Saturday, November 24, 2012

Durant Park

- or - 

 How I learned To Stop Worrying About Park Closing Times And Cook The Survival Squirrel.

Avid readers of my blog (heya!) may recall that yesterday I toured around the Greater Raleigh NC area gathering 8 different geocache types (covered here if you missed it).  That adventure ended up in Durant Park.  We only found a few caches before the sun went down and we were forced to abandon ship before the park closed.

I had one more day in Raleigh, and I needed to kill some time, so I headed back to Durant Park solo to clear out the rest of the caches in the park.

I spent this morning walking through the parks many miles of trails, watching the wildlife and finding most of the caches (6 of 7 - I didn't look for the nano on the bridge - because, well,  it is a nano on a bridge).

I also pulled a lighter out of a cache (lighters are not acceptable trade items - but since the trader was a muggle who just happened to find the cache in question (he signed the log and told his story), and actually traded things instead of stealing them, I will refrain from going on a rant.  Tho I am gratified to know that if we had gotten locked inside the park last night (it was a possibility we discussed in detail yesterday) we could have feasted on cooked squirrel, instead of raw squirrel (which was HHH's plan - mine was to either resort to canabalism, or get a pizza delivered to the gate).  Geocaching saves lives (in theory) dang it!).

Durant park is a really nice park to spend a morning.  The trails are clear and nicely marked, the terrain is mostly flat, with the few hills being gentle and rolling.  There is a lot of wildlife (ducks, squirrels, and deer are prevalent).  The bushwhacking is easy (few thorns), and there are lots of creeks, and even two lakes.  I highly recommend spending some time there if you get the chance.

I will leave you with some more pics taken in the park, starting with this shot of a deer (ok, you got me.  Technically this was taken last night, not today, but it was the same park!  I would have gotten away with it if it wasn't for you snooping kids!)

Friday, November 23, 2012


A very ballsy bull.
Today I went out on a caching adventure with HeadHardHat to find 8 different geocache types.

On there are 8 cache types that are available at any time to any cacher (this excludes the event cache types which are time dependent  and the APE and locationless caches which are so rare the average cacher is unlikely to ever get a chance to hunt them).

WhereIGo in action on an Android phone.
We started the day in downtown Durham NC going after a WhereIGo cache.  WhereIGos are complex caches that require special software to run (smart phones or some Garmin GPSs).  They lead a cacher on an adventure through the real world, and can require the cacher to do something (answer questions, arrive within a certain period of time etc.) to get access to the next waypoint.  At the end the cacher ends up at a physical cache and a log book to sign.  In our case the WhereIGo took us on a 15 stage tour of the architectural features of downtown Durham, which apparently is known as Bull City.

Our next cache was a short 2-stage multi cache that happened to start at the same place as the WhereIGO - namely the bull pictured above.

We then headed south to do a unique puzzle cache.  The location had 9 places where a cache could be hidden.  The puzzle was to find out where the cache is, sign the log, then place it in one of the other hiding spots. This means that after the first finder, not even the CO knows exactly where the cache is located. Once we found the cache and hide it in a different spot, we headed to Apex NC to do a webcam cache.

Our webcam shot
A webcam cache is a fairly unique cache type.  It requires one to take a screen shot of themselves being captured on a webcam located in a specific spot in the world.  Normally this involves coordinating with a friend waiting at home, who watches a webcam feed and waits for the cacher to show up in the image so he can take the screen shot.  Since friends are tricky, I employed modern technology (aka my laptop and using my cell phone as a portable wifi hotspot), to take a screenshot of myself and HeadHardHat standing in front of the webcam.  It is basically a high tech Rube Goldberg-esque self-portrait.

Once we finished with the high-tech web cam geekery, we headed down the road to do a Letterbox Hybrid.  Letterboxes actually started in 1854 in Dartmoor England (pre-dating geocaching by well over a century).  Seekers would use a map and compass, and a series of written directions, to locate the letterbox (which looks in many ways like a geocache).  The main difference is that a letterbox contains a stamp, and the seekers carry their own personal stamp.  Once a letterbox is found the seeker stamps his stamp in the letterbox's log, and stamps his personal log with the stamp in the letterbox.

An impression of the stamp from the Letterbox Hybrid
Letterbox hybrid caches work in a similar way as letterboxes.  The GPS coordinates on the cache listing are for the start of the hunt, and cachers use instructions in the cache description to navigate to the cache - things like "walk 100ft north", "do math from information you see in the field to walk X steps west" etc.  Some of the instructions are quite cryptic until you see them in the field, and suddenly it starts to make sense.  Once the container is located a cacher can use a personal stamp to sign the log, or simply scrawl their name into the logbook.

Now that we had the letterbox under our belt, we quickly knocked out the remaining cache types.  A virtual cache at a water pump station disguised as a house, a traditional ammo can hidden under a walking bridge along a trail, and we ended up doing an earth cache.

Earth Caches focus on highlighting the geological features of the world around us.  They are like virtuals in that there is no log book to sign - rather cachers claim the cache by answering questions about the various geological features that they see at GZ.

The Whale Rock
The earth cache we did was called Whale Rocks, which is an interesting rock formation in Durant Nature Park.

The rock is pictured here. can you see why it gets its name?

With our last cache type found, our mission was complete.   We now had all 8 cache types we planned on hitting in the bag.

In celebration we took a lap on some of the trails in the park - all traditional caches - until we ran out of daylight. We managed to find 11 caches in total.

I'll leave you with some more pictures of the day, starting with one of HeadHardHat taking a photo of one of the building features from our WhereIGo tour.
 Some interesting architecture from the WhereIGo cache in Durham NC.

 This is the camera  from the webcam cache we did in Apex.
 Yours Truly grabbing that webcam screen shot.
The last cache of the day: a traditional ammo can.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Adventures In Arboreal Litter Diving

This morning I took Zeke out on a pre-Thanksgiving dinner walk to a local park to build up an appetite.   Along the way we ran into piles, and piles (and piles!) of leaves along the sidewalk.

What toddler can resist the allure of a big pile of leaves?  Certainly not mine!

Our half hour walk ended up being over an hour, but with hillarious consequences.

Here are some pics that capture the fun of this mornings adventure. We'll start with Zeke wading into the first big pile.  Note the flower he has in his hand, that was given to him by a neighbour to give his mom.  Amazingly the flower (mostly) survived!

 Find the Zeke!

Reasons To Give Thanks

It is Thanksgiving in the United States, and since I live here I am celebrating it today with my american friends and family.   It is important at times like this to reflect on the things that one is thankful for.  Since I am a blogger, I chose to do this reflection online - something you can feel thankful for (hopefully:)

The question is what strategy should I use for this post?. I have many options.

I could go sappy, and say I am very thankful for my lovely and completely awesome wife, Debbie, who I am insanely in love with. I am also thankful for my two awesome kids, Zeke and Abigail.  They can be trying at times, but when it comes down to it, they are awesome little folks, and they make be laugh every day.  I am very proud to be their father.

Or may go professional and say that I am thankful that I have a job at one of the most amazing companies around.  My job doesn't always feel glamourous, but in aggregate we have literally changed the world, and for the better.  Insanely proud to be a Googler.

Perhaps I'll go hobbyist and say I am thankful that I have stumbled across an amazing hobby like geocaching, that has taken me on more adventures, and more places, that I every would have gone on my own.  I am also thankful that I fell into photography so I have another avenue to stretch my artistic muscle.

I could go there, but I think I'll go a different direction.

The thing I am most thankful for this year is that Canada saved the twinkie.  Thank you Canada!  Once again, you prove you rock, and in the most unexpected ways.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Guest Appearance On the Geocaching Podcast

Last week I was asked to be the guest on the Geocaching Podcast to talk about my "Take Me To The Leader" travel bug race.

So if you dare, pop over to the Geocaching Podcast and take a listen for yourself.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Geocaching Adventures: North Wilkesboro NC

This afternoon I wanted to go exploring, so I jumped into the GeoVan Of Destiny and headed north east to a small town of North Wilkesboro, North Carolina.

My first stop was tackling a series of caches along a greenway that is amusingly called Jefferson Turnpike.  The caches themselves were UFO themed.  I enjoyed the 1.5 mile walk along a hard-packed dirt trail with a river on one side, and woods on the other.

Before I left the house I checked on these caches, and all of them appeared to be in good shape. However I DNFd one of them, and, annoyingly, it was rated as very easy.  Since my GPS files were a week or so out of date, I pulled out my cell phone to look up the latest info on this cache. Oddly enough nothing came up.  No cache listing at all. I tried three different apps, and got nothing.  So sometime between the time I left my house and the time I arrived at ground zero the cache was archived.  A bit of a freaky coincidence, but at least I had a good excuse for not finding it.

Once I finished off the 4 (well, 3) caches along the trail, I headed downtown to walk around and find a few more caches.

North Wilkesboro is the exact thing I envision when I think of an "historic North Carolina" town in my head - think Andy of Mayberry.  It is build on the side of a hill so there is a lot of ups and downs, and way to many stairs. However there are also lots of old buildings, and a surprising number of court yards, overlooks, and parks interspersed within the buildings of the downtown core.

I spent more time with camera in hand than my GPS, but  I ended up finding 3 of 4 caches that are hidden downtown.

After I got back to my van I noticed I had a little more time before the sun went down so headed off to grab a few more caches.  The first had some maintenance issues.  It was supposed to be hanging from a fishing line, but I found it lying on the bottom of an inaccessible ditch, and not tied to anything.  I spent some time using my hiking pole to fish out the cache, then I re-tied it to a tree, so hopefully it will be accessible for the next hider.

Another cache I skipped as the description mentioned "avoiding the official muggles", and it was at a hospital, and hidden in some evergreen bushes.  Nothing about this cache sounded inviting, so I moved on (also, get permission for your caches, folks - one should never have to dodge 'official muggles' - aka security guards or cops).

I grabbed one more cache at a local church, and then turned the van south west towards home.  Satisfied that another successful afternoon of geocaching was in the bag.  I spent the evening bathing my infant daughter, feeding my son supper, munching on pizza, and blogging (sorry to shatter the glamourous image of the charmed life I portray online).

I'll leave you with some more pictures of a relaxing afternoon of exploration and cache, starting with a picture of the aforementioned river:

Friday, November 16, 2012

Geocachers Save The Date: 12-12-12

A unique date is coming up.  Geocachers world-wide are going to celebrate.  You can be one of us (if you are not already!)

Note:  Stole this bit from the geocaching blog, Latitude 47.  I assume they won't mind:

Join thousands of geocachers on December 12, 2012. It’s a celebration of numbers and all those who count themselves as geocachers. The calendar will align for the last time this century. Enjoy 12-12-12 by joining friends for a geocaching adventure or attending a geocaching Event Cache.

 All those caching to shake off the winter chill in the Northern Hemisphere or embracing a summer cache run in the Southern Hemisphere will earn an exclusive 12-12-12 Souvenir. Simply log a “Found it” for a cache or an “Attended” for an Event Cache on 12-12-12. Hundreds of geocaching Event Caches are already scheduled in more than 20 countries. Find an event on the Geocaching Event Calendar or create your own Event Cache.

 Subscribe to the Official YouTube channel for the latest tips and tricks in geocaching. Watch the more than 50 videos produced by on our video page.

What plans are you making for 12-12-12?

Monday, November 12, 2012

Autumnal Views

On Sunday I finished a geocaching adventure that I started way back in July at Rocky Face Mountain Recreational Area (covered here).

I have been jonesing lately to get some hiking in.  I haven't been on a proper hike since my bike accident in early October.  Since I had been to this park before and knew what I was getting into, and I had 8 geocaches left to find (3 I missed last time, and 5  placed since then), it seemed like the perfect way to kill a lazy Sunday afternoon.

As it turns out I had no problems hiking the 5.5 miles of trails, and I managed to find all 8 caches.  On the way home I grabbed 3 more, for a total of 11 for the day.

I brought my camera along and I got some shots of the autumn foliage.  I'll leave you with some shots of the North Carolina fall colours.  November sure is a fantastic time to go hiking in the mountains of North Carolina.

With a view like this --^ you just wanna stop and take it all in...

... yeah, this is the life for me.

Saturday, November 10, 2012


 I woke up this morning with a plan:  to do a little living room furniture shopping this morning (just looking, not buying anything yet was the plan we were going with) with the family, then spending the afternoon at a nearby park doing some hiking and geocaching.

Long story short the couch and arm chair are on order, and my new man-chair is in the back of the van waiting to be brought into the house.

All this means two things a) I don't need to look at any more couches, and b) I didn't have time to go for my planned hike.  So after lunch I executed "Plan B" (cause when you are a geocacher, nothing sounds more official than a Plan B), and headed off to do a cache in Morganton NC (just 20 minutes down the road) called "Coimetrophobia or Mappers Delight" (GC19N2C).

(Since you are wondering, and to save the inevitable Google search, coimetrophobia means "an abnormal and persistent fear of cemeteries" - you're welcome.)

The cache is a 5 part puzzle cache that takes the cacher to 4 cemeteries to gather information, and the final is just off another cemetery.

The cache description recommended marking each stage on a map, as a symbol will be revealed by connecting the dots.  I didn't have a paper map of the area, so I brought my laptop along in the van and used custom Google Maps to mark each stage.  This mapping isn't actually required, but I am glad I did it.  I was able to use satellite view to sanity check each stage as I could confirm it brought me to another cemetery.  I was also able to detect an error I made calculating the final coordinates as my first calculation ended up with coordinates that didn't match the pattern (turns out I made a mistake when gathering the information I needed).  Ain't technology awesome?

Once I grabbed the final, I took the opportunity to grab a few more caches in the area that I was unable to get to previously due to high muggle activity.  I ended up with 4 finds out of 5 for the day.

Cemeteries are always interesting to walk through as there is so much history. During my cemetery tour, I took a bunch of pictures.   I'll leave you with a sample of my day.

This is the grave of a Revolutionary War soldier by the name of John Duckworth.  Don't see that every day.