After the smoke cleared from my divorce in 2002, I lived about 1/2 mile down the road from my former spouse and two kids, who were then 9 (Ben) and 13 (Karen). Despite the fact that The Ex and I didn’t agree on a whole lot, we buried the hatchet when it came to the kids. I spent a lot of time with them. Every summer from 2003 to 2010, Ben and I went on a road trip somewhere for a couple of weeks. In 2005, we discovered geocaching and we were hooked.
In June of 2006, we headed off to Yellowstone. We did it right, staying at the Old Faithful Lodge. Afterwards we went up to Bozeman, Montana to do some back country geocaching. It was all day trips. We both love to go out and get dirty and nasty – as long as we can clean up in our air conditioned hotel room when we’re done. After 20 years in the Marines, I’ll never spend another night in the field. But anyway, on with the story…
Ben at Old Faithful. We did Yellowstone right.
In one of our searches, we came up with a geocache called the Trolls Cache. It was halfway between Bozeman and Livingston way back in the Gallatin National Forest. On the day we went after it, it hadn’t been found in two years.
We headed for it in early afternoon. It seemed like we drove forever on a series of dirt roads that got progressively worse and worse. Our Magellan SporTrak Map GPS finally got us to a point that had ground zero about 300 yards to our right – across a stream and up a steep mountain. Off we went. We walked and walked and walked. Most of it was uphill. The area had been lumbered out years before, so there was thick new growth and lots of ankle-breaking flotsam and jetsam on the ground. It was hot, slow going. Like idiots, we didn’t take any water because we figured it would be a short jaunt. We also found out later that this is prime grizzly habitat and we had nothing for bear defense.
At some point I turned around and realized that I couldn’t see the car anymore and the sun was below the ridgeline. Shadows were getting deep and dark fast. We were about 50 yards away from Ground Zero when I told him we had to back off. It wasn’t safe. So we made our way back down the mountain thinking now we know why no one has found it in two years. We drove out of the forest after dark.
I was still surveying the top of the hill on our second attempt when Ben made a beeline for this geo-beacon. The camera just happened to be at the right place at the right time to record the find.
Back at the hotel, we were bummed out. We decided to take another shot at it. We fired up Google Earth and got out the Delorme Montana Gazetteer. We found what looked like an old road, maybe a lumber trail, that led up to the cache. It would be a walk along the ridgeline instead of going up the mountain. The next day, we were off in early morning with a map, GatorAde, lunch and bear spray.
Ben opens the prize at Ground Zero.
The rental car company would have had a cow if they had seen the roads, rocks and stream crossings we negotiated with their AWD Murano. But we found the trail and parked about 1/2 mile from the cache. Twenty minutes later, we were on top of the mountain and Ben made the find in short order. It was an ammo box in great condition.
After high fives and some trash talking, we celebrated by sitting on a stump, drinking GatorAde, eating lunch and soaking up the gorgeous and rugged panorama that was present at Ground Zero.
The view from Ground Zero. We took it in while eating lunch. The haze in the background is smoke from a distant forest fire.
This was the toughest geocache he and I have ever gotten. We learned some hard lessons on this one. For me, the biggest one was I’m not a Marine anymore. I don’t have to get hurt or killed to find a cache. Ben, who was 13 at the time, was tough and had his game face on the whole time. I asked him how many of his buddies had found an ammo box in the Montana wilderness lately. He got a confidence builder and a crash course in real world decision making which he never forgot.
Six years later, the kid is grown up and off to college, but we still laugh and shake our heads over the Trolls Cache.
Cheers …. Boris and Ben (Natasha wasn’t around yet)