Monday, April 26, 2010

Old friends, new geocachers?

This past weekend, I was fortunate to spend some time with some old and dear friends of mine.  I'd reconnected with some via Facebook recently and one of the women had organized a mini high school reunion for Saturday.  There were several people there that I wanted to see again, so I sent an RSVP to her and showed up.

One of the first people I saw was a man who I had worked with very closely on the yearbook staff our senior year in high school.  The first thing he wanted to talk about was this geocaching thing that I did.  I explained the concept  to him and told him there was a geocache right outside the front door to the restaurant where we were having the reunion and that I'd probably be trying to find it later.  He told me he definitely wanted to be part of the find for that one.

Another woman, also from the yearbook staff, expressed interest as well and as the afternoon ran down, the three of us went out in the courtyard of the establishment and started the hunt.  I showed them my GPSr, told them how it worked and what we were probably looking for.  We were getting a lot of signal bounce because we were in a courtyard with two story buildings around us, but told them that was part of the game sometimes.

We eventually narrowed our search area down, thought about the clue, checked in a couple of places until my first friend pointed out something that matched up directly with the clue.  We went over and checked it out, he got down and checked underneath, but didn't see the cache right away, so I went and checked it out and had the cache in hand.  In his defense, it was hidden pretty well and I had to feel for it rather than see it.  We looked over the contents of the cache and I explained the trading ethics of geocaching that if you take something, you leave something of equal or greater value.

Then, I realized that I didn't have my pen with me, so we took it back inside where I signed the log and we decided to take a picture with the cache.  Both of my friends were intrigued with the concept of the hobby and I may have created a couple of new players to the game.  We shall see, but I have to say it definitely will be fun to see their names in log books later on.

The day was a very enjoyable day of food, friends and fun.  I'm planning on attending more of these impromptu gatherings in the future.  Who knows, perhaps they'll lead to more geocaching experiences with my friends from high school.  That would be fun.

Picture was taken near the following geocache:
Fountains Are Cool (Metrocenter) - by FishfulThinking

Profile for Webfoot

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Spring is starting to spring

In Southern California, we seem to be having a delayed spring this year.  Granted, our seasons are not the normal seasons that most people would associate with the traditional spring, summer, fall and winter type seasons.  Winter is the rainy season.  In the past two days, my rain gauge in the back yard has registered slightly over a third of an inch.  That doesn't seem like much, but for a desert, it's a goodly amount of rain.

We've had some warm spring days, but we've also had some unseasonably cold days mixed i there as well.  The overnight low yesterday was 39˚.  For Southern California, I can tell you, that's a Three Dog Night.  The cold has kept some of the flowers under wraps a little bit longer than usual, although some were making an appearance last weekend when we were out in the desert.  I don't think the peak of flower production has hit yet, although it seems close.

Getting back to seasons.  I think in Southern California, summer starts in late June and continues well into September, when it starts to cool down.  "Real" fall, happens usually in December.  The deciduous trees need that nice cold weather which we don't really get until after Thanksgiving for them to drop their leaves.  Winter is our rainy season from December to March, but this year, it's obviously leaked into April.  Spring happens anytime between February to June, depending upon the amount of rain.  We actually get a second flowering season in the fall as well after we get some monsoonal rain during August.  Allergy sufferers get hit twice each year.

With really wet winters, and this is above average (slightly above 20 inches of precipitation with 15 inches being "normal"), although not extreme, we'll expect to see more and more flowers, which will bloom and die quickly once the heat starts in.  Seeds will be spread everywhere and next year might even bring a bigger explosion of color.  Hiking on the trails right now should be very enjoyable.  They'll be dry in a couple of days and the flowers should be just about right.  It's a good time to be out and about.

Pictures were taken at or near the following geocaches:
BIG BURL - by Big Eagle
The Pit Stop - by Dah Mooser and MsPea

Profile for Webfoot

Monday, April 19, 2010

Desert Rats

There are a lot of people who enjoy the solitude of the desert and many of them have bought parcels of land out there where they can enjoy that solitude.  People who live out in the desert, in my opinion, are a different breed of people.  The image that one can conjure up of a desert rat, a hermit living out a meager life away from all company and human contact is an easy one for most people to picture in their minds.

Every now and then, when I go geocaching out in the desert, I'll come across a small house, or possibly a trailer of someone who wanted to get away from it all.  Obviously, geocaching has brought the "all" to them, and thus their solitude is sometimes intruded upon.  Other times, it's possible just to see hints of the desert rat's life.  If they really want their solitude, they can erect a fence around their plot of land.  Good fences make good neighbors, even if the nearest neighbor is miles away.

We encountered a couple of these out in the desert recently, but my favorite was the Leapin' Lizard Mine.  That's what it was called, although I suspect that the owner had placed that sign out there more as another barrier to keep people away from their sanctuary.  The dangers of abandoned mines and open shafts are kept in the forefront of most people who go exploring in the desert.  On a recent hike, we saw several mine tailings on the side of the hill we were walking next to.  The open mine shaft was also sometimes easily discerned.  We found a pit, surrounded by chain link fence.  I made sure the Tadpole kept his distance from that one.

The Leapin' Lizard Mine was a large plot of land that we encountered while hiking the Groundspeak Series.  There was a chain link fence around the entire claim and the gate had multiple signs on it warning us to keep out.  As far as I was concerned, that's usually what a fence signifies out here.  Keep Out.

The owner also had a sign indicating that the enclosed area was a wildlife sanctuary for desert fauna, particularly rattlesnakes and desert tortoises.  I think that's a very noble cause.  I had a desert tortoise (permitted) living in my back yard.  I feel like I'm helping an endangered species ward off possible extinction.  As we continue to encroach on these animal's homes, their living spaces shrink and we'll see less and less of them in the wild.  I've never seen a desert tortoise in the wild.  The one in my back yard can't be returned to the wild, as that is against the law, but I can own it as long as I have a permit for it.  And so it goes.

But I digress.  My real objection to this fence isn't that it isn't necessary.  If the person wants to erect a fence, that's fine.  If they want to place a couple of warning signs on the fence telling people to keep out, that's fine too.  I just think this person went a little bit over the top with the signage.  The neighborhood watch sign, was the icing on the cake in my opinion.  There are neighbors out there who are watching this little fenced in piece of property?  I seriously doubt that particular sign is going to cause anyone to think twice should they want to enter the property and if anything, it makes a mockery of the entire situation.  But then again, the thought process of someone who lives out there like that isn't something that I really understand.  I guess he and I will have to disagree on what's effective on this one.

Pictures were taken at or near the following geocache:
Groundspeak Series - Stealth - by HDGC

Profile for Webfoot

Monday, April 12, 2010

Old caches

Today, I was looking at my profile and some of the stats that I have posted there.  I don't expect many people to look at it.  I keep the stats there mainly as a convenient way of looking over things that I want to keep track of in certain areas.  For instance, I have the oldest caches that I've found in one list.  20 caches, all of which are three digit caches, except the last one. Many of them are on my top 5% list.

Interestingly, I think almost 75% of the caches in this list are still around.  That's a pretty good record, in my opinion for 9 year old caches.  Of the caches listed above, there's only one that's not in California (West of Work #4), which is to be expected since most of my caching happens in California.  Only six of the caches on that list were placed before I started geocaching.  I'm wondering whether I'll be able to find some that predate Wilderness Park Cache, the first cache on the list and also the oldest cache I've ever found.

My first cache was hidden about two weeks after the Manzanar Virtual Cache was hidden and it's still out  there as well.  It gets about two or three finds a year, mainly because it's in a rather remote area up in the mountains.  Most of my caches are like that, requiring a hike to get to and so they don't get many finds.

Profile for Webfoot

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Black birds, barrels and butterflies

For the most part, the desert seems to be a pretty barren place.  When one thinks of the desert, usually one thinks of drifting dunes, camels and not much life.  Contrary to what people think about deserts, California's desert has a high degree of life.  Plant life, though scattered is plentiful.  Cactus are around and there are animals, be they elusive.

Sometimes the animals almost come to you, usually it's the flying animals, the butterflies and birds.  On a hike in the desert recently, we spotted a raven on top of a Joshua Tree.  Actually, we heard it first, probably angry at us for intruding upon its territory.  We spotted it, then immediately, noticed a second call.  I thought that the second one would also alight on the Joshua Tree, but the first took off quickly after the second and they soared across the desert floor together, looking for another place away from the intruders.

Springtime brings out the flowers in the desert.  Driving north this weekend, we saw the wildflowers on the hillside in full color.  This was not the desert per sé, but I'm sure the desert this weekend would be in similar fashion.  When we'd been out in the desert a couple of weeks ago, the flowers had just been about two or three weeks from being in full splendor.  Several barrel cactus would have been especially pretty with a ring of flowers around each barrel.

In late afternoon, we spotted a butterfly looking for a place to bed down for the night.  There was a slight breeze which probably hampered its ability to find a suitable spot to grab hold for the evening.  I enjoy watching butterflies and will, if given the chance, take pictures of almost any butterfly that will pause for even a moment on a nearby branch.  The coloring on this butterfly was a little different than what I'd seen in the past, so I was naturally excited about taking a picture.

Once if finally settled down and found a branch, we approached it cautiously, for fear of disturbing it and having it fly away.  It appeared that it definitely wanted to bed down for the night as it had its wings closed up tight.  I got a couple of pictures of it, but it wasn't going to show us the top part of its wings which would make identification difficult, even with the glimpses that we'd gotten while it was flitting about.

Still, after looking at the pictures, I was pretty sure we'd seen a Desert Marble Butterfly of the genus Euchloe lotta, but it could also be a California Marble.  As noted above, there is some uncertainty because it wouldn't cooperate with us and show us the top part of its wings, but that's sometimes the way it is in the real world.

Pictures were taken at or near the following geocaches:
Groundspeak Series - Stealth - by HDGC
Groundspeak Series - Lifeline - by HDGC

Profile for Webfoot

Saturday, April 3, 2010


The game where everyone would look at the clouds and tell everyone else what they saw is popular, even today.  Imagination never stops and I happened upon something on one of my hikes out into the desert.

Simulacra, as defined by the Waymarking site,  are inanimate objects, usually stones, rock walls, old tree trunks, plants, patches of peeling paint, rust spots and so on that have uncanny resemblances to inanimate things.  I came across one of these while out hiking, took pictures of it, yet didn't have the presence of mind to take some geographic coordinates.

The first time I became away of Simulacra, was just after Waymarking became its own separate entity.  I had been looking through some of the different categories, trying to get a sense of what the entire site was about when Simulacra caught my eye.  I had one in mind right away.  I was pretty sure there had been a locationless cache for Simulacra and my boys and I had spotted a tree that had a trunk shaped in what looked like an old man with a flowing beard.  Since The Lord of the Rings movies were in theaters at this time, we fancied the old man to be Gandalf the wizard.

We never went back camping to that part of California before they shut down the locationless sites and moved them all over to Waymarking, so that was one of those that got away.  Another one that got away was one that I spotted while out walking the Groundspeak Series of geocaches that Chaosmanor and I found on the 13th and 20th of last month.  There was an old dead gnarled Joshua Tree lying in the river bed.  As I approached it, I kept looking at it and thinking where have I seen that before?

Then it hit me that it looked very similar to one of those pictures that have been posted about the Loch Ness Monster.  Up close, it wasn't so apparent, but farther away, it certainly looked like Nessie until I walked to the other side.  Then it looked like Sebulba from the movie The Phantom Menace of STAR WARS fame.  For those uninitiated, Sebulba was a champion pod racer who'd stop at nothing to win.  In other words, he cheated.  He finally met his match halfway through this movie when a young Anakin Skywalker beats him.  As he crashes and burns out in the Tatooine desert, his famous last words are "Poo Doo."

Anyway, this particular dead Joshua Tree looked like the profile of Sebulba.  I took pictures, but forgot to get coordinates for the Simulacra.  I'd have to be very lucky to find a way back out to the same spot again so I could get the coordinates and thus, waymark it in the Simulacra category.  I guess it will just have to another waymark that got away from me and I'll let you decide which way it was looking when I saw Nessie and which was it was looking when I saw Sebulba.

Pictures were taken at or near the following geocache:
Groundspeak Series - Charter Member - by HDGC

Profile for Webfoot