Sunday, December 30, 2012


 On Friday I had travelled to Spartanburg South Carolina for a day of caching.  Just a few miles down the road is the city of Greenville.  Since I was so close to the area I decided to spend the afternoon exploring downtown Greenville, and the many promising, highly favourited geocaches it contains.

I only got to explore a small section of the city, just a short mile of Main Street. The northern end is a large Confederate cemetery from the Civil War, and the southern end is an amazing park that hosts the start of trails that run many miles through the city.

Falls Park is host to one of the most remarkable water falls I have seen, not so much for the falls themselves (tho they are very scenic), but for the large curving walking bridge that allows one to view the water from many angles.  The bridge is a work of art in its own right.  The falls are also host to an earth cache, and was the first cache that I completed in Greenville.

Main St. itself contains many sculptures, several of which are also virtual geocaches.  I cannot recall any place that I have been that has had so many virtuals - three of them at the same intersection, and another that requires walking the length of Main St. to complete.   I ended up doing a total of 8 virtuals that day.

Of course, being a southern town, it was also chocked full of history.  The most remarkable bit for me was that Joel Poinsett was the person who brought the Poinsettia plant to the US from Mexico.  A statue in his honour is one of the virtuals along Main St.

Greenville has something for every cacher. I highly recommend it as a destination town for any wandering geocacher.  I'll leave you with some more images from Greenville, starting with a tree with exposed roots that look like it comes straight from the elvish haven of Loth Lorien from Lord Of The Rings.

I also discovered that Greenville has an outdoor skating rink, which warmed my Canadian heart.  If I wasn't nursing a sprained knee I would have been tempted to rent some skates.

Saturday, December 29, 2012


The year is rapidly coming to a close, and I wanted to get one more geocaching road trip in before ringing in 2013.  There was a geocaching meet and greet event near Spartanburg South Carolina that looked like fun, so I talked my wife into letting me go.

Spartanburg is about a 90 minute drive away, so I wanted to make the best of it, so I also talked my wife into letting me spend the entire day away from the house to go caching.  She is awesome that way.  Three cheers for my wifey (Huzzah! Huzzah! Huzzah!).

So at 6:00am yesterday morning I dragged myself out of bed (that may not seem early to you, but I *am* on vacation here...), piled into the Geo-Van Of Destiny, and drove over to Spartanburg SC to get in some caching. I timed my arrival to coincide with sunrise, so as the daystar reared its ugly head, I was parking the van at the first cache.

I had pulled a list of the caches with the most favourite points, so I ended up hitting a lot of awesome caches.  The first was at a memorial to a race car (this is NASCAR country after all).  In 1971 champion racer Gene Fulton build his winning race car out of a 1964 Chevy II station wagon.  In 1978, just before the cars planned retirement it was in an accident during a race and destroyed.  The car was buried at Gene's shop, and the cache was near the memorial plaque to an awesome car (full story here).

The next cache was a larger than life rat trap with the cache (a 50cal ammo can) painted up as the cheese.  Definitely a unique and interesting cache idea.

I also did an awesome multi-cache where you have to follow a treasure map to find the clues to the final, a rather awesome puzzle cache called The Big Red Puzzle (See if you can solve it! GC1JX1T), a cache at an old white church, and one at a Californian Redwood (in SC!). Having hiked in the redwood forests of California it was a little odd seeing one of these gentle giants on the eastern side of the continent.

I cached the entire day, and when the sun went down I drove over to the restaurant to attend the event.  I met a lot of cachers I've not met before (tho I had done some of their caches during the day). I also reacquainted myself with a cacher I had met before, HoosierSunshine, and met her new pet hedgehog, Acaena (FYI I already asked my wife if we could get one - she didn't immediately say no, so there is still hope on that front - I will name it Sonic, and it shall be my minion).

After filling my face I headed home in the dark, and arrived around 10:30pm.  Completely exhausted I collapsed on the couch and told my wife about my day.

All in all it was a very tiring, but completely fantastic day. I managed to best my non-power-trail record of 27 cache finds in a single day (previous was 21).  There was way more adventuring than will fit into a single blog post so I will be posting more in future blog posts - stay tuned! Until then I will leave you with a few more images from my day in Spartanburg SC, starting with the hedgehog.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Beckoning

Sometimes I think my GPSr's talk to me...

...beckoning me to go on an adventure.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Google Christmas Party 2012

Last night we attended the Google Lenoir Christmas party, and it was over-the-top good times.

It was held at Chimas Brazilian Steakhouse in downtown Charlotte NC.  If you've never been, it is a place where you get various meats brought to your table on skewers, and they cut off a slice or two, as much as you want.  If you love meat, it is the place to be.

When we arrived we discovered that the place was set up like a Las Vegas casino, including gambling tables.  We were each given $50,000 in chips to gamble with.  I mainly played blackjack, but they also had roulette, craps, and some other things.  I have never played any Vegas style games (aside from $1 in a slot machine once), so it was interesting to try them out with someone elses "money".  Any winnings were "cashed in" for raffle tickets for some awesome prizes.

The company put us up in a nearby hotel for the night, so we got to enjoy the full evening without having to worry about the kids.   It was a great time until I did the Gangham style horsie dance (cause it was playing, and it was a dance, thats why.  Don't judge), and I strained my knee.  I had to hobble back to the hotel, but it was only a block, and well worth it for the awesome good times.

I'll leave you with some more pics, starting with some souvenir chips:

All the steak you can eat.  I got the meat sweats that night.
Blackjack!  I had a lucky streak going last night.

Betting the wad.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

12-12-12: The Date Of A Lifetime

 Today is 12-12-12 day, likely the last time any of us will see a date like this again.  To celebrate Geocachers everywhere are heading out to find caches and attend events in honour of 12-12-12 day.

Groundspeak is even offering a souvenir to any cachers who are active today.

Tonight I took the family to an event held for the local cachers.  We had a pretty decent turn out for our area - 30 or so folks, including two babies.

It was at a steak house/buffet, so in honour of the day I ate 12 different things (fried chicken, cucumbers, carrots, green peppers, cottage cheese, chicken and dumplings, mashed potato, sweet potato, ice cream, chocolate chip cookies, peanut butter cookies).  Afterwards we raffled off prizes, then we sat around and swapped trail stories.

All in all a fun evening spent with some geocachers - and I got a souvenir to boot.  Not a bad way to spend some time.

Here are some more pics from the event, starting with a shot of the room as folks were eating:
The raffle prize table and ye olde log book:
 Yours Truly and Tonka Tyke rockin out.

My daughter enjoying the event.

Festive cow being festive.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Decorating the Geo-Christmas Tree

My wife and son put up our Christmas tree right after Thanksgiving, but today I decided it needed some geocaching related decorations. My son helped me put them out, including the (now) traditional  Yuletide Ammo Can (I asked Santa for a yule log to place it under for next year).

Sunday, December 09, 2012

MIlestone Squared

I was looking at my geocaching stats and I noticed that I was very close to getting 1000 finds in North Carolina.

Celebrating 1000 finds in my adopted home state seemed fitting, so I decided to make it a goal to hit this milestone.  With this in mind I headed south east on Saturday to a nature area called McDowell Preserve (or park - or both - the map is non-specific).

My plan was to complete a puzzle cache for my milestone.  The cache in question required getting information from 6 other caches to calculate the coordinates to the final.  This means I had to find 7 caches.  I padded out 5 more finds and by noon I had hit my milestone: 1000 North Carolina finds.

When I made the find and had some lunch, I realized I was also 6 finds away from 1900 total finds, which is another nice milestone.  Normally 6 caches in an afternoon would not be a problem, but I am suffering from a nasty head cold, so my energy levels were marginal at best. I wasn't sure I could tackle this one as well.

I decided to do as many as I could before I ran out of steam.   The next closest cache was a difficulty 2, terrain 4 cache (quite high on the terrain scale, if you are not familiar).  The description mentioned a 2/10 mile bushwhack through rather hilly (and slippery with the fallen leaves) forest, so like a smart person low on energy and a bad cold would do... I promptly entered the woods and scaled down the steep slippery hill.  I worked my way towards GZ slowly but surely, and soon I had the cache in hand.

The next cache was just 0.2 miles away, so I figured I'd just bushwhack over to it too - the woods, despite being hilly, were nice and open, and the walking, aside from the hills, was relatively easy compared to the thorn infested hell that is a normal North Carolina bush.  So off I go and 60ft later run smack dab dead into a really nice trail.  What is this, previous cache description? Bushwhacking was *not* required *grumble**grumble*.... ah well, hard way in, easy way out is the mantra of any experienced Geocacher.  I was not about to kick a gift horse in the mouth tho, so I took the trail to the next cache.

About a mile of walking later I finally got back to the van.  I had 4 caches to go.  I snagged two more easy caches while leaving the park, and an LPC to fill in the numbers.  So now I had one cache left, and I had one in mind.  It is, of course, a Stargate.

OK, not a real Stargate, but it is a TB wormhole.  Any travel bugs that get placed in this cache get sent via mystical and magical means (probably USPS) to a cache in New York.  It seemed intriguing, so I wanted it as my 1900th cache.  So off I went to that location - at the North Carolina Visitors Center - and to avoid a lot of suspense, I quickly had my 1900th cache in the bank.

I was having so much fun caching that I forgot I was sick and had no energy and ended up finding the other 3 caches hidden around the visitor center.  Satisfied with my performance, and running out of daylight, I finally called it a day and drove the 80ish miles back home.

So two milestones achieved:  1000 NC finds, and the 1900 find milestone. As well as 21 caches found, and 0 DNFs for the day.  That, my friends, is one satisfying day of geocaching.

Note: if you are wondering, my sub-national government zone (aka state/province) with the second highest find count is Ontario (which is fitting given until 2008 I lived my entire life there, and didn't start geocaching until I moved away) with 338 finds. The third is South Carolina with 72.

I'll leave you with some more images from my day, starting with this rather pleasant and unexpected message:

My 1000th NC find:

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

My Commute (Time Lapsed)

Since I started posting about biking to work on this blog, the offices of Only Googlebot Reads This Blog has been absolutely flooded with an email.  It requested that I describe what my commute to work via bicycle is like.

Since I was recently gifted a video camera, and I needed a project to do my first video with it, I slapped the video camera onto my bike and hit record.  The following, after some minor editing to add a soundtrack and some Useful Information (tm), and to speed up the video 8x to make it all 'time-lapsey' (note my heavy use of video industry terms), is exactly that.  Though I do apologize for the camera shake, but it was attached to my handlebars, and this was my first and only take, and my first video project, and the genesis of many excuses... but I digress.

So without further ado, here is the video of my commute to work via bicycle through the mean streets of Lenoir North Carolina!  Exciting!
 Note: it has come to my attention that this video is blocked in Germany due to copyright issues.  Here is a link to the same video sans music for those having this issue.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Smile! You Are On Candid Caching!

Note: I wrote this article for, and it was published on December 1, 2012. Check out the original article here.
Geocachers carry all sorts of tools with them into the field when they cache: pens, notebooks, mirrors, rope, tweezers and many other things.  There is another tool that you may already be carrying, that can be very useful for caching and you may not even realize it.  That tool is a camera.

Obviously cameras can be used to take pictures of your adventures, but they also have other uses which you may not be aware of.  This post outlines several of those uses.

Muggle Defense

If you are in an area looking around for that elusive cache and a group of muggles comes by it helps to look like you are doing something non-suspicious.  A good way is to pull out your camera and look like you are taking photos.  If you are asked about what you are doing, you can say that you are participating in a online photo scavenger hunt (like say, this one), and you are trying to capture a photo for one of the items on the scavenger list - say an insect, or a bird, or flowers (pick something that makes sense for the area you are currently in) and this area seemed like a good place to find it.  Since you are looking for something to shoot with your camera, you are also free to keep hunting without arousing a great deal of suspicion.

Preserving Information

If you have ever done any multi-caches you have probably come across caches that require you to gather information while out in the field to find the next stage.  Whenever I find this information I write it down in my notebook, and I also take a photo of it.  It is not uncommon to make mistakes while entering the next stage coordinates into your GPS and head off in the wrong direction.  Normally correcting these errors requires back-tracking to the previous stage.  If you have a pictures from the previous stage, you can simply consult your camera instead of taking that back-tracking walk of shame.  This method has saved me from many back tracks, which in some cases has saved me miles of walking.

This method works for any other type of cache where you have to gather information: virtuals, earth caches, and puzzle caches.  Nothing is worse than getting back to your computer to log a virtual, only to realize that you can't remember the answer to the questions you need to log it.  Taking a photo means all the information you need is sitting right there on your camera.

Pro tip:  If you have an Android phone and use Google Plus, use your camera phone to take these sorts of photos, even if you have a better camera that you normally use (photo quality is not an issue, as long as you can read the info).  Android phones will automatically upload pictures to Google Plus, so these images will be waiting for you when you get back to your computer - this saves having to locate that USB cable (which is never in the place you think it is) to upload photos from your camera to your computer, just to log your caches.

Another pro tip:  If you find yourself at a trail head with a map posted in an information booth, snap a picture of that map.  I would always recommend that you carry a paper map with you if possible, but if you don't have one, snapping that pic of the posted map means you always have one on your camera.

Recon By Photography

One of my favourite things to use my camera for in the field is to do reconnaissance of those hard to reach places where danger might be lurking - dark holes in trees (or pipes), under sewer grates or low walls, or any place where you don't want to stick your hands in case an animal is hiding, waiting to strike.  In these cases I use my camera to take photos of the area, then look at the pictures using the cameras view screen to see if I can spot anything.

I recently used this method to spot a cache in a storm drain. The drain itself was a grate 2' by 6', and the cache was somewhere underneath it, tucked safely under the concrete walkway.  There was no way for me to see under the concrete, so my only way to locate the cache was to probe blindly with my bare hands, or use recon by photography (I chose the second option).  I reached down with the camera and blindly took 4 shots.  When I previewed the images I knew two important things. a) there were no animals (especially poisonous snakes) waiting for me, and b) I knew where the cache was.  Once I had that information I felt safe blindly reaching my hand down and I quickly had the cache in hand.

This is one of the recon pictures I took.  See if you can spot the cache:

So, as you can see, your camera can be a valuable tool in any cachers toolbox.  Not only can it be used to record precious memories, it can also be used to record valuable information, or even see into places that you can't see yourself.

To use these tips it doesn't matter what camera you have.  Smart phone camera will work just as well as the fanciest DSLr.  I hope this post will give you a few more tools in your toolbox to help you out the next time you hit the field.

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Snapshots From A Day In Newton

Found this statue while caching in Newton NC.  Will the real bear please stand up...

This is probably *not* the famous civil war general...

Really old grave stones.  Some of these are from the revolutionary and civil wars.
An ammo can peaking out from its hiding place...
What a bore!

Saturday, December 01, 2012

Lenoir Santa Claus Parade

Last night was the world famous  Lenoir North Carolina SatanSanta Claus Parade.

The good news is that the parade is held at night, and the lights on the floats and other things in the parade (lots of police and fire vehicles) are spectacular.

The bad news is that this means photos are hard to take.  I haven't mastered the night shot yet.  Night shots are tricky under the best circumstances but they are extra tricky when the subject is moving, and the photographer is juggling his super-sized 7 month old daughter.

I picked some of the best of the worst shots and posted them below.  This should give everyone a sense of what the parade was like.

And the star of the show - the jolly fat man himself, with the Mrs. (personally I think the wife made him come... he'd rather be at home watching the Grinch).