Tuesday, June 17, 2008

A Spectacular DNF

There are some Did Not Finds (DNFs) that are just routine, run of the mill, you just can’t find them and then there are other DNFs that can be blamed because you had a cold or your geosenses weren’t sufficiently working. Then there’s that third category, the one where everything that could go wrong, probably did, or one you can blame on your own stupidity, or inexperience. I’m talking about those spectacular DNFs that you really don’t want to write home about, but will anyway, because it makes a good story.

One particular cache stands out as a spectacular DNF and it’s one that my sons and I tried to find while on a camping trip, not once, but twice. Interestingly, this particular cache is the only cache that makes my top 5% bookmarked list that I haven’t found. Why is it in my top 5% if I haven’t found it? I feel this cache is what geocaching was all about when the hobby first got started. It involved a hike, some puzzles to solve to gain all the coordinates, plus heavy tree cover that places your GPS’s ability to work properly in jeopardy as well. In short, it’s a fine cache that I just haven’t been able to find yet. In fact, had I known ahead of time that a friend of mine was going to go camping up in the same area last month I would have recommended that particular cache for him to attempt as well because I believe he would have enjoyed the hunt.

I originally picked IXL back in 2002 as one of the caches we would attempt because it was near where we were camping at Big Basin State Park just north of Santa Cruz, California. The cache is actually in Henry Cowell State Park, but they’re fairly close to each other. There’s a nice parking lot that you start out in where the trailhead can be found. You then have to find the missing coordinates by reading interpretive signs along the trail and doing some (GASP!) math. Eventually you end up near ground zero. I should add that I’d only been geocaching for about a year and a half the first time I attempted this cache and probably only had 20 finds at the time. Yep, I’m making excuses already for this one.

Once we got near ground zero, the fun began. At that time, I had a Garmin 12 (I can already hear the argument of Garmin vs Magellan and it’s sort of like Mac vs PC – each person has their own preferences). The batteries were losing strength, but I had extra in my backpack, so I wasn’t worried. The tree cover was heavy, due to the large Redwood trees and heavy forest cover, so my GPSr kept losing signal from time to time. Finally, the batteries died, so I pulled out two new batteries that I needed and opened up the unit to put the new ones in and take the old ones out. Imagine my surprise when I let the dead batteries fall out and not two, but four batteries plop into my hands. Oooops. I’d forgotten this particular model needed four batteries. I didn’t have another two batteries so I improvised.

Taking the two good ones, I put them in with two of the dead batteries and tried to get a signal. It took awhile under the tree cover to acquire a signal, but we got one eventually, but soon the unit went dead again. I tried this method again using the other two dead batteries and the fresh ones, but that didn’t work any better. Eventually, we were forced to give up, not finding it. When we got back home, I was too embarrassed to even write a DNF log on the page. But then again, I didn’t write DNF logs at the time. I usually will write a DNF if I’ve given a cache a good enough search and I feel I’ve exhausted all possibilities. Back then, I just didn't write them.

The following summer, we were back in the same area, so we tried this one again. Did I mention that the cache is 317 miles away from our house? Not only was this cache going to be a spectacular DNF, but it was going to be a long distance DNF as well. I’d thrown away all of the clues for the puzzle so we did the puzzle over again. Long term memory kicked in to help us down the trail and it went more quickly, but when we got to ground zero, we still couldn’t locate the cache. We searched for about an hour before giving up this second time.

This second camping trip was starting to turn into a DNF trip all the way around, because we’d DNFed "Red My Lips... I'm Not a Crook" up in Big Basin State Park, but we were pretty sure that it had been muggled. We were now 0-2 and heading for The Redwood Barely There! in the area. We spent a great deal of time looking for that one as well and gave up on it as well. As we were hiking out from that particular cache, I saw the cache alongside the trail. Based upon the name of the cache, that’s where it was supposed to be, so I can only assume that the tree cover was playing havoc with the GPS again. At least we found that one. Afterwards, we ended up driving down to Santa Cruz and got our one and only Webcam cache.

Should I go back again, and I’m sure I will sometime in the future, we’ll try for IXL again. I have a new GPSr, so it will be interesting to see if the new one helps us out. My youngest has the older model, so we’ll be able to compare notes on the cache to see how accurate we are. Or maybe, just maybe, my experience will kick in. Like I said before, I had only about 20 cache finds at the time of my first attempt, and not many more than that a year later, so experience at finding caches might help this third time. If we end up posting another DNF, then it will make this one even more spectacular. Even DNFs can be fun if you have the right attitude about geocaching. But I think the third time will be the charm, won’t it?

Pictures were taken at or near the following caches:
"Red My Lips... I'm Not a Crook" - Kaveh, Team Bench Leader
The Redwood Barely There! - by Scott, Becca, Travis, Max
Eye Spy Another Eye in the Sky! (Webcam Cache) - by Just a Short Walk

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chaosmanor said...

Good story, even though I've heard it before from you. A story like that deserves more than one telling :-) When we were camping up that way last month, after GW6, I made a point *not* to go after that particular cache. I didn't think that Sharon would want to expend the energy on it, as this was supposed to be the relaxing part of the trip. We did manage to do caching every day, but nothing as involved as IXL. And we got enough DNFs on that trip, anyway; tree cover in the redwoods is pretty bad, and even "simple" caches can be a challenge. Although I'm sure that those who live up there have developed tricks to help them, just as we do when hunting caches in the desert or in heavy chaparral.

FWIW, our own spectacular DNFs include an urban small along a shopping center parking lot (took six tries to get it) and one in the Humboldt redwoods that turned out to be on an old RR trestle, which we demurred of going after once we saw the condition of the thing :-o

Editor's note: you meant Henry Cowell, not Henry Coe. Coe is a wilderness SP 40 miles or so east of Santa Cruz, in the mountains ESE of San Jose.

Webfoot said...

You are correct. I'll need to go back and fix that after posting this. Thanks.