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After being cooped up all winter, I decided I would venture out and go on a little excursion with the prepper mindset scenario of bugging home from work.

The Plan: AKA, setting up the cache

I thought I was being smart. I was doing my research. I mapped my routes meticulously. I checked on my 2 caches along the routes home, making certain I wasn't seen. If the need ever arose, by God, I was ready to make the trek home if I had to do so from work. I was thoroughly prepared I thought. I did a complete test run on my plans, not once but several times over. I have 3 possibilities to bug home from work, all of which I have planned the routes and taken the time to walk the parts of them that couldn't be done by vehicle. I mapped it out on paper, I have landmarks, I know what neighborhoods to avoid and how to avoid them, I know how to cross the major highways or bypass them all together. I know that 2 of the routes will be 12 to 13 miles, and the other is at 10 and a half miles.

Of course driving would be optimum, but Murphy has a way of stepping up and wreaking havoc on the best-laid plans, so I planned my routes with walking in mind, off the main routes as much as possible. The only streets I would have to take would be about a 2 mile stretch, before I could take the tracks west or the bike/walking paths through several parks with only a few major roads bisecting them. Then across the gravel pit and some new housing developments under construction, then back to the safety of the wooded park trails that are beautiful, but to a prepper lend great cover, and if worse comes to worse get off the beaten path, use your compass, and make your own trail to home sweet home.

All was going to plan. On one of my days off, I asked a coworker to pick me up on his way to work. He was working opposite my shift, so it was perfect timing for me. I typically would be getting off when he arrived, so the scenario was starting off as if I had just finished my shift at 4am. I dressed in casual hiking attire, nothing flashy or militant, the same clothes I carry in my vehicle if something happened. I didn't change anything from the norm that I have with me to and from work. We got to work and I went in, filled my water bottle, made two packets of oatmeal, finished it and my journey began.

I adjusted my daypack and off I went. The first mile and a half was all street walking, I followed the route I had memorized and was at the railroad crossing before I knew it. I made a mental note of all the ambient light from the city, and how dark it would be if the lights were out. I moved on to the tracks and checked my watch, it was now 10 minutes passed 5am, and the sky was still dark, so I flicked my headlamp on. On this route I would follow the tracks for approximately 4 miles and either continue following them or head through one of the parks to a walking path on the other side. Either way, the routes weren't traveled much and If this was a real situation, I didn't think people would be out for a stroll on the walking paths. I took my time, paying attention to the surroundings, averaging about 2-3 miles per hour.

At 7am I reached the fork in my route, I decided to take to the woods and follow the trail system through the parks that connected with only three crossings over major roadways. I made my way past the playground and onto the walking path. My first cache was about 150 yards down this path at a sharp bend and in a group of pines. I found my landmarks and stepped off the path about 15 yards, and to the pine trees. I worked my way through the branches and underneath one of the biggest ones. Hidden from view I dug and found the plastic ammo can still intact and full of my supplies. I checked the contents, exchanged the energy bars, trail mix, and hard candy with fresh stuff I had with me, then buried and concealed the can. Just in case someone saw me enter into the pines, I left a different way and circled back to the trail.

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Illustration 1: First Cache

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Illustration 2: First Cache re-buried and covered

So far so good, no issues passed a few people walking their dogs and some runners out for some Saturday morning exercise, other than that, no one even payed attention to me. I was just another day hiker getting some fresh air and taking in nature.

The Last Leg of the Trip

It was now going on 9:30 am and I had a little more than 2 miles to go. I made my last neighborhood crossing and it was all woods and nature until I hit the back door of my house.

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Illustration 3: Part of the route through the trail system

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Illustration 4: All looks well, cache buried on right side in little depression.

My second cache was again around a bend and this time underneath an oak tree about 10 yards off the path. I saw my landmarks and headed off the path, found the two roots that made a perfect Y and started to move the leaves that had accumulated over the past months.

My small ammo box was barely an inch deep in the soil and the black plastic bag that was around it was gone.

"Odd," I thought, since I buried it at least a foot deep and covered it with leaves and a few sticks last fall. Then I opened it. The site inside was one that made me gut laugh and I sat on the ground like a little kid giggling over presents at Christmas. My supplies of water, Gatorade, trail mix and Cliff bars, gave way to trinkets, matchbox cars, notes, pens, paper, miscellaneous little toys like the ones in gumball machines, and an ink stamp of some kind. One of the notes read, "Thanks for the snacks."

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Illustration 5: Cache container

After a moment or two of shear dumbfounded expressions, I realized what happened. I searched the base of the tree and found a small 1-pound coffee can with some of the same items in it, buried on the other side of the tree. My cache of goods had taken place of the "Geocache" coffee can that was placed on the opposite side of the tree. Talk about dumb luck. I removed the items from my ammo can, placed them into the appropriate Geocache can, and buried it again.

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Illustration 6: Geocache container found on the other side of the tree.

I walked the rest of the way home laughing to myself, carrying the empty ammo can, and all the while one of my friend's favorite sayings running through my head asking, "So, what did you learn?"

This, thank the Lord, was a harmless incident, but it brings up a valid point, "You have to check everything and keep everything in mind at all times!"

Even though this trail exists, it is not frequently used, and so I thought 10 yards off the trail was sufficient. Who knows what would have happened if I had non-food items in my cache.

I've been Geocaching with my kids, nieces and nephews, and its fun. It's a great way to get outside and get moving and a great adventure for all ages; I mean who doesn't like a treasure hunt, Right? In all my journeys following that little icon with the kiddos through the woods, parks, and even sometimes people's yards, it never occurred to me to check the local GPS Geocaching grids to see if where I buried something valuable or potentially dangerous, was also, where someone buried their little treasure trove of trinkets. Point Taken, Lesson Learned, or whatever you want to call it, it doesn't matter, only that you are planning and thinking outside the proverbial box when it comes to this type of thing.

'I have since found a better place to store my food cache, much further off the common path, and buried much deeper than one foot. I also continually check and recheck the local Geocache sites for updated caches and their location to my hidden stores.'
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