Tuesday, November 11, 2008


I started caching before geocaching had its first birthday. All that really means is I've been at this awhile. It doesn't mean I have found the most caches (I haven't) or I've hidden the most caches (I haven't) or even that I'm a creative hider of caches (probably not, but I'll let others decide that).

I first heard about geocaching in all places, a Where's George? chatroom. If you're familiar with Where's George?, you know the purpose of that website is to track your money after it leaves your hands. Anyway, a friend of mine, in that chatroom, had been describing a cache hunt. I was intrigued by this and asked him what the heck he was talking about and he directed me to Geocaching.com. Push came to shove and I went out and bought a GPS handheld unit, and took my two young sons with me to find our first cache.

While perusing the geocaching.com site that first week, I looked at all the possible geocaches that were hidden in the state of California. I noticed there was a cache hidden in Yosemite Valley. Since the hobby was still new, many of the ground rules that we take for granted weren't in place yet, which is why that one was hidden there. As soon as the National Park Service found out, they quickly put a stop to hiding caches within the borders of national parks. Then for a couple of years, people hid "virtual" caches in many of the national parks, that is a cache, that while not really there, takes you to a spot of scenic beauty or historical significance. There are several virtual caches in Yosemite National Park. This past Sunday, my daughter and I drove to Yosemite and found four of these virtual caches.

When I drove up to vist my daughter this weekend, I noticed that I had found 98 virtual caches, so I figured that one of the caches in the valley would be my 100th virtual find. I found a virtual on the drive up to Stockton, so I only needed one. I figured what better one to find than the virtual that is located at the viewpoint overlooking the valley. We got up early in the morning, had breakfast and then drove into the park. The viewpoint was the first spot we stopped at so we could claim the find for that virtual cache. This particular virtual's requirements were to get information off of a sign or to take a picture of you at the viewpoint. We did both, getting the needed information and finding a leather clad biker to take our picture.

After lunch, we took the shuttle bus over to Happy Isles where we learned about the great flood of 1997 when the Merced River crested at least 30 feet over normal depth. The gauging station in the picture was caught in the flood. What you can't see is the river, which has to be at least 25 feet below my shoe level from where I am standing. To the left of the picture used to be a bridge. It didn't fare so well in this particular flood. The flood also washed away 2 and a half campgrounds, two of which the park is not restoring, to lesson the impact of people on the environment of the area. 11 years later, there are many new pine saplings growing where there used to be nothing but a sea of tents and campers.

Another virtual had us looking at how the rocks in the valley weather over time. We did a hike from this point up to a viewpoint looking up at Vernal Fall. From the trail, we could look across the valley and see the Upper Yosemite Fall, one of the highest waterfalls in the entire world, dropping over 2400 feet. The hike up to the Vernal Fall Bridge was steep and strenuous. For some reason, I don't recall it being that steep before. I guess that's the perils one faces as each of us get older; the trails get steeper and longer at the same time. Needless to say, it was a nice aerobic workout for both of us as we hiked almost a mile to the bridge.

One thing about caching is you don't normally hide a container out in the open in the middle of a field. It's too easily found by non-geocaching people that way. The normal way would be to hide the container in the forest, behind a rock or tree, or under a bush, some out of the way place. The beauty of a virtual is that it can be hidden anywhere. One virtual that we found was the Nose of El Capitan. This particular cache took us out into a meadow so that we could get an interesting view of El Capitan, the largest piece of solid exposed granite in the entire world. I liked this particular cache because it got me out of my comfort zone a little. I've visited Yosemite probably close to 20 times, yet have never stood in this meadow and contemplated the vastness of this piece of rock. This virtual got me to do that.

With Yosemite, you don't really need a virtual cache to get you to most of the spots we visited. Two of the spots, we would have visited anyway, but we did learn some new things and got to see some of the things from a new perspective because of the virtuals. I was able to take some nice pictures to go with some of my logs and was fortunate enough to get my picture of Yosemite Fall picked for the large banner display on the front page of Geocaching.com.

There are many virtual caches in Yosemite. We found four on Sunday. That means we'll be back, probably many times, because even if we find all of the virtuals, the park still has its hooks in us. It's one of those magical places of which you really can't get enough. The last time we'd visited Yosemite was 2000. I just hope our next visit is sooner than 8 years in the future.

Pictures were taken at or near the following geocaches:

Out of the Darkness, into Yosemite Valley! - by Dave W6DPS and son
The Nose of El Capitan - by Warren Harding
A Happy Place - by Russell Grove and Warren Harding
Split Rock: An Investigation - by Warren Harding

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RDOwens said...

A little after you began caching, you sent me a link to a magazine/newspaper article in which you were quoted. From that, I looked it up. That was seven years ago today.

How timely this post is. :)

Just John said...

Those are some spectacular pics. I'm glad I discovered this sport/hobby, and look forward to many years of enjoyment to come.

Webfoot said...

rd - I'm glad you were able to discover and enjoy this hobby.

Just John - thanks. Yosemite is very photogenic to begin with, but it's nice to see when your work is appreciated. I hope you enjoy many years with this hobby as well.

Steve Natoli said...

Thanks for the beautiful photos. Yosemite is to me incomparably the gretest natural beauty spot I've ever been to. I grant that other locations-Grand Canyon rim, Pacific atoll waters-are marvels too in their own ways. But I'm never in such awe as when in the heavenly valley.

P.J. said...

As a photography nut, Yosemite is one place I'd love to visit -- virtual cache or not. I'd be engulfed by the beauty, that's for sure.

A 'lil HooHaa