Thursday, December 31, 2015

A Year In Review

Since it is almost New Years, I am going to jump on the bandwagon and write a year in review post.  Why? Because I can.
On the home front this year was pretty stable.  I still live in the same place, which looks pretty much the same.  I have the same number of kids, same dog, heck even the same cell phone.

What has defined the year tho is travel.  A lot of it.  So much travel, in fact, that I still have yet to blog about the last 4 months of the year.  The cool thing is that of all the travel I did this year, only two trips were ones I expected to make when the year started.

The following are some of my adventures this year, starting with one of the few that went off as planned.

In early March my wife and I headed to Las Vegas Nevada for The Great Scavenger Meet Up.  This event is where we finally met in person a group of amazing photographers that we've been hanging out with on Google Plus - a community centered around the +Chrysta Rae Photography Scavenger Hunt (a hunt that continues to this day, so go follow +Chrysta Rae to get in on the awesome photography action).  While there we made friends with several people in particular, who will make reappearances in my further adventures this year.

My next trip was not expected at the beginning of the year.  It was a trip to Switzerland for work in late May.  I extended that trip to also include a stop-over in Germany to attend a geocaching Giga event in Mainz.  All that travel is captured in a series of posts called European Adventure 2015, however the overview is:  Landed in Frankfurt and took a train to Mainz for a couple days. Then I trained to Zurich Switzerland where I spend the next 10 days. While in Zurich I hung out with +Sivani Boxall, a Scavenger friend I met in Vegas, who toured me around, introduced me to some locals, and drove us on a road trip to Liechtenstein and Austria.

When the year had started my wife and I decided that we wanted to take a trip to the UK, and even arranged babysitting with the grandparents for that trip.  However after Vegas we decided what we *really* wanted to do was take an epic road trip across our native homeland of Canada.  So we did.
While we were planning, fortuitous fate and fortunes grace shone upon us, and we ended up discovering that a Scavenger by the name of +Ron Clifford had need to also go across the country, so we ended up road-tripping with Ron.  Along the way we added +Liz Kaetterhenry to our caravan, and all of us drove across this country, and met up with many of our newfound Scavenger friends. Too many to mention, but a shout out to +Patt Dickson and +Paul Howard for letting us crash at their respective houses.

These adventures are captured in a series of posts called The Great Canadian Road Trip.

After that I took another trip for work, this time back to Las Vegas.  I had some grand adventures there too, but this is where I lost track of time and start my blog backlog, so I don't have any posts to share.  In October we went to the Going Caching mega event in Rome Georgia.  Somewhere in there I threw in a Scott Kelby World Wide Photo Walk. Finally we headed back to Canada to spend the holidays with family.

I had an amazing year for travel.  I was in at least 5 different mountain ranges, and 6 different countries.  I added 4 provinces, 2 states, and 4 countries to my geocaching map.  I made a bunch of new friends, and have more memories than even I can blog about.  Not bad, eh?

So that is my year.  I wonder what 2016 will bring.

Whatever it brings I am sure it will involve lots of travel and road-tripping, and you can follow along on Google Plus, Instagram, or (eventually) right here in this blog.
See you down the road in 2016!

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Christmas Aliens Attack

I opened some Lego minifigs I received for Christmas, which included an ancient Egyptian soldier, and an alien squid dude. I decided to make a scene out of them.  I call this:  Christmas Aliens Attack (because I am unorigional with titles).

What do you think?

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Always Keep An Eye On The Guy With The Big White Lens

A few weeks ago I was walking through the middle of Central Park, in New York City.  It was my first time in this section of the park, so I was a little overwhelmed at the scale, and all the things to see.

Suddenly, out of the corner of my eye, I spot a photographer with a huge telephoto lens  (ya know those big white Canon ones that just scream 'I got more zoom than you!' ?  It was a larger one of those) jogging across the grass, looking up into the trees.  So I looked up as well to see what he was looking at, and saw a red tailed hawk, just hanging out in the middle of the city:

It was at that moment that I learned a valuable lesson:  Always keep an eye on the guy with the big white lens, cause when he swings into action, there will be something cool to see.

Also learned in the moment right after this one is to keep your camera pointed at the wildlife.  Because if I did, the next photo would be of a red tailed hawk swooping right over my head.  However, I learned that lesson about 20 seconds too late, so you get nothing.  Sorry about that.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Photography Milestone

This is Blue Ridge Outdoor magazine, October 2015 edition:
This is my photo on page 5:
Yep, I can now add "published photographer" to my resume.  Go me.

If you are curious, the story of this photo (not the article in the magazine, but the adventure I was on when I took it), is covered in the post "Geocaching Asheville".


Wordless Wednesday

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Black Friday in Dupont Forest

Yesterday, as much of North American engaged in the retail hysteria that is Black Friday, I continued the tradition that I started a couple years ago (Stories here, and here), and went on a day long excursion to enjoy the outdoors, the way the Good Lord intended.

Personal note:  This year REI had a campaign that expanded on my tradition by closing all their stores on Black Friday and paying their employees to go outside.  I like to think that it was my influence that brought about this epic campaign that they called #OptOutside.  Thanks REI! (disclaimer: I don't actually think this, but its still awesome, and my hats off to them.)

This year I mixed things up a bit, and went on a combination bike and hike in the beautiful Dupont Forest, in the mountains near Asheville North Carolina. So early yesterday morning I loaded the Geobike of Destiny onto the Geovan of Destiny, and headed into the mountains.

Dupont is home to an incredible series of scenic waterfalls, and I wanted to check out as many of them as I could (as well as find some geocaches, cause thats how I roll).  My first stop was the Bridal Veil Falls.  From the parking lot I rode my bike along the access roads to the base of the falls, and subsequently parked my bike at what may possible be then most scenic bike rack I've ever had the pleasure of using.

Dupont forest has been used for a couple films over the years, most famously for The Last of The Mohicans, and several of the arena scenes for Hunger Games.  Katniss escaped the fireballs in the first movie by jumping into a pool at the base of these falls.
The base of the falls is nothing over spectacular, except in scale.  It is your basic "lots of water sliding down a relatively shallow rock face".  The top of the falls are supposed to be a lot more scenic, but there was no obvious way to get there. There was too much water, due to the epic amount of rain we received lately, to climb the falls, and the park maps did not show a trail that went all the way, but there was an earth cache up there, so I figured there must be a path, so I got on my GeoBike of Destiny, took to the single-track trails, and worked my way over to the top of the falls.
It looked promising when I got to Bridal Overlook trail, however that trail leads to an overlook (and not a good one) that ends at a cliff.  I backtracked and found an unmarked trail that lead to the falls.

This section of the falls has a large opening behind the water where one can hang out without getting wet.  Apparently in The Last Of The Mohicans, this is where Daniel Day Lewis goes to Mohic (I assume thats what they do, I've never actually seen the movie).
You can get a better idea of the overhang with this shot here.
Once I was done with the Bridal Veil Falls, I biked back to the Geovan of Destiny and drove to another parking lot - one more suitable for accessing the other waterfalls.  It was from there that I set out on foot.

This actually proved to be a mistake as the trails are quite bikeable, however the first trail head said "no bikes allowed", but apparently that was just that one small section, and I could have taken the access road a bit farther down to a covered bridge were I could access a bike friendly trail that would take me to all the waterfalls I wanted to see - oh well, live and learn.

The first set of falls was High Falls, named because they are high (I assume). They are actually quite impressive in both height and volume of water.  The scenic covered bridge sure didn't hurt.
The trail leads to the bottom of the falls, where one gets the full impression of the power of the falling water.   There also appears to be fish (or at least fishermen).
The final set of falls I explored is Triple Falls, named in the grand tradition of the blatantly obvious due to it being a series of three falls in quick succession.  They are rather scenic.

The falls are another location that was shown in Hunger Games, as this is the place where Katniss discovered Peeta disguised as a rock.  Very exciting. The park installed a series of stairs that leads down to the rocks between the second and third tiers of the falls.

Looking downstream one can see that there is quite the drop before the river flattens out again.  I highly reccomend taking the trails instead of swimming it.
Following my own advice I took the trail down to the base of the falls.  Along the way is an overlook that provides the best fire of the entire set of Triple Falls in all their hyper-violent murderous dystopian future (if you believe the movies) or awesome power of nature (if you believe in reality) glory.

I'll let you decide.
On that note it is time to end this tale of adventure.  Did you folks #OptOutside on Black Friday?  If so, tell me about it in the comments below.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Scavenger 16

The 16th round of the +Chrysta Rae Photo Scavenger Hunt is wrapping up over on Google Plus, so I can share with you all my entries.

The way it works is thus:  A list of 10 words is provided, and 500 crazy whacky photographers have 6-8 weeks to brainstorm ideas, and come up with shots that feet each of those 10 words.  They are then submitted, judged, and the results revealed to the world.

I only got 7 pictures this round, but I did tie in a theme (mostly).  These are those shots.

Category: Angry
Category: Brick

Category: Bunny
Category: Electric
Category: Stripes
Category: Urban Legend
Category: Violet
The next round has just started, so stay tuned in a couple months for the next round of photos from the +Chrysta Rae Photo Scavenger Hunt!

Scenes From The Parkway

Last Sunday I hopped into the Geovan of Destiny and headed to one of my most favourite places in the world, the Blue Ridge Parkway.

A couple weeks ago I had heard about this great place to take photos from the famous Linn Cove Viaduct, so my mission was to check out that spot.

It did not disappoint.

I spent a good 5 hours in the area, taking shots from various levels (and fighting a non-trivial amount of tourist traffic - thank the Maker Leaf Peeping season is almost over :).

Here are a couple shots from the day. This is looking southwest over the mountains.
This shot, taken at sunset, really highlighted the viaduct.

I tossed another version of this with more golden colours on my Google Plus collection called Camera Obscura, here.

I caught the area at the tail end of leaf season.  I am definitely coming back here to take more photos.

Sunday, November 08, 2015

Rough Ridge Waterfall

This weekend I spent some time in the Blue Ridge Mountains, exploring, among other places, an area called Rough Ridge. At the base of the trail is this rather nice waterfall.

Enjoy your Sunday!


Wednesday, November 04, 2015

Budding Deviousness

My son is starting to show signs of deviousness.  A case in point:

Last night it was pointed out to me that he was Kinder Of The Week, and he had this profile filled out.  It is full of basic kid stuff, and the entries were not really a surprise to me, until I got to the second last line: "I want to be a ______when I grow up".

Now, I know my son, and I know his answer to this question is Green Ninja (the hero from the show Ninjago), and has been his answer consistently for well over a year now.  So I was a rather surprised when he listed "firefighter."

So I asked him about it.  His response: "I was being tricky.  Ninja's don't say they are ninjas."

Very good point there.

Also, I notice that he still left clues as to his true passions in life (look at the Color and Book lines).

He's gonna do great in life :)

Wordless Wednesday

Saturday, October 31, 2015


Let me start off this post by being absolutely clear: I dislike zombies. 

I find the whole cult-like fascination that some folks seem to attribute to the idea of zombie outbreaks, or zombies vs. $RandomThing, or any of the other myriad of zombie related fetishes that have come along in recent years to be rather pointless and silly.

In short, zombies are boring, predictable, and completely uninteresting to me. (Terminators, on the other hand, are a real threat, and deserve our immediate and undivided attention).

However, despite my normal reservations about zombie stuff, I can certainly appreciate a well executed geocache based on the theme.  Emphasis on "well".

Over the past couple months I have travelled all over the continent, and during my travels I came across just such a cache.

The approach to ground zero started with this scene:
There were a series of them leading to the first set of coordinates.  The cache is a multi-staged puzzle themed on a zombie outbreak, and the ensuing struggle to survive it.  Given that theme, these signs really added to the atmosphere.
It is the little things that added to the ambience of this cache, like random skulls visible while traveling between the stages. Clearly we are meant to believe a vicious battle to the death was fought in these woods.
Another example is this "blood" covered chain saw (don't worry, the sharp parts were removed, and random bones strewn about the forest floor. It really adds to the experience to see these little touches.
This cache actually has it all - a puzzle solvable at the computer,  multiple stages with provided coordinates, and even an offset waypoint (basically you are given a direction, and a distance).  They were thoughtful enough to provide a compass for the offset waypoint portion.

The offset led me to the final container - an ammo can.

At ground zero I accidentally scrapped my hand.  I hope this means I am not going to become a zombie.
This was an amazingly well done cache.  It goes to show that, given enough effort and planning, even a cache that is themed on something one actively dislikes, it can still become an enjoyable experience that is worth blogging about.

So well done, cache owner, well done. My hat is off to you.

Now, might I suggest you do a cache based on this next?

Thursday, October 29, 2015

A Fall Ride

These are the scenes that greeted me on my bike ride to work this morning:

Somedays it really pays to ride your bike.