It was another Saturday where we had no plans. I said to Adam, "Pick some place with a good hike and some caches. Let's go do something." So he looked and found a nice circle of caches, out on some public footpaths. It ran along a large river and we would get about 8 caches, if we managed to find them all.
Of course, it took us much longer to get ready and so we arrived to where we thought the start of the circle was and it was lunchtime. We started to eat lunch and it started raining. Off we went. We looked for the first cache, no luck. So we moved on to what we thought was the second. We skirted the river, walked through a sheep pasture and kept on walking and walking and walking - away from the cache. Finally it became clear that we were not, in fact, walking where we should be. By now, it was pouring, though it wasn't terribly cold, so we were alright.
We decided that we should just keep walking because a bridge back across the river to where the caches actually were, couldn't be far. Right? WRONG! We got so concerned that Adam pulled out the iPhone to look at GoogleEarth to see where the next bridge was. We also had foolishly NOT brought the Ergo to carry Leila, so poor Adam had her on his shoulders. After crossing the bridge, and walking on the other side for several miles - through more rain and some sunshine - as the sun was setting we crossed back over the river and found our car. We walked about five miles, got soaked to the skin and only managed to find two caches. Bah....
Fast forward one week to Adam's birthday. The temperature dropped five degrees or so and the wind was blowing madly. We decided that we really wanted to grab the giant circle of caches we had attempted the week before and so we went out again!
This time we knew where the start of the cache circle was and so we drove there to try and park. No dice. 20 minutes later we were back across the river where we had parked the week previous, but now we knew where to go to start the caches. We ate lunch and headed out.
It was just sprinkling when we got started, but as we are came out of the bit of wooded area we had been walking in, it started to pour. At that point we had only grabbed a couple of caches and the promise of seven more lit up Adam's face, so we pressed on.
These caches were on "public footpaths" which are paths that the public right to use superscedes the right of land ownership. So, landowners are required to keep the paths open and accessible to anyone who wants to walk on them. It is a completely foreign idea to Americans and it is very awkward and strange for us to do, but we are getting used to it. Probably the most interesting part is that the paths often take hikers right through livestock paddocks and grazing areas!
We came to a part of the footpath that went right through someone's parking lot and barn yard. I must have asked Adam 15 times if he really thought it was okay for us to be there. Then we came to a horse paddock. Where there were two ponies. I got a little nervous.
I am a suburban girl. I've not had much contact with farm animals and what little contact I've had hasn't been enough to give me much confidence in dealing with them. I can do nature, but large animals are another story entirely.
We stood and debated for quite a while whether or not we should get into the paddock with the ponies. Was there another way? Was this *really* the way the footpath went? We just didn't know. To add to my nervousness, as soon as we put Talia over the fence, the ponies took notice and immediately began to trot over too us. I made Adam retrieve Talia immediately. The ponies were very friendly and just wanted to see if we had any food on us, which we did not. They watched us intently, though, the whole time we were walking through and only went back to grazing when we were all safely over the wall and away from them.
By now, we were on top of the hill and the wind had picked up. It was getting very cold. The kids were wet and really starting to feel tired. I was starting to be worn out too. But by now it was just as far to continue on as it was to turn back, so on we went.
After a bit more walking we turned to go downhill and came upon another paddock to walk through. Only this one had cows and lots of them and some of them had horns. In my cold and worn out state, I felt like we were certainly going to land in some big trouble. And I was scared.
I made Adam pick up Talia, I had Leila in the Ergo on my back. Then Elie held my hand and Isaac held Adam's hand. We started walking into the field and the cows started trotting towards us. Bah! The footpath followed the stone wall, but as we started walking, one of the cows with horns was between us and the wall. Adam and I were both concerned that he would feel cornered and try to escape through us.
This seems so silly as I write it down, but it was really scary. Those animals are MUCH bigger than people and really dumb. And here we are, a group of city-slickers, traipsing around farming country with our babies! in tow!!!!
Mommy instinct took over and I made my "eh-eh-eh" noise, the one I use to get the kids's attention when they are doing something they shouldn't, and the cows stopped in their tracks. We continued on through the pasture and out the bottom gate.
The sun started going down and the wind picked up even more. We stormed through six-inch-deep mud and down the hill in to the valley. Adam picked up five more caches along the way. When we got to the car, the kids were so cold, they were blue. But we stripped them out of their wet clothes and got them bundled under the fleecy car blankets and they were fine.
All in all we got nine caches, which is a record day for the whole family. And we really did have a great time hiking and adventuring. But it sure was an adventure, which I suppose is half the fun.