Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Adventures in Geocaching, March 12th, 2015

The Thompson River
Taken March 12th, 2015
Sanders County, Montana

As my regular readers know, I've been geocaching on and off since 2006 when I bought my first Garmin eTrex Legend in Crescent City, California with the idea of it letting me know how far I was walking when hiking on the trails in the various components of Redwood National and State Parks.  Of course I quickly learned that the redwood canopy was too thick for satellite signals to penetrate.  Oh well.  Let's try something different, so remembering that Mr. Grubstake had displayed geocaching items at his restaurant high above Hamilton, Montana, I looked into a new (to me) activity.  At the time, there were over 1500 caches hidden within a 100 mile radius of my house in Smith River, California. When you consider that the house sits three miles inland from the Pacific Ocean, you have to figure that most of those caches are going to be hidden somewhere on land, that is in half that radius.  That was back in 2006.  Today, the geocaching web site doesn't allow you to search more than 30 miles from any given zip code, and there are 563 caches within 30 miles of Smith River.  Back in 2006, I was able to find 37 caches, 20 of them in October alone.  In 2007, I expanded my range outside of California and Oregon, and found 121 caches throughout the Northwest.  I took my eTrex Legend with me on the 6,000 Sunday Drive, and found caches in South Dakota, Iowa, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, West Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee as well.

Old Structure on the Little Thompson River Road
Sanders County, Montana


From 2008 through 2013, I found a grand total of 18, although four of those were in Florida, the furthest east and south I have been with my passtime.  But while I was not out geocaching, lots of other folk were.  Where there were barely 100 caches within 100 miles of my Missoula, Montana home, now there are thousands.  There are thousands within 100 miles of our home in Plains, and one way to get to know the area, is to go out hunting for them.  In 2014, I set myself the goal of reaching 300 lifetime finds before the end of the year.  By December 31st, I was well past that number, having found 149 caches during the course of the year, and I set a new goal:  500 total by year end 2015.

Winter weather is generally not conducive to searching for things in the woods, but I went out nonetheless and found 10 caches in January and 16 in February.  Then Winter left here in the Northwest, and March was very spring-like.  On March 12th, I set out with the idea of finding caches along a road I'd never traveled, the upper end of the ACM road  where Sanders, Flathead and Lincoln Counties meet.  A group of local geocachers going by the name Clark Fork Valley GeoCachers have placed a series of caches along the ACM road at roughly every 1/10 mile from where the road starts at MT 200 east of Thompson Falls to where it ends at US 2 east of Libby.  We're talking a 40 mile stretch of dirt road with almost 400 geocaches hidden along the way.  This has been my go-to path when I want to add a quick 10 or so finds to my list.

The ACM road was built by the Anaconda Mining Company back in the days when they were logging this area to supply support timbers for the mines in Butte.  There is a county road that parallels the ACM road just a few hundred feet away.  BUT, and it's a big but, there is a river that flows between the two:  the Thompson River.  Both roads run from MT 200 to US 2, and both are heavily salted with geocaches.  I've looked for only a few of the county road caches, but have hit the ACM road more heavily, and today I thought I'd go to the end.  The map made it look as if the ACM road skirted the southern bank of the Thompson Lakes, and I'd never been there, so why not.

Old Barn on the upper Thompson River
Flathead County, Montana

From our house, as the crow flies, it's just a couple miles to the Little Thompson River Pass Road, but it's a bit further by car.  Once on that road, it's an eighteen mile drive up and over the pass on a road that is mostly dirt, although this trip there were patches of snow and ice, and once I started down the western slope, there was a lot of rock that had fallen into the road bed.  I found myself twisting the steering wheel right, then left, then right, just to avoid the rocks.

Once down to the confluence of the Little Thompson and the Thompson, I turned north and headed toward my first cache of the day.  Kevin had bought me a new Garmin Montana 650t GPS unit for Christmas, and I was making the most of it.  For today's trip, I had programmed in some 70 caches along the last seven miles of the road.  The first was an easy find, as were the second, third, fourth, and so on.  It looked like it was going to be a great day, but then I got to number ten.  Nothing.  Couldn't find anything that looked right.  OK.  Spend some time, but then move on.  There are plenty more.  Number eleven started out elusive, but, ah, there it is!  Having found eleven, I walked back to where number ten was supposed to be, thinking that maybe approaching from a different angle would improve my chances.  Nope.  Still nothing at site ten.  And it started snowing.

Middle Thompson Lake looking North
Lincoln County, Montana

I decided to drive on to the end of the road, try to find a new cache hidden along US 2, then turn around and see what I could find on my way home.  The road dumped me out onto Highway 2 much sooner than I expected, but I turned left toward the West, and was quickly up to highway speed.  After fifty miles of dirt road, it felt good to be able to drive faster than 25 mph.  I passed Middle Thompson Lake and looked at my Garmin to find that the new cache I was seeking was still several miles ahead of me.  No, this was not what I was wanting.  I still had to get back home, and the fastest way meant backtracking on the dirt ACM road.  Otherwise, I would have to go all the way to Troy (63 miles), then south to Noxon (43 more miles), where I would still be 70 miles from home.  As an alternative, I could drive east to Kalispell (47 miles), which would put me 85 miles from home.  No, the 50 miles of dirt road seemed like a better option.

Realizing that somehow I had taken a turn off the ACM road, which is why I got to US 2 so quickly, I started looking for my original objective.  And sure enough, just between Middle Thompson Lake and Upper Thompson Lake was my road, and a geocache.  Found that one quickly (ACME 372 was its name), and just as quickly found ACME 371 and 370.  In fact, I found every cache through 364 and stopped along the way to take some pictures of the lake.  By this time it was getting late and I hadn't brought along any lunch.  It was time to stop looking for caches and head on home.

Middle Thompson Lake looking West
Lincoln County, Montana

No problems with the drive, and as I climbed the Little Thompson River Road, I met a road grader moving the rocks I had dodged earlier off the roadbed.  Didn't have to bob and weave so much, just inch my way past the grader, and from there on it was smooth sailing the rest of the way home.  All told I found twenty caches and had a great day out enjoying our beautiful northwestern Montana home.

Caches found:  ACME 300, 301, 302, 303, 304, 305, 306, 307, 308, 309, 311 (NOT 310), 364, 365, 366, 367, 368, 369, 370, 371, 372.

1 comment:

Calogero Mira said...

I like all the pics, but for the second one, which is not so bad.