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About six months ago, if you had been jogging through Minto-Brown Island Park, you may have spotted a curious site: Two bundled-up young women carrying a sizable, sealed pipe, a couple of shovels and a camera. You might have noticed them veer off the paved path, glancing around rather conspicuously to see if anyone was looking, and traipse into the blackberry brambles surrounding a wooded area.

That was my friend Erin and I, burying my survival cache made of ABS pipe. I was living in northeast Salem at the time and chose Minto-Brown for its wild but accessible land.

The area I chose to hide it was good, in the sense of being hard to get to; but also bad, in the sense of being hard to get to. Tangled undergrowth wound around our legs. Blackberry limbs somehow grew straight up-and-down, making us wish we’d brought machetes to hack through this thorny jungle. Mean-faced trees howled and grasped at our hair with nefarious branchy fingers, like in “Snow White,” but without true love’s kiss as a reward for our perseverance through the dark forest.

We eventually made it, scratched up and sweating, into a grove of sorts and selected a burial spot. Erin had been bragging about how fast a digger she is. I had looked at her skeptically. “I’m the daughter of a landscaper,” I said. “I can probably out-dig you.” Still, she insisted she was the best digger west of the Mississippi.

She wasn’t. My side of the hole was quickly twice as deep as hers, so I told her to just take pictures. (Unfortunately they all turned out blurry.)

We buried the cache about a foot and a half deep then made our way back to the path. Carrying our shovels toward the car, a salt-and-pepper-haired couple  looked curiously at our bedraggled state.

“You look like you’ve been having adventures,” the man said.

“Just burying some treasures,” I said. “No bodies, I promise.”

“I don’t know,” he said jokingly. “Maybe I should call the newspaper, get a reporter investigating out here.”

Silly him. He didn’t realize he was already witnessing a journalistic endeavor. (Also, if you ever suspect someone of dumping a corpse in a park, you should probably call the police before the newspaper. But do call the paper, too. Preferably this one you’re reading.)

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This week, Erin and I returned to Minto-Brown to see if the cache had weathered the elements. The woodland has gone through a late summer growth spurt, but Erin hacked through to our grove while toting my man-kitten Anders, who we happened to have with us. (He had a play date with her roommate’s cat afterwards. Yes, really.)

This spring, I had borrowed a couple full-sized shovels to use. But this time, I bought a portable camping shovel at Walmart. It’s something I’ve been meaning to have in my car (for those deep snow drifts that bury the mid-valley each winter), so it seemed a realistic choice. When the apocalypse happens, I still probably won’t own my own shovel, but I might have this little foldable contraption with me.

I made two solid cuts into the dry earth with my Walmart shovel, and it promptly broke. I am just too advanced a digger for such a sophomoric tool. Erin tried digging with her hands, but that was a stupid idea and my cat was getting impatient. So we gave up.

I borrowed a real shovel again and we returned the next day, sans Anders. I beasted the cache out in about 10 minutes. Yes, the landscaper blood is strong in me.

“How are we going to get it open?” Erin asked.

“I don’t know,” I said. “Maybe beat it against the sidewalk? I think I sealed the screw-on cap with caulking.”

I hadn’t. The lid unscrewed without resistance. No beating necessary.

And everything was in ideal condition! The food was untouched, the gloves and first aid supplies dry. No moisture, dirt, nutria or nasty bugs had weaseled inside. (Although I guess if bugs had, they would just become more food. One can never have too many insect-filled baked goods, you know.)

Thus, I can now whole-heartedly recommend using pipe caches. Even I, a usually incompetent amateur survivalist, couldn’t screw up this caching method. Well, except for the part where I broke the shovel.

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