Sunday, October 4, 2009

Cache Patrol in Winter Park

After the cache-a-thon in South Carolina a few weeks ago, we took a little break to catch up on real-life stuff. Boo responsibility. It's been far too long since we geocached. We spent the day caching in Winter Park.

Before I delve yesterday's adventures, I must take a moment to add a geohazard to the South Carolina scrap book. While we were looking for the "bark cache" I felt something sting my back repeatedly. I assumed it was mosquitos (with a vengeance). Two weeks later, I still have four itchy, swollen, white bumps on my back. Fire ants are to blame, but it was so worth it.

We planned to cache yesterday, but I didn't plan on hitting Winter Park until I saw a cache posted at the Steak 'n Shake near Brian's office. He needed to stop by work for a few minutes anyway, so I tagged along.

Upon closer inspection of the satellite map, I realized the cache was either inside or on top of the Steak 'n Shake. I had to twist Brian's arm to convince him we needed to eat lunch there and scope out the situation. While we waited for our food, I sized up each group for their cacher-potential, but I didn't see anyone as shifty-eyed as me. Like a drug smuggler, I studied each server's routine, waiting for the perfect moment to peek under another table undetected. I could hardly eat (though I assure you, I did) as I thought about all the magnetic surfaces in the building. Brian suggested I drop a handful of change near the table I wanted to check. Too risky, people tend to help you pick up change. Here's the best plan I could come up with: we would wait for a line to form, and then Brian would go stand at the end of that line to pay, and I would snoop around. The longer the line, the more time I had. But the moment I stood up, I realized the table I wanted to check was filled with dishes. I peeked under it and found nothing, which was probably for the best. Even if I had found the cache there, how could I have retrieved, signed, and replaced it? I had planned to sit at the table and do that, but how could I, being that a server was on her way to clear the table? Hmm...the other tables I wanted to check had families sitting at them. So, we didn't get it. And upon inspection of the logs, I don't think it's under a table anymore. I was too focused on my own preconceptions to look elsewhere. Let that be a lesson to you.

The next cache was an easy grab. A small lock-and-lock hidden under some palm fronds...woo. Next on the list was a cache I visited several months back, when I first started caching. My first try was after work one evening, in heels and a pencil skirt. I was not prepared, physically or mentally, for bushwhacking, and I never found the cache. Here's why I'll always remember this cache: During my initial search, a rickety white van pulled up, and a creepy old man got out. I froze...thinking about whether I should try to run in the heels or go barefoot. And where I should run since all the businesses nearby were closed for the day. Then he threw open the side door and emerged with a 5 gallon bucket. "You're scaring the raccoons" he said as he walked past me (now acting like I was taking a phone call). He walked about 15 feet into the trees and dumped the contents of said bucket, spilling what looked like pink and white pork rinds. "Come get your dinner, babies!" Then he got back in the van and drove away. And a moment later, a raccoon showed up and started munching. I snapped a photo and scurried back to my car.

This time I came prepared to bushwhack, which wasn't really necessary. Brian actually spotted it, but I had to climb around in the trees. Victory, sorta. No raccoons this time.

We made the next cache way harder that it was. I did some very unneccessary bushwhacking thanks to this hole in the bushes I mistook for a geotrail. I didn't see any bugs, and I know why. The leaves on those bushes are covered with prickly little hairs. Super fun.

Thanks to the tree cover, the iPhone was wonky, but when it finally settled down I walked right up to the cache. It was totally out in the open.

We moved on to a cache I've wanted to do for a long time. It's located near the Scenic Winter Park boat tour. Way back before we were geocachers, the future team Evelev and future team EyeoftheSeeker went on the Winter Park boat tour. I highly recommend it. Come for the cache, stay for the boat tour.

Thanks to an uber-generous hint, I went right to the cache. Surprisingly, it didn't smell at all.

The next cache was a twist on the classic newspaper stand cache. Being that this newspaper stand has an aesthetically pleasing case around it, you can't exactly throw a hide-a-key under there. The cache consisted of an envelope with a magnet glued to the back. The envelope was then placed inside the case, on the back of the actual newspaper box. Very clever.

After that I took Brian on a death march for two caches we never found. One has most likely been muggled. The other was probably there, but I distubed a wasp nest and decided not to stick around.

Our luck turned around after that...kinda. We went after a level 3 difficulty nano, which I found in about six seconds because it was just laying on the ground. I unravelled the log to find it completely full. What gives? As the last signer, you're supposed to log a "needs maintenance". Or am I the only one that has the decency to do that? After I closed up the cache, I decided to look for the real hiding spot. I saw the hole you see below and thought, "bingo! It's supposed to look like a screw." I slipped the nano into the hole and it dropped down another inch. Uh oh...I just lost my first cache. Luckily, Brian was able to fish it out with a bobby pin. Feeling retarded, I left the cache where I found it, which is where you see it below.

Next was a cache I meant to take a picture of, but I forgot. It was under a pay phone. I didn't even know pay phones existed any more. The hint said, "call the automated hint line: 407-xxx-xxxx." At first I assumed it was the hider's number, but I'm pretty sure it was the number for the pay phone. I should have dialed it.

The final cache of the day was super easy, but cool in that I've never seen this type of container before. It's a metal tube, badly camo'd with a little strip of Spanish moss. I think it would have blended better if they had ditched the moss and hung the tube vertically, but that's just me.

I guess I can't really criticize hides yet, since I don't have any. Soon. Once I take the time to figure out if my iPhone coords are accurate, I will.

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