Sunday, July 31, 2011

Geocaching Adventures: Tunnel Of Light

Today was a good day to be a geocacher.

In May 2001 Paramount Pictures released a series of 12 caches to promote their latest movie:  Planet Of The Apes.  The caches contained movie artifacts, and was known as Project A.P.E - Advanced Primate Evolution.

Cachers around the world know them simply as the APE caches.  They are part of the holy trinity of caching known as the Triad, which included the original stash, Groundspeak HQ, and one of the APE caches (typically the Seattle one).  I found Groundspeak HQ and The Original Stash on previous trips.  I was looking forward to completing the triad on this trip.

 Two months ago there were only two APE caches left, one near Seattle WA, and the other in Brazil.  A couple months ago the Seattle APE, known as "Mission 9: Tunnel Of Light went missing and was archived.     Since a trip to the Brazilian rain forrest was practically out of the question it looked like I would never get the chance to complete the triad.  Luckily for me a week ago a cacher released a new cache in the same spot as the APE.  Same experience, just a different cache ID.  The APE was back, and today I completed the triad.

I met up with a fellow cacher I met on IRC by the name of WeightMan, and together we hiked the 6.75 miles worth of trails through the amazingly beautiful Cascade mountains.  There are two trails that lead to the APE... a walk through cedar woods called Annette Lake Trail, and the Iron Horse Trail.   We left one car at the Annette Lake trailhead, and drove to the Iron Horse trailhead and did a one way hike.

Now the astute readers among you may have noticed that I didn't describe what the Iron Horse trail is like... you may also have wondered why this APE is called Tunnel Of Light.

Still wondering? Let me enlighten... sort of.

Tunnel Of Light
So to get from the Iron Horse Trailhead you have to walk about 3 miles... most of it underground.  Most of that path is done by walking through an old train tunnel called the Snoqualmie Tunnel.  It is 2.25 miles long, and (mostly) straight as an arrow.   As you enter one end you can see a small speck of light at the other. That spot of light is the exit.

The coolest part of the tunnel was that there is a cache half way down it.  I've never done a cache where GPS signals were not available.   Very cool :)

Once we escaped the tunnel we still had about a mile to hike to get to the APE.  The trail was very smooth, and snaked along a ridge line overlooking a valley.  The sky was clear, the air nice and cool.  Couldn't ask for a more perfect day for hiking and caching.  Along the way we grabbed a few more caches.

The APE cache itself is a large ammo can, and to this point is the largest ammo can I've seen.   I'll spare any more details of the cache itself to avoid spoilers (cachers from around the world come to do the APE, so its quite possible they may read this blog before attempting the APE), except to say that the view from the cache is simply amazing, and the hike is worth it for that alone.  The cache is really just icing on a really delicious cake.

The cache was also WeightMans 1900th find.  Congrats man!  I also released my first travel bug, Alberta The Uber-Moose Of Science, to the public at large.  Travel, little moose, explore the world!

After the APE we continued down the Iron Horse Trail, and took a right turn onto the Annette Lake Trail.  About half way down this trail is another cache called The Rocket Cache, which contained, what I assume, is an ammo can that used to house rockets, making this one the largest ammo can I have seen to date :)

We eventually made our way back to the cars and WeightMan and I parted ways.  I headed back to Renton WA and attended the Washington State Geocaching Associations (WSGA) Summer Picnic event.  I spent the afternoon eating hot dogs, meeting new cachers, and doing group hunts for the caches in the area.  I also met TotemLake, another cacher I met online.  It was a heck of a way to end a perfect day of caching in Washington.

Grand total:  12 caches, 0 DNFs :)

 All in all, it was a great day to be a geocacher.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Geocaching Adventures: The Mosier Tunnels

As you may recall I have travelled to the Columbia River Gorge in Oregon for work.

During the day I am working for the man.  In the evenings I am spending my time exploring the amazing natural beauty of the gorge, and finding some geocaches.

This evenings adventure was to explore the Mosier Tunnels.  They are part of the Columbia River Highway, which was build between 1913 - 1922, and in service until 1954 when the nearby Interstate 84 highway was built.  These tunnels were then filled in with rock and stone for safety reasons.  In 1998 the tunnels were cleared out, and the old highway between Hood River and Mosier was turned into a paved walking and biking path.

The trail is also host to several caches, some of which have a very high terrain rating.   I parked at the Mosier end of the trail and hiked a couple miles down the trail.  The first cache is actually on top of the tunnels, but to get there I would have had to climb a sheer rock wall, which I determined upon inspection, was beyond my abilities.  After admiring the tunnel I moved on to the next cache.  With caching, as with many other things in life, it is important to know your limits.

The next cache was a difficulty of 4, terrain of 4 (ratings go from 1-5).  I normally limit myself to terrains of 3, so this was going to be a stretch for me.  When I got closer to GZ it quickly became apparent that I would need to climb up a steep rock pile.  It would be tough, but I figured I could do it, because with caching, as with many other things in life, it is important to keep challenging yourself.

So I started clambering and billy goating myself up 50 or so feet of a loosely packed rock pile.  It was a struggle, but I finally managed to get to the top, and saw the sweet, sweet sight of...

<-- Look!  An ammo can!  Ain't it sweet?

 ... the cache. After signing the log I billy goated back down to the bottom of the pile, and with a rather proud feeling about myself, I kept moving down the trail.

I had time for one more cache, which was just a bit further down the the trail.  Then with the sun setting behind me I executed a retrograde maneuver and returned to my car, and drove back to the hotel.

There are a couple more caches on the Hood River side of the trail that I did not have a chance to get this evening.  Hopefully I'll be able to snag them before going home.   This is one interesting trail.

Columbia River Gorge - I love this place!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Geocaching Adventures: Catherine Creek

Occasionally I need to travel for work.  This week is such an occasion.   So where had work sent the bear this week?


Specifically the Columbia River Gorge on the Washington/Oregon border If you have never been, the Columbia River Gorge is a mix of a wide, active river, surrounded on both sides by tall hills, water falls, forests, grasslands, and rocky outcrops.  It is a landscape that I do not think exists on the east coast.

 The temperature is a refreshing  78f and partly cloudy.  Perfect caching weather in a perfect caching landscape.

All afternoon I was sitting in a conference room in our office, looking out the windows, and taking in wonderful views of the gorge.  It beckoned me.  It called to me with its siren songs... explore me... cache me... dude, seriously, get it in gear!

So what is a cacher to do?  I am glad you asked.  As soon as I got off work I grabbed my gear and hit the trails.  Destination:  Catherine Creek.

Catherine Creek is on the Washington side, and has two separate areas:  A one mile paved trail that winds through the lower parts close to the Columbia river (close being approximate as it is still 50ft above the water), and a much more rugged section that has dirt and stone pathways that snaked through the tall hills that make up the gorge.  I started by walking the paved path, and grabbed 3 caches.  The views of the river were astounding.
Once I did the paved pathway I decided to see if I could get a cache on the rugged trails going up the hills. So I put a cache in the GPS and started the climb up.  The trail was a dirt path with a lot of loose stone strewn all over.  The landscape of the gorge is different than I am used to.  In the east most rock is solid granite. In the gorge it tends to be piles of smaller rocks.   It gives the area the feeling that its older and more worn.

 After I found the first cache I decided to go for another one further up the trail.   The name of the next cache was Canadian American Trading Association.  Being a Canadian in America I figured I had to find that cache.  Pretty soon I was billy goating up some steep trails (don't worry, its not *that* bad - geriatric billy goating at best).

Interesting rock formation.
Before I knew it I was 3 caches (all ammo cans too!), a mile down the trail, walking a ridgeline, and the sun was starting to set.  I decided to head back before dark set in.  The terrain is very navigable in the light, but all the small rocks strewn about would make hiking them at night difficult at best.

 On the way back I decided to take a detour for one last cache that overlooked an interesting rock formation, so once more I billy goated up some steep, rocky trails and pathways to get a view of this -->

Totally worth it.  After that I headed back down the trails to the car before the sun went down completely. It was a great hike.

There are more trails in the area, and more caches.  I may have to come back here before I head home again.  But if not at least I have excellent memories of that one time I cached Catherine Creek overlooking the Columbia River Gorge on an amazingly beautiful cool summers day.... outstanding.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Syndication: The Connection.

My series "Bears Across America" is being re-posted on another caching blog,

A couple weeks ago I was contacted by a geocacher by the name of BLOODHOUNDED, one of the admins at  He said he liked my stuff and wanted to know if I would let him put some of my blog posts on his site.  I agreed, and became an officially syndicated author.  How cool is that?

They are going to post the series starting tomorrow, and every Saturday and Sunday until Sept 18.  So be sure to check it out for my series, and many other excellent articles on the topic of caching.

Check out the introduction to the series here.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Geocaching Adventures: My Hometown

Today I met a mini milestone of sorts in my geocaching adventures.  

Park in Mons Belgium where I found my first cache.
To give a little scope to this let me step back and tell you how I started caching.  It was July 25, 2008.  I was in Belgium on a 4.5 month work assignment, and my wife came along (cause its summer in Europe, why the heck not? :)  I met another co-worker from the US there, and we needed something to do on the weekend.  He suggested we try caching.  I had never done it before but his description sounded cool so we went along.  Our first cache was a small park in Mons, Belgium.  On our second hunt that day we accidently ended up in France.  That hooked me. Before he left a week later we had found our first 5 caches.

Found, accidentally, in France.

When we returned back to Canada we immediately relocated to Lenoir NC for work.  It took about 8 months before I cached again, and made a find at a grocery store parking lot near my house.  That cache was my 6th find, my first North American find, and the first find in my new home town. Ever since that find I have been caching like a mad man.

Over the last 2.5 years that I have been into caching my tastes in caches has changed.  I started out only preferring larger caches that were easier to find, and enjoyed the adventure getting to ground zero more than making the find itself.  Since then, as I gained experience, my tastes have changed slightly and I now am starting to enjoy finding some of the smaller urban caches as well.  Lenoir is almost exclusively smaller urban caches, which is why it has taken me a while to get to this little milestone.

So what is this milestone?  I am glad you asked.

I have now found every active cache in Lenoir.  Despite only being 44 caches in town (8 of which I have hidden), and my having 618 finds in total,  it took me a while. Mainly because I wasn't trying to hit it.  Now that I have it feels like an accomplishment, and you all, my faithful readers, get to celebrate with me.  I suggest cake.  I like chocolate. Thanks!

So the only question now is:  Who's gonna place the next cache in Lenoir? :)

My geocaching map for Lenoir now looks like this... cool eh?

Thursday, July 14, 2011

First World Problems

Ever wonder why your having such a bad day?  Its probably due to all of the problems we face on a daily basis here in the first world.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Missives On The Current Heatwave

It has been rather hot around here as of late. - approaching 99F before humidex (yeah I know, it can get hotter in places, but I am a northern bear - 99F is for cooking, not living in)  This here (shamelessly borrowed from Penny Arcade) is my thoughts on the recent weather:

 Another thought that has occurred to me recently (at Geowoodstock IX to be precise), is that I am getting acclimated to the weather. I biked home in the 99F weather yesterday and it really didn't bother me.

It used to be, back in the northlands of Canada, that 88F would be an unbearable heat.  There would be heat advisory warnings, people would claim the apocalypse is upon them, dogs and cats living together, mass hysteria.

Now having been through 3 North Carolina summers, 88F feels... refreshing. Craziness.

Yeah, we are definitely getting used to the southern climate :)

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Geowoodstock IX Followup: Where's Waldo Edition

Just a few notes to follow up on my trip to Geowoodstock IX:

First, my wife posted a blog about the trip.

Second, a group photo was taken of all attendees of Geowoodstock IX:

We are in the middle left, right in front of the German flag. I am in an orange shirt with a brown hat. My wife is in a pink tank top and a white hat.

Finally, here is a slideshow of all the photos I took on my trip:

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Geowoodstock IX

 Once a year geocachers from around the world (literally!) get together at the same place at the same time to discuss ammo can location techniques, hiking in the woods with a purpose, and satellite based technology and how it relates to tupperware geolocation in the woods.  This event is called Geowoodstock.  The place:  Warren Pennsylvania. The date: July 2nd, 2011.

This is an (un)official historical account of one family of bears journey to the event, and how it affected their lives for the better, for the worse, and for the surreal.

Join us in song (not really) and in prose (sorta)... for the retelling begins... now.

July 1st 2011 We packed up the family, including the 20 month old Tonka Tyke and Bailey the Wonder Puppy and headed north to Warren Pennsylvania at 4:30am.  We drove straight there, stopping only for food and gas.  It took 10.5 hours.  When we got there, two things happened: I said hello to Zemmy, a fellow cacher I've known from chatting online in a geocaching chat channel, and I said hello to my parents-in-law, cause we arranged it for them to be there.

Oh, now may be a good time to inform you that the event was on Saturday, and we had a family reunion of sorts on Sunday... so my family from Canada was around :) (also functioned as built in Zeke babysitters).

On Saturday we headed out at 8am to the Warren County Fairgrounds. On the way we stopped by Tim Hortons (cause  we are Canadian, and dang it Tims is *delicious*), then we continued to the fair grounds.

We have never been to a geocaching event of this magnitude before so we really had no idea what to expect.  So the following is a quick summarization of our day.  It helps to have a mental picture in your mind (where else would you have one?) of a country fair without the rides, clowns, or games (basically keeping the good parts) when you imagine the following:

  • We arrived around 9:30am to register, pick up our name tags and swag, and wandered around the fairgrounds a bit.
  • Opening Ceremonies at 10, signed the event log (which was literally a log)
  • Meet The Reviewer panel at 11.  This is also where I met up with another cacher friend from online, leftyfb, and his entourage of wife, family, and friends.  We hung out with them, and some other friends from online, off and on for the rest of the day.
  • 12(ish).  Lunch
  • 1(ish). Met another online cacher, Luuluu, and her entourage.
  • 1(slightly-later-ish)  GPS accuracy course, then off to find a cache.
  • We spent some time walking around, checking out vendors and things.
  • 3(ish): hugged by a hippie.
  • 3:30 - met a fellow Googler cacher.
  • 4(ish) recording of Cachers Of The Round Table podcast.
  • 5:30(ish) Group photo and announcement of next years Geowoodstock (in Indiana)
  • 6(ish) Headed back to the campground.
  • 6:30(ish)Tim Hortons (naturally).
  • 6:45(ish) webcam cache with some friendly Germans.
  • 7:20(ish)  Arrived back at the campground.
It is common for people to release travel bugs to caches which are carried from cache to cache by other cachers, and their location is tracked online.  At the event pretty much everything was trackable, including:  tattooed arms, babies, cars, hats, t-shirts, dogs, Signal the geocaching Mascot, my geo-bag, and even our name tags.

There were well over 5000 cachers at the event.  It is a great vibe to be around so many like-minded individuals.  Kinda like being at a sci-fi convention but fewer aliens and more ammo cans.

The next day I did some hiking and caching in the Alleghany National Forest in the morning, and hung out with my family in the afternoon.

On Monday we started our drive home, taking our time and caching as we go, stopping at Tim Hortons in Warren for fuel... :) We've driven the stretch from Pittsburgh PA to Lenoir NC many times, but never stopped to explore that world beyond the borders of the Interstate.

On Monday we saw covered bridges, dams, insane asylums and a radiation dump in Canonsburg PA (no foolin!).  The radiation dump was the result of radium extraction processes (more radium was refined there than anywhere else in the world).  This cache, an earthcache, was my 600th find.  Not to shabby :)  For those keeping track at home this was the surreal portion of our trip.

On Tuesday we drove and cached some more, exploring some of the mountains of Virginia, and the town where Andy Griffith was born, and the Andy Griffith show based on:  Mount Airy PA.  We arrived home at 4pm, and have been relaxing ever since.

... And thusly the tale ends.  Farewell.