We Went Geocaching And I Lost My Cool

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The thought of searching for and finding hidden treasure is so exciting; it speaks to the adventurer and maybe even pirate in all of us. A coworker of mine loves Geocaching and her enthusiasm for it made me decide I wanted to try it as well. In my head, I thought my family would love it.

I downloaded the app Geocaching App by Ground Speak (from my research I learned it is the best app to use) onto my smartphone and thought I was ready. At first glance I was pretty amazed at the number of geocaches around me. They appear to be everywhere!

 

IMG_7782 (1)During our last weekend camping trip, I checked the app and found several geocaches close to where we were camping. One of them was only .6 miles away. (I did not realize at the time that was the distance from point A to point B not the distance it would require to find the cache!)  The entire camping party hopped on board and off we went. I should pre-warn you: this is not a happy cheery post about how easy Geocaching was for us. This is the kind of post we will be retelling around the campfire forever.  I can hear it now, “Remember that time Mom lost her nuts while Geocaching?”

We sure had not gotten far when the shorter people in our group started complaining and wanting to know how far until we found it.  I noticed the app kept counting down: .6 miles became .4 miles and then it went to feet. I thought it was a great idea to keep them motivated by telling them the numbers as they dropped. (What I had no idea was the numbers  went up and down frequently as the trail took us closer and further from the cache!)

IMG_7783Wayne took the phone from me and actually figured out how to read the directions. I thought we were making great progress so I did not hesitate to take the phone back and continued to read and direct us myself.  At one point we got within 250 feet of the cache. I was so excited as that was the closest we had been but a little disappointed too because I knew that meant to find it we were going to have to leave the trail and hit the woods.  Wayne then speaks up and tells me we were within 100 feet some time back when he was directing us.

I felt my blood pressure jump to the sky! How could we have been within 100 feet and he not say a thing. He reminded me that he ask if there was any secondary paths. How was I to know that was code for we are super close? Instead we walked a good half mile on and now faced with the notion of backtracking our steps.  Unlike myself, my dear husband has no expectations that things will go smoothly when you start something new. He is always reminding us that it is suppose to be an adventure and adventures often come with challenges.

Admitting defeat is not something I do easily so I refused to give up! But we also knew that the rest of the crew was completely over this whole treasure hunt. We sent the rest of the crew on giving them a pass to head back to the camper. After waiting a few moments, secretively laughing at my hysteria, they happily headed back to the camper.

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Wayne and I began retracing our steps, me yelling the entire way. We never got within 100 feet of the cache but it was within 180 feet. We did have to leave the trail and had to navigate gooseberry branches (they are thorny), a steep hill, rocks, and a dried up creek. The app kept telling us we were close but we were just not seeing it.

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Then I stepped in another direction and holy smacks there it was; cleverly hidden, obvious once you saw it, just hanging out waiting for us. I felt triumphant like I had found something valuable!  We did not bring and baubles to trade so we just logged in our find in the log book (even gave credit to those back at camp).  We took photos and then re-hid the cache for the next person. Then Wayne and I gave each other a high five. Apologies for short tempers and bad communication were given freely on the way back to camp.

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I learned a few lessons from our first near traumatizing Geocaching outing. First, the distance is misleading. We set out on this trip thinking the Geocache was .6 miles away. That .6 might be as a crow flies, meaning a straight line from Point A to Point B. The truth, we walked over 3 miles.

Second, the Geocache App has some important information about terrain and difficulty that I either ignored or did not understand on this first trip. The difficulty scale gives insight into how much mental brain power will be needed to find the Geocache. The terrain scales gives insight into how much  physical exertion you will need to find the Geocache.

I also learned that when you get so close (under 30 feet) of the Geocache you should actually put the phone away and just use your senses to find the hidden prize.  The final lesson I learned is that not every time you seek a Geocache you will find it on the first try. It is okay to walk away not having found it.

With a success under our belt and having learned a few lessons, we decided to try again. We selected one that was lower on the difficulty and terrain scales.  The kids were with us on this hunt. Again, the short ones got bored easily.  I think if I would have been better about putting the app away when we were within thirty feet and just encouraged them to look, we would have had better success. The Boy found it and proclaimed it super easy.IMG_7784

 

Here is the deal; we got a rough start. In the end, we enjoyed it enough that we will not be scared to try it again. I think we will stick with some easy ones to build up our confidence as well as experience. Then we will move into tackling some harder ones!

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Smith’s Fork Campground

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be the sibling or even first cousin to a famous celebrity? On the surface, you assume it might stink to be in the shadow of someone who is successful and crazy recognizable? Under the surface you may very well find a very successful person in the own right who does not desire the limelight.

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This is Smith’s Fork Campground at Smithville Lake. Smithville Lake is a beautiful 7,200 acre lake operated by Clay County that has two different campgrounds that offer stunning lake views just north of Kansas City, MO. . Smith’s Fork Campground is the first cousin to Smithville Lake. It is located below the dam, no lake views, quiet,  no limelight, but yet a wonderful little campground that should not be overlooked.

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Smith’s Fork Campground has 79 spacious full service sites; a total steal at $25.00 a night. The reservation system is so easy….it is a quick phone call to the campground host who puts your name down on a list. The campground has 30 and 50 amp service and some sites are fitted with both. a few sites are asphalted, most are gravel. We were in sites 45 and 47, which were both pretty level and needed no level jacks.

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The campground is sandwiched on a dead-end road between a sports complex and a city park with a campground and a football field. Near the campground is the dam’s spillway which is a popular spot with locals to fish.  The campground itself does not have a playground for kids but the city park is easily accessible  and about a football field’s distance away.  Just beyond the spillway and the city park, we found a nice hiking trail that lead us on a long hike past a secluded pond.

IMG_6587Of course, the lake is a short drive from Smith’s Fork Campground. Smithville Lake has a marina, is great for boating, swimming, hiking or even biking. They have skeet shooting, an RA Airfield, and disc golf.

During our stay here the weather was beautiful; slightly chilly Friday night and a warm sunny day on Saturday. We enjoyed many guest at our campsite over the weekend. My in-laws joined us Friday for a bon fire and Saturday our good friends brought their family out to the campground for a Mother’s Day dinner.  I think they would become campers if we could just figure out a way for their Prius to pull a camper!

 

 

 

 

Bennett Spring State Park

IMG_6407 alteredBennett Spring State Park is one of our most favorite camping spots in the state of Missouri and we tend to make a yearly pilgrimage to visit the river stocked with fresh trout. Trout fishing season opens March 1 and goes until October 31 and fish are stocked daily throughout the season.

Bennett Spring State Park has a total of five campgrounds with a grand total of 189 camping sites available. The majority of their sites are basic, or electric sites but they do have 48 sites with full service hookups. This year we opted to stay in Campground 1, the full service campground located closest to the river.  We selected our campsite and made our reservations online through the Missouri State Park Camping Reservation System six months ago.

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The last time we stayed in Loop 1 was approximately 8 years ago in our vintage Argosy. The loop had more and bigger trees than I remembered. I did notice that the row we selected had our campers facing North, with the doors and awnings facing West and the slides to the East. I thought to myself, in the heat of the summer, the long hot afternoon and evening hours would effectively render our shade producing awnings useless. Luckily, spring is upon us and the temperature highs were in the mid-seventies and the lows in the upper forties. I did make a mental note to look at the orientation of the map the next time we select a campsite online. Each site came with a completely level concrete pad, a fire ring, a picnic table, and a post with a hook. Some of you might think that is for trash or even a lantern but we fisherman know that post is for our wet waders.

IMG_6415Fishing Report:

Our four night stay at Bennett was primary to let the trout fishermen release some stored up cabin fever. The river was slightly low due to the lack of rain in the area so far this spring, but was a welcome relief from the damaging floods that occurred this past Christmas season. The fishing was great!  We had no problems meeting our daily limit. My dad, Allen and I all noticed that the average trout seemed much bigger this trip than in the past and most of them when caught, had some seriously full bellies. No doubt the trout were eating well this season.  We discussed theories on why the trout were bigger and we were able to track down a hatchery employee who did confirm for us that in fact the trout are bigger this spring than normal. He informed us that three things were contributing to the larger trout:

  1. They had a surplus supply of trout that they held over from last year. This means there were fed in the beds all winter long.
  2. The superintendent of the park made the decision to feed the river all winter. In years past the fish left in the river at the conclusion of the season were left to fiend for themselves. This resulted in skinny, “snake” like trout.
  3. The fish are always a little bigger in the spring than the late summer/fall when we normally visit.

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Local Community:

We did have a couple of interactions with the larger community during our stay. Allen had a small issue with his hot water and received quick and efficient service from Glynn’s Mobile RV Repair. Glynn came to our campsite and resolved his problem super fast. If you need emergency RV service while at Bennett, give Glynn a call.

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We also visited our friends at Hidden Valley Outfitters, they are a full service campground literally right across the highway from the state park. Besides camping you can book float trips from HVO and they will take you up stream and you raft or canoe your way right back to the campsite. We stayed with them and took a canoe trip with them last summer. They also have a wedding chapel on sight.

We had a “quick” lunch at Hillbilly Burger which is located in the park. We had cheeseburgers, french fries, and their fried mushrooms. The fries are hand cut. Their mushrooms were good. The service was the slowest thing imaginable. We would have entertained the idea of ice cream but honestly we had to wait so long to order and for our food that by the time we were done with our meal, we were really done. I would also say it would have been nice for them to have at least given us our drinks while we waited for food.

Park Services:

Since Allen, my father, and I went down before our wives and daughters showed up, we visited The Lodge, a restaurant in the state park for several of our meals. As soon as you walk through the door, you’ll be greeted with a friendly face and we’ve always had great service. We visited The Lodge for breakfast once and supper a couple of times. The food off the menu is served hot and plenty of it. They always have a small fresh salad bar available as well. On the weekends they set up a buffet with more than enough choices including baked and fried chicken, catfish, baked pasta, fresh veggies, and mashed potatoes. Of course they have a selection of home made pies if you save some room.

The epicenter of the park is the general store. You can buy everything from daily fishing tags and waders to pork rinds and wind chimes. There is a full service fly shop, bait and tackle store as well. They sell Bennett Spring souvenir coffee cups and giant stuffed snakes. If you need it, they probably have it, if you don’t need it, they probably have it anyway. As always in the park you’ll get friendly service with a smile.

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Be sure to walk around the rearing ponds at the hatchery. You can even take a tour, or do what we did, asked one of the park employees a bunch of questions. They seem more than happy to share their knowledge about the park with you. And brings some quarters with you so that you can buy some fish chow to feed the fish.

There also a Nature Center and several hiking tails you can visit as well. There is other lodging available in the form of cabins and hotel room and a swimming pool that’s open during the summer months.

Hopefully it is easy to see why Bennett Spring State Park is one of our favorites. We did enjoy our time at Campground 1 and will be making advanced plans to visit it again. I will leave you with this short video. The flat roads at Campground 1 allowed the girls to practice their bicycling skills, I am happy to say that soon both the girls will be wheelin’ around a campground near you!

 

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People Like Us

As we travel all around, I find myself keeping an eye out for people like us. Who are people like us? They are others who share our opinion that group camping is more fun than solo camping.

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A few weeks ago we were visiting Bennett Spring State Park and we spied another group of friends camping together. There were eight of them total; four couples. We watched them share meals, bike ride together, laugh,  and just relax and enjoy being with each other. I asked how often they group camp and they answered as often as they can. They shared with me they may not always have all four couples but they do prefer to travel as a group instead of solo. I just smiled when one of the ladies added, “it’s just more fun” because I agree and I felt we shared a secret!

This group of friends is very well traveled. I enjoyed comparing notes of their favorite campgrounds vs ours.  We enjoyed chatting about campers, modifications, and equipment. Who knows, maybe our paths will cross again.

Thanks for this group, Angie and I had to make a quick trip to IKEA for an Octopus who will now be traveling with us!

 

If you are roaming with friends, we may spy you and don’t be shy if we stop by an introduce ourselves to your group!