Bee Run


Down the Cheat Cache

The Jeep on the Banks of the Cheat - Click to Enlarge


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Bee Run Track - Click to Enlarge

3-D Track - Red (Jeep) Blue (Foot) - Click to Enlarge

I had been watching Down the Cheat Cache for some time.  Here and there I would get logs about it.  I kept meaning to get down there but never seemed to find the free time for it.  Finally I got another log and the owner dicing with the last people who had gone looking for it.  He’d recently replaced it since it had gone missing and had updated the log with the account of his trip down in a Jeep Cherokee.

That was pretty much all I needed to coax me into finding time to go check this cache out.  It worked out that Ted and I had Saturday to do what we wanted so I decided and he agreed to go do this cache.


We got organized slowly in the morning.  Ted got breakfast organized while I loaded the GPS, organized the Geocaching SWAG bag, got the camera gear ready, charged some batteries, and generally aggravated Ted with my slow progress toward getting out the door.

After sharing an eggs and biscuits breakfast (Ted made the biscuits), we finished getting organized.  It still took us a fair time to get it together but finally we put all our bags into the Jeep and hit the road.

By that time it was close to lunch time so we went and had a bite at Burger King.  I figured we’d be better off getting lunch out of the way.

I set an auto-route on the GPS that took us from Home to the desired trail entrance.  We drove along a beautiful country road and passed working farms.

On the Road to Bee Run
Fresh-cut FieldsCutting Fields
Cutting Fields - Click to Enlarge

Gradually we started dropping elevation and soon we reached the dirt road we’d been looking for.  Up until now everything had gone just about perfect.

I stopped at the trail head to take a couple pictures then started down the trail.

Parked at the Entrance - Click to Enlarge
Heading down


The Geocache description is good.  It warns against taking a 4WD vehicle down the trail because of the steepness and the need for clearance.  This information turned out to be accurate enough, though most experienced wheelers would find this trail to be fairly easy.

But that is not to say that there are not a few pitfalls that needed to be observed.

A few little crossings were pretty shallow and quiet for us, but I could see them being a little more wet after several days rain.

Ted crossed - Click to Enlarge
Small CrossingTed gets outJeep at small crossingTed at the CrossingLooking up the stream

There were several places where the ruts were so deep that they had become eroded and tricky.

Perched on the Rut
Perched on the Rut - Click to Enlarge

With good tires and the correct approach, these are no problem.  We decided to air down and disconnect.

Time to Air Down and Disconnect - Click to Enlarge

More deep ruts.  Ted is about five feet tall.  I guess that puts his waist at about 2.5 feet.  Check out the bumper height with him standing in the rut!

Ted giving some scale to the trail - Click to Enlarge

We crossed the DNR Boundary.

DNR Boundary

We saw what looked like Roses growing on the side of the trail.

Wild Roses?

When I caught my first view of the other side of the river, it stunned me. 

First Glimpse of the Canyon - Click to Enlarge

The trail was not very far from the river but the slope off the side was quite steep!  Then there are the slips.  One was quite large, with several yards of river rock washed through.

Ted and the Jeep at the Slip - Click to Enlarge
Rocks from a SlipJeep on the SlipJeep on the SlipJeep on the Slip

It looked quite stable but it warned of the possibility of having the road just slide out from under.  In a couple spots the trail was narrow but again, nothing an alert, experienced, well-equipped driver could not handle.  Minivan drivers should walk.  Driving down would not be pretty…

We came to what was once a Jeep Cherokee.  It is completely burned out and maybe even was stripped before the fire...

It used to be a Jeep...Jeep Ruins
The Dark Jeep of the Family Lurks...

More rutted trail, more fun!

Ted and the Jeep for Context
The Jeep and the Steep Hill - Click to Enlarge

At one point the overhead clearance between my rack and a rock on the side of the trail was close...

Clearance overhead

After a while, we reached the trail at the bottom of the canyon.  Here's what the descent looks like on paper (click):

Trail Descent Altitude Change - Click to Enlarge

The weather was spectacular!  I took the Jeep down to the rock field on the side of the river. 

Movie: MOV01770.MPG Jeep-on-the-Cheat - Click to Go to Movie Page


There, we took a break and enjoyed the views, the wildlife, and the river itself. 

The Jeep on the Banks of the Cheat - Click to Enlarge
The Jeep on the Banks of the CheatThe Jeep on the Banks of the CheatThe Jeep on the Banks of the Cheat
The Jeep on the Banks of the CheatThe Jeep on the Banks of the Cheat

We scouted out the river between here and Beaver Hole and quickly saw that there was too much water to get across…  It would have been interesting if the river had been lots lower…

Tadpoles (with legs)
Tadpoles and... Do you see anything else? - Click to Enlarge

Ted at the Cheat RiverTed at the Cheat River
Ted at the Cheat RiverStumped?
Birds Catching Updrafts - Click to Enlarge

Ted at the Cheat River
Ted at the Cheat River - Click to Enlarge

Ted overbalanced and slipped on the rocks and went down into the water, walkie-talkie first, so we quickly took the batteries out of it, left it taken apart, and shook the water out of it.  We will see later if it still works...

When we finished looking around, Ted and I got back in the Jeep and climbed back up to the trail.  We turned in the direction of the cache and soon reached a point where the trail necked down to ATV width.

It was theoretically possible to continue, and indeed, I considered it for a moment.  But the thought of dragging the Mountain Laurel brush down the side of my Jeep for another mile just didn’t sound like a good idea.  Not that the paint isn’t already well scratched, but I just wasn’t in the mood for it today.

So we packed up a knapsack, secured the Jeep, and set out on foot.  It was nice.  The trail was shaded, it was sunny but not real hot.  We were very happy walking along headed in the general direction of the cache.  It seemed like nothing could go wrong…

A Twist

Hindsight is 20-20.  I can always look back and see where I screwed up, where I should have made different choices than the ones I did.   For us, I would say we should have re-read the cache description a little more carefully and thought about what it said:


Now to be fair to myself, we weren’t coming down from Cheat View Cache so reading this casually (which was a mistake) I missed the part that said “THE MOUNTAIN HERE IS VERY STEEP AND TREACHEROUS.” I missed it completely.

And that was a big mistake.

So we reached the bottom and had the .6 mile hike ahead of us.  We packed water and snacks, and set out.  Pretty soon we reached a washed out stream crossing. 

Peeking out at The Cheat River
Peeking out at The Cheat River - Click to Enlarge

Just after that, on the left, was a well-defined path that went up the side of the hill quite steeply.  I looked at the GPS.  The cache was about .2 mile away and according to my display, a few hundred feet higher in elevation.  So I deduced that this well-defined path must be a good way to get up this steep mountain and level off at the cache.

I could not have been more wrong.  But at the time it seemed to make perfect sense.  So Ted and I started up this path.  Pretty soon we came to some fallen branches, not much more that twigs really, across the path.  So we went around it and continued up the path.

Except at that point the “path” reduced to nothing more than an animal trail, or perhaps even a trail of where water had run down the steep hill.  Still it seemed to make sense and we continued.  But now the ground was crumbly-loose and the footing was very insecure.

When we reached the elevation of the cache, about .16 mile away, we started to traverse the hillside.  And that’s when it got really hairy.  There was no trail.  There was no path.  There was no evidence that anything had walked this way.  And it quickly became apparent that the going was going to be extremely tough.  But still it seemed do-able.  What a dolt I am.

By the time we got to the point .14 mile from the cache, still at the same elevation as the cache, we were fair clinging to the side of this canyon by anything that proved to be truly anchored. 

Most everything I reached for either came uprooted or crumbled.  Almost every step I took required first establishing how stable the ground was, then removing the deep leaf deposits, then scrubbing down to dirt, then finding something to grab onto in case I was to slip.  That was every step, a foot at a time!

The hill is nearly straight down with little to stop one from falling all the way into the bottom of the canyon.  The trees are quite sparse, and most are not much more than a one or two inch sapling.

At this point I had Ted holding onto my belt very solidly and I was constantly coaching him:

“Are you OK?”  “Are you holding on?”  “Stay leaning into the hill.”  “Stay in my tracks.”

And other situational comments to keep him alert:

“That tree is no good to hold onto – it’s rotten.”  “That rock is loose and will not hold us.”

Pretty soon it became clear that even with only .13 mile to go, we had no idea what we were headed for terrain-wise.  And that’s when it happened –

I reached a point where the gap between the next foothold was too far; the next tree to hold was out of reach; the footing was completely unstable, and worst of all, the hill was nearly vertical. 

I stopped to assess the situation and nervously realized that we had reached the end of the line.  I was already over-extended as it was, and I had an inexperienced, 105-pound kid hanging onto my belt.  I had my fingers plunged into the dirt and I was basically using them for spikes to keep us both from sliding off the hill to uncertain fates at the stopping point below…  Here's what it looks like on paper (click)

Canyon Wall Crawl Altitude Change - Click to Enlarge

This made real some dreams I’d had over and over again as a kid, and even into adulthood.  They were those falling dreams where strange situations conspire to bring you to a place so unlikely you’d never believe it when you’re awake.  But asleep you might fall for it and soon enough find yourself free-falling to the bottom, where you might land with a huge thump, waking up sweating and wondering if you really were still alive.

I stopped to think.  There wasn’t much to think about.  We could not continue on.  That stupid “gotta go anyway to find that cache” even then echoed in my head.  I shook it off and concentrated on how to keep holding onto this mushy hill and get around Ted without taking us both to the bottom in one horrible move.

Ted was standing on the roots of a 1-inch thick sapling that had proven stable.  I traversed back the foot between us (the length of his hand on my belt, remember?) and told him to lay on the side of the hill (which meant he was more or less standing up straight) and I would be putting my foot on his foot and it would probably hurt for a second while I crawled over him.  He understood and soon I was back in the lead now retracing our steps back out the way we had come.

I should stop and talk about Ted for a moment.  Here he is a four years ago in his third season of going out in the woods with me.  He was about to turn five years old at the time.  He's been going into the woods for a long time.  He may very well have more time in the woods than some adults.

Ted the Mud Bogger - Click To Enlarge

Here's a lot bigger now, but he's still a kid.  This kid was solid through this situation.  He did every last thing I told him to do, without so much as a second thought.  I felt the grip of his hand on my belt and it never loosened, never wavered.  Ted took this picture for me when we got back to sure footing but it makes sense to show it here because this is what we had been reduced to at this point.  That's Ted's hand and my belt.

Hold on to My Belt... - Click to Enlarge

He tended to stand too upright and once nearly overbalanced.  But he always snapped back when I reminded him.  There was no whimpering.  He never froze.  He maintained a relaxed conversation with me in between the constant work we were doing to stay on the canyon wall.

We rested often, checking the GPS frequently to be sure we were retracing our steps.  This posed a problem because I had also brought the camera and a pair of binoculars.  On top of that the signal coverage was very sparse and we pretty much lost signal every time I put the GPS in my pocket, which was most of the time because I needed both hands constantly.

At one point we caught a view of boats on the river. 

Boats on the Cheat River
Boats on the Cheat River

It was almost like watching a movie.  We could see them down in the canyon; even hear them yelling and the motors and so on.  But they might as well have been on the moon.  I had left the FRS radio I was carrying in the Jeep and I had Ted’s disassembled, water-logged one in my camera bag.  The cell phone had no coverage.

I literally sat (more like laid) on the side of the canyon wall and thought about SAR (Search and Rescue).  How would I get them to come find us?  What would happen if we had to stay all night?  Would there be any way to get the boaters attention way down below.  It was clear that we were on our own.  We had to get back out the way we came, and we had to do it by ourselves.

By the time we started back-tracking, we had been up there for 50 minutes.  We’d only covered .5 mile and we’d struggled for every foot.  We’d finished the water.  We’d eaten the two snack bars we had.  And we were both tired, stinging, and really anxious to get on some solid level ground.

The half mile back was every bit as difficult as it had been going in.  Ted held onto my belt the entire way.  At times it was tough because I had to span some gap or other and my stride and reach is much greater than his.  So we had to time it so that he knew I was going to make the reach and he was basically going to be getting dragged along.

Tough Footing - Click to Enlarge

When I was doing this, I had to be absolutely certain that what I was aiming for was going to hold both of us because we would not have any other options available.

Did I say hindsight is 20-20?  I can hear you now and you’re right.  It was a colossal mistake to be here doing this.  The combination of scenarios that ran through my head were terrible.  But I put it aside to mull over later so that I could get us out of this mess.

Pretty soon we reached the point where the whole ordeal had developed – the place where the “path” had dwindled to nothing.  We climbed up the mound onto it and stopped to catch our breath for about the 100th time.  Then we started down. 

Light at the Clearing
Ted finally down to the main trail

It was a blessing by comparison and soon we were within sight of the clearing where we had started.  Look at the scale of this place!

Ted at The Washout - Click to Enlarge
Ted at The Washout

We had been on that path since 2:20pm.  It was now 4:15pm.  We’d been hanging off the canyon wall for nearly two hours!    It seemed like an eternity and it seemed like 5 minutes both at once.  Ted and I slowly walked out on the trail to where we parked the Jeep.  We were both exhausted and grateful to finally be “back”.  We pulled out the rest of the water (that I wish we had brought along) and took our time refreshing ourselves.

We talked about a few basic things that could have happened.  I didn’t want to do it on the hill, though it might have made more sense.  I wanted to see what Ted would have done if I had fallen off the hill (with or without injury).  He did pretty well, though I have a feeling we would have gone down together.  We discussed the different situations and different options.  I don’t think it would have been pretty but if he made it off the hill, he pretty much knew what to do.

I didn’t spend too much time drilling him because it was already overload.  When we recovered from the hike, we started the Jeep and started back up the trail to the road.  We went back down to the rocks to look around a little and then continued.

We drove some of the side trails and found a hunters cabin.

Hunter Cabin
Hunter Cabin

A little further, some nice campsites and more derelict autos.

Another CarcassYet Another Carcass

Coming back up out of the canyon, we came upon a fireplace standing in a spot that might have been host to a house at one time.

Fireplace - Click to Enlarge

Coming back through the slip I took a picture from the driver's seat.

The Slip crossing

In an attempt to give a feel for the trail, I made a movie as I drove but it’s pretty painful to watch because the camera moves so much.  But it does show the trail well.

Movie: MOV01805.MPG Rough Trail


A little further, what looked like a cave or rocky overhang, and a waterfall.

Cave and WaterfallCave and Waterfall

The trail beckons a mini-van (NOT!)  Finally we got to the trail head, meeting an ATV driver who was coming in as we were leaving.

ATV - Click to Enlarge


We drove back home the way we came, discussing what we might eat for dinner, and how happy we were to be back on solid ground in one piece, together.

Cales - Click to Enlarge

Fresh-cut Field

There were other caches on the road as we drove but we'd had enough for the day...

I told Ted how proud I was of him for hanging in there when it got tough.  I made sure he knew how important it had been to both of us that he’d worked together with me and stayed focused.  I am pretty sure that it was his composure that got us out together in one piece.

So, will I go back for the cache?  Yes!  Will I go cross-canyon wall like I did this time?  Are you crazy!  We’re going to walk the .6 mile and then see what’s sitting there and decide.  Ted has told me he will come down in the Jeep and make the walk to the spot where the cache is “out there somewhere” and then he’s going to sit and wait with the FRS radio for me to go in and back out.  Nice to see one of us is thinking straight!

On the way home we aired up, where we saw a beautiful Dodge Power Wagon (1940’s vintage). 

Power Wagon - Click to Enlarge
Power WagonPower Wagon

Then we went to the car wash!

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