Sunday, March 29, 2015

Hiking A Fire Road

I have not been on a proper adventure since I got back from Nevada almost 3 weeks ago.

That trip was amazing, but I have not had a chance to decompress since then.  I've realized recently that being an introvert means I need some alone time after a super-intense social activity, and I had not had the chance to get that, so I was feeling an abnormal amount of stress - for no real reason other then my brain works that way.

What I really needed was to head off by myself, and spend some time exploring the world - preferably in the mountains (which, fortunately, is an easy thing to do in these parts).

So after Church this morning, I loaded my gear, and Bailey The Wonder Puppy into the Geovan of Destiny, and headed off to hike an old fire road near Old Fort NC.

The road is used by rangers to access the deeper parts of Pisgah National Forest, which is a woodland that takes up a large swath of the Blue Ridge Mountains.  This particular road winds its way along a ridge line.  When its not in use by the rangers, it makes a great hiking trail.

It also provides some stunning views, which I took every opportunity to enjoy.
The above photo was taken with my DSLR using the remote control app on my smart phone.  Isn't technology wonderful?

Also wonderful is the in-camera panorama setting.   I just need to keep the shutter pressed down, and move the camera in an arc, and magic happens:
You can see the trail I was hiking on the left.

I hiked about 2.5 miles down the road, grabbing some geocaches as I went along (I found 10 in total). On the way back I took some more photos with my camera.  Since I was alone, and nature wasn't super photogenic (spring had barely reached the mountains) I used Bailey as a model.  I'd let her wander ahead, then call her back and take photos of her running (note: its great having a model that works for jerky).
As I was coming back, I heard a train running thru the valley below.  The train must have been passing by for almost a half hour.  However by the time I got to a place where I could see the track, it was disappearing into the trees.
Spring has hit the foothills where I live, and life is starting to bloom (I've even mowed the lawn once, and it needs another one), but its barely begun in the mountains.  These flowers were the few bits of new growth I saw.
After the 5 mile hike, I started to drive home.  However as I was navigating the really slow, windy roads, I realized that I was not really relishing hitting the highway. So I took the long way round and stuck with side roads all the way home.  It took an extra hour (I may have detoured a bit here and there), but the long slow drive whilst listening to some great driving tunes, really picked up my spirits.

This adventure was just what the doctor ordered, which makes this a very good day.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Scavengers In The Wild

I am not normally one for posing photos of people on my blog.  In the "noun triangle" of people, place or thing, I fall squarely on the place or thing side.  However having spent 4 crazy days with some of the most amazing folks I've had the pleasure of hanging out with, I decided to break out and post some shots of humans.

When you are hanging out with such a hardcore group of photographers, you never know what will happen.  They will do almost anything to get the shot they want.  So sit back and meet some of the Scavengers that have made my life so interesting lately.

We'll start with Ms. +Chrysta Rae.  She started the group of Scavengers by coming up with the very first photography scavenger hunt shortly after Google+ was released. The hunt proved to be so popular that the traffic it caused broke the service (yes, she broke *Google*).  It happened so often that she ended up having a direct connection to one of the engineers. She has been holding a new hunt every couple of months, and she is currently on hunt 15.
+Eric Stoliker getting his photog on at Red Rock Canyon.
+Scott Jarvie is like a mountain goat.  It is amazing how quickly he got to the top of this mountain at Red Rock Canyon.
+Mark Rodriguez taking selfies at Red Rock Canyon.  This dude takes photography as art to a whole new level of awesome.
+Bryan Finster and his lovely wife +Dana Finster  getting some final shots after shooting the sunrise at the Valley of Fire.
+Michael Bukraba at the Nelson Ghost Town.
+Liz Kaetterhenry climbing over rocks to get the best shots at the Valley of Fire sunrise shoot.
+Derek Kind with +Elizabeth Hahn in the background during the Valley of Fire sunrise shoot.  It was this shot here.  This exact shot, that led to the personal revalation that one should look beyond the obvious shots and look around.  You can see the requisite sunlight bounce along the edges.
+Ron Clifford, an amazing man, and great photographer taking a shot at Red Rock Canyon.
So that is a small sampling of the Scavengers that I had the pleasure of meeting in Las Vegas, and hanging out with on Google+. There are many many more awesome folks that are proud members of the tribe of Scavengers.  However, like I said above, I tend to not take people photos.

We'll just have to take another trip and hang out together so I can get photos of everyone.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Life is an E.T. Highway

Nevada is home to some great geocaching.  One of the most famous power trails in the world. So when I was in Nevada a few weeks ago I took some time out to check out this power trail.
I speak, of course, of the E.T. Highway.

The E.T. Highway is a 2000+ geocache long trail along a road in Nevada that is actually called the Extraterrestrial Highway.

The trail is so long it takes several days to complete.  However I had only a couple hours, so I figured I'd do the first couple caches in the series, then soaking in some of the other alien themed caches in the area.

I love the fact that this part of Nevada has embraced the alien spirit that being so close to Area 51 brings to the area. It makes it a great place to explore.  As a resident alien myself (aliens do exist, and we live among you), I feel like it is a special place just for people like me.

So before I found the first cache of the E.T. Highway, I checked out the geocache being guarded by this alien here.
Then I headed over to the first cache of the E.T. Trail, which ended up actually being pretty dang cool.
From there on out I had my work cut out for me.

I actually had no desire to do the trail.  From my experience power trails can be a great deal of fun, but you need to be with the right group of cachers.  However I lacked a posse of suitable cachers to join me (I had my wife, but she's not a cacher), so I gracefully declined the chance to do a chunk of the trail. Having said that, I figured I should at least find the second cache in the series so I could get the sense of what the rest of the hides are like.

The rest of the caches are along the side of the road - and by road I mean 70MPH two lane highway.

So with a sense of geocacher duty, I headed off to find the second cache in the series.  It was surprisingly far off in the desert from the road for a power trail.
As expected, the container is a film can.  I suspect its film cans all the way down.
So that was my brief encounter with the E.T. Highway.  Perhaps someday I'll bring a set of compatible cachers and attempt to complete this trail, but for now its time to hit the road.
So now I can say I've experienced one of the most famous of the geocaching power trails, and I lived to tell the tale.

Onwards to the next adventure!

Monday, March 23, 2015

The Arrow Points The Way

The last time I was in Las Vegas I took a day trip to check out some of the sights just a little beyond the glitz and glamour.

One of these trips brought me just over the state line to Utah - mainly because I have never been to Utah and I wanted to add it to my map. Besides it was only 2 hours away by car.

When I was there I ran into this obscure yet fascinating piece of aviation history.

The first regularly scheduled passenger flight in the US was made by Western Air Express on May 23, 1926.  It flew between Salt Lake City and Los Angeles California.  To aid in navigation, large concrete arrows were placed every 10 miles along the route.  One of these markers still exists in St. George Utah.

My wife helped point the way.  She also serves to show the size of the arrows - they should be quite visible from the air.
It only took 10 years or so before radio beacons replaced the need for these arrows.  However they remain a little known, but vitally important bit of American aviation history.

The arrow exists on top of a large hill, which provides some amazing views of the surrounding valleys.

How did I run across such obscure history on a random hill in Utah?  I was geocaching, of course. The cache was placed here to highlight the history, and to show off the beauty of this corner of the state of Utah.

As you can see, to retrieve the cache one had to get close to the edge of a cliffside.
A little bit of history, some amazing views, and a cache find.

Not bad for a morning spent in Utah, eh?

Sunday, March 22, 2015

The One About The Parrots

At the Flamingo animal habitat, just down from the flamingos and the pelican, was a flock of parrots.

These colourful birds were out so tourists could take photos with them - for a fee of course.  However since this is one of the few souvenirs we got from Vegas, it seemed like a fun thing to do.

So my wife and I got some photos taken holding the birds. The rules were no photography of people holding the birds, so we ended up buying them. They had an option where one could get all the photos they took on a USB stick, which ended up being the best deal (especially considering I'd likely never display a printed photo).

The rules may have been no photos of people holding the birds, but there were no restrictions of taking photos of the parrots whilst they were resting on their perches, so I put on my best lens for the job, and started snapping.  The following are the results.

One last shot... my wife hogging all the parrots :)  This is obviously one of the purchased photos, but it serves as one heck of a souvenir.

The One About The Pelican

While I was at the Flamingo checking out the flamingos, I also came across this jaunty looking fellow.

I've always liked pelicans.  Not overly sure why - I think its because they are so majestically absurd, kinda like giraffes.

I spent a few minutes watching this fellow mug for the camera - at least it seemed like he was showing off, as he kept doing this rather graceful bow for whoever stopped long enough to notice him.

I have always tried to capture pictures of pelicans in the wild, so it was nice to spend some time up close to one.  However it feels like cheating to say I finally got good pictures, so my quest for good wild pelican pictures will continue.

In the mean time, these photos will have to do.

The One About The Flamingos

On the Sunday during The Great Scavenger Hunt meetup, we decided to head down to the strip and check out the scenery.

One of then places we ended up was checking out the flamingos at the animal habitat at the (approriately enough) Flamingo casino.

The following are a few shots from that encounter.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Caching With Chrysta

So if you have been paying attention to the last bunch of posts on this blog, you will know I have been to Las Vegas to attend The Great Scavenger Meetup.

The group is a jaunty bunch of crazy photographers who have been competing on photography contests, called the Chrysta Rae Photography Scavenger Hunt.  We have been doing this for 4 years, ever since Google Plus was released.

So while we were all together in the same physical space, it was a pleasure to have the opportunity to share my other hobby of geocaching with Ms. +Chrysta Rae.

On Friday, the first day of the weekend, I showed Chrysta some of the caching options that would present themselves during our many planned adventures over the next few days.

On Sunday, during our visit to the Nelson Ghost Town, before we checked out the interesting buildings and vehicles,  we headed off to find a geocache together.

Another Scavenger, Derek Kind, expressed interest in geocaching, and joined us on the hunt.

Interesting side note, all three of us are pure bred Canadian. This fact has no bearing on the situation, aside from the fact that the idea of a bunch of Canadians geocaching in Nevada pleases me much.

I led them to GZ, and explained what they were looking for, and let them search the container.  Chrysta ended up finding the hiding spot first.
She did defer to my expertise to remove the container from its hiding place for fear of snakes, and other nasty desert fauna.

It was a good thing too, as I ran into a nasty creature while retrieving the cache.  I didn't get any shots of that encounter, but I did get this highly accurate artistic recreation.
I also did not get any photos of the cache itself.  I'm sure some exist, and if Derek or Chrysta have them, I'll add em to this post.  However it was a shiny 30cal ammo can.

I gave everyone involved a copy of my pathtag as a souvenir of the time they cached with Dave, then we went on a photographic spree of the area.

Another smiley among the see of smileys that was The Great Scavenger Hunt Meetup.

Nelson Ghost Town: Vehicular Archeology Edition

One of the many activities planned for The Great Scavenger Meetup weekend in Las Vegas was a trip to the Nelson Ghost Town.

Located about 20 miles south east of Las Vegas in El Dorado Canyon,  Nelson was the site of the Techatticup gold mine, which dates back to 1861.

The town as it exists today is full of oddities.  Way too many to fit into a single post.  Last time I showed some scenes of the townscape.

This post, however, will focus on the many, many (many!) vehicles found in Nelson.

We will start with this old clunker here.
One of the many surprises in the town is a crashed plane.  This is actually a movie prop left here for the filming of the movie 3000 Miles To Graceland.
When my 5 year old son saw this next photo, he asked if those were old bugs.  When I said yes, he smacked me on the arm and said "punch bug!"
So now we know the town has interested buildings, scenery, and vehicles.  But does it have a geocache?

The answer comes in the next post.  Promise!