travisl couldn't find Above the Clouds (Traditional Cache)
Just another sunny day to climb Mount Doom. Me, my brother Trestin Baggins, my daughter's gaffer, and Kevin Gamgee left the shire ''Bivouac'' (where Trestin got soaked in his hammock, Kevin got drenched in his tent, and the gaffer and I stayed mostly warm in the Jimmy Inn) at around 7:30, and began our ascent.
It started innocently enough, a light uphill stroll through the woods. Just after the junction with the road to the legendary hamlet of Loowit, however, I think one of those dementor thingies must've swooped up behind me and started sucking the air out of me.
(Wait, that's a Harry Potter critter. I'm mix master massacring my metaphors. Feh.)
I felt a little dizzy, and a little nauseous, but it went away quickly. By this point, Frodo and Gamgee were already ascending the rocks, I'm sure, but the gaffer and I were taking it slow.
(I should mention that other cachers, like Nolenator the Gray and Hermione Forest Monkey were already way ahead of us; Shunra, son of Mountain Goats, passed us soon thereafter.)
At crossing 1, Baggins and Gamgee were sitting their waiting for us, and we made cell calls home to our loved ones to let them know that we'd started the climb, and that the top of Mount Doom was just a few posts and about 3000 vertical feet to go.
The two of them then vaulted ahead of the gaffer and I, while the two of us slowly, painstakingly, gruelingly made it from post to post to post. Finally, at the spot on the map written in ancient times by the ancient wizard Moun10HorseCart where we clearly should have seen a giant ''C'' on the ground (in the middle of the word ''VOLCANIC''), I called up to the hobbits ahead to go on without me. ''Go for it, Frodo, I'm stayin here. I'm no Samwise.'' My legs were rubber, my head was hurting, and each step I took felt like I was going to collapse.
The gaffer convinced me to climb up two more posts, to about 6075 feet, where I rested behind a wind-breaking large rock for two hours while he made it to cache elevation. I cowered like a mountain troll, frightening climbers who stumbled across me as I stared out over the valley, watching clouds be birthed, swirl in the updrafts, and dissipate. Still hazy from the climb, I did double takes across the valley at rocks that looked like a space alien kid and his mother, a bush that looked like a midget indian medicine man doing jumping jacks on his back, and at two baseball caps that flew off the heads of hikers passing by. I kept expecting to see a nazgul or something rise beside the aptly-named 5994 Peak, but no, just more swirling clouds and illusionary rocks.
Towards the end of my rest, two other travelers stopped for a bit of a chat. They asked if I was a christian, and to keep things simple and avoid being preached to, I said yes. As they left, they asked if I had any extra water, because they'd only packed one quart between the two of them. I gave them the third of my four flasks, and wished them on their way. Soon thereafter, the gaffer returned, and I began my descent down the mountain, my legs shaking with every step down.
We took a few breaks on the way to the forest, and another in the meadow, where Baggins caught up with us. He and the gaffer continued on, and I strolled out on a mental auto-pilot, quaffing down the last of my final flask of water on the way. I made it back to the shire at about 4:00, and Gamgee emerged from the woods soon thereafter.
This was easily the toughest hike I've ever attempted -- and that includes a 50+ mile hike across the north Olympics back when I was eleventy-six years old. This also gave me the greatest feeling of accomplishment of any cache I've hunted, even though I didn't get that far. Thanks for hiding this one.