Tread Lightly 2008: I'm Calling Shotgun . . . the Prequel
The journey of a thousand miles begins with one twist of the ignition key . . . or so goes an ancient Chinese proverb . . . at least I think that's what the old proverb says . . . close enough anyways.
In the case of Hiram, Medawisla and myself our journey up north to the County and the Maine North Woods was a bit less than a thousand miles . . . I honestly have no idea of exactly how many miles, but I do know the fuel bill was a little less than $200 since we were driving in the gas-guzzling Toyota 4Runner . . . a vehicle that started out forest green but by weekend's end was pretty much a smoky-white/brown color thanks to the thick layers of mud that coated it from end to end.
However, telling you about the mud and the "flying airplane" logo on the side is me simply getting ahead of myself. To tell a story the right way one should start at the beginning. Of course what is the beginning? Should the story start out when Hiram and Medawisla met me at 5:30 a.m. at my house? Or maybe we should go back to the fact that Hiram was up all night as he was busy cooking up a secret meal for me and working on his computer . . . or maybe the “start” goes back to a few days ago when we finalized our plans to go north and find some caches as we worked on our "DeLorme Challenge." Or perhaps we could even go back to that fateful day when Hiram and I met each other and realized right then and there that the world would never be safe again as long as we were together geocaching.
For the purposes of this story, let's start on the morning of Saturday, June 28th. As mentioned earlier Hiram had little to no sleep when we met up with each other since he was all a twitter with excitement over the secret meal he had made us for dinner. Medawisla of course knew what it was, but refused to divulge this secret . . . I would have better luck breaking the DaVinci Code . . . something I discovered as I kept trying to get one or the other to accidentally spill the beans all day long. For the record, I guessed right once . . . but apparently neither heard my guess and so I had to keep guessing.
I can’t say as though everything went smoothly on this trip. I mean we should have known things would be interesting when Hiram realized that he had left his sweatshirt and rainjacket back at the apartment. Medawisla of course was prepared as she had on something like five layers of clothing and a rainjacket and pants that looked like it could weather anything short of a hurricaine. I had on a pair of jeans since it was overcast, a T-shirt with dancing green monkeys on it (would you expect anything different?) and Hiram was wearing jeans and a NRA shirt . . . Hiram claimed that the shirt would almost spell out his name to which I replied, “Your real name isn’t Nora” . . . turns out he meant it would spell out his name if you read it upside down and backwards . . . Aaron.
We had just left my house in Unity and were passing through Troy when Hiram decided to torment Medawisla by putting our stuffed toy Orca mascot (Off Roading Caching Adventures) in the 4Runner's window and then "rolling" it up . . . he thought it was pretty funny until the safety feature that prevents children and folks like Hiram from getting their arms or heads stuck in the window activated . . . promptly "rolling" the window down . . . which in turn caused the Orca to fly out the window and land smack dab in middle of the road. After turning the 4Runner around, Medawisla retrieved the orca and thereafter refused to let Hiram get within five feet of the orca.
It was about ten minutes later that Hiram told me about how when he was a kid there was this song with a catchy bass section in it . . . turns out that him and his brother one time decided to drive their mother batty by singing the same notes over and over and over on a road trip. Dum da da dum da da da . . . and after mentioning this fact he proceeded to sing these very same notes over and over and over again on this roadtrip . . . towards the end however he usually would only sing the notes when he either a) was biting his proverbial tongue or b) when he had heard something that had just a little too much information (i.e. my snowmobile trip that ended in Patten – inside joke here folks.)
We stopped at Dysarts for a quick breakfast. Now I should mention that it was here that I learned something important about Hiram . . . namely being that if you send him an e-mail that he pretty much will read the first sentence or two and the last sentence or two . . . everything in between is . . . as he puts it . . . “words . . . lots of words.” I discovered this fact when I asked him about the six or seven e-mails I had sent him. In these e-mails I forwarded information to him on which maps I needed to find, areas where I had cached in the past, caches that I had not found and where these caches were located, caches of particular interest to me, caches that I had found that might be of interest to him, etc. Unfortunately, as mentioned, Hiram does not tend to read lengthy e-mails so my e-mail detailing found caches and caches of interest read like this to him.
“Hiram. I’ll meet you at my house around 4:30 a.m. or shortly thereafter. I can bring the 4Runner . . . words . . . words . . . words . . . words . . . words . . . words . . . words (repeat this for about ten paragraphs) . . . So there you have it . . . let me know which caches you want to do and then we can coordinate our caching plans. FFJake.”
I must tell the truth. At first I thought Hiram was just joking about only reading the first line or two of the e-mail . . . at least until we were in New Sweden and he read the first line or two of a cache and I headed off with him to make the find while Medawisla lingered behind for another two or three minutes. We arrived to find a big stone monument and no sign of a cache . . . it was then that Medawisla announced that she had actually taken the time to read the entire cache description and that this was a multi cache and fortunately she had taken the time to write down what information we needed to glean from the monument.
However . . . I’m getting ahead of myself since we didn’t make it to New Sweden until the afternoon. Our first stop after Dysarts was to Irvings . . . well actually Mobil . . . but I wanted to help support Hiram and more importantly I wanted to collect some Cruizin’ to Win game tickets so we moved down one door to the Irvings.
From there we headed north to Sherman and began our march towards the County in pursuit of caches . . . some memorable and some not so memorable.
Some of the first caches we did together were caches that I had already found . . . however I found these caches a year or two or three years back . . . and I have a notoriously bad memory anyways. This is why I would constantly be asked if we were close and I would respond, “I think we’re in the general location” which is the same as if I was using my Magellan GPSr.
One cache that was new to both of us was Allsbury Formation – an Earthcache. First off, this is a fine cache and there is nothing wrong with it. Second, I wish I could record our entire conversation that we had while at that cache, but let’s just say that it probably would be a little risqué . . . let’s just say we all had other thoughts on our mind when we were reading the cache description.
On Rt. 11 the Hiram Hiram (a GPSr along the same lines of Tom Tom) suddenly activated (i.e. the Hiram Hiram began to flap his hands around and yell “Stop. Stop. Stop. Moose. Moose. Moose” indicating that we had just passed a moose. We stopped, backed up and Hiram attempted to take a photo before the moose hightailed it towards the woods.
While Hiram grunted (apparently this is moose talk for "Hey, baby. What's up? Can I buy you some pond weeds?") I attempted to use the only animal call that has ever worked for me by yelling "Sueeeeeee" (which of course is pig speak for "Hey, baby. What's up? Can I buy you some day-old stale jelly donuts?")
Needless to say neither of our calls had the desired effect of luring the moose back . . . in the meantime Hiram had attempted to get a photo of the fleeing moose, but unfortunately all he managed to get a picture of was the back of my head.
Shortly thereafter we stopped for lunch along Rt. 11 at a rest stop. It was here that I explained to Hiram that if he ever wants to successfully convince folks he is a native Mainer and not a transplant or flatlander he has to start serving red hotdogs. Hiram could not understand why since the red dye doesn't add any flavor . . . and in fact he said all it does is make him look like he has some very serious internal bleeding issues going on several hours after eating. I told him however that it doesn't matter . . . it's a Maine thing . . . and that's all he has to know.
In Shin Pond we did an Earthcache that required the use of a thermometer. Even as I sit here typing this missive I’m still not sure why Hiram just happened to have a thermometer in his camping gear . . . I mean we’re not talking about one of those pin-on hiking thermometers to let you know if you’re suffering from hypothermia. We’re talking about a very large thermometer . . . the type that almost looks as though you would stick it into a roast to see if it’s cooked enough. In any case, I was pretty glad he happened to have it in his gear since it helped us answer the Earthcache question.
In Caribou we found one cache and Hiram mentioned that there was another cache nearby. I told him the cache wasn't all that exciting and thought he didn't want to look for it . . . but after leaving and having Hiram give me a guilt trip we went back for the cache 45 minutes later . . . only to discover the cache had been DNFed numerous times and a voracious woodchuck had stolen the cache. All that was left of the cache was a chewed up tupperware cover with the cache information and one single piece of the tupperware container. Hiram still claimed it was the best cache he had done in a long time.
In New Sweden we found a micro . . . while under the watchful gaze of a State Trooper who was parked up the road. While I was wondering if we would be pulled over on account of our suspicious behavior (i.e. three folks who seemed to be really, really interested in a sign), Hiram simply wondered if the State Trooper wasn’t J_Cyr who is/was in training as a police officer/state trooper. When we left and drove by the state trooper I tried to convince Hiram to moon the guy in an attempt to determine if it was J_Cyr or not . . . but for some reason Hiram had packed his commonsense with him on this trip and wisely opted to not do so.
One thing we discovered while traveling around the County is that these folks like to have a good time as we passed Mapleton Daze, Mapleton Farm Daze, New Sweden’s “Arootoscoustic” Festival, The Guerette Family Reunion (every town and nearly every business in St. John’s Valley was welcoming the Guerettes . . . and I’m being serious here), the Acadian Festival in St. David and The Four Corners Motorcycle Event in Madawaska.
One bad thing is that I was hitting up just about every Irvings from Old Town to Fort Kent and in between in an attempt to rack up as many Cruizin’ to Win game pieces as I could . . . unfortunately about half the stores we stopped at just sold Irving’s gas and were not participating in the contest.
One of our last stops for the day was in Fort Kent . . . where apparently everything closes up around 6 p.m. since several gas stations had closed up shop for the day. While we had plenty of gas we were hoping to stop and get some input as to where to camp . . . eventually we settled on a campground at Eagle Lake.
Now I’m not saying this was a bad place to camp, but I can say it was a bit different from what I’m used to camping at. For one thing we were met at the campground office by a 1 or 2 year old girl holding a hand-held bullhorn . . . I’m still unclear what she was yelling into her fully-functional bullhorn, but I do know she tended to repeat bits of conversation.
Hiram: Hey, we were wondering if we could get a campsite for the night?
Owner: Sure, we’ve got a nice site in the woods.
Girl: I LIKE TO CAMP IN THE WOODS.
Hiram: Perfect. How much do we owe you?
Owner: $28 for the night.
Girl: I LIKE MONEY.
Hiram: So where do we go?
Owner: Take the first right and then go to the point and take another right. It’s Lot 70 . . . you can’t get lost.
Girl: GET LOST!
We made our way to the campsite and noticed right away that a) for some reason the campground owners had put us on the campsite located the furthest away from every other site and b) we were the only ones with tents at this campground – everyone else had a RV . . . and in some cases folks had RVs that were permanently connected to the septic plumbing, had attached sunrooms and had enough Christmas lights going to rival the lighting system at the Bangor International Airport.
Undaunted we began to make up the camp. It was at this point that Hiram revealed the secret . . . ribs with his not-so-secret BBQ sauce. I’ll skip ahead here a bit and say that if anyone gets a chance to eat with Hiram do so . . . you will not go hungry and you are in for a great meal.
While dinner cooked we set up the tents and made a little tent city Waco-style complex that consisted of Hiram/Medawisla’s tent and my tent snugged up to each other under a large tarp . . . in theory this sounded good since it seemed as though it would keep both of our tents rain free . . . I later discovered that I would have been just as well off if I was sleeping in a Glad trashbag. The other problem with this set-up is that my head was right next to Hiram’s feet which meant a) I spent a few minutes inadvertently feeling up his foot through the nylon when I stretched a bit before falling asleep and b) in middle of the night when my interminable snoring kept him awake it was quite convenient for him to simply give me a little kick in the head to briefly stop the snoring.
Cutting up some nearby dead wood lead to our one and only injury for this trip. It was also at this time that I learned letting Hiram play with sharp objects could be dangerous to his health. I had loaned my foldable Razor hand-saw to Hiram . . . a minute later he was digging into the first aid kit for a bandage while his wrist dripped a steady stream of blood. For a minute I thought those darn chippers must have got to him before I realized that he had taken a whack at his wrist. For the rest of our trip Hiram wore a bandage around his wrist that made him look like he was wearing one of Wonder Woman’s Wrist Bracelets.
Getting the campfire to take off was a herculean feat. Of course this could be due to the fact that it had started to rain at this point, the wood was wet and the campwood that we bought was not the typical cedar split up into little toothpick-sized pieces but rather green-cut, large chunks of white and gray birch that would be a challenge to fit into most woodstoves. Eventually the fire got going and roared to life . . . of course this was after we no longer needed the fire to cook the corn and after we were ready to go to bed.
Before turning in for the night Hiram and I went to the bathroom. I guess I still wasn’t very sleepy since I began to have a lengthly conversation with him as he was in the stall next to me . . . I asked him if he had any good graffiti to read (for the record about the only thing there to read was the name on the toilet paper dispenser), if he had enough roughage to eat during the day and I casually mentioned that there was a hole in the wall of my stall which made him a bit nervous until I explained that it seemed to be heading into the women’s bathroom.
With our business completed we headed into our respective tents and I soon fell fast asleep . . . unfortunately the same could not be said for poor Hiram since my notoriously loud sleeping kept him awake much of the night. About the only time he was actually able to sleep came when I woke up only to discover that my two sleeping bags were soaking wet . . . well that and the T-shirt and boxer shorts that I was wearing were also soaking wet. I can tell you that as an adult it’s never a good thing to wake up with wet underpants. As you might surmise the reason for my wet clothing and sleeping bags was the cheap, crappy Walmart tent I was using (a gift . . . so I can’t complain too much).
I left the tent at that point, changed into dry clothes and spent the next hour or so sleeping in some somewhat awkward positions in the 4Runner . . . which gave Hiram and Medawisla a few hours of sleep. For the record, Medawisla claimed my snoring didn’t keep her up . . . but I think she was just trying to be kind. Hiram on the other hand claimed that he had stepped outside at one point and was debating on whether he could get away with stuffing a pillow over my head and calling it a justified homicide when he met a bear who asked him if he couldn’t do something about the snoring since it was scaring the bear and other wildlife . . . sadly Hiram had nothing alcoholic to drink at this point so this supposed conversation with a bear could not be blamed on anything so normal like being in a drunken state of mind. Time to update his meds Medawisla!!!
The next morning we broke camp after a hearty breakfast of blueberry pancakes and sausage. Today there was a lot of driving as we made our way into the North Maine Woods. I shudder to think of the cache to gas mileage ratio . . . I am pretty sure that the caches we did on this trip are among the most expensive I have done to date as we drove and drove and drove.
At Eagle Lake we stopped to gas up and I spotted John Martin . . . Maine’s former Speaker of the House. I wish I could say that I spotted him because I’m tight with all the Maine Legislators or that Martin and I go way back . . . but the truth is he was wearing a shirt that said “Martin” and he got into a car with a Maine “Legislator” license plate.
After grabbing a cache or two we stopped at the Maine North Woods Checkpoint. It was here that I messed up. I messed up when the employee said, “Two people,right?”, Hiram replied “Yup” and then I corrected him by saying, “What about your wife, Medawisla?” I thought Hiram’s lack of sleep had finally caught up to him and that he had actually forgotten about Medawisla . . . and in retrospect that hard kick to my shins should have made me think something was up. It wasn’t until later that I realized the Maine North Woods charges per person. . . .
We drove a lot, but found some great caches . . . we even nabbed a FTF on the Munsungan Earthcache which was placed all the way back in December of 2007. At Sudonim’s Machias River Cache we were nearly carried away by some blood-thirsty finches which were all a twitter . . . kind of like how Hiram was the day before. Fortunately, we distracted the birds by going way past the cache and nearly tumbling down the river embankment while Medawisla found the cache several feet back . . . at least that’s the story we’re going with . . . we distracted the birds on purpose and purposefully walked past the cache allowing her to get the cache . . . yeah, yeah . . . that’s the story we’re going with this time.
To log one map we had to place a cache . . . a feat that proved easier said than done as our initial plans to put the cache at Umbazookulus Lake were foiled when the trail to the lake was nowhere to be found. Our next plan to hide the cache at a primitive campsite also met with no success as the “campsite” turned out to be a gravel pit filled with shale . . . no picnic table, no rock ring . . . in fact no sign that anyone has ever camped there except for a Maine Forest Service sign lying on the ground indicating that the site is allowed as a campsite.
Eventually we found a half decent spot for a cache . . . I suspect it may be a while before that cache gets a FTF based on the distance to drive there.
On our way out to the final caches of the day we hit a ginormous bump in the road . . . Hiram hit his head on the roof and I muttered a few expletives. It was at this point that both Hiram and I became a bit concerned since Medawisla was in the back seat and there was no sound that came from her . . . no startled sounds, no moaning as she flew up and then back down into the seat, nothing. When Hiram began calling to her and still had no response we both thought the worse . . . I thought maybe we had hit the bump too hard and she had somehow broke her neck while Hiram thought maybe something had fallen on her and knocked her unconscious. Fortunately, it turned out that Medawisla was just very, very tired and so after waking her up she went back to sleep.
On the way out we spotted even more wildlife including a black bear, a couple of foxes and a bunch of partridge, rabbits and a couple of outta-staters driving a Subaru through some pretty thick mud which made Hiram wish the 4Runner had a mobile gun turret in place of the sunroof . . . for the critters, not for the outta-staters . . . I think. Hiram also said that I drove a bit slower than Maniac1957 on the backroads . . . I’m still not sure if that is a compliment or a complaint.
On one of our final caches, Big Ambejackmockamus Falls, I remarked that a rock we were looking for kind of looked like a monkey’s head from the side profile. Hiram and Medawisla agreed . . . but I think that’s just because they were thinking that I was losing my mind and wanted to keep on my good side.
Our final two stops were in Millinocket and Medway . . . well three stops really. We stopped for gas (at Irvings) and ice cream (at a shop) in Medway and before that we made a stop at the Millinocket House of Pizza which was rather uneventful except for the fact that a) Hiram’s grill fell out of the back of the 4Runner when we opened the tailgate (for the third time in a row) . . . spilling parts and pieces of it all over the parking lot and b) a graphic image somehow appeared in the dust of the 4Runner. Now Hiram claimed that this graphic image was drawn in the dust by one of the three teens playing hacky sack nearby . . . it just happened that this graphic image was on his side of the 4Runner though. Since I didn’t want to drive all the way home with this graphic and lewd image on my 4Runner I made some tasteful alterations while gassing up and the image then resembled a sleek Boeing 747.
And as they say . . . that’s the tale.
Quotes of the trip:
FFJake: All in favor of going to Dysarts say Aye.
FFJake and Medawisla: Aye.
FFJake: All opposed?
FFJake: This is a democracy . . . we’re going to Dysarts.
We also used the “this is a democracy” line to decide to make a stop for ice cream later on and I think we used it a few other times . . . as you might have guessed Hiram was usually the sole dissenting vote.
Medawisla: Hiram doesn’t love me anymore. Once upon a time he loved me.
Later on in the trip. . . .
Firefighterjake: Hiram doesn’t love us anymore. Once upon a time he loved us.
And then there is going to be a REAL - Tread Lightly Event this year? :eek: What next?
Mainaic1957, already knows the tales of me at that campground.:D Many years ago.
Sounds like fun - so is Hiram to tired to post it or is he trying to buy Medily (darn - I am at a loss to remember how to spell that name without it in from of me) to post it for him. LOL;)
And it sounds like we should be looking for a new cache to be posted, too!:)