Something Wicked This Way Comes: Snoqualmie Version

After our disheartening defeat at GCD, we drove across the highway and found the parking area for our next quest: to travel through the Snoqualmie Tunnel to the other side to get another grandfather cache, one called “IronHorse”.
Jason had already found this cache, but I had not. Both of us had been to this area before. Many, many geocachers have. This area was a mecca for geocaching, due to it being a common route to the last remaining APE cache in the US, which sadly was archived in the previous year due to it being muggled repeatedly by that geo-pirate I mentioned in the last post. Jason claimed a find on the APE cache in 2005 when he was sent to the Seattle area for business. I found the APE cache myself in 2008 when I was up in the area for a work interview, and was considering moving up this way (still would love to do that). Both of us had taken the other approach to that famed cache – going up the Lake Annette trail, which was beautiful.
There was a typical traditional hide now in the spot the APE cache formerly laid, but neither of us had our sights on that today. He wanted to share the experience of the tunnel with me, help me find IronHorse, and also we wanted to find a cache hidden inside the middle of the tunnel called “Bloody Fingers, Dirty Diapers”.
As we approached the entrance to the tunnel, we were joined along the path by an unlikely trio: a man leading a horse, and a dog following alongside. It soon became clear that the trip intended to walk through the tunnel with us. I found that kind of amazing, because I don’t know many horses that would willingly walk through this tunnel. I don’t even know that every person I know would be willing to go through the tunnel. It is kind of creepy! Basically, it is an old abandoned railroad tunnel that was converted to a hike and bike trail, with no embellishments. There is no light in the tunnel. It goes on for two miles. After you get about a half mile in, the light from the entrance behind you starts to dim, and it grows progressively darker, until it is pitch black. Eventually, you can make out a tiny speck of light ahead. If you walk towards that light, it grows a little bigger, eventually looking a bit like a church window in the distance. Eventually, that church window widens in your view until you realize it is the exit.

So here we are, walking with the man, the horse, and the dog, and kind of making casual conversation with the man, but also sort of paying attention to the little pockets in the wall that used to hold lighting or electronics or some abandoned train machinery or whatnot. According to possible clues on the “Bloody Fingers, Dirty Diapers” cache page, the cache is located within one of these, and I was kind of counting and looking along the way, which slowed us down deliberately to pull us a little away from our odd walking companions. I wanted us to have the tunnel experience on our own, a little bit.
Eventually, they drifted away from us, and the click clack of the horse’s hooves advanced ahead of us and disappeared. We were half-blindly looking about for this cache, in the middle of the tunnel where the light is all gone. We had our headlamps on, but it only allowed us to see a few feet ahead of us.
Suddenly, we heard a noise in the distance behind us. “What was that?”, I asked Jason nervously. “It’s nothing, don’t worry about it”. To me, though, it sounded like a frightened animal. It sounded like a large, frightened animal wailing. And the sound happened again, and it was getting closer….
I was getting spooked. My mind was racing trying to figure out what it could be. I oriented myself towards the noise, looking for a light coming towards us, something to indicate that the noise was human.
Then, Jason decided we were done looking for the cache, and needed to move. He encouraged me to start walking and look later. Then he picked up the pace. He said he was not worried about the sound, but his pace indicated that he also felt the prick of danger. He actually began hiking so fast I was having trouble keeping up with him, and thought about asking him to slow down, but then I would hear the noise behind us again, growing closer maybe, and I could NOT get out of the tunnel fast enough.
The last mile seemed to last forever. As we got closer to the exit and that window of light grew larger, I could see shapes moving around in it. I was confused at first, but then realized it appeared to be the silhouette of the cowboy and his dog. Where was his horse, though? And why was he dancing around the exit like that?

As we got to the exit, finally, I realized my recognition was correct. The cowboy was standing there to greet us, anxiously smoking a cigarette and asking us, “Did you see him?

Whaaaat? See who? The Poltergiest of Snoqualmie? I was really confused. He explained that he was waiting for his friend, another man leading another horse. I told him about the sounds I heard, and he explained it was probably the horse. Jason told the man that I had been scared it was some kind of bear or cougar who had wandered in the tunnel. “Oh, that happens all the time,” the man said. Really? Man, I would totally pee myself if I was walking in that tunnel and came across a predator like that in there with me.
Apparently, the man leading the horse did not listen to this cowboy when he counseled this guy to bring a spare flashlight. The man had his flashlight die on him, and was leading this horse, who had never encountered this kind of adventure, through the tunnel in absolute darkness behind us. Those noises were the sound of a horse in terror, which I am both surprised and glad I had not heard before enough to recognize.
This other man finally showed us, the horse blowing and snorting, shaking and rolling its eyes. After a few minutes, the men mounted up and rode off to have a mountain trail ride, the dog trailing behind.
Jason and I found IronHorse, then had a picnic of dinner rolls and cheese, bought at the Pike Market yesterday, at a table surrounded by mountains, crisp air, and singing birds. It was totally awesome, and totally worth the terror.
The way back through the tunnel was so much less frightening. Children on bikes following their parents breezed through. We must have seen about 20 bikers, a few hikers, all kinds of people. And we found that cache we were looking for after all, about halfway through. I am really glad we went, although it did take up a bug chunk of our day and energy. What else would have been a better way to spend our day, besides having this crazy adventure surrounded by so much beauty?DSC_1706


Mission Aborted: GCD

One of the main objectives for our trip was some specific old geocaches – “grandfather caches”, and GCD was one of those Do Not Miss ones. It was a prime reason for us being in this area in the first place. So, after a breakfast we cooked at our rental cabin, we drove out an hour or two to Hyak, across the highway from the Snoqualmie Tunnel where we would spend the afternoon, and drove up a rough service road to the parking area for the Mt Margaret trail head.
While we were getting out of the car, a man drove up behind us and started talking to us. He seemed nervous and his conversation choice was just kind of odd, and I had a hard time letting go of that the rest of the hike. There has been an issue up along this trail and along the Lake Annette trail nearby with a “geo-pirate” – someone with a vendetta against geocaching who was destroying all the caches in those areas. Recently, this had caused the archiving of the last remaining APE cache in the US. I thought maybe this man could have been this person, or possibly a theif or a murderer. Frankly, this man made us both so nervous that we felt unsafe during our hike, and had a hard time letting go of that feeling enough to really feel comfortable on the hike. Perhaps he was just a lonely old man…in the end, nothing was taken or harmed, but it just set a vibe that made everything not feel right.
Also, the hike was harder than anticipated, at least for J. I had at least read the cache page and was aware that it was not going to be an easy hike up due to the elevation climb, but J was not expecting that and was really not in the mood for hiking or carrying a pack. He was sore from the previous hiking we had done and his backpack was pretty heavy with camera equipment and the laptop (so the electronics would not get stolen from the car). So I was bouncing around excited and just loving it, but he was anti-hiking and several times suggested we turn back around. But no! I really wanted to get this cache so bad! This was also my favorite kind of hiking experience. The air felt crisp and clean, the mountain views were beautiful, the birds were singing, the weather was just right.
What wasn’t just right, though, were the trail conditions as we got closer to the cache. The hike is about two miles, one way. As we got less than half mile from the cache, the trail became more and more challenging. Snow lay over the trail, and had iced over, making the way slow and dangerous. As it turns out, after looking at the logs, someone falsely logged a find on it a few weeks earlier, with only a cache note of “thanks”, making me think it was somewhat passable, but really the last true find on this was the previous October, some eight months back before the winter. We started to realize that this was going to either be a lot more risky and challenging than we thought, or that we would have to give up. It says on the cache page that the cache is impossible to find under snow, so some months of the year it is not possible. I guess I was thinking summer would clear things up, but we were just too early in the season.
J was all in favor of turning around, but I really did not want to. I was about to try to talk him into waiting for me, while I went up by myself (I thought there was a way I could get around the snow and get up there – turns out I wasn’t crazy for thinking that because that is what the next person did, a few days later) but he didn’t think it was safe (probably wasn’t), and as I was about to argue with him about it, I saw a tree in the distance moving suspiciously, which made me question if there were predators ahead. The idea of meeting a predator out there alone with no weapon scared me into agreeing with him, and we went back down the mountainside, defeated.
Just two weeks later, cachers were logging finds on this cache again, and the snow was melting. Several of our friends found this cache later in the summer, around the time of the Groundspeak Block Party, which attracted a lot of people to the area. For us, it was all in the timing, and our timing was bad. This cache now has becomme another “Potter’s Pond” – another epic cache that J talked me out of due to prudence. I am the reckless one, he is the cautious one – the yang to my yin.
GCD, we will back, another year. Hopefully a warmer one and later in the season.