Saturday, September 21, 2013

Lyra's Lair 4

Old Rodan signs Lyra's log.
In 2007, I discovered geocaching when I went searching online for some information about the trail system at Doe Run Park in Martinsville. I have always enjoyed trail hiking, as it can be particularly inspiring when I'm brainstorming ideas for a book or story, as I was at the time. The first link that came up when I Googled the trail was for something called "Lyra's Lair" at As read through the listing, I learned that geocaching is a kind of high-tech scavenger hunt, in which you use a handheld GPS to locate hidden objects, each of which contains a physical logbook you sign when you find it. This whole premise fascinated me, and I discovered that the number of geocaches lurking around me, no matter where I went, was prodigious. Even before I owned a GPS, I set out to find a few, and once I did — in early 2008 — I was hooked. And, if you have ever visited this blog, you probably know that I've been hard at it ever since.

There were actually several "Lyra's Lair" caches, all numbered, hidden in and around Martinsville (and elsewhere in Virginia, for that matter). There is one — number 4 — that has been leering at me since I started caching. It was hidden back in 2002, and it resides up on Turkeycock Mountain, a few miles northeast of town. The cache location is pretty remote — about four miles from the nearest gate, and the gates are closed when it's not hunting season. Last night, a fellow geocacher, Mr. Todd "ttbiker" Briggs, sent me a message, wondering whether I might be interested in attempting this long-lurking oldie. Since, fortuitously, I happened to be in Martinsville at the time, I figured sure, why not.

Now, since I was a youngster, I've heard tales of the Turkeycock Mountain rattlesnakes. The place is supposed to be infested with them. Even last night, a friend of Todd's admonished him to beware of rattlesnakes. However, there's a cache in those woods, and when there's a cache in the woods, the rattlesnakes are just going to have to suck it up. Sulk if you must, snakes.

The morning proved drizzly and foggy, but we both preferred this to hot, muggy weather. Turns out, we both quite enjoyed the rather eerie atmosphere the dense mist provided. The hike out to the cache was virtually all uphill, but mostly on gravel surface, with little bushwhacking until we actually reached ground zero. It took several minutes of hunting, but soon enough, Todd called "Found it!"

Those are welcome words when you've undertaken a four-mile hike uphill specifically to find a cache.

The hike back was a bit easier, since it was mostly downhill. The fog remained with us for the entire journey, at times getting so thick we could barely see a thing beyond the road's edge. We did notice one object we had failed to see on our way to the cache — a sign for a graveyard dating back to the 1800s. Of the graves themselves, we could find nothing apart from an ancient, weathered stone that might or might not have been a grave marker.

Nor did we find any rattlesnakes. It was almost disappointing — though I can safely say I'd just as soon not tangle with a rattlesnake if he insists on being in a foul mood. Other than fantastic numbers of spiders (shades of Spider Finch Park), a box turtle was one of the few wildlife specimens we encountered during our time out there, though there were plenty of signs of others — deer, opossum, raccoon, and horse tracks, not to mention bizarre human footprints in the mud, heading inbound while we were on our way outbound. Whose could those have been, I wonder!

Conquering Lyra's Lair 4 couldn't have been much more gratifying. And in such good company.

Maybe next time, snakes.
The creeping fog remained with us for the whole journey.
One of the few wildlife specimens we encountered
Lyra's Lair 4 peeking out from its hiding place
Mist obscuring the mountainside beyond the lake

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