Saturday, September 27, 2008

Keeping a positive attitude

A long time ago, I used to golf. My wife used to say she could tell what kind of round I'd had by the way the garage door went up. Needless to say, I really didn't have the temperament for golf back then. One day on the course, I was golfing by myself and I'd just finished up nine holes and thought to myself that I wasn't having any fun. So I went home. That was back in the summer of 1989. In the fall of 1989, my wife and I made the decision that she would stay home with our daughter. Taking more than a 50% pay cut meant many changes in our lifestyle back then, one of which was entertainment. My mind set had been changing toward golf and I had just decided around the same time that I'd like to take it up again, but that went out the window with the other decision. I still have my golf clubs. They're out in the garage. I seriously doubt that I will ever use them again and I really should give them away to a charity, but they are a reminder of where I was and where I want to be, so I keep them there where I can see them when I come into the garage every day.

I bring this up because I could have had one of "those" days while geocaching today. The first geocache that I attempted today I couldn't find. I'd worked on it last year at this time. For whatever reason, the cache has eluded me and it's rated as a regular. I haven't had the cache page either time I've looked for it either due to some error transferring the data from the computer to the PDA. Next time I look for it, I'll have the cache page in hand.

The next cache I attempted today was behind a sign stating Trespassing forbidden. I'm hoping that there's another way into that cache but I'm not so certain of it. One more DNF followed due to a high muggle quotient in the area. After looking at the cache page, it appears to be a very tricky hide as well. I don't usually do so well on those kinds without extra pairs of eyes with me in the form of friends. I finally found a cache further down the trail, then followed that up with two more DNFs due to muggles again. In one respect, it was a frustrating day, but in many other respects it was anything but.

Along the hike, which followed along the river bank, there was quite a show. First thing I ended up seeing were several orb spiders waiting patiently for some unsuspecting bug to fly into their trap. It was cool and cloudy, but I did find one that was working on a new web. The park where this spider was working was pretty amazing, having lots of the standard jungle gym but also something that looked like rock climbing walls for kids. There were several families having a great time there this morning.

I also took a walk out on the bike/walking path alongside the river because I needed to get over to the other of the road to get one more DNF. Not that I wanted that DNF, but that was the way the day was going for me. While walking under the bridge, I noticed a beautiful mural painted on the bridge abutments. As you can see, it's nicely done. A couple more paces and I spotted a young egret fishing for breakfast. I was fortunate enough to catch him with a small minnow in his mouth just before he decided to partake in breakfast.

So, let's see what happened caching today. Five DNFs, one easy find, a great walk in a nicely laid out suburban park while watching nature at its best. Had I had my golfing attitude from before, I might not have noticed these gems waiting for me to discover. It's all about attitude and if it's positive, it's so much better.

Pictures were taken at or near the following geocaches:
Just Keep Walking... - by Team O-Zone
Sycamore Creek Trail #4 - by Team O-Zone

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What's wrong with this picture?

Take a look at the picture to the right. What's wrong with it? I see a barrier, with a No Trespassing sign on it. Beyond the barrier, there appears to be some kind of path. I can tell you that the path is at the top of a river bank. Rivers in Southern California are, for the most part, cement lined, usually with bike paths along them for outdoor enthusiasts to use. This particular one in Orange County is no exception. You can't see it from this picture, but the bike/walking path on top of this river bank is on the far side.

Now I ask again. What's wrong with this picture? Well, I'll tell you what's wrong. There's a cache hidden about 100 feet beyond that No Trespassing sign. Reading the logs, you have to climb down the cement embankment to get to the cache as well. I posted a DNF on this cache with this same picture asking the owner if I am missing something. Perhaps there's another way in to the cache area. Reading the other logs, it appears as if most people approached from the east side, much like I did. That would indicate that these people chose to trespass. Unless I hear otherwise from the cache owner, I guess this is one cache that I'm not going to find.

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Lies, Damned Lies, and...

Mark Twain popularized the statement, "There are three types of lies: Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics." As I looked at my calendar for the month of September, I knew this particular month would be a lean month. Things have conspired to keep me from getting out on any kind of regular basis to do any kind of geocaching. I was lucky enough last weekend to get out with my friend Chaosmanor and find seven caches, otherwise my streak of finding at least 10 caches per month would end at 34. As it is, looking at my stats, my 2 year streak of finding at least 20 per month is in serious jeopardy and with only three more days this month, I would be willing to bet that it's dead. Yeah, I could go out later on today and possibly again tomorrow to get those elusive 9 caches to save the streak and further the stats, but would there really be a point in that other than to keep a streak alive?

I also thought back over the month. Was it a frustrating month? I'd be lying if I said it was. One weekend, I chose to stay home and rest. I really did a couch potato imitation in front of the TV that weekend watching a lot of football. Another weekend, I chose to grab some flags and dashpoints in some of the other GPS Games I play and not do any kind of geocaching.

Last weekend, I went caching both days, Saturday with my youngest son and Sunday as noted above. The Tadpole and I found three and were quite happy with the finds as were Chaosmanor and I on Sunday. I went out caching today and had 5 DNFs for a variety of reasons, mostly muggles in the nearby vicinity, but there were other things that caused them as well. I'll post about one attempt separately. The walk was nice, so it wasn't a frustrating day. More on this as well in another post.

I guess the stats don't show everything. There are a lot of month out there where I found a lot of caches. There are also a lot of month where I didn't find very many at all. The more important part, I think is that I had fun doing both. This month was slow, next month might see more cache finds or maybe less. It's all a game anyway, isn't it? The stats pic just shows my caching per month over the time I've been caching. Click on it to get a bigger image if you'd like to look at it in depth. At a quick glance, you can see September on the far right of the graph. It was just a slow month, that's all, and that's fine. The statistics aren't going to lie on this one.

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Saturday, September 13, 2008

Secret Societies

One of the things I love about Geocaching, Geodashing, and Geovexilla is they're what I like to call "Secret Societies." My daughter and I play a game when we drive around town. I'll point a spot out and say, "You know, there's a geocache over there." Her response is always, "Did you find it?" Usually my answer is yes, but one time it was no and she made me stop and find it. Good thing I had it in the GPSr with me at the time. It's a fun game we play, but then again, we all play it to some extent. Geocachers know there's secret spots out there that only they know about, so in essence, we do have a secret society.

Finding dash points or those virtual flags is very similar but maybe weirder because there's nothing there. The points and the flags are all virtual. One of the reasons I like the latter two is there's always going to be an air of uncertainty as to whether you'll be able to score the flag or the dashpoint. With geocaching, the hard part of determining whether you can enter a spot because of private property issues has already been resolved for you by the cache hider. Not so with the latter two. The points are randomly placed by computer, so there's no way of knowing whether you'll be able to score the flag or dashpoint or not.

Today, I went to my son's cross country meet in Laguna Hills in the O.C. My plan was to do some geocaching, plus score two dashpoints and a vexilla (virtual flag). The dashpoints were both relatively easy to score, both being on driveways leading up to houses. Since you only have to be within 100 meters to score a flag or dashpoint, it was easy to park the car at the curb in front of each house and quietly write some notes about the area for my log on the Geodashing website. I'm sure the owners of both houses don't realize they have virtual points sitting in their driveways. Hey, it's our secret society.

There was also an American Flag that I thought about getting today as well. However, if you look at the satellite images for that one, you can see that it appears to be in a green belt area of a residential community. Not a problem? Yeah, but the residential area is in a gated community, so access is going to be difficult for this one. There's that uncertainty creeping in. I think it still can be scored, but I'd have to hike to it, something that I didn't want to do today because of a time crunch. There's a possibility that I might be down there again in the near future so I'll have to investigate it again at that time.

Interestingly enough, although I expected to find more geocaches than the other two combined, today was a total wash with caching. Not a single find and that was by choice. The two dashpoints were enough today. I'll have several hours before my son's next meet next weekend to find some caches. The pictures of my son running were taken last year at another meet down in the same area.

Pictures was taken near Dana Point T-bird - by devhead and somberairokid

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Saturday, September 6, 2008

Last summer run

This weekend, I'm taking it easy. It's probably the last weekend that I actually have the entire weekend to go caching and yet I'm staying home. The first couple of weeks of school have done a number on me and I'm tired, so I just decided to rest. The next couple of weekends, I'll be attending my son's cross country meets, so I'll be getting a couple of caches here and there near his meets, but no large cache runs will happen until sometime in November I suspect.

This past weekend, I drove up to the mountains near Crestline and Lake Arrowhead with my friend Chaosmanor to do a end of the summer caching run. We did a run right at the beginning of summer and so it seemed rather appropriate to create a bookend on the other end of my summer vacation. One cache we found has already been archived. Apparently, someone was taking issue with the placement of a metal container uphill from a turnout, hidden in a waist high stump of a dead tree. The cache had been destroyed, the owners had come out and replaced it and within three days, the cache had been destroyed again, since that's the state we found it in last Saturday. There's no way the container could have been interpreted as trash; there was nothing else around to indicate that this was a dumping ground. This was just someone's attempt to spoil other people's fun. That's sad in my opinion.

One cache that we did find that was intact made it to my top 5% list. Red Rock Wall is located at a turnout on Hwy 18 which is also called Rim of the World Highway in this area. The turnout is huge and affords at least a 270° view of the Inland Empire located below. We could see the former Norton Air Force Base located in San Bernardino. Had it not been so hazy, we probably could have seen all the way to the Palm Springs area, a distance over 75 miles. We could also see the thunderheads that were building in the mountains to the east of us, mountains where we would eventually be and rain from which we would eventually get wet.

The coordinates for the cache were almost dead on, the hide was well done. It became apparent rather quickly that one of us was going to have to go over the Red Rock Wall in order to retrieve the cache. We couldn't see the cache from our vantage point, but our GPSrs were pointing us about 15 feet beyond the wall. This could be tough since there were a lot of muggles at the overlook, but it appeared to both of us they were more interested in the view than what two middle aged men were doing down on the far side of the lookout. I started thinking how I wanted to do this, so I grabbed my camera and went for a walk. I took pictures at the main overlook, then slowly worked my way back taking some pictures and feigning other shots until I got to a spot where I could go over the wall.

Once on the other side I spotted the well hidden ammo can attached to a strap that prevented it from sliding down the hill. There were plenty of bushes so I wasn't in any danger myself, but I could see where it could become a problem for the ammo can due to where it was hidden just beyond the main line of bushes. During a lull in muggle activity, I made the grab and then gave the ammo can to Chaosmanor who placed it in my car where we could make trades and sign the log more easily than trying to do it on the other side of the wall.

It's really interesting watching people at a large turnout such as this. You would think there would be a constant stream of people, making retrieval or replacement of a cache nearly impossible. That didn't seem to be the case here, or at least it wasn't the day we were there. The muggles seemed to come in waves, all coming and then all leaving at the same time. There were times when it seemed quite crowded and other times when we had the entire turnout to ourselves.

The replacement was just a reversal of how we'd made the original grab. Chaosmanor handed me the ammo can, I hooked it up to the strap and then placed it behind the bush where it had been hidden when we first got there. I took a couple more pictures (some of which turned out quite nicely I think), then made my way back over the wall. I wanted to make sure I'd hidden it back as well as when I found it so I walked back and forth along the wall, looking down to see if I could see the can. Nope. It was a good replacement. Afterwards we both commented on the audacity of placing an ammo can in such a busy place. The cache has been there for over 2 and a half years, so I guess the audacity of hostile bob has been rewarded.

My top 5% list is a very subjective list. It's a list of the caches I've found over my 7+ years of geocaching, that I've found particularly rewarding. Sometimes they make the list because of the view. Others make the list because it was a good hike to get to the cache. Some caches make the list because they made me laugh when I finally found them. Caches get added from time to time and they do get deleted from the list as well. It's an evolving list. I try to edit the list on a regular basis, removing the caches that have been archived, while adding new ones to the list that I think merit inclusion. I've kept a couple on the list that have been archived because I enjoyed them and thought others would enjoy the area and experience where the cache had been originally hidden without finding a cache. If you ever get to my area of caching, I hope you find my list useful.

Well, my summer has definitely ended. I'm back into the routine of school as our my children. My oldest is away at college. My middle child is starting his last year of public education and will be graduating next June. My youngest has just started his last year of junior high school. It's amazing to think about the fact that next year at this time, he'll be in high school and I'll have two children in college. I look back on the times we've had with a smile on my face. Although the time has seemingly gone quickly, in reality it has been a slow journey to now and there are still many more good years ahead of all of us.

Pictures were taken at or near Red Rock Wall - by hostile bob

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Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Bucket list

If you've seen the Bucket List starring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman you know that it's about two older men who create a list of things they want to do before they "kick the bucket." Since both are dying when they create this list, it becomes a race against time for the two of them. I'd heard about this movie and waited until it came out on DVD before I saw it this summer with my wife. About a week later, we saw a Bucket List movie trailer on the front end of another movie we'd rented. The trailer did nothing for either of us and my wife even commented that had she seen the trailer first, she would have been disinclined to even see the movie. The movie is much deeper than the trailer suggests and is well worth the time to see.

So where am I going with this? Well, I've decided to create a bucket list of caches that I'd like to find before my geocaching hobby ends. With the capriciousness of the Internet, I think we all have in the back of our minds that many web sites could disappear over night. I've had email discussions with friends on this very subject where we speculated which of our favorite sites would disappear first from the Internet. So I'm basing this list not on the end of my life, but more on the possible end of Geocaching. I plan to add to this list from time to time, so I'll also revisit it during the coming months. Needless to say, it's a work in progress. I would also welcome suggestions to the list.

My Bucket List - your mileage may vary.

Groundspeak Headquarters - Washington, 963.7mi from my home coordinates
Obviously, this is the headquarters of Groundspeak, the company that runs Curious, that it's archived and has been for years, yet it gets logged on an almost daily basis. If I get up to Seattle again (the last time I was there was the summer of 1988), I'll be sure to finagle an invitation to visit and log the cache. Read some of the logs. It sounds like a very interesting place.

Original Stash Tribute Plaque - Oregon, 810.7mi from my home coordinates
The spot where the first geocache was placed by Dave Ulmer on May 3, 2000. I guess this might be called the Mecca of Geocaching.

Discovering & Logging California's 58 Counties - California, 39.9mi from your my coordinates
I've written about this particular cache in past posts, so I'll not go into too much detail this time. Suffice to say, to log this cache I must prove that I've found a cache in every county in California - 58. I have 31, with 27 still to go.

GCNP Bright Angel - Arizona, 345.8mi from my home coordinates
Of all the caches on this list, I think this one will be the hardest to attain mainly because it's at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. It's a level 1 difficulty, but a level 4.5 terrain. I would have to do some very serious training before I attempted to even try this one. It is one of the few actual physical caches that is located in a national park.

Devils Tower National Monument II - Wyoming, 1001mi from my home coordinates
This is sort of like a Close Encounters of a Third Kind obsession, but for as long as I can remember, I've wanted to visit this park and getting this virtual will help me fulfill that dream.

Wrinkled Rock: What really is behind Mt. Rushmore?
- South Dakota, 1018mi from my home coordinates
Mr. Rushmore is one of several places that I visited as a kid with my family, that I haven't revisited as an adult. I'd like to get back to this Black Hills Shrine.

As you have probably noticed, there are no caches outside the United States on this list. That is intentional for the moment. I'm not much of a flyer, so very likely I may never get to Europe or Asia. If can overcome the irrational fear of flying that I have, this list will change, as it should over time. Once again, this list is far from complete and is but a sampling of some of the caches I'd like to find. I welcome your suggestions for other caches that you believe should be on this list.

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