Abandon all hope...
Here We Go!
So, we finally made it to Seattle. I got 1995 caches and stood at the entrance to one of the most awesome adventures I had yet faced. Simply walk in and let the journey begin.
I knew what to expect, having poured over the logs from the last several years, grilling everyone I knew who had done the cache before me, and generally pumping myself up. But there's no getting ready for stepping into that darkness, listening to the water dripping through the ceiling and splashing into pools on the gravel covered ground, or watching the fine haze of mist drift out of the opening, blown by the wind that had worked it's way 2.3 miles through the tunnel from the other end.
Once you pass into the mouth, the steel cage that stands just inside surrounds you. There's enough light at first that you don't need the flashlights that all logs and people advise you to bring. But then the cage ends, the tunnel bends slightly, and there before you is the pin-prick of light - 2.3 miles ahead, the tiny little dot of the other end.
Onward, through the dark. Lights on, or off, your choice. Listen to the crunch of gravel, the drip of water, your breathing. Eventually, you begin counting something. Alcoves, reflectors, breaks in the concrete, your footsteps. Me? It's 130 steps between alcoves. 2.5 feet per step approximately, according to the numbers painted on the walls as we progressed.
After awhile Dad suggests we just start looking in the alcoves for the cache in the tunnel. It's 13 from the western end, we came in from the east. So we look. 4 alcoves later, we find it. I do the monkey bit and crawl up on a grease and soot covered piece of machinery and knock it down behind the thing. Oops. There's wood there, use it to dig it out and get muck on my hand.
The surreal moment was standing about midway through a long, dark tunnel outside Seattle, Washington, and, in the beam of my headlamp, washing my hands in the stream of water that was dripping from the ceiling.
Time ceases, footsteps count the beats of your heart, voices echo and lights waver. Eventually, so slowly you can't say when it started, but the light at the end has a shape. Then, a red beam outside. It takes you a moment to remember outside, sunlight, blue sky, clouds, colors. Closer. Almost there.
We find the red beam is the wooden post of the power lines running up over the mountain where the tunnel cuts through. Before we leave, more start coming in. There's cachers on their way back through. We share stories, home towns, and trade information on caches. They couldn't find the one inside, nor one further ahead. We thank them and continue on. Dad leaves the tunnel first, basking in the filtered light of the sun. He catches me kissing the ground at the tunnel entrance.
Outside is a cache that predates even the Un-Original in Oregon. Placed by Jeremy and friends back on October 9th, 2000, the original log book still is in the cache. Found another micro futher on, took awhile but a DNF is not possible on this epic trip. Then we were off to the prize of the while hike.
As we came around a slight bend, a half mile from the tunnel, there was a clearing with the powerlines running up the mountain. In the clearing in a dried up old tree stump with a suspicious pile of lumber and rocks built up behind it. Get the camera, record everything, see the stump, moving the rocks, drawing forth the magical APE cache, one of only two remaining in the world. It too holds the original log book, the APE logo fading under the hands of hundreds of pilgrims who have made this journey.
One thousand, nine hundred, ninety-nine caches. An adventure that I never thought possible, a journey that has literally changed my life. For here I sit, on a mountain-side outside Seattle five years after we found a simple ammo can under a juniper tree, finally living.