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We started this series last year and have been working through it slowly but surely. Since then, our Top 10 have changed a bit as we have been to some really cool places.
Here’s what we have so far.
#10 – Easy to Overlook Cache, Tucson, AZ
#9 – Nuke on a Mountain Cache, Sundance, WY
#8 – The Caves of the Door Bluff Headlands Cache, Door County, WI
#7 – Spooky Tunnel Cache, Kuhntown, PA
#6 – Trolls Cache, Livingston, MT
#5 – Dragoon Springs Geocache, Dragoon, AZ
#4 – Civil War Entrenchments Cache, Snake Springs, PA
Trying to nail down the Top 10 is a moving target because as we travel around, we run into a lot of potential Top 10’s. To make the list, there has to be something extraordinary or unique about the geocache under consideration. It might be distance, difficulty, terrain, location, history or just the surroundings. Our #3 cache fell into several of these but made the list because of the totally unexpected level of difficulty and sense of satisfaction we got when we bagged it. From August 2008 – the Big Spring cache in Guttenberg, Iowa.
In August of 2008, Natasha and I were newly married and newly retired. We spent several days roaming around eastern Iowa at the Field of Dreams and the riverfront city of Dubuque. Then we headed north along the Mississippi River, ending up in Guttenberg, Iowa. Population – around 1900.
Guttenberg is nestled between the west bank of the Mississippi and the limestone cliffs that mark the beginning of the Great Plains. Settled by German immigrants in the 1840’s and 50’s, this small town retains much of its old world charm. Brick and stone buildings abound along tree-lined streets and a levee keeps the river at bay. We toured the town by geocaching. They were everywhere. We had lunch at a bistro overlooking Lock and Dam #10. Then we turned our attention to the Big Spring geocache.
The cache was rated 4.5 out of 5 stars for both terrain and difficulty. That kind of rating is usually found deep in the mountains or some other inhospitable place. But Iowa? We figured no way. You could drive to within 1/4 mile of the hide. How hard could it be?
Here’s your 4.5 stars. Ground Zero is around the bend to the right at the top of the waterfall. The only way to get there is to climb up the falls. There are no hidden paths, no shortcuts, no geo-trails. The plant cover on either side hides steep limestone walls that are completely un-navigable. So it was up and over. But the best was yet to come.
The source of this waterfall is an artesian well that pours out of the limestone. It is pure, clear water that has flowed since the first living creatures showed up here. It used to be the town’s water source until they outgrew it.
Now comes the fun part. Somewhere up in that cavern where the spring flows out is our prize. After much slipping and sliding, we found it – an ammo can chained to a steel rod driven into the ground. The can was underwater. The concrete cistern on the left was part of the old waterworks for the town.
We signed the log and put it back. Thoroughly soaked and covered with mud from head to toe, we made our way back down the falls, using gravity to our advantage where possible. Back at the picnic pavilion where we started, we changed clothes and cleaned up the best we could. Then it was back home to St. Paul.
Between the two of us, we have almost 6,000 geocaches in 40 states. To this day, the Big Spring cache is the only double 4.5 star hide we’ve done. For that reason, it’s #3 on the hit parade.
I took the photos with a waterproof Kodak disposable camera that I used for canoeing and boating. Since we were going to be around the Big Muddy, I threw it in at the last minute. Good thing. The high speed DSLR wouldn’t have liked it.
The GPS location of the Big Spring cache is N42.809° W91.11142°. You can click on the hyperlinked coordinates for a Google map.
Cheers …. Boris and Natasha