Thursday, December 31, 2009

Cache Partners Redux

I've almost been writing this blog now for almost two years, starting in January 2008.  Many of my caching partners have come and gone, but there are a couple who have decided to hang around me for a greater part of my caching career.  Chaosmanor has been hanging around me in geocaching the longest.  In fact, we met through Where's George? before either of us got involved in Geocaching.  It should be noted that Chaosmanor is a husband and wife team, but I usually associate Jim with the Chaosmanor handle.

Through the years, we've been on numerous geocaching adventures together.  Our first was on the western edge of Los Angeles County, where we hide a cache together near the spot where the television show The Lone Ranger, was filmed.  Since that time, we usually went out caching with each other several times a year, usually when I had time off.

There, for awhile, Memorial Day weekend we usually got together to cache, and then we started meeting during my spring break.  We are planning a trip down to San Diego over my spring break to find some caches as well as some virtual flags.  In the past year or so, we just tend to get together when the moment strikes and both of us can get away for some caching fun.

It's really interesting to note that, although we do have different belief systems about a great many things, there are still many more things that we have in common.  Many of our silly hobbies that we play, we share a common interest in, so we tend to get along very well.  I enjoy his company and consider him one of my friends.

Yesterday was supposed to be a hiking day for us, but with the rain, we decided that we'd probably stay dryer by hitting some of the suburban caches around my neck of the woods.   The best words to describe the two of us when we went out caching in the rain would have been, the odd couple.  There I was, wearing a hooded jacket and long pants and he's walking around in shorts and not jacket.  Later in the day, we ended up walking through a field, which was very damp.  By the time we had walked out of the field, I was wishing that I had worn shorts, as the bottom three inches of my pants were soaked.  But then again, with my hood, at least I could see, since my glasses were staying relatively dry.  Each of us has our own idiosyncrasies, but in the end, it worked for us.

We both were working with our iTouches for the first time on a longer cache run, so we got to pick each other's brains (boy, that's loaded) for ideas on how to use this new app we'd downloaded for the iTouch.  It worked well, because I think we both ended up learning some new things about the app which will help each of us as we continue to cache in 2010.

As always, I look forward to the next time I can cache with Chaosmanor.  He's enjoyable company and we have a variety of different interests that always keeps the conversation running throughout the day.  Happy New Year to everyone.  May 2010 be better than the previous year.

Pictures were taken at the following geocaches:
SwitchBACK! - by WestwardHo
Mojave Green Travel Bug Motel - by The Dananator

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Sunday, December 27, 2009

Vasquez Rocks

Just after New Year's, I'm planning a caching trip with one of my caching buddies to Vasquez Rocks Park.  It's located in the foothills of the high desert off of the 14 freeway.  Basically, it's in between the Lancaster/Palmdale area and the San Fernando Valley.  We were out there three weeks ago and had a great time, dodging muggles and finding a variety of caches.  It was there I ended up breaking my PDA near the first cache we found.

When we got there, the place was teeming with muggles and we weren't sure how many caches we were going to get.  I think most people, myself included, have visions of grandeur when going out caching.  We figure we have this many hours and we're going to get this many caches.  Vasquez Rocks Park has 18 caches in it, so I figured we'd get them all.  Well, with the muggles, we only got half as many.

Part of the problem was we spent an inordinate amount of time trying to find an access to one cache which was up on the rock formations.  At least I think it's up on the formation.  We never did get a good fix on it.  After several attempts, we gave up on that one and headed over to another one which we found.  It was there I discovered the PDA malfunction and I thought our day was really going to be cut short, but we improvised a way to access cache pages, so it was all good again.

Once we had that figured out, we had a new plan of action.  One of our goals was a three digit cache, Between a Rock and a Hard Place.  This cache had been placed there in April 2001.  It was a large ammo can and was easily found.  I always enjoy finding these old caches, since they're usually large ammo cans.  I often wonder how they could have survived that long.  The likely reason is most are placed well off the beaten track away from muggles.  This one appeared to be near a well traveled trail which made its longevity that much more surprising.  Needless to say, we enjoyed finding such a "old" cache.

After finding Between a Rock and a Hard Place, we worked our way downhill away from it, making an arc curving gently from the south over to the northwest and back to our starting position.  This kept us away from most of the muggles in the park who were to the west of our location for most of our hike through the park.  We discovered early on, we had stumbled upon a large orienteering workshop/convention type of gathering.  The organizers said the orienteering national championships were going to be held the next day at the park.  

There were several times when we ended up crossing paths with the orienteering participants, which caused us some concern as we didn't want to compromise the cache hides.  One cache hide was near where some judges were stationed, but we ended up being shielded nicely by the juniper bush the cache was hidden in.  One other cache was within fifty feet of one of the orienteering stations, but no one appeared to be watching us at the time we made the cache grab and I've noticed that the cache in question has been found since we found it, so apparently, none of the orienteers accidentally discovered the cache.  Or if they did, they decided to leave it alone, which also speaks highly of the organization.

At one point on our hike, we ended up on what looked like a fire road.  Up in the foothills and mountains of Southern California, these are quite prevalent, so it wasn't surprising to have one here on the edge of the park.  As we walked along the road, heading for one of the caches, we realized that we were walking along the Pacific Crest Trail.  This was a nice bonus to the day, as in my mind at least, it's always fun to walk along a 2600 mile trail.  You don't find too many trails that are longer than that.

Our last cache of the day was located at the north entrance to the park and it was an earthcache.  We were treated to a variety of different geological formations within the park along a geology walk at that point.  I took some pictures and we had to post a picture of us near the Vasquez Rocks identifying what kind of formation the Vasquez Rocks were.  You can see from my picture the multitude of cars parked there for the orienteering gathering.

On the second we'll be back out there again, trying to get the other half of the caches we missed the last time.  Hopefully, our visions of grandeur will be large enough that we'll end up getting all of the caches this time around.  If not, I guess that gives us an opportunity to come back again in the future.

Pictures were taken at or near the following geocaches:
Vasquez Rocks Natura Area Park - by scott_n_roni
Vasquez Rocks Home (year:1850) - by fishingisfun
Vasquez Rocks Earthcache - by supertbone

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Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas musings

Tomorrow, my family will be at our house to celebrate Christmas.  I'm looking forward to seeing my sister who's been living either out of state (South Carolina) or out of the country (Hungary) for the past several years.  She keeps saying that we need to visit her in Hungary.  Yeah, with two kids in college right now, that's not financially possible, but maybe sometime in the future if she and her husband are still there.

Today, I went caching for the first time since December 5th.  As I've noted before, those two weeks of vacation is rather deceiving since the first week is all dealing with the prep work leading up to the "Big Day."  Afterwards, there's lots of down time, time for caching.  I've been caching for almost 9 years now and I have never been caching on any December 21st, 22nd, 23rd, 24th or 25th, until today.

I had everything on my "to do" list done and I decided that I needed a little walk, so I walked up the street for about a mile and found a cache just on the other side of the freeway from my house.  I met a student of mine who's grandfather owned the strawberry patch on the corner near where the cache was hidden.  We had a pleasant chat and then I continued on to find the cache.  I passed several houses that were decorated in lights for the season.  The one pictured has a TV situated alongside their driveway and they play the movie It's a Wonderful Life about three times a night.  I watched it this afternoon in the comfort of my family room with my daughter and son.  To each his own I guess.  I think, if I get up early tomorrow morning before everyone else, I might try to find a cache tomorrow as well.

Merry Christmas everyone.  Happy Birthday Dad.

Pictures were taken at or near the following geocache:
Trick or Treat - Smell my Foot - by Maddmaxxawr

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Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Cruel Month

It is December again.  As a school teacher, December promises some time off, to relax.  After all there are two weeks at the end of the month that we have off.  I could go geocaching a lot, it appears.  Wrong.

December is one of those months that tricks you into thinking you have two weeks off.  On the contrary, it's really only one week off.  Sometimes it's more, depending upon when Christmas Day falls in the first week.  With it falling on a Friday this year, there's only one week.

I keep a spreadsheet of all things geocaching, just because I like playing around with numbers.  I have been caching for almost 9 years now and I have never been caching on December 21st.  And, if you want the full story, I have never been caching on the 22nd, the 23rd, the 24th or the 25th.  Yet, I keep thinking to myself that I can get out during the week before Christmas and find some geocaches.  Nope.  It's not going to happen this year either more than likely.  I've already lost the 21st this year and it's raining today, so the 22nd isn't looking good either right now.

I know some of your are thinking, "What, he doesn't like to cache in the rain?"  Not really, plus I have other things that still need to get done before the family descends upon our house this year.  And that's OK, I just need to remember next year and not even try to make plans, because they probably won't work anyway.

And the funny thing is, I've been itching to go out and cache since my last caching adventure on December 5th.  At the first cache find of the day, my PDA bit the dust.  You can see from the poor picture, that it's pretty much toast.  I have no idea how that happened, although I can theorize about it.  It doesn't really matter since it's beyond repair.  Looking for a new PDA ended quickly.  It's very difficult to find a stand alone PDA nowadays.  Most are couple with cell phones.  I don't need a new cell phone.

But, I found an interesting application for my iTouch that I think is going to work very well.  Unfortunately, this cruel month hasn't allowed me to get out and really put the new app through its paces yet.  It'll happen, just not this week.

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Sunday, December 13, 2009

Soledad Canyon

Driving through Soledad Canyon last weekend was an enjoyable experience for a variety of reasons.  The canyon runs basically eastward from the 14 freeway toward Acton, California.  As one nears Acton, the road starts to bend towards the northeast and continues that direction until it connects back up with the 14 freeway as it makes its way north toward Palmdale and Lancaster.  When we got to Acton, we turned north in town and went back up to the 14 by a different route since we were heading back home after our trip through Acton.

An active railroad right of way also runs parallel with the canyon road through the canyon.  There were several caches along the road that had train themes to it, including a tunnel view cache.  We heard and saw two trains go through the canyon while we were caching, but unfortunately, we were not in a good position to get decent pictures of either one.  In fact, we missed a trail going through the tunnel view cache by a matter of five minutes.  We kept hoping to see another train, and we eventually did, but the cache we happened to be near at the time didn't put us in a good position to train spot.  Sometimes caching is like that and we accepted it.

The seasons in Southern California are relatively delayed as opposed to other areas of the country.  We actually have two big blooming seasons, one in the springtime and one in the fall.  Our fall colors (what we have of fall colors) usually happen in late November/early December lasting into the new year.  It's finally getting cold enough at night that the trees are starting to drop their leaves in force.  I have a silver maple tree in my back yard and while it doesn't have any leaves on it now, most of them were knocked off by several good winter rainstorms that came through this area over the past week.  I would imagine the picture of the tunnel view would look something a little different this week with some of those trees being a lot more barren, leaf-wise, after this last series of storms.

The road we traveled on had several old bridges on it.  We were in a canyon, so we crossed Soledad Creek several times and also crisscrossed the railroad tracks in certain areas as well.  I kept looking for benchmarks along the way and I found a couple, but nothing that was in the geocaching benchmark system to log.  With the railroad tracks in play in the canyon, we both suspected that the benchmarks were probably tied to the tracks in some way and after getting home and doing a little bit of investigating, it became obvious that many of the benchmarks in the canyon were indeed along the tracks and not along the roadway.

The bridges we did cross were old enough they were dated.  I can remember growing up, the sidewalks had dates on them in several places.  The company that poured the cement would put some free advertising into the sidewalk along with the date the sidewalk had been poured.  I hadn't seen this type of dating in a long time, as the other areas I've lived in were newer neighborhoods and the practice seems to have been abandoned over time for some reason.  The neighborhood I live in now does have dated sidewalks however, since it's an older established neighborhood.

Bridges seem to have this same kind of dating system too.  The company that built the bridge didn't put their name on the bridge, but at least a date could be seen on several of the one we crossed.  One appeared to have been replaced as the bridge itself looked to be of a newer type of bridge, but the piers on which the bridge rests seemed to be the original pilings. Again, I found a benchmark near this one, but it was a small one and not listed in the system.  The one that was listed in the system near this spot, was down on the railroad tracks.  And so it goes sometimes when you're looking for benchmarks.

As I noted in one of my previous logs, the road was busy last week. There was an accident on the 14, so there were lots of cars using the canyon road as an alternate route to get around the backup on the freeway.  Since we didn't get all of the caches in the canyon, we plan to go back in the future.  Hopefully, the road will be a little more peaceful.

Pictures were taken at or near the following geocaches:
Train Tunnel View - by Yosemite John and Debbie
Thirties Train Tunnel - by Yosemite John and Debbie
Bridge to Shambala - by Yosemite John and Debbie

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Friday, December 11, 2009

Seeing Red

One of the aspects that I so love about geocaching are the surprises that pop up from time to time along the way.  This past Saturday, I went caching at Vasquez Rocks Park (which I'll expand upon in another blog) and then into Soledad Canyon.  Soledad Canyon would have been a quiet trip following railroad tracks that day except for the accident along the 14 freeway, which funneled a lot of extra traffic onto Soledad Canyon Road.  So much for a little quiet, but otherwise, it was a good trip finding caches here and there.

One of the spots along the way was a small micro cache and it wasn't so much the cache that was a surprise as it was a fairly easy find.  It's what was at the cache that made this one interesting.  We'd stumbled upon a graveyard of fire trucks from different parts of Los Angeles County.  My friend, 3blackcats, spotted a truck from the city of Pomona where she works in amongst all the other trucks that were parked there.  It looked like the county just stores the trucks out there and gets parts as needed, although it seemed like a pretty out of the way place for most of Los Angeles County to store the parts for fire trucks.

We parked near the entrance to the lot, then walked along the road back to the cache, taking pictures along the way.  With all of the signs stating "NO TRESPASSING" there was no way we were going to go in and among the trucks.  At the cache site, we'd just extracted the cache from the hiding spot, when a muggle came walking up the road toward us.  This was a very large man who was obviously one of the caretakers of this lot and he was wondering what we were doing.

Caught red handed, we had to confess we were geocachers.  He spotted the cache and said geocaching about the same time we said geocachers, so he knew about the hobby, saying one of his relatives participated in it.  He was more concerned about us possibly trespassing because he said that there had been several other people who'd spotted the trucks and wanted to get a closer look, going over the fence, by the warning signs just to get a better look at the trucks.  When we assured him we had no such desires he finally relaxed and became a little more congenial.

Since we were done, we walked back to our car together, chatted a little more and went on our way.  Perhaps we've earned another convert to the hobby, since he seemed to be genuinely interested in what we were doing and we were fairly enthusiastic about it as well.

Pictures were taken at or near the following geocache:
Seeing Red? - by Yosemite John and Debbie

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Sunday, December 6, 2009


Hiking in the Redwoods is usually an enjoyable experience.  Most of the time when Chaosmanor and I were hiking, I kept thinking about the Lord of the Rings books by J.R.R. Tolkien.  Hobbits like mushrooms and they will do just about anything to get a mushroom.

When we were hiking, there were signs announcing that it was mushroom season and apparently, there were lots of people who harvested them.  I'm not an expert on mushrooms, so I'll partake of ones that I can purchase in my local grocery store.  I can also remember my first college roommate harvesting mushrooms but for an entirely different purpose.  We went to school at Humboldt State University and the area had lots of mushrooms, including several psychedelic "shrooms."  To each his own, but at that time I didn't understand the attraction of mind altering substances, nor do I really understand the need to partake of any today.

I prefer to look at plants for their intrinsic beauty.  Yes, I believe even mushrooms have an aesthetic value to them.  These were just some of the ones we saw along the trail while on our hike north of Santa Cruz.  Interestingly, although there were signs announcing mushroom season, we saw very little evidence that the locals were harvesting the mushrooms.  I was also somewhat surprised at the amount of mushrooms that were growing out of the bark of some of the trees.

Yes, I know they are part of the decomposition needed in the forest and although they usually don't work very well on Redwoods per sé, since redwood trees have so much tannin in them that they decompose at a very slow rate.  The fungi does help improve the soil by helping decompose other plants that have died.  The one picture I really enjoyed was the one that included the banana slug.  I hadn't even noticed the slug until after I got home and downloaded the picture on to my computer.  As a size perspective, I figure that banana slug was about 6 inches in length.

I'm not sure where this one is going.  I actually just wanted to share some of the pics from that hike and figured this would make a decent subject.  Please enjoy.

Pictures were taken at or near the following geocaches:
Rising Stump Cache - by Chickasaw of ynots4
Down By The (Fall) Creek - by iwikepie and company

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Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Monarch's Rest

In addition to rectifying an old DNF, chaosmanor and I found several very interesting caches.  One of the ones that will stick out in my mind will be Monarch's Rest.  When we were planning our route, we were basing the route around getting some of the virtual flags that both of us like to collect at GeoVexilla.

Because we were headed towards Cambria, along California's central coast, we would be traveling along either the 101 or Hwy 1 depending upon where we were going to be in any particular segment.  We'd been traveling along the 101 for awhile and were headed over to Pismo State Beach which fronts along Hwy 1, sort of where the two roads join up.  Pismo State Beach is one of the major wintering grounds for the Monarch butterflies.  What better spot for the Monarch's to rest than along the El Camino Real, The King's Highway.

There's a virtual cache at the spot that you're only supposed to be able to log during the winter months because that's when the Monarchs are there.  When I was planning this route, I happened to see this cache on the map and thought it would be interesting to visit.  It was also wintering season, so there was the bonus of getting one of those yellow smileys that we geocachers love to get.

When we got there, there was an interpretive session going on by one of the docents, but we chose to wander the paths, to discover the Monarchs all by ourselves.  Immediately, we spotted one sitting by itself on a eucalyptus tree.  As we walked, I could see one flying through the trees, but we weren't seeing a large clusters that I'd heard about so I was a little disappointed.  I'd seen a Monarch once in Kings Canyon National Park, but I was hoping to see some of the wintering behavior.

As we hiked along the backside trail, we didn't see anything other butterflies, so we decided to go back up and walk along the main trail.  Both of us enjoyed the solitude of the lower trail as there weren't any other people along that trail.  And for good reason because we realized our error as soon as we got up to the main trail where the multitudes of other people were.  Hundreds upon hundreds of butterflies were clustered in the eucalyptus trees.

I think what was really impressive about the display was not the butterflies, but the quietness of the people in the grove.  It was almost like they were entering a shrine or church of some kind.  Even small children, upon seeing the butterflies, opened their mouths in wonder, but there wasn't a lot of the screaming and inconsiderate behavior that we commonly find in other areas where it really should be quieter.  It was refreshing to see and hear.

Geocaching continues to bring me to these kinds of places, places that I either didn't know about, or were possibly off the beaten track where I would normally go.  I very rarely get to travel in the fall or winter due to my work, but because my school was off the entire week of Thanksgiving, I had the opportunity to discover this area.  I'm glad that I saw this particular cache on one of the geocaching maps.

Pictures were taken at or near the following geocache:

Monarch's Rest - by Jon & Miki (Adopted by Scooterman)

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