Navigating The Triad: Part 2

The recent podcast of Caching In The Northwest: Episode 457 Navigating the Triad focused on three of the more famous geocaches in the Geocaching Community. Geocaching Headquarters (GCK35B), Mission 9: Tunnel of Light (GC1169) and Original Stash Tribute Plaque (GCGV0P) comprise the GC “Triad”.

Once these three are found, you can qualify for the Challenge Cache called Sherlik’s Center of the Triad (GC1WYHN)

As I was listening to the podcast post-broadcast, I was brimming with pride. I have found ALL 4 of those geocaches! You can imagine, I have a story associated to each unique find.

The following is my second find: Mission 9: Tunnel of Light (GC1169) …


December 2017. I was dating a hiking enthusiast, and country line dancer with 3 school-aged children. By this time, MY enthusiasm for Geocaching was rekindled after a 2 year hiatus! As a strategist, I endeavor to accomplish more than one task on every venture I tackle. Since the kids were home for Christmas break, Deana and I were discussing how to entertain them, yet support my ‘new’ Geocaching hobby.

I suggest we take a hike as a unit, but find the geocaches hidden along the trail. She was easily agreeable.

The Intrepid Adventurers

MISSION 9: TUNNEL OF LIGHT

This is such a historic and storied geocache in the Geocaching Community. Here’s the current and past geocache page description.

This cache is a Project APE cache, a cache hidden with permission for the Planet of the Apes Promotion in 2001. Moun10Bike and Jeremy were the original covert placers of the cache, but Moun10Bike has since taken over complete ownership. When the cache was placed, it contained a torch from the movie. The description in green below was the original description for the cache:

Project APE’s success continues as our movement continues to grow beyond what we ever thought possible. For this mission we are heading back to the Northwest, where we are sure to keep our momentum going. Our confidence as a group is growing, but don’t let our past success blind us to the constant threat we face. We still hear and receive daily reports of undercover federal agents stalking our team. Remain diligent and stay alert. Remember, anyone you don’t know is a possible enemy to our mission.

Below is our field agent’s report for the mission at hand:

“This mission is not going to be an easy one. The hike will not be as scenic as some of the other missions, but you’ll be on a great adventure. You’ll need to wear a good pair of waterproof boots, or an old pair of sneakers. A flashlight is necessary, even if you go during the day.

This is a creepy, historical and very cool spot. Be ready for a unique hike, but beware because in parts you’ll be sitting ducks for the authorities. So move fast and keep a good eye on your back to make sure you’re not tailed. Good luck!”

~ Geocaching.com

The Annette Lake Trail
The Annette Lake Trailhead is located off of Interstate 90 at Exit 47 (signed “Denny Creek/Asahel Curtis”). Turn south at the exit to the junction with Tinkham Road (Forest Road #55), then go left for a quarter-mile to the large parking lot. Once out of your car, follow the Annette Lake Trail uphill from the trailhead (not to be confused with the gated Forest Road #5590, which also leads uphill from the parking lot). Keep on this trail until you reach the junction with the Iron Horse Trail, which is provided as an additional waypoint in the cache description. Be sure to ignore the old, overgrown powerline road that juts off toward the left (east) about halfway to the junction with the Iron Horse.

Mission 9: Tunnel of Light

We decided on the 2 paths to geocache that we would take the Annette Lake Trail instead of trudging through 2.25 miles of the Snoqualmie Tunnel. I read this to her so she could grasp the task at-hand.

I learned so much on this day. My relationship with snow would continue to be and always will be tumultuous. I also learned to review the following: WSDOT Pass Reports [Washington State Department of Transportation], WTA Trip Reports [Washington Trails Association], and read the Activity Log of the geocache itself, as well as the nearby geocaches’ Activity Logs.

Of course, I did NONE of these on December 30, 2017 prior to leaving with Deana and her 2 teenage boys …

Since I was the unannounced, self-proclaimed leader, I led us to the trailhead parking lot. Once we arrived, we encountered snow on the ground. We were prepared for snowy conditions but without trekking poles, cram-ons or snow shoes.

The Official Geocaching App ® offline maps are great. However, it doesn’t illustrate the scale, mileage, or elevation (just a straight line)

We set off to hike in the snow …

Logan, Deana’s youngest son was bored easily, and wasn’t physically fit. By the time we hiked to the intersection of Annette Lake and Iron Horse trails, he had complained enough that Deana and I decided to split up the team.

*Insert some horror movie music*

Deana and Logan would return to the vehicle, while Kyler and myself pressed on.

Kyler and I discovered that the snow depth was knee-high on this portion of trail that NO ONE in the right mind decided to traverse. This would exponentially extend our hiking time and sap our endurance.

We trudged along until we were within 20 feet of the geocache’s coordinates. At that range, you should put away your phone, use your God given geo-senses to find it.

Going Ape!

Each geocache is assigned a Difficulty and Terrain rating; each (1 to 5, with 1 being the easiest) This was / is a 1.

After I signed the logbook and discovered a few trackables, we started the seemingly arduous journey back to the vehicle. My older legs were cramping as I plowed through the snow. Kyler was having an easier time than me.

By the time Kyler and I reached the vehicle, everyone was tired, hungry and wanting to get home. This adventure was anti-climatic to me.

No high-fives, or jubilant congratulations.

Unbeknownst to me … I had completed the 2nd geocache of the Triad. Or as I like to think of it, it was the Triforce in the Legend of Zelda. You choose


I would continue to geocache, of course. However, the next cache I found was Original Stash Tribute Plaque (GCGV0P).

Let’s get out there!

Falconer_Swarlos

Navigating The Triad: Part 1

The recent podcast of Caching In The Northwest: Episode 457 Navigating the Triad focused on three of the more famous geocaches in the Geocaching Community. Geocaching Headquarters (GCK35B), Mission 9: Tunnel of Light (GC1169) and Original Stash Tribute Plaque (GCGV0P) comprise the GC “Triad”.

Once these three are found, you can qualify for the Challenge Cache called Sherlik’s Center of the Triad (GC1WYHN)

As I was listening to the podcast post-broadcast, I was brimming with pride. I have found ALL 4 of those geocaches! You can imagine, I have a story associated to each unique find.


I thought I would share each with a separate post to emphasize the importance of them … I learned quickly that some geocachers are numbers motivated, and statistically savvy. One of the statistics tabs I found very interesting was the Milestones.

Your Caching Milestones

My Geocaching ‘career’ was on a 2-year hiatus from January 12, 2015 – January 30, 2017. GASP! I read with curiosity that Groundspeak will track your: 1st, 5th, 10th, 25th, 50th, etc.

Since I was “getting back” into Geocaching I wanted to ensure that those Milestone geocaches were special … for example, my 50th find would be the Geocaching Headquarters!


Geocaching Headquarters, Fremont area of Seattle, WA – I was amped! I read the geocache description page thoroughly so I understood what to do. First item of business was to reserve a time slot for a visit.

I was greeted immediately by a tall man (if memory serves, Blackhawker) I introduced myself as The Scr1be – my original player name. I received the red-carpet treatment back then, that Geocachers enjoy today.

I was invited to discover trackables; although I didn’t know what that meant. I spent about 10-15 minutes because it was just him and I.

I relished every moment! Before I departed, he invited me to start the Geocaching HQ Geo-Tour that was nearby. I was simply happy with the GC HQ as my 50th find. Now I have more exploring to do?

SWEET!

I would continue to geocache, of course. However, the next cache I found was Mission 9: Tunnel of Light.

Let’s get out there!

Falconer_Swarlos

I Know Better: Then And Now

I will not forget March 26, 2022 any day soon. The following story could’ve been prevent had I acknowledged any of warning signs I encountered way. I should’ve known better. I definitely know better NOW.

Saturday, March 26, 2022

Jami had casually mentioned that I hadn’t been geocaching in a hot-minute. So with a relatively “free” day, I decided to geocache. My sister was still resting at the time I wanted to go, so I went alone.

I know better than to hike, let alone geocache, alone in the woods, but I set out to find the geocache titled: “Fresh Cakes” at Boardman Lake. This was my first mistake amongst a litany of them. Without food, water or a plan, I set out towards Granite Falls, Washington. My only companion was in the passenger seat which was my Geocaching backpack.

That, and my standard personal items: keys, wallet, and iPhone named Blu.

Mountain Loop Highway

This particular stretch of highway has not been kind to me because I attempt to visit during the winter time. For example? This past weekend.

I know better to check the road conditions, and trail reports prior to traveling there. This time I did not. If I had, I probably would’ve chosen to do something different.

When I turned off the Mountain Loop Highway onto Northwest Forest Road 4020 [NF-4020] I was immediately greeted by vehicle-eating-sized potholes. Thankfully my Subaru Outback, that I named the Millennium Subaru, was up to the task.

However, I should’ve known better than to continue …

It was then I realized I hadn’t informed a soul about my whereabouts, or my intentions. I knew better than that.

Google Maps stated it was 4.8 miles to the trailhead (TH) yet 20-minutes to drive it. I thought, “Just how bad is this one-lane, pot-holed, dirt road?”

After Saturday, I can say treacherous and eventually impassable. As I crept along, I kept thinking, “This is ok as long as there’s no snow.”

Then I encountered a snow patch and cardboard about 1.5 miles away from the trailhead parking area. Forensically speaking, a vehicle was stuck here, and needed the traction created by the discarded and destroyed cardboard.

I knew better than to continue, but my ambition started to silence my voice of reason, my Jimmy the Cricket. I cautiously entered the snow with the Millennium and it got stuck. I rocked it the vehicle back and forth – I got free and continued up the mountain!

Another half mile up, I encountered two vehicles: one stuck on the road, the other parked off to the side. I decided to park the Millennium, lest I be stuck too! I managed to turn the Millennium around, park it safely off to the side with the nose pointed down the mountain. I strapped on my backpack, grabbed my survival / emergency metal shovel, and hiked towards them.

A Good Turn Daily

This Eagle Scout can’t casually walk by trouble. I did noticed that the vehicle stuck was a Toyota 4Runner which has a higher ride height than my Subaru. The driver, John, and his girlfriend, came up for the day. The green Jeep belonged to four men camping nearby who were already there to assist. They got stuck last night, so they were forced to camp nearby.

After an hour of effort, the 4Runner was freed!


I know better than to hike in snow

I returned my shovel to my vehicle, which I should’ve know better and hop in and drive off. Nope. I announced my intentions to the campers as I hiked the remaining mile in snow, UPHILL, to the trailhead, and parking lot.

I knew better than to keep digging, my voice of reason is now silent. After I performed my obligatory, Boy Scout, do-a-good-turn-daily, I should’ve turned around and went home. See what I did there?

I didn’t.

I foolishly pressed on. I also realized I no longer have mobile phone service from here. I peered at Blu.

I mused, “I’ll be aiight. It’s .8 miles one-way in snow without snowshoes. I’ll be back before too long.”

Famous. Last. Words.

Boardman Lake Trailhead

Yeesh. Snow and my phones have not been kind friends. I downloaded the offline trail map from the Official Geocaching app. Again, I knew better than to continue to geocache.

Yet I did.

After falling in the snow from my legs plunging into it knee deep several times, I “lost” the snow covered trail about a half-mile in. I had no water, or food, and … I didn’t eat breakfast either. So that started to take it’s toll on my body that is conditioned to eat every 2 hours or so. In fact, my decision making skills were malfunctioning too. I wandered precariously close to a cliff. Using tree saplings as hand holds I scaled the cliff like terrain that was definitely OFF TRAIL.

Finally, I arrived at Boardman Lake but not on the trail. I was closing in on the GZ [Ground Zero] The hint for the geocache described two fallen logs to cross. I spotted them and trudged my way towards them with phone in hand like a lantern. I pocketed Blu in my pants.

Then?

The snow “bridge” I stepped on was eroded underneath by water and snow melt. It couldn’t hold my weight, and I fell through like a chute.

My legs splashed into knee-deep, freezing water, as I ricocheted off the rest of the snow. My backpack was hung up and suspending me in the water like a tea bag. I thought, “Oh God, this is my version of 127 Hours!”

I managed to rip myself free, slogged my way back to the trail near the lake. I immediately felt for my phone which was not there. I fruitlessly looked for it. It’s gone. This is the second time I’ve lost a phone to snowy conditions. It’ll probably be found in the spring thaw, if anyone bothers to look for it.

My priorities quickly changed from finding this particular geocache to just finding a way home. Without my phone, I had no hope of finding it, especially since I was still 130 feet away. I knew better than to press my luck …

I Knew Better

I’m living a worst case scenario that I created myself. IF I survive, I thought, I’m gonna be grateful. My legs were cramping up from no water or food – imagine that.

I looked up to the sky to pray, “Mom. Your son is in some trouble. I could really need some help right about now. Just keep me on the trail that’s covered in snow until I find my footprints.”

Bye, Blu

While I was looking up, I noticed I was losing sunlight as well. I galvanized my resolve to return home safely. I used every survival skills that I ever learned, as well as observations on how trails are created.


Praise Jesus! As I trudged along with very little hope, I was cold, wet, tired, hungry, and frankly embarrassed. I found my own boot prints from where I veered off-course. My survival chances increased ten-fold. My boots seemed a little lighter.

On The Road Again

I hiked past the camper again, so I paused to speak with them. I hollered, “I made it to Boardman Lake. I lost my phone, though. If there’s a missing persons report posted for this area, my name is Carlos again.”

They replied, “Carlos. Seahawks jacket, driving the Subaru. Check!”

Thankfully the Millennium Subaru started, and I was able to navigate my way off the mountain without further incident.

Now I must survive the tongue-lashing from my worried loved ones. I know better than to worry folks that are naturally “big-worriers”. Since I’m writing about this story in past tense, you can conclude that I survived that as well.

‘los; out

Reach The Peak

Geocaching HQ released yet another promotion to encourage Geocachers to play the game when the weather is … not favorable in the Pacific Northwest. Starting mid-September through February the weather is: rainy or windy or cold or all three simultaneously.

As you can imagine trying to fish out a nano log from a bison tube while it’s raining only to struggle with signing it and putting it back properly is as frustrating as installing a screen door on a submarine.


Kilimanjaro Summit

Reach The Peak was launched in the summer with a deadline in March 2022. The genius of this particular one is point accumulation resets every 30 days or so. The geocacher earns a digital souvenir for the first find: XYZ Base Camp.

Depending on the height of the peak in meters will determine the amount of points needed to be accumulated in order to reach the peak. For example, a Found It log equals 325 points.

Coincidentally, the Kilimanjaro Base Camp digital souvenir needs 325 points to be unlocked.

However, to reach the peak the points needed is: 5,895.

And as each month passes with a new peak to reach, this point total will increase accordingly. OH! And the digital souvenirs or peaks are not retroactive, so if you missed that opportunity … too-bad, so-sad, you’ll haveta to carry on.

Even better is if you collect all 14 digital souvenirs (2 for each peak, 7 peaks total) you’ll unlock and earn a 15th meta souvenir.

So … let’s get out there!

Caching With Carlos

2K Today!

“No battle plan survives first contact with the enemy” ~ German field marshal, known as Moltke the Elder, believed in developing a series of options for battle instead of a single plan.

As any experienced geocacher would do, I made a list of the final 120 some odd caches I needed to find to clamor up to 2,000 in May 2021. My plan was to finish up by the end of summer, culminating with the geocache titled: Shelrik’s Center of the Universe (GC1WYHN)

As with all plans … the Universe had other ideas.


The summer of 2021 proved to be challenging for me to geocache on a consistent basis amongst the other activities I inflict myself with: work, helping friends, social life, relationship.

I focused on finishing up the Washington State Counties Challenge because by virtue of finding these specific geocaches it would increase my find count simultaneously. Again, another strategic plan that worked … somewhat.

I LOVE ABANDONED VEHICLE HIDES!

That challenge cache guided me to visit family in the Spokane area as the counties remaining were all adjacent to Spokane county.

In June 2021, I ran off to Las Vegas with my bros which they are somewhat tolerable about my game play. I picked up a few more in the places that we visited because as we all know … geocaches are everywhere.

In the Pacific Northwest, with the sunny weather settling in, everyone crams 9 months worth of activity into the 3 months of summer. Between my outside house projects, having fun with my girlfriend, Sounders matches, the mask mandate being lifted … it left little time to geocache in my priority scale.

In July 2021, I added in the fun of West Coast Country Heat – the country western dance team I joined – parades and performances. Plus all of the above. I managed to prioritize Lake 22, Concrete and Darrington areas and Whidbey Island so that my geocache find counter kept bumping up.

By August 2021, I visited the Long Beach, WA, and Seaside, OR with my girlfriend, who also tolerates my geocaching game play, but doesn’t shut it down either.

Then … Geocaching HQ released yet another promotion to encourage geocachers to get out there – my slogan. Reach The Peak started on August 6th. Basically, finding geocaches equalled a point value. Each month has an assigned “peak”, and the elevation is represented in meters. As you gather up points, you gain elevation until you (yes, you guessed it) reach that peak.

MY race to 2,000 was renewed by this promotion! I was able to reach the peak in August, September, and October (I realize it’s only the first week of October) Finally, I was within 13 finds to 2,000.


The Final 13.

I had a rare, shared day off with WCP24 – my sister / consummate Geocaching buddy – yesterday (Monday) I explained my plan for the day: driving 3.5 hours southbound to the shadow of Mount St. Helens, and the surrounding area.

She was down for that even after returning from a long weekend trip to Disney World in Orlando. She got zero sleep the entire time, but I digress …

We loaded up the geomobile (2014 Subaru Outback named Millennium Subaru) for this perilous trip that’ll end with unpaved forest roads and car gobbling potholes.

We started off the day with a smiley, and it continued that way until the 13th: Sherlik’s Center of the Universe.

I didn’t want this to be the ending of Clark Griswold’s National Lampoon’s Vacation at Wally World: closed.

With much trepidation, we exited the Millennium Subaru to fan out for our search. The coordinates on our respective phones were bouncy due to the tree cover, and lack of a signal on the mountain.

FOUND IT! I was able to make the find to my relief. I would hate to think driving all the way out here and not complete the planned geocache find.

Find Number 2,000 – w00t, w00t!

We didn’t have a ton of time to celebrate as the time was ticking, we needed to get back to Lake Stevens, and it was getting late. So we kamikazed our way home instead of geocaching.


What’s Next?

I purchased the Geocoin of 2,000 Finds with it’s travel version in anticipation of this inevitable event. I’m gonna post this, and activate my coin in celebration. I definitely EARNED this one, above all others.

Until next time, let’s get out there!

Falconer_Swarlos

The Trail to TWO THOUSAND

I signed up for Geocaching on July 3, 2013 however … I didn’t find my first geocache until May 11, 2014. Yes, 7 years ago. And I’ve caching ever since.


I discovered quickly that within the Geocaching Community there’s diversity in the ‘types’ of geocachers out there. Since each player – geocacher is a human, this was not a surprise to me.

There are some players that focus on Challenge Caches only to those that occasionally geocache when they can. The way I play the game, I would say I’m somewhere in-between.

Why Geocaching?

If I had to pinpoint why I love this game so much I would gleefully quip: everything about it!

The end of Thunder Knob Trail: Diablo Lake and Jack Mountain in the background

It appeals to my outdoor sense of adventure, my natural curosity, my keen sense of observation, and let’s face it, it’s plain ole good fun. To celebrate my first 7 years of Geocaching, I’m gonna out there and find some caches instead of posting up at my computer!

Currently I have found 1,880 geocaches which will lead me to the milestone of 2,000! I also predetermined which geocache will be my 2,000th find: Sherlik’s Center of the Triad Challenge.

Let’s get out there.

Challenge Cache Chasing – Day 6

Last day of the Challenge Cache Chasing trip! I feel like a champion on a press conference tour. Seriously, folks. Super Bowl, Daytona 500, and I’m paraded around for a week after the feat to celebrate this accomplishment.

First stop on the tour is Park City, Utah.

Feeling Olympic!

WCP24 wanted to drag me out to Park City, Utah because I’m a movie fan, and most likely could appreciate the host place of the Sundance Film Festival. Oh, and the host city of the 2002 Olympic Winter Games.

As I said, with a monster accomplishment achieved I was a movie star, or an Olympian, anyone held in high-regard so I readily accepted the invite. Besides, it was our last day therefore our travel day so I took my foot outta the gas as I resigned myself to returning to reality post haste.

WCP24 still asked if there were geocaches hidden around town, which of course, there were. We drove to the Utah Olympic Park first so we didn’t run out of time prior to leaving for the airport. The place seemed majestic even after 18 years of service. She explained that it’s an active facility for the USA Olympic Team.

After a handful of geocaches found, and lunch in our bellies, we wandered over to a few of the Sundance Festival screening sites. Apparently it just not one central place. Who knew? In fact, it reminded me of my local film festival of Seattle International Film Festival [SIFF]

I digress.

Lunchtime was upon us, which WCP24 had her suggestion for posting up …

NO NAME SALOON

Easily the most popular bar in Park City, and I can see why. Eccentric decor of aluminum beer cans made into airplanes, parts and pieces of abandoned equipment from long ago, etc.

We stuck with a liquid diet having eaten prior to arriving. That said, at some point I had to relieve myself. As I walk, I usually survey my surroundings. I’m odd like that. I noticed the smallest booth displaying No Name Saloon merchandise. Typical T-shirts, buttons, and so on. However, in the corner display facing me was something I couldn’t live without: No Name Saloon patch.

Our server was nearby, so I called her over. I asked how much, as I need to have this patch in my life as I collect them. She looked at me, and knew that I wouldn’t take “no” for an answer.

“Ok, sugar, I’m not supposed to do this because of the COVID, but for you,” she paused. “I’ll work some magic. Gimme 5.”

I pursed my lips to a small smile, “Done. I’m gonna step away for those 5 minutes.”

After the restroom visit, she and I met up at the booth. Her hand extended across the glass shelf like retrieving a prized comic book for sale. My heart skipped a beat! Then I explained it to WCP, and now she wanted one … oy. I talked our server once more to getting that.

“I’m not supposed to sell it to ya, though,” she warned with a wink.

“No problem, thanks. Let’s say if you were to sell it, how much?” I inquired.

“10 dollars,” her reply.

With our bill paid, we called her over one last time. We slid 20 dollars over across the bar. I quipped, “Thanks for the excellent service!”

My Geocaching backpack or at the very least my luggage has a new patch to commemorate my Challenge Cache Chasing success.

Shoe Tree Park

We wanted to find one last favorited geocache prior to bouncing. We determined it was at Shoe Tree Park – we have a Dr Scholl’s Tree nearby our home in Washington State. One of the oddities of our vehicle’s built-in GPS is the directions of “prepare to bear [direction]”

We would laugh, and giggle as we mimicked a scary in-vehicle bear #ROAR – sadly, we took our feet clad with shoes (not from the tree) all the way to the Salt Lake City International Airport.

We had chased down a challenge, so it was time to return home for a new challenge.

Keep calm, cache on. More importantly, #letsgetoutthere!

Falconer_Swarlos