White Rock Hollow and GeoCache

Tom near the mouth of the cave - Click to Enlarge


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Mike and I had been talking about doing some Geocaching, hiking or other activity that we had in common for a while.  As usual, schedules were hard to synch, things came up, and so on.  Early this week I decided to go out again and bounced it off of Mike.  I was happy to find we could get together and hit the trail.  After a false start with scheduling because I forgot the kids' Field Day at Camp Mountaineer, we locked in on Sunday.

I ran into Charlie on Friday and asked him to throw in with us.  He was interested so we made plans to meet early in the morning.


On Sunday morning I got the supplies pulled together and everybody got set to go.  I sent Tom out to see if Mike had arrived and indeed he was in the driveway, so we loaded up and hit the road.  I left the big fat hairy flashlight in the foyer...  I drove right past Charlie's house on Autopilot.  By the time I got turned around and back, he was in the Jeep and ready too.  After brief intro's we went down the road for gas, lunch items and then headed up the road for trail.


In planning where to go, I wanted to keep it close to our general area.  Having been pleased with what we found in the Pennsylvania/Route 857 corridor on the last several outings, I once again went to Geocaching.com to see what was in the area.  I searched against coordinates near our last trips and came up with two Geocaches that were intriguing.  My initial plan was to find a couple caches that we could hike to, see some view or general wilderness, and then hike out and come home.  I wasn't specifically looking for something that would involve the Jeep, though that is welcome if the option presents itself.

Much to my pleasure, the caches I found, both placed by the same well liked player, were situated in the hills of Southwestern PA with the promise of scenic splendor, local legend, beautiful woods, and "Jeep Trails".  That was all it took.  I stayed up late on Monday researching and again on Tuesday verifying my research.  I confirmed through reading and examination of several different map sets that there were indeed all of the ingredients promised by these caches.  One of the research exercises was combining the reports of cache visitors with USGS maps to determine which "Jeep Trail" might take us to our destinations.  I concluded my preparations in this area confident I had figured out this part of the puzzle.  I mapped the results for loading into the GPSr.

When we got to the trail head I had identified, we soon came to a gate.  So much for that.  But I still had the benefit of the research that told me one visitor had gone up the Jeep Trail so this trail head must not (necessarily) be the one we sought.  I doubled back and took a look at the map on the GPSr.  Nothing immediately jumped out so I went into penetration mode:  I reasoned that one of the turns off the pavement would lead to the trails I had identified on the maps.  The trick was finding the right one without too much thrash.  I would avoid anything that looked like a driveway; cul de sac, etc. 

Mike was riding with me and Charlie was in his Jeep.  I took the first candidate turn (which is not to say the next turn...) after the false start and was rewarded with a track that went directly to the trail system I had mapped, only several thousand yards north of our intended entry point.  I will say that the cache owner was correct - finding this wasn't easy - I spent four hours with maps which made it easy on the ground but without the work in advance it would have been purely by chance...

The trail appeared to be headed directly for an intersection with the trails that I was looking for.  It narrowed down to not much more than an ATV path fairly quickly.  But it appeared well traveled and so far there were no fallen branches or trees...

Famous last words.  Soon enough we encountered the crop of a tree that had broken off in the late fall storm we'd had several weeks ago.  Mike jumped out to pull it aside.  For his helpfulness, he was rewarded with a stick to the chin just below his lip.  He came to the Jeep and commented that it might need stitches.  It looked like a scratch so I said so.  He put his tongue between his cheek and gum and sure enough, with his skin puckering out, we could see it was a deep puncture wound.

I dug out the first aid kit and we cobbled together a homemade butterfly bandage from some tape and the pad from a regular Band-Aid.  Note to self - get some small butterflies and other small stuff like that.  Mike was a real trooper when I dropped his bag complete with all his photo gear on the ground.  Mike, I just wanted to make sure we got all the pain out of the way early in the trip...

After that, we squeezed through the spot he had cleared and continued up the trail.

Charlie with Paul's Jeep - Click to Enlarge

Most of the trail ride involved stopping to clear away brush or fallen branches with the bow saw and widening spots that had already been cleared for ATV-width passage.  Ted brought along the camera I have signed out to him so I let Tom use the digital camera more on this trip that previously.  He took a few pictures from the back seat, as we went up the trail:

Mountain LaurelWoodsWoodsWoods with picker bushesWoodsWoodsWoodsWoods
Trail - Click to Enlarge

We came to the point where we connected to the trails planned for the run up to our destination, a promising looking Geocache.  As we arrived at the connection, two guys came down out of the woods on an ATV.  Charlie asked them about permissions since there was a Private Property sign on one side of the road.  They told him that the area to the North and East of our location was posted but otherwise we were OK.  That was good since we were headed away from the posted property.

With the trail now lining up with the route that I had planned, I was enjoying the sights.  We came to an unexpected junction and I mistakenly took the high road for a short distance.  We drove up the ridge a ways and soon saw we were diverging from our destination.  We doubled back and took the other branch and the trails lined up with the plan again.  Life is good.  I do want to retrace the upper track again because it appears to head to the back side of the ridge where a great sunrise might be waiting for us.

At one of the crossings of a small stream, we stopped to investigate in interesting rock formation that was visible from the trail.  We found a fire ring with hot coals lightly smoking, and a tidy empty campsite with no gear or other signs of life.  The rocks were interesting so we took some pictures.

Ted and Tom checking out camp - Click to Enlarge

Paul - Click to Enlarge

Still hot coals...RocksRockStream

Shortly after this we arrived at our destination.  True to the accounts of previous visitors, we were able to drive directly to the Geocache location.  I am skeptical that a Grand Cherokee would have reached this point but not because it isn't a capable vehicle, but more because of how tight the trail is and how difficult it would be to thread it through some of the rough spots.  Mike commented he would not bring his Explorer in because of this.  To anyone contemplating a drive in, be advised the trail is not a 4-wheel drive challenge - it is a width and height challenge.  I would say slightly more than beginner skill is required and a dose of good judgment goes a long way.

Tom took a couple pictures of the view before we got out and started searching for the cache.

White Rocks - Click to Enlarge

White Rocks

White Rocks - Click to Enlarge

I took the GPS out of the Jeep and let it settle down.  The coordinates were spot-on.  Mike was looking the other way so I spotted the cache location and left it in place, came back to the Jeep without anyone noticing I had found it, and let Mike and Charlie and the kids know I had found the cache.  The kids went and stood right on it and said "Where Where?!"  Sometimes...

In all the preparations for the trip I forgot two things - the Travel Bug I wanted to deposit and the large flashlight recommended for the second stage of this cache.  Mike helped out by letting the kids pick something out of his swag bag and loaning me a pen light.

Ted and Tomi opened up the cache and found a trove of things.  Ted and Tom borrowed some items from Mike to trade into the cache; Ted a Matchbox Cobra left in exchange for a flashlight concept car; Tomi a large die in exchange for a comic book (in remarkably good shape).

Ted with Cobra that he left, flashlight car that he took and camera ready to be developed - Click to EnlargeTom with Dice that he left, Comic book that he took - Click to Enlarge

Mike told us about Geo-coins that he collects and circulates.  He logs them in and out of caches as he makes his way around.  Some of the coins are quite impressive and no doubt many are handled this way so that they don't go missing.

Ted and Mike talking about Geo-coins - Click to Enlarge

Not long after we arrived we started hearing gun shots.  It's hunting season but I had assumed that there wouldn't be any shooting on Sunday.  I was wrong.  I pulled out my orange vest and put it on.  Mike was wearing a bright yellow jacket so he was not likely to be mistaken for meat.  Charlie and the kids were left as-is.

I took a couple pictures of the contents of the cache.  There was quite a collection of stuff in there.  We also signed the log.  We discovered a throw-away camera but it was already completely used up.  I wondered out loud if we should take it to be processed but we decided to tell the cache owner about it and let them handle it.  We had a brief discussion about the 2nd and 3rd stages of the cache and decided we'd have Charlie write down the spoiler and hold it for us in case we needed it after the second stage, thereby preventing the need to return to the cache to look up the required info.

Cache Contents
Cache Contents - Click to Enlarge
Log Entry - Click to Enlarge

While Mike took care of his cache activities, I headed across to the rocks with the boys.  I helped Ted and Tom cross the small stream at the bottom of the ravine and then climb up the other side to the rocks.

Ted and Tom at White Rocks - Click to Enlarge
Ted and Tom at White RocksNear White Rocks

At the top we soon found a fault that looked promising so we checked it out.  After looking around for 2nd stage info, we reviewed the instructions and reset our attention to broadening our search.  I would be more specific but the clues are withheld so that any Geocachers interested in this cache will not have the secrets spoiled for them.

Along the way we "looked" into some little holes and, with a picture taken and viewed first, and with gloves on in case, we fished around inside the hole and found no clues.

One Nook

Moving further into the area we found ourselves faced with a deep fissure that was pitch dark.  This looked like a good place for a beastly flashlight.  We made do with a pen light and a camera flash.  As we turned the corner and the daylight no longer lit our way, Ted chickened out and went back to the entrance to wait.  I had Tom grab my belt and follow me as I walked in a foot at a time, hoping for my eyes to adjust to the dark (they did but not enough to see anything without the flashlight).  I took a picture to see what I could see.  This was the best view I had of the cave - an image on the 2 x 3 inch screen of my digital camera!  It actually was quite helpful but a real flashlight really would have been a lot better.

One Cranny - Click to Enlarge

Hmmmm... - Click to Enlarge

At this point Tom lightly tapped his head on the wall of the fissure.  He didn't hurt himself but it startled him enough that he was uncomfortable about continuing.  We were close to the end of the space but I didn't want to put him through the discomfort.


We walked back out to the mouth of the fissure and I asked Tom to stop while I made some images.

Tom near the mouth of the caveTom near the mouth of the caveTom near the mouth of the caveTom near the mouth of the cave
Tom near the mouth of the cave - Click to Enlarge
Under the ledge

Once out I helped the kids climb down and out to the trail that led back to the Jeeps.  Once there, we had lunch and talked.

Lunch Bunch - Click to Enlarge
White Rock Hollow - Click to Enlarge
Lunch BunchWhite Rock Hollow

White Rocks
White Rocks

I found a large soft-sided cooler and quite a bit of trash so we collected it up and I strapped it to the roof rack using the bungee cord I found.  There is still a fair amount of trash about and I encourage others to bring along trash bags and take out a load.  With trash collecting, lunching and other stuff out of the way, we headed back down the trail with Mike walking many sections and taking some rare photos of ppro in action...

TrailView from Passenger Seat

Paul and Charlie - Click to Enlarge



View from Passenger Seat - Click to Enlarge


Paul - Click to Enlarge


Charlie - Click to Enlarge


Maria called to say that she was getting on the road and would catch up with us at home later in the evening.

Paul on the Phone - Click to Enlarge

Paul and Charlie
Paul and Charlie - Click to Enlarge

Paul and CharliePaul and Charlie

Charlie - Click to Enlarge

Charlie is my lucky charm.  Every time we've gone out the weather has been stunning.  I know it's just circumstantial but we joke about it.  One of these days we're bound to get something different but today was no exception.  We could not have had a better day.  It reached about 55 degrees, the sky was clear, and there was no wind.  The ground was damp from recent precipitation but it was not muddy or dusty.  Well, there was a little bit of mud but I'm getting ahead of myself...

Paul - Click to Enlarge
Charlie and Paul - Click to Enlarge

Charlie - Click to Enlarge

Paul - Click to Enlarge

Charlie - Click to Enlarge

Eventually we got back to the place where we turned back down to the pavement along the unscheduled section of trail we used to replace the piece that was gated.  Enter the mud.  On the way it was uneventful so we didn't even stop to take pictures.  I figured it would be fun to crawl through it and come up out over a little hump that I had avoided going in.  So I slipped into the mud and made my way for the hump.

Paul Gets Mud - Click to Enlarge

My first attempt got me up on the hump but high-centered so I backed down into the wallow and made another swipe at it.  And another.  And another.  The good news was that I didn't get permanently stuck.  The bad news was, I wasn't getting over the hump.  Finally I backed off enough to go around it, and also used a little more wheel speed to get more momentum.  Tomi started squawking that I got mud in his hair (my window was open...).  That may sound petty but this mud smelled extremely bad so I can't say I blamed him.  Finally I found the line and got out of the mud.

Paul Gets MudPaul Gets MudPaul Gets MudPaul Gets Mud
Paul Gets Mud - Click to Enlarge
Paul Gets Mud - Click to Enlarge
Paul Gets Mud

Charlie made it look like what it was - easy...

Charlie Gets Mud - Click to Enlarge
Charlie Gets Mud

Charlie Gets Mud - Click to Enlarge

Charlie Gets MudCharlie Gets Mud

We stopped, everybody took pictures, and then we got back on the trail.

Ted and Tom with the Jeeps - Click to Enlarge
Charlie and the Jeeps

Got Mud?

Mike - Click to Enlarge
Charlie and Mike

MudThe Mud BunchSplatterMore Splatter
More Splatter - Click to Enlarge

Tomi was busy taking pictures and even though I was inclined to discourage some of the things he wanted to shoot, I let him go to it and as evidenced by his results, it was good that I let him alone - he got some good shots!

Mike kept shooting and we took advantage of it.  Charlie and I are real poseurs!

Paul - Click to Enlarge


Charlie - Click to Enlarge



Poor, Mike - One of the few times I shut my mouth - so to speak...  This is a rare shot of the cab with many of the items visible:  d-shackles, carabineers, walkie-talkie, Jeep Travel bug...

Paul and a banana - Click to Enlarge

On the way home we visited a local church that has some interesting stones.  We took some pictures.

Little White Rock ChurchPolly Williams Head StonePolly Williams Head StonePolly Williams GraveGraves contemporary with Williams Grave

Little White Rock ChurchTom and TedLittle White Rock Church Graveyard

Crew roadside

Interesting Civil War itemPolly Williams HeadstonePolly Williams Headstone


Once again we were rewarded with great weather, terrific scenery, and a group of people who made the day a joy to live.  I suspect we will return to this place again.  At the very least I have a travel bug that needs to get off there.  Also there is another cache in the vicinity that we need to get to.  Stand by....!

Thanks to Charlie and Mike (ScoutingWV), Ted and Tom for making this a memorable day in the woods!

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