The Travel Bug Who Found Me

30 07 2009

Team Pair-O-Dice, geocachers in Corning, CA, sent me a lucky charm for my keychain via travel bug. It started at this cache:
Mr. & Mrs. Dice at the Tower
and I picked it up in this one:
Mayall who seek, find.

These videos are about that and what I’m doing with it further:

…. and yes, you can see the TB# – go ahead and discover it!

Of course, there is a cameo appearance by my kitten, Marzipan, as I continue:

What a nice idea! Yes, I’m flattered, too… but it’s a creative way to deliver things, if possible. I managed to send a travel bug to my cousin up in Washington a couple of years ago. It took months, but was a fun surprise for him!

Until next week… enjoy your summer, which I hope is filled with travel bugs and great experiences.

Wheriwent? Up the Devil’s Slide!

24 07 2009

Secret of Santa Susana Pass (Wherigo Cache)

I don’t know how many of you will have an opportunity to do a Wherigo cache, since you must own a Garmin Oregon or Colorado GPSr to run the program. I don’t own either of them, and have no plans to, so when I saw the new Wherigo cache posted near me, I wondered how I would be able to get it cleared off the map. I decided to lay in wait to see who would find the cache, so I would know who owned the requisite equipment, and was soon rewarded with that knowledge. I quickly used my best geosponge techniques and asked the first finder, LaEd, if I could borrow his Oregon. He was very gracious in saying yes!

***Thanks so much, LaEd!***

Next I had to find and unsuspecting partner to go with me. I had intel (again, thanks to LaEd) that the adventure started at the bottom of a hill and ended at the top 2 or 3 miles away, and a car bridge was de rigeur. Good advice, as I’d hiked that trail once before to get the caches on it, we’d used a car bridge then to only go DOWN hill. The Wherigo author – naturally – designed his cache to be done UP hill. This is to be expected of a seasoned hiker like tozainamboku. *sigh*

I ended up with two cohorts that hot morning: f0t0m0m (Jim) and RCKen (Ken).

Although the Wherigo programs and the equipment they need can be kinda buggy, there are a lot of fun possibilities here and a lot of room for creativity. The first one I did was in a park in Riverside with a Sherlock Holmes mystery feel. This one, my second, did not disappoint. Toz created a mini-odyssey around the not insignificant history of the Santa Susanna Pass. Although I knew a little bit about it, this time I was able to imagine myself out there in the late 19th century making an arduous journey from Chatsworth to Simi Valley in a covered wagon.

Today, it takes me 20 minutes in my air-conditioned fuel-efficient music-filled padded-seated Prius. Then, it would have taken seriously all day, in the heat or whatever weather there was, on a wooden bench inside and getting out to walk up the steeper part.

Mapquest route

The trail we took starts at the southern end of Oakwood Cemetary and ends where the 118 freeway dips south over Rocky Peak, at the road called Lilac Lane. If you zoom in a couple times on the Mapquest map, you can identify those locations. Here’s part of the trail that the wagons negotiated. You can see the stair steps sort of cut in to the rock to give the horses and wagons some sort of traction:

There are holes drilled in to the solid rock of the trail along the way. To assist in getting up and down the hill, the drivers would anchor the wagons with ropes to poles placed in these holes:

This is The Devil’s Slide itself, looking down hill. Going down was more dangerous than going up. You can see that there’s not much to stop a wagon from slipping all the way down or off the side.

This tile mural is halfway up/down the slide:

OK, enough history! Back to Wherigo! As we hiked up the trail, a fictional journey unfolded along the way. To advance in the story and the game, you must be at the coordinates it gives you to get the information for the next destination. For more information:

From the start screen we were lead to the Stage Stop where we boarded a stage coach. The driver looked remarkably like a local cacher, DonJ. He must have ancestors from here or something, but anyway… we had a piece of gold in our inventory, so we gave it to him for safekeeping. It seemed the sensible thing to do at the time.

Along about here
the stage coach made a pit stop. We were warned about rattlesnakes, but we picked up that tumbleweed we saw anyway. The snake it revealed just hissed at us when we talked to it. Of course we knew better than to “examine” the snake, but we did. Game over….. LOL! We restarted the recently saved game but were stuck with no new destinations or tasks. There’s supposed to be a hint screen about Dr. Doolittle needing to repeat himself to animals, but it never appeared. Thankfully, our trusty lifeline, LaEd, filled in that detail for us.

The snake was civil as long as we didn’t try to examine it, and it told us where we were to go next. About .2 miles up the trail, I learned that we needed to save the game more often than it suggested, as the Oregon has a propensity to shut itself down. ARG! I hiked back to the coordinates to talk to the snake again. On that backtrack is when the bandits struck! That little chicken stagecoach driver threw down our gold and the bandits got away! Alas, we had examined the stagecoach and its secret compartment too late. At least we didn’t really NEED the gold later. Maybe DonJ, I mean the stagecoach driver, was in cahoots with the bandits. Hm.

Next we got out of the stagecoach again to talk to a mountain lion. He didn’t let us pet him, but he had good information. Kitty… kitty….

Mountain lion in training:

At the bottom of the slide and about halfway between the cars, we were stuck again with no further tasks or destinations. After another lifeline, we simply continued up the hill to see if anything popped up. It did. I didn’t know that the Wherigo zones could be really large, but the “Devil’s Slide” zone in the game encompasses that whole section of trail. The rest of the journey involved a quiz, a trick about the answers (no need to back track on that, trust me), a medicine man with some curious herbs, and finally, the ammo can at the top! Ahh… and the cars were there, too…whew!

Oh, and yes, you CAN see Ooper’s Cache from up there… a local running joke… and also part of the Secret of Santa Susanna Pass…. Thanks to toz for the excellent and entertaining adventure, indeed!

I have a few more photos from that day to show you. There is a seasonal pond at the top, dry now, but must have been used to water the horses back then:

Looking up the hill from a side trail to the north of the slide, you can “connect the dots” of the gas company signs:

It’s really difficult to get a picture of a lizard, but I got one! NO, we did not see any real rattlesnakes or mountain lions (Mom…) – just this guy:

On the way back around to my car at the bottom, we stopped to get some ice cold drinks at the gas station on the corning of Topanga Canyon Blvd. and Chatsworth St., discovering the most amazing interior of a gas station ever!

Until next week, happy caching adventures!

How to Be a Geosponge

16 07 2009

There is an art to being a geosponge, and it’s not as easy as one might think. There are other permutations of it, but I usually use this term to mean that I’m tagging along with other cachers and have not done any of the research or prep work. Oh, I may have solved a puzzle or two and will have the bookmarked caches loaded in my GPSr as a backup. Mostly I just show up, ride along, sticker/sign log books, and enjoy the day with geofriends.

The art is in how to relinquish control, be a team player, and get in and out of the BACK seat of a car. It can be exhausting!

Prepare what you want to take the night before as you will be rising at the crack of dark:

Get picked up in your town car by another cacher who happens to have one:

Have a healthy breakfast:

Watch the other cachers hunt and take photos:

Find one of the caches early on, so you feel like you’ve actually contributed to the day:

Wonder why people spend so much time at farmer’s markets:

Wonder why people go kayaking or boating:

They could be looking for geocaches in bushes:

… and finding creative containers like this one:

Take a photo of unusual architecture:

Then turn around and take a photo of everyone else looking for the cache:

Watch everyone else look for a cache that you’ve found already. This is especially entertaining when the cache has gone missing and they end up not finding it (oops!):

Have a healthy lunch:

Keep going since the goal is to find well over 100 caches for the day:
#50 = Naughty Root
#100 = Riley’s Treasure Chest
Last one, #112 for me = Puzzle LPC

Celebrate a milestone or two:
My #19000!
f0t0m0m’s #17000!

Interact with your surroundings. Sandy carries special horse cookies with her, in case she sees one along the way that needs a snack:

Don’t interact with some of the surroundings. We saw this bee cluster along one of the country roads, and I took this through the CLOSED car window:

Update Facebook and Twitter and keep up on your e-mail as you ride along between caches.

Enjoy the scenery:

Admire a local artfully-designed establishment:

Be the human retrieval tool, and take a walk up a bike trail to grab one while the others wait in the car, parked illegally, and enjoy more scenery:

Sleep well that night, and be prepared to return the favor and do the planning to lead the next expedition! Or not…. heh…..

This Week is Brought to You by the Letter V!

9 07 2009

I went caching over the holiday weekend in VISALIA, then met up with a team from Denmark named VELS!

Here’s a list of the best caches we encountered, but no hints or spoilers. Just know if you go, that these are some of the VERY good ones:
Cow Pie Corner
"Rockin’ In The Tree Tops…."
Goosin’ Mama
Zane’s Cache
Chewin’ yer cud at ECP’s 100th hide
its elementary
Local Motel

One of the caches was at this historic building, designed to replicate a VARIETY of Italian architecture ca. 500 B.C.:

I like seeing nature at its most interesting and all these spider webs make a beautiful kind of art VERITE:

This lonely guy was all by himself in his area of minimal VEGETATION:

VOILA! I asked f0t0m0m to demonstrate for you his unique method of log extraction:

OK, I do have to give one away, but this is too good a VARIATION not to share. This is why we geocache – to celebrate!

Team VELS:
When I went to Europe last winter, I made a special VOYAGE into Denmark to find this cache:
Statcache 33 Worldtop10 – 3 EMC of Northridge, CA
placed by Team VELS. They are now over here on a 7-week car tour of the western U.S. Their blog is in Danish, but they have taken some stunning photos, so I encourage you to take a look at their VISUALS!
VELS blog

Hey – I mean GREAT photos! Click on that link! VIEW them!

While they were here, I did the VICE VERSA and hid a cache for them!
Guardian Toad: Jakob & Stina Vels

Here they are enjoying the VICTUALS at the local Outback:

Until next week, I wish you VISCERAL, VORACIOUS caching!

Power Caching with the Ventura Kids!

2 07 2009

Last Sunday, I decided to chronicle my day of power caching with a few short videos taken throughout. Riding along with the Ventura Kids was full of laughs and logbooks, as usual. We ended up with 96 finds. Whew!

I begin my day of caching with the Ventura Kids.

Our first find in Redlands is a light pole.
Honoring IE Cachers Cache Bash V-10

The Ventura Kids discuss their “rules” for geocaching.

I get to see the expert technique for finding a cache in the ivy.

“Hiking” with the Ventura Kids
The Angle

The long walk back across the park…

We meet up with The Devious Max Power and TerraGirl, who join us for the rest of the day. Sandy shows just how FAST the VKs are at finding – truly.

We encounter literod at a cache, but he opts not to try to keep up.

Some nice views from a cache in Highland

We’ve found way more than 10 caches per hour, so Sandy “lets” us have lunch.

Here we are at Rubio’s – this is a photo, not a video, I know. Judging by his smile, I think this is Steve’s favorite part of the day!

We encounter MissAmerica1 and Pacholik at a cache.

At the end of this clip, Sandy finds a cache with a bug on it – check out her reaction!

We search for a cache near a large fountain and pond.

We DNF the fountain cache.

Urban off-roading!

The Inland Empire Cache Bash
IE Cache Bash V

At the last cache of the day, I run out of room on my camera’s memory card!

Until next week, happy power caching and Happy 4th of July!