It started out pretty innocent. 'Easy 2.5 mile round trip to a cache at a pond'. How hard could that be? The terrain rated 3 stars, which sounded high for the description, but hey, it sounded so easy, no problem. So I took my friend M and my seven kids (ranging from 3mo to 12yo) on this cache hunt.
We found the site pretty easily, after driving back and forth a bit. Drove down the dirt road, hoping that there would be a spot to turn somewhere, didn't really have to back up the van to get back to the road. If only that would have been the biggest issue of the day!
Found a nice parking spot, where a trail got off the dirt road. Got out the GPS, looked which direction it told us to go, and decided that the trail off the dirt road was the right one to take. We were wrong. It wasn't the right one at all, but it took us too much climbing over fallen down trees and branches to realize that. By the time we were sure this was the wrong trail, there was no way I would be able to make it back down that way with the baby in the sling. Neither the 3yo, nor the 5yo would have been able to do that one back down either, so we decided that bushwhacking was the way to go. Wrong again!
We bushwhacked, and bushwhacked, and bushwhacked, and bushwhacked. Kept losing satellite reception. There was much whining and gnashing of teeth. Lots of complaining. Lots of crying and screaming. Although I have to admit there was less fighting, just because they were too busy to complain to me I think. And did I mention the whining?
My 5yo kept saying things like 'I don't like geocaching anymore!', 'I wish we were home now!', 'This is too hard!'. The 12yo was convinced that we were all going to die here in the woods. The 11yo freaked out about stepping on poisonous mushrooms. Did I mention the whining?
The terrain sometimes improved for a bit, only to worsen again. Fallen down trees, branches sticking out every where, especially on kids eyes height, poisonous mushrooms, moose scat, challenging ledges, deer scat, prickly blackberry bushes, mud, ferns, and trees. For a moment we actually found kind of a trail, only to lose it again. The kids were not impressed. The 12yo helpfully kept scaring the little ones with stories about all the terrible things that can happen to kids who get lost in the woods.
We did eventually make it back to the trail, but that was after at least a mile, if not more of bushwacking. At some point the ferns were higher than the 3yo, and he just stood there and bawled. My friend M was with us, and she actually ended up carrying the two little ones for quite a bit, because the bushwacking was just a tad too challenging for them. But once we made it back to the trail, the kids were totally fine, running around to look at puddles, sowing m&m's to grow m&m trees, and collecting rocks to take home. It's amazing how resilent they can be!
We hiked for quite a while on the trail and made it to the cache site. Finding the cache was not as hard as some others, and the kids enjoyed figuring out what to take and what to leave. We are now the proud owners of a VT Moose bumper sticker on our van... And a glow in the dark frog on the wall of our bedroom... It was a nice location, peaceful pond, in the middle of nowhere.
We ate a snack, and started on our way back, because we didn't want to hike back in the dark. But there was going to be more than enough time to make it to the car before it got dark. Wrong again! Not only was it dark before we were even 1/3 on the way back to the car, but this was real life dark, pitch dark, can't even see your own fingers kind of dark. We found that M's cell phone and my GPS both emitted just enough of a glow to almost see where we were going. Almost... Still missed a lot of mud, and we all had at least one encounter with an suddenly attacking mud puddle. My 5yo's shoe got stuck in the mud, but her foot got out... So then we had to try to find that shoe in the pitch dark... She freaked out!
We did eventually make it to the car. The 5yo was sitting happily in the van, saying 'That was soooo funny when I lost my shoe!!!!! Wahahahahaha!' And that after freaking out so much when it happened. The 12yo gloomily told us that this adventure had scarred them for life LOL.
My friend M offered to treat us to dinner, so we drove to Friendly's, hoping that they would still be open. Phew, they were, even although there was almost nobody there anymore. We tracked a lot of mud on their freshly mopped floors. I felt so bad, the floor was nice and shiny and perfect, till we stepped onto those wet floors with our muddy boots.... Every step was splash, more mud! I felt so bad for the people who had to clean it again!
And yes, we still went geocaching again a few days later, and ended up in the dark again, but this time we had brought flash lights! What a difference that made!