We have 2 caches in Walton county that we adopted from our friend Samirsky who's job led to a move up north.
They are the Basin Bayou caches and of course are located around Basin Bayou on Highway 20 just west of Portland.
Basin Bayou is a beautiful big round bayou that comes in from Choctawhatchee Bay and is surrounded by Eglin Air Force Base property. There are 2 primitive campsites on the bayou - one on the north side and one on the south side and we have a cache at each spot. Both have small launches for canoes or kayaks, a picnic table and a fire pit.
Last month there were several forest fires in that area and from what I could tell from the newspaper article it sounded like these 2 caches might have been burned in the fires so I disabled them until we could get up there and check them out.
Work kept us from getting up there for a while and then our truck broke so the caches have been disabled for almost a month.
I realized that broken truck or not we needed to get up there and get the caches back online so yesterday I threw in the towel and declared that since the truck is STILL not fixed I was taking my mini-van offroad and we were going to check on the caches.
The boys (including their dad) were all quite shocked when I said "Load up the mini van boys - we're going to the woods" because normally I don't even like to drive on dirt roads in my van.
I told them I was having cache withdrawals and if the truck wouldn't work the van would have to do. I knew from previous visits to these caches that the trails weren't too bad and that the van would "probably" make it.
The Island King had to finish a project for a client so we didn't leave the house until late afternoon and we knew we were going to run out of daylight but it's so hot right now that caching in the dark didn't sound bad at all.
Oddly, I wasn't the least bit worried about taking the van off road but the Island King was a nervous wreck.
Once we hit the dirt trail leading to the cache site the boys started yelling "Do some donuts Mom!" and I thought the Island King was going to have a stroke.
I told the boys that mini vans just don't slide in the sand like trucks do and that we wouldn't be doing donuts today.
The Island King breathed a sigh of relief - until the boys started reminiscing about the last couple of times we were in the truck in the woods without him.
They were telling him how much fun Mom is when she's driving his truck and his face began to turn an odd shade of green.
The Oldest Island Boy just bubbled over with stories of sliding and bouncing and fishtailing and the more he talked the greener his Dad turned.
When the Oldest got to the part about me backing into a tree the Island King said "Stop - I just don't want to hear any more!"
I told the Oldest that he needed to stop telling Dad this stuff or we would never be allowed to go off in Dad's truck again LOL
The trail we were on was narrow but not too narrow and I didn't hear any of those horrible scraping sounds that I've heard on other trails (more truck stories the Island King doesn't want to hear about) but there were some deep ruts in places and several areas of pretty soft sand.
I decided that the best way was to give the van a little gas and just go for it.
Now I should say that we were only traveling between 10 and 15 mph but that can seem pretty fast on a dirt trail in a mini van and the Island King starts yelling "Slow down - No don't slow down or we'll get stuck -this is a mini van for Pete's sake! - YOU ARE INSANE!"
The boys and I were laughing so hard at him and I told him that he needed to stop yelling like a girl and that made the boys laugh even harder.
We continued down the trail (which turned out to be about 5 miles)and sometimes the ruts my tires were in got a little deep and we could hear sand rubbing against the bottom of the van.
The Island King was saying that there are some important things under there and that no mini van needs to be driving on a trail like this. His teeth were clenched and his knuckles were turning white but the boys and I were having a ball.
I told him to stop being a Ninny and that sent the boys into such hysterical laughter that they could barely catch their breath. I started laughing and laughed until I cried.
He just snorted and said "You're going to be sorry if your van ends up sitting in the shop next to my truck".
We finally came to the clearing at the edge of the bayou and I swear that man heaved a sigh of relief when we stopped.
The cache is located farther down a trail that runs along the edge of the bayou but this trail has a lot of broken limbs and some debris along it and even I knew the mini van wouldn't make it so we hiked the rest of the way to where the cache was hidden.
There were no signs of the fire having reached this spot and the undergrowth was really thick. The previous owner made the cache out of a coffee can so before we left home the Island King custom painted an ammo can and we stocked it with swag so we could replace the coffee can.
The cache is hidden off the trail and under a bunch of fallen trees and it was starting to get dark. I really hate snakes and wasn't looking forward to poking around under a bunch of old logs in the dark but the Island King decided he needed to shed the Ninny image the boys had been laughing at so he grabbed his walking stick and plunged in.
Thank Goodness! The boys and I kind of hung back on the trail and let him poke around in the logs.
He found the cache and we took it back to the car to swap it out with the ammo can.
It's a good thing we came - there may not have been a fire but the cache was soaking wet. There were just a couple of things inside and they were wet and covered with mold.
I salvaged the old log but everything else went into the trash.
We were on our way back to the original hiding place when we saw a clearing off in the woods that had obviously been made from a tornado touching down. The clearing was perfectly round and the trees around the edge were twisted and broken and looking at it you could see where the tornado had touched down and then lifted up and off again.
It was a really interesting sight so we decided to hide the can there instead of the original spot.
After hiding the can we followed the trail on until it eventually came out into a grassy field on the edge of the bayou. The last remnants of the sun turned the sky bright pink and we watched the colors change over the bayou for a few minutes.
When the last of the pink faded we turned around to head back to the van and suddenly it was pitch black. Luckily, we had flashlights but as we hiked the quarter mile back to the car the Youngest started getting spooked.
He started saying "Did you hear that? What was that? I'm really scared of bears" and of course as night settled in we started hearing all kinds of noise in the woods around us. He was holding my hand so tight that I swear my fingers turned blue LOL
The Oldest started telling him not to worry that Dad was with us and then he said "Dad you might be a Ninny when we're 4 wheeling but you're the MAN when we get in the woods".
Even in the dark I could see the Island King's chest swell with the realization that he'd overcome the Ninny image.
We tried to stop and listen to some of the noises we were hearing but the Youngest went into full panic mode when he realized we were no longer moving towards the safety of the van so we continued on.
We reached the van and the Youngest dove in and strapped his seat belt on so fast he was a nothing but a blur LOL
We still had to go to the other Basin Bayou cache and replace that container - which did not make the boys happy. A bag of chips, some juice packs and the promise that they didn't have to get out of the van at the other cache calmed them down.
We told them that we could pull up close to this next cache and that they could wait in the car while we exchanged the container for the other ammo can we'd brought and that made them happy.
The trail to this cache is a much better trail and the Island King was able to retain non-Ninny status.
We got in to the second site and with no moon and a lot of tree cover it was so dark up in there you couldn't see your hand in front of your face.
I didn't even pretend like I was going off into the bush to get the cache and the Island King who had to live up to his "Dad's the MAN in the woods" status marched right in.
He had a flashlight and knew where the cache was but it still took him a few minutes to find it. This one hadn't been touched by the fire either but was soaking wet like the other one and didn't have anything in it. The top was loose and the log and contents were missing.
Good thing we'd brought a new container, swag and log.
We replaced the cache and it was time to head home. We had a lot of fun and I like my mini van even more now that I know she's almost as good off road as a truck LOL