Saturday, March 28, 2009

Just two out of four...or so I thought.

I had promised Hunter we'd go find him his own treasure boxes the day before. With rain predicted to start falling by 4:00, I headed outside earlier that morning to work on my new landscaping and do some spring cleaning. After that my hubby grilled up some hot dogs for the first time this season and then Hunter and I were on our way.

While scrolling through the caches I had saved, Hunter paused at one called Fifteen Goats on a Dead Goat's Chest. I was all for finding Dread Goat Pirate's treasure until Hunter read to me what was saved in the part for a cache description; See printout. Apparently the story behind this cache was too long for the space designated in my handheld, so I printed it out...but forgot to put that paper along with other longer details in our geogear bag.
We'd have to attempt Dread Goat Pirate's hunt another day. Instead, Hunter chose one called Send More Cacher's because inside the description Hunter read that the mosquitoes in the area needed more cachers to come and give them their blood.

We pulled into Burton Memorial Park, but I wasn't sure where to leave my van. There was a bulldozer and back hoe in a small area that was made even smaller by their presence. I parked as far away from the machinery as I could, put my geocacher placard on the dash and grabbed our gear bag. When we looked at the handheld we were surprised to see there were actually two caches in these woods. One called Mosquito Haven was actually closer than the one that brought us here, so we focused on that one and off we went.

Yeah, that's my fingertip in the picture of the trail head. I couldn't find my digital camera so the pics in this story were taken with my camera phone.

We followed a trail made up of crushed asphalt and then a more natural dirt and leaves until we reached the namesake for the two caches these woods hide; a muddy, leave crusted, murky pond. The perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes. We had yet to see any of those blood suckers, but we had only just begun....

As we continued on we could see where trees had been cut down, wood stacked and other trees targeted with orange X's. There isn't much to this park and why it's even called a park I don't know. It's just a walking path that bends back and forth like a snake trail in sand. Maybe the heavy equipment and clearing away of trees means good things are in the future for this place.

We weren't that far past the mosquito breeding ground when my handheld told us to hang a right. If leaf free trees make my GPS bounce around so much, then what's the signal going to be like in the heat of summer when I'm out there in the woods under heavy canopy cover, like a giant storm cloud had suddenly blew in to rain on my day? I stood at a tree marked with one of those orange X's long enough for my GPS to tell me I was probably within 20 feet or so of the cache. I told Hunter we were going to have to rely on our eyeballs and brain muscle to find this one.

He did start to look around, but when it comes to looking for something, be it in the van, in the house or there in the woods, Hunter doesn't put much effort into it. Even when I tell him to bring me something that is right there on the dining room table, but because I tell him I think it might by on the kitchen counter, the kitchen counter is where he'll look and no where else.

So we're in the woods looking for a box that, by the rules, can't be buried in the ground. It might as well be to Hunter, though, because I saw him staring at the ground like he could see through all the way to the worms borrowing below. As I look in stumps and under logs on one side, I cue Hunter to look at the next possible place to his right or whatever.

I've been giving us 20 minutes for a find and when that time runs out and we're still searching, we sigh and accept the fact that we have to log a DNF. We left that part of the woods and head over to another area where the first cache, Send More Cachers, is supposed to be. Will we find it?

Nope. I had the same trouble with my GPS but I thought I knew the general area. We even found a toy Dalmation dog that I had read about in one of the Internet logs, but no cache in any stumps or under any logs we looked at. Neither of these caches offered any hints. It's my opinion, and I will keep it in mind when Hunter and I hide our first cache, that if the hiding spot is in a place where GPS signal is iffy, INCLUDE A HINT!! :P There was just way too many places someone could hide something in there.

We left with nothing new in our possession and returned to my van. We drove to the nearest gas station for a potty and snack break and then drove to Punderson state park. Besides some geocaching fun, this park offers boating and fishing on its natural lake, a lodge, family cottages, a golf course and scenic campgrounds. There are many trails but it seems it's at its best during the colder months as it's considered a premier Ohio winter sports park for sledding, snowmobiling and cross-country skiing.

Richard took us a mile past the front gate and to the parking lot of the main lodge. I could see a sign for the Iroquois Trail, the closest starting point mentioned on the cache information page. As you can see, the trails were what you'd expect in the spring. Hunter and I walked along the sides and tested our balancing skills by crossing over standing water on green clumps of grass. Both of us felt the touch of the water through our shoes, a cold burn spreading out across our toes before we quickened our pace to make it stop.

The first cache in our sights had a seasonal theme. It was called Easter Basket and was the only cache we've found that wasn't camoflauged. Before we got there though, we learned quite a lot from the numbered posts along our route. The post in the picture with my for once wonderfully cooperating model spoke of the lake while others we paused to read told us of marsh lands, animal dens, how huge boulders got to where they were and more.

It was a beautiful day with just a little chill in the air, so we weren't surprised that there were other people out enjoying Punderson's paths. We greeted quite a few couples and two groups of families. One family with four kids was nearby when my GPS told me the cache was directly to my left, just off the trail.

Hunter and I sat on a log bench, one that fit perfectly into its natrual surroundings. It was a large shortened tree trunk trimmed of all branches with the top twelve inches or so of one side shaved down to allow tired visitors to rest a spell. Maybe the cache creator puposely planned it out this way, to have a bench so near to his cache. I am all for taking my find away from its hiding place so people won't wonder what I'm doing and come back to look around where I was, but as you can see in the picture below, this cache would have been seen even from a distance! First, to the right is where it was hidden. You can see how unnatural that wood looks, at least to a geocacher looking for something Mother Nature wouldn't do. If you were able to magnify that shot a few times and look to the right of the pile you'll see the crinkly, bright green cellophane shredding that is recognizable as the decorative grass used in Easter baskets. Only after I spied the grass did I see the wood in a row next to it.

With just the removal of one stick we found a cache that screamed, 'Look at me!'. As I said above, this is the first cache we've found hidden without any disguise. Clearly seen inside the plastic container was the grass and the bright plastic eggs. I understand the effect of the Easter Basket idea for a cache wouldn't be the same behind a masking cover, but there was no way I could take that thing over to the bench and go through it without someone wondering what I was doing. The cache was only maybe ten feet away from the trail itself. I told Hunter we had to be quick. I heard another group down by the dock we had taken a picture by. He took the two small items inside a purple egg, put the egg back as the cache creator requested and then added his trade, which was a glow stick. While he did that I signed the log and kept looking toward the family I could hear but couldn't yet see. We closed it up tight and put it back into the hole among the wood. We covered it so no one could see the colored plastic and then I told Hunter to head toward the trees, away from the path. We walked in a half circle and returned to the path away from cache. The family was about 20 feet from the cache when we came out of the woods ahead of them, but if they were curious what we had been doing, which I doubt they were, they wouldn't have found anything at the place they first saw us.

After that quick find we back tracked and took another trail toward the second cache in the park. We crossed a simple bridge on our way and then over the road we came in on until we were in a drier and quieter part of the woods. The only thing we saw on this walk was the blur of a chipmunk as he raced across a downed tree and disappeared. The only thing we heard was the crunch of dried leaves and broken sticks underneath our own feet. I tried giving Hunter a lesson on how he can minimize the racket he was making, but I think my words disappitated in the wind before even reaching his ears!

We turned off the trail and Hunter was so close on my heels that he bumped into me when I stopped. He was playing with one of his small toys again and I told him to put it away because we were close and he couldn't make a trade if he didn't help me find it. Honestly, I was a bit frustrated and impatient with him because on the other caches he was so close to me and focused on his toy then, too, that it was like he were walking blind in a cave and was tethered to me by a rope for safety. I told him about my feelings and wanted to know if he really liked to go geocaching with me. I want to do this with him because it gets us both out of the house and into the fresh air for some excercise and an escape from his brothers. He said he did like to go, but the driving is long and the walking tiring, but he liked doing it. I'd rather not have him playing his Nintendo DS or reading a book on the way to the caches, but he's even quieter than me. Next time I'll let him do one of those things to the first cache, but then we'll play a word game or something to the second cache. We'll decide before we leave what caches we'll do and find out if Kit can come. Having her around might make the walk more enjoyable for him.

Looking at the cache information page before we leave is probably a good idea. If I had done that for Mosquito Haven, then I would have realized it had been deactivated! Actually the word is called archived. When a cache has been archived, it usually means the box has been muggled; stolen or vandalized in some way and won't be found out in the field anymore but is still there to be viewed on the website. Muggled wasn't the reason listed for this cache though. The owner wrote, 'Beware the ides of March. And now for something completely different.' I have heard that phrase before, but to understand it completely I Googled it, don't ya love Google?, and found this definition, courtesy of The Phrase Finder - From Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, 1599. 'Beware the Ides of March' is the soothsayer's message to Julius Caesar, warning of his death. The Ides of March didn't signify anything special in itself - this was just the usual way of saying "March 15th." Each month has an Ides (usually the 15th) and this date wasn't significant in being associated with death.

The cache owner archived his cache on March 15th and sounds like he'll put it back in a different spot, maybe with a different theme at a later time. I hope it's in the same park because that was a nice, quiet place to walk and we can bring Kit along.

We can also return to Punderson with Kit because there is an Earth cache there. I saw the icon on my handheld and it was back up by the Lodge. As Hunter and I walked back from our successful hunts I read through the Earth cache information I had saved and almost cuffed myself on the back of the head (sorry, early childhood memories :P). This visual cache wasn't by the lodge, but it started on the same trail we began on. I had forgotten that, like with the Virtual cache I did a few weeks back, Earth caches also have tasks set by the cache creator for the finders to do. Remember the informational posts I told you about, the picture of Hunter by the number 6 post in front of the lake? Well, on some of those posts was information we needed to collect. We'll save that for another time. We were tired and ready to head home after about four hours of being out. Despite what I mentioned about Hunter, I enjoy doing this with him, but if he tells me he doesn't want to do it anymore, I will push for it because he needs to get out of the house, but if he insists, then it'll be OK. (Devin will take his place!)

Friday, March 27, 2009

Mama Treasure Boxes and CITO

On Friday the weather was just too beautiful to be inside. I decided to get an early start and take the boys to a park we don't usually visit. I admit I had an ulterior motive for going there. I knew there were two geocaches hidden nearby. As you can see in the picture to the left, there isn't much to this playground at all. The equipment is outdated and in need of a new wood stain. The black topped basketball and tennis courts are cracked and overgrown with weeds. The only thing good in my opinion is the condition of the baseball field, which will soon be used regularly. Our town recently had a rundraiser that was matched by the government to update the park. Hopefully the ground will be broken on this project soon.

I explained to Devin we were going to go to a park where there would be 'mama treasure boxes'. I told him the difference between my kind of box and his, was that my kind were smaller and didn't have any toys. I told him that while I was looking for my treasure box, he and Bryce would be running around and having fun. He was all for that and in this setting it worked out.

When we first pulled in about 10:00 A.M., there was a car parked in front of the pavillion. I was hoping to avoid any muggles, but it looked like there would be some. My plan was to let the boys play and wait for the person or people to leave.

As I got the boys out of the van and then unfolded the stroller (still looking for that all terrain wagon!) there wasn't anyone in sight. Devin went around, over and under the playland for a bit while Bryce played in the sand. Eventually I coaxed them toward the back of the park where a rusty chicken wire type fence seperated public land from a private farm. Come summer there would be sweet corn a fingers length away from the fence. There were three pine trees close enough together that their boughs overlapped. They were the only grouping of trees in the entire park. I saw a single one here and one over there, but trees were far and in-between in that place.

The coordinates put me at the tree farthest back. Even though I had saved the hint in my handheld, I didn't look it up. I knew the cache was a micro, but I felt pretty confident I was standing right on top of it. There isn't anywhere else really to hide a cache here. I scanned the thin branches, avoiding an eye poke here and there, but saw nothing. I looked for holes in the trunk and the base of the tree, but still nothing. Then I saw something among the dried needles blanketing the ground. On the ground is where I found the pill bottle shaped, camo taped cache. It had a green wire hooked on the top of it's lid and I assumed it had fallen from one of the branches above. I brought it back out from under the tree toward my boys who were running around the tennis court.

It's very important to take your find away from its hiding spot. It takes a bit of time to sign the log and sort through any tradeable items, especially with kids. Hunter likes to look at each and ever item before he makes up his mind. Therefore it's better to do all that a few feet away, somewhere not so conspicious looking like being a single adult under low hanging trees while young children run amok further away. I wold have preferred a bench, but none were nearby, so I had to make do in front of a toddler I rounded up and strapped back in his stroller so I could sit in front of him and appear to be interacting while looking through the log.

Bryce was conveying to me quite loudly how he felt about my chasing him down and making him immobile, so I pulled out my extra pen and let him play with that while I signed the paper log and wrote down the clue. This micro cache was actually one of seven in a series. There are six micro caches in my county called 70's One Hit Wonders. Each of the six has an additional name that goes with each individual cache. This particular one was Overlook, for the name of the park in which it was hidden. Once found, you copy down the verse contained inside of a Top Ten song made famous by a One Hit Wonder in the 1970's. My task was to identify the song and discover what year in the '70's it became a hit. Armed with that information, I can replace a letter substituded in the final cache cordiatnes with a number. For this cache, the formula was, C = 197_. The verse I wrote down that day goes as follows:

Well, Andy got scared and left the bar. Walkin’ on home ‘cause he didn’t live far. See Andy didn’t have many friends and he just lost him one. Brother thought his wife musta left town, so he went home and finally found the only thing Papa had left him and that was a gun.

If you know the '70's song from that verse than you know your Oldie's better than me! I Googled the first line and learned that this phrase was from The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia. The top link said it was sung by Vicki Lawrence but it didn't say when. So I googled the two names together and the year 1973 jumped out at me. So, the missing number that is being held by the letter C in the final cach coordinates I know is now a 3! I also know that this son was first offered to Cher, but she turned it down.

This series isn't a multi-cache, where there is more than one box to find but you only get credit for a single find. When I discover all in the series of these caches, each one is another number added to my total summed up at geocaching.com. When I find all the missing numbers to create the final coordinates, I'll find a bigger cache container with tradeable items. I'm sure the first person to find that final cache got something pretty cool, but this series has been around for a couple years now so there probably isn't anything all that great in it. I'm interested and having fun doing series and I can't lie and say I'm not curious to see what's in the final cache. In any cache.
After I rolled the log up and tucked it back into the container I released B from the stroller and he followed me under the trees and began picking up pine cones. I hung the cache a few branches above where I found it on the ground. I then slowly coaxed B to follow Dev and I around the park, picking up trash along the way. It's a great cover and Devin does all the bending! It wasn't until I was back at home and about to log my find when I read the hint for this cache as 'Hollow fence post'. I realized that where I put the cache, hanging inside a pine tree, didn't mesh with the hint. I logged my find and added that I had found the cache uncovered on the ground. Without giving anything away, I said I placed it back where I thought it should be, but didn't realize that the spot wasn't the same as the cache creators hint, but that the coordinates were still right on. I didn't want to say that I hung it or else they'd know right away to look in a tree.

Except for the drive entrance, Overlook Park is surronded by a chain link fence. Half way around and in line with the pavillion is an opening to a cemetery. I don't recall the name, but knew the cache hidden somewhere there, also a Mama Treasure Box, was dedicated to the memory of a man who pioneered the NE Ohio Geocachers and was an advocate for geocaching to park districts, lawmakers and even people on the street. His first name was Eric, but he was known on the website and in cache logs as Sherwood Forest. His passing was unexpected and he has been honored many times in Geauga County with caches that have 'Spirit Trail' in the name.

I pushed Bryce in the stroller with Devin and Buzz Lightyear following behind onto a stone and dirt two track that disappeared deeper into the cemetery in a long U shape. I still had my garbage bag tied to the stroller and Devin and I continued to find and clear away trash from the grounds. While doing so, a car started in the distance and I saw the place it left and we waved to each other as the woman driver passed by. It could have been another cacher, but as we approached the spot where she had parked, my GPS told me my spot was a bit farther up.

We continued on our leisurely way, both enjoying the toddler pace, even though the toddler was strapped into a stroller seat and writing on his shoes with my pen. We had entered the U drive about a quarter of the way from the exit. We had now gone up and around to the entrance and were approaching what I assumed was a crypt, but I don't have any experience with such buildings.

We walked behind and past this building and toward two fairly good sized trees. The first one had a wider trunk, bigger overall and had caught my eye for the possible hide location as we walked toward it on the road. The second one though had two trunks from a single base as wide as the trunk of the other. The opening in-between was about the size of the plastic purple bucket Devin has been using the past couple years for Halloween candy. The hole wasn't as deep as it was wide and I could see another pill bottle sized cache. This one was also camoflauged in the special tape hunters use to cover shiny and reflective parts of their guns. Now geocachers also have a need for it to keep unknowing muggles away from their hide and with practice you grow an eye for spotting it. Devin was very excited for me, that I had found my Mama Treasure Box. I wasn't sure when I started out how he would do with not finding his own treasure to sort through, but he didn't behave like the selfish little boy I often see at home! I signed the log inside, closed it up tight and tucked it back into the crevice at the bottom of the tree. I've always been able to see that tree from the road, but now it holds a few different meanings for me.

That Friday was a half day for Hunter. The teachers needed the extra time to get their grades done, so the kids at his school would be released at 12:30. The boys and I had about 45 minutes to kill before picking Hunter up, so I called my hubby and asked if he wanted to meet us for lunch. Afterward we swung by the school and then went to the newer and more popular playground at Mineral Lake Park. The lake part of this park isn't very big. It's more like a large pond in the shape of a circle that has been pinched a bit. There are two parking lots so I parked at the one I usually do instead of the other that was suggested by the cache creator. The parking lots are only a stones throw away from each other. Dev and B used up some energy on the playground and Hunter and sat on the swings. I took a video of Bryce going down the biggest slide. That clip will be on my website if I ever get it up and running again.

While going back and forth between helping Dev cross the monkey bars and running back over to catch Bryce on the slide, I told Hunter that I had found two micro caches this morning and there was a two find micro multi-cache right here in this park. I said we'd walk around for a bit and find these small ones and pick up garbage along the way. I teased him and said, 'Doesn't that sound like fun?!'. He didn't think so.

So I set my GPS on this two parter and off we went. Hunter dragged along behind, but Dev was right there either helping me push the stroller or picking up garbage I pointed out. We went past the empty, fenced in skateboard park with its 'Keep it clean Or it will close' sign. We crossed some exposed tree roots going down toward the lake and finally reached the paved walking path around the water. Devin was very excited to see the ducks and geese on the bank. When a man and his dog approached the waterfowl from the other direction, it sent the ducks quacking and splash landing into the water. Devin was nothing but smiles as he watched the ducks tuck their wings back under and make their way to the other side. He wanted to get a plastic bag out of the water not far from the edge, but I told him we'd have to get it next time.

While Hunter and Dev sat down on the bench play punching each other (most of the time), Bryce and I turned back toward the bare trees on the other side of the walking path. I so can't wait for spring to add some color! Left center in this picture is a tree that's not quite as thin as it's neighbors. On the back side is a small nail and looped over this nail is twelve inches of what looks like an old sweatshirt drawstring. At the end of this string was the micro cache. I took it off the loop and pushed Bryce over to his brothers. On the bench I pulled out the log, signed it and entered the final cache coordinates into my GPS. When we left a few minutes later, I looked around for muggles and when the coast was clear, I hooked it back on the loop and placed it behind the tree so it couldn't be seen hanging on either side.

The coordinates took us back the way we came. Instead of going up the bumpy dirt trail we had come by and pushing B through the grass, we followed the walking path the other way band back up to the sidewalk, continuing to pick up garbage. Our bag was getting full and the stroller would probably tip like a see saw the moment I took Bryce from the seat. It was during this stretch that a large bug landed for just one second on Devin's nose. He freaked out for a couple minutes and then continued walking with one hand on his nose for some time after!

We found ourselves back at the parking lot where we left our van. Instead of heading toward it or the playland or the pavillion a little further out, we turned left and followed the tree line back toward a dumpster. Before we got there, though, I looked into the trees and a trail jumped out at me in the brown and wilted tall grass like it had been made in snow. I recognized it as made by other geocachers, because who would go into that area? Obviously not to pick up the garbage that was all over the place. I followed it in and soon came to a tree with holes along the base. I knew right away that the stone sitting there against the tree was placed like that on purpose. I found the second micro cache, the second for me in the 70's One Hit Wonders series, but had to sign it and scribble down the verse in a hurry and left without a picture because Devin was screaming and crying. Apparently a stick became Dev's new toy and Hunter broke off a piece. I don't think anyone saw me, but if I were a parent in the park, my head would have turned if I heard such a sound!
We were all tired by then and I was joining the grouchiness in the ranks. I told Hunter we'd got out again tomorrow and find him a cache he can trade something out of. That seemed to have put him in a better mood and we headed home.

Back at home I had to decypher the song verse I had rushed to write down. I think chicken scratch would have been easier to read! I wrote down only the first line and it goes...

Now first it wasn't easy...of how I learned a lesson....that day. (That was how I rushed it down.)

Hmmm...let's see if Google can tell me anything. Umm, no. I'm not going to find the answer in an interview about how someone learned to stop hating their mother.

I added the word 'lyrics' to my search and the song Play That Funky Music came up. I wasn't seeing a year so I asked Google, 'What year did Play That Funky Music top the charts?' The first result was 1988 by Roxanne...no.... Ah-hah! 1976 by the band Wild Cherry. Now I know that the letter P in the fake coordinates is actually a 6!

I'm enjoying the micro caches, but there are many people who avoid them because their size ups the difficulty rating.

Monday, March 23, 2009

A FTF and Other Geocachers!

I didn't plan on going out today. With the temperature predicted in the low 40's and bringing Bryce along...it could be hard. Then I saw there was a new cache posted in the same park Hunter and I had gone to on Saturday and when I looked this AM, no one had yet posted a FTF (First to Find)! I wanted to try and find the DNF Hunter and I missed (see previous entry) and there were two others there as well...four caches at a park with a playground...there was no need to think about it anymore, we had to go for it!

After breakfast I put Dev and B into their heavier coats and loaded them in the van with my bag of geogear. I returned to the park 22 miles away and entered from a different direction and parked in a seperate lot on the other side of the baseball fields than we did on Saturday. There were no other cars, not another soul in sight. I was going to get that FTF!

The DNF was in the middle of the other caches and the closest one to me, but we walked on by and headed for that newly published cache with Bryce in his stroller and Dev helping me push. Obviously we weren't walking very fast and when we came to a point where we needed to roll off the pavement, I glanced around me and...oh, no! There were two people coming up behind us! I thought I'd play it cool and let Bryce out of the stroller to run around with Dev right there. I hoped this older couple would follow the path past me and around the corner, although I knew from parking there on Saturday there was only an empty parking lot and less maintained baseball field. Maybe they were heading for a house on the other side...?

No, they weren't. They tried to be non-chalant, but they stepped onto the damp ground toward the trees and the woman gave me a little side glance. She was probably thinking the same thing I was, that I would continue on my way so they could go on the hunt.... I decided to call them on it. I laughed, shook my head at the timing and said, "I know what you're up to." They both stopped and smiled back at me and without even explaining themsevles nor denying it they said, "You want to share it?"

What they meant was share the FTF honor. You bet I did! Had I not had a 3 1/2 year old and a 22 month old with me, I'd already be disappearing behind those trees! I played a quick game of Who can catch B first with Devin, then we made it back to our new caching friends (at one point, Dev called her Grandma on accident! :D) and I pushed the stroller up to the tree line and then we headed in from there. I can see an all terrain wagon in our future.

Once inside the first grouping of trees a path appeared and we followed it up to a small river, surprisingly low for this time of year. Up to this point I was sort of guiding B in the right direction, but then I picked him up because in front of us wasn't a river bank, it was a drop off. The male of team StPats2 (they were married on a St. Patrick's Day) positioned himself in-between Dev and the fall. We turned away from the river and back into the woods and then our GPS's agreed to turn left into the trees. The name of the cache had old stump in it, so we focused on this huge hunk of wood closest to us with the old rotten tree on the ground behind it. I should have stepped back for an overall picture, but between making sure B didn't step onto the sandy bank of the shallow water, Dev didn't get himself caught on prickers and finding that cache, I didn't think of it. The man (I'm bad with names) volunteered to keep Bryce back on the trail while his lady went in with me. We found the cache hidden inside the other side of the stump and covered by extra branches lined up on their ends. Definately not Mother Nature's style. Behind there was a plastic container that probably held pretezels in its previous life, but now had the honor of being recycled into a container that would be a small part of a large collection of lives! Had this couple not been there it would have taken me longer to manuever with two little ones and I'd be drop dead tired from carrying Bryce. It would have been harder but definately doable.


We each signed our geocaching names in the log as co-FTF's and were thrilled to discover there were two geocoins. I took the one that was shaped as the state of Michigan for obvious reasons, she took the star.

On the way back I asked if they had found the Bleached Bones one Hunter and I tried on Saturday. They said they hadn't, so we walked back to the bleachers and were happy to find we were still alone. We each took a side and searched with our eyes and felt along edges and underneath with our fingers. We still couldn't find it! I had to chase Bryce around the small block of a restroom, and when I came back I saw an older man in a leather coat also on his hands and knees. Another Geocacher! He said he had been here this weekend too and was coming back for another chance. On the very bottom support, pushed as far foward as it could go and covered with sand and dead leaves we finally fount it. It was a small old mint tin painted an Earth tan color. Inside was only a log and a flat eraser in the shape of a football. Devin took the football and I put one of the caching buttons I got for Christmas from my sister Karyn in its place. While the man in leather signed his name, a tall stranger approached us from the direction of the first cache we found together. Team StPats2 and I with Bryce in the stroller huddeled around him so he could finish what he was doing without the muggle realizing. To our surprise, the man stopped two steps past us and said, "You gotta tell me where you found that thing. I've tried twice!" We all started laughing and showed him the simple but sneaky hide and then handed him the log. I've been out caching quite a few times and haven't once had the occasion to meet another cacher, but on this day, I met four other seekers! Both the man in leather and the tall stranger were on their lunch break. The StPats2 couple are retired.

StPats2, or our friends as Dev called them, headed over to another cache in the woods on the other side of the baseball fields. Oh, I need an all terrain wagon! The stroller couldn't get through the soft ground so I let Bryce out of the stroller and of course he ran the other way! I chased him down to both his and Devin's delight and we re-joined our new friends inside the woods. This was an easy find. I saw a tree two people could hug in front of us, but looked at the GPS to make sure. My position was confirmed thanks to such cool technology, so we looked around at the base and eventually found a hole well hidden behind bark almost the same color as the tree we were kneeling in front of. Inside was a small Lock and Lock container that was well covered in camoflauge tape. We didn't find any Geocoins this time, but Dev found another suction cup ball like the one he found in a cache last week and had to have it. The other adults didn't trade anything. They do it for the find and the chance to help send a strangers Tracking Bug on it's journey across the world (progress is tracked on the geocaching.com website).



Alhtough the boys were starting to get restless, there was one more find in this park I wanted to claim. We had been there finding hidden treasure boxes and running around for almost two hours. The next one was a micro, harder to find for sure, but from the cache information page and the direction the man in leather pointed, we knew where to start looking. It was an easy walk with B back in the stroller. Devin walked next to his new friend and was thrilled when the man bent down and found a Buckeye, an inedible, nutlike seed, for him to keep. It's from Ohio's state stree and the mascot for Ohio State University....blah, blah, blah. (I'm not really an Ohio fan! :D)


We were about half way down a walkway outlined in spruce trees when the GPS's digital screen reached those magic numbers. I stopped, looked to the tree in front of me and right there was the cache! I had stopped in a place where two of the tree branches were higher than the others next to it and there tucked between two closely growing branches but just open enough for me to see the black lid of a cache. It was the same width of a film canister typically used for Micros, but it was longer, about the length of a science classroom test tube. Micros rarely have anything in them, although I've read of some having gift certificates of some kind or an unregistered TB for the lucky FTF. I dropped a quarter in with a klunk thinking I couldn't leave it empty.

As we walked back to the parking lot I realized I had a TB in my geobag that I forgot to put in one of the bigger caches. Both the Regular sized caches were further away in the woods and the Micro too little. It was suggested I go back to the Small in the bleachers and see if it would fit in there. I did and found it would fit, although the lid wouldn't close completely. I felt it closed enough that the upcoming rainy weather wouldn't get in.

Back at my van I was buckling in the boys when the female member of StPats2 (I am so bad with names!) came up behind me and said she wanted to give us one of their signature coins. It was a wooden quarter sized creation made to their specifications with their name on it and Luck of the Irish on the back. She told me again how much she enjoyed caching with us and how well behaved my boys were. She hoped to see us again on the trail and as she turned away, I was pretty certain she had tears in her eyes. I'm not selfish enough to think she actually cared for us, I think she was emotional because her only son and his kids, the first Geocachers in the family who showed them the ropes, live in Arizona and don't visit as much as she would like. I understand their bout of melanchony and hope their next family geocaching adventure happens soon.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Only one out of three?? Darn it!

Hunter and I were able to get away this past Saturday for some geocaching fun. I had done a search at geocaching.com and discovered a cache hidden about 30 miles away with a cute little story about trolls, prisoners and a hideout in the woods. I let Hunter read it and he laughed and agreed he'd love to help what we both assumed would be toys or other tradeable items escape.
I'm not real keen on city caches. I don't like to drive around, looking for someplace to park that gets me close to the cache, but not close to trouble because I'm parked in a place of business with no intention of doing any kind of business buy geocaching. Thanks to Google Earth I knew what parking lot I should park in, but had a feeling Richard wouldn't take me to that parking lot.
I was right. Richard took me to a side street that dead ended in a turn around in front of an office building. In his computer generated, sometimes annoying voice, he told us we had reached our destination (if we were to leave him there and walk between the buildings, sure). Hunter wondered aloud why I talk to Richard when he can't reply. I smiled and said he talks to me so I talk to him as I turned us around and headed for the next street over. This cache is best found on a weekend I think, when the parking lots are empty and no one can see what you're doing from the many windows that can see us walking below.

In the middle of the picture above, you can see a white line that goes up at the end. (The square with numbers and letters is the cache site.) That line is actually a thin cement wall that leads to the top of a large drainage pipe. We walked down and along the right side of it, among the bare trees and the trash covered ground. That was the most trash I have seen around a cache and could not believe the cache owner or previous finders didn't pick anything up! When we left and my kitchen sized garbage was pretty full, I thought maybe they did but couldn't pick it all up. There was still a lot of trash.

Now that I have a lanyard for my handheld GPS, I've been letting Hunter lead the way. All he really needs to do is keep the arrow head on line with the cache, paying attention to which way the tip of it points. It was slow going, but we made it to the area and then started looking around for the hiding spot. This is where he needs more practice. He always starts out looking in the trees. Maybe some day we'll find a regular or small one in a tree, but usually those hides are saved for the micros and (crazy, crazy!) nanos. I told him to start with the ground and look for something unnatural. Behind a fallen tree I spotted some branches and some once severely bug infested logs piled next to and leaning against this log. I told Hunter to come around to where I was and help me look.

I tried to let him find it himself, but as he seemed to look everywhere but by his feet, I started playing the Hot and Cold game. He finally moved some of the wood, and there it was! He complains about the drive, drags his feet along the walk, but boy, oh boy does his face light up with the find!

His smile was short lived though. The prisoners we escaped weren't toys he could exchange. What we found was a lot of black 35 mm film canisters. As soon as I saw them, I understood the mystery. The cache creator is giving the finders of his cache their own micro cache to hide, equipped with a small log inside, safely sealed in a small plastic bag. He wanted us to rescue these so called prisoners, meaning take them out of the cache and not put anything in return and find them a new home, which meant nestling them in a cozy tree some where or find a little hidey hole some place and adding it to the geocaching.com family as a hide for others to find. Even explaining all that to Hunter, he thought I should write to the owner and complain there were no toys to trade!

You can see, he's not all that thrilled!


The second one we attempted we thought from the description would be a quick find. We found ourselves in a good sized park with a playground, basketball and tennis courts and two baseball fields. My handheld GPS brought me to the right side bleachers between these fields. What? Bleachers?? There was no hint, just the title of Bleached Pirate Bones. Bleached meaning bleachers and the pirate theme is because the team who hid this cache has a thing for pirates. All their caches have something to do with buccaneers. I could believe a hide on these small, aluminum bleachers if it was a micro, but not so much a small, which is about sandwich size. We felt along all the grooves of the bleacher seats, hoping for a small something stuck underneath with a magnet before I realized a magnet won't stick to alluminum. Our time was soon up as a father and son appeared out of the parking lot to play catch on one of the fields. We had to leave with a DNF (Did Not Find).

The last one was a wonderful walk along a trail that used to be a railway. The owner of this cache wrote up a great poem that talked about the cache and also told us how we might find it.

A boarding pass for the Interurban trail,
leads geocachers where others once traveled by rail.
Instead of a trolley, you’ll take the boardwalk,
past a silo and wetlands and maybe a duck.
As you enter the woods you’ll lose some of your light,
Stop where a small trail comes in from the right.
Into the woods on the left you must go,
Bearing west 200 feet or so.
Keep the wet ground just to your right,
If you get muddy, it’ll be quite a site.
Over several downed logs you must traverse.
Then into a ***** ***** your hand you’ll immerse.
When we pulled into the park we saw a sign for the Interurban Trail not far into it. I looked at Richard and his finish line flag was still farther ahead, so we continued in the van. We came to a parking lot and as I turned back around toward where we came in, I saw a white silo above the trees and into the overcast sky. I told Hunter that was it and we parked in the spot closest. I put my green geocacher parking placard on the dashboard, grabbed our geogear and away we went.

Not far past the silo we went over a boardwalk and soon came to the sign post pictured above. If you can't read it, it says, "From 1899 - 1925, the Cleveland & Eastern Traction Company operated an electric-powered interurban railway which carried passengers, freight and farm goods between Cleveland and the Geauga County countryside. This trail leads to the site of the C&E junction where the track split into two branches; eastbound passengers could continue onto Chardon or baord a connecting trolley to Burton and Middlefield."

This is the part where I messed up. I was enjoying the view of duck houses, goose and two minks that were two fast for my photo lense, Hunter was busy stimming with the toys always in his hand, that I forgot the line, "Stop where a small trail comes in from the right...". I didn't look for a trail from the right. I followed my GPS into thick trees and ended up walking too fast for it to catch up. We ended up entering the woods in the wrong area and didn't realize my GPS was having a hard time until I had made a half circle around. I slowed down but still couldn't get a good reading. While waiting for my GPS to tell me where I was, Hunter and I looked under fallen logs and in some stumps. While searching we came upon an interesting tree Hunter wanted me to take a picture of. But then I goofed again! I forgot the hint, Birch Stump. If I had focused on those two words we may have found it, but instead we used up more than the time we planned and had to run back to the van and pick up a pizza and get back home. We were 45 minutes later than the time I told Tim, but my gosh, guess what happened? He, Dev and B survived! (Sorry for the sarcasm, my love! :P)




So, Hunter was bummed about all three of our caches; two DNF's and one disappointing find. After I signed the Internet logs I sent a message to my sister Karyn and said that she and the kids must stop by here on their way to Michigan in June so she can help me find this cache!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Geocachers in training!

It was a beautiful day here in NE Ohio. Mid 60's, warm sunshine, clear sky...my youngest boys, Devin is 3 1/2 and Bryce is 21 months, and I went into town to the park to play. As I was finally allowed to sit down and watch them run over and under the playground equipment, I remembered one cache I had saved in my handheld, which is always in my purse. It was described as a walk down a trail in the woods, no bushwhacking needed. Hmmm.

I couldn't take it anymore. Yes, my cache buddy was at school, but Colorado had given me a caching bug. I was dreaming about caches! I had everything I needed to find a cache and make a trade. I knew Devin would love a walk in the woods, it was Bryce that was holding me back. Like for 10 seconds! The stroller was in the van and if the path was like the ones I walked out in Colorado, it was be easy rolling.

So we climbed into the van and I turned Richard on. Devin thought my handheld, Ferdie, was a phone, but I told him it was like Richard, only, unlike Richard who stays in the van, Ferdie would be coming with us and telling us where to find the treasure chest. Devin was all for finding a treasure. Every time I looked back at him buckled in his car seat, he was staring at Richard's screen.

Unfortunately, Richard started blinking red at me. He was low on power and I hadn't put his power cord back in the van after my trip to CO. I talked nice to him and Dev kept telling me to get him some new batteries. To hush Devin up I dug out the tracking bug, or TB, I had found in a Colorado cache. He had seen it before and quickly took it. I explained to him how we were going to send him on an adventure by putting him inside a treasure chest we find and someone else would find him and put him in another box. Dev began making a shhhh sound while playing with the van and when I asked him what he was doing, he told me he was filling the van up with gas for his adventure. (Aww)

Richard didn't shut down as we turned onto the road he directed us to, but, as before, he was brining me to the closest known road on his internal maps and this road was another cul de sac we couldn't begin our search from. I knew I was looking for a path between two baseball fields, so I left that dead end and continued on and around and found a park with tennis courts and at the back, baseball fields! We parked near the first one and headed past a sign that said this was a Health Path.

I glanced down at Ferdie for the first time since getting out of the van and to my surprise I saw another traditional cache icon that wasn't in my set line of travel. I looked this one up, and indeed there were two in this park! At the time I saved the caches to my hand held I knew that, but when looking for one that I could take a stroller to, I had skipped over it when I saw the other was off a path.

We were practically on top of this one. When I told Devin we were really close to a treasure chest, he said, Where? Where? and ran around looking for it, back and forth like a bee choosing which flower to pollinate first. I pushed B up to the border of grass next to a wooded area with rocks and logs and brought up the coordinates screen on Ferdie. A little back and forth walking and we found it underneath a piece of driftwood and between two good sized rocks. When I pulled it out, Devin looked at me and said, It's not a treasure chest. It's a treasure box! Yes, it indeed was a treasure box. We opened it and while he sorted through the contents and eventually decided on a Spongebob, I signed the log book.


Back at the stroller, I had no problem pushing it over the grass, but as the path turned into the woods it got a bit harder to manuever and then the path just kind of melted into the forest. I expected an outline of some sort, but there was none. I marked where I was as a waypoint so the boys and I could make it back out again, picked up Bryce and with Dev in tow, headed into the trees. We crossed a trickle of a stream and into an area that was being worked on by a heavy machine. There was a wide, deep track in the mud and many trees in front of us were cut down. There were also new flat marking sticks with pink plastic ties fluttering in the breeze. I couldn't remember what was said in the online log of this cache and hoped I'd find the hiding spot in this mess.

Bryce didn't follow along all that well. He wanted to sit down and play with the leaves and sticks. I carried him until I was close to the coordinates and then put him down where he plopped on his padded bum to pick at some leaves. I was nearby what looked to me like a great hiding spot, but the coordinates didn't go that far. When Dev and I found the cache it was a bit off, buried under a piece of torn bark between two downed trees. Later when I logged my find the previous discoverer had said he found the cache out in the open, possibly pulled from it's hiding spot by the big machine. He hid it somewhere else nearby, so that explained why the coordinates were a bit off.

Like the box we found not too long before, Dev helped me pull it out and was eager to see what was inside. I was thrilled to discover a tracking bug and my first geocoin, which is another trackable item without a tag. From this cache Dev claimed a suction cup ball.



Even though it seemed a long walk carrying one child and helping another, we hadn't really gone that far into the woods. We made it back to the stroller in just a few minutes and back inside the van. Bryce got mad when took him from the stroller and strapped him into the van. Not long after we left the dirt drive of the park, he was sound asleep.

video

Sunday, March 15, 2009

My first Virtual Cache!

I wanted to find a virtual cache when I realized there was one about 10 miles away. Then when I went to the page at geocaching.com for the complete definition of a virtual cache, I was bummed to learn that these types of finds have been grandfathered. That means that the virtual caches already out there can be found, but there will be no more made on that website. To find more I'll have to look at waymarking.com under Waymarks. For right now, I'll stick with the virtual caches at geocaching.com, as well as earth caches, which I have yet to find out what that is all about. There is one not too far away from here tucked between two traditional caches I want to find. I think Hunter will enjoy the one I have in mind.

I had planned on going out with Hunter after his dad got back from a few hours of work Sunday morning, but he got himself in trouble and I said we wouldn't be going. But after I put B down for his nap and headed into town to get some groceries, the virtual cache I had been looking at the day before kept floating around in my mind.

Geocaching.com defines a virtual cache as "...a cache that exists in a form of a location. Depending on the cache "hider," a virtual cache could be to answer a question about a location, an interesting spot, a task, etc. The reward for these caches is the location itself and sharing information about your visit. Because of the nature of these geocaches, you must actually visit the location and acquire the coordinates there before you can post. In addition, although many locations are interesting, a virtual cache should be out of the ordinary enough to warrant logging a visit."

So there is no cache box to find and no small treasures to swap. Even though I had no idea what to expect, I'm sure Hunter would have been interested in going. The task was to go to the coordinates, take a short walk in the woods and look for a depression in the land by huge birch trees and outcroppings of rock and email the cache owner what image I see and what two words are above this image.

I left the grocery store behind and headed toward Chardon and this virtual cache. I knew where I was going as I've taken that road to town often enough. Richard told me to hang a right before the road I thought I'd be going to and told me, like he has before, that the cache I wanted was behind some houses. Now that I think about it, I don't remember if the unit could even see the road I eventually parked on, or else I'm sure he would have told me to drive down it because the cache was maybe 50 feet off this lake access road and since Richard is road locked, it must be that this dead end street isn't in his maps. Bummer.


I do remember driving down the access road and seeing Richard's red arrow pointing to the checkered flag which is the icon for the coordinates I had entered. I almost decided not to look because there were teenagers riding their skateboards down the slightly inclined road, but I wasn't looking for a cache box but some work of art in the woods so I parked, locked my van and left with Ferdie, my digital camera and a small notebook to write down what image I'd find and the words above it. Without that, I can't claim to have found this cache!

It was a beautiful day, but the trees and the grass around me hadn't yet recovered from winters blanket. I'll have to bring Hunter back here during the summer, even better the fall. I have often driven down this road when the leaves have changed just to see their canopies come together above you. That day the sun was warm and wonderful, but the scene was pretty grey and dreary, and seeing the skid marks on the road from sqealing cars gone by, one which revved out while I was walking back to my van, scars the place even more.

I walked up the road, already in line with my west coordinates, and then turned into the woods for the north. I had to make a mental note to self that if I even think about finding a cache during a wet spring to not wear white sneakers!

The ground was muddy as I stepped over a small run of water heading down hill to a large area of rocks protruding out of the ground. I remember what the cache owner said about rock outcroppings and was glad the coordinates weren't over there because it looked a little steep!

I continued on my course and in the distance saw some grey stones in the earth, most covered in fuzzy green moss. I paused to let Ferdie reoriantate himself and found I was there. In front of me the stones were in a slight depression, as I was looking for. I have no idea what a beech tree looks like (my MIL is probably shaking her head :) ), but there were two huge tree trunks to the left of the stones and sunken ground.


I made the switch between GPS and camera and tried my best not to let the ground suck my shoes off my feet as I walked closer. I immediately saw writing on one of the stones. It looked like numbers, but there was no image and no words. I looked at the trees close by and then started to circle around the rocks. They didn't seem to be actualy rocks, but more of shaped pieces of stone, like large retaining wall blocks. I couldn't help but wonder what this place used to be. Did they once contain something, the first layer of a stone house? The cache creater noted about six months after he created this for his geocache community that he was told that local lore credits H.R. Wagner as the artist. That this man camped here in the early 1900's when this was a popular vacation community.

Then I found what I had come here to find, what this man had carved and etched in the stone above it so long ago. Embossed in the dirty stone was the left profile of an indian complete with feather. Above the image were the words Chief Aquilla. Aquilla is the name of the lake that is just a stones throw away from this memorial. There were words on the other stones next to this one, but I couldn't make much of it out. The words Chief Aquilla however were deeper and more purposefully etched in the stone and will probably still be visible when the rest fades with the passing of time.

When I got back out to the road and set off downhill, the skateboarders were gone, but the air was not as still and quiet as it had been when that carving was still warm for the artists chisel. A souped up blue Neon tore out of the parking lot ahead of me and added new burn marks to the road. I could also hear my first lawnmower of the year. Our yard won't be seeing that for another month at least, when our foot steps no longer squish when we walk from the garage to shed.

When I got home my husband knew I hadn't just been grocery shopping. I had been gone about two hours, but the amount of groceries in my possession did not warrent such a long trip to town! I'm glad I took the time to take even that short walk in the woods. There are a couple caches off some nature trails I can probably take Dev and B too.