I am a proud

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Papallachta: Thermal Pools on the Rim of Ecuador's Highlands

One of our favorite places to visit when we lived in Ecuador was Papallacta. That could be translated "Potato Town" if you want to break down the Quichua language. Papallacta is only about one hour east of Quito, just across the eastern rim of the mountains defining the high valley that makes up the highlands of Ecuador. As you depart Quito you travel down into the Valle de los Chillos and then begin to climb up towards the mountain ridge that separates the highland valley from the slopes leading down to the high jungle where the Amazon Basin begins. The drive is great and you pass through an area where there are a few geocaches worth your time. As you pass through Cumbaya be sure to stop in and check out the caches along the railroad track that is now a bike trail. Check out the several caches along the trail, starting with El Chaquinan. Quebrada San Pedro (GC34OR4). Once you leave Cumbaya you will begin the climb up to the often cloud covered ridge where you begin your decent. Papallacta is just a short distance down the mountain.
by sarah.a.m-s
There are no caches currently at Papallacta but if you go through the little community where the thermal pools are, you can get permission from the security guard to open the gate and allow you to drive up into the national park above Papallacta. There is a cache there just before you get up to some beautiful trails and lakes. Be sure to visit Campsite (GC2CKNX). This is one of mine and it doesn't get too many visits. It's off the beaten path. It's in the midst of pure beauty worth your time. Only the serious hikers and cachers get up here. It's not that hard. I guess the allure of the hot pools at Papallacta captures the majority of the tourist. I made my campsite right beside where the cache is located. I remember a full moon at 1 a.m.
when I caught an moonlit view of volcano Antisana. What beauty to behold on that cold night high in the Andes!

If you can swing it, I suggest that you plan to spend the night in Papallacta. Stay at the thermal pools. They have a nice hotel. You'll have the option of staying in individual rooms or renting a cabin. There's a great restaurant there as well. The highlight is the thermal pools. There are numerous pools, some hot, some cold and some in between. Some pools are for two or three people, others are large pools big enough for swimming. There's
nothing like a soak in these pools while looking up at Antisana towering overhead. I particularly enjoyed the little hot water fall in one of the larger pools.

Be sure to stop on the way over or on the way back at the highest point on your trip. There's a
by Andrew Neild
small stone chapel of sorts dedicated to the Virgin. This place is more than not shrouded in clouds. I've hidden caches here before but they don't survive. Maybe you can place one that will last for years.

Ecuador is a beautiful place. I consider it my second home. I've not been back for almost a year and a half. I miss the country, the culture and the special people there. I hope you can visit this beautiful country and its gracious people!

For information on these photos visit

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Cordell Hull Birthplace Geocaching

While on a trip into the Cumberland Plateau of Tennessee I had the chance to skirt up near the Kentucky border and find a cache called Peaceful Beginnings (GCK9JN). At first I didn't know what this was all about. The cache page doesn't say much about what to expect. When I arrived and saw the name of the highway leading out to the GZ, I figured out the historical significance of this location. Cordell Hull, famous for his involvement in bring into being the United Nations, is a favored son of Tennessee. When I got to the park it was closed. The skies were heavy and ready to rain on me. It had been raining already. I tracked to the GZ and started one of those crazy bush hunts. Within a few minutes I had the cache and was on my way down the path to see some of the other buildings that are part of the Cordell Hull home place. I couldn't go inside as all was locked up but the site was very interesting. This part of Tennessee is pretty!

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Geocaching and the Autumn Leaves Festival in Mayberry!

Autumn Leaves Festival
Well, they claim it's Mayberry on most of the store signs. There's the Mayberry store for this and for that. Mount Airy, NC, the home of Andy Griffith is the inspiration for the Mayberry we watched, and still watch, on TV. This past weekend Mount Airy celebrated the Autumn Leaves Festival. They closed off the main street and many of the side streets so that they could fill them with crafts, Bluegrass Music and tourist from all over the state and parts beyond. As you walked through the downtown section you could visit Snappy's and get a great sandwich, you could visit Floyd's Barber Shop, Wally's Garage and if you were on the outskirts of the cordoned off area, you
Walkers Soda Fountain
could see Andy's squad car riding folks around town.

Staircase caching
Andy's squad car
We made our way from High Point, NC up to "Mayberry" yesterday. It was a nice fall day so the 1-hour trip via Winston-Salem and Pilot Mountain was beautiful to take in. We arrived and were immediately confronted with lots of $5 parking signs. Just The early worm catches the ??? (GC3T5Z7). From the title we knew it would have to do with a bird. Nice cache. I hope you can find it. It has racked up some favorite points. From there we Mighty Mouse (GC4H62R). It was also a staircase cache. This time it was in a very muggle-rich area where folks were sitting around eating their funnel cakes and BBQ sandwiches. One fellow was sitting on the very same staircase. My grandson and I were able to lean up against the staircase and casually take a look underneath. There it was. But it wasn't at all what I expected. We signed the log and then casually replaced it and I don't think anyone knew the better.
Andy and Opie
a little bit of looking proved worthwhile as we found parking along a neighborhood road just two blocks from one end of the festival. I, along with one of my daughters and three of my grandchildren walked the area twice, checking out all the nice
tracked to the second cache. It was entitled,
booths with their crafts, food and music. Everyone found something to take home. We couldn't afford to wait in the long line for Snappy's so we found the Walker Soda Fountain to be a real nice alternative for lunch. Once we had shopped a little we took off after a few caches in the area. Most of the ones in the downtown area where the festival was taking place turned out to be staircase caches. These are the ones where you find a magnetic cache up under a metal exterior staircase. The first one was

The next cache was on our way home. It was just a few blocks outside the Festival area. Mayberry
Pilot Park & Ride cache
Reflections (GCJF9C)
 was right near the Andy Griffith Museum. Just feet away was a beautiful bronze statue of Andy and Opie walking with their fishing poles. it was designed after the lead in to the Andy Griffith Show. The cache was located within feet of this statute and on a day like today there was a steady line of folks wanting their picture taken beside the statue, me included. We were able to stealthily remove the 35mm canister, sign the log and replace it without being noticed.

The day was still young so we decided to grab a few more caches on the way home. We stopped in Pilot Mountain (the town) at the Park and Ride to find a cache. Pilot Park & Ride (GC42Q79) was a nice cache. One of my grandsons came up with it right away. No muggle traffic there! Then we went on to the real Pilot Mountain. Being a state park it was open even though much of the federal government is shut down at this time. We drove to the top and saw the lay of the land to the north and the south. My daughter had never been there so she enjoyed the view and got some great selfies with the pilot in the background.

We made it home in a little over an hour. Winston-Salem traffic was a little heavier due to the Dixie Classic Fair. We will have to go to that one next year. The day was great. We capped it off a few hours later all getting together at our house for supper together. Our three daughters and all our grand kids had a great time. After all, the three son-in-laws are out on a boat deep sea fishing this weekend off the coast. We deserve to have a little fun too! If you ever get a chance to visit Mount Airy, NC be sure to see the Andy Griffith related sights all over town. Check out the caches around town too. They are plentiful.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Mountain Trail Hiking and geocaching the Over-the-Mountain Men Victory Trail

Sycamore Shoals Monument -- thanks to dmott9
Previously I blogged about the Battle of Kings Mountain fought along the NC-SC border near where I-85 passes through. My 5th great grandfather on my mother's side, a German by the name of Martin Luther Roller, was a part of Isaac Shelby's force which marched across the mountains from present-day Elizabethton, TN to Kings Mountain, SC. It was great to walk that battlefield and see the lay of the land where Martin fought in October 1780.

There is a back story to this battle involving about 1000 over-the-mountain men from Tennessee and Virginia. At that time the Tennessee settlements were consider a part of North Carolina's Washington County. Earlier in 1780 a contingent of men from that region had gone to fight a harassing campaign against the British and their Loyalist partners in the upcountry of South Carolina. They became a nuisance for British General Cornwallis. For that reason he dispatched British Major Ferguson to deal with them. In one battle in South Carolina Ferguson routed the Patriot forces and took one of the men prisoner. He released him with a message to
thanks to Drstevo
take across the mountains to the settlers there. It declared that if they did not lay down their arms he would "march his army over the mountains, hang their leaders, and lay waster the country with fire and sword." As can be expected, this threat did not sit well with the independent minded settlers of the frontier. 

Soon the word was spread and a general call to arms issued. Frontiersmen from southwestern Virginia and East Tennessee came to a meeting place called Sycamore Shoals (today: Elizabethton, TN). It was late September 1780. They were inspired by the preaching of Rev. Samuel Doak. His preaching encouraged them in their endeavor to defend their freedom. That very day, September 26th, they set out in pursuit of Major Ferguson. You can follow their trail for almost a week on horseback each fall if you want to reenact the experience.

If you want you can hit a whole chain of Over the Mountain theme caches in Elizabethton. It not, start with geocache OverMountain Man (GC3RQ8T) and get a good view of the city where it all started. They made camp near Roan Mountain and continued on the next day to what along the North Toe River to what is now Spruce Pine, North Carolina. You won't find any theme related caches along the "victory trail" but there are a few caches not related to the Over-the-Mountain men and their march. The forces split up only to rejoin at Quaker Meadows, now called Morganton, NC. There they met up with more North Carolina and South Carolina patriots and reached a force of close to 1000 men. News of Ferguson's movements called them further southwest. They reached modern day Rutherfordton by October 4th. It was then called Gilbert Town and had been the base for operations for Ferguson. The enemy was not there as they had evacuated in order to get closer to the main British force. Rutherfordton has its share of caches for you to find. You'll have to go south into South Carolina to reach the Cowpens, the sight of a subsequent Patriot victory the following year, in order to pick up the trail to Kings Mountain again. Be sure to visit Cowpens National Battlefield Trailhead Cache (GC2DZ70). While at Cowpens on
Ferguson's Grave at Kings Mountain
October 6th a spy revealed that Ferguson was attempting to set up a defense on Kings Mountain, some 48 kilometers further east. An overnight forced march brought the Over-the-Mountain Men to the base of Kings Mountain by the next morning. To read the rest of the story check out my blog from January 20th entitled, "Kings Mountain Virtual: Hostory with a Cache". Be sure to go for geocache Ferguson's Folly (GCD80), a virtual located on the battlefield.

I'm proud to be the descendant of Martin Luther Roller. I'm proud of his participation in this march and the subsequent battle. The bravery of these frontier men and their unwillingness to allow violence from the British to arrive at their door inspires me. I'm proud that they took the fight to the British instead! While retracing this trip won't get you a lot of theme related caches, you'll get your fair share of caches along the way.