Last weekend was another active one, and it seems they just get busier and busier. As the “outdoor” weather now has a time limit on it, we get outdoors more and more.
What follows is the story of Saturday: apples and our attempt at 2 geocaches. The whole story is one of puzzlement and danger, but CHuck is going to have to give his side of the story before all can be told. WIthin this post I also describe my approach to a difficult cache and my biggest geocaching pet peeve.
Apples on Saturday
We drove north to go with Chuck and Patty to Lanni Orchards in Lunenburg. This is an orchard we’d been to before, about 3 years ago. Very accessible and great fun to wander around picking apples. Around where I live there is only one choice for PYO (pick your own) apples,1 but an hour north of here PYO farms are much more common.
The kids seemed to have fun picking the apples, searching for the biggest ones and discovering tree after tree full of them. It doesn’t take long before the bags become too heavy.
The plan for the rest of the day was to go geocaching. I’ll summarize. Our plan was to hike out to the area of a couple of caches in Fitchburg. Scott’s Reserve and Teacher’s Treasures. We’d hit Scott’s Reserve first, and then pick up TT right afterwards.
The parking area described on the Teacher’s Treasures cache page was far to the south. For future reference, in my limited geocaching experience, to make it more fun for kids you have to try to minimize the hike whenever possible. It’s not that kids don’t like to walk, it’s that the walk back is often tough with tired kids. We were a little low on time because Maggie and I had gotten to Fitchburg late, so we didn’t take the time to scout for a better parking place. As you can see on this map, there are some fairly close roads, but we followed the recommendation and parked south near Mechanic Street.
Thus began our (now legendary) attempt at Scott’s Reserve. We found a mini trail off the main one in the direction of the cache, and we knew we were doing well at that point. We zeroed right in on the location when Chuck exclaimed, “This is where it has to be!” He’d found a really neat old cellar hole which I failed to photograph. We began to search the hole and surrounding area.
I have a pretty efficient (if I do say so) search approach. First, I get in the general area of the cache. Once there I spot outstanding features (as Chuck did) and make a quick search around without looking at the GPS for the most obvious hiding spots. This only takes seconds. In that initial search we found the cellar hole, a tree with some bricks piled next to it and a nearby stone wall. Quick searches of all three came up negative.
Next I make multiple tries at finding the exact location of the coordinates using a compass and the GPSr bearing. I turn the unit on and off to try to eliminate “GPS drift.” And then I put the unit down and let it average the readings a bit without movement. This results in some triangulations that raise my confidence in the whether I am at the coordinates or not. If it’s not obvious then, I may check the cache owner’s clue.
The GPS put us in a leaf-covered area to the north of the cellar hole where there was a thin, very crooked tree. There was no where in the immediate vicinity of the coordinates to hide a cache. But we knew 3 things:
Maggie searched the actual cellar hole thoroughly and came up empty. It was clearly not there. We searched for a long time and were frustrated. Did the previous cacher do something “clever” with the cache to hide it? If previous geocachers could have stumbled on it without even seeing that cellar hole first, the thing must have been obvious before. But it wasn’t now. I was fixated on the stone wall and crawled the length of it on my knees. Chuck, Patty and Maggie searched another wall to the south, even further from the coordinates. No joy. Then they searched to the northwest as an equestrian passed on the south part of the trail. As the bugs got more aggressive, we decided to cut our losses and go after Teachers Treasures before it got dark.
The Trouble With DNF
We couldn’t imagine how 7 people could miss that cache which so many other people had found. The website allows people to log a “DNF” (did not find) when you go to a location and come away empty-handed. It helps other geocachers and the cache owner immensely to know if other people are attempting the cache and not finding it. First off, if it’s missing you will see a lot of people not finding the cache. Secondly, it will give you an idea of how hard the cache is if every third person who goes out there leaves empty-handed.
Unfortunately, even in something so simple as this, you see people giving in to an either vain or selfish urge that I just don’t understand. They don’t log their DNFs. They’ll got to the cache location, not find the thing, and then not bother to tell anyone.
You might wonder how I know this, considering that there is no evidence if there is no log. Amazingly, there is evidence. I’ll give you two examples I have recently seen. In one case, I have seen more than one cacher log something like the following:
Found it! What a good hide! This was our third attempt at this cache, so it was really great to finally get where it was. Thanks for the cache.
Hey, you found it. That’s splendid. Of course, the first think James does at this point is search the entire log for that cache and check to see when this person visited on the other two occasions. Hmmm. No DNFs logged. On this same cache I saw yet another person say “this was my second attempt” with no previous DNF logged. So, embarrassed to log a DNF, but not afraid to admit it afterwards? Useless.
In another case, I had a heck of a time on one cache, only to find that cache had actually gone missing. Later, after the cache owner confirmed that the cache was gone, (he checked because of my DNF log) someone actually left a log (and I paraphrase here, because I can’t see the site at the moment):
Oh I couldn’t find that one either. I guess it’s because it wasn’t there.
Thanks for nothing, other cacher. I spent all that time looking for a cache that wasn’t there because you were too lazy, inconsiderate, or embarrassed to admit you couldn’t find it. If you’d logged the DNF, I wouldn’t have been so confident that it was there. Thanks for nothing.
So, I have a new hobby and a new pet peeve.
Teacher’s Treasures was a cinch. We found the brook we were supposed to cross and the cache was up a small hill. We let the kids go ahead and find it because it was mostly out in the open. We made some small trades and then hit the log walk back ot the cars, kids in tow.
Fun and Games
Back at the Chateau Seggelin, we played Zendo and Wise and Otherwise to round out a full day.
The resolution of the Scott’s Reserve mystery is this: Even though the cache had been found just 2 days before, it was indeed missing. It had been under the pile of bricks which we spotted seconds after finding the cellar hole, without the clue and without re-consulting the GPS. If it had been there we would have spent just a few minutes at that cache and maybe a few more exploring the cellar hole for fun.
But we didn’t know that on Saturday night
I knew Scott’s Reserve was eating at Chuck’s mind. I knew he would go back there.
He did, but that’s mostly his story. And it happened on Sunday.
1 Peters Family Orchard & Cider Mill at 537 N.Main St., Acushnet is the only place I know of in the “Southcoast” area for pick-your-own apples. My friend Sara went there last week, but I don’t think she has a blog post about it. She thought it was a decent place, but a little pricey. No competition. See the MassGrown page for PYO apple orchards elsewhere in Massachusetts.Posted by James at September 29, 2004 10:28 AM