FEBRUARY 16, 2015 – Upper Las Virgenes (Northeast)

February 16, 2015

While the Northeast and Midwest froze under several feet of snow, I hiked in 85 degree sunshine, 15 minutes from home. This is the Victory (Blvd) Trailhead to the Upper Las Virgenes Canyon Open Space Preserve (the former Ahmanson Ranch). Free street parking is a block away.
Inside, the parking lot costs $3.00. From there I hiked up this trail for the first time. It’s steeper than it looks in the picture and I struggled to keep from being overtaken by a 20 something couple and their small children.
At the top the trail was mostly flat. The family went North and I went South. I DNF’d the first 2 caches, Take Five (GC5KZCF) and Raptor Ridge (GC5KZCG) when coordinates led to unlikely spots.
It rained twice this year, enough to turn the area from brown to green. The East-West trail down below is so well maintained that it looked like a paved road. Most park visitors hiked there and very few were above on the single track trail with me.
Caches were all a few steps off trail. Those steps were scary because the greenery was invariably sock top high. I used my hiking stick to make very sure that no rattlesnakes were underfoot. Surprisingly, the only non-flying wildlife I saw were fence lizards, lots of them.
The trail turned North and went steadily uphill. I was glad that there were lots of butt friendly rocks to sit on and rest. At one of them, I forgot my last pair of As Seen on TV “HD” sunglasses. They’re the only brand that comfortably fits my oversize head. Oh well, they were only $10. I bought 5 pairs and went through them in 2 years.
I replaced the cracked lid of this cache. Baring muggling or fire, it should be fine for years to come.
Here’s a water tank that rolled downhill a long time ago. Tank Down (GC5MT6G)is a few feet away.
I’d found 6 caches and decided that I didn’t want to hike several hundred more feet steeply uphill for the rest. This is the view South from my turnaround point.
A few minutes later, as redtail hawks and crows fought overhead, the view East reminded me how close the park is to suburbia.
The 2 caches I DNF’d at the beginning were easy finds on the way back. It helped that the arrow pointed 30’ away from the original ground zeroes. Sometimes it just happens that way.

JANUARY 25, 2015 – Chatsworth Park S

January 25, 2015

With 1,045 finds in 2014 I failed to reach my annual goal of 1,200 caches. A flat tire on December 24 left me with a temporary 50 mile, 45 mph maximum spare. I couldn’t safely reach any power trails to make up the difference. I ordered 4 new all terrain tires. They didn’t arrive until January 2. &#%@#$^!!!

I started the year with a local hike at Chatsworth Park, South. An unexpected lack of parking, a registration table and cases of water bottles were indications that a big muggle herd was somewhere nearby. Nevertheless there was no one in sight to tell me that the area was closed for an event so I walked in at the trailhead: N 34° 14.980 W 118° 37.198
My first stop was at Need a Lift? (GC4EWF7) where I DNF’d what should’ve been an easy to find magnetic container. The cache owner later confirmed that it’s missing and disabled it.
The trail ahead was wide and mostly flat. But I turned S (left) on a side trail for Hometown View (GCEWFX).
Here’s the view looking back from GZ.
Returning N, eventually the muggle herd appeared. This is about 1/3 of the group. I was glad when they kept walking and didn’t come up to the high point where I was searching for another cache.
Later, it started to look like Along the Road (GC2NHX0) was only reachable from below. Then I found that the trail continued over the edge, down to a paved road. A chain link fence and “Area Closed – Hazardous Materials,” signs blocked access across the road. But then again the cache was named, “Along the Road.”
Cool temperatures made it easy to walk uphill and back to the plateau. There were no unfound (by me) caches in the cliffs so I turned S to find a final cache and hiked back to the trailhead.
On the way I saw a giant hole in the ground. At more than 15’ in diameter, it seemed too big to be a fire pit. And there were no obvious scorch marks on the masonry. Does anyone have info?010115_08_hole

DECEMBER 27, 2014 – Heart of the Mojave Desert (HMD) series #800 – #1,000

December 27, 2014

The Heart of the Mojave Desert power trail is a series of 1,000 caches by f0t0m0m. It’s entirely in California. It begins on hwy 62, 8 miles West of Parker, Arizona and ends just South of Amboy. Even though I’d cached the surrounding power trails, multiple stories and logs about getting stuck in deep sand kept me away until now. But still 434 caches short of my goal of 1,200 finds for 2014 and 9 days left in the year I broke down and found HMD #800 – #1,000 and some nearby non-series caches.

I stayed overnight in Barstow, started early and drove 76 miles East on I-40 to Kelbaker Road, then South to Route 66. At the T shaped intersection, Route 66 East was barricaded “flooded – closed to through traffic,” though I saw some cars go around. The road West was open through Amboy and just beyond up to the famous Amboy CratOr. There the road was closed. I turned South at the sign onto Amboy Road.
I passed what I thought were salt flats.
It was cold, dusty and windy. Driving backwards from the end of the series to HMD #800 let me check out the other side of the road where’d I’d cache later in the day. The shoulders were sandier than along the Route 66 or Trona/anorT series’ and a few sections looked scary. I was reassured when passing a bulldozer crew in the 900’s, hard at work clearing the sand.
By the time I turned around at #800 the dust had cleared. There was no wind and the temperature was up to the mid 60’s. Evidence of other cachers was very visible. The container was 250′ off road and I worried that they’d all be that far. But they weren’t. Most were within 30′ and no others were beyond 50′.
Only 18 caches in, I turned on a super wide, nicely graded dirt road to find 6 non-series caches placed by others to honor f0t0m0m. I considered adding a cache but didn’t because the location is 250 driving miles from home and I’d never be able to maintain it.
Back on the main road the next section was fairly steep. My door was heavy to open and slammed shut at each cache. Cache #835 was close to a compound flying a Confederate flag. I kept an eye out but the people walking around inside ignored me. #864 marked the downhill section. #873 began the straight line stretch for the end. Soon I saw a lone cholla cactus Christmas tree.
Several caches in the 880’s were obviously bulldozed away. I put down a replacement at GZ for the picture. Then I moved it 10’ directly East and put it in a small rock pile.
Here’s one that was squashed flat. The log was under the piece of wood.
I stopped at #915, then found the 7 post-series caches and went back to Barstow. The next day I returned to find #916 – #1,000. This section was much the same, all wide open and flat. The 980’s had the sandiest shoulders in my 2 trips. My AWD wheels spun slightly but I wasn’t in any serious danger of getting stuck. Those caching in 2WD cars should still be careful here.
Recent and ongoing bulldozing/re-grading made driving the shoulders easier than I thought it would be. Even the sections that looked scary on the way in ended up being non-dangerous. Thanks Jim (f0t0m0m) for setting up this huge series.

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 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 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.


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