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.
040514_01A_group
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.
040514_02_oil_seep
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.
040514_03_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.
040514_04_siss
The descent wasn’t too severe. The view was especially good here.
040514_05_descent
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.
040514_06_water
The canyon opened up to the exit road where we found Precarious Perch (GC1945K). It really was precarious.
040514_07_roots
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.
032314_trailhead
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.
032314_puddle
Beyond the single puddle, the ground was dry.
032314_beetle
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.
032314_crossover
This is the view from ground zero.
032314_wide_angle
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.
032314_not_taken
Dark brown ants covered this tree and the ground around it. I couldn’t get close enough to grab the cache inside.
032314_tree_hole
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.
032314_calabazilla
Just before the tank a 2’ gopher snake basked in the middle of the trail. I hope it moved before bikers ran over it.
032314_snake
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.
032314_rock_hole
I emerged at this trail head on Las Virgenes Boulevard, 200’ from my car after 3-1/2 hours and 6.8 miles.
032314_exit


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.
020914_01_parking
It was oddly silent on the hike North toward the interesting stuff.
020914_02_walk
A permanent looking chain link fence now surrounds the ‘barn.’
020914_03_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.
020914_04_ruins
Until this point, the hike was mostly flat.
020914_05_burned
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).
020914_06_dead_cactus
There’s a cache at each “X.” The “F” is a Fragrant Field of Fennel.
020914_07_lookdown
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.
020914_08_fennel
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.
020914_09_bench
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.
020914_10_trough
Nearby, I spotted a few cactuses that survived the flames.
020914_11_regen
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.


JANUARY 29, 2014 – Completing the Santa Monica Mtns History Adventure

January 29, 2014

Completing the SuMMit Challenge motivated me to also finish the Santa Monica Mtns History Adventure (GC18DXW). The object is to find & log the 64 oldest, still active caches in the Santa Monica Mountains, all published before May 3, 2003.

When Paleolith & Don_J created the challenge in 2008 I had 38 of the 64 required caches. But many of the remainder were remote and isolated, away from other caches. Over the years I picked away at them slowly. I made no effort to go after the last 5 caches for over 3 years, until this month. Then I found them all and the final cache in 2 weekends.

The first was Night to Remember and Then Some (GC9EF9). It’s a letterbox hybrid designed to be reached by using cache page clues. Instead I used the pictures in the gallery and my trail knowledge from pre-caching days to hike to GZ. This is the starting trailhead. Years ago I almost broke my leg walking into the yellow bar on a night hike. It was painted black at the time.
SMMHA_los_padres_PH
Anyway after the find I drove West to Rancho Sierra Vista in Newbury Park. I hiked from the parking lot, across the top (N end) of the Sycamore Canyon Trail to So Close Yet So Far (GC5244). This one is an offset cache, listed as a “traditional.” The coordinates lead to a high viewpoint bench. The cache is in the burned out canyon below. A GPSr issue and NOT reading earlier logs caused me to look for an hour before finding the cache. Read the page! And then find the cache within a minute of reaching GZ.
SMMHA_close
It was still mid-afternoon and I drove South on Portrero Road, next to CSUCI to PCH and then to El Matador (GC97AD). This is a 2 part multi cache. I’d driven by dozens of times over the years, either rushing to a trailhead for an early morning hike, or on the way home exhausted after that long hike. And until recently I didn’t know about the free street parking on both sides of PCH. EcuaDeb & mini Deb-2 joined me here and we walked down to the beach for waypoint 1. As planned, it was low tide. We saw starfish, snail shells, olive shells, anemones and some chitons on the way. The final cache was very close to where I’d guessed from seeing the gallery pictures.
SMMHA_El_Matodor
The next day saw me at the other end of the Santa Monicas for Swinging Sullivan (GCA30). It’s another 2 part multi cache. I’d avoided it because of the complicated drive through a residential area to reach the trailhead. Once there it was a short flat hike to the first waypoint. The coordinates to the final were quickly seen and followed.
SMMHA_sullivan_coords
It was a 5 minute drive South to Sunset Blvd and then to the North end of Chautauqua Blvd to reach this easement trailhead for Reservoir Dog (GC577C), a straight forward traditional cache. I walked up to the ammo can hide, 40’ short of GZ. Now, only the final cache remained before I could claim completion of the challenge.
SMMHA_reservoir_TH
I spent a restless week waiting for Saturday to find the final cache. This is the trailhead. There were no other cars in sight. Don_J supplied me with the most efficient route to GZ. Once I was there I looked and looked for the cache. Of course, I hadn’t learned from experience. Without reading the cache page I didn’t know that this was another offset. I cursed the muggle (or cache saboteur) who stole the container and starting walking away with a DNF. Then I read the page…and found that the actual cache was an undisclosed distance up a hill to the South.
SMMHA_trailhead
The hill was partially overgrown with dried out vegetation. On a bushwhacking scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being impassable, the uphill hike was a 2. My alligator-like skin got a few scratches. I was again extremely lucky to almost walk into the cache container. Had I gone through 10 feet in either direction, I would’ve missed it. After 6 years I was FINALLY DONE!! THANK YOU to everyone who hiked with me to many of the caches, to all the cache hiders, to fellow seekers whose logs I continue to read and enjoy, and to Paleolith and Don_J for creating the challenge and maintaining the cache page.
SMMHA_final
With the final find, I became the first cacher to complete all 3 local mega-hiking challenges: Spinal Tap (Jan 2009), SuMMit Challenge (Jan 2014), SMMHA (Jan 2014). Wheeeee!!!


JANUARY 8, 2014 – Completing the SuMMit Challenge

January 8, 2014

In early December I became aware of the SuMMit Challenge (GC4R94P). The object is to find at least 1 designated cache on or near 24 named summits in the Santa Monica Mountains. Thanks to 9 years of non-stop caching I’d already logged a qualifying cache for 22 of the 24 summits. But my priority was to find 200+ caches to reach my annual goal of 1,200 finds. After that was accomplished on Dec 23, I hiked to log the last 2 summits. First was Mt. Cahuenga.
001_hollywood
The parking area at the North end of Beachwood Drive was full of loud tourists and cars were lined up waiting for others to leave. So I drove around looking for another access point. One false start led to a nice overlook above the Hollywood Reservoir. Later I found free street parking on Lake Hollywood Drive. The cars there REALLY looked like they belonged to outdoors people. Sure enough a carload of well-equipped hikers arrived. I followed them up what turned out to be an easement through a long private street to an official trailhead.
002_reservoir
The hike was a steep switch backing single track up the side of Burbank Peak. I didn’t need this peak for the challenge but I didn’t want to pass up logging Ben & Jayme: For The Love of Caching (GC2DD3H) hidden just a few feet from this viewpoint tree. I looked for a long time, ignoring the big tool chest summit register at the tree base. Eventually I found an ammo can which I thought was the cache. I signed the log and took the ladybug travel bug. Then I walked along the ridgeline and down to a Mt. Cahuenga cache, Cahuenga Flat (GCHPVW). Peak #23 down. A few hundred feet later I noticed that my Garmin Montana was missing. It’s such a troublesome unit that I briefly considered abandoning it. Remembering that it cost $600+ made me retrieve it.
003_viewing_tree
Back at home I was stunned to discover that the ammo can I thought was “Ben & Jayme” was really Thoughtful Spot (GCHPVW) a cache that was last found on 1/29/2009 and archived on 7/11/2010. The TB listed in that cache was in my hand!

Three days later I found myself near the SuMMit Challenge “final” cache. Its page states that finding it before logging all 24 summits isn’t preferred but is acceptable. Here’s the trailhead at the Northeast corner of Mulholland and Las Virgenes.
004_mulholland_las-virgenes_TH
The trail runs along and above Las Virgenes Blvd. This bench is close to the trailhead. The water fountain doesn’t work.
005_bench
I wonder what’s being grown below.
006_farm
In my first find of the day I left the TB that was stranded for 5 years in the archived cache.
007_rescued_TB
I found more caches and then the challenge final. I logged a note for it. Then I continued North, hiding 4 caches of my own:

The Fence Walker (GC4W55B)
Split Rock Decon (GC4W55P)
Excalbia (GC4W566)
The Friend Zone (GC4W56T)
008_beyond
On the way out I took a side hike and found a cache here Foundation! (GC1N3C7).
009_foundation
Then on January 1, I woke up early and left to find peak #24, Tri-Peaks (any of 4 potential caches in the same general area).
010_sandstone
I reached Tri-Peaks from Sandstone Peak about 20 years ago after a big fire by walking across burned out ground.
011_tri-peak
But 2 tries in my caching years were unsuccessful due to bad weather and my inability to find a trail. This time I was glad to see signs and thought that the hike might be easy.
012_tri-peaks_sign2
But I lost the trail over loose rocks.
013_lost_trail
I ended up at the eastern edge of the May 2013 Camarillo Spring fire burn zone and had to descend into a ravine to keep moving forward.
014_burn
I hiked through narrow gaps and passed cave entrances.
015_gap
I carried my pack to squeeze between these small trees. It could be days before anyone getting stuck there is found.
016_ravine
Here are the first footprints I saw after crawling through a rock hole and out of the ravine.
017_room_depart
Then the way to South Approach to Tri-Peaks (GC1DRCN) was clear!
018_gz1
It was an easy find and the cache counted as peak #24. Notice that the container is heavily fire damaged. The contents were unburned.
019_melted
From there it was an easy walk on a visible trail to Palos Verdes to Santa Barbara View (GCF3B5), a cache that also counts as peak #24 for the SuMMit Challenge. I chose to list this one as my official #24. Additionally, it also counted as a required find for the Santa Monica Mountains History Adventure (GC18DXW).
020_palos_sta_barb_view
Hiking back was scary because I was tired. I avoided the ravine and got through by carefully hugging rocks above it. Somehow I found a marked trail and got home at 5:15pm.
021_sunset
I then logged the SuMMit Challenge as “found!”


DECEMBER 28, 2013 – Return to CadizCaching4X (CCX4 series)

December 28, 2013

My annual caching goal is 1,200 finds. In most years I end up scrambling frantically at the end of December to reach that number. This year I was 189 caches short with 10 days left. Determined not to let my caching obsession consume my entire Christmas vacation, I drove East across the desert again, toward Barstow. The Football geoart series (GC4510X) by JimHaa was my first target. After great difficulty finding access, I was surprised to see a very wide newly graded road across the center of the football. I found 21 of the series caches and moved on.
01_football_rd
A few miles farther East I saw a strange piece of desert debris. Incredibly, there was another almost identical one an hour later.
02_boat
Trash dumping is a big problem East of Palmdale. I briefly looked for the cache here but left before finding it because I didn’t want tetanus to ruin my vacation.
03_trash
With 42 finds for the day, I spent the night in Barstow. In the morning I drove 80 miles East on Route 40 to Kelbaker Road and passed next to the familiar Route 66 Shield series. Ten minutes later I was on Route 66 itself.
04_Rte_66
This is just after the Cadiz Road turnoff. There are 20 caches between here and the start of the CC4X series. Of the 20, 10 are hidden by Canadians to honor the top 10 British Columbia cachers. I wonder why Canadians need to commemorate their own cachers by placing/naming caches for them in another country. Oh well, I’ll take the points. 4 miles from the picture below I crossed into the series (GC47A93).
05_Cadiz
In May I’d found #000 to #084 in my Honda Element and walked across a 300’ sand wash to find #085 on foot before turning back. The segment #000 to about #100 is mostly rocky with a few washouts. Driving the Forester I worried more about getting a flat tire than getting stuck in sand.
06_rocky
This is the 300’ long sandy wash at #084 where I’d stopped in May. Every time I thought about the sand barrier I got aggravated. It was a big part of my decision to trade in my Honda Element (& my Prius too). This time, in the Forester, the sand wasn’t even slightly intimidating. I got through easily.
07_sandy
The road improved soon after and I found caches (almost all 35mm and prescription containers) in rapid succession. Bring replacement containers! The white 35mm film containers are disintegrating. I replaced 17 of them!

There were 2 non-series caches to break up the routine. Despite the People’s Liberation Army (China) insignia on this one it was a standard US ammo can.
08_ac
The road continued past this concrete block building.
09_explo
The decades old abandoned remains of an industrial complex can be seen at #153. The picture’s scale is deceiving. The doorway is human sized.
10_mine
I found #214 to finally reach 1,200 finds for the year and added 2 more in case of miscalculation. The sun was low on the horizon and night time creatures started to emerge.
143
I turned around and headed back toward #000 and pavement. The fading light seemed to intensify desert colors.
11_sunset
This spot is especially photo worthy. I took a picture here in May too. But I didn’t want to be here alone after dark. (chupacabras and alien abductions)
12_surreal
I reached the pavement at Cadiz Road exactly at sundown with 150 finds for the day (replaced 1 that was truly missing – empty pile of rocks at GZ). Conditions were ideal. I drove a new, high clearance AWD vehicle. The weather was cool (low 50’s) clear, dry and non-windy. There was zero mud. I had a strong Verizon 3G signal every time I looked at my phone and I had a dual band ham radio in reserve. Still, it’s best not to cache here alone because of the extreme remoteness. Help is hours away, something to consider for medical emergencies. Only 1 vehicle passed by in 5 hours!

Thanks Jim (f0t0m0m) for hiding the series. Eventually I’ll find the remaining 184 caches, probably alone and from the South end.


DECEMBER 3, 2013 – East of Palmdale

December 3, 2013

The last day of my Thanksgiving vacation (12/1) was spent solo caching in the desert East of Palmdale. I left home at 9:30am and found my first cache at 11:00 and my last at 3:25pm. It never got above 53 degrees.
120113_avenue
All caches were off pavement. There’s a horrendous amount of trash strewn in this part of the desert. But at one cache, KZ-Hub Central (GC3Y63J) the trash is semi-organized.
120113_hubcaps
Light rain the day before kept the dust down on dirt roads without leaving any mud. Rare for desert caching, I was able to keep my windows open. Sandy stretches were no problem for my Forester. As an 8 year former Prius owner, I can say with confidence, “leave your Prius at home or you’ll get stuck here.” See the Northwest quadrant of the map at the bottom of this post.
120113_gully
Some caches were within steps of the (unpaved) road. Most were 150’ to 200’ out. Small square plastic tubs predominated. Genuine Rubbermaids were dry inside. Gladware-types were often cracked and usually wet inside. There were a few PVC bush hangers and 2 no-neck bottles. Extracting logs sheets from these bottles wasn’t easy.
120113_narrow_neck
In 4-1/2 hours of relaxed park & walk caching, I found 36 caches and DNF’d 4. I skipped the ones close to houses on the assumption that people who choose to live miles from their nearest neighbors are likely to be especially unhappy to see an obvious non-local snooping around, even 200’ away. Note the tops of the “Z”s in “Hazzard.” Some caches were several tenths of a mile from even the dirt ‘roads.’ They can’t be reached without driving ‘cross country.’ I walked to a few of these by following the tire tracks of cachers who DID drive ‘cross country.’ I skipped the rest. Note the first “A” and the middle of the first “Z.”

There was another hour of daylight but my traditional post-caching In-N-Out Double Double called my name. (This time I had a Double/Single – cutting back on cheese…)
120113_hazzard
197 caches to go to reach my annual goal of 1,200 finds.


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