Imagine you’re walking through a field of thick cane mixed with thorns. The cane is so tall; you can’t see more than a few feet. You have no idea if you will scare a rodent, a snake or two, or a coyote out of hiding and you ignore these possibilities and push forward. Its classic trail-blazing, but you have a purpose and critters are not much of a concern, even though you are in shorts and hiking boots.
You feel the sweat running down your back as a tendril of Cherokee rose thorns tears through your shirt and rips into your skin, effectively arresting you in your tracks. “Aggghhh!” escapes from your mouth as you carefully extricate yourself from the puncturing barbs. Your skin is thinner than it was when you were a teen and blood runs down your arm and drips off your finger-tips to the ground.
Your legs are equally scratched with old and new marks, but it’s just too durned hot to wear long pants and you repeat your oft said remark that “If the Brits could conquer the world in shorts, you too can go off the beaten path wearing the same.” You look at your left leg and see a permanent mark caused by a spider’s venom. You don’t remember the actual bite, just the two week festering wound that eventually healed.
You stop and lift a bottle of water from your over-sized fanny pack and take a long pull. Pulling the bandana from the brim of your sun-whitened Tilley hat, you wipe your face and stare up at the sun, letting the wide brim protect your eyes. As hot as it is, you prefer it to cold weather, a product of two frozen winters in Montana.
Finishing the entire bottle of water, you push on. As you turn to avoid a chest high nest of red wasps nestled in the reeds, you catch a glimpse of the stubby tail of a cottonmouth water moccasin slithering away just a few feet from your feet and you wait. The heat is getting to you. You are only about 1200 feet into the reeds and need to go another 2500 or so to get to where you need to be.
The ground begins to slope down and you hope the water won’t go over your boot tops and you wade off into it. The thought of more snakes gives way to the thought that anywhere there is water, there are probably alligators, but this doesn’t stop you. Maybe it’s the heat; maybe it’s because nothing bad has happened in the past, but you find your mind is at peace in this environment.
Crossing over a fallen log, you step far out on the other side, as your dad taught you years ago that snakes often lay right beside a fallen log. In the middle of the swampy area, you encounter fewer reeds and more briars, so much so, that you ease your El Salvadorian-made machete out of its sheath and begin to hack your way in. The heat is stifling now and sweat pours off your body as if it is raining.
You check your global positioning system receiver and sigh when you realize you’ve only traveled another 600 feet, leaving 1900 more in front of you. Pulling another bottle of water from the side pouch on your pack, you steady yourself by placing the machete point against a cypress knee and drain the entire bottle. There goes half your water and once you’ve arrived at your destination, you still have to walk out. Your mind is a bit foggy now, but you’ve been here before – this place of exhaustion, that is, and you know your limits. You always tell yourself this.
Common sense tells you that if it took 2 bottles of water to walk this far, you will need 6 more to get in and make it back out safely, but if you were using common sense, you wouldn’t be here by yourself in the first place. You push on into the swampy area and now you are wading in knee deep dark water. You cast about watching for movement and seeing none, you concentrate on your navigational unit and the prize at the destination – most likely a pill bottle-sized camo’d container with nothing inside except a log book and the satisfaction you will receive for being the first to find it.
You know the geocache owner –cryptically known as ThaCatfish is a tricky character. The difficulty rating is only 3.5 out of 5, but it has a 5 terrain rating. “It’s probably a tree climber,” you say aloud as your foot slips and down you go into the brown water. Staggering to your feet, you look around wildly.
You can feel water running down your legs and you realize with horror that the fall burst your two remaining bottles of water. For the first time since you began, you doubt your ability to find this geocache. This one has already turned around one small group and sent two seasoned geocachers to the emergency room – all heat related and you take one look in the general direction of the geocache and wisely turn back.
Note: Baytown Bert’s a cryin’ - GC3B8ZZ is hidden off of FM-1409. Everything in this story has actually happened, but not all of it by me when hunting this cache. You can watch the YouTube of the actual adventure here: