The Cooking Lake Blackfoot Recreational Area was all completely new to me when I first decided to geocache in the area on November 3, 2007. There was a feeling of being able to explore the unknown, of not knowing what is around the next bend. I love this aspect of geocaching: the chance to “discovering” what for me is a new part of the world, and in this case so close to home, for the first time.
I arrived late-ish morning, had that “Where the heck should I start?” feeling and then just headed out on what seemed to be the trailhead. My main aim of the day was to try to find all the caches in the area and I won’t give a blow by blow account of the each one; instead I’ll just mention a few glimmers of memory that stand out.
One of my first pictures of the morning was as I was approaching a cache from what turned out to be the single most difficult way one could ever want to approach. The picture is taken in a dense bit of bush and comes as a result of me laughing at myself asking the question, “What the HECK am I doing here, in the middle of nowhere? And why am I asking myself this question so early in the day?” This tends to happen about half the time: one gets to the cache by bushwhacking and wondering how anyone find such a place much less have the evil will to hide a cache in a place so hard to get to and find at the cache a perfectly nice trail leading back to the main path I was on and presenting an opening that was completely ignored. I joke that there’s a “Take single most difficult and round about route to cache” button on my GPSr.
After that find, I proceeded to another cache close by. My receiver is set to beep 80 meters from the cache coordinates, and just as I’m passing a Mom with her two kids who are resting in one of the shelter huts, my pocket began to beep like crazy. Now this caching thing is supposed to be surreptitious to a point, so one doesn’t want to whip out the receiver in front of everyone as it kind of gives away what you’re up to. So as my pocket is beeping wildly I just say “Hi there!!” with a smile and the Mom says “Hi!” back with what I think is a knowing smile.
This next cache is right beside a trail, and on a hill no less. With no tree cover at all in the Fall, this kind of proximity to the trail makes a person completely exposed as the hunt for the cache goes on. I always mutter and curse in these situations because you have to keep on eye on searching for the cache, but also keep an eye on the trail to see if people are coming who will see you searching through the trees and grass and obviously immediately assume you’re picking up drugs or something like that. And the thing is with me these days that I’m really only working with one good eye, so the attention is split between the task at hand and the keeping watch. Anyway, I came up empty at that one: the frustration level builds to a point where one simply says, “Why, that is enough of that!” (well, that’s the clean version anyway) and moves on.
There were a few more caches found until I came to one whose hint promised that it would be under one of the rest huts along the path. This one was near the picture of the little squirrel on top of his little hill. I looked and looked and looked. No cache that I could see. I’m circling this hut four times, pretty much on my stomach the whole time. No cache. When I got back home I reported it as a “Did not find” and the owner said he’d check it out in the future. About a month later someone reported finding it though, so I guess somehow I just missed it.
The next cache of note was actually hidden on what is an island surrounded by swamp. Apparently there is a way in during the summer, but only if one jumps across to the island at one specific spot. The weather was on my side for this one: I just walked across the newly frozen water to the island. Even so, the approach to this one as a fairly significant bushwhack. After about 20 minutes of this kind of thing, one really wonders about the point of hacking through trees and searching like a ferret to get around fallen logs. But this kind of thinking also makes it kind of fun.
I found the cache cleverly hidden inside the bark of a fallen tree, sat down for a little rest with some water and an energy bar and then proceeded to bushwhack out in a different direction from what I’d entered the area. I had already marked a waypoint on the main trail, and was heading for it, so I knew I was going the right direction. Even so, there were doubts.
Finally I see the drainage trench I knew would be the close to the main trail and suddenly the trail appears and just as suddenly an older gentleman ambles directly toward me just as he is passing along that point on the trail. He looks at me with some incredulity; imagine walking on a quiet trail and suddenly some guy comes crashing out of the bush with a big “Hi!” and a smile. He had to wonder about my sanity. Funny, I was just thinking that about myself.
I think I found one more cache after that one, but I have to tell you that bushwhack kind of tuckered me out. I was ready to get back to the car after what was then about a 4.5 hour hike. But not before going back to the scene of the cache on the little hill I couldn’t find. After a second search of the area, I finally found the silly thing very well hidden under a piece of bark no less. This little piece of bark had been stepped on a bunch of times, once by me I think. I felt lucky and a little perturbed.
That was it for the day. It was a good, tiring day with my first experience of that area of the Cooking Lake – Blackfoot area explored. When I got home and logged all my cache finds, I realized I had missed one cache. I completely walked by it. Drat.
I decided to go back the next day to get that one cache, but more importantly to check out the Wanisan Lake area. Cache logs characterized it as being the “backdoor” to the Blackfoot area. That sounded exotic. And there were a couple of caches to be found.