Around 7:30pm the sun was starting to set and remind us of our time constraints. We had to be back at camp by 9:00pm in order to qualify for the night section; the Tamers were very clear that if both vehicles weren’t there by then, you would not be competing in the rest of the event. After completing a couple more challenges, including a first aid event in which one of our team members was supposed to have a broken leg, we abandoned the third loop and raced down to camp.
We arrived with two minutes to spare.
Again, we were handed a packet of GPS coordinates and told “Good Luck!” Here’s how it worked: We were given a total of eight latitudes/longitudes that we had to find. We were warned that the locations were not situated right on the roads and that we’d have to do some hiking. Once we found the initial GPS coordinate, we had to locate an orange bucket. Each bucket had a number on the outside and a hole punch (with a specific shape for each bucket) dangling from a string. After locating one, we would punch a shape in a score card with corresponding numbers. Each matching punch was worth points.
From the initial bucket, we were given a compass heading and a distance in feet where the next bucket was…or was supposed to be. Without fail, the buckets were obscured behind trees, down embankments and even covered in heavy snow at the highest point of 6300’. We quickly marked bucket after bucket off our master list, making great progress. It was rewarding to know we were doing so well, and the physical activity kept us alert and awake. Finally, we had found all the buckets we could and wearily made our way to the finish line; we officially finished the competition at 4:30am after 23 hours of hard driving and several hundred miles.
After a few hours sleep we made our way to the award ceremony and a hot breakfast of biscuits and gravy. As well as a lot of coffee. We knew after our rough start we wouldn’t be on the podium. The other PNWJeep team had their own problems, including John Mathews exploding an alloy HP D44 shaft and a general lack of enthusiasm for the night exercises. Nonetheless, they came in a solid 4th. What surprised us more was our own finish of 6th, due mostly to a highest overall night section score. A total of seven teams failed to finish.
After all the buckets were found, the points tallied, receipts added up and sleep recovered, the event was a resounding success for all involved. Despite the exhausting and often confounding effort, everybody on the PNWJeep teams is excited for next year and already comparing notes on ways to improve our performance.
* Published by JPFreek Adventure Magazine – The leader in Jeep and adventure enthusiast publications.