A Stupid Hobby

Saturday was a nice, spring day. Sunny, mid-60s, and too early for bugs to be out in force. I wanted some fresh air and a little exercise, so I decided to go after a nearby geocache that had been hidden a week or two ago.

I find a good parking spot and my GPS leads me into a local forest preserve. I cross a bridge over a flowing stream and cut into the underbrush, following the GPS arrow. Closer, closer, then… Hmph. I’m on the wrong side of the stream. This happens to me far more often than random chance would seem to allow for. If I’m hunting a geocache that is anywhere near a stream or river, I can practically guarantee I’ll start my search on the wrong side.

So, I backtrack to the bridge and cross it again, and once again plunge into the underbrush. It’s thicker on this side with, I can’t help but notice, a lot more thorny plants. After a dozen yards or so it’s clear to me that they are not just any common thorny plants. These are carnivorous, bloodthirsty, and evil. Any cacher who has ever bushwhacked in Illinois knows the kind I’m talking about. I’m covered in scratches and bleeding from multiple tiny punctures. But finally, I break through and discover that… I’m on the wrong side of the stream. Again.

We pause now for the slowly dawning horror of realization. Yes, the cache is on a tuft of mud that, if one were generous, one might call an island.

Wisdom would dictate that I leave, and await a day in the heart of a drought to try for this cache. Unfortunately, where geocaching is concerned I have only a passing acquaintance with wisdom. We are not on a first name basis.

“Go for it” says the little voice in my head. Something to know about the little voice in my head… for most people, their little voice helps them decide between right and wrong, or reminds them that they left the iron on. Helpful things like that. The little voice inside my head has been engaged in a lifelong effort to trick me into doing something fatally stupid. There have been a few close calls, but I’m still breathing.

Anyhow. “Go for it”, says the murderous little voice. I start thinking of the various ways that things could go horribly wrong. I could slip in and suffer hypothermia. “It’s not cold out, you big sissy!” Ok, how about maybe getting caught in some tangled tree limbs and breaking a leg? “You’d look good in a cast – think of the sympathy you’d get from women!” Hmmm, ok, that’s a good point. But wait, I could actually drown attempting this! “You gotta try new things.” What?!? Why would I… oh, never mind. We both know I’m going to try for it, so hush already.

I start examining my options. There is a fallen tree that could be used to cross the stream, but it’s kind of high above the water, treacherously small in diameter, and the central feature of the leg-breaking tangle that I’d already considered. No good. I spy what appears to be a submerged rock on the other side that would probably make a good leaping point, so once again I brave the underbrush, cross the bridge, and make my way back to where I had been in the first place. And the rock that I had pinned my plans on turns out to be – a sunken plastic bag. Swell.

Desperation sets in. I need a plan, and the only option I see is a muddy, half rotten log at the edge of the stream. The little voice inside my head giggles in gleeful expectation. I heave the log up on one end – it’s far heavier and muddier than it looks. For a heart-stopping moment it teeters the wrong way and I quickly adjust to catch it, leaning one end on my chest while wildly maneuvering to keep from losing my balance in the very slippery mud. The little voice is barely able to contain its joy at my imminent demise. Finally, with a mighty splash, the log falls where I want it to. More or less. Approximately. Close enough. But only halfway to the island. Mustering up all the foolishness at my disposal, I creep out onto the slippery, rotting, half-floating log, and leap (soaring through the air with all the grace of a cinder block!), just barely reaching the island. Safe! Filthy, sweating, scratched, bleeding, and panting like an asthmatic dog, but safe! The little voice gnashes its teeth in frustration.

Finding the cache at this point was child’s play. Easy breezy. Piece of cake. Thank goodness. Whew.

And here I caught a piece of luck. This little hummock of an island offers just enough room that I manage a one-step run. I leap out to the waiting log, and inertia carries me along it to a jarring landing in the soft mud. Success! Looking like The Swamp Thing, I staggered out of the woods to my car, and headed home to a hot shower, clean clothes, and an assortment of ointments, bandages and pain killers.

I can’t wait for the next one!

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