July 31, 2011 – 7 Rattlesnakes for 7 Cachers

July 31, 2011

Albackore (Jeff) organized a caching loop hike in Thousand Oaks. But when he said, “7am at Trailhead Micro #1 (GC11CV7),” I opted for a later start and planned to cross paths with the group in the loop’s middle. Sometimes nothing goes as planned. I had insomnia, got up early and arrived at the trailhead at 7:15am. The group was still waiting to start! Where was Jeff? He’d stepped on a dead bee 2 days earlier and called in that he was still in too much pain to hike. We started without him.

It’s a rare caching hike around here where women outnumber men. But that’s what happened today. See below: sissopolis (Christine), capdude (John), EMC of Northridge (Elin, no not THAT Elin), (capdude+1) Ellen, Deborah (of The Lopez Family) & deeznutz® (Derrick).

Only 15 minutes in, it was obvious that whoever said, “it’s mostly flat,” was wrong!!

At least the trail wasn’t overgrown and the caches were reachable with minimal bushwhacking. The overcast kept the temperature below 80 degrees. It was more humid than I like. We saw rain cells in the distance too.

And whoever said, “it’s mostly flat,” was STILL wrong.

At I Wanna Rock! 3 (GC11CW4) our eyes brought us to the cache and our noses brought us to this rabbit carcass 15’ away. A few minutes later we saw our first rattlesnake coiled on open ground, 6’ from a cache. More about snakes later.

As usual, tree hanger caches didn’t stay hidden for long when multiple cachers searched for them.

This is the long road back, the west side of the loop, looking North. Notice that IT’S uphill too. Soon after we reached the top, found a cache and turned toward our cars, we ran into Snake Alley.

We’d already seen 1 rattlesnake earlier. Here we saw 6 more in rapid succession. One was 6” from the trail and the farthest was 6’. The pictures below are all DIFFERENT snakes.

The camouflage is every effective. A hiker could easily step on this one.

This one’s darker and easier to see. He’d eaten something big and wasn’t interested in moving around.

One snake moved away from us. He went head first into a hole, leaving only his rattle exposed. Then we saw 2 more snakes in a different burrow 5’ away.

Fortunately, there were no ophidiophobes in our group. It was still scary when the trail unexpectedly dead ended a few steps beyond the last snake burrow. We had to bushwhack about 100′ to reach another trail without clearly seeing our feet. But everyone got through alive to reach Lamp Post Pizza. Jeff and Albackore2 (Naomi) joined us to celebrate our escape.

Those who’d never hiked the loop logged 20+ caches today. I logged 12. We ended July 2011 with a very memorable hike. Let’s hope NOT to break our 1 day rattlesnake sighting record anytime soon.

JULY 25, 2011 – Lake Casitas (again)

July 25, 2011

A few days before Carmageddon Caching I returned to Lake Casitas to find 8 caches that’d appeared there since my 2 visits in January. Don_J needed the same 8 and pianofab (Fabrizio) needed to find all of the caches at the lake.

We parked at the lone open free parking space just outside the main gate and walked in. Here’s Don headed toward Lake Casitas #2 – Rachel’s Marina Hide (GC1AHE1). It has a 40% DNF rate (that we know about) . As a previous finder I pointed Don & Fabrizio away from the obvious. They then found the cache in 2 minutes.

You know that you’re hiking too slowly when a passing vulture takes an active interest and circles back to look you over.

Everyone is watching everyone else. We saw 3 of these wildlife cameras along the trail. If they’re active during daylight hours, someone has pictures of us staring back at them.

Beyond the last camera we hiked along the top of the dam.

Two of the new caches were in the rocks. Near one of them, Don saw a crocodile head in this rock. I saw a pig head. You decide.

We found the rest of the caches beyond the dam. At the last one, we took in the view from a conveniently placed bench.

Here’s what we saw.

It was an uneventful return back to the car. On our drive home we stopped at various roadside caches. Fabrizio ended the day with almost 30 finds, Don with 20+ and I had 13. Now I see that a new series of 24 projecting from the West side of the lake popped up last week. So another return trip is coming up.

JULY 17, 2011 – Carmageddon Caching

July 17, 2011

I knew that Carmageddon was media generated hype and believed that anyone who lives or travels in Southern California would have enough brain cells to avoid becoming part of it. Just in case I’d overestimated their intelligence I proposed caching in the opposite direction and asked for ideas. BWidget suggested Sunset Hills in/near Moorpark, Ventura County. Somehow we worked out a 3-car, 6-cacher shuttle on short notice and got to the trailhead without losing anyone.

The hike up short, moderately steep switchbacks was broken up by welcome stops to find caches. Albackore took this picture of us with his smartphone. (L-R: sissopolis, spoondoggie, me-OLdweeb, Don_J, BWidget with Wood Ranch Reservoir in the background.

We continued Northwest…

…along a fenceline and found more caches. Even though almost all of them were “micros-in-the-woods,” with 6 of us searching, none took longer than a minute to find.

Farther along the fence we got a closer look at the reservoir. It’s too bad that there’s no public access.

Except for sissopolis who’s of course a girl and the baby of the group, we’re all Men of a Certain Age prone to all kinds of reasons to cut short a hike. At a junction where we could go to our cars or into a canyon and up a big hill for 4 more caches we split up. Two went to the cars and the rest toward the caches. I was one of the 4 but after 2 more caches I didn’t want to crawl into an uphill vegetation tunnel so I turned around. Three went forward to find the last 2 caches. At a high point I saw them coming back 3/10 of a mile behind me.

I reached the cars and found Sunset Hills – Erbes Road Trailhead (GC23J1M). When everyone else arrived we shuttled back to the other trailhead and found the cache there. Sunset Hills – Red Berry Bush (GC23J1Z).

After that we recovered with a late lunch and drinks at the Elephant Bar in west Simi. The cache in the parking lot there On Safari (GC2M91G) was an unexpected bonus. By that time, Carmageddon was long forgotten.

JULY 13, 2011 – Inferno Caching (Las Vegas)

July 13, 2011

Except for an overnight visit in 1983 and a 3 hour flight stopover in 1999 I’d avoided Las Vegas. I’m not interested in gambling and I hate crowds and cigarette smoke. But when I got the chance to tag along on a cheap bus trip/hotel package with my 82 yr old dad and his senior friends I went anyway. The 15 freeway to the outskirts of Las Vegas was familiar from my many caching trips, always as a driver. This time, as a rider I got to enjoy the desert scenery much more. On approach, the view changed from cactuses to suburbs to mega hotels in 5 minutes. After check-in I don’t know who moved faster, the seniors toward the slot machines or me out the door with GPSr in hand.

Immediately I was shocked by the intense sauna-like humidity; a surprise in the desert. The annoyance factor skyrocketed when I saw my GPSr arrow spinning and reversing. It was clear that I wasn’t going to find any caches hidden among the tall buildings. So I walked North to a flatter area. The first clear reading pointed to a parking structure. Lucky (GC1WJ06). The hint said, “nice view,” so I knew it was on the top level. The view was as promised. I found/signed/returned the cache quickly because it was inside a government motor pool, in a lamppost, 6’ from the mayor’s car!

Continuing North on the street, I bought a 48 oz Slurpy, found a virtual cache at a neon sign graveyard and then a fun traditional cache on the back end of this dinosaur sculpture.

The steaming heat was too much for me even with the Slurpy. I went back to the hotel for a $18.99 buffet dinner, ouch!! While my dad & his friends gambled I went to my room to log finds. Free wi-fi? Not a chance!! It was $11.99 for 24 hours. The big screen TV was a surprise. But why – if there are only static filled channels and no HD? I suspect that that the PPV movies would’ve been in full brilliant 1080P HD. Anyway, the next morning I walked South on Las Vegas Blvd toward “The Strip.” I passed by “THE” pawn shop. 100+ people were waiting to get in. The cache at the corner of the shared parking lot was well placed and out of their view. Thanks hider!

The Stratosphere was my reference point and I worked my way toward it. Its enormous size made it seem deceptively closer than it actually was. On the way I ran into a stretch of 3 “Did Not Looks” that would’ve been fun to find with a group. The first one was in a bank of porn news racks. The next one was in the drive through window of a wedding chapel. The 3rd was on the back wall of a 2 car driveway at a bail bonds office.

Now again at 100+ degrees and with a mega 52 oz ice water in hand, I eventually made it through the seedy part of town and staggered onto The Strip. I stared up from the base of the Stratosphere and almost fell over from disorientation. I recovered, continued through a growing sea of muggles and saw the sights.

The incredible mishmash of architecture was garish and impressive at the same time. It’s the closest thing to Caprica City or Coruscant that I’m ever likely to see.

This is my verification picture for a virtual cache. It’s my big head with Caesar’s in the background. You’d expect an ancient Roman dictator to have a more impressive one.

I logged another virtual cache at Paris.

As huge as this is, I don’t think that it’s full size.
I’d planned to walk to the South end of The Strip and cut East to Sunset Park where there are 15 traditional caches. Then I saw a bus headed back to downtown. I boarded and watched my long walk pass by in reverse from the bus’ 2nd level front window. With only 12 finds all that was left was another dinner, a breakfast and a ride home. Here’s a picture of a medical center taken by my dad on the bus ride out. It looks exactly the way I felt after 2 days of inferno caching.

JULY 7, 2011 – Sycamore Canyon (lower)

July 7, 2011

A cluster of 13 green boxes gave me just enough motivation to go on my first serious caching hike in weeks. Fabrizio (pianofab) responded to my short-notice posting and came along. As expected, parking at the mouth of Sycamore Canyon was jam packed for the holiday weekend. We were lucky to find free street parking a ½ mile North on PCH. (Pacific Coast Highway)

We walked through the fully occupied campground to the trailhead.

Fabrizio found a cache in a suspicious bush, one that I’d logged years ago. Almost immediately afterward we turned West and uphill for a clockwise loop. It was 100+ degrees when we left the San Fernando Valley. On the trail it was 70. The comfortable temperature was offset by the overcast that reduced our ocean view.

We got above and beyond the fog where Fabrizio held his 1,001st find with Boney Mountain and the Serrano Valley in the background.

Why not his 1,000th find you might ask? Because as a selfish & self-centered cacher, I forgot to let Fabrizio search by himself and grabbed the cache myself. Continuing onward we emerged back onto the Sycamore Canyon trail at this junction.

On the ½ mile walk on PCH back to the car, Fabrizio pointed out a huge pod of dolphins over a mile offshore. There were hundreds of them travelling South. Even at maximum zoom, my cheap pocket camera was barely able to see them.

Congratulations Fabrizio for reaching 1k!! (no thanks to me)