DECEMBER 31, 2009 – Piru (NE Ventura County)

December 31, 2009

A few days ago I was happily caching on Gulberson Road, part of the Hwy 126 series by Max Gold. Then I reached the eastern edge of my pocket query and there were no more caches in my GPSr. At home I saw that there were about 20 more unfound caches on and near the remaining part of the road and dozens more on the other (North) side of Hwy 126.

I went back for those 20 caches to meet my 2009 goal of 1,200 finds. Many of the Gulberson Road caches were 40 year old aluminum 35mm film canisters hidden under a rock at the base of random roadside bush. The cache below was a break in the routine.
Don’t get me wrong. I REALLY appreciate all the planning, time and effort by Max and friends to place and maintain the caches.

It was a work day for many people so the area wasn’t as deserted as it was on my Christmas Eve trip. I had to skip the caches that were near various work crews. That left me a few caches short of 20 when I reached the Eastern end of Gulberson Road. So I turned North on Torrey Road and kept finding caches. I stopped to find River Bottom View (GC1PH9Q), at a bridge over the Santa Clara River.
Crossing Hwy 126 northward, I reached the town of Piru. Even on my quick pass through, historic sites were clearly noticeable. This is the restored railroad station.
There’s a cache 1902 Railroad Bridge (GC12Q6N) 400’ beyond where this picture was taken. A chain link fence prevented access from the west. The eastern end appeared to be on the grounds of an elementary school so I moved on without approaching. Looking on the map later, I saw that the “school,” is a public park. The cache is likely a walk up.
No. This isn’t an image from a colonoscopy. It’s a view into a horizontal pipe where a cache is hiding, complete with guardian mouse. I wasn’t about to end 2009 with bubonic plague or hanta virus so I logged a DNF (Did Not Find).

By noon I knew that I’d finally reached my goal of 1,200 caches for 2009. The finds were coming at the rate of 11 per hour, more than double my usual plodding pace. So I found 10 more for “insurance” in case I’d miscalculated. This was a good thing because on the next day, December 30, it rained. Now, I’m relaxing, free from the stress of needing “just 1 more cache,” until 2010. Happy New Year !!


DECEMBER 27, 2009 – Tarot Series (Antelope Valley)

December 30, 2009

Me and Don_J needed 66 and 51 finds to meet our respective caching goals for 2009. With only a few caching days left in the year we looked for an area with lots of caches that could be found quickly. We chose f0t0m0m’s Tarot series.

From f0t0m0m’s cache page description:
“All 81 of the Tarot Caches are located along the CA-138 corridor, between Quail Lake and Lancaster. All of the caches are accessible by paved roads, and are no more that 250 Feet from the pavement. Some of the caches will require walking through some brush, so long pants and good shoes are strongly suggested.”

Here’s Don_J at the first cache Area Closed (GC1K0VC). The temperature hovered between 45 and 48 degrees all day long. Don dressed appropriately…
…while I relied on insulation accumulated from decades of consuming cheeseburgers, burritos, pizzas and kung pao chicken.
Where there were no yuccas the terrain was featureless for miles around. But there was still a cache every few 10ths of a mile.

Caches that wouldn’t last an hour in an urban setting can remain unmuggled for years in the desert. In fact, our only DNF (did not find) was an urban style magnetic cache on a sign along the comparatively busy Hwy 138. The one below was a strange urban/desert hybrid. I’ve seen hundreds of these containers and hidden some myself. But this was the first time either of us had seen one attached this way.

True trees were few and far between. They often marked a cache site.

But yuccas (at least 2 species) were plentiful in patches. Searching for caches near them can be dangerous for the careless. The sharp leaves can slice a hand or poke your eye out.

Decons and ammo cans withstand harsh desert conditions. Less robust containers don’t fare so well. Most of the lock & locks we found had broken tabs. Here’s one that was also cracked.

The Los Angeles aqueduct broke up our monotonous view. B3677 (GCMBDQ), an urban style magnetic cache was there too. The sign allows fishing. Assuming that the river “bed” is as smooth as the banks, what fish species lives in super fast moving water with no cover? If anyone reading this knows, please leave a comment. I’m truly curious.

This just doesn’t happen (anymore) back home in the San Fernando Valley.

Toward the end of the day we saw this. There’s an aptly named cache here, Walls to nowhere (GC1K916).

We found 46 caches in 5-1/2 hours of caching. Megacachers can laugh at the “low rate,” but as my profile states, I’m a slow speed, low energy cacher. Don didn’t complain so I assume that he’s the same.

Counting down: only 20 more finds needed to reach my goal of 1,200 for 2009. I think that I can do it. I know that Don can find 5 more to meet HIS goal.

DECEMBER 25, 2009 – Pasadena & surroundings

December 29, 2009

Christmas Day caching followed by a Chinese restaurant dinner. It’s a tradition started by EMC of Northridge (Elin) in 2004. I participated in 2005 & 2006 but couldn’t in 2007. And last year Elin was in Europe. This year, the tradition was revived and Elin, tozainamboku (Marty), benh57 (Ben) and me cached through parts of Pasadena, Altadena and Alhambra. Three of us use a Garmin Oregon 400t. It was funny to hear 3 identical proximity beeps within 2 or 3 seconds when approaching each cache.

Here’s Elin at Yet Another Chink in the Wall (GCYQD7). If I were Chinese, I’d be offended by the cache name.

We took advantage of reduced traffic and business closures to find many caches that would normally be surrounded by muggles. At As Rare as… (GC1TGC1), at a completely deserted strip mall, Marty pointed to Ooper’s Cache.

In front of another closed business, we looked for The Adventures of Essie Turtlehaunch, Chapter III GC19VNM). It’s supposedly in an “obvious place,” but we didn’t find it.

We DID find Now That’s a Real Fork in the Road (GC21XAT).

There was only 1 place where I didn’t want to look for a cache. Here’s why!

The others didn’t hesitate and rushed to GZ. Ben was a recent prior finder and he pointed out the correct altitude to search. After that, the cache was found in about a minute. I’d already found 9 of the next 10 caches so I dispensed in-person lifelines. We finished just as it got dark and cruised Valley Blvd in Alhambra for a likely Chinese restaurant. We found one a little snooty for my liking. But the food was good.

My 2009 goal: finding 1,200 caches, status: 70 caches and 6 days to go.

DECEMBER 24, 2009 – Toland Park (Santa Paula)

December 28, 2009

Continuing my year end push to reach 1,200 finds for 2009 I drove to Toland Park for its cluster of 14 caches. It helped that the “Hwy 126 series” was nearby too.
Only the N/S portion of the paved road in the eastern side of the park was open to vehicle traffic. And only this section of the park seemed to be somewhat cleared and usable for picnics. I think that I saw the park host, Bill, walking 2 dogs. I waved and called out to get his attention but he turned away and walked into a parked trailer. Oh well, liking solitude and being the host at this empty park are a good combination.
Four of the 14 caches were park & grabs. Toland Bluebird (GC1MRZB) was in this intimidating looking pepper tree. But the coordinates were spot-on and I got out in 2 minutes with the find and also with some loose peppers down the back of my shirt.
One cache to the North a cable was strung across the road. There’s another gate (locked) to the street here though no barrier to walk-ins. In fact, there was a car parked just outside. I walked out (E) and quickly hiked on the street to 3 caches outside the park and returned through the gate. Back inside the North end of park, most of the caches were on unpaved side trails. No real bushwhacking was needed.
I was surprised to see a signature with the current date on a log. Assuming that it belonged to the occupants of the car at the locked gate I expected that the other cacher was just ahead. Sure enough I heard faint voices and saw a family walking East a few hundred feet away. I went the opposite way, found another cache, saw the same signature and then walked South toward the paved trail. See the southward view below.
Then I ran into the family, cachers “4_ofakind,” who’d backtracked and were also trying to reach the pavement. We exchanged some local caching info and parted ways. I drove back to the SE gate, parked and walked to the 3 caches on the southern end of the park. In just over 2 hours I found all 14 caches. That’s rare for me as there always seems to be 1 “easy” cache that I can’t find. I drove out, found 4 nearby park & grabs and then connected with the Gulberson Road portion of the “Hwy 126 series.” I found 14 more drive up caches and was upset when I reached the Eastern edge of my pocket query with another hour of remaining daylight. Here’s a representative view.
These goats weren’t fenced-in. They could easily have walked into traffic or across the road to eat crops.
I need 96 more caches to go to reach 1,200 for 2009.

DECEMBER 20, 2009 – Chivo Canyon (Simi Valley)

December 20, 2009

It was the first day of my vacation and I wasn’t about to get up even earlier than on a workday to attend a 6:30am pre-hike event Geo_Connection in Simi Hills (GC21KJK). The hike itself, a loop at Chivo Canyon (northern edge of Simi Valley), was scheduled for 7:45am. After staggering into my car I plugged the parking coordinates into my Nuvi 500 –and- drove…to the wrong place. There were no cachers and their vehicles were nowhere in sight. Fifteen minutes later I finally spotted some familiar trucks. I parked next to them and walked around the corner to the unmarked trailhead at the stairs below. Fresh footprints in the cracked mud at the bottom showed that the big caching group had gone toward the riverbed, to the left. I had little chance of making up their 20 minute lead, especially if I stopped to find caches. Instead I hiked up the short paved path on the right, starting the loop counterclockwise.
The first cache I found Chivo Canyon Trail Head (GCRVBY) didn’t contain the group’s signatures on the log sheet, confirming that they’d gone clockwise. The pavement soon ended and the, now, dirt trail went steeply uphill. Clear windy conditions produced great views. A backward look shows the trailhead stairs in the middle of the picture below.

It’s a running joke that Tozainamboku (Marty) often logs that he saw Ooper’s Cache in the distance from various other cache sites. He then uploads a picture to prove it. I’m thinking of doing the same with robb_dogg’s Ladyface Mountain Goat Cache. See? It’s in the background!!

The upward trek was made easier by temperatures in the low 70’s and hindered by super strong gusts. One of the caches was only 3’ from a 300’ dropoff. I crouched down low to minimize my wind profile. It worked because I didn’t get blown over the side. Approaching the top (northern edge) of the loop I looked down to see the group, about 3/10 of a mile away, obviously searching hard for a cache. I don’t know for how long they’d already looked but I had time to find another cache and wait there before they started arriving.

I joined the group for 3 caches at the top of the loop. A very small rattlesnake was found slithering underfoot. When someone poked at it with her hiking stick, it coiled up defensively. It was time for me to go.
The group continued their clockwise loop. I went counterclockwise by myself.

I reached the spot where the group had searched for a long time Alone Again (GC20RWG). The area was predictably trampled flat. While their 41 eyeballs had eventually produced the cache, I couldn’t find it by myself even after 20 minutes of searching. It was my only DNF of the day. Continuing onward, the trail became narrower and more confined. At least it wasn’t as windy on this side (W) of the loop.

One cache was ridiculously obvious.

The trail led to the canyon bottom / riverbed. The area was strewn with rusting mid-20th century relics. Does anyone know what this was? The “wheels” are welded onto pipes so they couldn’t have turned.
What I first thought was a filthy puddle turned out to be an oil seep (click for video).
There were more relics south of the seep. They didn’t appear to be for oil drilling.
Finally, I reached the last section of the riverbed. The trailhead stairs and the end of the loop are just beyond the picture.
I found 23 of 24 caches attempted. I need 144 more finds to reach exactly 1,200 for the year. More posts will follow as this (rare for me) goal is pursued.

QUESTION: Why are the majority of hiking caches in this area “subscriber only?”

DECEMBER 9, 2009 – Downtown Ventura

December 9, 2009

Lured by lots of new green boxes on the map of Ventura I drove 40 miles to get there on a cool afternoon. Plenty of free parking throughout the downtown area was much appreciated. I parked in a random lot and started walking in what ended up as a clockwise loop with a cache every few tenths of a mile.
Right away I was amused by the juxtaposition of the 18th & 21st century squares. Note the CFC bulbs and anti-bird top on the light fixture.
A few times a year I cross paths with Tozainamboku (Marty) on the trails. This was the first time I saw him during an urban caching expedition. He wasn’t his usual gregarious self so I left him alone.
Continuing eastward I encountered the day’s only filthy vegetation hide (FVH). The hint seemed to suggest reaching in deep on the ground. There were caches nearby in every direction so walking past THIS one was no big deal.
A few blocks south an Amtrak train sped by.
The beach was another block further south. Too many muggles were around for me to find the caches hidden there.
But the views were worth the ½ hour cacheless side trip.
After 3 hours of slow walking and finding only 6 of 12 caches reached (mostly due to muggles) I drove north on N Ventura Avenue and found some easy urban caches. The first of these was Ventura’s Gallery Car Wash (GC1V7Y2). The cache is in the front of a colorfully decorated 2 bay self service car wash. A walk around back leads to an impressive wall of license plates. If I lived in Ventura I’d definitely wash my car here.
RANT: A cacher named Puppy Dawg hiked through downtown Los Angeles. He left normal sounding logs for his cache finds but ended each one with a cache quality rating of stars. He rated most of his finds as “1-star= poor quality cache,” with a few “2 stars=below average.” I saw a “3 stars=average” on a virtual cache.

Owning caches in downtown L.A. entails significant planning, careful placement and regular maintenance. Puppy Dawg reduced all of this effort to the one digit equivalent of “SUCKS.” The lack of any followup is what enraged me beyond anything else in my 5 years of caching. I deleted his offending logs on my 3 caches. At least one other cache owner did the same. Puppy Dawg can re-log my caches, without star ratings, which I think are worse than useless unless there are lots of them from a wide assortment of cachers. (statistically: a sample size sufficient to cancel out the extremes on each end.) His comments about what he didn’t like are especially welcome. “I only like hiking caches,” “the locals scared me,” or whatever.

DECEMBER 1, 2009 – Elsmere Canyon (Santa Clarita)

December 1, 2009

For an instant it looked like the wrong place when I parked at the trailhead sign below. But my GPSr assured me that the northernmost Elsmere Canyon cache Achille’s Last Stand (GC1NZG6) was only about 0.2 miles away. The direct approach ended up with me looking down uselessly from a ridgeline. Turning back and then looping around north to west got me into Elsmere Canyon.

The cold, wind blasted trail got spooky right away. My Oregon 400t didn’t cooperate either. I’m learning that it just doesn’t work well in canyons. I DNF’d the Last Stand cache too because I looked in the wrong ‘obvious’ place.

With 40’ accuracy and a big field of rocks the next cache coincidentally named Elsmere Canyon (GC16T4D) was almost another DNF. I was saved by hider dshadovi’s very specific hint.
The trail got very narrow and looked like it might run out

just before it opened up again and turned west and steeply uphill through a series of short switchbacks. I reached my goal, Elsmere Veyizmir (GC16QZE). The last 10’ were the hardest. An accumulation of thick broken branches were in the way.
Here’s a view of the canyon wall from GZ.
I retraced my steps back into the canyon and then up the other side where I found another traditional cache and then an easy earthcache One Stop Geology Pop Quiz! (GC18NGQ). An oil seep was visible in the canyon below. It was the last point of interest before completing the counterclockwise loop back to parking.
My trip was limited to looking for caches and taking a few pictures. A Google search will produce information about the very significant geology and history of the area.

MISC: Over the last few years I’ve watched with amusement as GPS went from being a toy for tech savy nerds (that’s us!) to a must-have mainstream tool. The all pervasiveness of GPS was brought home to me today when I saw a shelf full of new, wrapped 2008 Thomas Guides at the 99 Cent Only store in Canoga Park.

It’s been awhile but I feel a rant coming on…