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 gc.com 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 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.
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
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
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
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.