Sunday, February 28, 2016

I've always wanted to....

.... find a cache while wearing a Tuxedo.

OK, so there is a little story behind this. I was dressed up for playing a concert with the Oak Ridge Community Orchestra. It just so happened that there was a cache in the parking lot of the church where we played, and I happened to show up a bit early. Ahh... living the dream!

Friday, February 26, 2016

A three with three zeros after it

I've been creeping up on my 3000th cache and keeping my eyes peeled for a cache to mark the "event". As I've been getting into Caving recently (see my other blog), I found a cache that I thought would make a perfect milestone, and also allow for some fun caving, Confederate Sinkhole Earthcache, located near the small town of Spencer, TN. I started making plans for a date that would give me time to explore the area and also get the 12 additional caches I would need to hit 3000 caches found. I also got two accomplices in my mission, GISpuma and MTippets. Caching and caving with friends, it was shaping up to me a good trip.

I ended up selecting a route of caches which took me south from Crab Apple on highway 127 all the way to Pikeville, TN. We stopped to grab two park and grab caches along the way, although one of them was a bit harder than a P&G, being sneakily camouflaged. The road here was actually pretty icy from a winter weather system that had moved through the night before, but not treacherous icy. Just pretty.
Sniffing out a cache in the snow

In Pikeville we tried to find the Mystery Cache, Courting Around 2. We were able to find all the information, but not the elusive micro. Perhaps we needed to search longer/harder, but I didn't want to spend too much of our day here. We still had a lot of cool places to visit, and a cave to explore after all.
MTippets in PIkeville

Our next stop was at a fantastic cliff top cache overlooking the Sequatchie valley. I was a little worried this cache wouldn't be found by us, since it has a little spotty of a find record, but we found it well enough. It is in a fairly precarious perch, so I can see how not everyone would find it, especially those who fear heights. The cache itself wasn't in the best shape, with the container missing a large chunk out of it, but considering how long it had been out there (over a dozen years), it really hasn't been doing that badly. The CO who placed this cache, The Cave Rat, is one of my new favorite COs for East Tennessee. Unfortunately he doesn't seem to be active any more, but all of the caches of his that we stopped at were really fun, and adventurous. Just the kind of caches I like best.

Sequatchie View

We drove west on Hwy 30 for a while next, passing by Fall Creek Falls SP and nabbing a few P&Gs along the way. At each find, I would yell out my "find count" and get a bit more excited for reaching 3000. It was very close. Still, there weren't very many P&Gs left between us and the Sinkhole. We would have to stop at more involved caches... like the Medley Arch Earthcache. There are quite a few natural arches in Tennessee, usually in sandstone formations. I've hiked to several of them and sometimes they are pretty amazing, like the ones up in Big South Fork. Other times they are downright pathetic, like the ones on Brady Mountain. So when we stopped to hike down to Medley Arch, I wasn't sure what we would get. Something amazing or something less so. Here are some pics, you be the judge:

I hope we came to the same conclusion there... it is an amazing place? The pictures don't do it justice. We spent a bit of time poking around the area and taking pictures, but not too long. We still had several more stops before I reached 3000.

Our next stop was at a cache I had already found, Cave Rat's Nest, but MTippets and GISpuma had not been in. Since we are all cavers (I wasn't before when I found this, but maybe I can call myself one now, since I've joined a Grotto and all), it almost seemed like a requirement to stop and peek in. I also learned that there are a few more cave/entrances in this same road cut and we peeked our ehads into one of those as well. The karst region here is simply amazing to me. There can be cave adventures around almost any hillside.
GISPuma exiting the Rat's Nest
We had one more P&G before we reached the town of Spencer where there were 3 cache son my hit-list. The first one, A Hidden Path in a Hidden Park, we struck out on, but not until "wasting" 20 minutes or so. Our next cache, Boar's Head Hunt Club, was another Cave Rat cache, and also not easy to find. We probably spent closer to 30 minutes looking for that one... or maybe it just felt that way. It was at a really nice waterfall over a deeply overhanging rock house. Unfortunately, the coords put you right in/on the rock house and there were a ton of places a cache could be hidden. This cache had a decent find record though, so even though it took us a while, we stuck it out and made the find.

MTippets leaping the stream above the waterfall
We were close to the Confederate Sinkhole now, and I was close to 3000 finds, but the day was also wearing on. The next cache on my list, another Cave Rat cache, Lover's Leap, had a somewhat spotty find record, and looked like it might take us an hour or so to get. With it already getting later in the afternoon, I made the call to skip that potentially awesome cache, and instead drive past the Confederate Sinkhole cache and pick up a few easy P&Gs a mile or so further up the road. This would be quicker and easier, and get us into the cave sooner. But if we are ever back in Spencer, perhaps on a caving trip, I want to go after that Lover's Leap cache.

I was expecting the two P&G caches we picked up to be pretty dull, but the first one we stopped out turned out to be kind of cool.We pulled over to grab Quilt Square #2 and while we were finding and signing the cache, a strange noise was coming from behind the barn across the street. It sounded like loud tooting or cawing noises, maybe shrill yells. My first thought was peacocks, and I had MTippets and GISpuma convinced that there was a peacock hutch behind the barn.,.. that is until GISPuma went up the road to try to see the pea-fowl... and instead saw a field full of Mennonite children, decked out in their distinctive clothes and running all over the yard blowing on noisemakers. How can you not smile at that! I wish I had taken a video clip, and was going to on our drive back after grabbing the next cache down the road, but by then the children had moved on to something else and were no longer in view.

Finally, I was 2 caches away from 3000 finds and we had arrived at the confederate sinkhole.  I wrote up a pretty detailed blog about heading into the hole/cave already, which you can read here. Suffice to say, it was awesome! Totally worthy of my 3000th milestone and a perfect crowning cache for the day.  We emerged after hours spent underground, in the late twilight, tired, hungry and happy as can be. This is what caching should be about!

PS: I wasn't the only one to hit a milestone. MTippets hit 300 caches in the Cave Rats Nest, GISPuma was within spitting distance of 1300 and the Medley Arch turned out to be my 100th Earthcache. Good day for all!

Sunday, February 7, 2016

A blitz on my caches... and a SAR mission

Most of my caches don't get found very often, so it was very cool to see a bunch of them, some long hikes, all get tackled on the same day. It was indeed a beautiful late winter day, and for Tennessee, that is just perfect hiking weather. I received email notifications that some cachers found my lonely multi in Big Ridge State Park on the Indian Rock Loop Trail. Then I got another email notification from my T4.5 cache in Haw Ridge, Irresistible. I always get such a big goofy grin on my face when I get these notifications, and I almost always stop whatever I am doing and immediately read the logs. I want to know all the details of their trip, and the more people write the happier I get. Reflecting on this a little now, it is kind of funny how this works out. I want more finds on my caches, but by lacing caches that get found infrequently, I'm more likely to get the kind of feedback/logs that make me happy. Just the nature of the kind of caches i like to place I guess.

I also got some messages from a group who attempted my 17+ mile hiking Whereigo, Frozen Head Ridge Hike. I was really hoping to hear good news from this group, as this is one of my most ambitious hiking caches in the area. Unfortunately, I never heard the good news that they had completed the hike. The opposite happened, I found out the next day that they had gotten onto the wrong trail by mistake and got caught out after dark. Luckily, no one suffered greatly, as they were able to call help and the park Rangers mounted a SAR squad which got to them pretty quickly. Unfortunately for me, this brought some extra attention to my cache which until now had been flying under the radar. Looks like I'll have to jump through some hoops in order to keep my cache alive, but I'm hopeful. The cachers who got lost have contacted me and already want to give this one another try. And the Park Rangers have contacted me as well and we are working towards getting my cache permitted with them. So far as I can tell, only good has come from this ill-fated cache attempt.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Back to work

For over a year now, I've had the grand luxury of not working. That's not to say I've floated by leisurely every day. I am, as my wife puts it, "Chief of Household". I have responsibilities, just not a regular job. Anyone who has been a full-time parent for two young kids can attest to this. And I've enjoyed it quite a lot. It has been especially nice to take my daughter out geocaching during the work-week. We will pick some nearby trail or park, and play around, see what we can find, and just enjoy ourselves. Not having a job has meant I've been able to go after a bunch of FTFs that I wouldn't have had a chance on otherwise. But ultimately, I haven't gotten sucked into many crazy FTF hunts. My kids aren't as gung-ho geocachers as their dad, so mostly we do outings that will be fun for everyone. But now, I'm back to work. No more spontaneous geocaching adventures during the week. And I expect my find rate to plummet. But there are still lots of geocaching adventures that I am looking forward to. One nice thing about my new job is that I will have every other Friday off, similar to my job back in New Mexico. These off-Fridays, combined with the fact that the kids will be in daycare on those days, means I will have two days a month that are perfect for me to get away on a serious adventures. Crazy hikes, more caving, maybe some climbing... who knows?