MARCH 20, 2017 – Upper Las Virgenes SE (Ahmanson)

March 19, 2017

Rained out weekends, other hobbies, Netflix binge watching and general malaise kept me away from hiking and caching for the last 2-1/2 months. This morning I forced myself to get off the couch and drive to the Victory Boulevard trailhead at the former Ahmanson Ranch. It’s only 10 minutes away from me and hundreds of thousands of other people. I knew it would be crowded with muggles out to see the new greenery.

The somehow empty end of the parking lot made me hopeful that I was wrong.

The crowd at trailhead itself proved my original thought to be correct.

But only a quarter mile in the muggles thinned out. I reached the first cache, found, logged & returned it.

I hiked to the top of the hill and emerged from the wrong side of a “Keep Out,” sign – that I then remembered from a years ago visit.

Wildflowers were scarce and cactus was unexpectedly abundant.

The next cache was at this trail junction. While I perched on a rock signing the log a lone muggle asked me what I was doing. I gave the standard explanation and handed her my signature wooden nickel that lists the geocaching.com URL.

The 3rd cache was at a familiar location. Over the years I’ve found 3 or 4 caches within 100’. Do you see something suspicious?

It’s not hikers who tear up the trails.

The 4th cache was a DNF. The hint stated that it was somewhere at the base of the rock outcropping. The new greenery made it too annoying to search for long. And I was worried about rattlesnakes underfoot.

I turned around and enjoyed the scenery on my return trip. There were a few sad trees that didn’t make it through the ½ decade drought.

In 2 months the area will be foxtail hell. So cache there now while it’s still green.


DECEMBER 31, 2016 – Year End: Barstow to Las Vegas (part 2 of 2)

December 31, 2016

From Barstow I drove to Baker for Alien Fresh Jerky and a few caches. An hour later I reached the Nevada border at Primm. Here’s the view from my Buffalo Bill’s hotel room. That’s a roller coaster (not working) track.
122816_00_buffalo_bills
In the morning it was shocking to see ice on my Subaru. It was a lifetime first for me. The onboard thermometer read 29 degrees when exiting the parking lot.
122816_01_ice
Twelve miles closer to Las Vegas I stopped for 2 caches, one of which was in the middle of this under-freeway tunnel. Below then Above (GC1APBR).
122816_02_tunnel
A few minutes later I found The Last Spike SHM (GC68VWM). The site commemorates the location of the last railroad spike connecting Los Angeles to Salt Lake City in 1905. Appropriately, a train passed by.
122816_03_spike
Up ahead in the distance I saw a shimmering sight. Seven columns of stacked florescent boulders were backlit by the sun shining off of rainwater in a “dry” lakebed.
122816_04_shimmering_sight
It was now 45 degrees, warm enough for tourists to swarm. I looked for the best photo angle and then saw where all the Asians were standing with their cameras. It WAS the best angle. On the minus side, everyone who stood there now has the same picture. The cache at the site is Stonehenge in the Desert (GCH1TZ).
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Nearby there was a very wrinkled example of a Beavertail Cactus.
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Still a few miles from Las Vegas I made extra sure that no one was home before I reached for this cache.
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I parked in a small clearing and hiked to 3 easy caches behind this sign. The area was littered with used shotgun shell casings. A driver ignored the sign and drove his huge truck past me.
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Caches close to parking tended to be smalls. Ones that were hundreds of feet away were mostly larges, probably placed on the assumption that only cachers will have a reason to walk to GZ. As a desert hiking cacher, I’m always glad to see this ahead.
122816_09_big_oneIn midafternoon I reached the southern edge of the Las Vegas Valley and found a small string of park & grab caches that ended with a lamp post hide at this overlook.
122816_10_overlook
I enjoyed the view, played with my mobile ham radio, and then dropped off a travel bug on my way back to Primm.
122816_11_tb_hotel


DECEMBER 31, 2016 – Year End: Barstow to Las Vegas (part 1 of 2)

December 31, 2016

After Christmas I went back to a near freezing Barstow (cheap rooms!) to convert some more annoying green boxes on the geocaching map into smilies. The desert soaked up most of the rain from 2 days earlier. A few puddles, mud and early morning ice remained.
122616_01_puddle
Many of the caches I needed were reached from side trails off of Open Route 4800, the backbone of the Planes Trains Ships & Automobiles cache series.
122616_03_skyline
Here a 35mm film container cache was guarded by the empty shell of a baby desert tortoise. Unfortunately they don’t molt like crabs. This one was dead.
122616_02_tortoise
At 10.2 miles on Open Route 4800 I crossed Hwy 395. In this area mud was replaced by sharp volcanic rocks. Driving on all-terrain tires was reassuring.
122616_04_volcanic
This interesting cache container seemed to be an outrigger canoe.
122616_05_outrigger
This bonehead cache was broken into several scattered pieces. I put it back together as best I could.
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I like joshua tree caches because the destination is obvious from several hundred feet away. My Subaru is at the red arrow. Note the huge gallon size cache can at the base of the tree.
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Joshua tree caches have their own sound effects too. Even light wind blowing through their leaves produces that stereotypical movie effect eerie warbling desert whistle.
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At sundown I drove back to Barstow, cold, tired and with mud caked tires.
122616_09_end


DECEMBER 3, 2016 – WEST OF BARSTOW (+ YERMO)

December 3, 2016

In late December 2014 an off road flat tire near Yermo ended my caching for the year. Because it was Christmas vacation and a replacement tire wasn’t available until January, I couldn’t complete that year’s goal of 1,200 finds. Though I eventually bought all-terrain tires I didn’t put them to serious use until last weekend.

I went back to the desert west of Barstow to find an add-on set of caches in the Planes Trains Automobiles & Ships series. The day started on a familiar road south of Hwy 58.
112516_00_ptas_road
As I drove to look for a way to reach the new caches the horrifically revolting stench of a massive manure farm almost made leave. See the long poop pile across the middle of the picture. It was a mile away and the air still reeked. When I picked off a few stray replacement caches I learned that swarms of flies can function in 41 degree weather. I feel sorry for whoever goes caching there in warm weather.
112516_01_manure_farm
Eventually I reached the northwestern most cache and found that the new caches were cross country, along what appeared to be abandoned airport runways. I parked and started walking and finding a cache every 600 feet or so.
112516_02_runway
This one fooled me. I picked up an ancient SPAM can expecting to find a log inside. But it was empty. The real cache was a big decorative lantern a few feet away. Oddly, one of the last finders on the log was “Team Spam.” Maybe they left the old can.
112516_03_spam
Some cachers are driving (illegally, I believe) cross country. In these cases I walked on the tire tracks that invariably stopped at every cache.
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Occasionally there was a large cache. They were stuffed with swag but no geocoins or pathtags were found.
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Most of the caches were smaller cube shaped tins. I exchanged signature items in some of them.
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After 37 finds with no DNFs I drove back to my motel in Barstow.

The next day I drove north on the 15, exited onto Fort Irwin Road and drove to cache: Boring (GC22YRE). It marked the exit for R. Boring Rd, a way to the back end of the Phonetic Alphabet series. Caution – Starbright Mine Road is a more direct route but the parts I saw were overgrown and had deep soft sand with no end in sight. R.Boring Road, on the other hand is sometimes rock strewn but was easily passable in my Subaru Forester.
112516_07_boring
The alphabet caches placed since my 2014 visit were quickly found and I turned east toward Paradise or Devil’s Well (GC5H63D). It was a few hundred feet off road.
.112516_08_rocks
The arrow points to my Subaru. I was lucky to find the big cache right away. If it had been small and or if the coordinates hadn’t been so accurate, I could’ve been there for a long time. This was my 11th find of the day.
112516_09_found
A half mile farther southeast I found a small hilltop and set up my low power (5 watt) ham radio and new loop antenna. The usual city background static was absent in the quiet desert. I was surprised to hear so many stations. I talked with some on the east coast and one on Washington Island in British Columbia, Canada. Then just as I noticed the ants crawling on me a stream of 17 motorcycles and ATVs roared by and some peeled off to ride up the back side of “my” hill. All of them were incredibly loud and kicked up HUGE clouds of dust. So I packed up and went back to Barstow. The timing was good because it started to rain an hour later. 112516_10_radio


OCTOBER 22, 2016 – ASILOMAR STATE BEACH (& adjacent)

October 21, 2016

Yet another bicycle breakdown ruined my plans to bike cache along the super scenic Monterey Peninsula coastline. Instead, as in past years, I ended up park & grab caching instead. My first stop was at a cache I DNF’d 2 years in a row. This time on an otherwise almost deserted coast, a muggle was firmly planted at GZ. He showed no signs of leaving. I had to move on.
101616_04_muggle
And the tide was too high again, as it is every time I stop for the cache hidden in the rocks. Someday I’m going to walk across. (I say that every year.)
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I passed caches found on previous visits and the Asilomar State Beach sign.
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Tucked under a nearby walkway I found a cache stuffed inside a rubber rat.
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The cache below was an easy find hidden inside a wooden post.
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I returned the cache and walked a few feet to the tidepools. Here’s an anemone.
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And this Striped Shore Crab would make a great cache guardian.
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Normally, I turn around and drive back to Cannery Row. This time I turned inland and found a cache at this previously unnoticed lighthouse.
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It was strange to see a 31 star pre-civil war flag flying over the grounds. But it was appropriate for the historic location.
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A short walk to the adjoining cemetery and golf course resulted in multiple finds. But I didn’t search for this vegetation hide because monarch butterflies were feeding there.
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I drove 3 blocks back to the coastline and, with specific instructions from recent finder GSMX2, found the now muggle-free stairway cache. My final cache of the trip was Queenie’s Footprint (GC69346). I left a Don_J memorial wooden nickel.
101616_10_donj


OCTOBER 15, 2016 – Extreme Vegetation Hides (Micros in the Woods)

October 15, 2016

I hadn’t truly hiked since May nor cached since July. So I finally dragged myself outdoors back to Jack’s Peak County Park on the Monterey Peninsula. My plan was to hike the gloomy and deserted (at least when I’m there) trails to find 8 caches I’d either missed or had been placed since my last visit in 2014. As usual, mine was the only vehicle in the parking lot.
101116_01_parking
The hike started easily enough on well maintained trails.
101116_02_trails
And the first cache was a bison tube bored into a rock. Hiking in the cool dry (not humid this time!) weather was a welcome relief from the months of non-stop heat back home in So Cal. But I didn’t know that there’d be no more finds for me that day.

GZ for the next cache was here:
101116_03_veg1
The one after that was here:
101116_04_veg2
Not finding 2 “micros in the woods” wasn’t totally unexpected. Continuing uphill I was glad that there wasn’t a cache at the base of this dead tree that’s just waiting to topple over:
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Maybe the caches on the other side of the ridge would be easier to find…
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Nope!!
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Nope!!
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Nope!!
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And nope.
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In years past it was fun to find ammo cans and lock-&-locks in the park. With each visit the remaining caches became smaller and smaller. Until this time they were ALL micros except for 1 small. But forest hiking was a nice change of pace.

Then I drove 5 minutes back to my Cannery Row hotel, got on my bicycle for shoreline caching and wrecked it when it locked up in the middle of an intersection.


JULY 16, 2016 – Las Vegas (north – desert)

July 16, 2016

When my dad was alive I used to tag along on his annual seniors’ bus trip to Las Vegas. I cached on foot while everyone else gambled. Nearly all of the seniors are gone now and the trip attracts families with children. I still go with my brother’s family. This year Las Vegas local Kris32 agreed to take me caching. This was great for me because over the last few years I’d almost run out of caches reachable on foot from the hotel.

Kris picked me up at 9am and drove us to 2 caches placed the prior day. We ended up being 2nd to find on both. We cached along the northeast edge of the city. Wheel goes round & round (GC6JC3Y) was her milestone 14,000th find! Weirdly I saw the cache walking up. Due to the placement you had to be exactly my height. An inch taller or shorter and it was invisible without contortions. Here’s Kris looking thru the wheel with her truck in the background. She found the cache after 10 minutes and lots of hints. 🙂
070916_01_wheel
Kris didn’t abandon me in the desert for laughing during her epic attempt. She continued taking me to some of the best caches she’d already found. Here’s one that’s a small box under a cast concrete giant tortoise. It was completely exposed in a random spot .2 miles from the outer edge of a paved parking lot.
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After lunch at Red Robin we took a break from the desert to cache on foot around the lake at Floyd Lamb Park. The greenery and water made the 105 air temperature feel cooler. We found 5 of 6 here.
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Along the way we walked through an assortment of tame species while carefully avoiding their land mines.
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Back in the desert, now northwest of downtown, we took unpaved roads to a cache that looks like a giant bison tube. Pulling on the spring loaded red ball and releasing it launches the cache container out of the other end.
070916_05_bison
Here’s another fun cache the Kris had already found. She waited. I followed my arrow and then stopped because from a distance it looked like a coyote or other large animal was resting at GZ. A few cautious steps later it was obvious that the ‘animal’ was a realistic fake deer.
070916_06_reindeer
I ended the day with 20 finds. Kris dropped me off at my hotel at about 4pm. THANK YOU!! I’ll drive you to L.A. caches if you ever visit.

Later from my hotel window I noticed a strange lenticular cloud. See the tip of the Stratosphere below the left edge of the cloud.
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There’s more summer caching fun to come, I hope.