Sometimes a geocaching trip serves to satisfy but one simple desire – the urge to find caches. Conversely there are times when getting out in the woods functions as a means to two, or even more, distinct ends. And so it was this weekend that a foray into the pleasant environs of Aldenham offered us the chance to mortally wound a plethora of animals of the avian variety with no more than a singular masonry projectile.
In addition to wanting to pick up a few caches, we also needed to return to number 10 on our Wall Hall Series to do a little maintenance again and this would, of course, require us to take the ladder. As well as that, I was keen to give my newly acquired iPhone 4s another run for its money to assess its accuracy and battery performance. With my acquisition of this new phone, my old iPhone 4 is being handed down to Sam as his first smartphone and upon hearing this he was ever so slightly more excited than usual about going out for a few geocaches. With all this in mind and the publication, last week, of a 29 cache series called Moosey’s Trail that overlaps with our Wall Hall series in a number of places, a journey to Aldenham seemed like the perfect stone to kill all our birds.
We parked up near the last cache in our Wall Hall series and set off for the 10 minute walk into the woods so that we could perform the required maintenance. The first time I took the step ladder into the woods I felt extremely self-conscious and, well to put it bluntly, weird. This being the third time now, I was feeling fairly relaxed about it all despite the fact that it was a Sunday afternoon and the weather was good which meant that there was lots of walkers, cyclists and even horse riders that we passed on the short trek.
On arriving at the GZ Shar set up the ladder and I was soon up with my head in the branches fiddling with the cache. The mechanism itself was still working fine and our visit today was purely to replace the lid of the enclosure and secure it properly as it had become dislodged by a well-meaning person trying to retract the cache. I could have left the box uncovered but my concern was that with winter on the way and the weather likely to take a turn for the worse soon, if I didn’t protect it, then the mechanism would become wet and this might hinder the operation of the workings. I replaced the lid and used a couple of cable ties to hold it in place and after a few experimental pulls on the mechanism, was happy that this was all that needed doing for the time being.
Not wanting to have to lug the ladder all the way to the car and then return back to the woods to do some caching, but equally not wanting to carry the ladder all the way round, we elected to backtrack towards the car a short way and secure the ladder to a fence in the undergrowth whilst we went in search of tupperware for an hour or so. We used Sam’s bike lock which I had suggested we bring just in case such a situation as this should arise. With that done we set off back into the woods to find some geocaches.
Rather strangely the first two that we were looking for were our own. Since our Wall Hall series went live back in June we have had around 30 visitors to each hide. With that in mind and winter approaching we wanted to get out and check on as many as we can to make sure that log sheets get replaced and that the integrity of the containers is still good. So far we have managed to check on numbers 12, 11, 10 and 2 which we happened to be passing while we were scouting out a new route for caches that we hope to place later in the year. Today I could see a convenient route that would take us past 9 and 8 on our way to the far end of the woods where we would cache our way back locating some of the new power trail that has been place by TR64 recently. Both caches were in good order and after replacing the old log sheets for new ones we headed off to find our first proper cache of the day, Moosey’s Trail 07 – Roland Hill (GC5DM0M).
Sam excitedly whipped out his new iPhone and brought up the caches that I had saved onto it for him. Not having a micro sim yet the phone is operating effectively as an iPod at the moment but seeing as we had saved the caches when on the Wi-Fi at home this was not a problem. Out came my 4s and Shar pulled up her Samsung Galaxy Ace, soon to be replaced by an S3 mini, and off we went. Even though we have placed caches in and around these woods our trip to the first cache was on a trail that we had never walked along before. The weather was still not cold and with the rains of the previous day now gone, it was a perfect day to be caching in the woods.
At the GZ, both Sam and I were focusing a bit too much on how accurate our phones were rather than using cache sense which is what ultimately led Shar to find the cache neatly tucked behind a fence post. As she signed the log she commented that so far, 5 people had already logged it today and it was still only just gone 3pm. It appears that we were not the only people to think that this was a good day to be out doing a little caching.
The next 4 caches on the power trail, Moosey’s Trail 08 – Resting Tree (GC5DM0P), Moosey’s Trail 9 – Stake Out (GC5DM0Q), Moosey’s Trail 10 – Chip off the old block (GC5DM0T) and Moosey’s Trail 11 – After Pre (GC5DM11) were all on the same footpath that led us alongside the M1 motorway that lay just on the other side of the trees. At times the path was no more than 30 metres from the carriageway and the noise was a little overwhelming but for most of the way it was just a dull drone. The hides were all good, straight forward and relatively easily found. In between number 10 and 11 we paused to search for MI5 Reservation (GC4C3C) which is a cache we have been to before back at the beginning of the year. Back then there had been no other caches in these woods at all and this one was quite a find as it was a very old cache, having been placed back in 2002.
We were searching for it again as even though Shar and I had logged it, Sam had not, so it would be a perfect time to try for it now. When we reached the point on the path when the arrow pointed us into the trees towards the motorway, Sam set off, phone in hand into the trees. It was quite hard going under foot with lots of loose logs and undergrowth. I followed a short time later and then I heard the familiar cry and thump of Sam falling over. I made my way to him as quick as I could and discovered him sprawled on his back in amongst the dense foliage on the floor. Thankfully no harm was done and he was soon back on his feet and off in search of the cache again. A short while later and after he and Shar had taken a far easier route to the cache than I had, we all converged next to the noisy road to inspect the contents of the container. It was interesting to see a proper log book with entries dating back to 2002 when people actually took the time to write a few lines in the physical book. Unfortunately the log book is very damp and the container really needs replacing but it is good to see that it is still here. If I manage to get hold of a suitably large container at some point I might go back and give the cache some much needed tlc as I don’t think the CO is active anymore and I definitely don’t want to see this cache disappear.
Another easy find along the path and then it was time to turn left along the edge of a field which would take us past another cache on the way to where we had locked up the ladder. Moosey’s Trail 12 – Quercu Foramen (GC5DM14) was hidden at the base of an impressively large oak tree. I love a really thick trunked oak tree, they always put me to thinking of what the area would have been like when the tree was a small sapling, close to a hundred years ago at a rough guess. I can tell you that back then there was no M1 motorway and barely a main road running near there at all. The estate encompassing the woods was very much in use though, enjoying one of its periods of opulence in the hands of the gentry of England. From the field where the tree stood I reckon you could have had a clear sight all the way to the Red Lion pub that is now a Toby Carvery and hidden by the motorway – shame.
I realised later as we were in the car on the way home that this cache had been our 800th find. It had completely slipped my mind that we were getting close and it just passed us by like any other cache. Even though we hadn’t realised that, we did stop to take some pictures at the GZ.
From here it was a short walk to where the ladder was hidden and from there we carried on back to the car stopping only briefly to collect our last cache of the day, Moosey’s Trail 13 – Aircraft Shed (GC5DM14). All in all it was a very enjoyable afternoon. Sam seemed to really enjoy having his own device to navigate to the caches with, I saw in him a level of engagement that we don’t often see when out caching. As for the 4s, well I am happy with the accuracy, being no more or less accurate than Shar’s Samsung. The battery performance is pretty shocking but I expected as much. I went through about 60% in just under 2 hours although I had forgotten to use the screen curtain function which would have improved that somewhat. Although this battery performance isn’t great it is manageable seeing as I carry my power pack charger whenever we are out caching these days.
On returning home and checking my emails I can tell you that at least 10 other geocachers were out in the woods during the course of the day as I received a shed load of logs on various caches in our series and even a few more favourite points on the cache we went to maintain, which now has 28 in total. At the end of the day, I think we well and truly killed a whole flock of birds with the proverbial stone. Happy days.