Friday, November 27, 2009

Rectifying a DNF

In the past, I've written about some of my Did Not Finds (DNFs). Many, I've never found and that's all right, while others, I've gone back and finally found. This week, I was able to scratch another one off of my DNF list.

Late last week, I suggested to my friend Chaosmanor that we might be able to take a short road trip up to Santa Cruz for some caching.  My son, who's attending school in Santa Cruz, was getting ready to start his Thanksgiving break and I figured it would be enjoyable to have someone else along for the ride up to pick him up.  We finalized plans and I took off early Tuesday morning to pick up Chaosmanor who lives in Ventura County to the west of me.

Once on the road, we ended up caching up until darkness set in, then we took a more direct route to Santa Cruz.  The following morning, we'd planned a hike in Fall Creek Park, just north of Felton, which is about 10 miles north of Santa Cruz.  One of the caches in that park is IXL, a mystery cache that I've attempted to find twice in the past.  It's not like I've been actively trying to get this cache, but both times we've camped in the area, we've tried for the cache and not succeeded.  This time, hopefully, would be different.

As we started down the trail, Chaosmanor got the necessary numbers from the signs that would get us to the next waypoint.  I already knew where we needed to go to find this cache, but he wanted to go through the process of the mystery, which was fine with me.  On the way, we stopped and found a very nice letterbox hybrid cache and another smaller cache hidden in a redwood stump.  Then, like it was 7 years ago, we were near the spot where IXL was hidden.

As Chaosmanor inputted the correct coordinates into his GPSr and told me what they were, he said, "Wow, you were really close last time."  Yep, that's what was frustrating about it.  In my defense, I had a grand total of 77 finds by the end of 2003, so I wasn't what you might consider an experienced cacher, although I had been caching for the better part of three years.  I was more of a casual cacher, getting a couple per month, or maybe one on a weekend.  Now, the "geosenses" started tingling.  I suggested, based upon the hint, which had been there in 2002, that we try over there, a spot we had never tried on my two previous forays for this cache.

We ended up over what was now looking promising for ground zero for the cache and started looking.  I struck out where I was looking and Chaosmanor struck out where he was looking, so we switched spots.  At this point, we'd both passed about 3 feet from the cache.  I tried where he'd been looking, then tried another spot farther up the hill.  Striking out there, I turned around to make my way back down the slope when I realized what I'd been missing all this time.  I was looking at the hint on the cache page.  I was up too high.

Keeping the hint in mind, I worked my way back down the slope and just about when I got to the bottom of the slope, I spotted the hiding space, no more than about three feet behind Chaosmanor.  He'd been searching the same place I had.  We both had had our backs to the cache hiding spot.  It was plain as day, yet it blended in with the surroundings naturally, that experienced cachers, might miss it, which we had for awhile.

As I posted in my log for IXL
Price of a newer GPSr - $200
Extra supply of batteries, just in case - $5
Rectifying a 7 year old DNF - Priceless

Pictures were taken at or near the following geocache:
IXL - by Diana, Jim & Bryan

Profile for Webfoot

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Walk of Honor

The Tadpole and I headed up into the high desert again yesterday.  It was the first day of a 9 day vacation for me, and I wanted to get the last couple of quads in the desert that had still eluded me for the Los Angeles County Quadrangle Challenge cache.  We also stopped and found a very nice virtual in the city of Lancaster.  Although, this one wasn't in any quadrangle that I needed, it was a stop well spent.

I'd been here three years ago in the exact same spot with some other caching friends of mine. It was August and I remember it being hot, but that didn't stop us from enjoying the day.  We solved a mystery cache involving the Lancaster Public Library and found that cache.  One of the stops on the virtual we found yesterday is right outside the library entrance.  I'm at a loss as to why we didn't do this virtual back then, but for some strange reason, we didn't.

In actuality, that worked out for the good, since I was able to take my astronomy loving son up here where he could learn about some of the pioneers in the aviation industry as well as the early pioneers of NASA, probably before it was even called NASA.  Monuments to different pioneers line Lancaster Blvd. on both sides of the street, with information about various people who were instrumental in the testing of different aircraft.  Neil Armstrong was highlighted, as was Fred Haise one of the astronauts on Apollo 13.  Chuck Yeager and Jimmy Doolittle were both highlighted with monuments and murals on the sides of buildings along the street.

As we gathered the information needed to qualify for the find of the virtual cache, there was one monument that stood out.  This particular pilot shared our last name.  I pointed it out to the Tadpole and we both got a "Wow, that's cool" moment.  I wondered whether we could have been possibly related to the man, but most of my relatives came from the northern Indiana and Ohio area.  We were the first in my dad's family to move west.

The cache needed 7 specific bits of information.  After we'd walked the entire route, on both sides of the street, we realized that we missed the first bit of information.  Based upon where we'd found the other bits of information, we figured where that information should have been, so we walked back down there to check out the monuments again.

I told the Tadpole that we needed to be systematic on our approach to this one, so we started on one side and read through each monument.  It didn't take long to get the correct information this time.  We found it on the pilot who had the same last name as us.  We'd been both so interested in thinking about that aspect of the pilot, that we hadn't looked close enough at the rest of the information on the monument.  Needless to say, we got a good laugh out of that.

There was a bonus in all of this as well.  Because of our trip to get that last bit of information, we took a slightly different route to get back to the car.  At the base of a building near the entrance of an alley, we found a very nice looking benchmark.  We'd walked by it one other time, but for some reason, I spotted it this time.  That was a nice addition to an already enjoyable day with my son.

Pictures were taken at or near the following geocaches:
Aerospace Walk of Honor - by DoeWalking
Book Worm - by Team Perks

Profile for Webfoot

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Desert(ed) Buildings

When you cache out in the desert, you sometimes come across remnants of things that used to be.  In our case last week, we came across lots of different remnants.  We came upon buildings that were barely there, somewhat there and almost all the way there.  Chaosmanor hid a cache last week called, For the Birds?  There was some interesting foundations at the cache site that had us speculating what had been there.

There were foundations of several buildings on the site, which was just off the road.  I could make out a fence, with at least two gates.  The main foundation of some type of homestead was still visible, and what looked like a garage of some kind, perhaps a barn just on the other side of the fence from where the main house was.  It was fun to think about living out here in the desert and trying to survive.  We found what looked like a well, and also a bird bath perhaps, which is what inspired Chaosmanor to name his cache.

In another spot, we came across an old socialist camp started in the early part of the 20th century.  The camp lasted but 3 years or so before being abandoned because of water shortages.  Apparently, the founders had miscalculated the amount of water they would be able to get from a nearby stream and thus ran out of water.  Amazingly, in the short time the colony was flourishing they managed to build several large buildings.  Many of the buildings were dismantled and the materials were used elsewhere in this part of the desert, but enough of some of the buildings remain so that you can get a sense of what it might have been like out in the desert nearly 100 years ago.

At another cache site we found a large abandoned building.  We found the cache very quickly, but we stayed a lot longer taking in the building.  The owner of the cache speculated that it appeared to be a Grange Hall, but he couldn't find information to confirm that.  I speculated that it might have been an old church of some kind.  It gave me the impression that that's what it could be, but another finder a couple of days after us found an old Topo map which indeed showed it to be a Grange Hall for the area.

Spots like this are what bring me back to the desert.  Looking at the satellite photos gives you some kind of impression of an area, but when you actually get to at site, you really get a feel for what went on there.  The history of an area can sometimes be told by the stuff that gets left behind.

Pictures were taken at or near the following geocaches:
The Llano Del Rio Geocache - by Kit Fox
Mystery Building - by Obtuse

Profile for Webfoot

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Banged Up, Battered, & Bruised

I went out caching with Chaosmanor and the Tadpole on Saturday.  We didn't find nearly as many caches as we did on Veteran's Day, but it's not about the numbers, but about the quality of caches and the companionship that comes along with any caching trip with friends.

I found another neat spot to hide another cache.  I called it Banged Up, Battered, and Bruised mainly because of the cache container, an ammo can that I found at my nearby surplus store.  It had several dents, was heavily rusted on the inside of the cache and just looked pretty much used up as a decent ammo can.  Now as a cache container, almost anyone can do miracles with a couple of cans of spray paint.

I found a red jeep in another cache earlier in the day, so I decided to drop that into the cache as well.  It's just a short walk from the parking spot to the cache, but it was in a nice spot.  I hope it ends up lasting a long time out there.  Now I need to start working on my 30th, which I'm pretty sure will be a puzzle cache, with a hike.

Picture was taken near:
Banged Up, Battered, and Bruised - by Webfoot

Profile for Webfoot

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Dead Prophet

I went caching today with my good friend Chaosmanor out in the high desert north of my house.  We had a good day caching, spending many hours finding caches in several different quadrangles in pursuit of the Los Angeles County Quadrangle Challenge.  I'm not sure yet, as I haven't taken a real close look, but I think I was able to knock off 11 more quads towards the ultimate goal of that challenge.

I also hid another cache today, Dead Prophet.  It's a short hike into the desert to the base of a dead Joshua Tree to find a cammoed decon container.  I thought I'd found, a better spot for it about 200 feet south of where I ended up putting it.  While looking around that particular Joshua Tree, I noticed a large raptor's nest up in the crown of the plant.  I figured that it would be better to not disturb the nest, so the cache went where it is.  Maybe cachers will get lucky and see the raptor's when they're actually using the nest during mating season.

Today, being Veteran's Day, we honor all those who have served for our country in the armed forces.  My grandfather was a veteran of World War I fighting in Germany.  He also taught for a time at Annapolis, the Naval Academy.  I have a nephew serving on an aircraft carrier in the western Pacific.  Last I heard, he was in Singapore, but he's normally based out of Japan.  I would like to honor these two men today, and all other men and women who have served nobly for our country.  Thank you for our freedom.

Picture was taken at the following geocache:
Dead Prophet - by Webfoot

Profile for Webfoot

Friday, November 6, 2009

Cache Partners

I haven't been caching as much lately. Work has kept me busy, and with the Tadpole now in high school and running cross country there have been fewer opportunities to go out on a regular basis.  I had an opportunity to get some caching in this afternoon, since it's a Friday and I was without students today.  Teacher inservices tend to allow you out a little bit earlier than usual.  I didn't, mainly because I enjoy caching with other people a lot more than caching alone.

Tomorrow, the Tadpole and I will be doing some local caching.  It's the first time he and I have been out caching together since summer vacation I think.  It will be nice to get out and enjoy the outdoors a little with one of my caching partners.

My first caching partner was my other son.  When we first discovered caching, he was 10 years old.  He's now away at UC Santa Cruz enjoying his first year of college.  I have to assume he's enjoying it, since we've not heard much from him.  I rather would like to think that no news is good news, because he's the kind of kid who would be letting us know if things weren't going so well.

When we started geocaching, back in 2001, caches were hidden along trails away from civilization.  Hikes of 2 miles or more for one cache were common at the time.  I believe that's what appealed to him.  When we'd go camping, he was always the first one who suggested going on a hike somewhere.  Geocaching was a way to get us out on the trail around here.  We hiked in Chino Hills State Park and up into a canyon behind Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena.  We climbed to the top of a smallish hill in San Dimas to find a cache as well as in Schabarum Regional Park to the southwest of our house.

He enjoyed trading things at the caches.  Squirt guns, slime, whoopie cushions and anything else that you can imagine a boy would like, he'd want to take, so I made sure that I always had trade items with me that we could replace these treasures that we'd find in the cache.

Somewhere down the road, however, he grew up and put away those childish things.  His last camping trip was after his 7th grade year.  At the end of his 8th grade year, he decided that he wanted to go out for the cross country team in high school.  They practiced all summer and although the coach made allowances for family vacations, my son didn't want to miss any practice.  Running became his focus and so camping and geocaching were pushed to the wayside.

In fact, his thoughts on geocaching are, "that dorky thing that Dad does."  Perhaps in the the future, he'll change his mind about camping and caching.  Perhaps not, but I'll leave the door open anyway.  My daughter has expressed and interest in going camping with us again, so it's always possible he will too.  That would be nice.  This particular blog entry is dedicated to my middle son.

Pictures were taken at the following geocaches:
Old Mossy Cache - by OtisPug
ONT Travel Bug Ground Central - by Crims0ngh0st & AcjLady

Profile for Webfoot

Monday, November 2, 2009

Capture the Flag again

This weekend was a very enjoyable weekend.  My first trimester of school ended and because I had all my grades already done, all I had to do was bubble in the grades on our computerized form and turn them in this morning.  Needless to say, the weekend was mine to be had.

Saturday morning, early was devoted to rounding up all of the electronic equipment that either didn't work any more, or had outlived their usefulness in our household.  My wife's school was having a free e-Waste disposal that day, so it made for an easy and cheap way to get rid of a couple of excess monitors and other electronic stuff that had been sitting around the house for awhile.  After that, I decided to go out and find some virtual flags.

Some of you know that GeoVexilla is a virtual flag game that places random international flags virtually around the globe.  Each time you get within a 100 meters of a flag you score points for that flag.  When you find a flag, you generate a new set of five flags.  The first flag is worth 1 point, the second 2, the third 4, the fourth flag is worth 8 and the fifth and final flag is worth 16 points.  Eventually, the flags disappear off the map and are replaced randomly by other flags.  This particular weekend was a bonanza weekend for virtual flags near me as I was able to find six flags, worth anywhere from 1 to 16 points.

Two of the more interesting spots I found flags was on the top of a mini-mall in Long Beach.  The flag of Belize was perched on top of the roof of a Bristol Farms store.  I couldn't quite zero out on that flag, but was able to easily get within 100 meters, so I scored the one point.  That was the first time I've found a Belize flag, so it generated a set of flags for me.  Because of other flags that I've found in the past, I was able to move flags around and actually fill out the entire set that this particular flag generated, which gave me 31 points for a full set.  Of course, since I moved flags around, that created gaps in other sets, but I'll eventually fill those in as time goes on.

Another flag that I found this weekend was a Columbian flag which was flying high on a ridge overlooking an avocado farm near Temecula, CA.  I was able to take roads through an organic avocado farm, then walk up a short paved trail/road to get within scoring distance for this flag.  The views from the top of the ridge were fabulous.  From the looks of it, that particular spot looked to be very popular with the younger set, because of the debris of broken glass bottles that were rather prevalent on the road near the top.  At night, I'm sure the view would be even prettier with the twinkling lights of the city below in the valley.

That's one of the nice things that I enjoy about this GPS game.  Because the flags are randomly generated, there's some unknown quality built in to finding the flags.  It's not like geocaching where you know someone has been there.  With this game, it may not be possible to access a point, because of private property laws, or other restrictions.  Sometimes they end up being placed by the game's computer in the middle of a wilderness area with no accessibility.   Just in the last day, a new Bahamian flag has shown up in the Long Beach harbor.  It looks like the only way to score this one would be to take a boat into the harbor and sail over to the point.   It's the randomness that makes this game fun.

Pictures were taken at or near the following virtual flags:

Profile for Webfoot