It was way back in March that we last teamed up with our friends Geoff and Melissa (a.k.a. Smokeypugs) for a team PugWash caching adventure and although we had talked a number of times about unfurling the sails and casting off during the interceding months, for one reason or another it just hadn’t worked out. Finally, the planets and our diaries aligned and we agreed to meet in nearby Whippendell woods for some piratey caching fun.
Up until a few months ago the woods had just had a handful of caches dotted in and around it, but then a new series was published by local cachers gigglesandlouby+1 that was based on the elements required to obtain the Chief Scout badge. Considering that both husband and wife, the “giggles” and the “louby” respectively, are scout leaders and that Lees wood scout camp site is slap bang next door to Whippendell woods it is a brilliant idea for a series. Not least of all because you can actually earn a geocaching badge in scouts now and completing this series with your scout troop would take you a good way towards qualifying for it.
While we waited in the car park for Geoff and Melissa to arrive we took the opportunity to pick up a cache that was just a few metres away, Woodland Wanderer (GC2P421). Smokeypugs had previously found this cache and so we didn’t feel like we were jumping the gun. When I say “we” found a cache, what I meant to say is we sent Sam off to find it. He was happy to do so and trotted off into the bushes, returning a few minutes later with tales of being mega muggled by what appeared to be an entire scout troop on a hike from the nearby camp site.
Shortly after our friends arrived and human greetings and licks from Smokey the pug dog had been exchanged we headed off into the woods to start the series. Whippendell is a patch of ancient woodland that receives quite a lot of tending and upkeep from the council. The result is a lovely environment that is often very busy and, for my tastes, just a little over maintained at times. The paths are wide and mostly smooth and information boards are dotted around. Don’t get me wrong, it is a great place, but I like my woods a bit more wild and unpopulated.
Just a couple of hundred metres from the car park and we were at our first cache, 01 Creative (GC5NYAG). Shar and Sam darted off the path searching for a suitable stump where the cache might be. I hung back and after a couple of moments Geoff mumbled that there was a likely looking stump “over there”. I left the path and started heading in the direction I thought he was referring to and after a bit of course correction I was on my way, when Sam swooped in from the flank and nabbed the find. A very nice cache it was too showing evidence of a bit of woodworking skills on the part of the CO, always a nice touch.
It was almost the same story at 02 Adventure (GC5NNH7), which was further along the path. I located the sideways stump mentioned in the hint using the cunning technique of banging into it with my shins. Sam and Shar were already there at the other end and it appeared they had found the cache. But neither of them wanted to put their hand in and retrieve it so I was to get my chance after all. I stepped up and then laughed mockingly when I discovered the cache barely a few inches inside the hollowed out log. After signing I pushed it back a bit further as a challenge for the next cacher. Muhahahahahahahahaha.
I further justified my membership of the group by being the one to pluck the tiny nano cache out of its hiding place, an ivy covered tree, at 03 World Challenge (GC5NQE2). Where as many cachers hate these sorts of hides, they are perfect for me as the best way to find them is generally with your fingers rather than your eyes.
If you were thinking that I hadn’t mentioned Geoff and Melissa much so far in the finding of these caches, that’s because they had previously got the FTF on this last one and the other two they had located in the company of the cache owner whilst on a maintenance run, so they had been stepping back and letting us get on with it. For the next cache, 04 Teamwork (GC5NQEC), though they were back in and it was team PugWash all the way… to the information board, where we would find the numbers required to locate the multi cache. Numbers wasn’t the only thing we found at the board. We also bumped into a couple of newbie geocachers, da51her. Whilst the ladies and Sam collected the numbers, Geoff and I waxed enthusiastically about geocaching and in the space of about 5 minutes filled their heads with far more useful tips than they could possibly remember. It is hard to dial back the enthusiasm sometimes when we meet newbies… I just hope we didn’t weird them out, lol.
Having collected the required data and worked out the coordinates, we split up. Sam and Geoff went to find a nearby cache, Harrocks Wood Walk 1 (GC58AHK), that was not part of the series, whilst Shar, Melissa and I went in search of the final. By the time we had located GZ, after a couple of false starts into the woods through impassable routes, Geoff and Sam were back with us and even da51her were snapping on our heels.
Further along the path and soon the arrow was pointing into the woods again and so naturally we all barrelled off piste. This turned out to be a big mistake as soon we were tied up in trees with nowhere to go. Returning to the path the arrow now pointed to the other side and so Shar, Sam and I headed that way while Geoff ventured on further down the path to see what the arrow would do next. A couple of minutes and a fruitless search on our part later, Geoff called out that he had found 05 Outdoors (GC5NQEM) and so we trundled on further down the path to a cross paths and then a short way into the woods where we found him grinning next to an ammo can. I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of ammo cans we have found in over 1100 finds and so it is always a real treat to pull one out of its hiding place. I took the opportunity to drop of a TB and then acquired 3 more that were in the cache already. Upon returning home I discovered that I had already had one of them before, dropping it off in a Chiltern Hundred cache a few months ago, and now here it was in my hands again. Has that ever happened to you?
Our next cache, 06 Personal (GC55NQF7), was found by Geoff I think. I am not really sure as I was standing on the path gas bagging and not really paying attention. As I was doing so, our old friends da51her came up and we joked that we must stop meeting this way. As we were caching quite slowly today, taking our time and enjoying the good company and pleasant surroundings, we hung back and let them pass us by.
As we walked to the next cache we took note of a number that was on a metal tag on a tree as Melissa had cleverly noticed that this was a waypoint for a multi cache that lay further along the path. This saved us having to backtrack a fair way to pick it up once we reach the GZ which was two caches hence. . 07 Skills (GC5NQFD) turned out to be a rather well made cache that had been seated inside a hollowed out log and then a shaped wooden lid had been fitted with magnets to hold it in place covering the hiding place inside. A very classy bit of woodwork and one that urged me to dig out another FP, that was the 3rd one I had awarded on this series so far and it wouldn’t be the last either.
Sam came into his own at 08 Team Leader (GC5NYBD). Not only spotting the hint item whilst the rest of us was standing twisting round staring into thin air but then getting in amongst the holly to make the final retrieve. This was a clever decoy cache set up that had us searching multiple pine cone caches for the one that actually held the log. Sam really enjoyed this one and so the Favourite points came out again. It is really satisfying to find a collection of fun and ingenious caches all in one series that make the awarding of FPs a no brainer. After so many simple base of tree or magnetic micros it was great to be finding surprising and interesting caches in the woods.
And so came the multi, 09 Expedition (GC5NY7G). We had one piece of info already and at or near the published coordinates there were two more. One was on a footpath sign and the other an orienteering post. While the others looked for the latter I let my iPhone guide me along the wide main path to the former. I think I caused some concern to a couple of walkers who saw me split off from the group and appear to “wander off blindly” but I was sooner at or close to the sign and just waited until one of the others came and found me, which Geoff did shortly and duly noted the number. It is one thing to locate the footpath sign using the waypoint, but making a note of the number on it still needed eyes. The orienteering post proved a lot harder and after 5 minutes of searching we elected to take advantage of the handy picnic bench nearby and stop for lunch.
After sandwiches, ginger cake and a call to the CO, we were able to locate the orienteering post and retrieve the last number we needed to locate the final. Off we trundled into the centre of the woods and soon were plucking the cache from its hiding spot and signing the log. We had been collecting bonus codes from a number of the caches as we went round and so now we could calculate the final location of the last cache in the series, 10 Chief Scout (GC5NY9P). It was just a short trot away as Geoff had predicted and once at GZ it didn’t take him long to declare that he had uncovered this very clever hide on the side of a tree. There was much celebrating and back slapping and talk of returning to the cars for cake. Team PugWash made it round all the caches in just under 4 hours which qualified us for the honour of a “Gold” award from the CO. It was of course only a virtual “in name only” award, but we happily claimed it anyway.
Then we went back to the car…. oh wait, no we didn’t. I led the team on one last special pilgrimage which you can read about in my next blog entry, In search of Watford’s first ever cache.
Back at the car park we met up with the COs for a brief chat and playful beating from their cute son Z. I like the idea of meeting the Cache Owner at the end of doing a series and I think it should happen all the time, then you can tell them how much you enjoyed it or possibly even how rubbish it was. There was none of the latter in this case though and only plenty of admiration and congratulations for an excellent, favourite point stealing, series.
All that remained was to have a slice of Melissa’s world famous lemon cake and a hearty PugWash farewell and another adventure drew to a close. Happy Days.
This geocaching adventure took place on Saturday 11th July 2015 and took our total cache count to 1170.