Dinosaurs, Crocodiles and Thieving Dogs – A PugWash Adventure in Watford

As March rolled around, it had been almost 6 months since we had been out caching with our friends Geoff and Melissa on a PugWash adventure. It wasn’t for the want to trying, but that annoying thing called life kept getting in the way. So as the Easter holidays were upon us Geoff and I put our heads together and as well as getting a pile of sawdust, we formulated a plan. There is a series very close to us in Watford, on the Grand Union canal… well not actually on the canal that would be daft, but next to it anyway. We had all been saving this series for a PugWash day out and so we met at Cassiobury Park car park on a mild Thursday morning at the end of March, ready to hoist the sail and shiver me timbers *piratey grimace*.

Unfortunately Mel was unable to join the fun so it was the 5 of us (Shar, Sam, me, Geoff and Smokey the Pug dog) that tackled our first challenge… finding each other in the car park. This didn’t bode well for a day of caching if we couldn’t even locate each other amongst 50 or so vehicles. I was just about to call in search and rescue when Sam spotted Geoff’s car cunningly hidden in plain view in between two other cars. The caches being laid out along a linear route, we all hopped into our car and drove to a suitable parking spot further up along the canal; the cunning use of two cars to tackle linear routes a topic that I have waffled on about numerous of times before and so won’t bring it up this time… oh bugger.

Being in British Summer Time now and with the weather being pleasantly mild I am feeling quite summery and will therefore summarise our days caching as follows… oh stop groaning, it wasn’t that bad a joke, was it?

Our first cache, a fiendishly clever homemade, up a tree, clever retrieval jobby was a DNF. We spent an hour at GZ trying to free the mechanism from where it had got snagged as a result of recent high winds. This doesn’t sound too difficult but believe me it was. We spent the time constructing numerous “tools” of ever increasing length by lashing branches together with camo tape in order to try and reach the aforementioned snagged mechanism which was approximately 15 feet up a tree… out on a limb…. hanging over a high fence…. that was topped with barbed wire. Due to the nature of our improvised tool I can only compare the experience to that of trying to write your name with a leadless pencil strapped to the end of a 15 foot piece of rubber hose as someone jabs spikes into your armpit… almost impossible, and bloody pointless, not to mention bloody and pointless. In the end we ran out of branches, camo tape and ideas. So we admitted defeat and logged a DNF.

Geoff is using camo tape to secure multiple branches together to form a long tool to be used for desnagging a cache mechanism

Impromptu Tool Assembly

Geoff and Paul holding the hastily assembly tool consisting of multiple branches taped together trying to unsnag a cache mechanism

Reach For The Sky

During the above saga, Smokey decided he was much more interested in a large group of passing children and so blended in with the crowd and was 50 feet away, having a whale of a time, before Geoff could finally catch up with him and extract him from the group of smiling kids.

After that, things improved and we actually started finding caches along the canal. The series, Z’s Dino Trail (Dilophosaurus – Z’s Dino Trail GC5P8ED), as the name suggests, was all themed around dinosaurs and all the containers had little plastic dinos attached to them. It was a really cool idea and made a change from just boring old lock n locks. As if dinosaurs wasn’t enough, intermingled with the dino series was a series of crocodile themed caches, The Legendary Cassiobury Crocodile (GC61V7Q), which was awesome too. We collected a couple of bonus numbers from those and hope to find the remaining ones and the bonus sometime soon.

Sam holds one of the Dino Caches

Dinosaur loose in Cassiobury Park

At one cache, Shar disappeared into the trees at the side of the canal with Geoff to go searching for the container and then reappeared rather quickly a few seconds later looking rather shaken. Apparently as they had been searching the tree, something small and furry had scuttled up it in such a way as to really test the effectiveness of your sphincter muscles.

Still further on, we were aided in the location of another cache by a local canal boat owner who had spotted another “bloke” poking around in the bushes a short while ago before finally settling on one spot “over there”. He wanted to know if it was some sort of treasure hunt and not wanting to have to explain the intricacies of geocaching once again, we just smiled and mumbled affirmative. We found the cache a short while later, incidentally it was not “over there” but “over there” instead.

A short while later, we rocked up to a cache GZ that was slap bang next to a couple of canal boats and so Sam, Smokey and I did crowd distraction while Shar and Geoff went in search of the cache again. There followed an awkward conversation with one of the boat people – oh dear that does not sound like a very politically correct term – about Smokey who I was holding on to. I fielded the first question with ease, “yes, he’s a he and his name is Smokey” and then came a tricky one. How old is he? I wasn’t sure and my hesitation confused the woman. The ease with which I answered the first question had obviously fooled her into thinking I was the owner of the dog, but now she was not sure and I can only imagine was eyeing me with the look of someone who thinks I might be a dognapper. I then had to confess that the dog was not actually mine, but I don’t think this helped the situation. Mercifully then Geoff and Sharlene emerged from the bushes all happy and laughing, which I knew meant they had found the cache, but I suspect the old woman thought meant they were a couple of local doggers or something. Time to leave.

Sam Shar Geoff and Smokey stand next to the canal

Two Thirds of Team Pugwash

Our halfway point was in Cassiobury Park and so we took advantage of the picnic benches and… well had a picnic. More doggie shenanigans during lunch as a wandering canine, belonging to who knows who, snuck up and stole the very sandwich from my hand as I was about to eat it. Geoff confessed that he had seen the dog hovering nearby and eyeing the sandwich, but didn’t think he would be so bold as to actually pluck it from my fingers. He was! No sign of the owner anywhere and therefore no one to either have an argument or a laugh with and so as we packed up after our lunch we left lacking a certain amount of closure on the situation.

More excellent dino caches followed along the canal, most of which were easily located. One needed a PAF to the cache owner who we all know quite well. One in particular we had been warned was a replacement cache and therefore was not a dinosaur but merely a 35mm while a new dino was being sourced. After a few minutes looking, neither Geoff or I could find the cache but then, quite unexpectedly, Geoff found the original dino container which the CO was very happy about as it saved her the trip to put a new one there.

We met the resident canal swans a bit further along. They glided over with elegance and grace and then proceeded to hiss violently at Sam and Smokey. Watford swans are so rude.

A swan on the water of the canal

Oh, hiss off!

With the last of the dino caches found, we then backtracked a short way, crossed over the canal back into Cassiobury Park and found a couple more crocodile caches on our way back to the car where we rested our tired feet for a short while and chomped on some delicious cake, lovingly provided by Mel who despite not being able to cache today still did us proud with the baking.

Improvised “waggling” tools, bemused locals, hissing swans and a sandwich stealing dog along with yummy cake and great company are classic ingredients that go to make up another exciting PugWash adventure. Happy Days.

This geocaching adventure took place on Thursday 31st March and took our total cache count to 1434.

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