Back a couple of months ago when it was hot and muggy… Yes, I’m being sarcastic. A number of my friends and acquaintances with the Houston Geocaching Society came up with a plan to hike eleven miles in the woods near Huntsville. The Four Notch Loop is part of the Lone Star Hiking Trail and is a fairly flat hike with numerous gully crossings and because of the distance, a real challenge for anyone not prepared to walk over 19,000 steps. And then there is the added element of hunters with high-powered rifles mistaking us for deer to bump up the adventure.
When we had the November 16th date decided, I organized an “event” and this would give each of us a point or what geocachers call a “smiley” to add to our total geocache statistics. Each time you find a geocache or attend an event, it generates a little smiley face icon on the list page and your personal statistics to show you found it.
|Juleed, GreenEyed, & BaytownBert|
All week long we discussed the weather on our forum and at first, it looked like it was going to be very cold, but this turned to thunderstorm concerns with the added probability that ravine crossings would be difficult. The day before the event, first one, then other probable attendee began to beg off and all for good reasons. My geocaching mentor and friend Larry Houston (known to geocachers as HoustonControl), who knows the trail well, just wasn’t up to the long hike after his recent hospital stay and I am glad he chose prudence over possible misadventure.
The trail can be confusing, but I wasn’t much concerned as I drove the 98 miles and rolled into the campsite at 0730 where the trail begins. We had a couple of seasoned and trail veteran hikers, namely Mudfrog, out of Beaumont, TexasWriter from Tomball, and Nov64, from Willis.
Well, I get a text from Mudfrog. His son TxTadpole is sick and they’ve been up all night. He won’t be there. Okay, alright. Not to worry. It’s about 60 degrees outside and humid enough to sip the air. I wisely wore shorts and a bright orange t-shirt, figuring if it was cold, the strenuous walk and the 20 pound day pack would warm me up.
Using my Android phone, I check the forum and sure enough, TexasWriter has bowed out over a scheduling conflict. Well, we’ve still got Nov64 to lead us. As I am standing there pondering all of this, another Jeep arrives and out hops Dennis, or as he’s known - RatherGoHiking. He tells me he showed up for the event, but has a bum foot due to surgery and won’t be going. Okay. This is looking a bit weak in the numbers category.
I see a red Smartcar rolling down the road and it’s my two geocaching 101 friends, Juleed, and Greeneyed - Julee Denton from Seabrook, and Jennifer Schaudt from League City and right behind them are Backwards Charlie From Austin, and Nov64 – Patty Pritzen. Patty owns the geocache – all one of them, we are going after.
The four cache loop, as it is know is actually a multi-cache with 4 containers, but geocachers only get one smiley for finding the last one. Nov64 is wearing flip-flops – not a good sign. Backwards Charlie is about 75 years old and "ain’t walking that far for one smiley when he can find more in the area, driving." That leaves Juleed, GreenEyed, and me. Ugh! Time to make lemonade with these lemons, right?
Juleed did the hike before in cold weather and we started out, with good ol goose-stepping BaytownBert banging his feet at what turned out to be an intense pace and just about did in Juleed. I tried to hand off the lead a couple of times and even slow it down a bit, but my natural gait kept the pace high. When we finally stopped to eat a bite, Juleed informed me “it took us 5 hours to get here the last time”. Two hours and fifty minutes had passed under our feet, including quite a few steep ravine crossings.
Greeneyed ate a peanut butter sandwich and green grapes, I had a turkey and cheese sandwich, and Juleed produced a sour green dill pickle as her soul fare. I offered her a granola bar for carbs, but she refused it. All three of us had hiking sticks and this is where Juleed walked off without hers. She was beginning to get leg cramps and the temperature climbed to 84 degrees according to my thermometer on my back pack.
We came to what appeared to be a logging road and discussed taking a shortcut, as the trail wandered way away and then cut back in the same direction as the road and it was decided this might be a good idea. It wasn’t and resulted in an extremely muddy and treacherous ravine crossing, which basically brought Juleed to a halt. She’s a fighter and like all of us do, pushed herself too fast and too far before admitting that she was in a bit of trouble. It was my fault.
I kept looking at my GPSr unit and the trail and distant road markings and set out double time for my Jeep three miles away. I came to a road, took it for a bit and then plunged back into the forest, making pretty good time considering everything. Three miles is a long way with the heat and terrain and I finally made it to my Jeep at the campgrounds, cranked it up, and took off. I was following the outer perimeter road and called my mates. They had gained the road and were walking slowly in my direction, but were still about a mile away when I came upon a locked gate.
Well, I am all for abiding by the laws of the land, but medical emergencies negate some things and my Jeep was made for situations like this one. It took a bit of 4X4 savvy to leave no destructive footprint – I am a firm believer in leaving nothing behind but a shadow and I rolled right up to them. Everything ended well, but next time I think we will go when it is cooler and with more friends. I like adventure that ends well.