Tuesday, December 27, 2011

A Hike In Haldimand County

A couple days ago I went on a hike on an old railway that was converted to a hiking trail in Haldimand County, located on the northern coast of Lake Erie in Ontario, Canada.  I started the hike just before 4PM, and was out until the sun set an hour later.

 After the hike I toured an old cemetary, then spent some time by the Grand River just as the sun set.

The following are the photos that resulted from this trip.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Geocaching Adventures: 12 Mile Creek

 Today I explored parts of 12 Mile Creek, a river that flows through the Niagara Peninsula.  It was an adventure that held a lot of surprises.

I started the day going for a cache with a lot of favourite points in the Short Hills Provincial Park.      I pulled into the parking lot, and grabbed my gear and headed down the trail.  I went about 100ft when I realized that I has forgotten something, so I headed back to the van.  When I arrived the person who was parked beside me was getting out of his truck. As I was digging around my van he said "hey, are you a geocacher?  I noticed the caching badge on your bag".

It turns out he was on the hunt for the same cache, so we decided to join forces and head out on the hike together.  During the approx. 1 mile hike to ground zero we talked about all things caching, and he pointed out that this cache was Ontario's oldest active cache, which added some interesting colour to the cache.

We parted ways at GZ, and I continued on my way down the trails to complete a 3.4 mile loop.  It was an interesting, but very muddy hike.

I then moved east a few miles and went on the hunt for a cache that looked interesting.  When I got to GZ it turned out that the cache was way above my physical abilities, and rather than risk certain death I decided to settle for  a couple of what appeared to be less interesting caches in that area (appearances are deceiving - these were awesome caches in their own right), so off I went down another muddy trail through the woods along the edge of 12 Mile Creek.

It turns out that area used to be a town here, long since abandoned (who knew?). There isn't much left but some old bridge abutments, and some support structures for a grist mill.

I walked for a couple miles along the creek, trying to get a cache at an abandoned bridge.  It soon became apparent that the cache was not available from this side of the creek, and a pedestrian bridge does not exist.  So I hiked back to the van and headed across the creek to my final destination: Morningstar Mill.

The mill is an access point to the Bruce Trail, a 560 mile trail that runs from (essentially) Niagara Falls north to Georgian Bay. So off I went down the (yep, muddy) Bruce Trail.

This section held a couple surprises for me.  First off the Decew Falls.  I had no idea that these falls existed.  At 73ft high, and 20ft wide, they are one of the more significant waterfalls I've seen in Ontario (aside from Niagara Falls, of course).  What make this more interesting is that my wife lived just a few miles from here before we were married.  I have driven this road many many times, yet I had no idea this large waterfall existed just a few hundred feet from the road.

 The second surprise was that hiking the Bruce Trail to the cache involved descending the Niagara Escarpment.  The Escarpment is a very steep one-sided ridgeline that runs for many many miles.  At this location it is 250ft high, and it drops that 250ft in about 75 linear feet.  So, pretty darn steep.  To make things more interesting, the mud (remember the mud?) made things a tad bit slippery.  Luckily there are a lot of tree roots and rocks to act as stairs.  A fair amount of billygoating later, I was at the bottom, and enjoyed the 1/2 mile hike along the creek's edge to the cache.

Getting back up the escarpment proved to be much easier (its always easier to climb up hills than down).   Once I got to the top I had a sense of euphoria - I had tackled an amazing challenge and I came out victorious.

I hiked 7.5 miles today, most of it on muddy trails, and only found 5 caches, but it was completely worth it.  The scenery was amazing, and the caches themselves were all top notch.  Definitely a day well spent.

I'll finish this post off with a slideshow of the rest of the sights of the day:

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Geocaching Adventures: Millenium Cache

 Well, its official.  I have found my 1,000th geocache.

 Often cachers will pick a special cache for their milestones - often they are epic hikes, difficult finds, classic caches etc.  So you may wonder what cache I picked to be my Millenium Cache, and you are right to ask.

If you are a regular reader of this blog, you will know that I am not exactly a traditionalist (also, I'm sorry for the pain I've inflicted on you through my writing).

So to answer your poignant question: instead of going epic or classic, I went sentimental.

The cache I picked, "Lake Erie at Esplanade Park", which is a micro in a small park.  What makes it special is that it is the closest cache to Port Maitland Pier.  In August 2006, at the end of that pier by the lighthouse, is the location where I proposed to my wife.

Since I popped that all important question we have shared a wonderful life together, explored Europe, moved to North Carolina, had one kid and have a second one due in April.  We have also had a lot of awesome adventures together, many of which are documented elsewhere in this blog.  It seemed fitting to head back to this place and sign a logbook to commemorate an activity that has helped shape many of those adventures.

Debaere and Wife.  Note the lighthouse in the background.
I spent the morning finding the last few caches I needed to get to #999.  Then after lunch I put on the t-shirt that my wife got for me to mark the occaision (isn't she awesome?), left the offspring with the in-laws, piled into the van and headed over to the cache, made a quick grab of it, signed the log, and took some photos. Millenium Cache accomplished.

We enjoyed being out caching so much that we spent the next couple of hours exploring my wifes home town (nearby Dunnville), and found 6 more caches together, before finally heading back to her parents place (where we are staying) and settled in for the night.

It has taken me 3.5 years to find 1,000 caches.  It has taken me to many places I never imagined I would be, and many, many (many...) places I never knew existed, even ones in my own back yard. I am proud to have reached this milestone, and I can't wait to find the next 1,000 caches.... where is my GPS at?

Geocaching Adventures: Millenium Quest

 A often celebrated milestone in geocaching is getting 1000 finds.  It is typical for a cacher to pick a special cache to count as their 1000th.

 I realized a while ago that a confluence of events was transpiring which would allow me to reach my own 1000 find milestone, or what I have dubbed my Millenium Cache, in my homeland of Canada.

When we set off to Canada, a two day trip from our current home in North Carolina, I had 25 finds to go. We had 600+ miles to make up (with a toddler in the car no less).

This post documents in pictures my Millenium Quest to find enough caches so I can get my Millenium Cache.

Sadly this post does not include my actual Millenium Cache... that is deserving of a post all its own, but  happily these events have brought me to a find count of 999:

So which cache will be my 1000th?  Will it be an epic journey through the ice and snow of the Canadian frozen north?  A grueling 10 part multi-cache through the streets of Toronto?  A park and grab at the local Tim Hortons?  Perhaps a scuba cache in chilly Lake Erie?  

To find out, Tonka Tyke says:

"Stay tuned, eh?
It's gonna be a beauty."

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Geocaching: The Beginning

A TEDx talk from Jeremy Irish, one of the founders of Groundspeak, the company that runs geocaching.com. It covers the beginning of the obsession known as Geocaching (at least as it relates to geocaching.com)

Monday, December 12, 2011

Google Parties

Some pics from the two Google parties I attended.  One on the USS Hornet in Alameda CA, The other at Grove Park Inn in Asheville NC:

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Geocaching Containers Ready For Placing

One of the traditional geocaching containers are Lock & Lock containers.  On October 22nd I purchased a set of 14 containers from woot.com.

<-- As can be seen in the pic on the left, the set came in a variety of shapes and sizes

Since then I have been working on giving these guys some camo paint jobs (I posted about my technique a while ago here).

Some got a cement-ish look for urban hides, but most got a variety of forrest camoflage.

I had a few extra tupperware containers lying around so I painted them as well.  I also have a variety of bison tubes, match stick containers, and various other container types of my own devising.  So watch out, ye cacher inhabitants of the foothills of North Carolina.  These containers are coming soon to a GZ near you:

Saturday, December 10, 2011

The Delorme Challenge: What is it?

A snippet of atypical Delorme Atlas page
I have mentioned in several posts that I am attempting the North Carolina Delorme Challenge.  Many of you have posed the question: "What the heck is that?".  This post is intended to provide that answer.

Delorme is a map company.  Among other things (GPSs etc) they publish paper atlases, including one per state in the US.   The Delorme challenges require a cacher to claim finds for all pages in a given state.  Once that happens, they are given access to the coordinates for the final cache.  Once that log is signed, the challenge is completed.

To give you an idea of the scope of the challenge, here are some stats for the North Carolina challenge: Each full page covers 24.6 x 35.5 miles, tho some "pages" are smaller than that.  There are 78 pages covering the state of North Carolina, 77 of which are required to complete the challenge (the other one doesn't have any caches in it, so its a freebie).  To claim a page one needs to find any cache except event caches.  Caches found previously to accepting the challenge also count towards pages, so odds are you already have some pages claimed and didn't even know it yet.

These caches are a great way to explore your own home state, and I highly recommend trying the challenge in your state.  A complete list of challenges is here.

Go forth and explore!

Monday, December 05, 2011

Geocaching Adventures: Cache Run By Favourite Points

Recently I was in a new area and I only had a few hours to do some caching.  So I loaded up a pocket query for all caches with a 10 mile radius, sorted by favourite points, and started going down the list.  The following slideshow is some of the best of that cache run. (note: If you didn't get any of that, just translate to: "Here is a bunch of caches other people liked a lot")

**SPOILER ALERTS** If you live in this area, or are planning to travel to this area, you may not want to view these.  However since you don't know which area, and no one lives in this area (not to mention that if you were a cacher who did live in that area you'd have found them already), this shouldn't be a problem. At least for me.  Maybe for you, but thats your problem, not mine.  I am not your mother - go solve your own problems.

I present you, a few hours of caching in [UNDISCLOSED LOCATION]:

Geocaching Adventures: Redwoods

One of the amazing natural features of northern California is the giant Redwood trees. These giant trees can grown over 300ft tall, and can be 30ft in diameter at their base. So, ya know, not your average pine tree.

One of my goals for my trip to California was to go hiking among the redwoods.  On Sunday this is exactly what I did.

During the week I ran into a co-worker, who suggested that we (him, his wife, and baby daughter, and I) go on a hike this weekend.  What is interesting about this for you, my torturedloyal readers is that he is a cacher.  More importantly he is the one that got me started in caching when we were both in Belgium in the summer of 2008.  So you can blame my obsession on him.

I found my first cache with him, and the next 4 with him and his wife (we also accidentally ended up in France one time, but that is a story for another post).

I have not had a chance to cache with him since, so it was really awesome to close the loop and go caching again with the guy who showed me this awesome thing called geocaching.

Hiking among the redwoods is a fun experience.  The majority of the foliage is well above you, so you spend a lot of time looking through a forest of tree trunks.  You don't get a lot of magnificent vistas, but you do get the sense of walking among giants.

If you ever get the chance I highly reccomend giving it a go.

I didn't take a lot of pics on this hike, but I leave you with one last view of the giant redwoods of Big Basin State Park:

Hrm... I wonder where this path goes...

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Geocaching Identification: Et Tu Muggle?

When is a muggle not a muggle?

I am out in California for work.  Now that the weekend is upon me I decided to go for a hike in the hills to the south west of San Francisco Bay. So I loaded up some caches into the GPSr and headed off to Castle Rock State Park.

The first cache of the day was a mile down the trail at an overlook with an amazing view of Monterey Bay and the hills surrounding it.   I spent a decent amount of time enjoying the view, a celebration of a hard climb up the trails.

The first rule of muggles is that if you encounter any muggles on your caching hunt they will be at ground zero.  Today was no exception.  As soon as I finished taking in the view and was ready to start my hunt a young couple arrived at the overlook.  Gah!

 Determined to wait them out, I sat down on a nearby bench, drank some water, and tried to look awkward and creepy (with the theory that being awkward and creepy leads to people leaving early so they can get away from the awkward creepy guy - its a good trick, try it!).  The gentleman was teaching the lady how to read maps with a compass, and they were there a good 15 minutes.   The only thing I had to do today was go on a 3 hour hike... I don't have time for this!

Eventually they started to leave, but instead of taking the trail they started a bushwhack right over to GZ.  This was unusual.  I had been watching them, looking for the tell tale signs of a cacher, the biggest clue being the use of a GPS, but I didn't see anything.  These guys screamed muggles.  So I watched them a little while longer... they were definitely looking like cachers on the hunt - doing the bee dance, looking under and over every log they could find.

 My curiosity piqued I finally asked "excuse me... are you by any chance geocachers?"  His response "Why yes I am, are you?".


It turns out we both mistook each other as muggles and were playing the waiting game before hunting the cache.  They were also new cachers, with only 8 finds, and they lacked a GPSr.  He was trying to use a map and compass to find the caches (a method once perfected may serve him well).

We joined forces and used my GPSr to locate the cache, a nice ammo can under some logs.

They happened to be going on the same trail loops that I was so we headed off on the next leg of the hike together, me providing the coordinates, and them providing a lot of interesting information about the trails, and the park (both are locals and have been in the park many times).  We ended the 5 mile hike with 5 caches under our belt, including 3 that they were going to skip due to the difficulties in getting bearings under heavy tree cover.

So when is a muggle not a muggle?  When he's a cacher.

Cache-A-Maniacs Interview

My interview with the cache-a-maniacs podcast has been published.

Cache-A-Maniacs is a podcast that interviews cachers from around the world. They asked for volunteers so I raised my hand.

So if you want to know more about Yours Truly as it related to my caching experience in audio format, check out the link below:
Cache-A-Maniacs Interviews debaere (click on the Pod)

When finished, if I haven't scared you off, subscribe to the podcast and listen to the other fantastic interviews from cachers around the world.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Geocaching Yanksgiving: Unusual Suspects

The events of this post happened between 12:00AM and 11:59PM on November 27, 2011. 

This is the last day on our family American Thanksgiving (aka Yanksgiving) weekend road trip to the Outer Banks of North Carolina, exploring Eastern North Carolina in the process.   Today we drove from Greensboro NC to Charlotte NC.  Each day has had its own flavour as we explore different regions of Eastern North Carolina.  Today can best be summarized by the term "bizarre".

Many of the caches I found today ended up being unusual or odd in some way or another. What makes this more striking is that when I planned out these caches I picked them for their proximity to our route, and page location on the Delorme atlas (our trip is also doubling as a mission to gather pages for the North Carolina Delorme Challenge).  Often this leads to a series of LPC and guard rail caches, with the occasional ammo can tossed in, but today was different.

 We found 13 caches today on 5 Delorme pages.  Of those 7 were things I have not seen before. Without giving away too much details, I'll list some of these unusual caches:

* We saw an amazing display of wind powered art  by a nationally renowned artist Vollis Simpson.

* A cache that was a gallon milk jug full of cement, with just enough space at the top for a log sheet.

* A metal pot hanging from a tree. The hanging part isn't unusual, but the pot was. I have never seen that type of container anywhere, let alone in a state of arboreal suspense.

* A cache hidden as a power meter.  It was right out in the open.  It was magnetically attached to a utility box. Amazing camo job.

* A home owner had constructed a real train crossing as a gate for his driveway.

* The most unusual is a cache that was buried by ants.  The container was a film canister that was stuck in the ground at the base of a sign post. Over time a colony of ants moved in, and as they pushed sand from their tunnels, their ant hill buried the cache.  This one took a long time to find :)

And thus ends our caching adventure. This has been a productive trip.  We found 59 geocaches, and claimed all the Delorme pages on the eastern side of North Carolina.  We saw parts of the state that we now call home that we have never seen before. We also saw Zeke take some steps towards becoming an adventurer in his own right.

Thus this adventure ends.  So now I will sign off this series, and await the start of the next adventure.  I suspect I won't be waiting that long.