I am a proud

Monday, November 24, 2008

Berry College, GA and surroundings

I finally arrived at Berry College, just outside Rome, Ga. This is my third trip here in about 11 years. Every time I come I'm amazed at the beauty of the place. I'm enjoying the opportunity to geocache. We got in on Friday night around midnight after a long day of travel plagued by weather travel delays. We rented a car and made it to Berry College in the drizzling rain. I got up the next morning at 6 a.m. to go caching knowing I'd have to be back no later than 8 a.m. It is dark in Georgia at 6 a.m. Instead of snopping around the barns and buildings on campus in the dark; something that might attract unwanted attention from the campus police, I drove off campus to several other caches. On the way out enough morning light made it possible to search without a flashlight. I DNFed two but found one. At lunch break I headed the 500-some feet from the parking lot to the closest cache on campus. Left a geocoin and made it back to the conference on time. The tree colors are beyond peak but the area is beautiful nonetheless.

On Sunday I was up again at the crack of dawn. I headed out, weaving in and out of the herd of deer that congregates on the property. I saw over 50 this morning. No hunting on the Berry College property so they have sanctuary. Found three caches during the morning and made it back for breakfast. I found the first one just as the light started to show in the sky. It was an ammo box hidden in a traditional way. I love ammo boxes. We don't have those in Ecuador. One was a micro and the last was a virtual at the home of one of the Cherokee leaders during the infamous trail of tears. I got back for breakfast and worship. This afternoon my friend jagawe and I hit the roads around Rome. We circled the Berry College area and went out into the mountains around there. The leaves were brilliant with color. We climbed to the top of Fouche Gap to find Fouche (GCPMP8) and had a spectacular view of Rome, Georgia and the surrounding valleys in two directions. From there we visited several state parks and lakes and found caches there. It was a beautiful afternoon for caching!

I repeated the early morning caching rutine several times. One morning I lost one of the TBs that wizzzzard had entrusted to me. I felt so bad but didn't know where it fell out of my swag bag. I went ahead and logged it into a cache so it would get the miles, then wrote to wizzzzard to confess my error. The next morning at breakfast one of the staff from our mission agency came up and laid the lost TB down in front of me. He had looked for the same cache as I (one that we both DNFed) and found it on the ground. He looked up the last holder and saw it was me. We have been friends for years but because we live and work in different parts of the world we didn't know that we were both cachers. A new caching friend made and the lost TB recovered and on its way again.

One evening I took jagawe the local Rome Wal-mart. He bought his first GPSr, a nice Garmin with a color screen and the bells and whistles. I think he's hooked. The next day Phileas Fogg's Adventure Society joined up with us and we spent several hours finding urban caches in Rome. What a great week. While at Berry College I was blessed to find 22 caches. Several that I'm adding to my watchlist.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Las Lomas de Arena

Hey I just remembered a neat cache hunt from last year that I want to add. I traveled to Santa Cruz, Bolivia to visit a friend. He was not a geocacher and had never heard of the hobby. I told him about it and asked if he wouldn't mind driving out to find the only geocache in the area. He agreed and off we went to look for Las Lomas de Arena geocache about 15 kilometers south of the city. First let me say that we couldn't find the cache. It isn't there anymore. Apparently it was discovered or destroyed and disposed of as the result of a brush fire. In Bolivia they do a lot of slash and burn to clear the land. This cache was supposed to be at the base of a cactus. I was saddened to not find it but the trip was not a total loss. Just a few kilometers ahead were the sand dunes. These things are incredible. Out in the middle of shrub brush and cattle pastures rises up a series of sand dunes, some up to five or six stories high. It is the strangest thing to see sand dunes such as you would expect in the desserts of Northern Africa sitting out in the pastures of flat, hot, semi-tropical Bolivia. But there they were. I'll include a picture so you'll believe me. The dunes stretch for several kilometers. Several of the dunes are next to some small ponds of water. These dunes are popular for sandboarding. I climbed up on one of the dunes and felt like I was towering over the pasture land below. If you ever go to Santa Cruz, take advantage of the inexpensive taxis and go visit the dunes.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Rescue Mission

I'm on a mission! I wish it was a caching run lasting all day but its not. I'm on a rescue mission to save some languishing Travel Bugs and Geocoins. Some of you may be asking what is a TB. Its a small twist on the sport of geocaching. You can purchase a small trackable "dog tag" and attach it to an item you wish to send on a mission. That item can be anything from a stuffed animal or a medallion or, and this was kind of strange, a glob of something or other that was designed to teach people what fat looks like. You drop your TB in a cache, go to the website and indicate it is released and watch it travel from cache to cache around the world. Of course, you indicate where you would like it to go. Some folks take pictures of it along the way and post them to the TB page on Geocoins are coins with a tracking code and they do the same things.

Anyway, listening to Podcacher (weekly iTunes downloadable podcast about geocaching) or reading posts in the different geocaching forums, I’ve heard of Travel Bugs and Geocoins that get stuck in a geocaches and don’t move along. Here in Ecuador with geocaching depending mostly on the tourist that come and go this can be a real problem. We've got some that have been camping out in the woods for months now.

Today I had a particularly stressful day and need some time out in the woods. I took off with a goal of recovering four or five languishing TBs scattered across the Metropolitan Park above Quito. First to Karen's Caper TB Hotel (GC182AC) (Yep, I'm a proud grandfather bragging on my granddaughter's first geocache) where one of wizzzzard's TBs was waiting for a ride to another cache. I also grabbed a Snoppy TB and will move him along too. Karen's Caper TB Hotel required a little stealth as the park entrance and guard tower is not far away. Finding it and recovering the TB was easy. Now off to Cobblestone Corner (GC17DTR) to find another languishing bug owned by wizzzzard. This is one of my caches and it is one of my favorites. It is well hidden and yet easy for the geocacher who reads the description. Now to the big hike. My office work and the errands that took me all over the city of Quito today kept me from getting my exercise this morning. No problem! Getting to Reforestation (GC168M3) to recover another TB is a long and beautiful walk. Off I went. In the whole hike this afternoon I only came across two mountain bikers. I had the woods to myself. The walk was great but the discovery that the languishing TB was no longer languishing but missing, maybe even abducted, was a little saddening. I was looking for the TB known as Add it on II. It's not there. I hope that who ever took it will get on and indicate they have it. Even more I hope that they'll drop it in another cache.

So, I have rescued three travelers and will move them along. I have a trip out of Ecuador and to the US this weekend and hope to drop them in Georgia or Connecticut. I hope to drop some of them in the TUC series of caches in the West Hartford Reservoir just west of Hartford, Connecticut!

A closing note. Thanks to several who've made comments on this blog. Please forgive the lateness in responding. It has to do with my inexperience with how to manage the comments.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Laguna Mojanda, Ecuador

Saturday morning nine of us packed up two 4X4s and headed just a little north of the ecuator to Fuya Fuya Volcano. We climbed up the volcano from the town of Tabacundo. The road was passable but pretty muddy after some hard rain the night before. Once we crested the edge of the volcano we had a beautiful view of the larger of the two lagunas. Even though we knew that one of the roads would be impassable, we drove as far as the Mojanda Volcano cache (GC14AZY). bcargile found the cache! After some quick maintenance, including moving the cache to a safer location, (yes, it is one of my caches) we headed back up the trail and around to the laguna by a safer road. It took a while for us to make up our minds as to where to set up camp.  We finally chose a spot set back from the laguna. We got our tents up, ate a quick lunch and set out on a hike around the laguna. Our party included five adults and four children. The smallest is four. I was surprised at how well the children did. Ignacio and Mercedes took good care of their kids, sometimes carrying the youngest on what turned out to be a 9.5 mile hike. We hiked clockwise around the laguna. The first part of the trail was gentle with little climbing and a well-marked trail. About a fifth of the way around the laguna the trail disappeared and we had to cut through about a quarter mile of marsh. We struggled through the waist-high pampa grass for a long time before leaving the marsh. Once out of the marsh our hopes were that the trail we found would take us to the road bordering the laguna. Not so. After climbing into a small saddle we looked down on a quarter mile of high Andean humid forest running up from the laguna to the high cliffs. Our only choice was to push on and hope for a trail through the forest. No one wanted to go back through the marsh. We climbed down to the edge of the laguna and started into the thick humid forest. There was a barely discernable trail where someone had machetted through. We were climbing under and over Quinual trees, through mud and vines. Finally Dustin, our 13-year old scout out front, called out that we were out of the woods! We were ready for that but no sooner than we cleared the humid forest we found ourselves in another marsh. Fortunately Dustin found a trail right by the laguna and we followed it around to a fish hatchery. Now the fun part. We were half way around the laguna and hard rain set in. From the hatchery we met the mud road that would lead us around the rest of the laguna. We climbed up and down fingers leading down into the laguna, passing by several cars that were stuck in the mud. Some of those will likely be there for several days. We got to one point where everyone took the high road but me. I could see a trail paralleling the laguna edge, about 150 meters above it. It was a cattle trail through the pampa grass. We agreed the that they would come looking for me if I didn't get back to camp ahead of them. Off we went, not in a race, but eager to get back to camp before dark. We were soaked from the pouring rain. The trail I took was wet but good. I made better time than most of the others but still came in behind the fastest in the group who had taken the high road. We were so wet that our first goal was getting into dry clothes and getting our gear into the tents. Then, just as it got dark, we got our stoves going and had a great evening all gathered in the bigger of the tents, fixing supper and visiting. Our climbing boots were all soaked so we made the decision to forego climbing Fuya Fuya then next morning. We had a great next morning fishing, just sitting in the sun and talking and then having a worship service together. In the course of the morning over 50 people, probably acclimating for more challenging climbs in Ecuador, started up the nearby trail to summit Fuya Fuya. Maybe another time we'll get to climb it. We met several climbers, some from Israel, Canada, and England. All in all we had a great weekend at the laguna and are already planning our next camping and hiking excursion. It's a toss up at this point. Do we go to Antisana Volcano or to the Illaniza volcanos? You help us decide.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Unique Caches, part 2

Any avid cacher will discover unique caches along the way.  Sometimes I stand back and marvel at the mind of the person who puts these together.  I really like a cache that breaks the mold and gives you a challenge and a surprise at the same time.  Following along a theme I started last month I'm posting photos and the story of two more unique caches I have found.

1) The Hanging Cache - I found this one during the summer in Greensboro, NC.  I won't give the name or information or else this could be a spoiler.  I was on my son-in-law's mountain bike trying to pick up a few caches on a hot July morning.  I got off the trail and tracked into the woods a ways to where I could leave the bike unseen.  From there I tracked through the woods several hundred feet.  The tree canopy was such that my Garmin Etrex was not getting a good signal.  I came into a small clearing and could see some houses through the woods in the distance, too far for anyone there to be able to easily see me.  My GPSr was getting an accuracy of 60 feet, which is not the best considering that out in the open I was getting 9 ft accuracy.  When this happens I start tracking in to the GZ from different directions in order to find where the tracks intersect.  I did this several times while looking for the cache.  I was checking out every tree stump, the base of every tree with grass around it, holes in the ground, you name it.  Nothing was turning up until I almost walked into it.  There it was hanging from a high tree limb, suspended by fishing line.  It was right at eye level in a green container.  It blended in with the woods in such a way that your eyes don't focus in on it.  While signing the log I saw in the distance a doe come down through the woods.  I had several deer sightings in these woods in July.  Finding this cache was a lot of fun.

2) The bug cache - While in Greensboro, NC for vacation I found another cache that had been a challenge for several people.  I guess I was just fortunate.  Like in the previous case I rode the mountain bike and hid it in the woods off the trail.  I tracked to the GZ and had a lot of bounce on my signal.  After looking around the ground I looked up and saw this one on a tree.  It was a fake caterpillar with a very small clear bison tube attached to it.  The tube was stuck into the tree so that only the caterpillar was visible if you were looking closely.