Spirit Of The Original Cache Lives On


Offering to the geo-gods: Morgan C Talbot with her novel TB at the Original Stash Tribute Plaque.

Offering to the geo-gods: Morgan C Talbot with her novel TB at the Original Stash Tribute Plaque.

Author Morgan C Talbot (GC handle: Frumious Jane) relates the watershed moment that was her visit to the Original Stash Tribute Plaque in Oregon.

“I began geocaching in the GeoTriad: the area between Groundspeak HQ (GCK25B), the now archived Project APE Mission 9: Tunnel of Light cache (GC1169), and the Original Stash cache (formerly GCF, now the Original Stash Tribute Plaque). So how is it that after so many years of geocaching, I hadn’t found any of these three pilgrimage sites?

Honestly, it was probably because I could head out any time to get them. As a result, ‘any time’ never came, and eventually I moved across Washington state without having logged any of these three treasured spots.

TriadSay it isn’t so! Geocachers around the world would stab a caching buddy with the inkless pen bouncing around in the bottom of their kitbag for the chance to log any one of these. Living several hours away from that trifecta of geocaching prizes showed me the opportunity that I’d taken for granted.

By pure chance, back in November, I spent one of my Thanksgiving holiday days at my father’s cousin’s house. My heart literally leapt within my chest when I sat on that pink floral couch, turned on my trusty Dakota 10 and realised how close I was to GCGV0P Original Stash Tribute Plaque. The bright red compass arrow pointed past the bookshelf full of non-fiction, accompanied by a delightfully small number: 10.7 miles.

This will be easy, I thought to myself. It’s so close! Oh, such famous last words. My parents (GC handle: DrJunior) had already found the tribute plaque, years ago – likely owing to their living outside the vaunted triangle, but my father was interested in heading out there again.

Providential, that was. In an ever-strengthening downpour, unusual even by Oregon standards, my husband and kids piled into our car with me. My parents followed in their car as we tooled out of the suburbs and onto a main street on the southern edge of the Portland metropolis.

I had studied the relevant geocaching Google Maps earlier, and I thought I knew exactly where I was going: just look for a particular street at a T-intersection and take it for 10 miles to the cache site. Easy peasy.

But life had other plans. That T-intersection never materialised, and we drove back and forth across the freeway overpass in search of a turn that didn’t exist – not in our universe, anyway. Quick, Robin, to the Bat-phone! My mom, being a full-time Oregonian, had a relevant paper map in her glove box. She spent several minutes scouring it for the road we sought, and finally spotted its name way, out in the boonies from where we were.

(Personally, I think it’s possible that her paper map skills have atrophied after so many years of using uploadable, zoomable, draggable maps on her GPS unit, because the nearer end of that elusive road was just down the freeway. But if we’d taken it, this story would be far less interesting.)


Emotions undampened: Nothing is as inspiring as actually standing on the spot where geocaching began.

Off we headed into the unknown, more blind than usual between the condensation on the inside of our windows, the downpour outside, and the slim hope that the paper map in my parents’ glove box wasn’t too out of date, despite hiding in there for possibly decades. Even though we zoomed around alpaca-laden hills and through tiny hamlets, the road was only slightly less busy than a mall parking lot. We were surrounded by crowded vehicles that paraded back and forth from the shopping centres and specialty shops in greater Portland.

Have you ever tried to drive down an unfamiliar twisting country road while getting directions by cellphone and trying to see through a less-than-stellar wiper job that reflects everyone’s headlights in the worst possible way? Me too! Yes, aside from imparting skills like spotting geo-piles in the woods and knowing working electrical/plumbing devices from geocaching fakes, this hobby does a great job of teaching focus behind the wheel.

We swam on into the drenched blue yonder. We veered right when our one highway became two for no good reason. We missed an unmarked turn and trundled along the precarious edge of a riverside cliff – in the pouring rain, that swollen brown river looked like something out of Deliverance or The River Wild. We studied intersections with half a dozen Wild West-style arrow signs, whose mileage pointed to towns we’d never heard of. We swerved out of turn lanes. We pulled over to consult each other in the rain. And finally, finally, we found the road that (we fervently hoped) would take us to our pilgrimage site.

By that point, we’d probably driven 20 of the 10.7 miles to GZ. But the next five miles were easygoing. With the red arrow on my compass pointing directly ahead, I finally relaxed and looked around.

Art-efact: Groundspeak's Original Stash Tribute Plaque souvenir.

Art-efact: Groundspeak’s Original Stash Tribute Plaque souvenir.

Oregon is a beautiful state, and its damp western side is definitely the lusher of its two diametrically opposed halves. We swooped past Christmas tree farms gearing up for their selling season; at one point, we even passed at eye-level a helicopter that was lifting a bundle of trees via cable down a slope right next to the road. We drove past more alpaca farms and century-old, lichen-infested orchards, and caught glimpses of cute forest-dwelling cottages.

The road bent upward, curved and climbed again. The gentle hills gave way to some seriously inclined roads. Only a minute later, my red arrow swung to the right, pointing up a narrow, twisting mountain road that looked as if each lane might accommodate a compact car, or possibly a motorcycle with sidecar but nothing wider.

As we turned onto this narrow, dubious cliff-clinger, the rain ramped up its efforts as if trying to wash us off the hill.

Whoever designed that little road either has a deep and abiding love of nature or an incurable hatred of motorised vehicles. The switchbacks contained angles of incline that varied from tip-your-drinks-forward-during-takeoff to Korben Dallas’ vertical taxi hiding in the fog in Fifth Element.

Some of the corners defied at least two laws of physics – one of them involving rain and asphalt occupying the same space at the same time. Part of the road was actually a Mobius strip. Luckily, it was the part with the cache. If any of you have ever driven up the back way from Lake Berryessa to Angwin, California, let me just say that though this road is shorter than that ribbon of chaos, it’s also got a higher madness factor.

Naturally, we missed the turnout on the way up; I blame the nearly impenetrable rain. We all had to drive to the top of The Cliffs of Insanity, turn around in someone’s driveway – how many hundreds of times has that driveway seen confused geocachers over the last 12 and a half years, do you think? – and pull off the road on the way down. Success, I was elated!

Then I had to get out of the car. A miniature river ran just outside my car door, so I had to leap over it, whilst keeping the brim on my leather geocaching hat flat, lest I dump the River Nile down my own back. I’d already showered that day, thanks.

As everyone clambered out and huddled beneath umbrellas after nearly an hour in the car – an hour to traverse 10.7 miles as the crow flies – the rain got even louder. We had to shout to each other over its immense drenching power. I haven’t seen rain like that since the summer’s thunderstorms, and I certainly wasn’t crazy enough to go stand outside in those. (But geocaching drives us all a little crazy. We know this.)

So there we were, huddling under umbrellas on the side of an Oregon landslide waiting to happen (and still getting wet from the ninja water that leapt up from the ground as well as sideways from leaves and ferns). We had made it.

The plaque at our feet bore the four-part geocaching logo. It was stamped with the date the first ever geocache was placed: May 3, 2000. I would’ve shed a happy tear but I was afraid it would drown me. A nearby ammo can held the logbook. Up the hill, a second cache awaited, but the steep path was pure slick in the deluge, so we didn’t dare attempt it. I bet it’s pretty hard to go caching with both legs in traction, let alone do boring things like walk to the kitchen to raid the fridge or hunt for the TV remote.

We snapped some celebratory photos at the plaque, including a few with my offering to the geocaching gods: a trackable copy TB4YAME) of my first geo-mystery First To Find. Nothing is as inspiring as actually standing on the spot that began the hobby which has given me years of entertaining memories and a series’ worth of novel ideas.

The rain began forming itself into unshaven mobsters who glowered, punched their fists into their palms  and started making wisecracks about the health of our kneecaps. We decided it was time to make our getaway. Three minutes later, we were on the road back to civilization … and the rain stopped. Perhaps my dedication to my insane pilgrimage, amidst driving and precipitation chaos, pleased the Spirit of the Original Stash? I like to think so. The sun shone for the rest of my vacation.”

DAW*Morgan C Talbot’s First To Find novel can be purchased through Amazon for US$11.99, Kindle for US$4.99, Smashwords for US$4.99, and OmniLit for US$4.99. Death Will Attend, the second offering in her Caching Out series, will be released by Red Adept Publishing next month.



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