After over three weeks without finding a geocache I was starting to go slightly crazy. Now that Shar’s back seemed to be on the mend and Sam had finally returned to school following a rather nasty bout of sickness, it was time to get out there and scratch the itch. And besides, I was dying to try out the iPhone 4s that I had inherited off my lovely sister.
Not wanting to overdo it Shar and I decided to ease back into it with just a short series of 5 caches in a small piece of woodland situated roughly in between Harefield and Gerrad’s Cross. Called appropriately “A Walk in the wood”, the 5 traditionals, owned by MJS64, looked straightforward enough.
We parked the car on the side of the quiet road just a few metres from the GZ of the first cache. Stepping out of the car and grabbing the backpack the weather was warm and dry, uncharacteristically for the beginning of October. We hardly needed the phones for the first cache as it was literally on the other side of the stile where we had parked and with only one real likely candidate for the hint item it was just a few moments before Shar had the cache in hand and we were signing our first log. It all happened so quickly that I barely even felt like we were caching, more like we had just leapt out of the car to recover something we had dropped in the bushes.
Two paths led away from the stile in opposite directions and I reckoned we would be heading out on one and then back on the other as the 5 caches appeared to be arranged in a circle through the woods. We set off through the trees along the twisting path, the phones basically just ticking down the distance as the path was the only way to go. I spent the whole time on the way to the first cache fiddling with my phone and being confused about where it was telling me the cache was. The distance was reducing sure enough, but quite often the phone was telling me the cache lay in the opposite direction to that of which we were heading. The path wasn’t that twisty turny and so I was somewhat confused and concerned that something wasn’t quite right with my new 4s.
While I was mumbling and moaning about the phone, Shar found the second container in a nearby tree stump and we were two caches in without me even really paying attention. The new phone seemed to behave itself a bit better on the way to the next one, in most cases pointing me in the right direction. Once at GZ I was obsessed with the phone a bit too much and not really thinking about where the cache might be. As we stood at the GZ, Shar having found this one too, I was starting to realise that perhaps I should be enjoying the caching and being outdoors a bit more otherwise we would be back at the car before long and I would have spent the whole time moaning about my phone. The walk was, after all, very pleasant indeed taking us through quiet and pretty woodland. I could just start to smell the distinctive aroma of fallen leaves indicating that despite the mild weather, autumn was definitely elbowing its way into position.
The fourth cache of the day took us a lot longer to find. Not really having too much confidence in the new phone yet, I was zig zagging back and forward in a patch of woodland for sometime trying to locate a suitable hint item. Shar’s phone wasn’t being too reliable either and we agreed that it was probably the tree cover throughout the whole woods that was causing problems for the phones. This wasn’t really helping me decide if the iPhone 4s was better than the 4 at locating caches but at least it was a plausible reason as to why it might appear on the face of it to be worse. Shar and I split up and started picking our way from the path and into the trees trying to find the cache. I decided to take my time and let the phone get me as close as possible to GZ, or at least what it thought was GZ. This of course caused me to move via the least convenient route and brought me into contact with countless brambles, trees and other nasty woodland things. Eventually Shar and I found ourselves converging on the same spot, a place which was generally giving me readings of around 5 metres. There were lots of fallen trees and so searching them for signs of the hide took some time. After a while Shar paused and read a couple of logs, but all they revealed was that the cache was well hidden in a very tight fitting spot. She grumpily stated that this was no help at all and then promptly looked down at the fallen tree she was standing next to and found the cache.
We had only been in the woods for a little under an hour and we were already heading for the last cache in the series. Accompanied by nothing but the distant sounds of helicopters – there seemed to be a lot of them – we made our way along the path which would ultimately take us to GZ. The last three people who had tried to find this cache, had failed and it had been more than six weeks since it had been successfully located. In a few minutes we found ourselves pretty much at GZ, the new phone even agreed with us on this matter showing the cache to be less than 10 metres away. There was a suitable hint item, being a fallen tree and there was also a lot of “standy uppy” trees where the cache could be hidden. We started searching. Most of the trees were young and had very smooth bark and didn’t have protruding route systems that often create good hiding places. A couple nearby were different, a bit older and with trunks that showed thicker and grooved bark. These had potential hiding places at their bases and I stumbled my way around the nearest one poking my fingers in wherever I could in search of the container. When I found one particular hole that seemed quite small but more than deep enough to deposit a 35mm film pot in I wiggled my fingers in as deep as I could. At first I found nothing and then just as I was about to move on I felt what I thought was a snail shell protruding from the dirt and moss. A bit more wiggling and it soon became a much more uniform shape and my heart rate increased a little as I recognized the distinctive feel of plastic. A moment later and I had the container out of the hole and was calling to Shar.
I glanced down at my phone which told me I was 2 metres away from the cache and this was good enough for me. I still want to get out in the open and test the iPhone 4s a bit better but it at least seemed to be getting us in the vicinity of these last two caches. As Shar took the log from me to sign she hesitated for a while and then asked me when this had last been found. The last entry on the log sheet turned out to be April… 2013! We were confused and the only conclusion that we could come to was that the CO had replaced the container at some point and this was the old one. As Sharlene went off in search of the new one I looked through the old logs and eventually found the entry back in May 2013 where the container had been replaced. I joined Shar in looking for the new one but after 15 minutes we had to admit defeat. I wasn’t quite sure what to do, I mean technically we had found the cache. We decided to take a picture of me with the cache at the hide to send to the CO and claim the smiley.
In another few minutes we were back at the car and although it had only been 5 caches and just over an hour in the woods it felt so good to be back out there again. Happy days.