Thursday, September 30, 2010

James Dean passed this way?

Fifty five years ago today, James Dean died.  I was reminded of that by an editorial on the Op-Ed page of the Los Angeles Times today.  I actually already knew about it, but the editorial nudged me a little.  He would have been 79 had he not been involved in that car crash along Hwy 46 east of Paso Robles.

Two weeks ago, I passed near the spot where he died coming home from Santa Cruz after dropping my son off for another year at college.  Hwy 46 is littered with all sorts of James Dean memorabilia.  The interchange where the crash occurred is called the James Dean Memorial junction.  There's a James Dean memorial and virtual cache just east of there.  The highway is called the James Dean Memorial Highway.

We in America have an interesting fixation about stars who die before their time.  Marylyn Monroe, Elvis, Michael Jackson and James Dean all seem to fit this bill.  It's hard to know where James Dean fits into this mix.  He made three films, died before two of them were released.  Most people, I think will remember his role in Rebel Without a Cause, staring two other young actors, both of whom died premature deaths, Natalie Wood and Sal Mineo.  If you've never seen this film, it's a good one to watch, especially if you want to learn about teenage angst of the 1950s.

Giant gives you a glimpse of Dean and how he might have looked had he survived.  Giant is a big set piece set in Texas during the oil rush.  Rock Hudson and Elizabeth Taylor fill out the cast of stars.  Dennis Hopper also makes an appearance.  However, I think Dean's best work, is in the film East of Eden.  I can remember seeing this one in college, after having seen the other two several times while in high school.  East of Eden hardly ever gets shown, but it's a very fine film both from an acting standpoint by Dean and others and the cinematography.  Rent it and I don't think you'll be disappointed.

I bring all of this up mainly because as I was driving on Hwy 46, I ended up geocaching along the road.  One cache took me off the main highway to an old bridge which paralleled the highway.  Little used, the bridge is in a state of decay and will eventually be replaced.  It's interesting to think about, but it's a bridge that James Dean probably traveled over on his ill fated last trip.  Over the years, the highway has been realigned several times to make it wider and straighter and thus, safer for motorists.  Much of the old road is probably gone entirely and the exact spot where the car crash took place isn't on the highway anymore.

I'm actually surprised that some preservation society hasn't come along and decided that this little piece of history deserves to be preserved.  It's probable that this might happen in the future, when the wrecking ball comes into play, but it's also just as likely that this old bridge will slowly drift into obscurity.  Or then again, maybe this is just an old side road with no link to what happened so long ago.

Pictures were taken at the following geocaches:
This Old Bridge - by Scooterman
James Dean - by TahoeTeach

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Monday, September 27, 2010

Meets and Greets

Back in April, I wrote about a mini high school reunion that I attended.  At the time, I thought I might have recruited a couple of new geocachers.  I'm not sure whether that panned out or not, but it sort of whet my appetite to try and go to a couple of geocaching events, something that I have not done a lot of in the past.

I attended an event celebrating the 10th anniversary of geocaching back on May 1st.  That was a very enjoyable afternoon.  We ate, we talked geocaching, then many of us went on a hike through the Devils Punchbowl, picking up some caches we hadn't found on previous outings to the area.  All in all, it was a very good day.

This past Saturday, I attended another event hosted by BigDaddyGRC and ScrabbleDogs.  BigDaddyGRC is one of the hiders of the Groundspeak series that I've written about, plus the Smiley Series.  I'd met him at the 10th anniversary event and had enjoyed his company then, so when my friend Chaosmanor pointed this event out to me, I thought it might look interesting.

Unfortunately, the Tadpole also had a cross country meet that day, so I couldn't be in two places at the same time and family comes first.  However, he hadn't been feeling well with allergies all week, due mainly to the local county fair and didn't end up running on Saturday because of it.  That freed up my day once I got the lawn mowed.

I was able to get the lawn mowed early in the morning before it started to heat up and then took off.  I found a couple of caches on the way up the hill to the event, which was held at the Grassy Hollow area near Wrightwood, CA.  This area has a very nice visitors center and has a nice group campground designed for through hikers on the Pacific Crest Trail.  I had been up here one other time back in November 2002 looking for a cache hidden right along the PCT.

The event was a potluck hamburger/hotdog barbeque and the day couldn't have been more perfect.  The people who came up were similar to me in that we were all beating the heat. The temperature at my house on Saturday was 99˚, while up in the mountains, it was probably in the low 80s - quite pleasant for a picnic and subsequent hike along the PCT.  BigDaddyGRC was a fine host, cooking the burgers to perfection and we had plenty of food for everyone.  In fact, if people went away hungry after this event, it was their own fault.

At any of these events, most of the cachers tend to know one another, either because they've met in the past, or they're familiar with them due to seeing their names in logs somewhere while out caching.  This event was no exception, but it's still nice to finally put cache names to faces.  I met three of the 4DirtyDogs that afternoon, as well as RedBaroness, Shell1Fish, NascarFamily.

We ended up talking for several hours about different things, including geocoins, old time caching back in the early days when you'd go for a hike of 2 miles and find one cache.  That was the case when I'd gone after that cache up here.  It was the only one there.  Now there's about 10 caches available to find within a two mile radius of the picnic area.  We were also treated to a nice geocoin collection by Steben6.

After the raffle of some prizes, which I think ended with everyone in attendance getting something related to geocaching, geocoins, we all headed our separate ways.  I ended up hiking with Chaosmanor and the 4DirtyDogs over to a cache.  Our group eventually ended up being 10 cachers strong and it was fun talking about stuff while hiking along the trail.  We eventually ended up over at the Grassy Hollow Cache which I'd found 8 years ago.  It was fun watching others find this old cache.

I related about how few and far between caches were back then and talked about the differences in caching between then and now.  Logging in the logbook was an art and people tended to write stories.  While the others signed the new log book, I was busily looking through the old logbook of this cache.  As I was looking, it dawned on me and I also voiced it out loud, that I was going to be pretty embarrassed if we encountered my name in the log book and there wasn't a story attached.  I breathed a sigh of relief when I found my entry and noticed that I had indeed written a short story about the experience.

The last cache the group ended up finding was a picture puzzle cache, one where cachers had to walk along a trail checking out the viewpoints until the view matched up with a set of pictures attached to the cache page.  Once the pictures lined up, supposedly you would be at the cache site.  A lot of debating went along with this one as we walked along, especially after we saw the lake down below which showed up in one of the pictures.  Eventually, we were able to get the "right" view and found the cache, a fitting end of the day cache find.

I looked on my profile page while writing this one and this was only the 10th event I've chosen to attend.  I'm averaging about 1 per year, but I know there have been several years where I haven't attended any events, while other years have a couple.  I'm already planning on attending another local event on the 10th of October.  I can't resist the numerology of 10/10/10.  I'm pretty sure I'll enjoy that one as much as I enjoyed this last event last Saturday.

Pictures were taken at or near the following geocaches:
A Day in the Angeles Forest - Grassy Hollow - by HDGC (BigD'GRC and Scrab'Dogs)
Grassy Hollow - by John, Donna and Slipper

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Monday, September 20, 2010

Wait'll next year...

As my son the Tadpole told me yesterday, I guess I'm going to have to wait until next year to fill the calendar out.  Saturday was an incredibly busy day.  I was on a road trip north to Stockton to help my daughter move into her new place and there wasn't any time during the day to go out and find a cache.  So, for the next year, I'm going to have at least that one empty spot in the middle of September staring at me.  Wait'll next year?  I don't really have a choice on this one.

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Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Pine Droppings

Every now and then you have to stop and marvel about nature.  Nature creates some isolated patches of wonder that will catch your eye and you just have to enjoy them.  This past weekend I was able to get out for some geocaching and one of the last caches we found that day was hidden at the base of a Coulter pine tree.  I love Coulter pine trees for a couple of reasons.  First, they have an awesome pine cone and second is I have a couple of friends who resemble the tree in some way or another.  They'll understand.

If there aren't any pine cones around the pine tree, it's sometimes difficult to identify the Coulter pine.  Not so when there are any pine cones either in the tree or on the ground.  In fact, when you see them on the ground, you instinctively look up.  These cones are massive.  My pictures don't do them justice, but the first one was probably close to 9 inches long.  They weigh a lot too, so looking up is really a good idea.  If one should fall and hit you, you're going to be severely damaged.

The damaged tent came from a small sugar pine cone that a squirrel chewed through and ended up dropping onto our tent when we were camping in Sequoia National Park.  We'd been out caching and hiking that day and came back to camp.  I looked at the tent and couldn't tell what had happened at first, but when I got closer I figured out quite quickly.  Not only did the pine cone go through the side of the tent, but it had enough force to go through the bottom of the tent as well.  And where it landed was about a foot away from where my son would lay his head while sleeping.  That particular pine cone probably weighed no more than a pound or so.  Imagine a 4 to 10 pound Coulter pine cone coming down.  It's no wonder the Coulter pine was nicknamed the "widowmaker."

The Coulter pine is found in the coastal mountains of Southern California and Baja California.  It has a very limited range, but is not threatened or endangered and you can find isolated groves as far north as the Bay Area near San Francisco.  They are pretty plentiful in our local mountains.  I've hiked through one small grove on a caching expedition near the Devils Punchbowl, which is located north of me on the desert side of our local mountains.

I can remember as a child going out on outings with my parents to our local mountains near Big Bear, California.  My mom was always collecting Coulter pine cones to create Christmas decorations.  She'd spray paint them green and create miniature Christmas trees out of them.  They usually have a large base on which they stand and when not their natural color do resemble a squat Christmas tree.

I'm not sure how many people outside of Southern California are familiar with the Coulter Pine.  It's probably not many, but then again, I'm pretty sure I'm not familiar with all of the native flora that grows only in other areas of the country.  This particular pine is rather distinctive.  Just make sure if you're walking through a grove to watch overhead.  You wouldn't want to become the latest statistic of a Coulter pine.

Pictures were taken at or near the following geocaches:
A Forest Adventure - by Kit Fox
California Hoax - by Radikel

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Saturday, September 11, 2010

September Slowdown

Once again, September has become a slow month for me caching.  However, in about a half an hour or so, I plan on hitting the road with my good friend Chaosmanor for some caching and GeoVexilla and also some GeoDashing.  It's been a tough couple of weeks, so my apologies for not writing in here.

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