Sunday, January 24, 2010

Geocaching by Canoe

Yesterday we got to do something I've wanted to do for a very long time - geocache with a canoe. We only went after one cache, but it was a blast and I can't wait to go back and do more.

We rented a canoe from King's Landing in Apopka. They offer guided tours, but obviously we wanted to do our own thing. Below is an approximation of the path we took (the red line). I can't say for sure how many miles, but my estimate is 4-6 round trip. I was tempted to turn on Motion-X to track our path, but I couldn't risk draining my battery.

I've been back and forth for months about buying a waterproof case for my iPhone. Since they're pricey and I'm not sure how often I would use one, I opted for a plastic baggie. At home (and on YouTube), this works great. You lose very, very little functionality and obviously the baggie is crystal clear...a little too clear, in fact. So clear, it creates a ridiculous amount of glare. I ended up storing the iPhone in the baggie, but having to remove it whenever I needed to check our location. After all, what more could I possibly have to fear than a wet iPhone?

Below is our little two-man canoe, with plenty of space for our stuff. Let me tell you, this thing is rugged. We Titanic-ed into a seemingly small stick that was firmly rooted in a massive log. Mr. Ismay, we did not founder.

And away we went, off to find our first 5/5. In Miccosukee, "Wekiva Springs State Park" roughly translates to "spiders ahead, turn back now."

We paddled like vikings for about 20 minutes before Brian wanted to know how far we were. Our distance from the cache had started at 1.26 miles (as a crow files), and we were now at .96 miles. So we paddled, and paddled, checking the distance every 15 minutes or so, and somehow we managed to overshoot it. So we turned around and headed back to an area where we'd seen several candidates for geotrails. As I watched the distance fall down to 7 feet, to the right of us appeared this little clearing. Bingo!

But as we got nearer to the shore, Brian says, "I think that's a gator nest," referring to that mound on the left side of the picture, "but it's not mating season, I'm sure it's empty."

At this point I looked at the distance again, which was now bouncing around 200 feet. We hung out in the canoe for a bit, waiting for the distance to settle. With neither of us talking or paddling, it became eerily silent. And then we heard what I can only describe as a gutteral burp. I looked at Brian, "what the hell was that?" "Gator," Brian said, nonchalant as ever. "Seriously??" I said. "Yeah, but it's not breeding season, this nest is abandoned", Brian said. I went back to the iPhone. And then we heard it again, but this time louder. I looked at Brian, "Is that seriously an alligator?" "Yeah, really," he said. And I replied, "Then shouldn't we get the fuck out of here?" (I won't sensor that, I was totally spazzed.) "Yes," Brian nodded. I shoved the iPhone back in the baggie and again, we paddled like vikings.

I didn't take the picture below (I got it from Discover Magazine's blog), but this is what may have been waiting only a matter of feet away from us. That's why we heard only a burp, not a full bellow. Plus, Brian says, it's too cold for gators right now and they can hardly move. I know for a fact that gators can't digest food until the water gets above 70 degrees, so they won't swallow you, but they will bite, and maybe store you for later.

In retrospect, even considering that area for a cache was one of the most retarded thoughts of my entire life. This is why park rangers hate geocachers. The cache was hidden with permission, in a reasonably safe location on the other bank of the river, but that didn't stop someone (me) from following my iPhone in the wrong direction.

We headed for the other side of the river, and the distance dropped down to 25 feet. After "parking" the canoe, we started exploring on land. Brian found the cache a few minutes later.

Now he insists I call him "5/5 Bri-Bri".

I happened to have this little carved black bear travel bug. It only seemed fitting since black bears are frequently spotted in this area.

In my infinite cleverness, I packed our lunch in an ammo can. I dub thee, Ammo Can Cafe.

And lastly, Brian has a heart-to-heart with his sandwhich.

The moral of the story is, don't mess with things that could eat you. As glorious as it might sound now, dying in pursuit of tupperware just isn't that cool. I don't think there's a terrain or difficulty rating that covers alligator death roll.

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