Movie of the Week

30 09 2010

My big hike of the week featured a rare encounter with a beautiful, black rattlesnake!

Note: this video is rated S, for snake footage. For those viewers who get freaked out by them, discretion is advised.

Music: “Sand and Clay”
Composed by: Tilman Sillescu, Chris William Woods, and Scott P. Schreer
Published by: Freeplay Music and Saber Music

A twenty-minute drive and a half-hour walk gets me in to this peaceful place:

Breakfast en Route to Nebraska

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!

Geocaching in the Los Angeles Daily News

4 06 2009

A few of us were interviewed for this article and I got quoted at the end.
link to the article

What a great photo at the top! It’s a nice article, mostly correct, but it’s still quite disappointing to read that the state park official thinks that geocaches are buried. True geocaches are hidden, but never buried with a shovel. He corrects himself later, but it still comes off as confusing. The new restrictions for geocaching in state parks is a concern, and none of us are sure who we are supposed to ask now for “permission”. An even greater concern is that the legislature wants to close a lot of the parks. Common sense says that it would cost more to keep people out of a closed park, especially homeless and criminals, than to keep them open to the public. I’m feeling a big sense of frustration here on both counts.

To soothe our souls now, here are some photos from two recent hikes. The first four are from the hike I took last week:

These are veins of chalk, and fairly large area of them was by the trail:

Here’s Bee Canyon, just north of O’Melveny Park at the north end of the San Fernando Valley.

The park offers a variety of areas to picnic, walk, hike, even ride horses. Albackore and I took a trail loop that I had never done before, partially ascending the adjacent Mission Peak, then cutting across and down in to the canyon. This is the bread crumb trail of caches we followed:
Rise of the Phoenix
Piney Pond
Upper Walnut Plateau
Wagon Trail
Meadow Of The Grazing Deer
San Fernando Hillside View
Burnt Walnuts
O’ Melveny Overlook Again
A Bridge too Far – Gone

It was ravaged by a fire a few months ago, the evidence of which is still easily visible in the regrowth. This fire hydrant was apparently quite useless:

We saw this beauty along the trail, too! I rarely see snakes. This one is only the 4th rattler I’ve encountered while geocaching in 6 years.

Until next week – watch out for snakes!
Oh, the kitten is doing marvelously well, growing and eating, now just over 4 weeks old.