Wednesday, January 11, 2012


In our local Geocaching community there are three or four players who pride themselves on getting FTF’s (first-to-finds). One even has a specialty license plate that reads “FTF”. This is a fierce competition. Members can opt to have all new geocaches electronically sent to their cell phones as soon as they are published. It’s nothing for these competitors to race to a newly published cache at midnight. I like to score FTF’s too, but as geocaching is only one of my several obsessions I don’t participate in the phone notification races. The FTF opportunities that appeal to me are the caches in more remote areas that require some planning and physical effort. I have a better chance on these.

There is a weekly publication emailed to all members by the geocaching publication, Groundspeak, that lists all new geocaches. The last one of the year listed one up Asotin Creek in the Blue Mountains. No one had logged this one but some of the competitors had already posted notes. One was a real challenge which read something to the effect –“I was in Spokane when this cache was posted but be advised the clock is ticking”.

Well, I saw the clock was still ticking on January 2nd so I loaded up Nellie and a mountain bike in the truck and headed out. I knew from one of the posts that the road that would take us to the vicinity of the cache had been closed for the winter. On the way out before reaching the closed gate across the road we stopped and picked up a cache that we had not attempted. I parked at the gate, unloaded the mountain bike, put on a backpack and biked up to a parking lot not too far up the road. From there we had a choice of taking a trail bordering the creek on one side of the ridge or taking the road up the other side. We took the trail because there was another cache up the trail a little ways that I didn’t have and I would rather have Nellie running along the trail than on the gravel road. I had biked up the trail in the past after caches in previous years but always in the summer. The trail steadily climbs and the ground was mostly frozen but it wasn’t particularly strenuous.

The first cache was no more than a half mile up the trail and required a short climb up the hill. It was hidden in a little recess at the base of a cliff.

When I got as close as I could to the cache from the trail I had traveled a little less than 3 ½ miles. I left my bike there and headed up the hill. To my surprise the cache was not very far up the mountain and I was there in less than 15 minutes. I was somewhat taken aback to discover that the logbook had several old entries in it including one of my own. It turns out that this was a cache that had been moved from another location.

I had expected this cache to be much more difficult so it was a little of a let down. However, I’ve been working on a cache of my own called “No Hill for a Climber” which will be a multi-cache involving several stages. I had brought one of the containers with me so we started up the mountain to find a place for it. I soon saw a prominent rock formation that looked like a good spot. However, as I got closer it looked more and more familiar to me. Sure enough, when I got there I found a cache hidden there that I had found several years back. Well, the only thing to do was to head on up to the top of the mountain which we did. At the top we found a large mesa about 100 yards long by 25 yards wide. It was at an elevation of about 3,425 feet which was about 1,000 feet above the trail. I found a good hiding place in some rocks on the southwest end of the mesa.

I decided to take a different route down which turned out to be a mistake. We got into a series of benches separated by cliffs. Some of them I could have climbed down but I didn’t want to chance Nellie trying it because she thinks she’s a mountain goat. After a lot of hiking on steep side hills we eventually found several places to negotiate the series of cliffs and get back to the trail.

After a pause for some lunch we headed back down the trail. It should have been a great ride because it was all down hill. Unfortunately, it had warmed up enough to change the hard ground to mud. By the time we got back to the truck the bike as well as Nellie and I were covered with mud.

Now the funny part. Parked at the gate was the truck with the FTF license plate. I left a note on his windshield saying, ”Well, you said the clock was ticking”. I found out later that after seeing my truck (which he knew) he had gone up the road to get another cache he didn’t have before looping back and settling for 2nd to find on the other one. That made my day. [The last two pictures are the view from the mesa and the location of my cache] M/W


Leah said...

Mike, what does Nellie eat for lunch on your day trips together?

Is it considered inappropriate for one guy to phone another when they are on the same trail? I mean Mr. FTF. Something like teasing the other that your are ahead of him, etc. Maybe being social when you are on a solitary quest is taboo. Or maybe you don't know each other enough to talk to each other when you are nearby.

Scenery is lovely.

Mike said...

I usually take some dog treats for Nellie and sometimes she gets a bite of my sandwich.

I didn't even think about calling Mr. FTF. Of course, I didn't know he was coming after the cache until I was leaving. Most remote areas don't have cell phone service but I believe where we were it would have been possible.

Leah said...

I meant that Mr. FTF could have phoned you since he saw your truck & knew you were nearby.

Kathy said...

I don't think these people even have each others' cell phone numbers. It would be a stretch to think that Mike even took his cell phone with him, but that day he did and he called me just to see if he could. He is trying to take the cell phone on his outings for the locator feature if nothing else.

It's strange that we humans seem to find reasons to be competitive. There are no prizes in geocaching. It's about learning to use the GPS. But some of the local cachers do phone one another to get extra hints on a difficult find.

Hallie said...

I didn't think that mountain bike was still around. It's probably not bad with that nice shock absorber fork.

Mike said...

Yes, Hallie, the Gary Fisher is my town mountain bike and the one I take on most of my off road trips. It's a little lower geared than my farm bike and works well. I believe I may have replaced the front derailleur since you had it.