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.

JUNE 1, 2014 – Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) @ Vasquez Rocks

June 1, 2014

Over the years EcuaDeb & sissopolis often mentioned the PCT and WILD. We even hiked on a small snow covered section last year.

I was surprised to see on the gc.com map that the PCT runs through Vasquez Rocks Natural Area Park (where Captain Kirk fought the Gorn). And that there is a string of 9 PCT caches just outside the park on the other (S) side of the 14 fwy. We set a date and kept it.

Here’s the ubiquitous rock at the parking lot.
Immediately out of the lot we were on the PCT. It was mid morning but we sensed that it was going to be hot. We found several caches. Some were new to me and Deb and all were new to siss.
A muggle couple asked us for directions. They had no idea of where they were going, no map, no water, no equipment and they weren’t dressed for the hike. We oriented them the best we could. With them safely (we hoped) away, we continued.
Then we met the first 2 of 6 muggles on the extreme other end of the spectrum. This couple from Italy and England were hiking THE ENTIRE PCT from the Mexican to Canadian borders. They were averaging 18 miles a day! We met another pair later and 2 solos. Siss & Deb informed me that those who hike the entire PCT are called “through hikers.”
After cooling down under a huge shaded overhang we approached the 14 fwy and the tunnel underneath.
We stopped for more pictures before taking the plunge.
Walk along the sides. The center is where the road apples accumulate.
We found Vasquez Tunnel (GC1QA03) just outside at the other end. Ignore the ambiguous hint and you’ll find the cache sooner.
Because of the switchbacks on the map, I thought that the terrain on this side of the freeway would be steep. I even told siss and Deb that I might have to stop and wait for them to find the rest of the caches. But the hike was mostly flat. And all 8 caches were easy finds. They were very close to the trail except for VR PCT #6 which was at an easily reachable rock outcrop.
Deb hid a cache Someday on the PCT (GC561ZA) .12 beyond the last one we found. Deb & siss hope to be “through hikers” someday. By then, I’ll be in a motorized wheelchair van delivering supplies to them at prearranged locations.

We turned around and headed back carefully rationing our water in the now searing heat. Still, we overtook a very slow through hiker twice, before reaching the parking lot. Then we drove down the street, still on the PCT!, to Sweetwater Café where we were served ice tea in large Mason jars. They’re going to have a lot of business next year when WILD is released as a movie and all the through hikers pass by.

MAY 26, 2014 – San Diego

May 26, 2014

I was close to maxing out my vacation days. Where to go? Another session of desert caching wasn’t appealing, especially with the possibility of inferno heat and high winds. Monterey was fully booked. My old standby, San Diego, was it.

Immediately I drove around Fiesta Island, stopped and found all of the new (to me) caches.
Afterward I left my Forester in the dirt lot at the island’s entrance, next to Ring My Bell…Fiesta Island Fun (GC4TE3C) and walked along Mission Bay. I did a quick orbit of a camo’d outhouse. The ick factor kept me from searching in, on or under it for the cache. At least the terrain nearby was scenic.
The next morning I drove around the Southern end of San Diego Bay, through Imperial Beach to Coronado. It was my first time in the area. Coronado “Island” looked just like Pacific Palisades. Starting from a small free parking lot at Bayshore Bikeway (GC1R5AP) I walked South. Less than 0.2 miles later a 1.2 mile long nature walk began, parallel to the bike path.
There were no weekday muggles on the path. Caches were strategically located at resting points. All of them were large enough for swag!
Occasionally, there were interesting, educational rocks.
I kept caching South beyond the end of the walkway, back along the bike path. At 2.5 miles, I turned around and hiked back to the parking lot. There was plenty of remaining daylight and l ended up driving alongside a wildlife preserve and 4 easy caches. Here’s the view into Mexico from Extended View x2 (GCTP7H). The border fence is the dark line across the middle of the picture.
The following day I was too sore for intense hiking. I stayed close to the hotel and visited Shelter Island.
Pelicans were perched on it.
And this reptilian looking bird was on a piling underneath.
Then I drove up Point Loma to the Cabrillo National Monument. I paid the $5. parking fee, walked around and found 2 virtual caches – of which this is NOT one.
The few muggles were all at the visitor’s center staring at Coronado Island and downtown San Diego. I walked uphill to the lighthouse and looked out at the open ocean. Down below I noticed my ideal house-compound. The road to the tide pools passed by it. Signs indicated a Coast Guard facility.
After finding only 41 caches in 2-1/2 days I was more stressed out than ever. So that night I checked out and returned home.

MAY 6, 2014 – PMSP, Chumash Trail to La Jolla Valley

May 6, 2014

Driving by the dirt parking lot at the bottom of the Chumash Trail always brought back memories of slipping and sliding down from the top in 2008. I never considered going UP the super steep 7,000 year old trail until I saw that it was the shortest way, by far, to reach a string of caches in La Jolla Valley. So up I went, slowly, stopping to sit on several very conveniently placed flat rocks.
The early morning haze and cool breeze made the 40 minute climb to the ‘saddle’ bearable. Here’s the view from there looking into the valley.
This is the view looking backward from the same spot, which is also where the Chumash Trail turns into the Mugu Peak Trail. All of the many muggles turned East toward Mugu Peak.
I hiked West on a barely visible use trail to find 3 caches ending at (GC1JGGP) High Above the See Bees hidden by BWidget. The mostly flat walk here was a relief. Lines of arranged rocks, often breaking off into adjoining squares led me to think that the area was once a very scenic campsite, maybe for the Boy Scouts who still frequent the park.
The haze began to clear, leaving a great view of the Mugu wetlands and Naval Base Ventura County.
I went back to the saddle and continued into the valley which was bright yellow with mustard plants. I turned right at the loop trail for 4 caches.
The ground was covered by shell fragments. There were scallops, mussels and 2 types of clams. All of them are very edible species. I’d like to imagine that the Chumash carried them live, over the same trail I took, cooked them and threw out the shells. And speaking of food, I’ve decided to research wild mustard seed harvesting and DIY mustard making.
There were 3 easy finds and then my lone DNF of the day, (GC470VE) A Sticky One. I retraced my steps to the trail junction and turned North for 5 more caches. I didn’t encounter another person during my entire time in the valley. But now I see that other cachers visited the next cache beyond GZ for this picture of Tri-Peaks/Boney Mountain.
I found 12 of the 13 caches visited and reversed course. Walking back, 2 turkey vultures buzzed just overhead and I almost inhaled a butterfly. At least there was a great view of the Laguna Peak Radar Station.
At home I saw that I’d missed the parking lot cache. dOH!!

APRIL 15, 2014 – Towsley Canyon Loop

April 14, 2014

For 10 years, every attempt to cache nearby Towsley Canyon fell through. Once, I was ready to go with keys in hand. Then I checked my PC one last time…and saw a series of 35 new urban caches pop up in the east SFV. Another time I actually got there and suddenly didn’t feel like caching because of the heat.
040514_01_signThis time it was cool and breezy and I really really needed a hike. So I joined deeznutz®, capdude, Foocachers & sissopolis on a clockwise loop.
Only a few minutes in we arrived at Don’t Be Crude (GCHJYK). Oil bubbled up a few feet away from the container which we found in poison oak. I’ve seen similar natural oil seeps elsewhere in the Santa Susana Mountains. The one here was the bubbliest of them all.
The trail became steep. Dodging numerous muggles and finding caches along the way, we reached the top and looked down on the 5 fwy and Santa Clarita.
Every cacher has good caching days and bad ones. This day was great for sissopolis. She found cache after cache while the rest of us found a few each.
The descent wasn’t too severe. The view was especially good here.
The bottom was a canyon with interesting rock formations. It was here that I saw the first flowing water on a hike in many months.
The canyon opened up to the exit road where we found Precarious Perch (GC1945K). It really was precarious.
I got much needed exercise and logged 13 finds. Tnx siss for convincing me to go when I was wavering from mental tiredness.

MARCH 25, 2014 – Upper Las Virgenes (Ahmanson-west)

March 25, 2014

I hadn’t hiked in over a month. So it was a relief to ditch my responsibilities for a few hours and cache a counter clockwise loop at the North end of Las Virgenes Boulevard. The temperature was in the mid 70’s and a slight breeze kept me from overheating in the bright sun.
It was great to hike in an unburned area. There was even water at a crossing. But it was just a big puddle from the rains 3 weeks ago and not the usual flowing stream that’s there in non-drought years.
Beyond the single puddle, the ground was dry.
My first stop after a left (West) turn was Not a mammoth mountain (GC2Z2ZQ) above the main trail. There was an unexpected mini-trail system up top. It even led to MY cache, Crossover to Cheeseboro Canyon (GC16V89). I didn’t have to do my planned cache maintenance because the temporary replacement left by gcstraggler was better than the one I brought. Thanks!! The cache is within 1 foot of the picture.
This is the view from ground zero.
At the Northwest part of the loop a sign read that Juan Bautista de Anza did NOT pass this way in 1775-1776. I didn’t either. I made a left (S) turn onto the Cheesboro Ridge Trial.
Dark brown ants covered this tree and the ground around it. I couldn’t get close enough to grab the cache inside.
Farther along the loop the trailside was littered with calabazilla Coyote Gourds. The reason for the Latin species name “foetidissima” became apparent. PU! Oh and there’s a cache where the trail meets the water tank at the top of the picture.
Just before the tank a 2’ gopher snake basked in the middle of the trail. I hope it moved before bikers ran over it.
Finding BWidget caches along the way, I kept going on the up and down switchbacks. Near the end of the hike there was an interesting depression in the trailside rock wall.
I emerged at this trail head on Las Virgenes Boulevard, 200’ from my car after 3-1/2 hours and 6.8 miles.

FEBRUARY 24, 2014 – Scary Dairy, post-fire

February 23, 2014

It was my first visit after the Camarillo Spring Fire burned most of the park. Signage indicates that it now belongs to CSUCI. I paid $7. to the iron ranger and drove to the model airfield parking lot. A sign there read “flying unmanned aircraft prohibited.” No more planes, no more flyers. So mine was the only car in the lot.
It was oddly silent on the hike North toward the interesting stuff.
A permanent looking chain link fence now surrounds the ‘barn.’
There’s one around the main buildings too. My camera lens was small enough to fit between the links. I’m glad that my geofriends and I explored the barn and buildings in 2012, before the fence went up.
Until this point, the hike was mostly flat.
Though the fire was almost 10 months ago, most areas were completely burned with little visible recovery. The previous day’s light rain caused the smell of ash and soot to be all pervasive. It was definitely not the day to visit for people with sensitive noses (not me).
There’s a cache at each “X.” The “F” is a Fragrant Field of Fennel.
This is a closer view of “F.” There wasn’t much fuel for the fire here. So it wasn’t intense and didn’t linger, leaving the fennel seeds undamaged and ready to germinate.
There’s almost nothing left at the old school except for this metal part of a bench, a building foundation and some rocks arranged in circles. All of the playground equipment seen on my previous visit is gone.
I found more caches and climbed over hills on the way back to the main trail. An easy cache was at this old water trough.
Nearby, I spotted a few cactuses that survived the flames.
My figure 8 hike was complete. I ended my 3-1/2 hour visit with 4 hills climbed, 11 hiking caches found and 1 DNF. I didn’t see another person. There are still a lot of unfound (by me) caches on the bigger hills so I’ll be back.


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