2009-05-11 39 -88
The hash point turned out to be a ways offshore of a flooded lake.
excellentdude: Although this was my twentieth geohashing expedition, this was clearly my baptism in geohashing, far surpassing my most difficult previous expedition which was probably 2009-03-09 38 -91. This Monday once again found me traveling from St. Louis, Missouri, back to mid-Michigan, this time having just been down for the weekend to see my girlfriend's graduation. Looking where the day's hash points fell, I felt this would be my best shot for an expedition on the way back home. It was near the shore of a lake, just outside a state park.
I got off the interstate and headed up the two-lane road that would take me most of the last 20 miles to the hash. Almost immediately, I encountered a delay. The highway was down to one-lane due to construction. Given the distance of the construction on the sign and that I was the first car in line waiting to go, I asked the flag lady if there was enough time for me to run back and take a couple pictures. I wanted to document the delay for the wiki and get a picture of the sign bought with money from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (stimulus package) proclaiming that the construction was being paid for by the stimulus package. Something about it just seemed ironic to me. As I got a picture of the first sign, cars started coming through, so I quickly ran back to my car before getting a picture of the other sign.
Following Google's directions to the hash point, I soon discovered that since Google only takes you to the nearest road to the hash point I was actually on the other side of the lake from the hash point. Slightly frustrated, I backtracked to the other side of the lake. My plan remained the same, though: hike along the edge of the lake to get to the hash point. I stopped at the nearest house to get permission to access the land. At the house I met a nice man who was related to some geocachers. He told me the hike along the lake shore should be relatively easy and that since it was all Army Corps of Engineers land I didn't even need his permission. When I showed him that map, he told me the marked point should be right in the middle of a clearing along the lake shore. I thanked him for his help and proceeded to park my car in a small parking lot right next to a bridge across the lake. From there, the hiking part of my journey began.
Not five minutes in, I encountered a large inlet from that lake that was not shown on the map. On top of that, the shore along the lake became rugged and steep, so much so that I could no longer stay along the shoreline. I went back to the road, walked a little farther east down the road, and the plunged back into the forest. Noting my progress on the map, I was beginning to realize this was not going to be a quick hash. I also began noticing the sounds were seeming a lot more intense than they actually were. Not long after I restarted into the woods, I was startled by a rustling in the brush. It turned out it was a small box turtle. Not long after that, I heard was must've been a large waterfall. In actuality, it was only a two-inch drop in a small trickle that one would be very generous to call a stream. Getting my wits about me, I continued.
In general the hike along the shore until I reach the hash strategy was working, but there turned out to be many small streams and drains that were not on the Google map flowing into the lake. They were too wide to jump across, so each time I happened upon one I would have to trek inland to get around it. The steep terrain near each of these also meant having to go more inland than I otherwise would need to. At one point I was inland far enough that I found a field I could walk along the edge of for about 100 yards. It was back into the forest right after that, though.
As I progressed, I figured I was nearing the hash. From the looks of my map, when I arrived at the hash I should have had water to both the east and west of me. There was quite a bit of water on both sides of me, so I must have been getting close. I arrived at the end of the peninsula and took some pictures of a great view, but when I consulted my GPS/map I was nowhere near the hash. I had only gone halfway done the shoreline to the hash. Halfway! That meant two things: 1) I had a lot farther to go through the forest, and 2) I had a rather sizable inlet that did not appear on the map that I had to find a way around. It was already over an hour since I had left my car, so some quick math told me I might be in for a four-hour round trip hike. This was much longer than I had planned on, but I had come this far already. So, with thoughts of radii of stupidity and an expedition by NullHypothesis I had recently read on the wiki in my head, I proceeded around the inlet in the direction of the hash.
Nearly a half hour later, I could see a clearing through the trees. Could this be the clearing the man at the house told me should be where the hash point was? Upon consulting my GPS, I was convinced that it was. As I emerged from the trees, a great scene unfolded before me. There was water to the east and the west, a rather large lone bird flying above me, and a flock of 40 or so geese waiting at the hash for me. It's times like this when I'm geohashing and wish I had a real camera and not just my iPhone. I did the best I could to capture the geese in photos as I approached them. Of course, they eventually all took off, but they only flew about another 100 yards down the shoreline before landing again. Tiptoeing through the soggy ground and myriad goose droppings, I got to what I figured to be the hash, took the obligatory photos, took in the scenery, and stood there feeling accomplished for a short while.
While accomplishment and views are great, I'd been on foot for nearly two hours, had about 5 or 6 more hours to drive, and really did not want to take too long getting back to my car if it could possibly be avoided. I decided to take a more inland route back to where I started. If I hit the nearest road and had to walk all the way around the forest, fine. Maybe I would stumble across a field I could walk along the edge of or something. That'd work. Hoping for the best, I headed inland.
Not far past the edge of the clearing, I found a path. Upon further inspection, the path actually turned out to be a road. It was a long abandoned road that had clearly been decaying for awhile, but a road nonetheless. Given what the man at the house had told me earlier, I suspected this was the remnants of an old Army Corps road from when the park was originally developed. Despite its age I figured the road had to go somewhere, so I followed it. It was really nice to be walking at a normal pace and making time as opposed to stumbling repeatedly through trees. Suddenly, I heard some more rustling in the grass. Recalling being scared by a box turtle earlier, I tried to just stand there and look around. This time, though, there was a raccoon running straight for me. Since it was the middle of the day, I thought it might be rabid. Great. Fortunately, as it got near me, it turned toward a tree and ran straight up into it. I tried to get a couple pictures, but then got out of there quickly.
A short time later, the road ended at the corner of a field. There were No Trespassing and Army Corps signs along the side of the field. I was able to stay on the Army Corps side of the line and still walk along the edge of the field out of the woods. When the road had completely disappeared, there were some fresh wheel tracks of some type I could follow. First an old road, then some fresh wheel tracks. The signs of civilization were getting better and better. After following the tracks for a short time, I found some clearly domesticated pines. I had to be getting close to something. Right about that time, though, the No Trespassing and Army Corps markers became a little ambiguous. By this point, I was somewhat desperate to get out so I continued along the tracks. Then a barn appeared. I was finally definitely close to something. As I approached the barn, a clearing of yellow-topped weeds opened before me for at least 20 acres. They were weeds, yes, but it was still another great site.
When I finally reached the barn, I turned to my left and saw a house! I was out! And it was the same house I started at! The house had a circle drive all the way around it, and I was approaching from the back so I tried to just continue out to the road. The man I had talked to earlier, though, saw me and asked if I made it or not. Just as before, he was quite friendly. We ended up talking for five or ten minutes. He told me it had rained a lot recently, so the lake was high. That was why my plan of hiking along the edge of the lake that he said should be pretty easy did not end up working so well. During the conversation, I apologized for ending up on his land somehow. He smiled and wasn't too concerned. Ultimately I gave him some information about the wiki and headed back to my car. My most awesome expedition yet was in the books!
Not near the hash, but on the way back to the interstate in a town I wouldn't've gone through had it not been for the hash, I found an odd tourist attraction: the Two-Story Outhouse in Gays, Illinois. It was locked so I couldn't see inside, but I read a little of the history of this 120 year-old tourist attraction. There were songs about what happened to the person on the bottom and everything. Very nice! Later that day, my car's alternator gave out while I was still 150 miles from home. Normally this would have been a big downer, but I was still happy from this expedition and found an interesting place to stay that night (to say the least). So all's well that ends well!
EPILOGUE: I originally marked this hash as a success. When I reached the edge of the land, I couldn't get a GPS reading within my normal accuracy of the hash point. I was at the edge of the land where the hash point was supposed to be, so I thought my GPS was just acting up. Later, though, I looked at my pictures, thought about what the man said, and put two and two together. Even though the hash point was supposed to be on land, I think the high water caused it to be about 50 to 100 feet out into the water from the edge of the land. It was shallow enough that I could probably have walked out to it in the water, but 1) I wasn't dressed for it, and 2) I didn't realize what was happening at the time. So, after further reflection, I feel have to mark this expedition as coordinates not reached. Nevertheless, it was highly enjoyable!
| excellentdude earned the My kingdom for a boat consolation prize