See that? That’s our new “mark”. We’ve printed up a bunch of stickers with that on them so that when we come across cache we can make a distinctive entry instead of wet hen-scratching. Or “teacher printing” when Gwen makes the entries.

We were out both Saturday and today with the intention of finding some caches, but both days progressed quite a bit differently.

On Saturday, we went over to Horseshoe Bay via Home Depot and Wal*mart. No, really. We were looking for a step-stool large enough that Aidan can reach the sink in the bathrooms. And maybe other places. Home Depot, surprisingly, had nothing at all. So, we stopped at the North Van Wal*mart on our way to Horseshoe Bay (where we did buy one of the reasonably priced, folding two-step plastic variety). These little trips meant that by the time we actually made it to the village, it was lunch time, or slightly later. The first cache we were looking for was pretty near a playground (a surprising number of them are!) so Aidan spent some time running off steam in it. We tried to feed him some day-old cucumber rolls after that, but he wasn’t so interested. We wandered around near where we thought the cache was supposed to be, but a few things were working against us:

  1. We were looking for a buffalo tube. What? Yeah, we have no idea either. It’s small though.
  2. We were trying to shepherd an ambulatory toddler.
  3. There were lots of parked cars around.
  4. There were lots of people milling about.
  5. A group of young people set-up a game of “toss-the-football” near to where we thought the cache should be.
  6. The wind was excessively cold and neither Gwen nor I thought to bring a wind-breaker.
  7. Did I mention the ambulatory toddler?
  8. And, by this time, it was into/past said toddler’s nap-time.

As a result, we felt overly conspicuous and decided to abandon the search. No harm, no foul — there were plenty of other caches. This one seemed even more exposed. This one seemed to be in the middle the Sea-to-Sky highway construction through Eagle Ridge Bluffs. And, we couldn’t find the entrance to the park for this one, as I forgot to copy all the important information to the PDA. I had solved the pig-speak puzzle, though, and we found another playground. Due to the crankiness of TheBoy though, we didn’t spend long there.

Determined to make a better go of it, today we headed out to the Pacific Spirit Regional Park near UBC. My bike was still at work since Gwen and Aidan had picked me up to go for take-out and a beach supper on Friday night. Instead of just driving out there ($1.295 for gas on Saturday!!! $1.209 today. Go figure.) and picking it up, I figured we could pick up a few “easy” caches. By the time we pulled into the parking lot of the first attempt, it was drizzling pretty good. This one gave the coordinates for the beginning of the hunt, and then written directions from there. There were three segments: from the parking lot to an intersection of trails, along another trail to a bench, and from the bench along a third trail a set distance. Except I forgot to mark the location of the bench in the GPSr, and so we didn’t have a good sense of how far we needed to go. After walking in the ever-increasing rain much too far, and searching in tree-stumps that were guilty of nothing more than being “large, old stumps”, we walked empty-handed back to the bench. I marked two locations: the place we thought looked promising at another trail intersection, and a second location about half-way back that also looked promising. When we arrived back to the bench and measured the distances between all the points, we discovered that we had gone much too far and the second point I had marked on our way back was in fact the most likely place for the cache. We backtracked and after some 5 minutes or so looking in a few “large, old stumps” Gwen pointed to the top of the stump we had been giving the most attention to. I climbed up it and lo’: the cache was actually in the stump from the top.

Feeling buoyed (yet somewhat saturated) we returned to the truck and decided to attempt another cache. Mind you, the first one had taken us nearly an hour and three-quarters to suss out. Reckoning the second would be easier (because I mistakenly thought it was close to the trail head) we made our way down to see if we could find BC’s first geocache (placed in February 2001). We parked the truck at the trailhead on 4th Ave and went into the woods. It was drizzling significantly harder by this time. The trail we wanted to go down was blocked by one of those “chicane” gates designed to prevent bicycles from getting through, and guess what? They’re pretty effective at preventing strollers too. We wandered down a parallel trail but after going some distance, it became obvious that we werent’ getting to where we needed to go. So, we hiked back to the gate and lifted the stroller up and over it. Then it got interesting. The trail was pretty muddy and slick, and since it wasn’t a “main” trail, there were lots of rocks and tree roots. I was glad we had the All Terrain Stroller with us, but there were a few times that I was concerned that I was going to push it through a mud hole and not get it out. Gwen was having a tough time with it, slipping around in the mud and slick rocks. Eventually we made it to where the cache was, or close to it, and Gwen hiked off into the woods a bit to locate the box while I entertained TheBoy. TheBoy seemed to think that we were on a great adventure, singing pretty much the whole way, interjecting with “wheee!” and “whoa!” when I pushed him through the mud holes at high velocity and tried not to dump him out. After a few minutes searching, Gwen came back out of the woods victorious. We placed our stamp, left a speckled frog, and beat our way back through the mud to the car. It was just after 7pm by the time we made it back to the car. The stroller was caked with mud. We’ve decided to leave it in the back of the truck overnight (and through part of the day tomorrow, I’m sure) so that it can dry out before we try to clean it up.

So, things I’ve learned this weekend:

  1. Bring appropriate clothing for unexpected weather.
  2. You cannot over-prepare a hunt: more information sucks a whole lot less than not enough.
  3. Related: The waypoint and hint (in the GPSr) are not enough: the cache info page (including relevant maps) need to be in the PDA too.
  4. TheBoy controls the schedule. If trying something before his nap, do it well before. Early enough that you can get him back for the nap. If doing something after his nap, be sure to finish well before bedtime (7:30!) and if cutting it close, bring supper for him.
  5. Don’t try to find caches without Gwen.
  6. Trust the technology rather than your sense of direction. (Anthony)
  7. Trust your sense of direction rather than your husband’s (Gwen)

I’m sure there’s others (don’t overfeed TheBoy too far after bedtime is one) but those deserve another story.