NOVEMBER 29, 2014 – Ridgecrest (driving series’)

November 29, 2014

Ridgecrest is a hotbed of desert geocaching. But somehow I’d never been there. Information from friendly local cachers convinced me that the multiple series and semi-power trails would get me closer to my annual goal of 1,200 finds. I made 2 trips in 10 days. The big pluses were $36.99 online/night for a decent room [#1 on map] only 3 minutes from the start of the President Series [#2 on map].
That series is similar to Planes Trains Ships & Automobiles near Barstow, flat hard packed dirt except with more bush hides instead of rock piles. It can even be done in a Prius.
Someone was lazy. These tracks led directly to, and circled around, William Howard Taft (GC44A0A) the only cache that was far (200’) from the marked trail.
Note that there’s no direct exit to the 395 from Grover Cleveland GC2N3DZ [#3 on map]. Instead a dirt track parallels the 395. At 1 mile North, just before reaching pavement (& the Food Series) at Bowman Rd, there is a big dip across a stream bed and a short but very steep & sandy uphill [#4 on map]. A high clearance 4WD is a must here.

The Food Series, going West from the 395 is on pavement at first. Almost all the caches are on the N (passenger) side which is good because pickup trucks speed by every minute or so. You still have to walk up an embankment each time but at least the caches are close. Most are within 50 feet of the road. After Chocolate Pretzel Rings GC3BX72 [#5 on map] the pavement ends and there’s a moderate dip before continuing on dirt.
Once off the pavement, there was almost no traffic and it was smooth flat dirt until the W end of the series.
There’s less desert trash farther out from the city and the scenery is better.
These clouds looked like a fleet of flying saucers. BTW the Independence Day sequel was announced this week.
After finding the westernmost food cache I drove back to Motel 6. On the way I was surprised to see more food caches. And speaking of food I had dinner down the block. There I overheard 2 younger guys talking very knowledgeably about desert “TORTII.” There’s no mistake, they repeated it several times. Sorry, I don’t care what anyone says but the plural of tortoise is NOT “TORTII.”

Later I studied the map. It showed food series caches scattered E-W and that there was another group of about 40 of them a few miles outside of town to the East [#7 on map].
I found those the next day. While looking for the starting point I drove along the back fence of what looked like a concentration camp for horses and donkeys. The facility could ONLY be government designed/run, so I didn’t take any pictures [#6 on map]. A google search showed this: BLM Wild Horse & Burro farm. Anyway the food caches East of Trona Road are on a sandy dirt single track. A 2WD car can do this part if driven carefully. West of Trona Road the road was unmaintained pavement [#8 on map].
To save time I didn’t climb up to look for the non-food cache here, Tuffa Spires (GC49BX6). This was a good decision because 2 days later another cacher scoured the top and DNF’d.
Then I found the 40 Northernmost Trona/anorT series caches [#9 on map] for a total of 218 caches in 1-1/2 days.

Nine days later I went back to Ridgecrest and found the remaining 160 Trona/anorTs & a few non-series caches. See Trona #01 below. My understanding is that the 100 cache Trona series was placed South to North, spaced just over 0.2 miles between caches. Then sometime later another series, anorT was placed in the gaps, North to South. I saw no difference between the caches. They were all a mix of containers: 35mm, prescription, diabetes test strip holders, shotgun shell casings. About 1/3 of them were hardwired to roadside bushes. Most were less than 20’ from the road.
Notice the wide dirt shoulders. Any 2 wheel drive rental car can easily handle caching here. Tire tracks showed that some cachers drove completely on the dirt. But I carefully looked back and drove on the pavement between caches. The “GEOCACHING” sign on my Forester tells law enforcement or potentially suspicious locals what I’m doing. I hope that it also prevents people from wasting their time to stop and ask if I need help. I saw no Sherriffs, rangers or patrols of any type and the only people who stopped were 2 quad riders who I think wanted me to move out of their way. I didn’t and they had to make a 10’ detour onto pavement to go around.
In 2 trips and 15 total hours of caching I found 381. Thanks to the Ridgecrest cachers whose advice was put to good use. And thanks to everyone who took the time to hide and maintain all the caches. I know that’s not always easy in the desert. I’ll return for the hiking series (Signal, geosymbol, gridlocked, etc…) after I reach 1,200 for the year.

OCTOBER 31, 2014 – Fort Ord Dunes State Park

October 31, 2014

On my last full day on the Monterey Peninsula I cached Fort Ord Dunes State Park. I drove to Secret Trailhead (GC1HVY6) and unloaded my bike. I stopped in the trailhead underpass tunnel to read the graffiti. It was very different from what I see back home.
The tunnel led to a great bike path. I don’t think it looked this good in 2009.
After riding to a few caches I noticed that my brand new tire with extra heavy duty tube was going flat. I put the bike back into my Forester and re-entered the park. This time I walked on a paved path that led straight toward 3 caches. The path was definitely not there last time.
The first cache Barbed-Wire Zoo (GC3CVQF) was just outside this ancient target storage building at pavement’s end.
The next 2 caches were up a dune along a use trail.
The ice plant ground cover was colorful and the caches were easy finds. I stayed a few minutes to watch the surf.
On the return trip, at the bike path I went North and found a cache near this building before hiking to parking.
On the ride out the road passed old abandoned army barracks.
My dad passed through here going to and from the Korean War in the early 1950’s.
The area was fenced off except for along a public easement to another dune parking lot farther North.
I stopped there, found 1 cache and couldn’t reach another one because a grouchy senior couple was sitting at GZ. Then for the next 2 hours I found random caches outside the park. The next day I went home with a total of 52 finds for the trip. Next? Finding exactly 890 more caches to reach 1,200 for the year.

OCTOBER 25, 2014 – Santa Cruz to Moss Landing, CA State Beaches

October 25, 2014

I left my Cannery Row motel early Wednesday morning and drove about 40 miles North to the southern edge of Santa Cruz. My first stop was New Breighton State Beach where I was waved through the gate without paying the $10. parking/use fee when I held up my Surf Explorer annual pass. The weather was perfect as was the beach walk toward the day’s first cache. At 75’ I realized that GZ was up on the cliffs above. Argh!! I walked back. In the other direction I stopped at a “registered campers only beyond this point” sign. It would’ve been easy to walk in but I didn’t go on vacation to be surrounded by muggles. So I drove out of the park onto a cliff top road and found the cache I’d missed from below China Beach (GCW7EY).
A mile and a half South, still hard to find on unfamiliar roads, I reached Seacliff State Beach. Again I was waved past the fee collector. A left turn through a big empty parking lot got me to 200’ from a cache. My arrow pointed to a long wooden staircase leading down to the beach. This was the exact opposite situation from New Breighton. I trudged down the steps and found another huge parking lot! And then I DNF’d the cache!! I staggered back up, took a huge swig of Lipton raspberry ice tea and found a different cache. On the way I took a picture of the SS Palo Alto an abandoned WW1 era CONCRETE ship and then drove to the lower lot.
There was an easy cache in a tree. But there was none at the great site below.
My next stop was Manresa State Beach where there was another loooong stairway to the beach. The picture is from half way down, at GZ for a nano cache. There was no parking lot or road at the bottom.
I skipped Sunset State Beach because it was the northernmost beach I’d visited 2 years ago and I’d found the caches then. Palm Beach State Park was next. Mine was the only vehicle in the pay lot. A clever well placed cache Magnetized (GC4A0CZ) was in this empty picnic area next to parking.
The beach was a 2 minute sandy walk through eucalyptus. It was windswept, empty and especially scenic. And I found a cache I DNF’d on my last trip.
There isn’t a coastal road that leads from beach to beach. Reaching each one meant driving on farm roads, following behind tractors, going through unsigned intersections and sometimes backtracking to the freeway. On the way to Zmudolski State Beach a road dead ended. A quick look at my GPSr showed a cache there so I stopped. The container was very well constructed and an easy find. I stepped up on a berm at GZ and was surprised by the great view of what I later learned was the Pajaro River estuary.
This is the view from the same spot looking inland.
Soon I found the torn up road to Zmudolski. And yet again there were no other vehicles. I quickly found a cache that was missing 2 years ago and then took a break before heading to Moss Landing.
Once there I found 3 roadside caches in quick succession. In 2012 I saw dozens of sea otters. This time there were none. On my way out I thought someone was waving for help from the beach. A closer look revealed an enormous pelican, over 4’ tall flapping its 8’ wingspan. It doesn’t look impressive just standing in the picture but it towered over the surrounding birds.
14 finds and lots of DNFs wasn’t much to show for a full day of caching. But I had a great time.

OCTOBER 19, 2014 – Monterey, Jacks Peak Regional Park

October 19, 2014

I jump started my caching with a 5 day vacation to Monterey. I left home early Monday morning. North bound traffic on the 101 was surprisingly light. After relaxed stops at Gaviota State Beach and Bulleton to find a few easy caches I arrived in Monterey in mid-afternoon, early enough for a short bike path cache run. Thankfully, no caches were in eucalyptus which is messy, sticky, and smelly to search through.
The next morning I drove down the block through Cannery Row.
101414_ 02_cannery
The beach just beyond is in Pacific Grove. Several caches hidden since my last visit 2 years ago were easy walks from plentiful free shoreline parking.
Just before 10am I turned around for the less than 10 minute drive to Jack’s Peak Regional Park (opens at 10am) for some deep forest caching. As usual, mine was the only car in the parking lot and I didn’t see another human until the very end of my 5 hour hike.
It was my third visit since 2008. So even without a trail map I wasn’t cluelessly lost. There are about 25 caches in the park. I needed 10, new or not found on previous visits. No matter which way I went at various trail junctions, I eventually ended up at a needed cache. Poison oak was so abundant that I couldn’t avoid it altogether. It’s a week later now and my immunity is still holding.
The forest isn’t my natural element. I’m never 100% relaxed there. Limited visibility and complete lack of manmade sounds kept me slightly wary all day. Unseen animals moved around and birds unexpectedly exploded out of the bushes when I got close. This recently fallen tree was a welcome diversion.
A hiking stick was a must because most ground zeros looked like this.
Later down the trail, part of me was convinced that this would fall like the Sword of Damocles at the moment I passed underneath. But obviously it didn’t.
OK, enough fallen trees… This cache was especially evil. I was EXTREMELY lucky to see it on my first poke. A smart phone newbie has no chance.
Another cache involved climbing 8 feet up a sap dripping pine. My standard carry alcohol wipes worked perfectly on my hands. 400’ from the parking lot I saw (2) 2-legged bears holding paws, walking happily down the trail. Sorry I didn’t get a picture of them.

SEPTEMBER 30, 2014 – 2 new BBT caches (PMSP)

September 30, 2014

While searching for a short caching hike, I was surprised to see 2 new Backbone Trail (BBT) caches near its western end. They replaced 2 caches archived due to the lingering effects of the May 2013 Springs Fire. I used my California States Parks Surf Explorer Pass to park in the almost empty trailhead lot. The sign in the background, between the posts is the start (or end) of the BBT.
This is a closer view. It’s strange that there’s no mention of the BBT as there is at the other end 68 miles away in Will Rogers State Historic Park.
This is the view looking right, from a few feet into the trail. It was the first time I saw green plants here since the fire.
The forward view shows that hillside recovery is slower.
About .3 miles in, after a few sharp switchbacks I arrived at GZ for BBT – New Beginnings (GC5D2KG). Note the burned & rusted cookie tin lid for the previous cache that used to be here. I found the current one a few feet away.
Next I stopped at a switchback and enjoyed the clear ocean view. The temperature was below 80 degrees so even with the continuous uphill, I didn’t need any long rests.
It was another ½ mile and more switchbacks to my 2nd BBT target Big Eagle’s Perch Burnt Down (GC5D7JY), a particularly well placed cache in honor of Big Eagle who passed away earlier this year. I turned around after the find and started back. I saw a family with small children heading my way. At 300’ one of the kids looked at me and shouted backward in a heavy red state accent, “Ma! Ah think he’s Cha-neez.” That mindset was common 40 years ago in elementary school. Back then a lot of parents and even a few teachers were as bad. But today, with wife and kids around, I didn’t think pa would start something with me. And I was right. Everyone was all smiles and very friendly as we passed.
I stepped 400’+ off trail to find a non-BBT cache, Pacific Rim (GC1GBNQ). The lack of ground cover made for an easy walk along a faint animal track. When the vegetation fully recovers it’ll be much harder to reach GZ.

MISC: The evolution of lighting in the dweeb cave:
incandescent 100w, CFC (2 x 100w equiv), LED (4 x 80w equiv)

AUGUST 25, 2014 – Antonovich Open Space Preserve

August 25, 2014

It’s almost September and I have just over 200 finds for the year. As it becomes increasingly obvious that I’m going to miss my annual goal of 1,200 finds for the first time in 10 years, I find it harder and harder to motivate myself to go caching/hiking. On a rare free day I MADE myself go. I chose the Antonovich Open Space Preserve, a lightly used area at the pass between Santa Clarita and the San Fernando Valley. This cache by Don_J is just above the trailhead: Northbound and Down – AKA Trucks (GC13B4Z). There’s free street parking.
Here’s the view from Don’s cache looking N toward Santa Clarita. A major southbound accident slowed traffic to a trickle.
The first 3/10 of a mile are steep. Cooler than average temperatures made the hike possible. The trail levels off at my cache, Ursula’s Unhealthy Buffet (GC1HRGM). The red arrow points to the magnetized Altoids Tiny Tin. I placed it 6 years ago and it’s never been muggled! I replaced the worn out log and moved on.
A landfill is beyond the gate. The hike continues in the other direction. Geography makes the area windy. The smell of methane wafted up from below.
A half mile later at my cache, Where’s Ursula the Bear? (GC189YD) the air was clear. This is the view from there, again toward Santa Clarita.
Beyond this point there were 2 short steep sections, but the hike was mostly flat. I found 2 caches placed since my last visit in 2010 and continued E. The eerie quiet was broken by sudden wind gusts. Sometimes the wind passing through vegetation made sounds in the same frequency range as human voices. Several times I turned around when I thought I heard other hikers and saw no one.
This was my turn around point in 2010. See my post. The area looks very different when it’s green. This time I found the cache here and turned S toward Mission Point.
The Gas Company has plans for more development. At least a few trail users aren’t happy.
Lots of old gates straddled the trail. Most of them were broken and non-functional. All of them were open. I placed a new cache, Lots of Gates (GC5BJJR).
I found 7 of 8 new (to me) caches. The 8th was 135’ off trail through an ocean of foxtails. I’d already spent 15 minutes removing foxtails after the 7th cache (30’ off trail) so I didn’t even attempt #8.
I faded fast. Instead of hiking another ½ mile to Mission Point, I turned around. Even then I needed a 45 minute rest laying down in a clearing under an oak tree. This would’ve been impossible if there were red ants or ticks.
After 9.3 miles in 6.5 hours I was very very glad to reach the trailhead.

For someone who’s never cached here, there are 25+ caches on the route I took. I saw 1 mountain biker a lone runner and near the end, 3 creepy people who stood off trail completely motionless facing random directions. I’m glad I noticed them from 300’ away.

JULY 15, 2014 – Santa Cruz Island

July 15, 2014

Of the 8 Channel Islands, I visited Catalina in 1971 and Santa Rosa in 1993. When sissopolis suggested a group hike on Santa Cruz Island I jumped to join, even though only 3 caches were on the planned route. Round trip passage through Island Packers was $59.00. After a hassle free check in at Ventura Harbor we boarded the 64’ Island Adventure.
Sissopolis and deeznutz® got prime upper deck aft seats.
The rest of us shared a long bench seat with 2 muggles. Here are Foocachers(Sr) and bleed_blue_LA. BWidget managed to avoid my camera all day.
Having a GPS in-hand was very useful on the 21 mile trip. We knew our speed, 15-1/2 knots, course and exactly how far we were at all times from the island dock. The sky was clear and the breeze kept us cool. We saw dolphins but no whales. We arrived in just over an hour.
A federal ranger gamely gave an orientation speech to the 150 or so disembarking passengers. About half of them, including all of us, stayed to listen. No matter how experienced elsewhere, no one with a brain should pass up the opportunity to hear local knowledge. Afterward at the nearby trailhead we saw a large 3D map. The top “X” is the dock at Scorpion Anchorage. The “O” is where I hiked alone (more on that later) and found No Oil Here (GC8F2E) a virtual cache.
Anyway there’s a small 2 room museum near the trailhead. The island has thousands of years of fascinating prehistory and a few hundred of modern history. But that’s outside the scope of this post. The most obvious evidence of the recent past are the scattered pieces of old machinery.
This one has twin steering wheels.
The plan was to hike to Scorpion Bay, the bottom “X” on the map above. The trail started with a quick 900’ gain. No wonder almost all the other passengers stayed at the beach. On our way up we saw the legendary Camo Bush. Its real!
The group pulled away and I was too old, fat and slow to keep up. It didn’t help that the breeze from the boat ride didn’t extend onto the island..
I stopped at the very top, at the middle “X” on the map while the rest hiked down to beach at the bottom “X.” I could’ve reached the beach but might not have been able to hike back before the boat left.
Instead, I remained at the top for 45 minutes, took in the view of neighboring Anacapa Island and played with my V/UHF ham radio. Then I walked toward the “O” from memory because my GPSr mysteriously contained no caches, even though I’d loaded them. I knew I was going the right way when relics like these oil drill bits became numerous along the trail.
I hiked toward what looked like a telephone pole. It turned out to be an oil drilling tower.
The machinery was still there. I took pictures of what I guessed to be the virtual cache requirement, later confirmed correct.
The adjoining 1 room building was rusting away.
I walked back at a leisurely pace, met a truck driving ranger who was armed for the zombie apocalypse and gave an extra liter of frozen ice tea to 2 totally unprepared muggles.
This is Scorpion Anchorage and the dock, from the trail’s last high point.
At the bottom, I joined the muggle crowd and swam around in the ocean for a ½ hour until I met the group at the dock. Everyone else hiked 9 miles, I hiked 6. Our return trip was on a similar but different boat and slightly faster at 17+ knots.


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