NOVEMBER 24, 2008 – Simi Valley

November 24, 2008

Residents of Simi Valley (Simians?) might chafe at the term “urban” caching when applied to their area. But since forums, blogs and logs generally seem to divide all caching into only “urban” or “hiking,” urban is what I did before the Saturday Pizza Night event.

Don_J and I had an unpromising start in the extreme west end of Simi. The caches on Madera Rd, a high-speed divided road with no sidewalks, no stopping and no parking were simply inaccessible by car or on foot. I think that using a bicycle is the only reasonable way to log any points there.

By now it was too hot for the short but steep mini-hike caches in the area. So instead we zig zagged our way through west and central Simi, crossed paths with several cacher friends and found about 25 mostly park & grabs. Thanks to Ginger, Retrofit and Showstop for placing the majority of them. Urban caching pictures aren’t scenic. But here are some that are representative of the day’s fun:

WELCOME TO THE SIMI VALLEY TOWN CENTER (GC1JADP): I was happy to see that the big sign read “Town Center” instead of the pretentious “Towne Centre.” Don & I had given up when Garagedude (Jack) & Shirconn (Shirley) arrived.
112108_garagedude Jack quickly found the cache.

urban jungle: We found a very well constructed and nicely placed (subscriber-only) cache here.
The tumbleweed was REALLY 4’ x 6’ and almost ran over me.

a different urban jungle: Feeling for the cache, I accidentally picked up a slimey snail.112108_urban_jungle_2

MORE LONELY – (GC1C3CH): Me & f0t0m0m at yet another vegetation hide. EMC found the cache in a few minutes and saved the day.112108_filthy_vegetation
At least here, it wasn’t wet and the dust & pollen weren’t too bad.

We encountered a giant insectoid cache here. It was slightly less frightening than the ones on Starship Troopers:
112108_holy_insectoidsIt was a 100′ “hike” from parking.

Before finishing our cache run and going to eat pizza, I had to address something I saw on my last trip to Simi:
Contrary to popular belief, I’m from Los Angeles – and- I don’t own this restaurant either!! (:-P)


NOVEMBER 17, 2008 – Sandstone to Sycamore

November 17, 2008

I awoke to the smell of smoke from the Sylmar fire about 10 miles to the north. EMC soon arrived and we drove through weird orange lighting and swirls of ashes to reach the 101. At the Sycamore Canyon trailhead we met GeoCraig, Don_J, BWidget, tozainamoku, robb_dogg and new cacher Albackore. We packed into 2 vehicles and drove S on PCH and then E up Yerba Buena to the Sandstone Peak parking lot / trailhead. Our 8 hour, 14 mile, 30+ cache hike began in intense wind which kept us cool most of the day. The views should’ve been crystal clear & scenic but the smoke sweeping out to sea reduced visibility and kept the skies a dull yellowish gray for the first 6 hours.

First on our hike was a photo stop for “Diamond in the Rough Returns,” (GC70B3). It’s a HUGE upright boulder called “balance rock” across the canyon. About 2 years ago I logged a ‘find’ using a picture of me holding my GPS WITH the rock in the background, which was the requirement at the time. I’m told that the volunteer geo-police listed me in the “Cheater’s Hall of Shame,” for not being AT the rock which is the current requirement.
111508_cheaters_club Two among us have not touched the rock.

At this point a setting on my camera got changed and I didn’t notice until 10 miles into the hike. None of the pictures ‘came out,’ until I fixed the problem. Others will post pictures on their own blogs. I recommend GeoCraig’s in advance as he’s a serious photographer. Also BWidget just e-mailed his flickr page.

After logging 4 caches for the Santa Monica Mountains History Adventure (GC18DXW) we continued to the outskirts of Serrano Valley. This area is known for the ruins of long abandoned homes and farms.
111508_19_20_21 Don_J in 19th century garb, festooned with 21st century technology, inspecting 20th century wreckage.

There are many caches in Serrano Valley but for today, we had to turn away toward Sycamore Canyon and the end of our hike.
111508_another_day Someday, we’ll follow this trail to more caches.

The sunset as we arrived back at the Sycamore Canyon trailhead.

RANT: As cachers we consciously or unconsciously train ourselves to see unusual things in our environment that don’t register in muggles’ brains. For years I was dimly aware of long thin unbroken wires stretching for miles atop various utility and light poles. Only recently I learned that they’re called “ERUV,” erected by Orthodox Jewish groups with appropriate safeguards and agency approvals. They’re symbolic extensions of walls and fences around “property” within which group members are exempted from specific Sabbath prohibitions. These are related mostly to carrying or moving certain household objects across the “property” line. The rules are complex and can differ between groups. For more information, ask a rabbi.
111708_eruv1This one broke in the wind & needs to be fixed.

Because ERUVIN (plural) encompass entire neighborhoods I wondered what non-Jews would think of being physically “enclosed” within the, symbolic to be sure, “property” of another religion. To find out I chose some random friends and acquaintances and explained the wires without editorial comment. The reactions ranged from barely contained outrage (few) to bovinian incomprehension (a few more) to udder disinterest (most). For myself, I’m definitely interested and DO understand what & why. As a devout non-believer of ALL religions, I was at first uncomfortable being surrounded by ANYthing religious. But upon reflection I saw that ERUVIN, are intended to be meaningful only to those who placed them and aren’t in any way related to proselytism. Furthermore, they’re unobtrusive (you didn’t know until I told you!!) and harmless unless you’re the hapless bird who flies into one. So there you have it. If while caching you see a long seemingly useless wire stretched overhead, there’s a good chance it’s an ERUV. Mazol Tov!!

NOVEMBER 10, 2008 – (the former) Ahmanson Ranch

November 10, 2008

Finally, I had a free Saturday with no obligations or time limits! So I zoomed off to turn 9 annoyingly closeby green boxes into smileys.

Starting at the Las Virgenes trailhead I hiked a 7.0 mile counter clockwise loop between Las Virgenes & Cheesboro Cyn Ridge roads.

After an uneventful beginning, I started getting hit in the face and head by flying insects. I was zoned out and didn’t notice that they were bees until maybe the 10th one or so. Then I remembered that bees bump their targets as a precursor to attacking in swarms. So I sped up as fast as possible without running and resisted the urge to start swatting. After 400′ the bees began to thin out and by the next cache they were completely absent. I probably dodged a bullet.

Three unfound caches were inside the loop, an area which is almost completely overgrown by dry brush. Two side hikes on a network of animal ‘trails’ got me to all 3. Getting onto the correct ‘trails’ can be confusing so I placed a new cache to serve as a guidepost:
Ahmanson Wormhole Beacon (GCHZM8)gchazm81
If you see this, you’re not lost.

The last time I was in the area sitting was impossible because red ants were everywhere. Scanning carefully, this time I saw none and sat down to sign a log book and to take in the view of Cheesboro Canyon. As I pushed off to stand again I put my hand in a previously unnoticed cowpie. At least it was dry, mostly. Thank (insert diety) for alcohol wipes. Oddly enough, the last signature on the log was “Bovine.” Moooo!!

On Sunday I checked in on my 78 year old dad. I drove him around and between errands we looked for 3 caches and found 2. Then I remembered to confirm something that I THOUGHT I’d seen on a previous drive by:no_licensia
Can I assume that insurance isn’t a big issue at this used car lot?

RANT: No matter what your politics, immigration status or position on social issues, this should be scarey!! If “no licencia” buyers are driving the cars themselves they’re endangering everyone, even their own familias. I’m going to avoid the area. (e-mail me if you want to know where)

STUFF: Have you ever walked by a Mexican-style hotdog vendor’s pushcart and smelled the aroma of fried, bacon-wrapped big dogs topped with deepfried onions, serrano chiles and sauces? Well, I finally took the plunge in the parking lot of the 99 Cent Store at Sherman Way & DeSoto. For $5. I got 2 neatly wrapped dogs with everything, to go. (order==> dos con todo para llavar) Having no idea whether or not such vendors are regulated or if they adhere to food safety standards, I half expected salmonella and/or stomach problems. But no, the food tasted as delicious as it smelled and I was fine. If fact I’ve gone back twice. He’s there only in the late afternoons & early evenings. Go ahead, broaden your food horizons (and narrow your arteries).

NOVEMBER 3, 2008 – Mission Point

November 7, 2008

On Saturday Don_J, tozainamboku, BWidget, robb_dogg, tom4props, Wedge+1 & I went to check on 15 caches in/near the Sesnon fire burn zone. We car shuttled to Northbound & Down (GC13B4Z). Despite a NWS thunderstorm alert, we started hiking up the hill.

Tozainamboku’s cache, Your Are My Sunshine (GC189BX) though well outside the burn perimeter, was gone! The covering vegetation had been cleared to protect the telephone pole. The large ammo can cache is probably now a firefighter’s tool box. marty_muggled
Cache owner tozainamboku dismayed at missing cache.

Another cache suffered the same fate. But only 1 of the 15 was burned. Mine!! Mission Point (GC345A) gc345a
Deprived of cover, the remains of my ammo can were muggled.

Up until this point there’d been a few sprinkles but no real rain. We saw some weird and wonderful clouds.vortex1
An aircraft carrier was once sucked through a similar one.
The Final Countdown

clouds_2Toward Hollywood and Los Angeles.

We eventually spotted a monstrously dense rain cell headed straight for us. We couldn’t outrun it so we didn’t try. It caught us with the heaviest rainfall I’ve ever seen. The huge drops flew at us almost horizontally. Fortunately this lasted only a few minutes. Even better, the ground, parched by years of drought, sucked up all the water so that there was a minimum of mud on our descent to the Neon Way cul-de-sac, the end of our hike.

descentIt’ll be all green in a few months.

We had a great time, placed 10 new caches and got our exercise.

OCTOBER 27, 2008 – Burbank & Riverside

November 6, 2008

The last weekend of the month was spent caching in Burbank on Saturday and in Riverside on Sunday. Inexplicably my brain never kicked into gear and I didn’t take a single picture. I won’t let that happen again. Anyway…

Burbank: Mega cacher f0t0m0m (Jim) hid 17 new “numbers” caches surrounding the The Nose Knows! lunch event. I found 13 of them while passing through the area and poking my head into the event for less than a minute. A difficulty 4 cache (not Jim’s) in the same area A Royal Summons was too hard for me. It appears to be in front of a Chinese restaurant inside an old English phonebooth, à la Dr. Who. I climbed all over the inside and even used a telescopic mirror to no avail. Good luck to you if you go look for it.

Riverside: Trail of Terror 5 This is my favorite annual caching event. 40+ new Halloween themed caches are placed along a flat paved 5 mile bike path (the previous year’s caches are archived just before). A pot luck lunch in the middle counts as a separate event. Every year I meet geofriends new and old on the path and never fail to have a great time. I highly recommend this event.
– – –

STUFF: I’ve been asked by several cachers how my magnetic bison tube caches are made. mag_bison2
3/4″ shrink tubing (4′ strip) is from Fry’s. The glue is from Walmart. The bison tube & neodymium magnet are from eBay. The penny is shown for scale.

Unscrew the top of the bison tube, remove the rubber gasket and set them both aside. Cut off an inch of the tubing and put it aside also. Put a drop of glue on the magnet and stick it on the bottom half of the bison tube. The glue is only to keep the magnet from falling off. It doesn’t need to dry at this point. Place the cut piece of shrink tubing around the tube 1/2 and magnet.

Hold everything CAREFULLY over the heat source. I use 2 non-magnetic screwdrivers as chopsticks. Be careful NOT to burn the tubing. The glue smells flammable but it’s never caught fire in my experience. I’ve also been told that neodymium magnets lose their power if heated. That hasn’t happened for me. As tempting as it’ll be, DON’T TOUCH the shrunken tube/magnet until it’s completely cooled!! Have fun.

OCTOBER 20, 2008 – Monterey

November 5, 2008

Last week I visited Monterey CA and surrounding areas for an OLdweeb speed (slow) caching vacation. The weather was flawless and I enjoyed a full day of hiking in Jack’s Peak County Park overlooking Monterey Bay. Without a map, getting to caches was hit and miss on the extensive and convoluted hiking trail system. I found 15 of the 16 caches that I reached. This was my first experience caching in a dense pine forest. Coords bounced at times but geosense prevailed.
typical ocean view from Jack's Peak County Park
Jack’s Peak County Park: typical ocean view

The next day was spent north in the cities of Sand City, Seaside and Marina. Caching there took me to deserted agricultural roads, sand dune hiking, the outskirts of an abandoned military base (Fort Ord) and some regular urban finds.
GCE66 - SandLots (Marina, CA)
GCE55 – SandLots: The cache is in there!

The next morning was spent at the Monterey Bay Aquarium and the afternoon was devoted to a miles long caching beach walk. I was disappointed that so many of the caches there were disabled or underwater scuba hides. The owner of Puff Ball (GCVYPC) deleted my DNF log because I mentioned that GZ was being used as an outdoor toilet. I guess that she didn’t think that, “most canines don’t use toilet paper,” was funny.GCNR3B - Kashta's Rock  (Pacific Grove, CA)
GCNR3B – Kashta’s Rock: High tide. I couldn’t reach the cache.

Night fell on my walk back to the hotel. No problem. I stopped for takeout at a non-chain Mexican restaurant and watched the full moon rise over the bay.
Moon over Monterey BayMoon over Monterey Bay

I walked around and picked off a few caches before, between and after the expeditions described above. I had a great 1/2 + 3 + 1/2 days on vacation. I found only 48 caches but they were almost all well maintained, quality hides. NONE were in filthy vegetation as is common in Southern California.
work_or_play“I’m here for vacation, not work. Really!!”