Sunday, January 22, 2012

Scenes Of The Northland

Over the Christmas holidays we spent 3 weeks in southern Ontario.  I posted about my geocaching adventures, but I skipped over a lot of the non-geocaching events. (for the geocaching posts see the last 4 posts in December 2011, and the first 3 posts in January 2012 in the Older Stuff section on the right).

We spent a lot of time in Dunnville ON, and took several trips to the Golden Horseshoe (Greater Toronto area), and a couple trips, including taking in a free outdoor New Years Eve concert, in Niagara Falls.

The following are a collection of photos taken when we were not geocaching (it does happen!).   Enjoy!

(oh, I tossed a few caching photos in as well... )

Monday, January 16, 2012

Geocaching Adventures: A Weekend In Cary

Regular readers of this blog will know that we are in then process of completing the North Carolina Delorme Challenge.   We have just 6 pages left to grab, and they are all in a line near Raleigh NC - the area goes from Greensboro NC to Rocky Mount NC, and everything to the northern state border.  The closest part of this area to our house is a two hour drive away.

This past weekend we piled into the van and headed over to the area with the mission to grab the remaining pages.  As it turns out we got more of an adventurous weekend than we expected.

We left our house around 8AM Saturday morning and headed northeast.  By 5PM we had gathered all of the pages for the Delorme and were checked in  at our hotel in Cary NC (a location picked because it is proximate to the target area).  We're done.  All that is left is to find the final cache... but that will have to wait for another weekend as its location is not proximate to Cary.

So this means that we had two days to kill.... what to do... what to do...  hrm... go caching?  Yes!

We decided to do a "best of" run of the area.  This area happens to be the gravitational center of the geocaching universe in North Carolina - there are a lot of caches around here... more that could possibly be done in years, let alone a couple days.  So I applied my method for finding the best caches in the area and spent two days hunting down the best caches in Cary NC, and the surrounding area.

So we spent two days exploring gnome holes,  climbing on old abandoned tractors in a field, some amazing urban hides, a lot of ammo cans, signing baseballs,  some impromptu airplane watching, and hanging out with Andy Griffith.

We did a virtual cache at a statue of Andy Griffith and Opie.  When we pulled up in the parking lot we realized that the park that contained the statue also contained a small train and a carrousel.  We decided that Zeke, our toddler who is obsessed with trains, would love a ride on both.  We took a break from caching and took him on his very first train ride, and then his very first carrousel ride.  He liked the carrousel so much he made us ride it again.
Later on that day we ended up at the RDU Airfield, where we watched airplanes take off - which is more toddler entertainment fodder.

Some other memorable hides included:

A cache located in a hole in a tree behind a fairy door.  Zeke found that one.

A cache who's logbook was a baseball.  Sign the ball to claim the cache.

One of the largest caches I've seen is a locker for the back of a pickup truck.  It was sitting out in the middle of the woods.

One of the wettest caches I've done.  It is a micro in a 4ft vertical PVC pipe.  The pipe had 5 holes in the bottom.  To claim the cache one needs to plug all of the holes, fill the pipe with water, which floats the cache to the surface where it can be grabbed and logged.  My wife plugged the holes with her hands, and I filled the tube.  I've heard of these caches before but this is the first time I got a chance to claim one.  It was great fun.  Zeke loved watching the water drain from the holes again.

It was a fantastic 3 days of caching and exploring.

I'll leave you with some more photos of our weekend.  Cheers!

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Geocaching Adventures: Blue Ghost Tunnel

Canadians, it seems, like haunting tunnels.  Today I went on an adventure to complete a multi-cache at the Blue Ghost tunnel in St. Catharines, ON.

 This is actually my second attempt at this cache.  We tried to get to the parking coords a couple days ago, but were thwarted by a big fence across the service road running to the cache that said, basically, go away. The road leads to a GM plant, and I guess they don't like visitors.

We were with a bunch of people, including a toddler, so we didn't want to spend a lot of time trying alternative access methods, so we decided to head off to do the Screaming Tunnel cache instead.

I really wanted to see this tunnel, so I did some map research online and made another attempt today.  

 One thing that makes this cache hard to access is that it is sandwiched between several canals (basically its on a mand-made uninhabited island), so there are only so many ways to access this cache. Having one way blocked off really complicates things.

According to the logs the tunnel can also be accessed by parking at the cemetary to the south, and hiking around a resevoir and crossing at a lock.  So I started out using this as my starting plan.  I got to the cemetary and hiked along the trails a mile to the lock.

Unfortunately I ran into a wall... literally.  I needed to descend about 50ft along a pretty sheer rock wall.  There was a path of stone steps, but since I was a) alone, and b) have weak knees, I decided that way was too risky, so I aborted that attempt.  I scouted around the area, but I could find no other way to get down to the lock, so I executed a retro-grade maneuver, returned to my car, and headed over to where the road was blocked to see if I could find another way from there.

Luckly I found a way.  The road I needed to access curves around and passes under a bridge, then heads a mile to the tunnel.  Cars were not allowed on the road, but there were foot paths down the side of the bridge that gave access to the road.  So I parked the car at a turnout on the main road, hiked down the side of the bridge, and a mile down the service road to the cache.

It seemed like I shouldn't be there, give that the road was blocked off so efficiently, however there were no No Tresspassing signs, and after being passed by several cars, including security, and getting nothing but friendly waves I figured I was good to go.

The tunnel goes under the service road I was walking on, so when I got to GZ I descended down a ravine and finally laid eyes on my goal:  The Blue Ghost Tunnel.

The cache didn't require going into the tunnel, but I went in anyways. The tunnel is 667 feet long, with a soft gentle curve.  About half way along the bottom drops off and is covered in what looks like deep water, so I only went that far.  I can definitely see how folks would think that this place was scary. Water dripping from the ceiling, dark, rough floor, damp, cold... the perfect setting of a ghost story.

The tunnel was build in the 1870s as a train tunnel to aid in the moving of goods between the various canals in the area.  Early in the 20th century,  there was an accident in which two trains collided just outside the tunnel, and many people were killed.  It is said that the ghosts of these people moved into the tunnel, and live there to this day.

After I returned to daylight I set about finding the first stage of the cache, and quickly came up with the container.  The new coordinates sent me away from the tunnel and off into a field about 400ft away.  So off I went up the side of the ravine, into the field, and found the final cache.  Victory!

I spent a bit more time exploring a lock nearby, then made the hike back to my car and drove back home.

This was an absolutely amazing experience, and if you are in the area, I highly recommend the Haunted Blue Ghost Tunnel Cache.

I'll leave you with some more images from my adventure:

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Geocaching Adventures: Screaming Tunnel

Niagara-On-The-Lake, a small community in southern Ontario, is haunted.  Well one tunnel is at any rate.

The legend holds that over a century ago there was a farmhouse in a nearby field that caught fire.  "The air was shattered by a young girl's wretched screams as she emerged running from the fire's eerie glow. Her clothing engulfed in flames, she fled into a tunnel in a futile attempt to extinguish her burning garments. Collapsing to the floor, she died alone in its depths."

It is said that to this day, if you light a match in the tunnel you will hear the screams of the girl, and the match will immediately be blown out.

The tunnel is called the Screaming Tunnel, and with a name like that you end up begging for caches to be near by, and you would not be disappointed. There are several. Today I went with my wife and sister-in-law to attempt a multi-cache that took us through this tunnel.

The first stage of the multi is on the parking side of the cache.  We quickly got our hands on the coordinates for stage two, and headed through the tunnel.  The tunnel was full of water and ice, and we had to jump across the stream of water several times to make it through the tunnel.  Amazingly, given we have one hair dresser, one pregnant lady, and, well, me, in our party, we made it across without getting wet.

We then hiked a quarter mile in the cold wintery weather (-11c - cold enough to freeze beard hairs) to the second stage.  It was there that we ran into issues.  It turns out stage 2 is missing - we could not find it after a good 20 minute search.  A check of the logs confirmed that this stage was not found by countless others.

It was at this stage that we started heading back.  As we did I checked my GPS and noted that we were only 300ft from another cache, so off we went and grabbed it.  So we didn't get the cache we wanted, but since we planned on getting one cache, and we signed one log, we claimed victory and headed back through the tunnel to our cars.

We had survived the screaming tunnel unscathed.  Another awesome caching experience in the books.

I'll leave you with some more photos from todays adventures:

Geocaching Adventures: Duff

 It is always good times to cache with old friends...

... especially if it involves a trudge through the snow.

I've known him (caching name: Tha Duh Feez) since before either of us got into caching, way back in 2006.  He attended my wedding, and I was a groomsman in his.  I moved away before I started caching, and ne has recently gotten into it.  So I made an extra effort to ensure that we got a chance to cache together while I am in the Great White North for the holidays.

Yesterday was the day.

We started the day by going to the Ontario Science Center in Toronto and checking out the Groundspeak GPS/Geocaching exhibit: GPS Adventures.  This exhibit is a GPS maze that teaches people all about geocaching.  To get through the maze you need to solve 4 geocaching style puzzles.  It was a surprisingly good exhibit, and I even learned some things (a surprise, since I have been caching so long).  It is well worth checking out if the exhibit comes to a city near you (check for details).

The GPS Adventures exhibit is also a geocaching event, so once we signed the logbook we had our first cache of the day in the bag.  However its not exactly geocaching as it was meant to be, and I still needed to get my boots into some deep snow, so we still had some more adventure ahead of us.

So in search of this adventure we headed northwest to Halton county, and headed out on a quest for  a cache along the Bruce trail.

The weather was 22f, with a soft falling snow.  About 3-5 inches on the ground.  The trails were very rugged, with lots of puddles and ponds (mostly frozen over). Aka perfect Canadian weather.

There were a lot of rocks and fallen trees to climb over, which the snow made that much more treacherous to navigate.

But navigate we did, and after about 40 minutes on the trails we had the cache in hand.  20 more minutes and we were back in the car warming up.

All in all it was a fantastic day of caching with an old friend, and the snow hike did a lot to satisfy my cravings for communing with the Canadian winter.

I'll leave you with some more images from our hike: