Saturday, November 30, 2013

Oakwood Cemetery Of Raleigh North Carolina

Today I took a walk around Oakwood Cemetery in Raleigh NC, for contained within is 6 stages of a 7 stage multi-cache.

Oakwood is a fairly large cemetery as far as these things go.  It has residents dating back to the American civil war, and up to modern times - in fact there was a funeral held there today.

It is also the resting place of at least one North Carolina governor, and a Secretary of The Navy: Josephus Daniels (the cache page claims he switched the sailors rations from rum to coffee, thereby inventing the phrase "cup of joe."  Snopes says this is a myth which just goes to prove two things:  you can't believe everything you read on the Internet, and Snopes can be a killjoy).

While walking around I took some shots, starting with a lamb on a headstone:

The final is in a park a short ways away from the cemetery, but it now has my signature on the log.  A nice ending to a pleasant afternoons walk. through history.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Black Friday On the Neuse River Trail

Today I celebrated the great American tradition, Black Friday, the way God intended it to be done... by enjoying nature.  Specifically I biked the Neuse River Trail in Raleigh NC, and did some geocaching along the way.

The Neuse River Trail, or NRT, is 27.5 miles of paved trail that runs along the Neuse River on the eastern side of Raleigh NC.  Since we planned on being in Raleigh for the other great American tradition, Thanksgiving, I decided to plan ahead and bring my bike to do the trail.

Since days are shorter this time of year, I got my wife to drop me off at the northern end of the trail at daybreak.  I then spent the rest of the day biking my way south.

I brought my mountain bike as I expected to ride off trail at each geocache.  Most of the caches were within 100ft of the trail, so I typically parked by bike by a nearby tree while hunting down those elusive containers.
The morning was cold, starting at 29f.  I spent the first two hours riding in freezing temps, and riding on frosty trails.  If you look closely you can see frost on the hand rails of this bridge.
As you may have guessed, given the name, the trail runs along the Neuse river.  It actually crosses this river several times.
It was not obvious when I set out, but the trail is not continuous. The top 9 miles end at a soccer field complex.  I asked some locals how to get to the rest of the trail, but they had no idea.  I ended up riding surface streets for a mile or so until I got to the next access point.  A rather annoying detour that took almost an hour out of my morning.
The cache density is almost like a power trail, but they are much more diverse than a typical power trail. Each hide was unique, and like all good geocaches, highlighted the interesting bits along the trail, like this cache hidden at a river overlook.
I ended up riding 28.5 miles, which is the longest bike ride I have ever done. When my wife picked me up at the southern end at 4pm, I was completely beat.  It was compounded by the fact I had to carry 20lbs of backpack with me (I am currently on-call for work, so I needed to bring my work laptop and various accessories in case I was paged - luckily I was not).  Still,I managed to grab 53 caches along the way.   This was definitely a Black Friday for the record books...

... and I didn't even have to set foot inside a store.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

The Littlest Hobo

The Littlest Hobo is a TV show from my childhood (Read: 70s) about a dog that travels from town to town (new town every episode), gets into adventures, and generally saves the day. The theme songs gets my 'adventure' energy going, so I thought I'd share it, given so many of you folks reading this are of the adventuresome persuasion.


I think it makes a decent geocaching song too... don't you agree?

Sunday, November 24, 2013

The Comfort Zone: The Geocaching Quilt Unveiled

Just over a month ago I put out a request on this blog for comments on the design for a geocaching quilt. We saw a similar quilt up for auction at the NCGO Fall Fling back in September.  We didn't win the auction, so we decided to take a crack at making out own.

Last night we unveiled it at a local geocaching event. I dubbed it "The Comfort Zone."

My wife is an accomplished quilter, a true lady of the pieced cloth she is.  She did the majority of the work.  I helped with the design, and picking out the fabric.

You can see the details of the quilt in progress on my wife's blog here.

The quilt has many of the symbols associated with geocaching:  A hiker, a satellite,and the geocaching logo.

The quilt also has a few unique features:

  • The quilt is trackable.  On the back is the tracking code.
  • The quilt is also a moving cache on
  • A cache needs a log, so my wife put in a tan coloured panel on the back that folks can sign (with a sharpie) to prove they saw it.
  • The quilt has supports for a rod so it can be hung up and displayed.  So it is also a wall hanging.
I will, hopefully, be bringing this quilt to any events I attend, so be on the look out for it. Any cachers who visit me at my home will also be able to sign the log, and discover the trackable.

I'll leave you with one last image, from last nights event, and the first unveiling of The Comfort Zone:

Monday, November 18, 2013

Cached Out: A Book Review

There have been several fictional novels released recently that use geocaching as part of the story. The one I have read most recently is called Cached Out, by Russell Atkinson. I enjoyed it so much I thought I'd give it a book review for the benefit of my readers.

The Amazon description sums up the novel better than I can:

"Newly retired from the FBI and alone after the tragic death of his wife, Cliff Knowles takes up geocaching. While looking for a cache in the mountains he comes across a human skeleton and reports it to the sheriff's office. Then a second body is found - a fresh corpse this time - right after Cliff found another geocache nearby. When it turns out the first remains are those of a fugitive he was supposed to arrest years earlier, he becomes a suspect in a multiple homicide investigation. He has no choice but to use his sleuthing skills to identify the mysterious cache owner, known only as Enigmal, and free himself from suspicion."

When I read a novel based on a hobby, my two questions are:  "Is it a good story?" and "are the references to the hobby (geocaching, in this case) accurate?"  A good story with bad geocaching is no better than a bad story with good geocaching, so it has to be good on both counts to get high marks from me (a bad story with bad geocaching is simply pointless).

Regardless of whether one is a geocacher or not, this novel stands on its own.  The story is fast paced, the situations plausible, and the characters are interesting.  It is a real page turner.  It is, truth be told, one of the few books I have read (and I read a lot) that I did not want to put down. When I got to the end, I wanted more.  If it was a TV show I'd already be checking the schedules waiting for the next season to start.

Geocaching does play a central part in the story, and it is intricately woven into both the plot and the character development.  However, the geocaching is explained enough that I believe someone who is not familiar with geocaching would have no problem following the story, in the same vein as one does not have to be a lawyer to understand or enjoy a John Grisham novel.

That leaves us with the question of the accuracy of the geocaching.  I am an avid geocacher, and I am also rather pedantic. Inaccuracies in caching descriptions quickly cause me forget about the story and concentrate on the errors.  As a result, accuracy is vital for my enjoyment of a geocaching themed book.  Fortunately there is good news on this front.

The author of Cached Out is a geocacher himself, and it shows. His depictions of geocaching are, essentially, perfect.  Both descriptions of geocaching itself, and how the geocachers think, are exactly what I expect based on my extensive experience with geocaching and the geocaching community.  Many times during the story, and especially during the climax, I thought "yep, that is *exactly* how a geocacher would react." As a result I found that the geocaching in the novel allowed me to get more enjoyment out of the story. Think of it like a delicious gravy spread over Thanksgiving dinner.

So, in summary, as a murder mystery novel it is a good read, fun, quick paced, and enjoyable.  As a geocaching themed novel it is even better. It would make a fantastic stocking stuffer for the geocacher on your Christmas list.

You can get more information about the book at, including links to Amazon, and details on obtaining autographed copies.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Gastonia Thread Trail

On Saturday I met up with a local cacher by the name of NinjaChipmunk, and headed off an hour down the road to Gastonia North Carolina to do some geocaching.

Our goal was to hike the Gastonia portion of the Thread Trail.  The Carolina Thread Trail is a series of trails that connects 15 counties and 2 states together with 132 miles of trail. These trails are not all connected tho, at least not yet.

The portion of the trail we did is called the South Fork Trail, and is about 2.2 miles long.  It runs along side the beautiful south fork of the Catawba River.

This area was subject to a series of floods over the spring and summer, but the cache owners have been awesome at keeping the caches maintained, so we managed to find 8 of the 9 active caches, with one DNF.

Kudos to the COs for awesome cache maintenance. Well done!

The trail itself is mostly flat, and is a wide dirt path.  We parked at the southern end, and worked our way north.  One of the first major features is this rail bridge:
NinjaChipmunk is a relatively new cacher, but she proved herself to be a capable finder.  We split the finds about 50/50.  She made the grab on this tricky cache hide here.
I found this single boot sitting on the riverbank.
This is the river we spent the entire afternoon hiking beside.  It is one of the prettier rivers I've seen in North Carolina.  I bet it looks awesome in the summer, but as it stands, the remaining fall colours makes a nice background.
... and the requisite selfie, just to prove I was there.
If you look closely at the above photo you can see the top of a hiking stick I made while hunting the 4th cache.  There was a lot of leaf litter, and I didn't bring my hiking stick, so I needed something to poke with.  Instead of sticking my hands into places snakes and rodents love to hang out, I spent 5 minutes cutting the twigs off of a freshly fallen branch.  It turned out to be time well spent as the very first thing I poked after fashioning my brand new poking stick, was the cache, hidden under a pile of leaves.

I am an absolute sucker for nature growing out of rocks and other hard things.  Nature always seems to find a way.  It was awesome to see this full sized tree growing out of an old bridge support.  You can also see a tree growing out the side, and that one is actually lifting the entire structure up.  The bridge support is a good 8ft above the water, so that is a significant amount of weight.  You just can't help but respect nature when you see something like this.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Dubious Intentions

Not sure if this is a simple trail marker...
... or a warning from the trees.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Lego Sculptures

This is Abigail.

She is 18 months old, and despite being life sized, is still rather short.

Behind her is a bison and her calf.  They are not life size, which is understandable given that they are not real.

They are made out of Lego.

The bison family, and many other creatures, are a part of a Lego sculpture exhibition currently going on at the North Carolina Arboretum near Asheville.

On Saturday we took the family over to the Arboretum to do some geocaching, and to check out the Lego.  The following are some shots of the lego sculptures.

Mama Bison is made out of 45,143 pieces of Lego, and the calf is a mere 16,229. 

The butterfly dominated the courtyard.  I didn't get a brick count for this guy, but he was quite large.
 The fox has 17,361 pieces, and the plucky bunny is a lighweight 1,361 pieces.
 This large dragonfly model is made up of 6,535 pieces of brick.
 This rose is about 6ft tall.
 This gardener is life sized, and has 37,497 bricks,
 This hummingbird is 31,565 pieces.
 This wasp dominated the area.  It is approximately 6ft long.
So thats it from the Lego exhibition.  Until next time, my friends, stay frosty.

Saturday, November 09, 2013

Geocaching At The North Carolina Arboretum

My parents are in town from Canada so we spent the day at the North Carolina Arboretum, nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains near(-ish) Asheville.

The Arboretum has a bit of something for each of us.  My parents have never visited the Asheville area, my kids could get outside and play on things, I had some geocaching to do and, as it turns out, there was a quilting display for my lovely wifey.

As a bonus, there was a also a display of Lego sculptures for all of us (because the love of Lego is universal).

None of the ladies were overly keen on geocaching, and since we had to take two vehicles anyway, my father and I headed out early to hit the trails.  The rest of the family met us there for lunch.

My father and I arrived at 9:30, and spent the next 2.5 hours hiking the trails, finding tupperware in the woods, as geocachers are wont to do.

There was also a geocaching event today to mark the fact that the Arboretum staff had hidden many new geocaches on the grounds.  Finders of 6 caches qualified for a prize.  As a result there were many geocachers in the Arboretum, and we ended up caching with several of them at various points:
The fall colours are almost gone from the trees, but that just meant a nice carpet of freshly fallen leaves to walk on.
Most of the caches were in easy to find, yet interesting spots, like this cache hidden in the burl of a tree. Dad made the grab like a pro.
As you can see, from the right angle the cache is easily visible.
After we found 6 caches we went into the Education Center to claim our prizes.  We had a choice of items, but we picked t-shirts for the kids.

While we were there, I noticed one of the employees had a snake around her neck.  I asked if I could see it, and before I knew it, I was holding a live snake for the first time in my life.  Apparently the snake is named Courney, and she is a corn snake.  

My wife took a bunch of photos of me with the snake, but unfortunately none of them turned out.  This is the only one I could rescue, but unfortunately I looks like I am scared (I wasn't).  I was actually talking to it.  I was renaming her Queen Corn The Slitherific.

My mother took this photo of me with Her Royal Highness.
All in all, it was a great day at the Arboretum.  All of us mentioned we wanted to return, hopefully in the spring when the flowers are blooming.