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 airport runways. 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. Instead, 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.

OCTOBER 15, 2016 – Extreme Vegetation Hides (Micros in the Woods)

October 15, 2016

I hadn’t truly hiked since May nor cached since July. So I finally dragged myself outdoors back to Jack’s Peak County Park on the Monterey Peninsula. My plan was to hike the gloomy and deserted (at least when I’m there) trails to find 8 caches I’d either missed or had been placed since my last visit in 2014. As usual, mine was the only vehicle in the parking lot.
The hike started easily enough on well maintained trails.
And the first cache was a bison tube bored into a rock. Hiking in the cool dry (not humid this time!) weather was a welcome relief from the months of non-stop heat back home in So Cal. But I didn’t know that there’d be no more finds for me that day.

GZ for the next cache was here:
The one after that was here:
Not finding 2 “micros in the woods” wasn’t totally unexpected. Continuing uphill I was glad that there wasn’t a cache at the base of this dead tree that’s just waiting to topple over:
Maybe the caches on the other side of the ridge would be easier to find…
And nope.
In years past it was fun to find ammo cans and lock-&-locks in the park. With each visit the remaining caches became smaller and smaller. Until this time they were ALL micros except for 1 small. But forest hiking was a nice change of pace.

Then I drove 5 minutes back to my Cannery Row hotel, got on my bicycle for shoreline caching and wrecked it when it locked up in the middle of an intersection.

JULY 16, 2016 – Las Vegas (north – desert)

July 16, 2016

When my dad was alive I used to tag along on his annual seniors’ bus trip to Las Vegas. I cached on foot while everyone else gambled. Nearly all of the seniors are gone now and the trip attracts families with children. I still go with my brother’s family. This year Las Vegas local Kris32 agreed to take me caching. This was great for me because over the last few years I’d almost run out of caches reachable on foot from the hotel.

Kris picked me up at 9am and drove us to 2 caches placed the prior day. We ended up being 2nd to find on both. We cached along the northeast edge of the city. Wheel goes round & round (GC6JC3Y) was her milestone 14,000th find! Weirdly I saw the cache walking up. Due to the placement you had to be exactly my height. An inch taller or shorter and it was invisible without contortions. Here’s Kris looking thru the wheel with her truck in the background. She found the cache after 10 minutes and lots of hints. 🙂
Kris didn’t abandon me in the desert for laughing during her epic attempt. She continued taking me to some of the best caches she’d already found. Here’s one that’s a small box under a cast concrete giant tortoise. It was completely exposed in a random spot .2 miles from the outer edge of a paved parking lot.
After lunch at Red Robin we took a break from the desert to cache on foot around the lake at Floyd Lamb Park. The greenery and water made the 105 air temperature feel cooler. We found 5 of 6 here.
Along the way we walked through an assortment of tame species while carefully avoiding their land mines.
Back in the desert, now northwest of downtown, we took unpaved roads to a cache that looks like a giant bison tube. Pulling on the spring loaded red ball and releasing it launches the cache container out of the other end.
Here’s another fun cache the Kris had already found. She waited. I followed my arrow and then stopped because from a distance it looked like a coyote or other large animal was resting at GZ. A few cautious steps later it was obvious that the ‘animal’ was a realistic fake deer.
I ended the day with 20 finds. Kris dropped me off at my hotel at about 4pm. THANK YOU!! I’ll drive you to L.A. caches if you ever visit.

Later from my hotel window I noticed a strange lenticular cloud. See the tip of the Stratosphere below the left edge of the cloud.
There’s more summer caching fun to come, I hope.

JULY 6, 2016 – Point Mugu State Park, above PCH

July 6, 2016

I didn’t cache or hike for almost 2 months. Then at a biometric screening to apply for an insurance discount I was classified as “OBESE.” I got the first time participation discount but won’t qualify next year unless I’m less rotund. So I re-started doing the only exercise that I enjoy, cache/hiking. On the 4th I drove down the Camarillo Grade to PCH and found 6 easy park-&-grab caches.
At the Ray Miller Trailhead parking lot in Point Mugu State Park I immediately saw that the popular La Jolla Canyon Trail was still closed due to last year’s rock/mud slides. (‘aerial’ photos later) Possible penalties for being caught on that trail were posted as expulsion, citation and arrest. Still, hikers and dog walkers ignored the sign and walked in.
But my destination was a hike in the other direction, toward PCH and the beach.
Here’s the trailhead that I’d never noticed on previous visits. It was probably overgrown and hidden before the 2013 Spring Fire. Though I didn’t encounter another hiker all day, there were many footprints. And I’m still not convinced that it’s an official trail.
The initial climb was rock strewn and very steep. Here’s the view South along PCH. Note ‘The Great Sand Dune’ in the background and that no beachgoers were in the water. California tourism officials probably don’t want potential visitors to know that So Cal beaches in summer are often overcast. And the ocean is COLD.
The trail continued on a ridgeline with a drop off on both sides. I knew that a sudden blast of cold ocean air could send me flying over, rolling through cactus to the bottom. So it was a relief when the still steep trail grew wider shoulders.
The inland (N) view from First Flateau (GC4T1ZX) showed the rock/mud slides on the closed La Jolla Canyon trail.
This is a closeup near the top arrow. It’s what’s left of the waterfall and the trail going across and above. It doesn’t look like it’s going to be passable anytime soon.
Back to caching…
The last of the 4 trail caches was here. I found it by geosense because the coordinates bounced weirdly, more than I’ve ever seen.

Instead of continuing on (& upward) to Mugu Peak which I’d already visited via another trail, I turned around. On the way back I sat on a very flat rock to appreciate the view.
The inbound hike was a 750’ climb in 1.4 miles, unexpectedly easy for me despite being “obese.” Trekking poles are recommended, especially for the downhill return trip. Note to Spinal Tap cachers, from the same parking lot the BBT western terminus trailhead and the trail itself are open.

APRIL 30, 2016 – San Diego (beach bike caching)

April 30, 2016

From Warner Springs I drove to San Diego for 2 days of bike caching. First stop, Mission Bay. Immediately the front brake assembly fell apart. So I rode around with the rear brake only. I was careful to not roll off the dock at (GC5ZWW0) Barbras Previous Intention [no typo].
Some caches weren’t so scenic or easy, Bike Bridge (GC3HNYB).
The next day I worked my way south by vehicle along San Diego Bay, unloading my bike near cache clusters. This is Harbor Island. Oddly, there’s no bike path here even though there are bikes for rent.
I stopped at a random parking lot to get my bearings and stepped out to find an easy cache just a few feet away, Marina Gateway: National City (GC1WB6J). I think that this is Supergirls’s adopted home city.
Most of the caches along a stretch of the New Bayshore Bikeway seemed to be missing. I wondered if someone removed them. The one here, a magnetized tin, should’ve been easy, Friendly Fisherman (GC4JZ4B).
The view from just a few steps away made up for the DNF. There was no cache on the pier but I rode to its end.
My luck was better along desolate parts of the bikeway where there were no muggles.
As a non-athletic 55 year old, I count myself fortunate that in 5 days I hiked 25 miles, biked 10 and found 57 caches with no bodily breakdowns. Someday if my luck runs out I hope that it’s on the trail, hiking or biking and not attached to a bunch of machines in a hospital. 

APRIL 23, 2016 – WARNER SPRINGS, (San Diego County – PCT)

April 23, 2016

A long string of caches and pictures of vast grasslands on the PCT were too much to resist. To prepare for my visit I posted logistical questions on Facebook. Orange County cacher ThatsRoxie responded and agreed to a car shuttle. Roxie arrived at the Warner Springs Community Resource Center first and set up for car camping. Two hours later I checked in, made a donation and tried to set up my tent for the overnight stay. A slight breeze repeatedly knocked down my efforts until Roxie suggested assembly in the windless space between our 2 vehicles. d’OH! It worked! We carried the assembled tent to the end of the lot where it was easy to stake down. Then we found a few caches before dark. Ask me offline about the bathroom & shower situation.
In the morning we drove 15 minutes to the southern trailhead at Barrel Springs. Unfortunately the cache there was stuck out of reach #11 Alternate Desert Route (GC4RKN0).
We crossed the street N onto the PCT. The first mile was a gradual but steady uphill and the view was the same as what I’m used to seeing near home.
Beetle porn!!
We gazed down at what was ahead.
ThatsRoxie’s geodog MissVivian carried her own water and bowl. Later she had to wear a cooling suit. Even then she overheated.
Even without a GPSr it’d be hard to get lost. Here’s ThatsRoxie and MissVivian.
I visited a spot I’d seen in many PCT blogs and videos.
The caches were easy finds. Several thousand PCT thru hikers will obliviously pass them all.
The trail skirted a riparian area with lots of caches. Somewhere inside we split up for the heat-ailing MissVivian. Roxie & MissVivian went ahead to complete the trail without caching. I continued hiking at a slower pace, talking with passing thru hikers, caching and skipping those that were uphill or more than 50’ off trail.
The trail descended back into the grasslands. Caches here were sometimes in random open spots 20’-50’ off trail. Perfect coordinates allowed me to find those. I reached them only because the foxtails were still green and attached. A month from now cachers will need gaiters.
Unlike the Eagle Rocks in Topanga State Park and near Glendale, the one 3 miles S of Warner Springs actually looks like an eagle. I DNF’d the cache there, Eagle Rock (GCZFME) because a group arrived to take pictures and I didn’t want to be in their way.
The final mile was through another riparian area, alongside a running stream.
Most caches here were small tins hidden in burned out downed trees. The rest were bison tubes or other tree hangers.
At about 9 ½ miles I reached the gate across the street from my tent where ThatsRoxie was waiting to drive me to retrieve my vehicle.
Instead of following my original plan to camp another night and then cache N the next day, I packed up and drove to San Diego for 2 days of bike caching.

I refuse to skimp on gear. Except for the windblown tent everything functioned perfectly.
Tent: Big Agnes – Copper Spur UL1 mtnGLO
Sleeping bag: Western Mountaineering – Alder
Daypack: Marmot – Ultra Kompressor 22
Trekking Poles : Black Diamond – Trail Pro Shock
Camp stove: Snow Peak – Litemax
Headlamp: Princtontec VIZZ
GPS: Garmin Oregon 550T (discontinued)