Camels Prairie Stash

IMG_20140717_200431Still Thursday, July 17.

As we left the logging roads that led us to Eggcellent, we headed north for another set of logging roads some 240 miles away in the panhandle.  We took Elk River Road to Highway 3, a rural highway that cut north through more typical Idaho scenery: stubby brown hillsides, hay fields, farms, and roads that disappeared around the bends only to pick back up again.

We had a music crisis that had reached critical mass around this time, two weeks into the road. I had this idea that we were all going to take turns with our music. It turned out that Jason completely forgot about this idea…forgot about music completely actually, and didn’t have a single audio file loaded on his phone except two odd voice mails that we actually did listen to in our desperateness. I never thought I would see the day, but after twenty two years as a fan, I finally burned myself out on the Indigo Girls during this trip. I couldn’t handle my own music anymore, I was so over it, despite the bonus albums I had borrowed from the library to burn copies of (apparently all “hippy dippy shit”, according to Jason). We were listening to some of that this day – some odd Peter, Paul and Mary tracks that I had never really heard – but finally we had to kill that off and go for the one thing that kept us from driving each other crazy three weeks on the road – the audio book of the first Game of Thrones story, “A Song of Ice and Fire”. At thirty three hours long, it was the perfect road companion.  We listened to this for a couple hours at a time almost every day of our trip this summer, and finally finished it off on the last stretch of road from Dallas to Houston.

We were starting to get hungry, but we didn’t drive through any real towns for quite a while on this stretch. Finally, around two pm, we reached Saint Maries, a little town that was apparently the site of a “Wobblies War” between unions and state/federal forces.  Across the street from the historical marker describing this (also a virtual cache), we found respite in Bud’s Drive In, a greasy spoon offering great burgers and cool drinks.  We had the friendliest waitress ever, who insisted on making us “Arnold Palmers” when we couldn’t decide if we wanted lemonade or iced tea, and insisted on making us to-go cups of it as we were leaving (even if I wasn’t quite convinced I liked it – it was really hard to say no to her enthusiastic spirit).

Speaking of spirit, pretty soon we were passing through Coeur D’Alene, then out into the watery and less inhabited regions of Idaho.  This sign made me want to stop and stay a while at this place,  but we were on a mission.  Maybe next time.
IMG_20140717_210459We were heading north to Priest Lake State park, a campground just thirty miles from the Canadian border.  The reason we were headed there was because this time, this year, I was going to find this particular “grandfather” cache:  Camels Prairie Stash, which is hidden off the logging roads basically across the road from the park.

This is the oldest cache in Idaho, having a hide date of 6/17/2000.  It has been found a little bit more often than the other ones we found on this day (about 150 times by the time we found it), despite the challenges in getting to it, and is owned by Moun10Bike, who is a Charter Member and legend in the geocaching world.

Mostly, I was in it for the view.  I wanted to experience this exact moment that is in this picture from the cache page (not my pic).  I love this picture:

camels prairie

This picture just seems to sum up what it is I am after in our adventures into the wild.

As I learned, it was not the right time of year for this photo…nor am I sure I want to actually be here when there is snow still on the ground.  The way to this area was rough, and I felt a little more vulnerable out here than I anticipated (might have had something to do with the fresh bear scat we saw, and that others reported seeing in their logs).   So we didn’t get THAT picture, but we did get this one, which I was happy with:GC25

I wasn’t sure we were actually going to make the find on this one, to tell you the truth; at least not during this first evening’s attempt.  It was a bit tricky to get to.   When you look at a map of the area, you see little tendrils reaching out from the main road, indicated the various logging roads, but internet maps are not up to date with the changes these roads taken over seasons or years.  Places that showed up as roads on the map were barricaded by gates, so overgrown beyond that to the point of being impassable even if the gates were open.  Previous finders indicated the way was challenging, but did not leave  hints on how to actually navigate these roads.  It was like some conspiracy, one finder wrote, to leave out the critical information of the journey.

The ridiculous part about our attempt to get there was that I had already actually researched our approach, and came up with two “markers” in the way of other geocache hides that would indicate where the turns were that we needed to make.  Jason took a look at the area, though, when we got there, and didn’t agree with my assessment.  He is usually right, so I trusted him…but then we spent over an hour traversing a logging road that ended up taking us in the other direction, and we were running out of daylight.  We decided we were going to have to give up for the night, but on the way out, we were both like, “but wait, what lies this way?” and took a left instead of the right that we would need to take to get out.  After this, we ended up finding the way to those hides I had marked on the GPS unit, which took us right up to the turns we needed to make.

The last stretch of road was an uphill climb of about a mile and a quarter.  The cache owner advised leaving the vehicle at the bottom of this hill unless you had a 4×4 vehicle, but Jason thought we could make it in the Subaru, and we were running out of daylight.  I suspect that this road has changed in the fourteen years since this cache was hidden, though.  There were deep ruts, like hills, that kept scraping the bottom of the vehicle as we went over them.  We took some video of this as well, and hopefully I can find where Jason stored them soon.  The videos got a little tense, though, and you could hear me cussing a little and telling him that maybe we should just stop, now.  This was one of those rare instances where Jason is a lot more reckless than I wanted to be.  I started making a plan for how we would deal with it if we ruined our vehicle and got stuck out here.  In the end, he did finally stop the car, about 0.43 miles from the cache, and admitted he probably should have stopped it sooner.  We were lucky in that all it cost us was a dented muffler and some “trail badges” of scraped paint.  IMG_20140717_201850

We walked up the rest of the hill as quickly as we could, not wanting to get caught out here after dark.  The entire time, I had the sense that there were animals out here watching us, but we didn’t see any.  We took some photos, but not as many as I wanted, and did look out at the mountain/hills in the distance from look out points, but we didn’t waste a lot of time, and made a quick scramble back down the hill to the Subbie.  I was amazed that we actually made the find after all that difficulty getting there, and it was really beautiful up there.  Would do it again in a heartbeat.


We made camp late in the night.  Still needing to come up with some dinner, I warmed up the remainder of the pasta I had made in Pocatello, and we scarfed it down in the darkness.  I had to clean out the cooler at this part of the journey, and we walked to the dumpster under a night bright with stars and anticipation.   Every once in a while when we are camping in the northwestern states, I have the feeling like I did at this place, like the world is so big and we are so small, and those stars just keep blinking under a sky that seems so much closer and the air so much sharper than it does back home in Texas.   That is the feeling that I most remember about this campsite.

I would love to have spent some time sitting by the lake and looking for eagles or ospreys to fly over it looking for fish, but we didn’t have time to even stop to soak it all in.  I always pack us too tight with adventures and missions and agendas, and the next morning was no different.  We made a quick exit and drove out headed east, towards Montana and Glacier National Park.  Next entry.


Our Eggcellent Adventure

IMG_20140717_113216Thursday, July 17.
We almost didn’t want to leave the comfort of the Konkoville Motel, but we were on a mission. After a cozy hotel breakfast of the most delicious muffins, possibly some fruit and cereal, coffee and milk, we finally pulled out and headed out to the Idaho wilderness.
We were searching one of the oldest active geocaches (of course), Eggcellent, hidden June 21, 2000. This was literally within a month of the game’s inception, and just a few weeks after the oldest cache hide. This one is REALLY off the beaten path…so much that it has only been found 47 times before us in the fourteen years that it has been sitting out here. I’ve been eyeballing it on the map for a while, though, and I thought, what is the next time we are going to be in Idaho…we should go for it while we were here. Plus, it was kind of a double shot kind of deal, because along the way, we could pick up a find on another grandfather cache, Two Roads. This one has been out the same amount of time, with almost three times as many finds. I guess that is the difference between a difficulty 3, terrain one/short walk versus a difficulty four/terrain four, the other difference being about two or three hours in the approach.
We had some discussion about the best way to approach Eggcellent. I had studied the maps and made a plan, but as usual, Jason looked at my plan really late in the game and decided to change it all. He didn’t think the route I picked would actually get us there, and so after some back and forth, he suggested we contact the cache owner, who was nice enough to write us back with some very specific directions. This was mostly helpful…although, when we got towards the end, things got a little hairy. In case you ever find yourself in the center of western Idaho, very close to the Washington border (nearest cities include Moscow, Lewiston, and Coeur D’Alene, although none of those are THAT close by), and you are wanting to find this cache, here are the directions the CO gave us. Be forewarned, though…you will need a vehicle that is capable of off-road, all wheel terrain and towards the end, you are going to have to trust your gut and use your spidey-senses to find the way to the cache. I am not even sure the last “road” is even a road? It is more like…tire tracks along a stretch of grass next to a wild, dark forest.
Hi. Here are some waypoints that will help with getting to Eggcellent: Turn off Hwy 8 onto NF1963 at: N46 45.837 W116 14.831. Turn on NF1445 at: N46 44.633 W116 15.974 Go Right at: N46 44.031 W116 14.330. Turn left on Rd at N46 42.518 W116 13.190. Right on Rd at N46 42.434 W116 12.957 Turn Left at N46 41.920 W116 12.694 (This road goes to ground zero. Stay on it till you get there. You will get real close and then seem to get further away but the road goes out and then comes right back to ground zero. As you drive to GZ, the cache was on our right. We actually stood on it several times while searching.)
There may be some gates closed and if there are, you will need to park and walk but the last cachers didn’t have any problem.

The initial entry into the forest made us really happy. The views were great and the road wasn’t too bad. We didn’t see anyone in the hours we were out here. We had smiles on our faces and were enjoying the flowers and the dark coolness of the woods. Each turn took us to a road that was a little smaller and a little rougher. When we reached the last turn, down the last road, we started to doubt whether or not this was actually the way. We ended up backing up and taking another right, which led us to an area that had been burnt out by logging operations. We turned right here by these flowers and parked the Subbie by the burn out spots, and then started walking down the road.
Now we come to the part of our adventure that we are still “arguing” about to this day. So, there was an animal in the woods just to the left of those flowers. A very, very big animal. I wanted to take a look at it. I am fairly certain that the creature making all the noise in the woods was exactly this here (NOT a picture we took. This one has been floating around the internet for some years):
Anyways, Jason wouldn’t let me go look and see. Instead, he grabbed two small logs, and began banging them together rhythmically, talking loudly, even singing a bit of a loud chant/song. The thing in the woods grew silent, and maybe disappeared, and with it went my chance to see a really awesome wild animal. It had to either be a moose or a bear, and all I wanted to do was look…maybe get a picture from a distance. I still feel a little bit cheated, but he says we are better safe than sorry.
After this, we walked down the road about a third of a mile, going around a corner and then finding the cache in the woods to our right, almost directly across the road from where the giant animal was walking. The whole walk, I kept expecting it to walk out in front of us, and it made me feel vulnerable and excited at the same time. It turns out we could have driven right up to the cache, and perhaps maybe even the road we were originally on would have gotten there from the opposite direction. Found it, though, and made it back to the parking area. Then, despite Jason’s caution about the wild animal, he had me stand right there by the flowers where we had first heard it moving around, by myself, and take videos of him driving the Subbie down the burned out hillside that we parked at. Hilarious.
We took lots of videos on the way out, and when I find them, I will upload them. This is something that we did a lot of in our 2010 road trip and haven’t done much of since, and it was fun to revisit this. For now, a lasting picture of the road out:

Southern Idaho’s First Disappointment

Okay, so back with the continued adventures of a road trip out west. In our story, it is now July 15, and our intrepid explorers have left the Salt Lake City area, sans kids (they were now with their dad for a few weeks) and half a day behind. The plan, my friends, was to reach Pocatello, Idaho by lunch time. We were supposed to have plenty of time to stop by a wilderness area southwest of the city, make a quick find on this grandfather cache, maybe spend a couple of hours exploring Craters of the Moon National Monument, have Taco Time for lunch (again), then drive towards Missoula and find a place to camp for the night. Well, I didn’t regret spending so much time at the Potters Pond area, but there is always a trade off.
In this case, the time we spent dawdling around in Utah’s National Forests meant time we didn’t have when we finally got to Pocatello. So, we never actually made it to these places here. We didn’t take these pictures. These pictures are taken by people who actually FOUND Southern Idaho’s First cache. Not like us. pocatello 1

pocatello 2

pocatello 3
This was our experience; we pulled up at Pocatello, finally, around seven at night. The cache description, as it is on many of these very old geocaches, does not really describe what kind of experience the hider is going to have, or give any particularly helpful directions. This is the entirety of the cache description (for those who didn’t click on the above link):
My GPS reported 13.2ft accuracy after 10 minutes of averaging.

Southern Idaho’s FIRST! This is an easy stash with an awesome view of Pocatello, Idaho and it’s surrounding mountains. There are several roads leading to the stash, I drove to within 100ft in my Jeep. Any decent 4×4 could almost drive right to it. Have fun.
So, given that, I was under the impression that this was like a park and grab. After all, we have a pretty decent all terrain vehicle. There were a couple of things I didn’t account for, though, that did not work in our favor: the cache was actually located within the boundary of a park, which had a gate with a sign on it that said the gates are locked at “dusk”. What time is that, exactly? We had about half an hour, maybe an hour tops until the sun went down, and although we had all our camping supplies with us, we didn’t particularly want to spend the night locked in the park. Also, the “roads” weren’t entirely clear, particularly which one of the rocky, rugged trail-type “roads” the CO meant that took you straight up to the cache. We tried a couple of approaches.
The last approach MIGHT have been the right one, but it was quite a ride just to get about halfway up, and then suddenly the rough road looked like it went straight up, too steep for me. Jason and I had a bit of a disagreement over whether or not to go further, because he felt certain he could drive the Subaru UP there, but I was too scared to make that drive. I finally just got out of the car. If he was going to try that, I was NOT going to go with him…I would walk, instead (there are times he is more risky than I am…like when it comes to off-roading etc). But it was still like a mile to the cache, if I am remembering right. There was no way we had time to walk up there and back in time to get out of the gates before dusk.
So we had to surrender the attempt. It was so disappointing. Now it was almost dark, and with a sigh of defeat, we chose to camp at the closest camping area in town: the neighborhood KOA. I also found this campsite to be disappointing and depressing. It had little redeeming beauty; just gravel roads, loud RVs, and scanty grassy areas to set up tents in the middle of the suburban landscape. I made a pasta dinner over our camp stove while Jason set up camp. I thought that in the morning, we would have gotten some insight on the road in and feel inspired to try again, but when the sun came up, Jason didn’t feel like it, and it was probably just as well, because we needed to make up some time. The one redemption of this stop was that we saw both the sunset and the sunrise at this camp, and in the morning as I was cooking breakfast, I noticed that in the tree right above us, a mother robin was bringing her three little chicks breakfast. I saw their yawning little beaks reaching for her, too cute.
We packed up and headed out before the office was even open that morning, headed northwest towards Missoula, Lolo Creek, the Sawtooths, and Orofino, Idaho – day of vacation highlights. This is where we will pick up again when I next have time to put it all down.

GC3B: Potters Pond

There’s a little place in Utah that we’ve been talking about for a while.  To tell the truth, it is a little bit of a sore spot for us, but it’s a beautiful sore spot.  Even though we’ve had some heated discussion about what went down at Potter’s Pond back in 2010, what happened actually represents the good in us, the complementary nature of our relationship.  As in, I am the risk taker, and he is the cautious one.  I push him to explore areas past his comfort zone, and he reins me in when I am going too far with it.

We still haven’t established who was in the right back in 2010, in my opinion.  All I know is, he strongly insisted we not pursue finding the grandfather cache hidden there, in light of certain danger.  This is what the area looked like when we got to it that June, over four years ago now:

Copy of DSCF0331 - CopyThe cache seemed to be at the top of that peak, and there was a snow “storm” coming in.  Also, from the angle we approached it, it appeared that the only way to get there was to cross a creek, which was raging with cold water this time of year.  I am still pretty certain I could have walked over this fallen log and made it across the creek, then up and back down this “mountain” before the snow came in, but Jason didn’t think we should take any chances.  There had to be an easier way, I thought, but this was kind of before we were caching with smart phones, and I hadn’t really looked all the way through the previous logs to see if that was true or not.  We tried walking parallel to the creek, but we never did find a place where it seemed like you could cross.

Anyways, fast forward to this past July, just about two months ago.  We were back, and I was on a mission.  My, what a difference a month makes around here, as well!  This time, we could not have picked a prettier day to make the hour or two drive out of Salt Lake City, to the mountain area southwest of Price.  I was ecstatic about the weather, the beautiful wildflowers, the prospect of finally finding this cache.  I had done some research this time, and knew there was an easier way across the creek, where all we had to do is get the tips of our shoes wet in the crossing.
After this, the going was fairly easy for a little bit, but then the trail got a little more dodgy. It really was a horse trail, like they mention in the logs, and there were fallen logs about. I still can’t believe I tripped over one of them, falling flat on my face right when some boy scouts were coming down the trail ahead of me. Duh! As I dusted myself off, they asked if we were geocachers. I wonder, how did my clumsiness identify us as such? They told us the cache was just a little ahead, as were some others, even though they had not logged it themselves. They also warned us about the mosquitos, and we should have heeded their warning a little more seriously, as in put on some bug spray. We got swarmed so bad that it really took the joy out of actually making the find. We were in a darn hurry to just sign that log and get out of dodge at that point!

Now this is where the story leads us to our latest bone of contention. Jason insisted since we were up here, that we should find the geocache called Mountain Ninja that was also nearby. Well, Mountain Ninja is named that because you have to have a certain amount of agility to make the find and get back out. It is hidden in an area covered with downed trees. Now, back in 2010, I would have been loving this, but since I had that terrible leg injury with its long series of complications, including a very recent stint involving more physical therapy in which we were JUST working back up to my being able to balance on one leg, I was not a very happy camper about this situation. I grumbled, a LOT, to the point that it was making Jason nuts, and now he tells everyone we know that he finally took me up that darn mountain, and I could not get off of it fast enough. It was just this particularly challenging terrain I was unhappy about, though. That, and we kind of lost the trail on our way back down, so it was a bit of a bushwack downhill. I was so happy to finally find that darn little creek again.

The flowers and birds were incredible, though, and on our way out, we saw a shape running through the fields. I got a close up look with the binoculars at a badger turning his face towards my view for a second before scurrying faster. The drive in and out is a series of dirt roads that eventually lead to bigger roads that eventually lead back to the highway. We came in and out of the area through Fairview, where we stopped for a burger afterwards at a dive/gas station area that advertised the best burgers, and pretty much they were. We had an interesting talk with some retired older man and a couple of cowboys, one of whom turned out to be from the Tomball area, which was crazy.
And I don’t know who is more glad to get that stinking cache off our list: me, who wanted it so bad, or Jason, who was so tired of hearing about it.