Astrologically challenged


“Mark how many caches left before we get to our one hundredth?”

“Only 16 left and three of those are the last ones in the Alchemy Quest series”

“So we need 13 more before we do Alchemy Quest Gold?”

“That’s right. Team Maddie have just set a 13 cache series seems to fit the bill quite nicely so we’ll do those this Monday while I am on holiday”

So on Monday the 25th we set off to try and complete the Zodiac series in one day.

As we were only planning on doing the Zodiac series all day I had exported only the waypoints for the series to the GPS and to the Palm. I had also sent the same waypoints to Autoroute and printed out the relevant map pages. As the day progressed this foresight was going to prove more useful than I had originally intended.

Mobilising our family has now been narrowed down and refined to a fine art so we were up at 2am and out of the house by 9am!  Lunch was packed together with a flask of hot coffee and the usual caching paraphernalia. The GPS and the Palm were in the car with the Palm on the recharge unit.

We set off for Brown Moss Nature reserve, the nearest of the four locations to our house following the route we had worked out from Auto route.

The nature reserve was a place I had passed several times on my way to a depot in Prees always with the thought “I wonder what it is like down there”.

We parked at the suggested coords in a proper car park (always nice when there is a way pointed car park).

It was quite a cold day so we all wrapped up warm and after using the GPS in “nearest caches mode” set off for the first cache (Taurus). The GPS seemed to be out and ended up being erratic in its readings all day, spot on for some, 30 – 40 feet out on others. On this first cache Lynn found it fairly easily without resorting to the clue. After doing the swaps it was off to the next nearest cache after first writing down the clue and deleting the current waypoint.


The next walk was very pleasant as there were loads of ducks and good views across the water, the GPS was way out but a quick read of the previous logs on the palm confirmed it was us and not the co ordinates so we read the clue and Lynn found the cache (Capricorn). We then set off for the bonus cache and the first clue for the final cache. The third cache (Virgo) was very hard to locate and even after reading the clue took us a while, but Mark eventually spotted it. Now I normally write down these clues however I thought I had lost my sheet of paper for recording these clues so entered the information onto the palm and not on paper, a fateful error. We then bushwhacked back to the car and after putting the palm and GPS in the glove box set off for the next set of caches at Ellesmere.

We arrived at the Mere, got out of the car and turned on the Palm only to be greeted by a completely black screen which no amount of effort would get to change. We tried to remember the first clue and had a fair estimate but did not hold out much hope of finishing the series without the hints, descriptions and other peoples’ logs to help us on our way.

We used the GPS in nearest cache mode which promptly told us we were at the cache site??. A quick think tank and we agreed that the first waypoint was obviously the car park!

So onto the second nearest, the GPS was way out again but some quick searching and some well remembered details and Lynn found the cache. With this waypoint deleted and a hand written set of notes it was off to the next cache. The GPS was spot on for this one and Mark found it in a really good hiding spot.

With the clues for the next cache carefully entered into the GPS we set of for the third cache. Worryingly the GPS pointed into the mere for this one but thankfully as Mark was sent in by his cowardly family it zeroed out before his feet got wet!

We returned to the car encouraged by the fact we had found the caches without the information on the palm and with relative ease, despite the GPS seeming to be having a bad day with its accuracy.

It was then off to the next set of caches. The day which had been dull and overcast started to brighten up at this point and the temperature gradually crept over the 10°C mark. Again the parking coordinates were spot on and were reached with no problems. We stopped to have our lunch as this was about the halfway point of the day.

ellesmere geocaching aquarius1

The first cache was very close almost worryingly close as the canal towpath was very busy with muggles. We could see the area of the cache quite clearly almost from the car. We searched for ages for this one and it was only when we logged our finds that we realised it was a 4.5 difficulty cache! however with this one under our belt we started to feel more confident about the rest of the day.

With the waypoint duly deleted and the extra information carefully recorded we set off for the next cache.  The views on the way to this one were fantastic, we had seen the aqueduct several times when driving by and now had an excuse to actually walk across it. We were slightly disappointed that the cache was this side of the tunnel but guessed quite correctly that the final cache would be on the other side. After the devious hiding place for the last cache we assumed this one would be hard as well so spent some time fruitlessly searching until Mark reverted to normal searching and found the cache. We entered the second clue and yippee we were going through the tunnel.

Ellesmere canal tunnel

The tunnel unlike some other was very dry but the kids enjoyed shouting as loud as possible all the way through, so slightly deaf we walked out the other side and waited for the signal to return. As we were deep in a cutting this took quite a while and we had wandered down the canal quite a way before it finally pointed the right way. We quickly got to the right area but due to the heavy tree cover the accuracy was up and down like the proverbial yoyo and there was a man wandering around picking up rubbish. (We were convinced he was another geocacher). Lynn wandered back and forth in an area about 60 feet long and wide with no sign of the cache. Eventually Mark took the GPS and left the trees to get a bearing line towards the cache, this helped us to zero in and the cache was then quickly found, (undoubtedly the hardest find of the day)

ellesmere aqueduct

Some more lunch and coffee later and we were ready for the next set. These were in an area we have not travelled to for a while so we were really looking forward to this one. The parking co ordinates seemed a bit confusing as we were following the arrow, that was until we turned round the corner and saw the car park below us. This seemed an unusual place to hide a cache let alone caches but all became clear when we saw the information board we were heading for some industrial architecture.

We were soon on our way; this was definite follow the arrow territory and we were soon at the first location. There was no obvious hiding spot but it didn’t take Lynn long to spot yet another really devious hiding place. With the co ordinates duly noted we started off for the next cache. The arrow then settled down and promptly told us we were going the wrong way! The GPS was still somewhat erratic but when it settled down the path ahead next to a disused canal was the obvious one to take.

We watched the distance count down to 30 feet and it swung to the left pointing straight across the canal! Mark in what can only be described as a superb piece of lateral thinking looked to the right and found the cache. It was then off to the final bonus cache and hopefully if our memory had served us well on to the bonus bonus cache.

This last cache was beautifully situated and the kids had great fun in the kilns and round the chimneys. The GPS struggled to get any sort of meaningful signal in this area but with some perseverance and general pig headiness Lynn finally located the well hidden cache.

Ellesmere Kilns

We returned to the car and keyed in the co ordinates including the one we had guessed at. The GPS showed the cache was probably on our route home so off we drove. We got to the approximate location but with no certainty on the co ordinates and with the light fading we decided to be happy at getting 12 caches in a day but missing out on the 13’th we headed home.

Once at home Mark plugged the palm in and although the screen was black the data was still in it. We had the final co ordinates. Mark logged all the finds and loaded up the photos and took the opportunity to confirm with Team Maddie that the co ordinates for the final cache were correct. We also inputted them into auto route to make it a little easier on the navigation front.

The following day Mark finished work slightly early and we all headed off for the final cache. We had taken the overnight chance to stock up on better swaps as the day before had cleared out our good stuff and with all the ace swaps team maddie had left in the caches we expected some more in the final cache.

When we got to the final location we realised how close we had come the day before to actually completing them all in one day. The views were amazing and the low cloud cover made for some great photographs. The cache was easily located even if the road we chose was not. It was very steep and not one to meet another car on! Needless to say we chose a much easier route down past some of the previous day’s caches.

All in all a great series with some high quality swaps that we hope we did justice to.

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