Sunday, June 29, 2008

Desert California

I would be curious to know what people outside of California think about first, when they here the word, California. Is it one gigantic metropolis, similar to New York City, only stretching all the way from San Diego up to San Francisco? Hollywood? The Golden Gate Bridge? I've written in the past about back roads of California, but I think any state has back roads. Over a week ago, I had, once again, a chance to take some back roads. As always, the experience is great, the caching usually better than average, and the scenery breathtaking.

The road that we took for that excursion last week, HWY 138, connects up Gorman, CA which is along Interstate 5 over to Lancaster, CA which is in the middle of the Antelope Valley in what is commonly called the high desert. Here in California, we have both high desert and low desert, with 4000 feet elevation being the cutoff between the two, approximately.

It's really interesting when you look at desert. Recently, I got to see some pictures of Qatar and the desert there. That's probably what most people have in mind when they think of desert. There's not much in the way of plant life and lots of rocks and sand. I think people think about sand dunes also when they think about the desert. California desert, particularly the high desert is surprisingly lush with vegetation. From a distance, many times this desert looks like typical farmland and sometimes it is as evidenced by the sheep we saw near one of the caches we found that day.

We also noted the typical sage brush that is rather ubiquitous to the region, but there were also strands of joshua trees and other typical desert vegetation here. At the high elevations, there were scrub oak forests and an ocassional pine tree. One particular pine tree that we encountered was almost 90 years old. That doesn't sound like a very old tree, but when you consider the harsh living conditions, you have to think that this particular tree is actually pretty remarkable.

Growing up, I never fully appreciated the desert, probably because my father really didn't appreciate it himself. He was a mountain lover, so our vacations consisted of traveling through the desert, usually in the dead of night, so we could get to the higher up places where there were trees and water. I can think of one time when we camped in the desert for anything over a one night stand and that was when I was in 5th grade when we spent our entire spring break at Death Valley. Other than that, I never spent any other time out in the desert for very long.

When my daughter was old enough, one of the first places I took her was Joshua Tree National Monument. I hauled my dad long with us, because he'd never been there either. I've been back to Joshua Tree a number of times since then. It's a beautiful place, full of all the things that make the high desert wonderful. I was there last November with my youngest son for his first excursion there. He loved it as well and wants to go back again in the future.

There are other things that we have in the desert here that I won't go into here, but will save for another post. It was one of those unexpected things one finds while caching, that makes a caching experience truly wonderful. Suffice to say, the desert is a haunting place, but it can also be a cruel place. One needs to know one's limits and always make sure that one carries enough fluids, or knows of a place where one can get those fluids. One corner grocery store out in the middle of nowhere that day truly was a Godsend. Not that we were in trouble, but it really helped out to replenish some of the lost fluids we'd had during the course of our caching day. Sometimes it sneaks up on you.

Pictures were taken at or near the following geocaches:
Gorman Road - Wild Flowers - by fOtOmOm
Just Ducky - by Searching Gentiles
Quail Lake - by fOtOmOm
Desert Wind - by hoolegan & BIOB

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Saturday, June 28, 2008

Those pesky diversions

Way back in January, I wrote about benchmarks and them being another diversion, something to look for using your GPS. I wrote back then that I wasn't going to out looking for benchmarks, but would log them if I stumbled upon them while out doing other kinds of GPS games and such. I may have to retract that last statement, or perhaps modify it a little.

In the past week, I've "stumbled" upon and logged four benchmarks while out caching, plus found two other benchmarks that weren't in the system. That put me up to 9 logged benchmarks on, almost doubling my total that I had before my summer vacation began. I know it helps that I was with Chaosmanor last Saturday since he actively looks for benchmarks and he even stated in one of his geocaching logs that I missed a couple of benchmarks that he noted. I'm not sure about that, but in this post I posted pictures of the two that I logged last Saturday. I can't remember him finding other, but that's beside the point.

What is interesting is that they seem to come in waves. The four that we found on Saturday, two were surprises that we weren't expecting, those serendipitous benchmarks that I alluded to in another post. Interestingly, both of those were the ones that weren't in the system on geocaching. Hmmmmmm. The other two, Chaosmanor had information on and to be perfectly honest, it was hard not to know about one of them since there was a cache hidden about 7 feet away from the benchmark and the name of the cache had the word benchmark in it. The witness post indicating there was a survey marker nearby was hard to miss too.

After awhile though, you kind of get used to spotting spots where benchmarks will appear. Bridge abutments, culverts, high spots of land all tend to be "lightning" rods for benchmark placements. There's a benchmark in the hills behind my house, high up that can be seen for miles. Have I logged it yet? Nope. I'm not sure why either, because I've written about it in several logs when I've found other caches in the area, and also on my own cache pages. I guess I'll log it one of these days when I finally hide another cache up there. Write that down because there's a perfect example of "famous last words."

But getting back to the story. Last Wednesday, while 3blackcats and I were out on my "Space Odyssey" we had to backtrack a little because we'd missed a turn trying to get to a cache in San Bernardino. We pulled into a nearby parking spot to get our bearings and I noticed on the side of a building, a round disk, a benchmark. I even said, "Hey, that looks like a benchmark." The placement was interesting since I'd never seen a benchmark with a vertical placement. All the ones I'd ever come in contact with had all been horizontal, lying on the ground or some surface. This one was embedded in the wall of a building. 3blackcats endulged me and I got out and took a picture of it. When I got home, I found that it indeed was a benchmark in the geocaching system so I logged it.

What was interesting was to look at the other pictures of the benchmark. Sometime in the last two years, someone has put that spot of orange paint on it. I've seen that more than once, where there'll be a ring of paint around a benchmark, almost as if people are afraid that it won't get noticed. Granted, they are mostly ignored by the general public, but if you're a surveyor, how could you miss one of those if you have a read out as to where it's supposed to be, especially if it's been logged recently? I guess that is just one of life's imponderables.

Friday, I found the easiest benchmark I'll ever find mostly likely. I had attended a ceremony down in San Diego for my nephew who was awarded his air corpman wings. He's been taking classes and studying for this for about 8 months while he's been stationed down at the Coronado Air Base and his hard work paid off on Friday. In a couple of months, he'll be reassigned and will be spending the next couple of years over in Japan. He's looking forward to the experience.

After having lunch and saying our goodbyes, I headed over to Cabrillo National Monument to get a couple of geocaches, plus a couple of benchmarks. Yes, I was actually hunting benchmarks. Unfortunately, I didn't take very good notes on one of them and so came up empty, but the other one was very easy to spot. It's the old Point Loma Lighthouse located on the top of the bluff about two tenths of a mile from the visitor's center at the Monument. As you can see from the pictures, it's readily seen from great distances. The lighthouse isn't in use any more, because the point is actually too high and the low clouds would sometimes shroud the lighthouse, so a new one was built down near the shoreline on the point. The benchmark, the cupola of the old lighthouse, is still there however.

Overall, the trip was enjoyable, if not a little tiring. Five caches were found, plus the one benchmark. I guess I'll have to go back with better notes next time to see if I can find that other benchmark that's close to the lighthouse. If I do that, it will definitely mean that I'm out hunting benchmarks on purpose again, since I cleaned out all of the caches on the point during this trip and since it's part of the National Park Service, no new caches will be hidden out there. As I think about it, I'm pretty sure that if I get down there again, I'll seek it out.

Pictures were taken, at or near the following benchmarks:

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Thursday, June 26, 2008

A Space Odyssey

Yesterday was an interesting day for me. After last Saturday's romp through the desert I was only 11 caches away from 2000. Chaosmanor and I couldn't get all 49 that I needed on Saturday, so I'll have to thank him for getting me close. I started surveying the local landscape for a fun cache to be my 2000th. At the same time, I wanted it fairly close to a dashpoint that was sitting out east of me. I found three caches that were of larger than micro sized and one that just looked kind of whimsical, so I decided that the whimsical cache would be the one.

I set up the PQ and emailed my friend 3blackcats who was available for the trip. 9:00 we were off. First we drove over to Riverside to rectify a DNF that both of us had posted last week in the 108° heat. I think it only hit 85° yesterday, so there was a big difference. The owner had updated the coordinates since our last visit, a change of only 11 feet, so we should have found it and the owner even stated that there were footprints about a foot away from the cache. Both of us were surprised when we found it right away this time around. How could we have missed it the last time? Chalk that one up to one of those imponderables.

The ten caches that preceded my milestone were your average garden variety of caches, a couple of smalls and a couple of micros. I was surprised to find one hidden in the parking lot of a school. I thought the powers that be frowned on that sort of thing. It was a really strange placement considering there was a very nice park right across the street from the school. One cache near that one does stand out however. We were walking down this abandoned road and noticed some movement by the side of the road. Next thing we knew there were two ground squirrels that scampered out and ran quickly across the road. The next thing we knew, a large bird swooped down over us, almost as if it were dive bombing us. I'm not sure whether we scared it and thus the squirrels, or we scared the squirrels and the bird took advantage of it, all I do know is it was one big bird. We watched it fly over to about where we estimated ground zero to be, so we slowly continued our short walk over there. We got the cache quickly and then checked out the bird which turned out to be a Great Horned Owl. I didn't have my camera with me, but I think it unlikely that I would have been able to get a decent shot of it.

One of the other caches that we also found was at the location of the original McDonald's restaurant in San Bernardino along Route 66, the Mother Road. The building is no longer a restaurant, in fact the original building isn't there anymore, but the new building houses a smallish Route 66 museum that has lots of McDonald's memorabilia. It was an interesting spot.

After that it was time to get the milestone cache. This was a large cache on private property, actually sort of in the back yard of another local cacher, which we discovered during the search. It was a very large ammo can and the hider requested no trade items. He did allow a "bonus" find if you posted a picture wearing the items in the cache. I chose to log it once, but wore the items for the photo anyway. It was just a fun cache. We found one more cache after that, giving me 2001 cache finds, thus the name of the blog for today.

In all the hoopla and excitement over this cache, I forgot the grab the travel bug that was in the cache. Perhaps I'll go back for it later. I never did get that dashpoint either. Oh well. You can't get them all. It's the hunt that matters anyway.

Pictures were taken at or near the following geocaches:
Route 66 Museum- Original McDonalds- McToy Museum - by Team GeoCan
Altigenman's Wedding - Anything for smiles! - by altegenman

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Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Bug collections

I'm probably going out caching again tomorrow. As I was looking over some of the possible cache locations that I wanted to hit tomorrow, I noted another travel bug hotel in the local area that I haven't gotten around to checking out yet. I looked at the cache page tonight because it's a puzzle cache, so I needed to figure that part out, but won't be going there tomorrow because it's been muggled. Apparently it can be repaired, but it looks like four travel bugs and a couple of geocoins are in the great beyond.

As noted in the last log, I went out caching last Saturday as well. I picked up quite a few travel bugs and coins on this run. I also deposited five coins and bugs that I've had. And yes, I kept my promise, taking a photo of each one before they were placed in caches. Admittedly, some of the pictures were pretty lame and uninspired, but I like the round gear on top of the round tire. Can you figure out where the cache is? I also like the car perched on the overpass of the freeway. I'll get better as I keep remembering to take the pictures.

The day started out nice and hot. I believe it was over 85 by the time Chaosmanor and I met up in the San Fernando Valley at 8 o'clock in the morning. We drove up the I-5 toward Gorman where we started our caching run. I think we found 12 caches in and around Gorman, dropping some bugs and picking up some bugs as well. In the cache where I dropped the little car, we hadn't really looked at the cache page that closely and I thought we were looking for a guardrail type of hide until I spotted a larger container about five feet away from the guardrail, hidden in plain site. Doh.

The bonus came when we opened it up and out dropped Allison. Yep, Allison, a white jeep! I haven't seen a white jeep in ages, so I was thrilled. I actually had to go back to the car, pick up the travel bug, take a picture of the travel bug before making the trade for Allison. Allison has spent most of her time up in Washington state, but has made it to Utah and now is in Southern California. I'm probably going to take her to Oregon later this summer.

Later in the day, Chaosmanor found a rubber ducky travel bug, FrankenDuck that he was going to keep. I have a travel bug in my possession right now that's similar to it, so I was semi-coveting that duck. Hey, webbed feet should go together right? Anyway, we found another really bizaare travel bug a little bit later in the afternoon that was named after Chaosmanor's wife, so he gave me the duck and took that one. I'm not sure what I'm going to do with FrankenDuck, but it'll be gruesome.

I also found a Diabetes travel bug on Saturday, plus a geocoin. The diabetes travel bug was as surprise as well. I guess I need to read the cache pages more in depth, because it was listed on there so it really shouldn't have been a surprise, but it was. Go figure. That one is going to be a little bit tougher to photograph than the others. I've actually found that travel bugs, due to there larger size tend to be easier to photograph with respect to the background than do geocoins. I don't think the Belgium coin photographed in my hand next to a Joshua Tree is very inspiring at all, but I wanted to show the owner the different kind of plants that are native to California and that's what was at the cache site, so I went for it.

The Bug in a Ball travel bug ended up getting left in a nice cache under a 90 year old Coulter Pine tree. Coulter pines produce some of the largest pine cones and some of the heaviest pine cones in the world. Trust me when I say you do not want to get hit by one of these. There were these huge cones everywhere littering the ground near where the cache was and Chaosmanor even commented about needing a hard hat before going in for this cache. I looked up and saw several cones in the tree, but none that looked threatening. We're both out safe, so I guess that means we escaped unscathed.

Of all the pictures that I took on Saturday of travel bugs, the one that brought back memories was of the wine cork that I hung on a barbed wire fence near a pond up by Gorman. Back in 1991, the area in and around Gorman, CA was host to a temporary art exhibit by Christo. This was his umbrella project. Back in the 70s, he'd constructed a nylon 24 mile long fence in Northern California. I'd been in college at the time, but didn't take the time to go up and view Christo's Running fence and to this day I lament that decision. For whatever reason, Christo's art speaks to me. So when I heard about the Umbrella Project, I knew I had to go up and see it. I got up one Saturday at 4 in the morning and drove the two hours all the way over the Grapevine down into the central valley of California and then slowly worked my way back up and over taking pictures here and there of the umbrellas.

The pond was one of the locations where four of the umbrellas were placed in the water, so there were some really cool reflections. These were the only ones there were in water in California. In Japan, at the same time, the other half of the Umbrella Project was happening, only with blue umbrellas. Many of these umbrellas were placed in water over there. I can recall once I got home stating emphatically to my wife that I wanted to go to Japan to see the other umbrellas. Sadly, the day I was up there viewing the umbrellas, a storm blew through, lifting one of the umbrellas up and then bringing it back down on a woman viewer killing her. Christo closed the project down immediately. He has since done other temporary works of art similar to this including gates in Central Park in New York City.

I doubt that me making the attempt of photographing every travel bug that goes through my hands played a part in that particular photo because I remembered the pond and was telling Chaosmanor about it before we got to that particular cache. But it helped me make the decision to take a picture of that bug there. I'm having fun doing this and I hope the people who own the bugs are enjoying the work. I already have an inspired photo ready to be taken the next time my tortoises show their heads in the backyard. It's not going to involve a certain white jeep, but then again......

Pictures were taken at or near the following caches:
Tejon Pass - by Castlebrook
ERIC (Turning 48 by the 58) - by TheFisherman & TickBait
Joshua Parkland - by Team Perks
Just Ducky - by Searching Gentiles
Gorman Road - Pond - by fOtOmOm

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Monday, June 23, 2008

No Cut and Paste here

Saturday was a very hot day in Southern California. So what did I do? I celebrated the beginning of my summer vacation by going out to the desert. I figured with air conditioning, it wouldn’t be that bad and actually it wasn’t. Final totals are in and my friend Chaosmanor and I found 38 geocaches (which was a personal best for me for the day), three dashpoints, two geovexilla, four benchmarks, of which two were in the system and I created two waymarks.

I spent a good nine hours on Sunday after church documenting all of that, mainly because I don’t believe in the cut and paste method that some people use when they go on a cache numbers run. As a cache owner, it bugs me when I see the same log in local caches after a cache numbers run has happened.

“I was out with my friends on a cache run. We found many wonderful caches and yours was one of the ones we found."

Big Whoopie do. So what is that saying? That my cache was wonderful, or that they found wonderful caches and mine just happened to be in the mix but wasn't really wonderful?
As a cache owner, I’d like to hear about your experience that you had finding my cache. What did you see? Did you like the hike? How about the find itself – was it challenging?

Saturday, we had many challenging caches, we also had some fairly easy ones thrown in there as well. All 38 logs that I wrote were different and unique, even for the two caches that had the same name in different parts of the desert. I had a friend of mine recently tell me, “I don’t know how you do it,” referring to my “longwindedness” of my logs. Well, I view it as part of the fun of geocaching. It’s just something that I do and it’s something that I wish others would do as well. I’ll write about some of the experiences in upcoming blogs. Now that I’m on vacation, I have a lot of free time, that is unless my wife’s “honeydo” list doesn’t get too exceedingly long.

Pictures were taken at the following benchmarks:



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Tuesday, June 17, 2008

A Spectacular DNF

There are some Did Not Finds (DNFs) that are just routine, run of the mill, you just can’t find them and then there are other DNFs that can be blamed because you had a cold or your geosenses weren’t sufficiently working. Then there’s that third category, the one where everything that could go wrong, probably did, or one you can blame on your own stupidity, or inexperience. I’m talking about those spectacular DNFs that you really don’t want to write home about, but will anyway, because it makes a good story.

One particular cache stands out as a spectacular DNF and it’s one that my sons and I tried to find while on a camping trip, not once, but twice. Interestingly, this particular cache is the only cache that makes my top 5% bookmarked list that I haven’t found. Why is it in my top 5% if I haven’t found it? I feel this cache is what geocaching was all about when the hobby first got started. It involved a hike, some puzzles to solve to gain all the coordinates, plus heavy tree cover that places your GPS’s ability to work properly in jeopardy as well. In short, it’s a fine cache that I just haven’t been able to find yet. In fact, had I known ahead of time that a friend of mine was going to go camping up in the same area last month I would have recommended that particular cache for him to attempt as well because I believe he would have enjoyed the hunt.

I originally picked IXL back in 2002 as one of the caches we would attempt because it was near where we were camping at Big Basin State Park just north of Santa Cruz, California. The cache is actually in Henry Cowell State Park, but they’re fairly close to each other. There’s a nice parking lot that you start out in where the trailhead can be found. You then have to find the missing coordinates by reading interpretive signs along the trail and doing some (GASP!) math. Eventually you end up near ground zero. I should add that I’d only been geocaching for about a year and a half the first time I attempted this cache and probably only had 20 finds at the time. Yep, I’m making excuses already for this one.

Once we got near ground zero, the fun began. At that time, I had a Garmin 12 (I can already hear the argument of Garmin vs Magellan and it’s sort of like Mac vs PC – each person has their own preferences). The batteries were losing strength, but I had extra in my backpack, so I wasn’t worried. The tree cover was heavy, due to the large Redwood trees and heavy forest cover, so my GPSr kept losing signal from time to time. Finally, the batteries died, so I pulled out two new batteries that I needed and opened up the unit to put the new ones in and take the old ones out. Imagine my surprise when I let the dead batteries fall out and not two, but four batteries plop into my hands. Oooops. I’d forgotten this particular model needed four batteries. I didn’t have another two batteries so I improvised.

Taking the two good ones, I put them in with two of the dead batteries and tried to get a signal. It took awhile under the tree cover to acquire a signal, but we got one eventually, but soon the unit went dead again. I tried this method again using the other two dead batteries and the fresh ones, but that didn’t work any better. Eventually, we were forced to give up, not finding it. When we got back home, I was too embarrassed to even write a DNF log on the page. But then again, I didn’t write DNF logs at the time. I usually will write a DNF if I’ve given a cache a good enough search and I feel I’ve exhausted all possibilities. Back then, I just didn't write them.

The following summer, we were back in the same area, so we tried this one again. Did I mention that the cache is 317 miles away from our house? Not only was this cache going to be a spectacular DNF, but it was going to be a long distance DNF as well. I’d thrown away all of the clues for the puzzle so we did the puzzle over again. Long term memory kicked in to help us down the trail and it went more quickly, but when we got to ground zero, we still couldn’t locate the cache. We searched for about an hour before giving up this second time.

This second camping trip was starting to turn into a DNF trip all the way around, because we’d DNFed "Red My Lips... I'm Not a Crook" up in Big Basin State Park, but we were pretty sure that it had been muggled. We were now 0-2 and heading for The Redwood Barely There! in the area. We spent a great deal of time looking for that one as well and gave up on it as well. As we were hiking out from that particular cache, I saw the cache alongside the trail. Based upon the name of the cache, that’s where it was supposed to be, so I can only assume that the tree cover was playing havoc with the GPS again. At least we found that one. Afterwards, we ended up driving down to Santa Cruz and got our one and only Webcam cache.

Should I go back again, and I’m sure I will sometime in the future, we’ll try for IXL again. I have a new GPSr, so it will be interesting to see if the new one helps us out. My youngest has the older model, so we’ll be able to compare notes on the cache to see how accurate we are. Or maybe, just maybe, my experience will kick in. Like I said before, I had only about 20 cache finds at the time of my first attempt, and not many more than that a year later, so experience at finding caches might help this third time. If we end up posting another DNF, then it will make this one even more spectacular. Even DNFs can be fun if you have the right attitude about geocaching. But I think the third time will be the charm, won’t it?

Pictures were taken at or near the following caches:
"Red My Lips... I'm Not a Crook" - Kaveh, Team Bench Leader
The Redwood Barely There! - by Scott, Becca, Travis, Max
Eye Spy Another Eye in the Sky! (Webcam Cache) - by Just a Short Walk

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Saturday, June 14, 2008

A missing 1000 words

There are times when I could just kick myself. Today was one of those days. My daughter had an early morning flight out of LAX this morning for her summer camp counselor job at Interlochen Arts Camp. She’s majoring in music performance and music education, so the experience will be invaluable for her since she will be a counselor for a bunch of hormonally schizophrenic girls, otherwise known as junior high girls. At least she’ll get a ton of experience, since the price of her plane ticket will be eating up most of her salary. She’ll come out slightly in the black and be better for the job, so that’s a good thing.

After getting to the airport and helping her check her bags, not that I did anything except lift them on the scale, we said our goodbyes. Gone are the days when she’d go away to camp and my wife and I would get temporary boarding passes so we could wait with her before her plane boarded. Those days are long gone. She gave me a hug, turned around and was gone. Is Father’s Day tomorrow?

Anyway, before I really start waxing nostalgic, I should get to the overall point of this. I walked back out to the car and got back on the freeway, but I took an alternate route home. There was a Cayman Island virtual flag over in Garden Grove that I wanted to pick up and as long as I was in that area, I might as well get some geocaches as well. On Thursday, I ran the PQ for this expedition, filtering out all of the micros in the process. I just wanted to find some larger caches today and perhaps a virtual or two. I hit the jackpot.

The center point for the flag was only 400+ feet away from a large cache which was also a travel bug hospital. This particular cache has to be the second largest ammo can I’ve ever seen since I began geocaching and the largest ever placed in a suburban setting. I picked up a very cool postcard travel bug at this cache whose goal is for the owner to receive postcards from cachers who find this travel bug. Once he receives 50 postcards, he’ll start a postcard cache in Durango, Colorado. It’s a very novel and cool idea in my opinion. I’ll probably send him a postcard from my local area and then another one when we’re on our camping trip this summer.

I then made my way over to a Vietnam War Memorial virtual cache in Westminster, California. This is where I could kick myself. In our haste to get out of the house this morning, I grabbed my GPSr and my PDA, but neglected to take my camera along with me. The memorial has an eternal flame inside a large urn, with a half circle of fountain/waterfall surrounding it. On top of this fountain are two larger than life statues, one of an American soldier and one of a Vietnamese soldier looking off in the distance. Behind them were two flag poles, one with the flag of the USA and a POW/MIA flag below it. The other flag had the South Vietnam flag flying on it. It was a very moving experience and I don’t think I conveyed in my log what could have been stated with a couple of well thought out photographs. Check out the gallery of photos. There are some really moving and interesting images.

After that, I ended up finding five other caches including one nano cache. Apparently, when I filtered out the micros, I didn’t filter out the “other” category and that’s where this one fell. I learned a little history about early public transportation in the Los Angeles area at this cache and I found another cache that had been very brazenly hidden. I’m not sure I’d attempt such a hide and I won’t give away its secret other than to post a link to the cache page. Needless to say, it was rather audacious. My last cache of the day was to a travel bug/geocoin hotel. The cache page states that you can only take a travel bug if you leave one, but that prevents the travel bugs from moving in my opinion.

These type of caches become prisons as opposed to hotels. New cachers, if they don’t have a travel bug will find the cache, but more than likely not take a travel bug because they might not have any to drop in. I figure if a person is going to create a travel bug hotel, they should keep it stocked because the purpose of a travel bug hotel is to facilitate the movement of travel bugs easily. This “take one if you leave one” philosophy goes against that. I didn’t have a travel but to leave, but I liberated two turtles in the cache that were attached to a travel bug tag.

All in all, it was a good little caching trip. Seven caches were found, and I was able to pick up three travel bugs as well. Unfortunately, because I forgot to bring the camera, this blog entry is going to look rather barren. I hope I don’t make that mistake again.

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Saturday, June 7, 2008


For whatever reason, I'm getting excited about this camping/caching trip we will be taking this summer. I'm not sure if it's because the price of gas is rising so steeply that this might be the last extended driving vacation I take with any of my kids, or it's because of the added GPS games I've added to my repertoire. Maybe it's because I'm headed back to Redwood country, the place where I went to college, the place that I hold near and dear to my heart, the last place where I would just leave my place of residence and just disappear for a couple of hours, just to be away from it all, without anyone know where I was. At those times, I was truly alone with my thoughts and alone in the world. With today's technology advancements, unless you deliberately leave your communication devices at home, it's harder to do. Of course, with the extra responsibilities that I've added to my life, I wouldn't even consider not taking my communication devices with me, even though they probably wouldn't work.

There are other possibilities as well. For the first time in about five years, I'm also heading to a place that I've never been before, Point Reyes and Muir Woods. When I was in high school two of my school friends and I planned a graduation trip through California with the purpose to explore as much of California as possible. We drove up the coast and spent a couple of days camping at San Simeon State Beach along the central coast of California. This particular campground is just south of Hearst Castle, so naturally we toured the castle. That was the second time I'd seen the castle, having seen it when I was four on our first extensive trip my dad took us on, in his explorations of California.

After that we continued out drive up the coast to Santa Cruz to visit with one of my friend's sister who was attending UC Santa Cruz at the time. We paid a customary visit, crashed at her apartment and then decided the the boardwalk had to be explored. Once on the Boardwalk, the Giant Dipper was beckoning to us. If you've ever been to Santa Cruz, you really do need to take a walk on the Boardwalk. It's probably not the same as it is on the some of the east coast boardwalks, but it's still a lot of fun to explore and enjoy. The Giant Dipper, a 2,640 foot "woodie" type rollercoaster is neither the biggest, nor longest at all, but it still rocks and usually ranks up there in the top ten of classic wooden rollercoasters when these types of lists come out from time to time. I think we rode it 5 or 6 times that evening. I haven't been on it since, but I will sometime.

We continued up the coast, stopping just north of San Francisco, very near where we will be camping this summer at Mt. Tamalpais State Park. Interestingly, this is just over the hill from Muir Woods and just down the road from Point Reyes, yet we didn't visit either one of these places, choosing instead to take in the sights of San Francisco, walking the hills (don't ask why, I'm still not sure myself), taking in Chinatown and exploring the city's main tourist areas. We had also resolved to take in a baseball game and got lucky because it was family day at Candlestick Park, so we got to see a double header against the San Diego Padres. Both games were decided in the ninth inning with the home team winning both.

While the first half of our trip seemed to be dedicated to more cultural aspects of the state, the second half definitely leaned towards the natural beauty of the state. We camped in Redwood National Park. It had been a national park for less than a decade when we visited. We hiked the Lady Bird Johnson Grove and in the Jedidiah Smith Wilderness area of the park. We got pulled over just south of Crescent City by the Crescent City Police, the Del Norte County Sheriff and the California Highway patrol. I'd crossed the solid white line on the right hand side of Highway 101 once too often according to them, so they decided that since it was a slow Saturday night in Crescent City, we were the likely entertainment for that evening. After checking us all out, running license and registration, they let us go.

Our trip eventually took us over to Lassen National Park and then down to Yosemite National Park as well. This was in the days before they had campground reservations in Yosemite, so we literally drove all night to make it to the park early in the morning so we could grab someone's campsite as they were pulling out in the morning. The entire trip lasted close to two weeks and I came home with 2 dollars in my pocket, having spent everything else that I had brought along for the trip. I can imagine that I'll probably spend more, on just gas, during this upcoming summer trip.

The interesting thing about that trip is there are so many memories that are etched into my brain, some of which might seem strange now, but it's all of those collective memories that help me to relive the trip any time I want. One of my friends had never been camping before in his life. He'd never cooked before either so was amazed that I, his contemporary could. I think he might have believed that we were going to survive on cold cereal morning, noon and night, but we ate really well.

Different silly things make up that trip. The flat tire south of Laytonville, the notion that I might root for the Padres at Candlestick and the realization, that even at 18, both young and naive, I was able to recognize the reality that I might get hurt if I openly rooted against the Giants that day. I have to hand it to San Franciscoans. They, at least, rabidly support their team, much like what I've seen happen in sports venues in the east. I can't say that I've ever seen that with Angels or Dodgers sports fans.

As noted above, getting pulled over by all three major law enforcements agencies of the region could be considered a highlight by some. I wasn't thrilled about it, but I understand why. 101 was, at the time, a two lane road, with speed around 55 mph and the possibility of accidents probably caused them to think that we were three teenagers already on a liquor induced bender and so they decided to stop us and check. They were doing their job. The Crescent City policeman who did all the inquiries was very young and he had a partner that reminded me the entire time of a George Kennedy character. They partner even stuck his head in the window of the car and bellowed, "You've been drinking there son?" I smile today with the memory, but didn't then.

Another memory that flashes into my mind is the Baskin-Robbins Ice Cream store in Chinatown, complete with Chinese writing on the sign. One of the big selling items that many stores in Yosemite Valley sold for many years during the 70s was the famous "Go Climb a Rock" tee shirt. In San Francisco, I found a store that sold a "Go Climb a Street" shirt and found one in Lassen that stated "Go Climb a Volcano." I came home with both of these plus another one from Yosemite to add to my bright orange one that I had purchased the year before.

While driving into Yosemite, I saw my first and only badger. It ran out on the road and I almost hit it before it realized that our station wagon would probably do it much more damage that it could probably inflict on it, so it turned around and scurried back into the scrub on the side of the road. About an hour later, I hit and killed a blue jay that had been feeding on road kill in the road. I can still picture in my mind's eye, the bird as it hopped and then seeing it fly over the windshield after I'd hit it and land in the middle of the road behind the car. Like I said before, it's those silly little memories that make up an entire story and keep the trip alive.

I can remember picking Salmon berries which were growing wild around our campground in the Redwoods and having fresh berries in my cereal for breakfast. I can remember opening up the tent one morning and staring right into the face of a small gray bunny rabbit. We stared at each other for about a minute before it got bored and hopped off. I love those kinds of encounters.

As I look back on this entry, it appears as if it rambles quite a bit and I'm not sure exactly what the point of it is, other than to re-emphasize that I'm looking forward to this trip. It will recreate much of that senior trip the three of us took way back when. It will allow me to share these memories with my son. There it is. Sharing those memories with my son is what it's about. I'll be able to tell him about these things and we'll be able to create new memories in the process. He's turning 13 at the end of the summer. There's not too many more of these memory building trips left. I want to make them count.

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Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Two digit GC numbers

The planning has already begun for the annual summer camping trip. Last year, our adventures took us east of Flagstaff, AZ to Wupatki, Sunset Crater and Walnut Canyon National Monuments, and then north to the Grand Canyon. In 6 days, we found 43 caches, just slightly more than 10% of the total caches that were in all the route queries and spot queries that I had loaded into the PDA and GPSr right before the trip. Weather was the determining factor, especially the lightning part, which prevented the numbers from being slightly higher than that. All in all, it was a very fun trip and very enjoyable.

This year, the Tadpole and I have decided that we want to explore the north coast of California, so we’re going to be camping near Point Reyes National Seashore and in Redwood National Park. We’ll actually be camping in two of California’s many state parks, Samuel P. Taylor State Park which is near Point Reyes, and Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park. As always, the goal is to have fun in the process. If we’re not having fun caching, we stop. One of the main goals this year is to find caches in some new counties to get us closer to the 58 County Challenge that I’ve written about in the past. This trip will get us closer, but not get all of our missing counties.

The route that I’ve chosen to take this year, is not a very direct route like it was last year to the Grand Canyon, so I’m using a different method for figuring out what caches we want to find. Last year, four route queries and two spot queries were enough to get all the areas that we were going to travel through. This year, I estimate that the route queries alone would number in the double digits, two many probably in my estimation to make a lot of sense to them. Add the fact that I would only be able to run five per day and it’s starts to become a logistical nightmare to make sure all the queries get run.

I decided that it would be better to use the Geocaching Google map feature and trace our intended route, manually moving the map and checking out the caches that pop up on the map. We’re probably not going to be going too far off the main roads that we travel, except for hikes that we’ve planned, so this seemed to be the best solution. The next step was to methodically start moving northward and check out the caches. The Tadpole can take or leave micro caches, and in fact, if push came to shove, he rather leave them altogether, so I decided that we wouldn’t look for too many of those. The nice thing about where we’re going is that it’s fairly rural, so micros are fewer and far between, so that made it easy.

Now the question that arose was how to keep track of all the caches? I could write all of them down, but then I remembered the bookmark feature. Why write them down, when I can keep track of them electronically on the computer? Once a bookmark is created, a list of caches can be added to it. In this case, our bookmark is listed as 2008 camping trip. Once all the caches are added to the bookmark, I can easily run one PQ for the entire trip.

The next thing that we wanted was a couple of hikes. I found a cache that looks to be on a nice fire road near our campground at Samuel P. Taylor. Checking out the trail, there are about three or four other good sized caches along it, so I started at that point adding those. A bonus was that one of the caches, Firestone, has only a two digit GC number. That means it’s a very old cache, predating my finding out about geocaching. This particular cache was hidden in the fall of 2000. It’s one of the oldest active caches in California, so that will be one of our goals as well, to find it. That also got me to thinking and I looked up other old caches in California. You can do it for any state. Just do a state search on Geocaching. The first page lists all of the newest caches in the state. Logic dictates at this point that the oldest caches would probably be on the last page, so it’s just a click away to get there. On page 2593 of all the California caches, there are the old ones. Some of the ones listed on that page were hidden in 2001, but it doesn’t take too long to see the ones that were hidden in September and October of 2000, less than 6 months after the first cache ever was hidden.

There are three of these that we will be near on our trip, so we’ll, at least, try and make an attempt of them. The oldest caches I’ve ever found were hidden in February 2001, but they had only been hidden a couple of months when I found them. These caches that we’ll attempt to find have been out there for close to 8 years. That’s durability. As one of my own caches attest, back then, most caches were a hike to get to their location. The Tadpole is pretty excited about finding a cache that’s only about 5 years younger than he is. It will be interesting to see how this all turns out.

There are other aspects of this trip that I want to write about which will take up more space than necessary, so I’ll stop here for now. I’ll revisit this as I continue to develop the bookmark for the trip.

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Sunday, June 1, 2008

The Hilton of Hotels

In my 7+ years of geocaching, I’ve noticed that travel bug hotels come in all shapes and sizes. I had a travel bug hotel for a little bit and it was created out of a laundry detergent container. It was more like a travel bug motel, as opposed to a hotel, although the cache name was Hotel Devore. Last week, I encountered a rather large coffee can hidden at the base of a juniper tree up in the high desert. There have been others that come to mind, including a couple of the standard ammo cans.

Nothing, though, really compares to the travel bug hotel that I found about a week ago and then again this Saturday. I took the Tadpole out for a little caching to the east of us and showed him a couple of caches. One was a cache that I’d been back to twice, but hadn’t been able to sign the log, although I’d had the cache in hand one time and hadn’t realized it at the time. The second time, there was too much muggle activity around, so I passed on it. The third time was the charm, as we had the field where it was hidden all to ourselves with the exception of a rather irritated burrowing owl who didn’t like us being in its territory, but decided that since we were walking away from its burrow, it wouldn’t bother us too much.

After finding that cache, I took him up to the Hilton of travel bug hotels, the Trackables WayStation Cache by Losel2. This cache is a puzzle, but the puzzle is fairly easy once you get to ground zero. The Concierge (Losel2), met us outside at the cache site. That’s fairly easy for him to do, since the cache is situated in his driveway. He keeps a log book and records all the travel bugs that go in and out of this cache. We chatted awhile and then traded two travel bugs and two geocoins for four different ones. Now, I’d already seen this cache, so I wasn’t as blown away by the opulence of the facilities, but the Tadpole explored every inch of the place and took his time examining all of the bugs that were in the cache, before deciding on the one he would take. As you can see by the pictures, the cache is really large and very well crafted.

The cool thing about this particular hotel is Losel2’s attention to detail. With that many travel bugs all in the one place, it could be easy for some to be overlooked and just sit there for months at a time. With his logbook, he keeps a running inventory so he knows how long any particular travel bug has been there. If they haven’t moved in awhile, he’ll move them himself. That’s a good cache owner. Nothing’s more frustrating for a travel bug owner than to see his or her travel bug end up in a cache and then sit there for months. With his system, that shouldn’t happen.

That’s a lot of work on his part, but then again, travel bug hotels are a lot of work. In my opinion, anyone who sets a travel bug hotel up should expect that it’s a lot of work, probably more work that regular caches. If the person expects that there’s always going to be travel bugs in their hotel, then they either have to go out and find others from other caches and put them in, or create travel bugs themselves.

I’ll probably come out here and visit again from time to time, probably in late July for sure, since that will be right before our annual summer caching trip. It’s always good to stock up on travel bugs right before you travel. Any that I find in caches along the way will be brought back to this hotel. It’s a nice place to visit, especially if you have one of those silver tags attached to you.

On a side note, the last picture shows the two travel bugs that I placed in the cache, the Monster Car and Lisa the Dinosaur. In my Guilty post, I came to the realization that I needed to take more time with the travel bugs that I found and do something with them other than just moving them quickly to another cache. I felt that was part of the geocaching experience on which I was missing out. I posted the same note to both travel bug pages and attached that particular picture to the respective travel bug pages. Less than five hours later, I’d received emails from both owners expressing thanks for taking a picture of the bug. The owner of Lisa said that Lisa would be very excited to see the picture. It looks like my goal is already paying small dividends.

Pictures were taken at the following geocache:

Trackables WayStation Cache by Losel2

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