After naysaying the entire idea for years, I finally took part in a powertrail run called the E.T. Highway near Las Vegas, Nevada. For those who know me, they know I'm not a fan of these kinds of caches. For those who know me really well, I've been pretty outspoken against the idea in general. Last weekend was a learning lesson for me in more ways than one.
As all geocaching outings start it was a group decision and I was simply going to be outvoted and since I was passenger in someone else's rental car, I shut up, smiled and waited to see what happened. It was very much and not at all what I expected it to be.
On the first day we headed out into the desert to snag a few caches and locate the trailhead. We saw cactus, petroglyphs, bleached bones and lizards aplenty. We found some awesome caches, interesting people, oblivious cattle, jack rabbits and I surprising number of sinkholes you could get swallowed up in (built by enterprising rodents as huge underground warrens that collapse surprisingly easy). As light started to go down we decide on a hasty run through the desert to complete our first geo-art design of the alien head. Miles of brush and cactus later we'd completed our image and can now see a yellow outline of smileys making up the face of an alien on satellite imagery. Despite being only a 1/10th of a mile or so apart, each cache was it's own challenge to find in this particular territory and the hike with other cachers more than made up for the grueling hike through wind, rain and blowing mixes of dust and sand.
The following morning we decided on an early start and our attempt at the E.T. highway powertrail. One man driving and a rotating partnership of runner and signer would be set early on. Despite being close together, I was surprised at the amount of concentration and energy it took to find the caches themselves. The driver would pull up to an area where everything looked exactly the same, the runner would dash out of the car 30 yards or so leaping cactus, wary of rattlesnakes and scorpions and search anxiously for a rock pile or indication of hidden container. Then the runner would quickly remove the container (mindful of the dangers of what lies under rocks in a desert), dash back to the car once again hurdling over cactus and then finally hurl the container through the rear window to the cache signer as the driver took off before the door even closed on the runner. By the time the cache was signed we'd already skidded to a stop in the gravel and once again the runner would dash out into the desert for the next one.
After 50 or so caches the runner is gasping for breath, massing leg cramps and sweating profusely from every pore of their body. Switch places with the signer and off we go again! After a few hours of this, you're as exhausted as a full day of hiking in NEPA land and starting to question your sanity. Hundreds of caches later we call it quits. It was fun, it was slightly dangerous and it was a lot of laughs, but as I expected, the charm for those of us who enjoy the long hikes, gorgeous views and quiet contemplation of the trail won out in the end. We opted for more geo-art designs, more hiking and more enjoyable trails.
I'll try anything once and I'm glad I did. It was interesting, fun and exciting, but just not the caching style for me. Many others would go on to finish all 2,400 caches of the trail after getting hooked on the exhilleration. There's something fun about the marathon style of caching and the frantic pace of a power trail that some can't ignore. I'll settle for an ammocan in the woods though. I'm appreciative of now understanding why some cachers love it though. It is fun. It is exciting. It's even a bit dangerous. It's just not caching in NEPAG land. So here's the tally:
5 days of fun
5 Jack Rabbits
1 close encounter with a wayward cow that almost ended our caching (and maybe us)
1000s of desert chipmunks
1000s of Horned Toad Lizards
Too many water bottles to count
3 spectacular sunsets
2 dead bodies of wildlife
Dozens of hawks and owls
One rental car that now needs a tune up (and greased suspension links) in all likelyhood
Lots of new friends and fantastic experiences to remember
So for a cacher who said "not a chance" I take it back. I'll give anything a chance once I suppose. Might not be my cup of tea, but it might be yours. I recommend trying it just to be sure. You never know what you might encounter on your geocaching adventure ;)