Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Carry a big stick or a big stick carries.....

This past Saturday, two of the teachers I work with and I took 13 middle school kids to a Science Olympiad.   Over the course of the day, the kids, in groups of twos and threes, competed in various science competitions.  Overall, they came in 6th place and because of how they accounted for the different winners, the team qualified for the southern state competition to be held in about a month.

During part of the day, I also introduced about 11 of the kids to geocaching.  The high school where the competition took place is Riverside Poly High.  Those of you who are basketball fans, might recognize the high school as the one where professionals Reggie and Cheryl Miller played their high school basketball in the early 80s.  I wasn't aware of this until the evening awards ceremony was held in the gym, which is like a shrine to the two of them.

The high school is located off the 91 freeway and Victoria Avenue runs the length of the high school on its western side.  Victoria Avenue has been around as a graded road for almost 120 years, which in California years is ancient history.  There is a large middle median section in the road, with a dirt trail on it and lines of trees, most notably palm trees, especially at its northern end, just north of the school.

It was this northern end of the road that one student and I head to right after lunch.  He was one of the kids that didn't have a competition at this time and there were two geocaches, one about a third of a mile north of the school and the other about a third of a mile south of the school.  I figured in the time I had between the competition and the actual awards ceremony, we couldn't get all of the kids to both of them, so I went for the northerly one with only one student.

The cache was a small micro cache, one of those mini, log only, type of caches no bigger than your finger.  It was hidden on the side of a palm tree.  When we got over to the cache, we started looking around it and I spotted the cache pretty quickly, but decided to let my student also find it.  The startled look he gave was one of, "Oh my, is that really it?"  The cache itself wasn't really notable, but what made the site interesting was the history surrounding the site.

The palm tree had been planted in 1903, making it at least 107 years old, because the plaque at the base of the tree didn't indicate that it had been planted as a seed.  I was unaware that palm trees were that long lived.  What was also notable was the palm tree had been planted by our 26th President, Theodore Roosevelt.  This was probably on the same trip where he had visited the Grand Canyon and Yosemite National Parks.  Out side of a small, tombstone-like plaque at the base of the tree, there was nothing distinguishing about the tree that gave anybody a clue as to what had transpired there over 100 years ago.  Many cars drove by while we were standing there logging the cache and I wonder how many knew of the significance.  Probably very few.  It was an interesting history lesson.

A couple of hours later, I took 11 of the students south of the school in search of the other geocache hidden nearby.  I knew this one would be an easier find and would provide a good introduction to the hobby.  As we followed the GPSr toward ground zero, I got to explain geocaching to one of the parents who went on our walk plus several of the kids who happened to be close by.  Once we got to within 50 feet, I showed everyone where the geocache would probably be and explained our ethics that if one of us should find it, then he or she would just walk away and stand in the middle of the trail, so that others would have the chance.

It worked well, all the way until the end.  Several of the kids got a kick out of the last kid, who appeared to be staring right at the cache, yet didn't see it hanging on a branch or stick right at head level until he stepped back about a foot.  I commented that had the cache been a snake, it would have bit him.  He contradicted me by stating that if it had been a snake, it would have mocked him first, then bit him.  It was a lighthearted moment for all.

We took the cache out in the open so that all could see the contents, none of which interested anyone which didn't surprise me, but I was able to explain again the ethics of leaving more than you take.  They all seemed to get that part.  The cache was a small decon container, so I was able to drop a geocoin and a travel bug that I got on our trip to Stockton and Santa Cruz last month, so that worked out well too.

Several of the kids expressed an interest in doing this again, so I'll probably have the GPSr loaded with caches surrounding where we'll be competing come the beginning of next month.

Pictures were taken at the geocache:
Rushmore's Hand - by wife&mom

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Just John said...

Neat! Poly High is my Alma Mater, and I had no idea about that palm tree. I wonder how many other tidbits of history are sprinkled about the area...I recently drove along Victoria avenue (last summer) while visiting some family in the area, and was amazed at how much has changed in the area.

Webfoot said...

That's what I've always loved about geocaching. It gets you into your own back yard so to speak. I've discovered so many neat trails in the surrounding hills that I didn't know there except for geocaching.