I am a proud

Sunday, April 28, 2013

The Asheville Urban Trail and geocaches --- North Carolina Mountains

Close-up photo of the Asheville Urban Trail
After a soggy, rainy day yesterday we were delighted to wake to clear blue skies this morning. The sun was shining brightly and the wind died down too. We made our way into Asheville, NC with a couple hour stopover at The Cove...the Billy Graham training center. The tour of the visitor's center and the chapel were excellent. From there we headed into the heart of Asheville to do the Urban Trail. We grabbed a few caches on Tunnel Road on the way but soon found parking near Pack Square and began our adventure. I won't mention all the stops on the tour. If you are interested you can check them out on the above link. A few do desire a mention and maybe a photo. Interspersed with the urban trail sites were a few caches. The highlights are as follows:
Elizabeth Blackwell, MD
  • Elizabeth Blackwell, MD --- little did we know that the first American woman to earn her M.D. was from Asheville. Check out the bench in her honor!
  • Tops for Caches (GCHEHW) - we approached the cache from the west. As we got close we saw that a fellow was sitting on a bench nearby. At first we thought he would prevent us from finding the cache without giving it away. Not to worry! We sat down nearby. The first place my hand touched while my eyes were on Mr. Muggle was the cache itself! Job completed and Mr. Muggle was none the wiser.

Loads of ironing to do!
  • Flat Iron --- another of the Urban Trail sites. This one is even mentioned in Roadside America, a guide to off-the-beaten path types of things to see. What an iron! There was a musician playing some pretty good saxiphone in front of the iron. It's a good thing it can't fall over or he'd have been flattened. sumajhuarmi put some change in his open case to encourage him to keep on playing.

sumajhuarmi on the Cat Walk
  • Cat Walk --- another UT site. The wall that holds up Wall Street used to have cat walks so deliveries could be made to the second story stores. All that is gone today but the artist's work (cats and all) remains.

What is it?
  • Paley's Passion (GCJKC9) - strange art work that didn't make the UT but because of the cache we had to stop by. What is it?

For the birds

St. Lawrence
  • Puzzle Cache: Cache of St. Lawrence (GC38M7R) - This was an offset cache and was lots of fun. At first our eyes didn't focus well enough to get all the info. Once we go our heads on straight it all came together. Fun cache!
  • FYW - Wolfe micro - This one had me down on my hands and knees looking for it. It was kind of hard to be stealthy beside a busy street like this. Found it though!
  • The Asheville Urban Trail #21 (GCGNDA) - this one is a virtual. Had a good time with it. The music machine was interesting.
Strange sound machine
We spent almost four hours on the trail with these caches and sites. Downtown Asheville has some interesting sites to see. The shops and restaurants along the way are nice. Some are sidewalk cafes. The Mellow Mushroom was the most interesting looking of them all. If you get the opportunity to visit Asheville, NC, check out the Urban Trail and all it has to offer. Maybe there will be caches associated with each site in the future. Keep on caching!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

A fun cemetery cache in ArkLaTex - Longbranch, TX

Long Branch cemetery, Longbranch, TX
Natural Gas well seen along the walk
Old Hamilton Home place along the walk to the GZ
More sightings along the way
 Our journey began in High Point, NC. We drove to the Raleigh-Durham Airport early in the morning to catch our flight out to Houston for a series of speaking engagements in the East Texas Baptist Area, made up of several counties like Shelby, Rusk, Panola and others. Upon arrival in Houston we were met by two very kind Baptist gentlemen who drove us the three hours it took to get out into the countryside between the crossroads of Clayton and the small town of Mt. Enterprise, TX. These fellas were muggles and the time didn't really offer and opportunity to make stops along the way. We were safely delivered to the home of our hosts (we did not know them before) but were given the warmest of welcomes. The next day my host and I set out to walk over to a local community cemetery. There is a local east Texas geocacher who has a series of caches in cemeteries. The walk was only about 1.5 miles one way so we walked and talked. I was intrigued by the history of the region. I learned a lot. ArkLaTex is the term used for the socio-economic area made up of the location where the states of Arkansas, Louisiana and Texas meet. It is also an area rich in oil and natural gas production. My new friend told me about his wife's family's connection to this land. We passed her great grandparents old house, an old abandoned truck in a field, and numerous natural gas pumping stations along the way. The cemetery we were walking to was in fact his wife's ancestor's cemetery. As we approached the GZ we slipped into the front gate of the Long Branch Cemetery. There were about 50 feet left to reach the cache. At first I thought that the cache would be outside the cemetery but now it was obvious I was wrong. Now if I were hiding a cache here where would I hide it? I began to look in several possible locations but could not find the cache. Several of those locations consisted of plant life but the life had gone out of the plants. I began poking around but with no luck. My friend called me over to show me his headstone (and that of his wife). This made me aware that this was also his cemetery and future resting place. I thought for a second that he might think placing a geocache in a cemetery to be disrespectful. He never did, showing interest in this sport. After looking at the headstone he had chosen and after looking at the headstones of other family members, we were ready to go. I'd not found the cache and had decided it was gone. I turned to take one last longing look at GZ as we were going. I saw a tree coming up out of the area I'd been searching. I'd not really looked close enough right around the tree. I returned and within seconds had the cache in my hands. As my friend watched me sign the log sheet he was commenting on how he had no idea that people were doing this all over the place. We had found Lone Branch (GC18MWX)! The walk back was as informative as the walk out. I was hoping that as I traveled around the area to visit the churches the rest of the week I'd be able to pick up a few more caches. I love east Texas. The rolling hills, the trees and the geocaches. I hope I can come back.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

The Headwaters of the Uwharrie River -- Hiking and caching the ATV trails

Small tributary leading into Uwharrie River
Here in North Carolina the weather has gone from winter directly to summer. Where is the spring? Not to be slowed down by the sudden wave of hot weather, sumajhuarmi and I left home early in the morning to find a cluster of geocaches in the woods near Trintiy, NC. The drive to the location only took about 20 minutes. We found the recommended parking, locked up the car and headed into the woods with our walking sticks, liquids, swag bag and GPSr. We trekked to the first cache, a micro in the woods. Rock' en Falls (GC1P1MR) was along a creek which is the eastern tributary giving birth to the Uwharrie River. The Uwharrie River flows south into Montgomery County and through one of my favorite geocaching areas, The Uwharrie National Forest. It is a great place for hiking, biking, caching, camping, boating. You name it. Our North Carolina Geocachers Organization has held at least one event there too. So here we were caching the very headwaters of this important river just south of High Point, NC. We descended the hill to the creek, crossed on the rocks at a small waterfall and began the search. Even with the clue this one took us a few minutes to find. sumajhuarmi went back and looked in places I'd had my hand before and came up with the cache. I'm so glad she comes along on these trips with me! It had been almost a year since this one had been logged. It was in great shape and well-hidden.

sumajman at Rock' en Falls
We trekked south along the creek until we came into sight of some fancy houses a few hundred meters up the hill from us on the east side of the creek Our next cache took us in the opposite direction. We climbed up from the creek towards the distant backyard of a lone house. The dogs were making a lot of noise so we moved quickly to find Home Sweet Home (GC1PJY9) a small, easy cache about .20 from the barking dogs. This one had also gone almost a year without a find.

We moved back to the creek, crossed it and started up a well-used All Terrain Vehicle (ATV) trail. I suspect that weekends are busy out here with ATVs running all over the place. Today we had the woods to ourselves. We climbed up the hill in search of Got Dynamite? (GC1EDRN). As we crossed the crisscrossing ATV trails we made our way up to some large boulders. As we searched for the "dynamite hole" we had a little bounce in our signal. Finally we found it. The hole ran from the top surface through to the bottom of a large rock. The top hole was covered with a rock. Once I lifted it I could see through to the bottom where another rock blocked the base of the hole. When I removed that rock there was the rather large bison tube. This cache had not been found in almost 14 months but was in great shape. We signed the log, took a few pictures and headed on for the rest of the caches.
Got Dynamite? 

Within the Bark (GC1Q0VR)
Within the Bark
was a nice, easy ammo can in the woods. It was just sticking out of a small whole in the tree truck on the opposite side of the ATV paths. We pulled out the log and signed it. These caches didn't have much worth trading, although this one provided me the opportunity to drop my signature item (a stick crayon from Ecuador) for a small key chain). Yep, it had been 14 months since this one was last found. 

We moved on to the most challenging of the caches of the day. Introduced, Then Despised (GC1W0P0) turned out to be a hard one. We trekked up the hill into an area full of dead kudzu vines. I suspect that they have sprayed to kill them out. We crossed this area using the ATV trails. On the other side we found that the chemicals had not been used. Kudzu survived in a corner of the area. That was our GZ. We marked off the location,
Upper eastern Uwharrie tributary and Kudzu world
dropped our packs and started the search. It was not easy going as the stuff was thick. We looked into some openings in the kudzu, apparently made by other caches in the distant past. It had been 14 months since this one had been found too. We walked out and walked back in with the GPSr. Based on only a slight change in our GZ we extended our search area out and poked through all the obvious places. There were slight signs of past geo-trails but none led to the cache. After about 45 minutes sumajhuarmi called it dead and we packed it up and moved on. I suspect it is there, just well-hidden. I later logged the DNF nonetheless.

Now where did we leave the car? sumajhuarmi had asked me if I marked the location of the car before leaving it. I hadn't. That is an important thing to do when traveling in unknown woods. I had left the closest cache to the car in the GPSr so I was confident I could find the car. We picked up two more caches along the way out. Guiding myself by the location of our first cache I was able to find the trail leading out to our car. This unnamed woods and unnamed creek crisscrossed with ATV trails provided us with a fun geocaching experience. Apparently the area isn't frequented much by many geocachers. I'm not sure why. I recommend it to all my Triad Ceocaching buddies!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Horn of the West: Geocaching in Boone, NC

sumajhuarmi....back where we started dating!
One of my favorite places is Boone, NC. Many years ago I wanted to be a public high school teacher so I set out on the four-year adventure of preparing for that vocation. I did it at Appalachian State University. Compared to today it was a small college. The campus has grown significantly since my days there. Recently sumajhuarmi and I had the opportunity to spend a few days in and around Boone. We got in some geocaching while there.

sumajman with friend Daniel Boone

Since we had gotten in late in the afternoon we spent the last hours of daylight walking around and reminiscing.  We decided to come back the next day to find the one on campus. Boy had the weather changed! There weren't many students wondering around in the cold and rain. We made our way to the GZ and then had to scratch our heads. Finally we figured it out and made the find. We had a great view from the GZ but soon had to take shelter from the cold wind. At the top (GC16EAFT) was a fun cache! 


When sumajhuarmi lived on campus she had to park her car at a tourist attraction not too far from campus. It is called Horn of the West, an outdoor drama depicting life in the mountains during the 18th century. We had read about Strawberry Hill (GZ2HYMW), located on the hill overlooking the facility. We drove to the old parking lot. This was off season and the drama was closed. We parked in a parking spot close to the road and began our steep climb up a partly grassy and partly wooded hill. We were huffing and puffing but made it up the hill just fine. This cache referred you to a geodetic marker named "Horn". I understand some people hunt these just like I go for the caches. Most of them will get to some great locations with great vistas of the countryside. While the view wasn't anything spectacular, the hunt was fun. I'd have classified this cache as an offset cache since the instructions since my GZ was in the area of the geodetic disk. It actually took us a while to find the geodetic disk. The grass had grown up and it was covered. When we found the disk we were able to then estimate the location of the cache itself. All in all, it was worth the climb up the hill and it was fun using angles and foot measures to find the cache. I may have to look for some more hybrid letterbox caches soon. On our way down the hill we noticed a security vehicle parked behind our car. It looked like we were in for a scolding but we were able to get in our car and drive away.

If you get the chance be sure to visit Boone, named after the famous explorer and hunter. Yes, he passed through these parts.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

General Coffee State Park, Georgia --- a great day of caching!

sumajhuarmi on the hunt
A great Georgia State Park to visit is General Coffee State Park just east of Douglas, Georgia. We were in a conference in the area and had a free day. Of all the days that week this was the most beautiful day. Given the warnings from the cache owner about the need for insect repellent, extra water for hydration, etc. it was great to go after these caches on an unseasonably warm spring-like day in February. We pulled into the main gate of the park and over to the side to visit the ranger station and store. We began our search with a cache at the welcome sign. It was proving to be difficult. We finally gave up. We went into the store to purchase the necessary $5 day pass for the park (one pass per vehicle) when two female rangers told us they would help us locate the cache. Sure enough they helped us find this nano of a cache. We bought our pass and headed out.

Spanish moss everywhere!
We drove the car about 1/4 mile into the state park where we left it near the first series of shelters. From there we began the 2.8 mile circuit to pick up geocaches. The Seventeen Mile River runs north/south through the park. We began our search on the west side of the river. The second cache we looked for eluded us. While we were looking for it a couple drove up and asked if we were geocachers. Turns out they were also. We had the pleasure of getting to know davissa, a couple from near Atlanta. They gave us a clue and we were able to find the cache. The coordinates for this cache seemed to be significantly off. We reported that in our log later. We said good-bye and headed down the trail while they headed up the road in their truck.
My favorite kind of cache

The boardwalk crossing 17 mile river
We found several nice caches along the way. We were traveling along a trail bordering the river to our right. It is a slow-moving river that actually looks like a swamp with all the cypress trees in it. I was carrying some travel bugs to drop. It was great to find caches large enough to receive them. As we were just tracking up to Steel Magnolia (GC45WQP), divissa appeared coming down the trail from the opposite direction. They had searched for this one the day before with no luck. We found our ground zero quickly and there it was.
17 Mile River

Swamp edge caching
We moved on down the trail. Finally the trail gave way to a camp area. We came upon some campers as we cut across the open camp area. The trees were full of Spanish moss. The next cache promised to be interesting. It was Rollin' Stones Gather no **** (GC45TTP). We began to search the area and soon came up with the unique container. By this point we were in sandy land with Georgia pines all around. Some of the smaller trees were loaded with Spanish moss.

We continued our hike around the loop at the northwest end of the park, cutting off the trail to join a new trail. We were able to find all the caches along the trail. Thanks to a local Boy Scout troop we found an ammo can too.

I particularly enjoyed the boardwalk that crosses the Seventeen Mile River. There is a cache on it as well. We darted across the boardwalk to the other side to pick up one cache, not knowing whether we'd get to do the caches on the east side of the river. We then came back and tracked down the trail to our car. Before leaving we hit some more caches near an interpretive farm representing the type of log cabins used during the mid-1800's.

We looked at our watches and decided we better try to get a few more caches in before going back to the hotel and preparing for the evening speaking engagements. We drove across the river on the highway bridge and turned into the east side entrance. We had the pass code so we punched it in and the gate swung open for us. We drove up that rode, stopping periodically and gathered in about four more caches before time to go.

It was a great day. But it wasn't over yet! Two days later our conference leader brought the whole group speakers out to the park to see the log cabins and staged farm community. I told the director of missions about geocaching. He and one other speaker went with me to find four more caches along the edge of the park at the highway. They were amazed and seemed to have had a good time.

Come try out General Coffee State Park. It will be worth your time to find these caches and see what a south Georgia swamp looks like.

Pastor Joseph Lee on the Meeks cabin, home to his cousin and currently home to a geocache

A new geocacher (left) and the Director of Missions for the Smyrna Baptist Association (right)

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Geocaching the Lookout Mountain Trail, Montreat, NC

Montreat from the Lookout
We spent several days in Ridgecrest, NC with Rattlesnake Mountain looking down on us. Several years back sumajhuarmi and I climbed it to get a great view of the pass at Black Mountain. This time we were interested in more than the view, we were interested in finding three geocaches nestled along the ridge line that towers above Rattlesnake. We were interested in climbing Lookout Mountain to get these. At first I thought we would take Rattlesnake Trail from its namesake mountain over to Lookout Mountain. Then I saw the many geocaches that Montreat offers and decided to approach this mountain from the Montreat side.

Photo of the trail map
On the Lookout

We set out early on an overcast morning. The temperatures were in the 40's and the wind was moderate. We found our way up through the community of Montreat to the trailhead where we parked the car. With our hiking sticks, water, swag bag and GPSr we were off. The first leg of the climb paralleled Puncheon Branch which was completely enshrouded in Rhododendron. After about ten minutes the trail, embellished with yellow diamonds to mark the way, veered off to the south perpendicular to Puncheon. We slowly wound our way around the to the southwest, climbing higher as we went. The trail proved to be a moderate difficulty. We made good time. We reached the Lookout at 3629 feet elevation above mean sea level. This was a rock plateau of sorts sitting on a knoll which through another saddle connected to the rest of Lookout Mountain. It had taken us about 50 minutes to get here and we had gaining approximately 1000 feet in elevation. From there we had a gorgeous view of the Montreat Cove.

Unusual cache container near Lookout Summit
From the Lookout we passed down into the saddle and began a short climb to Lookout Mountain summit and a ridge line running northeast. When we reached the ridge line we were at the junction of the Lookout Mountain and East Ridge Trails. The first cache lay only a few hundred feet from that there. As we approached it I wondered what clue might be found in the name of the cache. Atypical #26: Rear Window? (GC1AC9K) was on the southeastern side of the ridge line but the trees would not afford us a view of Ridgecrest below. The search for the cache took us about ten minutes. The regular size container was a surprise. The clue said "Balboa-ish". Now I understand....I think. We signed the log, re-hid the cache and were on our way again. We passed a marker with the name Tyson Miller. Who was Tyson? Did he die in a fall? I'm used to seeing memorials to climbers at much higher elevation and cold than this. What happened here?

Lookout Summit and ridge line to Boggs Bunion in background
The next two caches were both within .2 miles of each other. As we began moving up the ridge line, the mountain sloped off in opposite directions, one towards Montreat and the other towards Ridgecrest. We could see the facilities of both retreat centers below us now. The hike was now ease as we only had a gradual change in elevation along the ridge. The second cache, a regular, was an ease find stashed in the open deep in the rhododendron just about 80 feet off the trail. Somewhere on Lookout Mountain (GC3AWX4) had a pair of Bushnell binoculars in it. At first I was scrambling to put together enough swag to trade evenly for the Bushnells. Then I discovered that the binoculars were damaged and changed my mind. We signed the log and returned the cache to its place on the open ground. It didn't matter as no one will ever see it unless they are specifically in this growth to find it.

sumajhuarmi, Montreat behind her
We joined the East Ridge Trail again and hiked to the next summit. It was only about half a mile to get to Boggs Bunion at 3887 feet elevation. Just a short distance beyond the summit on the northern slope we found the last cache, Montreat Treat, Mon! (GC1AC9X). This regular cache was out in the open. From the cache page I knew that either rain or an animal had dislodged it. We signed the log and then secured it in the intended location. We had made the climb, including finding three caches in 1.5 hours. Now the Sun was coming out and warming us up a little. sumajhuarmi and I pray together each morning. We had decided to save our prayer time for this summit. We sat in the warmth of the sun and out of the wind on the leeward side of the mountain.

Our hike down the mountain was easy. We stopped for several breath-taking views of the valley. I know that we could have run up our cache count by sticking to the micros down along Interstate 40 or in Asheville today. In the 2.5 hours we invested in this hunt we only found three caches. Yet the experience of hiking the mountain and finding the harder caches make a LPC (lamp post cache) or a guardrail cache seem like a waste of time.

I hope you'll get the chance to visit the North Carolina mountains. The trials are great and the caching is too!