2009-01-25 49 -122

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Sun 25 Jan 2009 in Surrey:
49.0374503, -122.4350494

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The geohash was located deep in a wooded lot 4 km west of Abbotsford airport, in Abbotford, BC, in the Surrey, BC graticule.



CAUTION: The following expedition involves Wade repeatedly saying a word that does not belong on the website for a family sport. The word Wade used will be replaced, for the purpose of the retelling, with the word duck.

Wade and Robyn attended the Vancouver Motorcycle Show at the Tradex exposition hall on the grounds of the Abbotsford airport. Wade bought a new helmet and a new winter jacket, and a subscription to Cycle Canada which he didn't really need, but he wanted to support the Booth Babe industry. Robyn bought cotton candy, chocolate nut fudge, and a sparkly sticker depicting the traditional voluptuous mudflap woman. We stayed until the end of the show, and then it was geohashing time.

We drove a few blocks west and a couple blocks north to find what from Google Maps seemed to be the best access point to the woods. There was a ditch between the road and the wooded lot, and each side of it was a fenced agricultural field, but the woods itself was free to access, and the closest point of approach to the has on the road was 620 m. So all we had to do was walk six hundred odd metres into the woods. Piece of cake, right?

Well, let's see. We left the motorcycle show at closing time, so the sun was already on the horizon as we bridged the ditch (using a pile of snow that had fallen in from the road). The first obstacle appeared to be a only a few sparse sticks, but they were very sticky sticks: brambles. Wade may have used the word "ouch" at this point. Robyn was so eagerly progressing into the woods in pursuit of the geohash that she may not have heard.

Wade was in charge of the GPS, and was the official navigator for this mission. You would think this would mean that Wade would be leading. You would be wrong. Wade called off the distance and bearing, Robyn consulted her compass, and then charged off into the thick underbrush, leaving Wade to try to keep up. As it got darker, Wade came up with the idea of yelling "Marco", hoping that Robyn would understand the proper code reply. She didn't. Wade then came up with the even more clever "Robyn, where the &*@&^$ are you?", which did manage to elicit a reply. Robyn followed the compass with the help of a small LCD flashlight, and Wade followed Robyn by the noise she was making.

It was not untracked wilderness we were exploring, as human and canine footprints were visible from time to time in the snow, before darkness rendered everything invisible. So we had hope that if we never returned from this geohashng expedition, someone would find our remains. This is a friendly graticule.

Robyn knows from experience geohashing in impenetrable graticules like Slave Lake that the best way to make time cross country in poor terrain is not to stare at the GPS, but rather to take a bearing from the GPS, transfer it to the compass, choose a landmark on the horizon, and then head to that landmark, detouring as necessary to avoid the thickest vegetation and thinnest ice. In this case Robyn's compass pointed straight towards a dim orange glow on the horizon. Robyn tried not to think too hard about the significance of its location and dimness. The advantage of the gathering darkness was that it was not possible to see exactly what was underfoot, so the portions of the "trail" that were actually frozen swamp were not visible, thereby relieving Robyn of having to wonder if the ice was thick enough to walk on. Or maybe it was Robyn's light weight and catlike reflexes that relieved her of that worry.

The first call of "duck" came as Wade cracked through the ice into into about 7 cm of water, although it was unnecessary, since Wade's shoes were waterproof up to about 10 cm, and there were not actually any ducks in that pond. The term "ouch" was used quite a bit as the Wade was scratched by brambles and whipped by the underbrush. I think Wade may have also mentioned ducks when he was poked in the eye by a branch that was too small to see in the dark, but it's not clear why: branches in the eye have nothing to do with waterfowl.

Wade was alternating among "ouch," "duck" and ominous muttering, so Robyn kept having to ask, "Was that a bad ouch?" or "Was that a bad duck?" to ensure that he hadn't fallen into a crevasse or broken an ankle. There were a number of muttered things Wade declined to clarify, but he assures me that none of them was begging me to stop this mission now. He was willing to go all the way.

At 175 meters from the target, with the sun thoroughly down and the stars quite visible, Robyn decided to turn back. This was not a decision made easily, Robyn did anguish over it for a while. Wade, meanwhile, was thinking that that the longer Robyn anguishes over turning back, the harder it will be to find the road again. Robyn was anguishing not so much over the difficulty of reaching the geohash and getting back again, but over the difficulty of reaching the geohash, getting back to the car, and then being forgiven by her husband. You can see the anguish on Wade's face as he approaches the camera. The GPS around his neck in the photo barely shows the distance remaining to the geohash. We tried to get a proper photo of the GPS, but the camera battery picked that moment to die. Yes, Robyn really needs to get a new camera battery.

The return to the road was even more exciting than the trek in (if you measure excitement in terms of scratches from thorns, wet feet, and thick underbrush whipping one's face). Wade may have mentioned ducks a few more times, as he stepped through ice into a water and mud mixture 15 cm and 20 cm deep. For example, Robyn stopped crashing through the undergrowth long enough to participate in the following conversation.

Wade: Oh duck!
Robyn: What? Are you ok?
Wade: Never mind, I just have a wet foot now.
Robyn: Okay.
Wade: Duck!
Robyn: What?
Wade: I have two wet feet. Did I mention the thorns?

There were also quite a few comments "ouch" and "damn" as we walked through completely invisible (but still very real) thorn bushes to get back to the road, although beavers were nowhere to be found. As Wade was whipped by the now-invisible underbrush, he mentioned "duck" regularly, but it was always after he was already hurt.

As we approached the road, Wade was wondering what he would say if anyone asked him "What are you doing here?" Wade decided that the correct response is: "I'm here because I'm a loving and supportive husband; she's here because she is ducking crazy."

In honour of Wade's support and loyalty I wish to propose a new ribbon, the Undying Loyalty ribbon. This is not an award that a geohasher places on his or her own page, as it is not an achievement for the geohasher. It is a ribbon to be placed on a mission report in recognition of a tolerant, supportive friend, partner or relative who accompanies a geohasher despite misgivings, pain, waterfowl or cold feet and who doesn't (quite) die in the attempt.