Sunday, October 30, 2011

Renaissance Festival

The parents-in-laws have been in town for the last few days.  On Saturday we went to the Renaissance Festival in Huntersville NC.   None of us had been to a Renaissance Festival before so we didn't really know what to expect.  It turns out is is like a state fair but with fewer carnies and much more fun.

The rest of this post will mainly be in pictures, but first I'll highlight a couple things that made this day extra special:
  • It was Halloween weekend so all of the booths had candy to give to the kids.  Once Zeke clued into this delicious fact he spent a good amount of time walking into the booths and yelling "treat!" until he got some candy.  He ended up with quite the haul.
  • I was wearing a geocaching shirt, and because of it I met several other geocachers, including the Blacksmith, and the dude that sold me my lunch.
  • Any "meat on a stick" is tasty.
Now, on to the photos....

Turkey legs qualify as Meat On A Stick.

Zeke smelling the rose I bought for my wife.

The "hero" for the joust.


Geocaching Adventures: The Furnace

My in-laws were in town last week and we had Saturday plans to drive 1.5 hours east to Huntersville NC to check out the Renaissance Festival.   Me being me, I decided to drive by myself, leave early, and grab a few caches along the way.  I'd meet everyone else in the festival parking lot.

 I didn't have  a great deal of extra time so I looked for quick and easy "park'n'grabs" to find.  However there was one cache that kept catching my eye and getting my geosenses tingling.  It was called The Furnace. However it has a high difficulty and terrain rating, and the description spoke of "trailblazing through the woods", so my first inclination was to skip it in favour of easier hunting grounds.

Since this cache was just 500ft off my route, and the first one on my list, I decided to drive by and check it out first hand before rejecting it outright.  I could always keep on driving if it looked like it will take too much time.  Once I got to the parking coords I immediately decided to give it a go.  I am glad I did.  This turned out to be the quintessential geocache experience.

From the parking area you can immediately see why the cache is called The Furnace.  300ft away in the woods, down a steep embankment, you could just make out the remnants of a really old large stone furnace.  The ground was slippery from heavy rains the night before but I managed to climb down without insult or injury (thank you trusty hiking boots and trekking pole).  From there it was just a few yards of flat wooded terrain to navigate before I got to the furnace.

This sucker is big. It is at least 50ft high, and just as wide.  It is made of many many stones laid on top of each other, without the use of motar.   When you walk around it you can see several inset areas which I assume were workspace areas when the furnace was operational.

The GPS said I was 120ft away from GZ, but since I clearly know more than satellite technology in geosynchronous orbit, I decided that the cache container must be on the furnace somewhere. I began my hunt, looking under rocks, and moving loose looking stones and bricks.

After a while I started to doubt myself and trust the technology.  I am glad I did, as it lead me to another pile of rocks 100ft in the woods.   There I quickly found the cache container - a pelican case - and signed the log.

I spent a few more minutes checking out the area before I climbed back up the embankment.  I got into the car and drove off to the festival with all the confidence of knowing that whatever else happened that day, I had already had the perfect caching experience.

(As it turns out, the rest of the day was awesome too, but that is another story for another post... stay tuned)

Friday, October 28, 2011

Geocaching Adventures: The 10 Mile Milestone

Yours Truly and the 10 mile milestone cache.
Just a short note to say that I have reached a mini-milestone of sorts.  All caches within a 10 mile radius of my house, aka, my home turf, now has a signature on their logs.

It has been my goal to do this for a while now, and for the last two months or so there was only one cache left - a night cache which I finally grabbed yesterday (documented here).

Just before I had a chance to do the night cache another cacher in the area published two new caches, delaying my milestone by one more day.  I headed out and grabbed the smiley on those today, so now  my geocaching map is clear for 10 whole miles (16 KM for you metric orientated folks out in the blogosphere).

The best part is that the final cache on this quest (amusingly hidden at the church where my wife has her Quilting Guild meetings), is an ammo can in the woods.  A classic geocaching experience if ever there was one.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Geocaching Adventures: Night Cache

clevernickname in the spooky darkness
 Tonight I went on one of the more interesting geocaching experiences I have ever been on, for tonight I tackled my very first night cache.

Now when I say "night cache"  I don't mean just finding a normal cache after the sun goes down.  This is a cache that is specifically designed to be only found in the darkness, when scary creatures roam the earth in search of food, and good children are tucked safely in their beds.  This is a cache that screams adventure.

I picked up my caching buddy, clevernickname, at 8 PM, a half hour after sunset, and armed with flashlights, GPSs, and hiking sticks, we drove off into the night in search of adventure.

With a normal cache you arrive at the end of your journey at specified coordinates, and within 10-15ft (usually) there is a container with a log book to be signed.

With a night cache when you arrive at the coordinates and you need to find the start of a trail.

So we were at ground zero and we shined our flashlights around to look for trail markers.  Suddenly something in the corner of my eye catches my attention.... off in the distance there is a reflective dot on a tree, ... how odd.

We walk over to the dot to check it out and as we get close we notice another dot further down the trail.... then another... and another...

Those dots are called fire tacks, basically thumb tacks with reflective material on them, which means they can really only be seen when a light is flashed on them, and this essentially only works at night when the contrast is high enough.

So we follow fire tack after fire tack and soon we are a half mile deeper into the woods.  Eventually we ended up at a place that has a lot of tacks clustered in one spot on a log on the ground.   We took a closer look and found the treasure that we were seeking for  A nice shiny cache container with a crisp log inside just waiting to be signed.

With log signed and container replaced to its hiding place, we then followed the long line of fire tacks back to where we started, got into the van and drove back to civilization.

That, my friends, is one awesome way to go on a geocaching hunt.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

A Father Son Weekend.

My wife has left me.

Don't worry. She will be back :)  She has gone on a womens retreat and has left Zeke and I back at home from Friday afternoon to Sunday afternoon.  Since this is, by far, the longest I have been left alone with Zeke  - Mommy has never spent the night away from us before - I decided to record the event in pictures...

... unfortunately I decided this after Zeke went to bed Friday night, so I didn't document the first part of our weekend, which was a trip to Lowes Hardware store.  At first he didn't want to go inside, but after a bit of explaining, and bribing with a magnet, he got into the swing of things and enjoyed walking around the place, especially playing with the pipe connectors in the plumbing section.  He was very well behaved, and even went and sat by himself on a bench while Daddy was paying for our new found goods (parts for a new cache).

The rest of the evening went by without any significant incidents, so we start our photography journey first thing Saturday morning...

 It was cold when we woke up - 32f -  so I wasn't overly concerned about getting an early start on our outdoor adventures  so we spent some time playing with puzzles and watching Youtube videos.

At 10 am I decided it had warmed up enough that we could start heading out on an adventure. When it was time to go, Zeke helped by fetching his own socks.  Our goal was to explore a kids park in Valdese NC that has both a geocache AND playground equipment.

 When we got to the park we got out of the van and headed down the path to find the geocache (its easier to cache before play than play before cache, especially with a Zekey in tow)

Zeke wanted to hold the GPS so he led us across a baseball field  and into the woods behind the scoreboard at the edge of left field.

The cache container was a large one, and full of items specifically designed for kids.

Zeke selected a rubber ball to take with him.   We then replaced the cache in its hiding place.  Then we headed back across the field to the playground where much swinging and climbing fun was to be had.

Bailey stood guard as we swung on the swingset and climbed on the playground equipment.  There were many other kids around and Zeke had a good time watching and playing with them as well.

We left the park after an hour of playtime.  I was planning on grabbing some more caches, but Zekey was to thwart those plans.

 Almost before we left the parking lot Zeke fell asleep - a full two hours before his normal nap time.  I drove around for a couple hours listening to NPR and waiting for him to wake up.  I ended up driving around Lenoir and exploring some places I have not seen yet (and found some interesting places for some cache hides)

When he finally woke up we went shopping for some cache trade items, and a happy face balloon (cause why not?).

We then went home and grabbed some lunch.  Nap time is normally at 1:30 but Zeke was well off his normal schedule at this point  so I let him play until 3:00 when I finally put him in his crib so daddy could take a much needed nap :)

An hour later Daddy finally woke up and we went off for a bike ride alone the Greenway.

We got home and had some Kraft Dinner for supper around 6pm.

We then played until 7:15 when I put Zeke down.  He had a fussy moment when I tried to put on his PJs... he refused to put on his shirt, something he has never done before, and kept pointing to his wardrobe.  I finally took him over to his wardrobe to see what he was fussy about.  It turns out he saw the Elmo PJs that mommy bought for him, and he was insistent  that he wore them.  So a quick dressing and he was rocking his new Elmo PJs to bed.

Tomorrow we head to church, so I don't expect anything new or unusual to report.  So I will end this here.

It has been a good weekend.  Turns out the men of our family get along just fine when left to our own devices... but it will still be very good when Mommy returns tomorrow afternoon :)

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Geoaching Adventures: Leaf Peeping

My parents have come to town to help celebrate my sons 2nd birthday. We spent yesterday on a whirl wind birthday party extravaganza.

Today was a more relaxed day.

Given the time of year and the proximity to the mountains, we decided to spend the afternoon touring the mountains, checking out the sights, and doing some leaf peeping.  We also did some geocaching.

In case you didn't know, leaf peeing is an autumn activity in areas where foliage changes colors.  Leaf peepers are those who participate in photographing and viewing the fall foliage.

Since this area is familiar turf for me, and our goal was sight seeing and not caching, we spent most of our time driving the Blue Ridge Parkway.  However caching came in handy once again.  A quick examination of the caches I hadn't found yet revealed State View, a cache that promised amazing views of North Carolina.  It was also out of the way of the incredibly busy overlooks that the tourists frequent.

So off we went to find the cache. When we got to the coords we found ourselves at a park.  As promised we were treated to amazing views, and as expected there was no one else around (or so we thought).

As we started the hunt a woman came up to us to warn us about some unmarked metal stakes in the area, and to ask what we were up to.  We started talking to her and explained what geocaching is, and we found out that what we thought was a park was in fact a privately owned lot, and the owners were planning on building a house in the spring.

It became clear based on how the conversation went that the owner did not know about, or give prior permission for, the cache. I started going into diplomatic mode and started to explain that I would contact the owner to get permission, and the cache could be removed.  It quickly became apparent that the owners were completely cool with the cache being on their property, and were rather put out at the suggestion that it could be removed.  Cool muggles - awesome :)

The husband then came up and I showed him where the cache was located, and showed him the log sheet, and he was very interested in the whole thing.  Then he took his turn at "Show And Tell" and started pointing out features of the landscape we were standing on, and overlooking.  Some of the features are:

  * The continental divide went right through the middle of his property.  Depending on where he puts his drain pipe for his house, he will drain into either the Atlantic or the Gulf Of Mexico.

   *  We could see the skyline of Charlotte NC from this location on the horizon.  Using my GPS we determined that that the distance to Charlotte was approximately 76 miles.

   * We could not see Winston-Salem NC due to the way the Appalachian foothills lie, but at dusk one can see the reflection of the sun off the windows of the buildings.

  *  We could see both Virginia and South Carolina at the same time.

We spent a solid 30 minutes talking to the couple before we moved on.  It was, hands down, one of the more fascinating conversations I've had with someone while geocaching.

We spent the rest of the afternoon driving the Blue Ridge Parkway and checking out the fall colours, and dodging the tourists.  I'll end this blog with some more pictures I took on the drive, but before I go I want to leave cachers with two thoughts.  1) Always get adequate permission from the land owners before placing your caches, and 2) Don't be afraid to talk to muggles and let them know what you are doing - it may just lead to an amazing educational experience.

The Linn Cove Viaduct

The Blue Ridge Moutnains
Trees found on the Blue Ridge Parkway
Sims Lake
Tree outside a house in Blowing Rock NC

Monday, October 03, 2011

Geocaching Adventures: Myrtle Beach

Since before I can remember, probably since before I was born, my parents have been vacationing in Myrtle Beach  SC.   (non-interesting aside - they are not alone, Myrtle Beach is lousy with Canadians in October).

True to form my parents are spending a couple weeks in MB, so we decided to take a four day weekend and hit the coast.   A day of caching eastward.  Two days on the beach, and a day caching westward.  Sounds like a great plan to me!

The following are the highlights of the trip:

On the way east we found a cache that was suspended from a tree about 30ft up in the air.  It is retrieved via a pulley system attached to a nearby tree.

I originally went out to hunt this one solo, and my wife stayed in the van with sleeping Zeke.  Once I saw how the cache was hidden I rushed back to the van to grab my wife.  This one was too cool not to share.

On Saturday I went caching with my father.  We hiked the Heritage Shores National Preserve, an area we've never been too, despite coming here almost every year for decades.  We found some really interesting caches, including one cleverly camo'd into the boardwalk.

Right behind Restaurant Row, which is tucked between Myrtle Beach and North Myrtle Beach, is the intercoastal waterway.  This waterway mixes fresh and salt water, and rises with the tides, tho 3 hours delayed.  On Sunday morning I headed out to grab a cache that is hid on the banks of the waterway, and is only available during low tide.

On the way home we stopped by Clinton NC to visit the largest Flowering Dogwood in North Carolina.  It is the highlight of a really nice (if such things can be "nice") cemetery.  If you look closely at the tombstone to the right of the tree you will see the stuffed monkey that we took on tour with us.

Along the way I found caches for 18 pages for the NC Delorme Challenge, and I found my 800th cache.   It was a long 2 days in the van, and a short two days at the beach, but all in all a fantastic trip.