at the GZ for Gade Race we were thwarted in our attempts to search for the cache by a gang of workmen who seemed to be doing something or other with some sort of loud machine. Leaf blower, sucker, chainsaw, whatever. But needless to say there were right slap bang on top of GZ which was not good for so many reasons. We decided to leave this one and return later if we had time.
We snagged the cache relatively easily with the help of a spoiler pic at The Eye of the Beholder… odd little place for a cache but I was happy to log this one. I love this puzzle, if you have not done it I urge you to solve it using the code rather than choosing to use the photographic method available. When you crack the puzzle it is pure magic to watch the coordinates appear.
Next on our list was Radar Sender Won and OH MY GOD, did we have to climb the mother of all hills to get to it. Now in the scheme of things I am sure it is a mere slope to some people but it was steep and seemingly endless and by the time we reached the bus stop I had had enough. The find was quick and easy and the pain of the hill climb was only made worse when a bus arrived just after we left. Maybe we should have waited at the bottom of the hill and caught the bus up.
Back over the road and into the park again for Porcupine tree next… oh look another hill… what fun. This one had us searching and searching a long time. I was in and out of the tree cover so many times, finding new ways in to approach the likely spot, then out again to try and get a good fix with the iPhone, then back in amongst it all. The weirdest tree in places too, the limbs seem to have grown low and very horizontal in places and along the length of them, thin branches have grown almost arrow straight vertically. The end result is all rather weird. Eventually we found the cache on the floor and not 4 foot up like it should have been. But all is forgiven when cache is in hand and we ousted the large snail population that had moved in to make a home in the camo bag and signed the log. Some excellent views from up on this spot.
A short walk across the park and we found ourselves near the GZ for Yogi Scone. Trees! What fun! And dogs. Lots of dogs. It was very difficult to do any searching for a long while here as dog walkers were very unhelpfully walking their dogs. The dogs were friendly enough, very friendly in one case but enough said about that the better. We spent about half an hour at this one and just couldn’t get it. We read the logs and the hint and searched all the trees and the ground and nothing. In and out of the tree cover again and again, I even looked up the definition of the word in the hint because I wasn’t sure what it meant and no joy. In the end we had to admit defeat… it was either that or take a chainsaw to all the bloody trees and see if that put a new slant on it, and that really wouldn’t do now would it? The icing on the cake… no wait… the cherry on the icing on the cake is that now that we are back home we have looked at the cache online and noticed that someone else actually found it today! Doesn’t that really take the biscuit… or scone… or whatever?
We reluctantly moved on to Hit me With Your Rhythm Stick and were delighted to discover that it was a tree related cache… lol. Some close inspection of logs on this one though allowed us to think beyond the coordinates and locate the likely hide where Sharlene spotted the cache on the ground and not in the tree like it should have been. We signed log and reunited cache with tree and wished them both well before moving on.
It was good that this one was a quick find as the hills and trees and DNF was starting to take their toll and on top of all that it was Lunchtime and we were getting very hungry. I have said it before… hunger does not make for diligent caching… now pass me a biscuit please. Our last one before heading back to the car was the somewhat sadly named THINK BIKE Alan and Dave’s Memorial Cache that had been placed in memory of two who had died in a bike accident. We found it quickly and other than a rather strange log entry of someone who had written the date as 3/11/2013 all was normal.
LUNCH! Sandwiches yoghurt and yes… yes… yes… GINGER CAKE. Thank the lord for ginger cake. It brings a smile to my face, a warmth to my stomach and crumbs between my legs… on the car seat. Over lunch we discussed how the morning had gone… caches had taken a bit longer than we had expected and hopes of completing all our goals today were fast diminishing. We were not disheartened though, there was still another hour for us to head to phase III… Smokeypugs territory.
Before that we reluctantly had to log our second DNF of the day. We returned to take a second look at Gade Race as this was also a convenient spot to eat lunch. The workmen had moved on but there was no sign of the cache at GZ. There has been quite a lot of clearing here by the looks of it and the nettles mentioned in a lot of the logs were definitely not here anymore. I reckon this one may have gone missing. Whilst sitting in the car eating lunch Sharlene described to me a slightly odd thing. When you are a geocacher you are constantly wondering whether other people are cachers. This one man that Sharlene observed drove up close to GZ where we were. Got out, and went and read the parking information board for a long time. It almost seemed as if he was waiting for something, maybe for us to leave. Finally he got back in his car and drove off. Slightly weird. Either that or it is I who am slightly weird for thinking this behaviour is slightly weird.
A short drive took us to our parking spot for Phase III and then a walk into a housing estate on the trail of Beware of Puggles. Feeling rather exposed and out in the open we thought it was going to be difficult to search at GZ for this one. Sometimes things happen which are just sheer poetry. At a seemingly random spot near a hedge I bent down thrust my hand in the hedge and feeling something cold and hard, pulled it out and bingo cache was in hand. That almost never happens. Always good to have a quick find after you have to admit defeat on a previous cache, restores your faith in your ability to cache.
Another short walk and we found ourselves along a path behind some houses with a park to one side and a line of trees separating the too. Trees. I was so happy. It must have been at least one cache since we had really got a good tree cache. Oh wait… an Ivy Covered Tree you say…. A very small micro container…. Bring it on! There was much muttering from both Sharlene and I as we separated in the vicinity of GZ and started our searching, Shar inspecting, and me blindly groping… trees that is! 5 minutes…. Muggles…. Another 5 minutes, another tree… more ivy… mutter mutter… muggles… another 5 minutes. Wait, what’s this? Finally it’s the cache. Woo Hoo… and remind me to shake your hand Geoff and possibly punch you in the arm sometime for this one. Lol
Next was further on down the path and a rather humoursly position sign considering this is a footpath. I assume at some point this was actually a road or lane but the existence of a width restriction sign is somewhat redundant unless this area is well known for fat joggers. The cache was a quick find and this was a relief as this gave us just enough time to try for Puggle Puzzle before having to return to the car. This was also a nice quick find and one of those caches that really couldn’t be anywhere else other than where it was. It was one of those locations that makes you go, wow, I would love to put a cache there… oh someone already has.
Alas that is where we had to finish our caching antics for the day as it was time to head back home to collect our son from school cos they don’t like it if you leave them there… trust me on this one. 10 caches found in all which left us short of our 250, and nowhere near our PB but we had a lot of fun apart from all the hills and trees. Lol Hemel will definitely be a regular spot for us to visit as there is still a lot for us to do so until we meet again old friend… and see what you can do about all the hills and trees before we come back… thanks.