I was looking for an adventure, and boy did I find one.  One that would challenge me mentally, physically, and push me beyond what I thought my limits were.  I now know that I can do a lot more than I thought possible.  But not for quite some time since my muscles are still killing me.

A few weeks back I mentioned that I was planning my next great adventure, my first 5 (difficulty) / 5 (terrain) geocache.  Since I basically put it out there for the whole world to see, even though probably only five or ten people actually saw it, I HAD to do it or I would be a failure.  So after a few weeks of planning, gathering the right equipment, and mentally preparing myself I set off on my adventure.

After grabbing the directions from the first stage I was excited, nervous, and slightly confused.  For a few weeks a friend and I looked it over and guessed at what it could all mean.  Days passed, weekends flew by, and finally we both had an empty Saturday to see how far we could get.  Being out of shape, semi-lazy, cubicle dwelling folks we knew we weren’t going to set any land (tube?) speed records so our goal for day one was to figure out what it was all about.  Within 5 minutes of arriving at the second stage we understood.  To avoid giving too much away to people that have yet to embark on this adventure, I’ll only use nondescript, vague, generic terms that will make sense to others that were with me, or to those that may have completed it.

Finding the first marker we set out slowly and cautiously into the darkness.  Our eyes were pealed looking for signs of Confederate soldiers from the past.  This was our first lesson in missing the obvious.  A lesson we (I) didn’t take to heart as I would soon screw up again.  After going too far and having to double back we found an entrance that we originally overlooked.  Feeling stupid, yet relieved to have found out we were back on track we “suited up” and went into the unknown.  Excitement and novelty quickly faded into the darkness as the challenge in front of me materialized.  For a brief few seconds I contemplated if I really wanted to do this.  I did.  Overcoming that obstacle was my first affirmation that I may be able to complete this challenge.  Although I was FAR from done.  After few more mistakes of overlooking the obvious, traveling too far, redoing a large portion of this stage, I managed to get the required information back to mission headquarters for decoding.

Tired, a little wet and sandy, but invigorated by completing and decoding this first message we set off to the next phase of our adventure.  This phase would be the one that made us think long and hard about whether we were actually up to this challenge.  I think this stage is meant to scare away any wannabe gold seekers  Truth be told we didn’t complete the full stage.  We made it about 3/4 of the way through, but started to doubt ourselves and turned back before we got all of the information.  It didn’t matter much though.  I’m not sure if I went any farther if I could have come back.   As it stands when I arrived back at the car I could barely move or see straight.  Lightheaded, confused, and sore we called it a day.  We spent about 4 hours and made it through two stages.  One of which we didn’t officially complete.

Frustration, exhaustion, and desperation led us to email another cacher who had the information we missed from this stage.  Thanks to his help we were able to fill in the missing information and continue our quest…..on another day.

The second Saturday came and we set out planning on meeting a new friend once our progress matched his.  Luckily we managed to breeze through stages 4 and 5 in about an hour which left us rejuvenated and feeling confident again.  The only remarkable thing about either of these stages was the pair of relative clean jeans and tighty whiteys near the entrance.  Talk about going into the unknown!

Grabbing reinforcement and building our team we set off onto stage 6.  We could only hope that we didn’t meet the same fate as the nearby decaying deer carcass.  Not even sure it could be classified as decaying as much as decayed.  Quickly, since we were becoming pros at this we had the next clues in our hands, and the familiar burning back in our thighs.

After consolidating cache vehicles we were on our way to stage 7.  In less time than we had done the first two stages we had completed three stages and were on our way to our fourth.  Its amazing what a little confidence can make you forget.  You’ll ignore the muscle pain, the limp arms and the tight legs.  That light headed feeling you called exhaustion before now becomes euphoria.  The wet feet seem to dry quicker and the sand in your shoes doesn’t seem as annoying.  Puzzles make more sense and are solved quicker and easier.

Stage 7 seemed to just click as we found all of the necessary clues in short time.  There was an awkward moment of eyes meeting though.  I was inside a bunker poking my head up to marvel at the view when some folks walking their dog on a nearby trail spotted me and gave an inquisitive look.  Moving quickly though we were able avoid any more detection.  We weren’t even detected when we stumbled across a makeshift camp site.  We weren’t sure if it was from a hobo, or possibly kids in the nearby apartment complex.

Confidence was soaring at this point.  There was even a time where I was outwardly admitting I was feeling cocky.  I wasn’t ashamed of it at all.  Stage 8 brought me back to earth a little though.  There was a lot to figure out in this one.  But knowing that we were much closer to the end than the beginning was reassuring.  After securing all of our clues from the stage we went to a nearby restaurant to get a drink and start putting the pieces together.  Which proved to be not as reassuring as we hoped.  Studying clues, putting pieces together and making some assumptions still didn’t make the whole picture any clearer.  The good news is that we had a phone a friend that would put us on on the right track.  The bad news was that we were out of time for the day.  It wasn’t late but it was quitting time as I had evening plans.

Riding high from a productive day we decided we NEEDED to finish this cache.  Sunday would be the exciting finale.

Less than 24 hours after we went our own ways we were standing at stage 9 ready to complete the challenge we had all set out on weeks before.  Burning quadriceps, achy palms, sore toes, and stiff backs were at the back of our mind as we took off to the final destination.  Still not sure of all of the puzzle in front of us we dove in.  At this point you just have to.  There is no time to hesitate, no need to address the uncertainty.  After nearly losing my entire leg to an enemy quicksand trap, we ventured the long way to the final destination.  But we got there.  We finally found this cache that took us about 16 total hours. But there was one last challenge facing us.  Thankfully the brains of our operation came through once again and within a few minutes I was rolling in gold!.

This adventure was everything I wanted it to be.  Challenging, fun, rewarding, and something very different.  I hope I didn’t give away too many details of this cache since part of the fun is the unknown.  Not knowing what all of the things you find along the way mean.  Not knowing what is around the next corner.  Not knowing what you’ll have to do, how far you’ll have to go, how small you’ll have to be, or how wet you may get.  There are so many things that make this an awesome cache and one that I will use in the future to guage the rest of the caches i do.  This is unfair, but I don’t care.  It will be hard to top this both mentally, and physically.  Although I do already have my next big one picked out.   The name is more daunting (Death Wish), but I don’t think it match the challenge this cache gave me.

The images below are in a random order as to not give anything away