One of our recent GeoDates was somewhat of a disaster, which you can read about on my previous blog entry When geocaching despair leads to thoughts of cannibalism. Since then we had enjoyed a good family day out caching, but Sharlene and I were keen to embark on another GeoDate and vanquish the memory of that dark day in the Misbourne valley.
I picked out a cluster of caches in the St. Leonards / Cholesbury area which is just a stone’s throw from Tring in Hertfordshire, although I am not sure they would permit anything as raucous as the throwing of stones in Tring, oh dear me no. Most of the hides belonged to CaptainJack, a cache owner that I have mentioned countless times on this blog, as we have attempted hundreds of his caches in the past. Actually, I really should check how many of his we have found…but not now. There were a couple of caches there were part of a series called Universally Challenge, which is a series dating back to 2005.
Originally the series had 10 caches in it all named after celestial bodies, 9 of them containing bonus numbers which would enable you to find number 10, the sun. It is quite rare to see a series that dates as far back as this one does and it is considered somewhat required caching amongst the locals. Eventually everyone does them, or at least should do. The hides are placed quite a distance apart, as was the norm back then and this allowed the likes of CaptainJack to come along in subsequent years and pepper the surrounding countryside with easy trads to give you something to do on the way to each cache in the series. Last summer we did cache in the area and attempted to pick up a couple in the series but had no success at all, and I wondered whether we would even reattempt them. You can read about that day on my previous blog entry, Playing with planets and getting scorched by The Sun. Considering our previous failure with the Universally Challenged caches and factoring in our desire for a pleasant, re-energizing caching day, it might seem odd that I was suggesting these particular hides. Well, they weren’t the same ones from the series that we attempted last time and my attitude this time was different. We were there mainly for the CaptainJack caches and the prospect of a nice woodland walk, if we managed to find the Universally Challenged caches, that would be a bonus.
As we parked on a small patch of clear ground next to a gate and set about putting our boots on, I was hopeful that this was going to be a good day. The weather was comfortable, not hot, nor cold and no sign of rain in the forecast. Just beyond the gate lay wide footpaths leading off into the woodland and all that could be heard was the birds tweeting in the trees. This was exactly the sort of caching I was hoping for.
And we weren’t disappointed, the walking was easy and enjoyable and the first 3 caches were found with no trouble at all. The sheer joy of the peaceful surroundings allowed the stress of everyday family life in a busy town to just slip away. The biggest problem we experienced was that the relatively high density of trees made for somewhat troublesome GPS readings and we had to use our caching instinct rather than rely on accurate readings in some cases, but if that is the only problem then that is no problem at all really.
At The pit we got a bit confused as we were looking for a large pit, maybe the result of gravel quarrying (hmmm that doesn’t even sound like it is a thing) and so were somewhat bemused to eventually find the cache nestled in the side of what can only be described as a depression in the ground. I made a note on my voice recorder to that effect and then tried to record the sound of the peaceful woodland for posterity.
In case you were wondering,, that is the voiceover function on my iPhone and although both Shar and I tend to tune out her wafflings having live with her for so many years, she does have a habit of chipping in right at the wrong moment. As an aside, my choice of voice is an Australian female, picked over the other choices which were English British and English American. I have always had a thing for antipodean accents, which is no more evident in my choice of Sharlene as the person I want to share my llife with. Her accent is softening a lot now as she has been here for almost exactly the same amount of time she has spent in NZ. For the record, there was no option for me to select English New Zealand for my VoiceOver voice.
The cache after this was one of the Universally Challenged caches and whilst it was a little tough to locate, , find it we did and made a note of the first bonus number, I wonder if we will ever get all the numbers. Could be tricky, especially as Mars has been missing for a number of years now. What? are you mad? How on earth could you even think there is a chance of completing the series then? Well as I said before it has proved a very popular series over the years and I am certain that many of our friends on the local BBH Facebook group will have the codes about their persons somewhere, so a small amount of bribery, probably with cake, should secure the missing code should we need it.
After another straightforward CaptainJack cache it was time to try and find the next Universally Challenge cache. This one was a bit trickier, it being hidden at the centre of an enormous Rhododendron bush. “Bush” really doesn’t do the thing justice. It was massive covering an area of about 50 feet square I would say. This thing could audition for the part of creepy, blood thirsty, alien thing on Doctor Who any day of the week hell it could probably get its own film. It took us about 10 minutes to find our way to the middle of the thing and then we were rewarded with a very nice sized cache that was in pretty good condition considering how long it had been there. Two planets down, two bonus numbers logged. This day was going very well indeed.
All that remained now was a pleasant walk back to the car through the woods, stopping to pick up one last cache that we had intentionally skipped on the way round to allow us to break up the last stretch. It was an easy find deep in a hollow of a post next to a gate and it was just a shame the majority of other people to pass this way had decided to use the hollow as a rubbish bin. Come on people, just take it home with you!
Eight caches found and no DNFS, but more importantly both Shar and I agreed that it had restored our faith in the concept of the GeoDate. Happy Days.
This geocaching adventure took place on Tuesday 17th May and took our total cache count up to 1459.