el diablo robotico (platypus) wrote,
el diablo robotico

Ken and I had a three-day weekend -- the UC system observes Cesar Chavez day on the last Friday in March. We spent the whole thing geocaching.

On Friday, we started with Mirror, Mirror, Masquerade, which looked intriguing. We brought along a mirror, but couldn't find anything at the first waypoint, even though an employee at a nearby sporting goods shop(!) told us we were looking in the right place. (I sort of hate it when caches are put in places where people can't help but see you looking for them -- and then the cache owner warns of "muggles" and exhorts you to be stealthy, like it's your problem. But it's fun when the people who live or work nearby are in on it.) We thought the next coordinates would be under a lip of a manhole-like cover, a place where they could only be seen with the use of a mirror; the clue for the first waypoint was "toes," which fit with the coordinates being hidden somewhere at ground level. But the area was pretty dirty, and we weren't seeing anything at all.

Eventually the same store employee wandered by again, and I asked if he knew exactly what people were looking at in this spot, but he didn't. He just knew that people kept coming by and poking around. "I think there's another one over there," he said, gesturing across the parking lot.

We knew from the cache description that the second waypoint was approximately 200 feet away. We knew what direction the guy from the shop had pointed. And we had the next hint: "hips." So we searched by brute force... and we found it. Hip-high, under a railing. It was printed backwards, so you could read it by sticking the mirror under the rail. Nifty! I guess the first waypoint was simply missing.

The new set of coordinates took us back across the parking lot, into some bushes. This was, presumably, going to be the "masquerade" portion of "mirror, mirror, masquerade," not that we knew what that would mean. But eventually I found it -- a black mask hanging in the bush, with camouflaging leaves glued to it and a film canister attached to the back. Victory!

We went on to do fourteen other caches that evening, mostly simple urban stuff. With our caching problems in Georgia (a corrupted gpx file left us cache-less at Stone Mountain), we'd fallen behind our vague goal of finding 100 caches in March, but a good weekend could put us back on track. So we set out to have one.

We tried to do some urban caches around a shopping center on Saturday, but two of them seemed to be missing and we quickly got sick of crowds. There was even a security guy patrolling on a Segway. We weren't really familiar with the neighborhood -- we keep having to go farther and farther from home to find big groups of caches -- so we had some other frustrations just trying to figure out where to park for the various caches we wanted to find.

Finally, we decided to hit a string of caches along a nearby bike trail. It's a really nice trail -- wide paved lane on one side for bikes, wide dirt lane on the other for pedestrians and horses.

After you've been geocaching for a while, you develop a good sense of where and how caches might be hidden. This suspicious pile of rocks was almost too obvious -- "Gee, I wonder where the cache is hidden," I said. Ken joked that he was going to log the find on the GPSr before even moving the rocks.

But the joke was on us -- no cache here! Just a pile of rocks. Why? Who knows? (We piled them back up when we were done.)

Ah, there's the cache. (Right in the middle, not even covered up -- decent camouflage!)

A ways down the trail, at another cache in the same series. Not making any assumptions this time, but it does make sense to check out the pile of rocks...

Yep, this time it was there.

Bunny on the trail in the distance.

We'd originally set out to find five caches along this segment of trail, but it turned out we could get eight by going just a little farther. The only problem with that was that we found cache #6 at sunset, and then we needed to double back and head in the other direction for #7 and #8. We really wanted to finish the whole set, because it would be silly to return for just two more caches some other time.

But we didn't have flashlights. I'd left them in the car, expecting to be back by sunset. When we arrived at cache #7, the light was fading fast; it was hard to even see the bushes in the murkiness, much less search them for a little piece of camouflaged tupperware.

So I started using the flash on my camera to illuminate the bushes. This did not work particularly well; it's such a brief flash of light. And the screen on the camera is so tiny it's hard to examine the resulting images in any detail. We were close to giving up.

Nothing there...

Nothing there either...

CACHE. I still can't believe it.

We continued another tenth of a mile to the final cache, as it got even darker. This one had a pretty good hint, which restricted our search to a few feet of bush -- but that's plenty to search when you can't see. The bush was so dense that I didn't think a picture was going to help this time.

So I cranked the backlight on the GPSr up to maximum, and used it as a really pathetic flashlight. It only cast light for a few inches, but I FOUND THE CACHE. I'm on a roll lately.

On our way back to the car we heard frog song. Totally worth staying after dark for. (No, you can't see anything interesting in the video, but you can hear them, and I don't have any audio-only recording capacity.)

And then it was time for the main event of the evening -- a night cache with a trail of reflectors. This one was not as spectacular as some we've done, because it was mostly linear walking on a paved path; we hardly needed the reflectors to guide us along when there weren't any choices to make. But it got interesting when the reflectors started showing up on trees and benches and garbage bins instead of just sprinkler heads, like they had been for the first few hundred feet. Actually having to search for the reflectors was fun.

Finally the reflectors guided us off the paved path into a little patch of woods.

Double reflectors mean the cache is hidden there!

In this tree.


It's hanging -- disguised as a birdhouse.


The next day, we went to Tierrasanta for a loop of suburban caches, mostly right off the sidewalk. It's a very pretty area.

Snail hanging out on a film canister cache.

Neighborhood view.

One cache was down this 2092-meter trail. Oddly specific, isn't it? Luckily it was less than 2092 meters down.

12 May 1911? A TIME TRAVELER SIGNED THIS LOG! Oh, wait, that's 12 March 11. Damn.

Oh, hell, I just realized that I signed 3/27/10. SPEAKING OF TIME TRAVEL. I really thought I was past putting the wrong year on things.

These camouflage-taped pill bottles with their "special attachment devices" -- clothespins painted like alligators -- are among my favorites. They blend in pretty well, too! So well you may need to view this larger to make out the details.

Another pretty neighborhood view. You can't tell how much of a hill this is, from the image. But we didn't have to do any cross-country walking -- it was all sidewalks on the perimeter. Good thing, because this is the former site of Camp Elliott, and so there are signs all over warning that there could be unexploded shells lying around. There have been lots of efforts to clean them up, of course -- but there could still be something out there.

So it's best not to do any bushwhacking, but it is pretty down there, right?

We stopped after we'd found our 15th cache for the day (44th for the weekend); Ken had blisters on his heels from the long trek on the bike path the day before, so we didn't want to push too hard. All those finds put us back on track, numbers-wise; we logged our 800th cache just four weeks after our 700th, and we will end up with a total of 100 caches for calendar month of March. I don't think we'll stay quite so numbers-oriented in the future; it's fun to crack 100, it's fun to keep up the pace, but urban micro-caches aren't the be-all and end-all of caching. Sometimes it's nice to see wildlife and walk somewhere pretty, even if you find fewer caches doing it. Of course, the last time we went for a nice walk in a canyon, I ended up with poison oak blisters from wrist to elbow. SO THERE IS THAT.

The bike path was a nice combination of nature and easy walk, but not all bike paths are so pedestrian-friendly. I hope we can find some more like that, though.
Tags: geocaching
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