Saturday, April 26, 2014

Lakeside Park CITO

In celebration of Earth Day, this weekend has been declared the Official 2014 CITO Weekend by Groundspeak.

In that spirit I took the wife and kids over to Lakeside Park in Granite Falls North Carolina to join some fellow geocachers, and some Boy Scouts, at a CITO event.

If you are not familar, CITO stands for Cache In, Trash Out.  They are events where geocachers get together and improve our gameboard by either picking up trash, or maintaining trails, removing invasive species, planting trees etc.

This event was all about trash removal.  Approximately 20-25 people attended this event, including a park employee (who provided trash hauling services). We spent 3 hours picking up trash, and there was a lot of it.

I picked up a lot of Budweiser and Miller beer bottles, and I started feeling a little artistic so I staged and took this shot.  I spent the next while ruminating about how I wished litterers took a little more pride in their work and left bottles from a higher class of beer. It seems the least they can do. Our litterers, apparently, have low standards.

The trail ran along the edge of Lake Rhodhiss, so we got to spend a lot of time close to the water.
It was a gorgeous day to be by a lake.
Over the course of three hours we packed up and hauled away an estimated 3 pick-up truck loads worth of garbage.
We left our game board much shinier and happier than when we found it, making this a pretty good day.

Did you CITO this weekend?  Tell me about it in the comments below.

Thursday, April 24, 2014


Fernweh: Noun. A German word that has no direct english translation, but generally means "distance sickness" (the opposite of homesickness).   It is the strong desire to travel and explore the world.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Gorrillapod In The Mist

I just bought a new accessory for my camera.  The flexible armed thing in this photo is a GorillaPod.  It is a tripod with funky grip.  It has all sorts of advantages over a nomal tripod, as you can see.
The biggest advantage is that it will allow me, when I am out on the trails getting into adventure and hijinxs, to stop taking selfies like this:
And start taking selfies like this:
A vast improvement if ever there was one.  

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Indiana Jones And The Avian Abode Adventure

Hey kids, its story time! Gather round...



Tough.  I'm gonna tell one anyway.

As you may know (or not know, to be honest I really don't know your entire back story)  Indiana Jones is the most famous and hard core adventurer in the entire world (who isn't a Hobbit).

Last weekend whilst I was hiking up a rocky face on the amazingly appropriately named Rocky Face Mountain, I came across the path of Mr. Indiana Jones.

So I followed him.

With a camera in my hand.

Like a creepy stalker professional journalist would.

Indiana was off on another whirl wind adventure in search of hidden treasure.  In this case the First to Find on a birdhouse cache on the other side of the rocky face.  He had a long way to go, over the rough strewn rock, crawling over things, ducking under things, crawling over some more things.
As he approached the woods on the far side he climbed up on a log to get a good look over the land. Looks like his destination is east north east, about 100 yards! (authors note: while that distance may not seem impressive to you or me, in Lego minifig scale it is the equivalent of 2.1 miles)

He kept crawling over things, and under things, and over more things, until he got to the base of a gigantic 15ft tree.  He could see his goal, but it was out of reach.  There was no choice... he would have to climb up the monster tree... without rope... or flexible hands... or knees... what could possibly go wrong?

Crawling and scraping his way up the massive trunk to the level of the birdhouse, he started crawling along the wide sweeping branches.  Despite the dizzying heights he pressed on, all recklessly macho like.
Inching ever closer to his goal, he took a risk and climbed along a thin branch.  It is probably not worth mentioning that at this point the level of peril our plucky hero was insanity itself.  Hairy stuff. The very definition of 'holy crap!' His insurance agent sent him a tweet  to discuss increasing his life insurance premiums.  A feeling of suspense and dread is very appropriate at this point, so if you are feeling that, you are feeling good things. (If you are not feeling that, what on earth is wrong with you?!? we can discuss your epic jadedness later, this is about Indy right now.)
Indy finally arrived at the point where the birdhouse attached to the tree with a massive rope support system.  There was no going back at this point (he thought about it, but he didn't want to risk his reputation with the ladies. I'm sure you understand) so he slid down the ropes and finally set foot on the roof of his goal.
Once he was firmly standing on the steep peaked roof he stopped for a quick break and to shoot a boyish smirk to the camera (not shown).  After a few minutes, and uttering a very manly confident quip about "finishing this" (exact words not shown for reasons of copyright),  he slide over the side, opened the cache, and crawled inside.   He quickly looked at the log and...
Someone named debaere unnamed had already signed the log just minutes before him.  Gah! Such disappoint! This was just like that time when he got away from that guy with the artifact by being clever on a train, only to have it taken away by the constabulary and kicking off what would become the story arc for the Last Crusade (if you see where I am going with this...)

Yeah, its exactly like that time, except no trains, fewer Nazi's, and we won't find the Holy Grail in this story.  We will, however, get to learn a valuable lesson. Which is this:

All is fair in love, and First To Find races.

"Nuts to this!" Indy exclaimed, then rode off in the sunset in an airplane that conveniently came by to pick him up. Last I heard he hung up his fedora and became a professor of archeology at Marshall College in Bedford Connecticut.

Somehow, I suspect, we haven't quite seen the last adventure of Indiana Jones just yet.  

Did you like this story?  Let me know in the comments below.  Hate mail also accepted.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

TB Race: More Aliens Have Landed

Two more alien drones have hit the ground!

Drone #8 landed near the Podcacher Studio in sunny San Diego California.  Drone #9 landed in GilkerscleughCache's front yard in southern Scotland.

Drone #11 hit the ground last week in Michigan, and is currently getting his kicks on Route 66.

You can learn about the race here, and keep up with the stats on the score board.

Which one will make it first across the finish line?  Place your (friendly) bets in the comments below!

Monday, April 14, 2014

Climbing Rocky Face Mountain

On Sunday I learned exactly why they call it Rocky Face Mountain.

In February I bragged online about clearing out Rocky Face Mountain Park...  a week later a local caching couple by the name 2IceHikers published two more caches there.  On Sunday I made my return to once again clear out the park.

I walked the trails as close as I could to the first cache.  I had to go off-trail, and walk about 200ft along the edge of a large rocky outcropping, to get to ground zero, but I soon had the cache in hand and the log signed.

It was at this point that I had a choice.  To take the trails to the next cache would be well over a mile of trail hiking, however the cache was only 0.4 miles as the crow flies. The shorter distance was almost straight up (400+ft elevation gain), and 100% bushwhacking (tho the description said the woods near the second cache were 'light').  The trails would be longer, but much easier.  I had hiked those trails several times in the past, so I decided to man up and bushwhack over to the second cache location.  

Adventure awaits!

So I started to ascend the seemingly endless rocky slope.  As it turns out the rock face goes up at a fairly steep angle the entire 400ft elevation (not sure how far inward it goes, but when I got to the top I was only 1/10th of a  mile closer to my goal).  

It was a heck of an ascent - lots of 45deg slopes, and some logs and trees to navigate around.  I was about half-way up when this site came into view.

 The sharp eyed among you will notice the large bird coming over the horizon.  My first thought was "cool! Eagles... or... vultures... or... something." ... so it turns out my bird identification sucks.

My next thought was that I was in the company of, assuming I was watching eagles, food, in the form of my dog.  Now I don't know much about eagles, so this is likely all very silly in retrospect, but at the time I was rather concerned.  I knew some eagles have been known to attack animals as large as deer, so my 40lb dog was no match for such winged beasts.  Also I had just read The Hobbit, in which giant eagles featured heavily.  All this is to say I felt a tad bit of fear for my trusted companion, and kept her close, as I continued on up the rocks.

There were a half dozen of these winged beasts in the air, and I got lots of views like this one:
I must confess, by the time I got to the top I felt like Gandalf leading the hobbits (aka Bailey) to safety from the wraiths - I may be a grown man, but there is *nothing* wrong with my imagination, thank you very much. (I wish I could say the same for my bird identification skills).

Once I got to the top I took a moment to admire the view, and to take a selfie (notice that Bailey is on leash, and kept close to me).
Since I was near the summit, I headed laterally across the mountain into the woods to bushwhack the 1500ft or so to GZ.  I quickly found the cache.  Mission now accomplished I located the nearest path, and took the longer, easier way, back to parking.

It was a grueling climb - I can feel it in my legs today - but I am glad I did.  I didn't see a solitary soul on the way up the side of the mountain, but I must have passed 30+ people while walking back to the Geovan Of Destiny.  A solitary hike through nature is much better for the soul than a crowded one.

So now Rocky Face Mountain Park is clear of caches once again.  Your turn, 2IceHikers.  I await your next move.

Zeke's Flower

Yesterday, as I was getting into the Geovan of Destiny to go hiking, my son Zeke gave me a flower.  I told him I'd bring it with me.

This was taken half-way up Rocky Face Mountain:

GeoGearHeads Guest Hosting

Last Thursday I had the pleasure of recording as a guest host on the GeoGearHeads podcast, which is a podcast about the technology that appeals to geocachers.

It was a randomized show where we talked about a great many thing, including my Garmin Monterra review, the latest USB spec, paper map caching and tools brought into then field, and geocache being the new scrabble word.

I also recorded some extra content which is available as extra content for Patreon subscribers.

You can check out  the audio, and the show notes here, and the video of the podcast below:

Friday, April 11, 2014

Take Me To Your Leader 2014: First Sightings

The first alien has landed in Michigan!

In case you've been thinking my obsession with geocaching is a tad bit on the excessive side of weird, I just got a little more legit: Hello Scrabble Dictionary!

It beat out the word 'zen' to claim the top spot. as the new official Scrabble word. This seems appropriate as most of my moments of zen happen while I am out geocaching.

Geocache is now a legit scrabble word.  Its worth 16 points, or 48 on a triple word score.

Thats not bad.  Not bad at all.

I just hope my mom reads this before I meet her next in the tile letter based battle arena of doom, and bust out the new hotness in wordology:  geocache.  Game. On.

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Take Me To Your Leader 2014: The Race Begins Again

Today I have started a travel bug race... and perhaps an intergalactic conspiracy... all without having to leave the comfort of my air conditioned basement.

If this sounds familiar, it is likely because I held a similar race in 2012. (Check out the posts, and the standings for that race)  This time, however, I doubled the number of participants, and vastly increased the global coverage.

 If you are not familiar with the concept, a travel bug (TB) is an object that has a unique tracking code. The bugs are moved from geocache to geocache by cachers, and their movements can be tracked various websites, in this case Some bugs have missions attached to them, normally to get to a specific location. Others are released to travel the world at the discretion of the cachers that find them.

These bugs have a very specific mission: to return to me by being placed in a cache near my town as quickly as possible. The exact mission reads as follows:

Your mission, should you chose to accept it, is to move this travel bug on the quickest route possible to Lenoir North Carolina, USA.
The story so far…
A year ago, in a Galaxy close to home, on a small moon orbiting a small red planet in the Alpha Centauri star system,  monitoring stations began to pick up radio signals from a small blue planet in the western spiral arm of the Milky Way galaxy. Specifically the signals were from Golden Oldies 102.4FM out of Wichita Kansas.  After listening for several years, a group of 8 aliens had heard enough and decided to take action. They loaded a small Orion class star ship with as many cans of Floovian Blue Juice (their most favourite drink - and also used to tune their radios) that would fit in the cargo hold, and blasted off their home moon in search of this little blue planet, and the radio station therein.  Their mission:  to get the station to play "just a little more Lynyrd Skynyrd" because they play " a little too much Menudo".
Due to an accident during landing they were scattered across the planet, far from home, and their precious Floovian Blue Juice.  Only one was heard from again.
Now, a year later, in a valiant attempt to get more Lynyrd Skynyrd played across the galaxy, a search party has been sent to the little blue planet to rescue our plucky heroes, .  Armed with a larger space ship, and a full tank of Floovian Blue Juice, they set out across the galaxy.  
One side effect of Floovian Blue Juice is that it amplifies bass notes 100x normal, so it was very unfortunate that the ships radio, in active search mode for the missing aliens, locked onto a dubstep station from Sydney Australia. The radio operator,startled by the sudden blast of bass, dropped the radio into his freshly poured mug of pure freshly squeezed Floovian Blue Juice (literally dropping the bass).  The super-amplified syncopated beats intensly vibrated the ship, eventually breaking apart in the upper atmosphere.  Once again they took to the escape pods and were scattered across the small blue planet.
Stranded on a foreign planet once again, and the only bottle of Floovian Blue Juice being an emergency supply squirreled away in the captains quarters on the crashed ship, each alien is now locked in a race to the juice.  The first one back will get to get enjoy the last bottle of Floovian Blue Juice, and tune into "a little more Lynyrd Skynyrd" on 102.4FM out of Kansas City. The rest will be cursed to drinking water, and trying to recall the memory of "a little too much Menudo".
Speed, as you can imagine, is of the utmost importance.

The race works like this: I have mailed via the United States Postal Service, 16 identical travel bugs to cachers in 13 countries on 5 continents.  They have agreed to release the travel bugs in a cache near them.  Each travel bug is a 1" dark blue alien attached to a TB dog tag that contains the tracking code.

Due to the asynchronous nature of the release (i.e. the TBs will not be released on the same day due to differences in international shipping speeds), the "winner" will be determined by the shortest number of days between the time the TB is logged into its first cache, and the time it gets logged into a cache in Lenoir.

None of the TBs have been placed in caches yet - they are still in the mail at the time of this writing, but  expect that to happen over the course of the next two weeks. The progress of the race can be tracked here:

Thanks to all the cachers who volunteered to help place these TBs in their respective areas. Also a special thanks to Cache Advance for helping sponsor this event.  The travel bug tags are Cache Advance tags.

It should (hopefully) prove interesting to see how these travel bugs move from cache to cache as they work their way back to me. Stay tuned to this blog for updates.

Also, keep an eye on the standings, and if you get the chance to see one of these bugs in the wild please shoot me a picture or two, and then move it along.  Speed is, as they say, of the utmost importance.

Wordless Wednesday

Monday, April 07, 2014

The Travel Bug Race Is Coming...

I have spent the last few days in deep preparation. The participants have been selected. The travel bugs have been built. The I's have been dotted, and the T's have been crossed. Excitement is straining at the gates demanding to be unleashed.

The global phenomenon that is the 2014 Take Me to Your Leader Travel Bug Race is coming soon to a geocache near you.

I am almost ready. Are you?

(This feeble attempt to build anticipation has been brought to you by the good people at Only Googlebot Reads This Blog. Please feel free to provide encouragement with comments, cheers, applause, or smirks of righteous indignation.  We're just happy you decided to drop by.  But seriously, its a global TB race!  Thats gotta count for something, right? RIGHT? (please say yes) )

Sunday, April 06, 2014

Bike Caching The Morganton Greenway

First, a poem:

Spring has come, the grass is ris
I wonder where all the flowers is
See the birds fly in the sky
Dropping whitewash in my eye
(I'm just glad that cows don't fly)

It is officially spring in North Carolina. I spent yesterday morning doing manly duties (lawn care and vehicle maintenance). So to celebrate, yesterday afternoon I took my bike over to Morganton to ride along the excellent greenway system they have there.

There were a pair of new geocaches on the greenway that I were published after I was there last, so I planned on hunting those down as well.

When I hit the woods, the first thing I noticed was that these flowers were out in full force.  I think they are a Lilly of some kind (if you know what they are, please let me know in the comments).
This cache was an easy find about 400ft from the greenway, over a hill and down a valley. These new plastic ammo cans seem to hold up well, all things considered.
For security reasons I pulled my bike up a 10ft steep embankment and into the woods while I hunted for the geocache.  It does afford a nice view of the greenway trail.
The second cache I found led me to what is now my most favourite place on the greenway.  The greenway follows the Catawba river, but the banks are mostly very steep and full of nasty brush, nasty thorny vines of death, and other general briar and bramble plants that infest North Carolina bush like a plague.   This was at a nice rocky area right on the water.  As you can see it affords some really nice views. Its also well away from the trail itself, so it is quite peaceful.

From here I biked to the end of the greenway to get some information for a future geocaching event I am planning.  I then headed all the way back to the Geovan of Destiny, loaded up the bike and drove home.

I had cached the greenway before, and these caches were published since the last time I was here, so I only found the two.  Thats OK tho.  It isn't all about the numbers. Geocaching may not be for everyone but for me getting in an 8 mile bike ride and a pair of smileys, there are few things that I'd rather be doing.  

Especially on a beautiful spring day.