In which we do not get sprayed by a skunk

Back in November, we decided to give Geocaching another whirl. Our first adventure, documented here, was a total failure, but a fun one. Also, we wanted to give Caroline a long ride on that two wheeler before the cold weather made access sporadic. As a final incentive, we could explore one of the few Rails to Trails sites in Alabama.

So, armed with some new equipment to make cache hunting more effective, we drove an hour to Valley, Alabama. It’s an old mill town located along the  Chattahoochee river.

Part of the mill along our trail

Right at the outset, we discovered not one, but two old bridges to explore. One was a covered bridge, a covered railroad bridge, which meant it was bonus on the route. The other was the town’s old driving bridge, a metal structure that climbed above the roadway. It was the perfect spot from which to photograph its covered counterpart.

Picturesque doesn't even begin to describe it

Although paved, the track was poorly marked, so we were lucky Scott had already scouted ahead online. Otherwise, it would have seemed like the most pointless adventure ever, since a major road cut through the path about a quarter of a mile in and it was impossible to see where it continued. The Geocaching GPS insisted our find was over a mile away, so we would have been mightily annoyed to stop so soon.

Let me pause here to say that Geocaching and Rails to Trails are not united things. The trails are handy spots to place Geocaches, and the two are certainly capable of coexisting. But they are separate entities, without very much technical in common. Keep that in mind.

The trail wound around past city hall, where we met this fellow. He’s a wise man, part of a nativity.

Plastic Camel Rides two dollars for charity (not)

I’m afraid my primary thought was “Too bad Sam’s already got a mount, because that camel is in serious need of a rider”. (Because Sam was abike, too. He still has his training wheels, but it was a perfect course for both kids.)

See Caroline? The bright pink dot on the path?

Can you see the little card to the right of the door? If you click the picture, you can enlarge it on its own page to see.

We’re pretty sure these were occupied as houses in spite of their run-down condition and the blank ‘store-hours’ card in the front of one. It was just one symptom of the very real poverty in this town. We passed numerous dilapidated homes, some in states of outright decay. And all of them were occupied. I took the above pictures when we thought it was just the town’s old business district. Beyond that, tourism photography seemed disrespectful.

After that, we followed the path away from town. It kept crossing roads, which was convenient for keeping Caroline in check. She could ride ahead to the next stop sign, which was only out of our sight a couple of times. Then, she had to either wait for us to catch up or ride back and forth to us in the interim. When we started the afternoon, she still needed a push off to get going. By the time we were finished, she could kick start herself. Cheers to boredom.

A mile and a half in, the geomachine said we were almost there. At a mile and three quarters, exactly at a trail end, the machine suggested we dive off into the underbrush. As I said, Geocaching is not directly related to the Rails to Trails project. Also, this kind of direction isn’t uncommon with Geocaches. They are typically located a little off the beaten path. So we ditched the bikes and headed into the woods. There was a little walking path to follow, and the machine agreed we were headed aright.

But when we got within three feet of our destination, things went a little haywire. The GPS software couldn’t quiiite get a bead on us, so it would jump from saying we were 9 feet away, to saying we were 15 feet away, to saying we were right on top of it without our ever moving a step. But we knew we were close. So we started looking for logical spots. Behind stumps and around bushes. We were so engaged with looking that I didn’t think to take pictures.

Then I saw it. The perfect little burrow in the ground.  Geocaches are often hidden inside hollow logs and down in holes in the ground. This had a bit of both going for it, but right away we knew something was wrong. There was, surrounding the hole, a very very faint odor.

It was so faint, in fact, that I was the only one who initially noticed it. I said, “We may have found it, guys, but I think a skunk moved in.”

Scott took my word right away and said, “OK, let’s go then.”

But the smell was so faint. I said, “Well, maybe not. Let me poke around a bit.”

So I took a stick, and I jabbed it in the hole. Nothing happened. I shifted around some leaves, and nothing continued happening. So I got bold and grabbed a longer stick. I had just started rooting around with that when the odor level increased (not much, but everybody could smell it) and a sudden movement in the pit snagged my gut.

A black and white head with beady eyes popped out and looked around at us as if to say “What the hell are you doing in my house? You want to come in? You want that we should meet more closely?”

With matching visions of having to burn our clothes and shave our heads, Scott and I seized the children by the hand and took off back down the path. For the rest of the way back to the car, Sam kept saying, “The skunk stole our Geode”.

Well, no honey. Not exactly. But the effect was the same. As with our last failure, the adventure was so much fun that we knew we would give Geocaching another shot. The very next day, in fact, we made our first finds. Four of them, once we got the hang of how to look. But none of those were so fun as the one we didn’t find, the one that got “stolen”.

Gratuitous adorability


a flicker of inspiration at Lightning BugWith apologies, I’m linking up with The Lightning and The Lightning Bug’s Flicker of Inspiration post. I must say, I didn’t understand the prompt right. When the prompt said to ‘fix’ something that went wrong, I assumed ‘fix’ meant ‘write about’. I now realize we were supposed to do a fictional re-work of the scene. Oops. My gaffe. Just to be clear, we were absolutely never sprayed by the skunk.


14 thoughts on “Skunked

    • As soon as we started finding things, it got kind of mundane. We did have one adventure the next day, but it was more a ‘wow, I had no idea THIS was here’ kind of adventure. If it hadn’t been heading on towards winter, we’d have been eaten up by the ants getting to one of them!

  1. Oh lovely….read your post and now I have Alan Jackson’s “Chattahoochee” running through my head, lol

    Don’t know much about Geocaching but you make it sound like great fun!

    • It’s pretty cool. And, little did I know, but you can put an app on your phone to have it act as a compass and give you your latitude and longitude (essential to geocaching). It’s like a giant treasure hunt, only you put the treasure back. Sometimes, you just write your name on a log and note the ‘find’ on their website. Sometimes, there are trinkets you can exchange in a cache.

  2. I have never tried this, though the thought of it really appeals to me. Well, minus the “bonus find”! I can not believe you all got away without getting sprayed. You must be agile!

    • Nah – if he’d been alarmed enough to spray, we’d have been goners. Skunks don’t want to spray, because having done so, they can’t do it again for awhile. So they often warn first. Lucky for us.

For the love of Mike, TALK to me! (Concrit welcome on fiction)

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