I am a proud

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Georgia State Parks kick in to support geocaching!

Hats off to the Georgia State Parks System. If not to the entire system, to the several parks in that state that not only permit the hiding of geocaches in their parks but seem to be going out of the way to promote geocaching and to attract geocachers to the park. If only the state of North Carolina would follow their lead.

We visited the General Coffee State Park near Douglas, GA recently. On any trip I check out the geocaches in the area. In this particular case I saw a large concentration of geocaches at this state park. Upon arrival at the park I paid for my day pass ($5 per vehicle, not individual). At that time the park ranger saw that I had my GPSr and was a geocacher so she handed my wife a park map where all the geocaches were marked. The top of the map had "geocache map" written on it. It was a temporary map marked with magic marker. They had only made the decision to fill the park with caches about a week earlier. The vast majority of the caches were placed on Valentine's Day. I told them that I was grateful for that decision and that I hoped North Carolina would get the vision to do the same someday. 

Geocaching Map provided by the park
Later as we were touring a cultural museum downtown I found a booklet describing each of the state parks in Georgia. At least one other, A.H. Stephens State Park west of Augusta, Georgia, also invites the public to come and geocache in their park. According to the park ranger some of the state parks are doing it and others might in the near future. 

Who hid the caches in General Coffee State Park? The director of the park campground, pitty patty is responsible for this blessing. I appreciate her work and hope that these state parks with geocaches prosper due to the numerous geocaches who come and play the game there. 

We as geocachers must be careful not to destroy anything as we search for caches. All it takes is one or two careless cachers to ruin it for the rest. We need to keep the trails clean, not tear up the landscape as we rake away pine straw in search of caches. Just a small amount of attention to what we are doing will likely preserve geocaching in the state parks for us. Cache on!

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Revolutionary War Reenactment: Guilford Courthouse....and some caches!

The still before the storm
It got pretty smoky
March 16, 2013 was a beautiful, warm Spring Saturday in the North Carolina Piedmont. My wife was busy studying for her Spanish PRAXIS test so she was ready to get me out of the house. I don't have to be shoved too hard to get the idea that it might be time for me to go geocaching. We had both planned to go to the Revolutionary War reenactment at Guilford Courthouse National Military Park but the demands of study meant that I would have to go it alone. This celebration marked the 232nd anniversary of the battle. I loaded up some cache locations into my GPSr and hit the road. We live in High Point, NC close to where British General Earl Cornwallis and his men camped the night before the battle. The ten-mile drive to the battleground was easy until I hit the backed up traffic of all the folks just like me that were coming for the reenactment. I couldn't help but think what it must have been like for the British troops, rolled out of bed at 2 a.m. and force marched beyond New Garden Friends Meeting place to where they encountered General Nathaniel Greene's Patriot Army. In 20 minutes I'd covered what took them about six hours. I bet they would have wished they had GPSrs too. I followed instructions, parking in the Country Park area and began my 3/4 mile walk to the site of the mock battle. On the way I stopped into the reenactor's encampments and browsed through the small tent shops. They were selling wares such as candles, wooden swords, all the way to flintlock rifles and period clothing. After snapping a few pictures I moved on to the main event. As I got closer to the location for the mock battle the crowd grew. I estimate that we were maybe 500 people gathered behind the roped off area looking out into a large sloped open field bordered by trees on three sides. A gentleman dressed in a British officer's uniform was presenting some basic information on the activities that led up to the battle. Right at 2 p.m. a small contingency of dragoons (scouts on horseback) representing British forces rode into the field. They sent one scout out to see if there were enemy in the woods. The volley of musket fire was his response. Soon British regulars came from the east to join the battle. Each sub-unit fired separately so that the entire regiment wasn't reloading at the same time. Volley after volley was fired and the air was full of smoke. Then came the cannons. Although the reenactors operate with a significantly small force, the maneuvers and and fighting tactics portrayed today were true to the time of the Revolutionary War. Finally the British charged the first of three defensive lines that General Nathaniel Greene had organized. The first line was North Carolina Militia. The narrator was kind to say that they regrouped to the rear. Although it is true that Greene planned for a rapid disengagement in order to fight another day, history tells of the North Carolina troops breaking and running when the British regulars fixed bayonets and charged them. As the first line withdrew quickly into the woods and up the hill towards the second line of Virginia troops, the reenactment for the day ended. "Come back tomorrow to see how the battle ends", said the narrator. We all applauded the performance by reenactors from both sides. They continued with their chores of removing the wounded and the dead from the battlefield. Later I learned how they knew who was to fall in battle and who wouldn't. I was told that when you ran out of ammunition you were to fall down wounded or dead.

My favorite of the day!
With the battle over for the day I pulled myself up off the ground where I'd been sitting and headed out to find my first cache in the area. The first cache took me outside the National Military Park (there are no caches allowed here) and onto the grounds of the adjoining cemetery. I made a quick find at one of the gates to the cemetery, then in a small picnic area in a small park. I tracked to the GZ, finding that it was occupied by a young mother with her children. I sat down on a bench to wait and began double checking my readings. Sure enough, the cache had to be where they were. Finally I couldn't wait any longer. My presence was probably already a little strange. So I asked her permission to look under the metal picnic table. She agreed and immediately asked me if I was playing that Internet game. I told her I was and that it is called geocaching. She said she'd heard of it. She and her little daughter joined in on the hunt at the table. Finally the young mother came up with the cache. She was surprised at how much she enjoyed this. I explained the game and wrote down for her to learn more. 

Now it was time to back track back through the park. I'd come through an apartment complex and up a hill full of briers to get to these two caches. It was the same to get back. I crossed the cemetery, hit the trails in the battleground and was soon out the other side into Country Park. One of my favorite caches of the day, one that gave me a little headache to make the find, was Mother Nature's Stepson (GC3RHT8). It was a fun cache! I looked in all the obvious places for this small container. It just wasn't showing up at all. I began to extend the radius of my search. Still nothing. "It can't be", I thought. It was just found a few days ago. I returned to the GZ and crawled on hands and knees back into the bushes to look some more. I thought I'd looked everywhere when suddenly something that looked natural turned out to have a wire connected to it. I found it! I'm sure glad I didn't give up on this one too soon. 

There were two more caches in the park to be found. I head out after them. The last one was called Student Driver (GC217R6). It was a straight forward ammo box hidden in the most obvious place. I guess the name had to do with the mountain bike trail nearby. My only dilemma was that somewhere over the last kilometer I'd lost my only ink pen. I thought about taking a picture to send to the cache owner and asking permission to log it since I couldn't sign the cache. Then I looked down and saw that a brier had snagged my left wrist and I was bleeding ever so slightly. You got it. I stamped my blood onto the log sheet as proof of my presence there. I wrote this in the on-line log and hope the cache owner will be ok with my blood stamp. I guess if others have their fancy stamps I can have mine.

As I headed back to the car I was racing the clock. Numerous signs said the park gate would close promptly at 5 p.m. I drove out the gate with 15 minutes to spare. What a fun afternoon. I got a piece of history through seeing the first phase of the Battle of Guilford Courthouse reenacted. I also found six caches in and around the park. Thanks to all the cache hiders that make days like this possible! And thanks to those who reenact these battles.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Tragedy: The 1937 New London School Natural Gas Explosion

Monument to a tragedy
The official marker
sumajman & Mr. Davidson
The high school building that was built over the same ground
It happened 76 years ago tomorrow! Possibly the touring highlight of our trip to east Texas was our rainy day visit to the New London Memorial and Museum commemorating the deaths of many children and teachers on 18 March 1937 when the school exploded because of a natural gas leak. On our way from Houston to Carthage with our friends we asked about the region. That is when I heard about this tragic event some 76 years ago. When our friend offered to take us there we were quick to accept. A few days passed while we attended to other business. Finally the day to tour with our friend came. We arrived just before lunch. Pastor Ken Hylan of the New London Baptist Church and his lovely wife came to meet us at the small community restaurant that sits in front of the museum. We enjoyed a meal together before we were taken on a guided tour of the museum by docent John Davidson. According to the report after the investigation it appears that a natural gas leak (cause not certain) filled the crawl space below the floor of the new, modern school. Just a few minutes before school was to let out an electric sander was powered up. It sparked, setting off a terrible explosion. There was very little fire involved. The concussion wave and flying debri did the worse damage. Very few of the children and teachers survived. They know that 293 have been officially counted among the dead but are certain that there are more whose bodies were carried away by their grieving parents after the accident. The town was an oil town, thriving off the wealth that came from the production of natural gas and oil in the area. This part of Texas is oil field country. Many of the children belonged to the families of oil workers. Most had come in from outside the area in search of jobs. With the death of their children many were said to have taken their children's bodies and left the area for good. Many of the children are buried in a nearby cemetery. The museum tells the whole story. It includes old footage of the children practicing for a special dance just hours before the explosion that killed many of them. What moved me the most was our guide. Mr. Davidson's 14 year old sister was killed that day. His parents only planned to have one child. They had him after the tragedy. He wishes he could have known his sister but is assured that one day he will meet her in heaven. This is, after all, our greatest hope in Christ. We enjoyed learning about this day that has so marked this small town, even so many years later. Just across the street stands the newer school building. It was built soon after the explosion and was said to be the safest school building in America. In the median between the school and the museum/restaurant stands a memorial to those killed. It bears the names of each person. Nearby it is hidden a geocache entitled,  March 18, 1937 (GC34BCZ).

When we came out of the museum/restaurant the rain had stopped. We crossed to the median and tracked to the micro. It was sumajhuarmi who made the find while I was looking in all the wrong places. We signed the log and replaced the cache. We are thankful that caching and friends have brought this place to our attention. What a tragedy it was and what a good thing it is to remember those who suffered so much in this great loss.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Southside Virginia Geocachers Gathering 3/2/2013

Sumajman & El Novio

Door prize time!!!!

sumajhuarmi & El Novio making a find

What a place for a cool cache!!!!

Cool cache whatchamacallit thingy
It all started when I met Spring1 at a geocaching event in Randolph County, NC several weeks back. They indicated that they were having a Spring get together near Danville, Va. Then my daughter called from Lynchburg begging us to attend a very special honor ceremony at her school the same night. She said she would like to see us earlier in the day but couldn't as she had too much homework. Would we come later. You betcha!!! This gave us time to cache our way up and make it to the event: Spring Meet and Greet (GC45RG). We picked up our daughter's fiancee about 9 a.m. and headed north up Highway 29 out of the High Point/Greensboro area. All the way Arturo was practicing for a debate in English. He is studying at UNC-Greensboro in an intensive English-language program. We helped him with pronunciation and grammer so he could get the opening statement down just right.  We thought it would be a chance for him to learn something about a subset of our culture: geocaching and geocachers. We stopped and grabbed a hand full of caches in Angler Park in Danville. It is loaded and we'll have to come back to Danville specifically to hunt for caches in this great park. We continued our cache hunt right up until the 11 a.m. time for the meet and greet. When we got to the GZ the cars were already all around the quaint little Mom and Pop Country Style Cooking place called "The Corner Cafe". We made our way in past the Southside Virginia Geocacher Organization sign. We signed the event log and listed where we were from. Arturo isn't a geocacher but was loving the hunt on the way up. We quickly gave him a name (though not registered at He became El Novio, meaning "the fiancee" in Spanish. They gave us door prize tickets. From there we visited around, making new friends and seeing a few from North Carolina who had also traveled up this way. The owners of the Corner Cafe are geocachers as well so the environment was very geocacher-friendly. After a great meal and conversation with other geocachers the drawing for prizes began. El Novio won the door prize for having come the longest distance. He came from Mexico City. Then sumajhuarmi won a t-shirt from the cafe. I was the big winner in the end because the t-shirt was too big for sumajhuarmi and the El Novio gave me the nametag!

We left the Corner Cafe and headed north once again. We picked up several more caches along the way. One of particular interest was a thingamagit thingy hidden in an old abandon farm site. The hunt was easy and the clues would get a blind man to it. I don't think I'm giving much away here. I found the cache container to be the most interesting. I actually had a hard time getting the lid off. After a while it came off and there was the tiny log.

I love geocaching events. They provide the perfect excuse for driving off to a distant place and then caching your way there and back. By the way, the honors celebration that night was great. We are proud of our daughter for her good work at Liberty University!!

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Hatcher's Run Civil War Battlefield near Petersburg, Virginia and a cool cache

Memorial to fallen Confederate General John Pegram
Even in the snow we were able to get out to do a little geocaching and some historical site touring. While visiting with our friends, Don and Carol Poteat near Colonial Heights, Virginia the skies opened up and gave us a snowy, beautiful couple of days. While many of the church services were cancelled, Don felt confident in his ability to drive in the stuff so off we went to visit a historical site with significance to sumajhuarmi. I'd taken Don out and introduced him to geocaching the day before the snow started. He loved it and is already thinking of getting his own GPSr. This particular morning we were off to see the battlefield where sumajhuarmi's great great Grandfather Joseph Edwards, private in Company B, 54th NC Infantry Regiment, lost his life in battle.
sumajhuarmi reading about the battle accompanied by friend Don Poteat

A little history
In the late winter of 1864-1864 the 54th North Carolina Infantry Regiment was under siege along with the rest of General Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia. The NC 54th was located in the southern most extremes of the siege defense. On 6 February 1865 the weather changed for the better. It was an unseasonably warm spring-like day. The Union Army moved its cavalry to try to cut the Boydton Plank Road in hopes of cutting off any resupply efforts that might be taking place there. At the same time they hoped to gain a little more ground in their effort to tighten up the siege line around Richmond and Petersburg so they moved several infantry divisions further west. In response to the Union moves General Pegram's Confederate Division was order to counter them. As a result the two forces met at a small creek called Hatcher's Run. As Pegram's Division, including the 54th NC Infantry, moved forward, they were fiercely attacked by the Union forces. The battle raged as the front lines moved back and forth on the field. The terrain was wooden so much of the fighting was at close quarters. During the afternoon General Pegram fell mortally wounded. At some point in the battle so did Joseph Edwards. Family tradition remained from sumajhuarmi's grandmother that Joseph had been wounded but that they had left him out in the cold and he froze to death. We knew little else. I began my genealogy research some years back with only that information. I found a widow's pension with the state of NC filled in the 1890's which told me what unit he fought with. From there I was able to find out about this battle. It lines up. He was most likely among the wounded that fell that day. The records indicate that during the afternoon the weather abruptly changed to rain, the freezing rain and that many of the wounded died of exposure. We think that Joesph was buried in the mass grave to NC troops in Petersburg's Old Blandford Church cemetery. We don't really know. We appreciate Don and Carol taking us to see this site. It has great meaning to our family. It is hard to imagine what life was like for Mary Sullivan Edwards with five boys when here husband didn't come home from the war. God was good and protected them through the years. That's another story for another time.

The bonus for this excursion was a geocache hunt very near the small monument to General Pegram. It was an offset cache known as Hatcher's Run 2 (GC1RV6E). Unfortunately this cache may need the owners attention to verify what we suspect. The cacher ahead of me plus our three pairs of eyes simply could not find it. It being a pretty large regular size cache leads us to believe that it is gone. Maybe it is there and we missed it. If verified we sure will look for an opportunity to go back and look for it again.

I like offset caches because they often bring in a few of those pirate treasure hunting skills to play. You know what I mean. You take so many steps to the east and then so many steps to the north until you see the broken gate post or something like that. We followed the instructions and were 100% sure we were at the right spot but found no cache. It would have been nice to have found the cache but the real joy was the hunt itself and the joy of being able to see a place that was important to our family. Thanks to the cache owner, The Fonz, for placing it. Now to find some more historically significant caches...