Saturday, January 7, 2023

From the Spooky Place to the Haunted Island

I was in Martinsville this weekend, and I needed to perform maintenance on a few of my geocaches in the area, a couple of which lurk along the Fieldale Smith River Trail, just outside of town in Henry County. It’s probably my favorite trail anywhere, for it offers a scenic walk along the Smith River, in terrain that isn’t very difficult (unless one leaves the trail to hunt my geocaches). Walking south from either of its trailheads, one will eventually see, across the river, the hulking, ancient shape of the old Koehler warehouse, which, since childhood, I have called “The Spooky Place.” In my early teens and for some years beyond, for Halloween, the warehouse served as the setting for the local Jaycees’ haunted castle. I had a significant hand in that chapter of local history (the highlights of which you may read in the Horror Writers Association Halloween Haunts Blog), and it rates among my most prized memories.

This morning, I set out bright and early on the trail carrying my bag of geocaching supplies. After a while, even from a fair distance away, I could see the smokestack of the old monstrosity rising above the trees along the riverbanks. As I drew nearer, the bare winter trees offered me a relatively clear view of the building across the river. It’s been a few years since I’ve hiked out here, so I snapped a fair number of photographs, a couple of which I’m posting here.

My primary target was a cache called “Haunted Island,” a short distance farther down the trail from the Spooky Place. It does indeed reside on an island — which typically isn’t very hard to access unless the water is running high. Since we’ve had a lot of rain, the water level was pretty high, but my waterproof boots kept my feet dry. If you’re hunting my cache, it’s when you’re on the island that your terrain challenge begins, for the cache may be found some distance above your head. Your difficulty retrieving it largely depends on your vertical stature and upper body strength.

And how a cache in such a location goes missing is a perpetual mystery (if you zoom in on the proper spot, you can see the cache in the photo at left; note that it is tiny). Still, on occasion, go missing it does, so this morning, I performed the necessary acrobatics to put a new container in place. It’s back in play, and I’ll thank Mother Nature and nosy (and/or inordinately agile) muggles to leave the damned thing be, at least for a while.

After “Haunted Island,” I headed over to another of my caches called “Cachefishing,” which also resides above your head, though this one can be retrieved without any extraordinary acrobatics. I was somewhat dismayed to find that, in the recent past, a huge, fallen tree all but obliterated the cache’s hiding place. I expected to find this cache container missing as well, but — much to my surprise — it was still there and in good condition. Happily, it only took a small amount of adjustment to reset it, and it may now be retrieved as I originally intended it.

So, that’s another round of cache maintenance completed. Ordinarily, I find repairing and replacing caches one of the least satisfying aspects of geocaching, but in cases like this, it was downright fun. Not that I want to have to do it again right away.

Cache on.

The half-obliterated setting for "Cachefishing." Do you see the cache's hiding place?
Another view of "The Spooky Place"

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