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.
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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.
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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).
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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.
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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.
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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.
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I enjoyed the view, played with my mobile ham radio, and then dropped off a travel bug on my way back to Primm.
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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.
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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.
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This interesting cache container seemed to be an outrigger canoe.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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