Monday, September 28, 2009

Reset more than once

After taking my son up to Santa Cruz for his first quarter at college I had an entire day to leisurely drive home. I took the 101 south to Paso Robles, then took the 46 east over to the Central Valley. For those of you who are film buffs, or know the history of this road, the 46 is the road that the actor James Dean died on, back in September of 1955. Excess speed and a car turning left in front of him proved to be his undoing. There are monuments along the road dedicated to James Dean and I found a cache that day entitled James Dean's Last Ride.

At a spot just off the 46, I found a bridge that a cache was hidden near.  At first I thought the cache was going to be attached to the bridge, but after surveying the bridge, I realized that it was probably down below in the stream bed.  It was very hot that day and it was getting toward noon and I figured that with my low blood sugar and the fact that I was alone on this trip now, it probably wouldn't be prudent to expend much energy getting down to the cache and then climbing back up the embankment.  I suspect I'll be driving that route many times over the next couple of years, so I'm pretty sure I'll have other chances to get that particular cache.

I did notice a very nice benchmark on the bridge.  At first glance, I didn't expect it to be in the geocaching benchmark system since the benchmark was dated 1978.  I was even more convinced that this one wouldn't be in the system since the cache page for the cache under the bridge stated that the bridge had been washed out in 1996.

And yet, when I got home, I looked it up and found the benchmark in the system.  They reset the benchmark, hence the name of the benchmark.  Curiously, it appears as if this particular bridge has been washed out more than once since the description from 1978 states that it was reset in a newly constructed bridge and the owner of the nearby cache states the bridge was washed out again in 1996.  If all this were true, then this benchmark really does deserve the name of reset.  Either way, it's fun to reconstruct some of the history of the local area based upon finds like this.

Pictures were taken at or near the benchmark C617 Reset.

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Friday, September 18, 2009

Off to college

My middle child will be attending UC Santa Cruz this year. This weekend, I'll be driving him up and helping him move into his dorm. Then on Sunday, I'll come home alone. That's two at college and one in high school. Where did the time go?

I plan to do a little geocaching and probably some GeoVexilla flag capturing as well. I might drive down the coast through Big Sur and get that Alphabet Soup challenge cache. If the weather is good, it might be a really good time to go.

Sunday, September 13, 2009


Chaosmanor and I stumbled across Night Caching: The Tesla Experiment, while out caching back in August.  One of our local cachers, Losel2 made this particular cache his 4000th find about a week before we ended out in the same area.  

Unfortunately, I wasn't able to go with him when he made his milestone grab and so didn't get the full effect of this really intriguing cache.  Chaosmanor and I went during the day, got the gist of the cache, but didn't get the full effect.

In short, Nichola Tesla theorized that electricity could be conducted through the air and went about creating experiments to prove this.  This cache is placed under high tension wires in an effort to help the cache finder recreate a couple of Tesla's experiments.  We took a voltmeter and conducted our experiment, getting a slightly  higher reading for it after we touched the fence with the volt meter.   Using the voltmeter probably wasn't necessary, as all you had to do was touch the fence and you'd get a mild shock from the excess electricity coming from the wires to the chain link fence.  As you can see from one picture, the electrical wires hang fairly close to the ground.

When the gang that accompanied Losel2 on his 4000th came, they came at night, which was probably the better way to go about it. After coming home and logging the cache from our daytime excursion, I looked at some of the pictures in the gallery.  Impressive is one of the words I'd use.  Fluorescent light bulbs lighting up just by touching the fence are standard pictures there.

The one thing I've learned about geocaching is to always expect the unexpected.  Local cachers know their area best and show off the unique aspects of their area in creative ways.  Well thought out caches that take you to interesting areas you probably wouldn't even think twice about on normal days if you didn't understand geocaching help with the enjoyment of this hobby.  Had I not been a geocacher, I never would have stopped here.  It was a fence next to a dirt road.  There's lots of them out here in the desert.  But add an electrical field into the picture and you have science in action which makes for a learning experience.  Something like that makes my top 5% list every time.

Pictures were taken at or near the following geocache:
Night Caching: The Tesla Experiment - by KG6EAR & co-maintained by WindyMatters!

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Tuesday, September 8, 2009


In the past, I've written about the 58 California County Challenge.  This past weekend, Chaosmanor and I worked on two other challenge caches that we'd like to accomplish sometime in the near future.  The first is called Alphabet Soup.  It's a relatively easy challenge.  Find a cache beginning with each letter of the alphabet.  When Chaosmanor showed it to me, I figured, hey, not a problem.  And it really wasn't.  I read a little more closely and found out the caches had to be found after the date of publication for Alphabet Soup, July 30, 2008.

So I went back and checked and discovered I only needed an X cache.  Not bad I thought.  Chaosmanor came out the next weekend and we found a local cache near me beginning with the letter X and figured we were done with it.  The cache is up on the central coast of California between my house and where my son will be attending school.  A trip down Hwy 1 and I could get the cache.  When I was logging that last X cache, I discovered one flaw in my theory that I was done.  All the caches for the alphabet had to be placed before publication date.  This latest X cache had been placed in 2009 so it didn't count.  Fast forward to this weekend, and we found a cache down in Orange County beginning with the letter X.  Now, I'm ready to get Alphabet Soup.

The other challenge is a little more daunting.  Find a cache in each USGS quadrangle in Los Angeles County.  When we first decided to go for this one, I had almost half.  I got three more quads off of my map this weekend, El Monte, San Pedro and Long Beach.  All three of which I've already found caches in, but they didn't count because once again, they had been found before publication date for that particular challenge.  All of the rest of the quadrangles that I need are to the north of me in the mountains and deserts of Los Angeles County, much of which is on fire right now, so we'll see.  I had plans on making this one my 3000th find.  We'll see if that pans out or not.

The 58 county challenge cache I didn't work on this past weekend, but did work on while on our trip this summer.  Since I needed virtually all of the Northern California Counties, any finds up there would be gold for this challenge.  Ten counties later, I'm just 16 counties short of making the requirements for that challenge.  Next summer, the planned trip is up the eastern side of California to Lassen National Park and then south through the central valley to get the rest of the missing counties.  There is a GPS maze exhibit planned in Redding, CA for next summer, so that's also high on our priority list to see as well.  These next few months should be enjoyable from a caching standpoint.

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Sunday, September 6, 2009

Back from the dead

Yesterday, after a very enjoyable day caching with my friend Chaosmanor, I received an email.  Actually, I received a lot of emails, but there were three that were extremely intriguing.  All three were from Geocaching and all three dealt with a travel bug of mine called Carleen's Dirty Golf Ball.  I'd pretty much given up on Carleen's Dirty Golf Ball, mainly because it hadn't seen the light of day in over five years, so I was intrigued by the fact that I'm getting emails stating that geocacher bennet had grabbed the golf ball.

Bennet had found the golf ball in a cache, but not the cache the travel bug was listed to be in.  Bennet then virtually dropped the travel bug into the correct cache, then grabbed it again, so it would have the correct mileage on it.  Then bennet placed it into another cache yesterday.

Originally, the golf ball was supposed to go to a cache in Nebraska where Carleen would hopefully find it.  The golf ball had been silent for so long that I had to re-do the travel bug page since Carleen has since moved to Illinois.  I guess this means that you should never give up on your travel bugs.  You never know when they might just show up again.

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Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Wallace, Idaho

As noted in the previous log, we did some geocaching in Montana, then headed back to Couer d'Alene. Interstate 90 has some very scenic locations along it in the panhandle of Idaho, so we had ample opportunity to enjoy the outdoors as we looked for caches. One of our stops along the way, was in Wallace, ID, a small town, that obviously has become a tourist stop for vacationers to visit as they travel on the interstate.

Similar to the movie CARS, Wallace was bypassed by the interstate when it was created several decades ago. Unlike Radiator Springs in the movie, the town wasn't bypassed by miles, but rather by feet in elevation. Wallace is located in a narrow river gorge, with no way for the freeway to go anywhere except up, which is what happened. The interstate was built along the side of the canyon over the less populated part of the town. With several exits, tourists can get off with ease, visit the town for lunch or dinner, or perhaps the night, then quickly get back on the freeway to continue their travels.

The cache we found in Wallace was near the old train depot. Most of the tracks are now gone from this section of town. Looking at old photographs in the nearby museum, this particular train depot was a bustling building, serving both freight and passenger trains. Those days are now long gone as evidenced by the lack of track around the train depot.

The cache was an easy find with the name of the cache pretty much giving away its location, but it was still fun to find. After finding it, we noticed the depot was now a train museum, so we decided to pay the entrance fee and tour the facility. We also noticed a beautiful benchmark on the side of the building. Before touring the museum, I had to go back to the van and get the camera so I could document our visit to the benchmark. I took a couple of pictures and then we went inside to tour the museum.

The museum was small, befitting a small town that it was in, but it had a bunch of historical remnants from the lines that went through this area of the country. There was even a small model railroad exhibit that people could run free of charge, a very nice touch.  I found a picture upstairs in the museum of a train wreck that had been caused by a snow avalanche.  Snow had taken out a trestle, causing several railroad passenger cars to drop down into the gulch.   Amazingly, no one was killed in this avalanche and eventually after 11 hours, everyone of the passengers had been rescued.  I took a picture of that wreck and posted it as part of my log for that cache, since the picture was from a different angle than the cacher had posted on his cache page.

Upon arrival home, the fun began.  Well, I'm not sure it's fun, but it was interesting.  When I looked up closest benchmarks to the cache we'd found,  I found two that by all indications were supposed to be right on top of the cache.  That probably meant that there was a good chance that at least one of them was the correct benchmark for the one we'd found.  That, was not to be the case however.

Of the two benchmarks listed, this one appeared to be the most promising based upon the description on the benchmark page.   The description of the benchmark on the page states that this benchmark is set vertically in the south face of a brick  building (the train depot) 4.5 feet higher than the sidewalk. The benchmark was monumented in 1935.  That's where the confusion steps in, because the benchmark in the side of the depot is dated 1986.

There have been four cachers that have logged this benchmark as the one monumented in 1935.  None of them posted pictures.  Had they posted pictures, or at least looked at the benchmark page before logging, they would have realized that this benchmark is not the one in the description.  We already had our answer to the puzzle, because we'd toured the museum previously.  When the interstate came through, it was either destroy the train depot because it was going to be in the way of the bridge the freeway was going to be on, or move it.  Civic leaders decided on the latter and moved the building 200 feet west from its original position.  Whether the USGS decided to put a new benchmark in place at that time is unknown, but the original placement and description don't match.  You can actually see the new benchmark in the last photo on the right hand side of the building near the entrance to the museum.

There is also some geographic confusion.  Since both benchmarks are fairly close, there really isn't a way to designate how many feet they are apart from each other if they are less than a tenth of a mile away.  That means the database can say there's a benchmark right here, but it could be up to 528 feet away.  This means that cachers should be extra careful when logging benchmarks, otherwise they're posting bogus logs for benchmarks they're not really finding.  The benchmark information FAQ page indicates that one should try to take pictures of the benchmark, both a close up and one that places the benchmark in its surroundings.

For this reason, I don't log benchmarks that I find unless I've taken a picture of them at the time.  I've been on caching outings where we've stumbled across benchmarks, documented them and when we got home, found there were two and three others in the same area.  I know for sure that we probably walked right over one of them.  But, we didn't take a picture, nor even see it, so I won't log it.  And to be honest, I'm not sure why the logging of this particular benchmark, clearly the wrong one bugs me, but it does.  I guess I need to get this out of my system since it's just a game and everybody plays the game a little differently.

Pictures were taken at or near the following geocache:
The Cow Catcher - by thehobbler

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