Birder's Eye View

Monday, August 24, 2009

SD Saga: The Geocache from Hell

After much spelunking and exploring the last couple of days, we decided to take an easy morning on August 8. At the cabin, I took the down-time to do some reading, journaling, sketching, and birding (I had seen over 30 species on the trip so far).

I was quite delighted when a fantastic life bird showed up at the feeders --a Red Crossbill! It hung around all morning, and didn't seem to mind our presence in the least. You could stand literally 2 feet away (for some reason my dad tried to feed it a corn chip, which it didn't appreciate, and promptly vacated the birdfeeders after that).

By noon, thunderstorms were passing through the area, so we went into town for a few hours. By 4pm, the worst of the storms seemed to have passed, so we decided to try a "quick" geocache near our cabin (1.5 mile hike up to a fire tower on a mountain).

From the travelogue:
8/8 - I was pretty enthusiastic at first (yay! let's hike up a mountain!), but then the storm clouds came. We were following a rocky forest road that wound steeply up the mountain and seemed MUCH further than 1.5 miles. I thought we should head back, but everyone else kept saying -- "let's just go a little further, we've come this far" ...for the next HOUR.

Mom and my sister were all gung-ho, but Dad (who didn't want to go hiking in the first place) and I (who was afraid of the impending thunderstorm and our ill-preparedness for such a trek) were less enthusiastic by this point.

Back and forth, up the mountain we climbed, following the switchback trail endlessly. The GPS kept indicating we were 200 feet away from the cache, as the crow flies, but it didn't account for the fact that you couldn't hike straight up the mountain, as the grade was nearly vertical in some points.

Eventually, we got to the top somewhere, we guessed, around 6,000 feet in elevation, with a dizzying vista of the Black Hills. The GPS showed we were now 20 feet from the geocache, but hard as we searched, we simply could not find it.

The mountain top was strewn with lichen-encrusted boulders, rubble from an old fire tower, and scraggly plants growing out of the rocks. It had been almost 2 hours since we started hiking, and we finally decided it was time to call it quits.

Back down the mountain we climbed, cutting the road switchbacks when we could, sliding down through pine needles and jumping ditches to speed up our progress.

Well, the geocache had won this time (although Mom refused to call it a failure, saying that at least we made it to the mountain top and back down in one piece). The whole hike was quite an ordeal, and one I hope not to repeat too often in the future!

Part 7 will be posted tomorrow.


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