Monday, March 30, 2009

Desert Color

I think most people think the desert is pretty barren. I've always found it anything but and during certain times of the year, it can be pretty spectacular. Sometimes, the color in the desert is natural and sometimes it's manufactured. And sometimes, it's a combination of both.

When I was out in Shoshone this past week, I found several caches that fit the bill for different types of color. One cache was hidden outside a broken down laundry facility near a campground. The campground was situated on top of a dry lake bed, which, for the most part makes it pretty barren. The laundry facility was built up on top of concrete blocks. It was a permanent building, so during times of rain in the desert, it would stay high and dry above the lake that would form after a good rainstorm.

The facility is in disrepair now, but there was an interesting old truck outside of the place. It had the neatest color composition, sort of a combination, primer, rust, old paint all blended together for some kind of surreal pop art type of vehicle. Looking at the tires, they were low, but it looked like the truck hadn't been parked there very long and could conceivably still be driven. I think it would definitely turn some heads if it had been taken for a spin. Out in the desert, it looked right at home.

At another spot I found a cache near an old cemetery that appeared to be still active. I've always been one to look at old cemeteries when I happen to stumble across them. Some of them are quite haunting. Usually, you can get a glimpse of the history of the region by looking at the tombstones and the dates on the headstones. Entire families die because of some kind of disease or disaster. Looking through older cemeteries, you can see the epidemics and swept the world at different times show up on a smaller scale. The 1918 flu epidemic at the end of World War I shows up quite dramatically in older cemeteries .

Many cemeteries in the desert tend to be located in very peaceful spots, usually with good views and this one was no exception. I remarked in my log that this particular spot would be a bad spot to spend eternity, since it had a view that was absolutely gorgeous. Although, I also noted that it wouldn't hurt me a bit if I had to wait another 40 years before I decided to take up residence in the place.

Then on Sunday, the Tadpole and I went caching in the high desert just west of Victorville. We were also looking for a virtual flag up here and after parking close to where it was, we made a quarter mile hike to snag the flag. As we walked through the desert at this particular point, it was like walking on a yellow carpet. Tiny little sunflowers, no bigger than a quarter inch across were in bloom as far as the eye could see.

My picture doesn't do it justice, but I loved the way the ground was covered in yellow, while I could still see snow on the mountains that separated the high desert from the Los Angeles basin. In a few short weeks, this natural carpet will be gone, withered away as the temperatures start to climb to three digits. But all the seeds these flowers produce will support another natural carpet next year after the rainy season has concluded. We just got lucky this year that we happened to be in the right place at the right time.

Pictures were taken at or near the following geocaches:
Tecopa Wash-Up - by Mr. and Mrs. Rhino
Cemetery Cache - by 3blackcats
4474 - by Mr. & Mrs. Wisearse

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Saturday, March 28, 2009

Adding more dots

I've always been interested in maps from a very early age. I can remember being asked by my 5th grade teacher to place all the states on a map of the United States and was able to do so correctly at the age of 11. Whenever we traveled by car, I ended up being the navigator for my dad on camping trips. I loved to watch the miles fly by on the map we'd use as we traveled. In college, as a freshman at Santa Ana Community College, I took a Physical Geography class and I was hooked. Originally, I'd planned on majoring in Political Science, but once I started taking the geography classes in college, that was what I planned for my major. I transferred to Humboldt State University, located in Arcata, CA and received a degree in Geography in June 1981.

I'm not using my degree specifically, but I do use the information I learned as part of my daily curriculum that I pass on to my students in their history classes I teach. So in a way, I'm using my degree as part of my career. I'd say I probably use my degree, or interest in geography in my hobbies more so than in my career. I discovered Where's George?, the money tracking website back in its early stages in January 2000. The concept that you could track your money after you spent it and see where it went was intriguing. I've seen the money I've spent travel to every state in the United States and several foreign countries.

I can't imagine people not being interested in geography if they're at all attracted to geocaching. The entire purpose of the game is to work with latitude and longitude to get to a certain location on the globe. It's all about geography. I know of at least one person who geocaches without using a GPS unit, instead preferring to find caches by using Google Maps and topo maps and orienteering. Finding a cache in a parking lot sans a GPSr is one thing, but finding a cache in the wilderness alongside a trail without one, in my opinion, is impressive.

The geographic map I have in my head of certain area every now and then needs to get tweaked a little bit. I would be willing to bet that most people, if they think at all of regions of California, probably break the state up into two main regions, north and south. Earlier this week, I was caching in eastern California. Sometimes, I find it difficult to wrap my mind around that one. The state if long and lean, so I don't really think about it as being east and west, yet there I was, in what can really only be considered eastern California.

Inyo County is located on the eastern edge of the state, bordering Nevada. I knew I was east, yet when I added my cache finds to my caching map, I was surprised to see where the dots ended up on the map. I shouldn't have been, since I knew I was only 27 road miles from Pahrump, NV, yet I just thought those dots would show up farther to the west. That's one of the reasons I keep that map updated. It keeps those misperceptions I have about the geography of an area in check.

I'll continue to add more dots to this map as I continue to geocache. Expect to see more dots show up on the western side of the state. My older son has been accepted at University of Santa Cruz. Besides the regular trips I take to visit my daughter in Stockton, I'll now be adding trips to Santa Cruz as well. Santa Cruz is located near the ocean, south of San Francisco along the northern edge of Monterey Bay. You can see two cache finds on the map, one of which was a webcam cache that we found in the city limits of Santa Cruz. Our first scheduled trip up there will be next month during his spring break.

I've enjoyed the past two years watching my daughter spread her wings in college and the next few years I hope will be just as enjoyable as my son does the same. I will miss him much like I miss my daughter, but at the same time I understand that he needs to be out on his own now. He has changed so much since his geocaching days. His time with us full time is growing short. I guess I'll just have to travel more often and visit him where ever he is.

Picture was taken at THE LOST AMADEUS - by LIZARD

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Thursday, March 26, 2009

The art of logging

After 3blackcats and I came back from our desert run this week, I settled down to write my logs for the caches. With 24 caches, I had a lot of logging to do. I always take my PDA along with me to take notes for each cache. I usually don't write a whole lot in the PDA, just enough that will spark my memory of what happened. Little notes like, "Date Shake. Mmmmmmm." will be enough to remind me that at that particular cache we stopped for a date shake and that the hummingbirds were dive bombing us at our picnic table. It was a very cool experience and one that I shared in my log.

The reason I do this, is I feel it's part of the entire geocaching experience. When the hobby first started, the caches were all fairly large. Large caches meant large logbooks and so people wrote of their experience in there and on-line. I can remember one cache I found with friends up on a ridge overlooking Los Angeles. The area was large enough for a helicopter to settle down on, which is exactly what happened. Not while we were there, but sometime earlier, because two FBI agents had flown up there in there, inadvertently found the cache and logged their experience in the log book. It was really fun reading that account.

With the proliferation of micro caches and the tiny logbooks, or pieces of paper in some cases, there's hardly any room to place much more than you're name anymore so logging in the logbook seems to have gone by the wayside. I am fully guilty of not writing much in the logbook on most caches I find as well. I try to make up for it by writing something about the experience on the on-line cache page. I figure I can give any cache, even a lamppost skirt hide at least 50 words. I try to give 100 words per cache log. I'm not always successful, but I try. In reality, 50 words is easy.

And, I don't cut and paste. Each log is unique, so it takes me awhile to log all of my caches after a big day. I was logging Tuesday's run from Tuesday evening until Wednesday morning around noon. It helps that I'm on vacation, but when I'm not that means it probably gets spread out even more. I feel I owe it to the hiders to give them what I experienced while out looking for their cache.

Wednesday afternoon, I received a nice email from turtle lady.

"I am the owner of Heartbreak Hotel cache in Shoshone California and I just read your log. I want to say THANK YOU for that long, well written log! What fun reading that!

I get so many emails from people logging my many caches and so many of them just say "TFTC" or "Got it" and I am disappointed! ...... When I get a log like yours, it makes me want to place more caches! Not many places like Heartbreak Hotel left to share with people but I will keep looking!"
This email makes my logging all worthwhile to me. It just confirms that I'm doing the right thing when I take the time to log each cache individually with separate and unique comments for each log.

I've met people on the trail that have made comments to the effect that I write "wordy" logs. I feel that's a compliment. I want people to know my experience. I cannot begin to tell you how many times I've read logs that have helped me find caches that I never would have found otherwise. And it's not necessarily that the previous finder posted a "It's right under the log" type of post. Many times finders write in such a way that a simple comment will turn a light bulb on in my head that will lead me to the cache.

One thing that I always post at the end of each log is a thank you for placing the cache out there. If the hider went to the trouble to hide a cache, I figure I should thank them for their effort. It's simple courtesy, something that we in general can always use more of in our world.

Pictures were taken at or near the following geocaches:
Heartbreak Hotel - by Turtle Lady and Cause I Can
Dublins Tin Can Alley - by mtngirls

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Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Some like it hot

I wasn't sure how I was going to title this particular entry. I thought about calling it, "I touched the Thermometer" but wasn't sure how that would go over, so I decided to just call it the name of the cache this is about, Some like it Hot. My friend 3blackcats and I decided we'd make a caching run out into the desert yesterday. She has some caches north of Baker, California and I was willing to go along for the ride.

About two years ago, I decided to run a Pocket Query (PQ) looking for all the virtuals in my local area. I didn't know where they all were and just wanted a general idea on the whereabouts of them. As I searched the map, I came across a virtual in Baker. Baker is located along Interstate 15 about two hours south of Las Vegas, Nevada. It also bills itself as the gateway to Death Valley, because the main road that runs along the edge of the park and eventually into the park starts in Baker.

Baker is also home the World's Tallest Thermometer. It's 134 feet high, which is also the highest temperature ever recorded at nearby Death Valley. It stands as a beacon day or night. It's been standing in Baker since 1991, so there's at least six different occasions that I've driven by it and noticed the temperature on the thermometer. Since all of the times I've driven by, it was during the summer, it was probably registering in triple digit mode. But the catch is, outside of yesterday, I'd never stopped and investigated it further, mainly because there wasn't any need to stop. I remember one springtime taking my two older children on a camping trip to Death Valley and we ended up stopping in Baker to eat lunch but didn't go over and check out the thermometer.

Once again, geocaching has gotten me out of my cocoon of a car to investigate and explore something a little bit more in detail. Not that this is anything spectacular; it's just a tall tower that also happens to display the temperature at the moment. But it's the kind of kitsch like this that has always made road trips by Americans memorable. Motels shaped like Indian Tee Pees, Bedrock City, where the entire place is devoted to the Flintstones, or the Trees of Mystery in northern California are all what we would probably call tourist traps. They are places that wouldn't hesitate back in earlier days to strap a bumper sticker on to the front bumper of your car so you could advertise for them.

Well, yesterday, I fell for the tourist trap. I got out of my car and walked up and touched the thermometer. And it was all because I wanted another smiley on my geocaching profile. It was fun. It was corny and if offered the opportunity to do it again, I would. The next time you're on your way to or from Las Vegas on Interstate 15, take five minutes to get a picture of yourself touching the thermometer. It's one of those experiences that you won't soon forget. Oh yeah. It is nearing the end of March, but we were there fairly early in the morning and the thermometer registered a cool 47° at 8:25 in the AM. I would be willing to bet that the temperature doesn't get down much below 70° on a hot summer day in the middle of the night.

Pictures were taken at Some like it Hot - by AquaDyne

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Monday, March 23, 2009

Another challenge?

I was looking at my DeLorme atlas yesterday. It is normally perched beside my computer. I actually have four atlases there, two AAA atlases and two DeLorme atlases. The two DeLormes cover all of California. I purchased them several years ago, quite possibly before I started geocaching. I use one of the AAA atlases for when I'm traveling and the other I use to scribble all over. Most of the scribbling is highlighting the roads that I've traveled on in my lifetime. It's an approximation, because I'm not sure of all of the ones when I was little, but it's a good guess. In case you're interested, here's a map of all of the counties in the United States that I've traveled in or through in my lifetime.

I've been having some Internet problems and I finally got fed up with them on Saturday and pretty much solved the problem by upgrading my modem for my DSL line. Installing this, I had to pull out parts of the computer desk and one of the things that had to be moved were the atlases. When I put them back, I looked at them, mainly because my daughter had used them two weeks ago when she was here with a couple of her friends. They'd used them as their primary map for Southern California when they went to visit Hollywood. I decided to look at it to see whether it would have been helpful to them or not. On that verdict, I'm not sure what the outcome would be, but they didn't get lost, so I guess it was useful.

As I looked over the Southern and Central section atlas, my mind started to wander to this particular geocaching challenge that I'd heard of, but hadn't really given much thought of attempting. I kept thinking to myself, that I really didn't need another challenge, but then I also kept thinking as I perused the pages, things like, "I've found one on that page, oh and also on that page!" So I started counting them up and came up with 57 pages where I've already found caches. According to the cache page, there's 110 pages where I'd have to find a cache, so I'm already half way there without even trying.

Of course, the pages where I don't have cache finds are the ones that are the most remote. Many are out in the desert to the east of me, or in the Sierra Nevada, or in the middle of farm country in the central valley of California. There are several pages that will require some extensive planning in order to find a cache. This challenge is definitely more of a challenge than the 58 county challenge is. With the county challenge, driving the roads through the counties will work, because there's always caches hidden alongside highways and byways. With the DeLorme challenge, there's not necessarily a road within the map boundary, which means hiking.

As I looked over the atlas, I realized this could be too much on my plate at one time. My original goal was to finish the California County Challenge. I don't want to give that up just to switch to a new challenge. What I think I'm going to do is to continue the county challenge, but keep the DeLorme challenge in the back of my mind. Other map pages will be found as I work my way around the state. I think it also gives me new incentives to explore other areas of the state that I haven't done before. Of course, as I begin working on the counties in Northern California, then the Northern California DeLorme challenge comes into play as well. Together, these three challenges together will create a nice diversion for me and keep me busy caching for many more years. I can deal with that.

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Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Tucked Away Treasures

After dropping off the two travel bugs near Disneyland, the Tadpole and I headed south into Santa Ana. We had two reasons for heading that way, the first being a virtual flag just around the corner from one of the elementary schools I attended. Amazing as it may seem, we didn't move once after my parents purchased the house in south Santa Ana, yet I attended 4 different elementary schools. Changing boundaries during the first three years caused me to go to three different schools between kindergarten and second grade. Changing situations caused me to be shipped off to a school in northern Santa Ana for 6th grade. It was near this school where we found a USA virtual flag.

Unfortunately, I might not score any points for this flag. The GeoVexilla site has been down for almost a week. The map shows up on the main page, but no flags do. One of the other game players kept a daily database of all the flags and sent me a spreadsheet of all the flags that were within 100km of my home coordinates, so I was able to score that USA flag and the flag of Cyprus just north of Anaheim and Disneyland. If the site doesn't come back soon, I might not score the points, but that's OK. It was the adventure that counted anyway.

After scoring the USA flag, we headed east, just beyond my 6th grade school. There was a geocache about a half mile away that had looked intriguing when I'd scouted it out last week. Sarah May Downie had been placed in a small little park located at a rather odd intersection. The oddness of the intersection, five streets all coming together, made for some interesting pieces of land. The park was on a small triangular shaped piece of land between two of the streets that converged on this intersection, too small for a house, but the perfect size for a small memorial garden type of park. It was one of those tucked away treasures that all of us have stumbled across from time to time.

The cache page said the cache was hidden in a herb garden. I'm not sure about the herbs, but there was a variety of plant life. There were several bottle brush bushes that had grown fairly tall. I could hear two hummingbirds flitting in amongst the branches, but never could spot that actual birds. There had been several older trees on the lot that had been cut down. Bracken fungus was growing on the stumps. One of the stumps reminded me of an elephant's foot. We noticed more fungus growing on another tree back in a corner of the garden. I suspect this particular spot gets more than enough water, which was probably contributing to the fungal growth.

There were lots of dime sized daisy type flowers, scattered in the raised stone beds along with some lantana which is very drought tolerant. They tend to have very small purple or orange flowers on them. In the picture, you can see some of the purple lantana near the white daisy. We found the cache, well hidden in one of the raised beds, very well cammoed. I seriously doubt this particular cache will be muggled. It was well done and it gave cachers a reason for being there looking for the cache and allowing cachers ample opportunity to look natural in the park, without having to resort to crawling in bushes to try and find a smallish container. That's always a plus when you're a middle aged man like myself and caching alone. Having the Tadpole along is much easier in the long run, but I appreciate caches like this anyway.

Just to the north of the park, was an old bridge that crossed Santiago Creek. We decided to walk over to the bridge in the hopes of perhaps finding a benchmark, but once we got over there, I realized there wouldn't be any, at least of an older variety. I can remember that Santiago Creek was a major barrier in many areas of Santa Ana with only major thoroughfares crossing the small stream crossing. During rainy times however, the dry stream bed usually became a torrent. There had been an older bridge crossing there, but it was gone, perhaps a victim of a recent rainy spell that caused some major flooding.

We could see the old piers for the bridge on the north side of the new bridge, which had been fashioned to look like a 1940s style bridge. It was very well done and tricked me into believing that it was much older than it really was. Once we got up close, I could tell the bridge was less than 10 years old. The concrete was very smooth and new looking. We didn't find any benchmarks (I checked later on the site and no benchmarks were within a couple of miles of the bridge), but we enjoyed exploring it and the Tadpole seemed to enjoy the local history lesson I was able to give about the area when I was growing up. It was another enjoyable father/son kind of day.

Pictures were taken at or near the following geocache:
Sarah May Downie - by Rick&Liz

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Saturday, March 14, 2009

We're going to Disneyland!

In January, I found a travel bug (Pluto's Dog Tag) that started in Washington and wanted to visit the different Disney Theme parks. Since I live about forty minutes away from Disneyland in Southern California, I figured I'd be able to give it a shot to complete one of its goals. At about the same time a friend of mine found a geocoin (Vacation Coin 2008) in Washington that had a goal of getting to Anaheim, CA by March 2009. He contacted me and agreed to mail the geocoin down to me, so I could get it to its goal by this month.

Today, we were able to accomplish the goals for these two bugs. Tadpole held the coin and the bug up while I did the honors of taking the pictures of them in front of the park sign. There's a nice drop off spot where you can park for fifteen minutes to drop off people on the east side of the park which we took advantage of in order to take our two pictures.

After we took the pictures, I took us south to try and find a couple of geocaches that were large enough and close enough to the park. We got lucky there was a small Altoids tin type of container cache about a mile south of Disneyland where we were able to drop the geocoin. As we sat in the parking lot near that cache, I started looking through the PDA to try and find a regular sized cache that would fit the bill for the Pluto Dog Tag. Since it was a larger travel bug, I needed a coffee can sized container or larger for this one and we were rewarded with a cache only half a mile away to the east of where we were sitting in our car.

It was located near a medical center parking lot, which was virtually empty today since it was Saturday. We made the grab, trading a Boy Scout travel bug for Pluto. Hopefully, both of these travelers will enjoy the insides of many more geocaches.

Pictures were taken near the following geocaches:
Downtown Disney Virtual (NO Admission Required!) - by TeddyBearMama & Klemmer
WD's Original - by sbell111

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Thursday, March 12, 2009

Email Burp

My email burped tonight. I've been having some Internet connection problems on and off for the past week or so and tonight it went out for the first time in about a week or so. And of course, it happened right in the middle of something important. That always seems to be the case doesn't it? When I was able to reconnect, I opened up my email program and started getting emails from last year, all the way back to September.

One interesting email was a cache that the Tadpole and I found down in Irvine in September. It wasn't anything special and it's already been muggled which is surprising because it was hidden away from most prying eyes, so it's surprising that it's gone. But, it represents about 9% of all of my cache finds for that month. As noted previously, September is always a slow month and this one was particularly slow for caching. I just found it interesting to go back and read my log for that cache. I'm also wondering what else gets upchucked to me.

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Sunday, March 8, 2009

"The Good Ol' Days"

Last weekend, we literally stumbled into Gumby and Pokey out in the desert while doing the Smiley series of caches. About halfway around the smile, near the chin, I started noticing their signatures on logs. At first we weren't sure whether they'd driven in from the south, or were also working their way around the smiley. I consider Gumby and Pokey, like myself, old time cachers, cachers that were geocaching before the hobby had it's first birthday.

Back then when you logged onto to, the first page of caches nearest your house would stretch for miles and miles away from you. On my first page of caches nearest to me, there were caches in four different counties, which is quite an accomplishment considering how large the counties are in Southern California. The closest cache to ours was 7 linear miles away and a half mile hike. Geocaching was all about the hiking at that time.

When I started, the first page had a cache that was fairly near me called the Lost Cache of Lytle Creek. This one was hidden by Gumby and Pokey. It was getting on toward spring and summer and reading the logs on the cache page there were constant reports of rattlesnakes on the trail. With two small boys who would cache with me, I wasn't really keen on encountering a rattler at that time, so I waited on that cache until January. I'm glad I did, since at that time, the cache spot was covered with millions of ladybugs hibernating for the winter near their cache. It was a wonderful experience with a nice hike involved.

Back then, geocachers knew each other by the logs. Logs were signed and notes were often left in the logbook. Very few electronic logs were TNLNSL (for Took nothing, left nothing and signed the log) or TFTC (Thanks for the cache). Logs were interesting to read, because usually there was some kind of experience that people wanted to write about after finding a cache. People got a feel where others lived by where the caches were hidden and there was a certain etiquette about hides. People asked before going down into someone else's region to hide a cache.

With so few caches at that time, it was easy to run into lots of cachers back then. We all seemed to want to go out and find a couple on a weekend. I met Stantastic at my second cache find down in Orange County. That cache find was Gumby and Pokey's first cache find. Exaibachey and Satisfyd were met at another cache near my house. The elusive Erik, who hiked everywhere, yet never seemed to be on the trial when you were on the trail was another name that we saw frequently in logs back then. Interestingly, I'd never bumped into Gumby and Pokey until this past weekend.

It was really enjoyable talking about some of the old timers who were still around. We commiserated what we perceived as changes that we didn't necessarily feel were in the best interest of Geocaching. We talked about the proliferation of micro caches. It was an enjoyable chat with fellow cachers who went way back to the beginning. There was the added bonus of finally putting a face to the name that I'd seen around all these years. My only hope is that we don't have to wait another 8 years before we meet up again.

Picture courtesy of Gumby and Pokey taken at 3.14 Miles of SMILES - by RHINO, Mr.G, BigDaddyGRC, DogWillHunt

L to R in Picture - Gumby, Webfoot, Tadpole95 & Chaosmanor Behind the camera - Pokey

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Wednesday, March 4, 2009

One last smile

I created this map using the Tiger Mapping Services offered by the United States Census Bureau. It's a free service that allows users to create their own maps. Usually, I just leave the map at a setting that allows me to see several of the western states and all of my cache finds and hides. For a look at that map, you can click here. I have a similar one for the virtual flags I've found. After looking at that map, I should probably zoom in on just California. I'll not be likely to find virtual flags outside of California for a couple of years.

There are all sorts of parameters that you can set with these maps. I like to see the county lines on the maps since I'm interested in finding a cache in every county of California and that allows me to see at a glance what counties I still need. I like the map because I can actually pick out various caching runs I've gone on with friends. The scale doesn't show the smiley cache run as more than a blob, so I zoomed in on it for this particular map.

If you look closely, you can see other red dots on the map. The two red dots in between Mountain View Acres and Victorville are two caches with ties to Route 66. The northern dot was found by the three of us last Saturday as we made our way over to the smiley caches. The southern dot is a virtual located at a very cool Route 66 museum that I wrote about previously.

As I'm writing this, I think perhaps I need to write a tutorial on how to make these maps. If you don't have too many cache finds, it's a relatively easy proposition to make one for yourself. I have the cache hides and finds map linked on my geocaching profile.

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Monday, March 2, 2009

Smile and the World Smiles with You

In a quick post last Saturday, I wrote about a gigantic smiley in the desert and that we were going to attempt to find all of caches in the series. I would have written about this last night, except I'm having Internet issues and wasn't able to get them all logged until this morning. Twenty six caches later, I now have a map with a smiley on it. In fact, it's a very big smiley.

We left our house near 8 o'clock in the morning for the drive up to Victorville in the high desert. We had a couple of side trips to grab a couple of virtual flags that were out there and once we nearly got those taken care of it was time for lunch. After lunch and a couple more caches and one more flag, we decided to head on over and tackle the smiley series.

At first we weren't sure how we were going to progress on this trip. We found a nice dirt road in that went up and over a small hill. At the top of the hill was a nice pullout for cars, so we stopped there. Well, the other reason that we stopped was a cache not 56 feet north of where I'd parked the car. It was the first of the caches in the series.

The caches were all hidden in similar fashion using material that had been found out in the desert, so the hides were fairly easy. We just had to make a decision after the first one and that was how to proceed. Not having four wheel drive made the decision a little easier. We decided to hike the series. It had been advertised at a 1 mile in diameter circle, meaning the circumference of the circle would be 3.14 miles. Well, it wasn't quite like that, because there was another semi-circle making up the smile and also the two eyes.

At the first cache, we also noted that someone else had been out doing the series either at the same time or earlier in the day. We saw Clayton and Karen in every log book, but we never did catch up with them Saturday. After our second find around the outer circle, we cut in to the right eyeball, since we were at the closest point to it. We saw a blue car driving north out of the smiley and we surmised that it could have been Clayton and Karen, but we weren't able to get their attention. Most of the scrub in the desert, at least at this point, is close to five feet tall and so it would be very difficult to spot anyone out there, especially if you weren't looking for them, which I have to assume they weren't.

I've been able to cache a couple of other series like there, where all the caches had a them to them. One series really sticks out in my mind because every cache container was exactly the same and it was hidden the exact same way. The only difference was a slight deviation in the name. We had to take meticulous notes on that series so we didn't make a mistake later on when logging the caches. This one had similar elements, but there was enough variation, especially the names of the caches, that it didn't become a problem.

The first section of the series was rather uneventful. When we got down to the south east part of the face, we started doing zig zags back and forth between the chin and the smile so we could get as many of the caches in the least amount of distance. At one of these zig zags, I spotted a small burrowing owl flying just over the tops of the mesquite. It landed near a mound that I assume was its burrow, but didn't want any part of us even though we were quite a ways away. As soon as it thought that we were moving closer to it, it took off again.

Midway through the smile, things began to get interesting. We found a cache, and discovered another set of names after Clayton and Karen's, that of Gumby and Pokey. This was a little perplexing since we hadn't seen their names in previous logbooks, yet here they were now showing up about halfway through the series. As we continued the hike, we realized they must have started the opposite way and traversed the smile in a counter clockwise direction while we were doing the same thing in a clockwise direction. We had to have missed each other while we were zigging and zagging between the smile and the chin.

Interestingly, Gumby and Pokey are old time cachers like me. They joined Geocaching in February 2001 about a month before I found out about it. I've found several of their caches in my neck of the woods and they've found at least one of mine. Their Lost Cache of Lytle Creek, has made my top five percent list as a wonderful example of what caching used to be before micro mania took over the hobby. But that's another subject all together.

There was also a mystery/puzzle cache attached to this series of caches. Clues to the whereabouts of this cache were to be found in the other caches around the smiley. Halfway through and we'd pretty much figured out where the mystery, or final as we came to call it, was going to be. We still needed some more information and we eventually found it in the other caches.

Looking at the maps, this must have taken some time to put together. It's not a wonder that it was a team of cachers, Dog Will Hunt, bigdaddygrc, Mr. G., and Rhino Assault Team that put it together. It's pretty simple math to decide where to place all of them (each cache was 22½ degrees around the circle), but finding the right spot and doing all the logistics would have taken a long time for just one cacher. Three cachers probably spread out the work load.

The sun was setting and we were nearing the end of the journey. We'd found the last piece to the final cache, so we decided to to get that before getting the last of the outer rim. This saved us about a quarter mile in walking, not much when you really think about it, but we were tired and that last mile just seems to take a toll on you. The final was an ammo can with lots of goodies in it. I decided to take a diabetes travel bug. Chaosmanor placed a couple of travel bugs and a geocoin to cover what I'd taken. Now it was off to the last cache on the outer rim and then a short 2 tenths of a mile hike back to the car and home. The final can be seen on the last map as the smile next to the Interstate 15 freeway. It's obviously not there and you can probably figure out where it really is hidden.

We had to hike up over a small rise to get to the last cache and from up there we could see out car in the dwindling daylight. I could see two people near the cache just next to the car and I put two and two together and figured that it had to be Gumby and Pokey. No one in our party can whistle loudly, so I shouted, but the desert air apparently stifled my cry. However, I could see that as we were approaching the final cache, they too were heading in the same direction.

We got over to that cache and waited for them. As they approached, I heard Pokey shout out, "Webfoot?" So immediately, I shouted out, "Gumby and Pokey!!" I've always found meetings between geocachers on the trail to be enjoyable and this one was no exception to that. It was fun to put faces to names that I'd seen ever since I started caching. Eight years of caching and we'd never bumped into each other before. Hopefully it won't be that long before we bump into each other again.

After signing the log for that last cache, we said out goodbyes. They still had to find the final and it was getting dark and we needed to be on our way as well. I put the final on my 5% list mainly because it represents the entire series of caches and was the best of the bunch. My one regret was not taking my camera. I'd opted to go light on this trip mainly because I knew it was going to be a long hike and it would have been tiring to carry it around all afternoon. Still, a picture of Gumby and Pokey would have been nice. I'm still trying to figure out why that blue bra was wrapped around a Joshua Tree out there near one of the caches. Bet that made you smile.

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