It was a brisk, clear Oregon day when my mother and I decided to seek out our first geocache. We scooped up our friends' GPS and started our hike to N 43° 48.832 W 121° 33.325.

We learned our first valuable lesson very quickly: nature does not travel in straight lines. Our friends had neglected to download local location maps into their GPS receiver, and we knew central Oregon about as well as central Antartica, and to California dwellers it was already confusing enough what with the tall trees, empty stretches of land, and a strange white powdery substance on the ground.

After ~30 minutes on roads, we determined that we were going to overshoot out destination. We decided to cut through the woods. Our destination was within one mile. As we tramped through the snow and dirt and tree stumps and rocks, we saw before us the mountain "hill" that we were seeking. Yes, our first geocache, in a foreign state, and the destination was on a big-ass hill. Great.

The walk was nice, the air invigorating, the animals was quite an experience. For the first two hours.

We followed various logging roads and ATV trails, looking for the promised passage up the hill to our final destination. Needless to say, we were soon hopelessly twisted around. We had GPS, so we knew exactly where we were, it was simply a question of how we could get where we wanted to be. That was slighly less clear.

As it gets darker, it apparently gets colder. It's amazing how much distance you can cover and not really get anywhere. And its hard to get a signal fix when you're in a large patch of trees.

The sun setting, the national park service office closed, the temperature dropping, and no roads in sight, we eventually capitulated to the elements. Our agreement was thus: you give us a bit of light to see by, and we'll call the police.

The dispatcher was nice and helpful. He took our longitude and latitude and gave them to someone to pop into MapQuest. He dispatched two units to find us. Do you have water? Do you have shelter? He didn't get mad. He took our information and our cell number and assured us that we would be fine.

The sergant apparently recalled at least one of the deputies, but that is another matter.

Throughout it all he encouraged us to keep walking, I assume to make sure we keep warm and alive.

He made us walk a mile in the cold. We weren't getting off that easily.

A deputy in a Ford Explorer met us at the nearest road. He took us to our friends, who drove us home. I got to sit in the back of a police cruiser. He didn't lecture us, he didn't laugh at us. I asked him if we were taking him away from anything important. "Nope," was his simple reply.

He dropped us off and we said thank you. It was four hours later, it was twenty degrees colder, and it was very dark, but we were okay. Everything worked out fine.

My only regret is that we never did find that ammunition box we were looking for. Apparently there was a tennis ball in it. Oh well, maybe next time.

We reserve the right to learn from experience

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