APRIL 26, 2017 – Point Lobos (Monterey County)

April 25, 2017

When I vacation in Monterey I try to expand my knowledge of the area by taking day trips farther afield. This time, only a mile beyond my previous southernmost excursion I reached Point Lobos. The geocaching map showed multiple earth caches and multis in the State Reserve. Page comments indicated that no physical caches are allowed. The multis had numerous (too many for me) stops to gather clues for cache containers hidden outside the reserve.

I don’t like to spend outdoor time, especially on vacations, compiling clues/data for earth caches and multi caches. It was especially true for this visit because I wanted to enjoy the great scenery and easy hike I’d seen featured online. The “lot full” sign at the entrance was ominous. And the 2 cars ahead of me turned around and exited. I expected to be turned away. But the entry booth ranger said there were still open spaces and waved me through on my California Explorer entry/parking pass. Apparently the turned around cars didn’t want to pay the $10. fee.

A short drive through a gloomy forest led to a series of small beachside parking lots. I stepped out at the third one and walked to the waterline just as it started to sprinkle. The view wasn’t especially good.

What I noticed the most was what was underfoot. It was either heaven or hell for a new rock tumbler like me. There were more great rocks than I could possible tumble in multiple lifetimes but they were strictly illegal to take according to multiple posted signs. I ended up with a handful of crappy ones from the Cannery Row tourist beach 18 miles away.

After poking around the rocks I joined the tourist muggle stream walking north on a well marked trail. The sprinkles stopped and the view improved.

Here are the muggles ahead of me. The ones near me looked oddly at my twin hiking poles. I’m sure they became envious when I walked steadily uphill over broken ground and uneven wooden steps while they struggled.

The views improved even more with increasing altitude and sunlight. Somewhere below a lone sea lion barked.

An abrupt end to the trail made me turn inland to find another one.

There, poison oak and its folk remedy mugwort grew abundantly together. I saw only 1 small warning sign. I feel sorry for people who don’t see the sign or don’t read English and unwittingly brush the PO.

Side trails each led to a viewpoint. I knew that every stop contained clues for the multi caches and/or earthcaches but instead of looking for them I enjoyed the scenery. Except for a rude (Russian?) speaking family picnicking against the posted rules and hogging this site, everyone else politely took their pictures and moved aside.

Just when I thought that there couldn’t possibly be better views, there were. Oddly, most of the muggles had turned back apparently unwilling to hike around the mud puddles from rains earlier in the week. Wimps!!

They missed this too! Now, nearly alone, I wished that I’d printed a list of the multi-cache clues to find. Oh well.

I enjoyed a final shoreline view of gnarled tree cover before the trail looped inland back toward the parking lot.

Next time I’m going back to see what I missed behind the temporary closure sign and to explore the inland parts of the reserve. Maybe I’ll even attempt the earth caches and multis.


APRIL 19, 2017 – M*A*S*H Site (Malibu Creek State Park)

April 19, 2017

I can’t hike long distances and steep hills like I used to. Now I look for short, flat hikes. The one to the M*A*S*H site in Malibu Creek State Park is an old standby.

Just off the crowded parking lot the effects of last month’s rain were evident. The park was greener than I’ve seen it in this decade.

And Malibu Creek flowed freely where for the last few years there was only a rocky dried out stream bed.

On the northern trail, frequently featured in the Kung Fu TV series and the old Planet of the Apes movies/TV I found a recently placed cache and then walked west past an eroded hillside. It’s more impressive in person than in the picture.

Loud muggle noises made the decision to bypass Century Dam, easy. Then there was another stream crossing on a small concrete bridge.

Just before mile 2 I DNF’d a cache that probably washed away. A few minutes later I arrived at the post-1982 fire replacement ambulance at the edge of the old M*A*S*H set.

The original burned out ambulance is still there too.

An ammo can cache, previously in the bushes behind the ambulance has become an unofficial part of the M*A*S*H exhibit. Someone moved it to INSIDE the burned ambulance where muggles find it and sign the log. I watched a group of teens do it.

My return trip on the southern trail passed over the bridge near the visitor’s center. This was the view Vs. 2 years ago.

The roundtrip hike was just over 3 hours at a leisurely pace with short stops to look for 3 caches. I’m glad I did it before the summer heat

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.
In the morning I was shocked to see ice on my Subaru. It was a lifetime first for me. The onboard thermometer read 29 degrees when exiting the parking lot.
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).
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.
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.
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).
Nearby there was a very wrinkled example of a Beavertail Cactus.
Still a few miles from Las Vegas I made extra sure that no one was home before I reached for this cache.
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.
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.
I enjoyed the view, played with my mobile ham radio, and then dropped off a travel bug on my way back to Primm.

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.
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.
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.
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.
This interesting cache container seemed to be an outrigger canoe.
This bonehead cache was broken into several scattered pieces. I put it back together as best I could.
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.
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.
At sundown I drove back to Barstow, cold, tired and with mud caked tires.


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.
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.
Eventually I reached the northwestern most cache and found that the new caches were cross country, along what appeared to be abandoned airstrips. I parked and started walking and finding a cache every 600 feet or so.
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.
Some cachers are driving (illegally, I believe) cross country. In these cases I walked on the tire tracks that invariably stopped at every cache.
Occasionally there was a large cache. They were stuffed with swag but no geocoins or pathtags were found.
Most of the caches were smaller cube shaped tins. I exchanged signature items in some of them.
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.
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.
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.
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. 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.
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.)
I passed caches found on previous visits and the Asilomar State Beach sign.
Tucked under a nearby walkway I found a cache stuffed inside a rubber rat.
The cache below was an easy find hidden inside a wooden post.
I returned the cache and walked a few feet to the tidepools. Here’s an anemone.
And this Striped Shore Crab would make a great cache guardian.
Normally, I turn around and drive back to Cannery Row. This time I turned inland and found a cache at this previously unnoticed lighthouse.
It was strange to see a 31 star pre-civil war flag flying over the grounds. But it was appropriate for the historic location.
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.
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.