Sunday, June 28, 2020

South of Heaven: Abyss

Team No Dead Weight
Team No Dead Weight: Old Dude, Scott, Natalie. I just realized these two were not properly socially distanced
here. At least, I was good. I am always good. Sort of.
I haven’t come home from geocaching so hot, wet, and filthy dirty since the last time I came home so hot, wet, and filthy dirty, and that is some kind of hot, wet, and filthy dirty. Team No Dead Weight — today’s incarnation consisting of Fishdownthestair (a.k.a. Natalie), Diefenbaker (a.k.a. Scott), and I — set out this morning for Chapel Hill/Durham for the express purpose of knocking out a few geocaches that require venturing into the deep, dark underground. We ended up in five tunnels, I believe it was, two of which were part of a single multi cache.
Our view for the better part of the day

We started out with a fine multi called “Preparation H: Feels Good on the Hole” (GC340DE) in Chapel Hill. It’s one of a series of “Preparation” caches, which require you to have some particular tool of the trade in order to acquire the prize. In this case, the tool in question is a flashlight, and we made sure we had an adequate supply of them for our trek. The first stage led us to not so much a tunnel as a tight, lengthy enclosure under a bridge. The object bearing the coordinates to the next stage proved quite challenging to turn up. Reaching the second stage did require going into a bona fide, fairly lengthy storm drain tunnel. The stage itself was not a container per se, but a novel method of revealing coordinates to the actual cache. It lurked just off a nearby trail, at ground level, but on what is called, in the vernacular, high ground. Someone was kind enough to leave a rope to assist with our ascent and descent. A bloody fun hide this one.

Next, we sought a little monster called “Strategies Against Architecture: Darkness” (GC1JXYB), deep inside a narrow tunnel that required crawling to negotiate. Not my favorite means of ingress, I can tell you. And sadly, this effort turned out to be a bust. The cache may still be in there, but damned if we could find it. This cache and the next two were placed by friend Vortexecho (a.k.a. Christian), who is well-known locally for his more extreme geocache hides.

Scott trying not to fall down go boom
We had similar bad luck at a much longer tunnel — “Mind the Frogs” (GC1JZC1) — in which we could stand partially upright, at least. This journey turned out to be fairly lengthy, our search intense, but once again, we got skunked. Most depressing, since we did put in such effort in hopes of making the find. Alas!

But then, the pièce de résistance: “Strategies Against Architecture: Abyss” (GC1QF2P). I think Vortexecho may have outdone himself on this one. It’s a two-mile “hike” in a very long, very dark, very wet tunnel on the outskirts of Durham. Thing is, thanks to none of us adequately reading the cache description beforehand (which one really ought to do, especially when you’re going deep underground), we didn’t realize just how lengthy this thing would be. After we had slogged and sloshed through the tunnel, which was mostly big enough to traverse in something akin to an upright position, we decided to re-read the cache description.

Oh, yeah. Two miles. We had gone about a quarter of that.
The aftermath: hot, sweaty, soaking wet,
Filthy mcNasty old dude

Well, of course, there was nothing for it but to keep on sloshing. Happily, we encountered no Copperheads, although we did see Black Widows in profusion, all just lounging about. Black Widows, at least, aren’t particularly nosy (noses they ain’t got!), preferring instead to mind their own business unless bothered. And we bothered them not at all.

Finally, we saw a light ahead (the “room of golden air”), which turned out to be a large junction with a drain overhead, through which golden sunlight came pouring. And there, chained to a pillar in the center of the chamber, there lay our quarry: a nice, large lock & lock container, just above head-high. When I opened the container, though, it emptied a considerable quantity of water on me, which indicated that the chamber has been totally flooded on occasion (possibly quite recently, given the amount of precipitation we have suffered). Needless to say, dangers do exist in this environment. A couple of years back, a sinkhole opened above the pipe, causing the total collapse of one section. One would not wish to be in the pipes during any appreciable rainfall. (And I had only been home a short time this afternoon when one of our notorious gullywashers began.)

All in all, an invigorating, if damned filthy-dirty day. I sleep now.
Big honking millipede — about six inches long — wandering about in the tunnel

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