Sunday, June 26, 2016

Cutting my teeth in the Pecos Wilderness

We've only been in New Mexico for a week, and already my head is full of hiking possibilities. Lonely caches, remote wilderness peaks, unfound caches in obscure wilderness canyons... m,an I live for this stuff. So with our house mostly getting settled, I took a day off from moving in to go out and tackle one of my new nearby wilderness adventures. There were several hikes/caches I was looking at, but the one I settled on was a recently published cache called North Macho Falls. It was placed only a month ago, mid may, but nobody had gone after it yet, and there was no one watching it. I could tell why, the description talks about a brutal off-trail trek up and down a wilderness canyon. It talks about needing to have expert route finding skills, and repeatedly stresses the rugged nature of the area. Yeah, that sounds like something I'd be into. I packed up my kit and got up at 5am. Made a quick coffee and was on the road soon after, on my way to adventure!
Sunrise on my drive into the Pecos
Just driving to to the starting point for this cache had some hiccups. I totally missed the turn off for forest road 123 and lost nearly a half hour of time doubling back. Then driving up FR123A was slow going in my CR-V. Luckily the road was passable for my poor little SUV, which is more like a mini-van than an adventure mobile. I crawled my way up several steep rocky sections, and eventually made it to the coordinates that the CO had given for one of the starting points. It was 7am. I wolfed down a banana and hit the trail.
An easy meadow for the start of my hike
All smiles at 7am
There wasn't a trail really, I was just following a drainage/creek down until I reached Macho Creek. And it started off pretty easy, with an open meadow. The meadow didn't last long though and soon I was rock hopping the stream bed, which was choked with willow and other brush. The going got slow, but I forced my way down it, sometimes resorting to climbing up the embankments to escape the lunch vegetation of the stream bed. I reached Macho Creek in 50 minutes and was delighted to immediately see a pool full of trout. They were roiling the water every step I took, fleeing from my shape. Most were pretty tiny, but in the bigger pools I caught glimpses of bigger fish.
The descent down to Macho Creek
The going was slightly easier in Macho Creek, it being a bigger drainage, but it was still kind of slow. A short ways upstream though I came across an old mining camp, and from the camp was an old road bed leading up the canyon. This provided only a short 0.1 miles of easy walking before the road disintegrated and it was back to boulder hopping and brush-beating. I passed a really large and nice swimming hole, which had to be passed on the right by climbing up a steep crumbly slope. I made a mental note that I could swim here on my return, but plowed ahead.
Mining camp

Nice swimming hole in Macho Creek
In a short while I came up to the North Fork of Macho Creek, which was where the cache lay. The intial foray into North Macho Creek involved a steep climb over a few waterfall pools, where much to my dismay I discovered poison ivy. I thought I had left that behind in Tennessee! Apparently not. And to add insult to injury, at one of my rest stops I felt something crawling on my leg and discovered a tick! What! I thought we were done with those when we drove out of Tennessee. Two big disappointments all in one hike.
Rock formations near the confluence of North Macho Creek

North Macho Creek seemed to have a whole lot more waterfalls, carved into the granite like bedrock. The trout continued up the creek as well and I was in awe about how they could have migrated up beyond some of the waterfalls I had circumnavigated. I began to suspect that they had been "seeded" higher up in the creek, but this theory was shot through when I reached a long dry section of creek-bed, and then encountered not a single trout beyond that point. It seemed unlikely that there would not be trout upstream if they had been seeded from up on high, so perhaps that means that the trout really have jumped up the many waterfalls at the start of this creek.

I can't say what the main macho Creek looks like, but the North Macho Fork was just wonderful. I lost count of how many waterfalls and pools I had passed (I kept better track on my way down, marking each one on my GPSr).  Often the going would be slow around these waterfalls, or in the thick growth that often choked out the bottom of the ravine. but at other times there were open meadows, and easy walking. I had a few miles to go up this creek bed, and I cherished those miles, taking in the various sights and sounds. The warbling vireos were going full blast this morning,a s were tanagers, warblers and thrushes. At one point I flushed a grouse but rather than fly off to get away from me, it tottered a little ways off and did a broken wing display. I suspected there was a nest or young nearby, so I cautiously crept up the slope to where the grouse had flushed. I couldn't spot anything, I climbed up onto a fallen log and peered around some more. The mother hen kept displaying, trying to lure me in her direction, but I was scanning for a nest or some young. i took a step down off the log and a baby grouse exploded from practically under my foot, a flurry of brown feathers arcing away from me across the gorge. The other soon let up her feint, and made her way over to where the baby had flown.

I made it to the coordinates for the geocache at 10:20 am, and found the cache almost immediately. The coords were actually pretty good considering the canyon walls, and the cache isn't that well hidden. But how many people would stumble their way down this canyon. my guess is that unless a forest fire sweeps down/up this canyon, this geocache is good and safe for decades to come. I wasn't at all surprised to see a blank log. I took a few minutes to compose a log entry, then rehid the cache and sat down to eat my sandwich lunch. The waterfall that the cache was hidden by was not flowing nearly as much as the pictures the CO had posted showed. It made me appreciate how much more difficult the route was only a month ago, with volumes more water to contend with

Falls near the geocache, not much water right now
The CO had hidden this cache on a one-way route from the ridge-top in front of me, but I was going to backtrack down North Macho Creek. While I wouldn't be covering new ground, I was looking forward to taking a dip in one (or more) of the many pools. I also wanted to see if I could catch a trout with my bare hands. Some of the trout I had passed were in tiny shallow pools and it seemed like I should be able to corner one and scoop it up. I also kept track of the waterfalls on the way down, marking each one with my GPSr. I'm not sure how consistent I was with marking them, and may have counted some small cascades as waterfalls, and missed others. But in general it gave me a good idea of how many cool spots there were along this hike. Here is what the route looks like:
North Macho Creek Waterfalls
The waypoint named "Trout Limit" is the extent furthest extent up the stream that I saw trout. beyond that point, the stream was fish free, much to the enjoyment of the water striders. Not that there is one section of very dense waterfalls. This section looks like this:
Section of many waterfalls and pools
this section was especially nice, with cascade after cascade, each with lovely little pools that would be perfect for bathing in. At each waterfall, I would create a waypoint with the Code WF# with sequential #s working down from the geocache waterfall. I also added the approximate height of each waterfall.
Section of dense waterfalls
Once I got down to where the trout were, I set about trying to catch one by hand. The trout seem to be adapted to this kind of hunting style, either by bears or racoons, and would immediately scurry to dive head-first under rocks where they would wedge themselves out of sight. Unfortunately, some of them were too big and in too shallow pools to get completely out of sight, and I spent some time chasing them about the shallow pools until I finally landed a couple. Somehow, it felt reassuring knowing that I could catch fish with my bare-hands out here, like I would be able to forage my own food if needed and live out in the wilderness.

As I made my way down North Macho, it finally began to get hot. The moringin had been cool and enjoyable hiking weather (although I wish I had worn pants instead of shorts for all that bushwhacking). I se tmy sights on one of the best swimming pools, WF13 as marked on my GPSr. This pool wasn't very wide, but plunged to a nice depth of 10' or so and had both a nice jumping off ledge, and a convenient shallow exit point. Just perfect for cooling off.

I water was cold, but not overly so (like little Chasm Falls on the Rio En Medio trail a few days ago) and I could have relaxed there for quite a while if it hadn't been for the thunderstorms. The massive grey clouds seemed to come up out of the north and practically out of nowhere. First just a few faint rumblings of thunder up on the ridges above, but growing steadily until the canyon nearly roared with the noise of thunder reverberating up and down its walls. Kind of scary stuff, although I felt safe from lightning strike down in the canyon. There was the hazard of flash flooding though... So I hastily put my clothes on and started rushing down the canyon. I took a bit of video of the storm chasing me, and while I pretty much suck as a vlogger, the video is amusing enough, and is good enough to close out this blog post.
Approaching storm

Abandoned mine, a safe place to take shelter? I think not,

Back to the CuRVy by 2pm. Not too shabby for my first Pecos wilderness adventure. May there be many more to come.

Friday, June 24, 2016

New Mexico's Oldest

Finding the oldest active cache in a state seems to be a thing now. I don't remember when it became a thing, or maybe it has always been a thing and I've just noticed it. Whatever the case is, I learned that the oldest caches in New Mexico are really close by to our new home in Santa Fe, and conveniently located off of I-25 such that I could go out and find them after dropping off family at Albuquerque Sunport [airport]. Which is exactly what I did this morning.
Placitas Open Spaces as viewed from GC3C8KX
The oldest cache in new Mexico is actually a little difficult to determine. There are a group of caches placed in an area called Placitas open Space, a little juniper desert area on the outskirts of a suburban neighborhood. There are three caches that are all listed as being placed on January 15, 2001, GC190, GC192 and GC193. Oddly, GC191 is listed as being placed in April 2001. so which one is the oldest? And does it even matter? They are all in the same little cluster and can be found with a nice little 2 mile hike. Well, nice if you go early in the morning while it is still cool. I showed up about 6:30 and had a very enjoyable hour and a half of walking through the desert hills, finding those old caches and a number of others.
Sasha chases bunnies and helps me hunt caches
One of the coolest things was seeing the stamps from my fellow MOGA team-mates, Sequoia and Kimpossible. They were in New Mexico on a big road trip, and actually hiked the highest point in NM the day after we arrived in Santa Fe. I was invited, but couldn't go since we were unpacking. We are still unpacking... it's an ongoing effort. It was cool to see their stamps in the letterbox caches and know that they were here just a week ago.
The other fun thing from my morning was discovering a snake curled up right underneath a tupperware geocache. I didn't even notice the snake as I picked up the cache and signed my name in the log. It wasn't until I was about to set the cache back in the hiding spot that I saw this cute little snake all coiled up, waiting for the day to warm up. Good thing it wasn't a rattle snake.

I ended up hiking a nice 3.5 mile loop and finding ten of the geocaches in the area. There must be a couple dozen more out here. Looks like I'll have to make some more trips to the airport.
At virtual cache GC635

Friday, June 17, 2016

A little cross country cachin'

Moving from Tennessee to New Mexico offers all sorts of geocaching possibilities, not to mention a chance to see all sorts of new sites and attractions. But for me, the move was going to be a grueling 2 1/2 day slog with little time for fun stops. Unlike our last move, where I planned a few geocache stops along the way, I had nothing planned for this trip. We were just going to drive straight on the I-40, leaving Wednesday around noon and trying to arrive in Santa Fe early Friday afternoon. It would be a lot fo driving, with my dog and our 5 birds in the car with us. We'd stop when we got tired, and that was about it for planning. But since I now own a smartphone, I couldn't resist looking up a few caches where ever we stopped. And in this way geocaching provided a little bit of relief from the long-haul drive.

Our first stop was at a rest-station in Tennessee, near Carthage. As we sat and munched snacks, I checked the geocaching app and sure enough, there was a traditional cache and virtual right in the rest stop. I went and visited the Virtual, but decided not to hunt the traditional, a micro placed right in front of the visitor information center and swarming with people. The Virtual cache, Saddler's Rest, was at a small cemetery, and just far enough away from the rest area that no one seemed to bother visiting it. It took the dog over and we made the find.

Saddler's Rest

Our big Yellow Penske at the Rest stop
From Carthage we booked it across the state and ended up near Memphis in the evening. While stopped for gas, I looked up pet-friendly hotels and found one nearby, A Days Inn on Elvis Rd. I booked us a room and we made our way over, only to find out that we were in a seriously Elvis themed hotel, only two blocks from Graceland. It was gaudy and ridiculous, but it was a room, and we slept of the day's miles.

Before leaving the next morning, I made a little geocaching expedition down across the Mississippi border. Finding a geocache in each state is one of those things that geocachers can't seem to help themselves from doing, myself included. We weer only 2 miles from the border anyways. We ended up finding two geocaches, although one was still in Tennessee. Rock-N-Roll Ghosttown and one just over the border in Southhaven. The excursion took about a half an hour, but it was nice and cool in the early morning, and we were back on the road soon enough.
Hamming it up at GC2TVNP

Sasha looks on at the Southhaven cache. 

Just some of the kitsch at our hotel in Graceland.
We scooted through Arkansas with barely a stop, and I didn't find any geocaches there. Some geocachers might think this weird of me, to pass through the whole state and not try to find at least one cache, but since I had found an Arkansas cache when we moved to Tennessee two years ago, I didn't feel any strong urge to make a find this time through. We did make one pit-stop in Arkansas, but there weren't any geocaches nearby. Pretty soon we found ourselves in Oklahoma, which is a big big state to cross. We ate lunch at one of the highway rest-stops and once again there happenend to be a geocache nearby. Actually there were three geocaches at this one rest-stop, but I only went on a walk to find one. The dog needed to go for a bathroom break so off we went in search of fertilized ground and a geocache. I found the geocache, GCRQG4, and much to my surprise, it had been found only the day before by one of my friends from Oak Ridge TN, Geoboater! I couldn't help but call him up and see if he was still in Oklahoma. He wasn't, he was already in Dallas, but it was still surreal that we made the same stop on our respective road trips only a day apart. especially weird since I had seen him in Knoxville just 5 days earlier at a geocaching event.
All the pets got out at this rest stop in Oklahoma
We made it as far as Elk City Oklahoma before calling it a day. There weren't any geocaches near our hotel, and nothing in town that seemed all that interesting to go find, so I didn't make a find in Elk City. The next day put us through Texas and into New Mexico. Just an hour into our drive that morning, my dad, who was in the other car, got really drowsy, so we pulled off at a gas station about 20 miles east of Amarillo. After filling up gas, my dad took a quick cat nap and I checked the geocaching app to see if there was something nearby to pass the time. There was a geocache across the interstate called the Bug Ranch so I put the dog on a leash and we walked over. I don't know what I was expecting, but the row of half-buried on-end VW bugs, spray-painted a rainbow of colors was not it. This just is one of those nice surprises, a neat little local attraction that I would have missed entirely if not for seeking out a geocache here. The other funny thing is that the rest of my family was visiting the Cadillac Ranch on the west side of Amarillo at about the same time.

The logbook is the VWs. here's my sig
And that was it for geocaching. We caught up with the rest of my family at the Blue Hole in Santa Rosa, NM. There is an awesome earthcache here, but we found it a few years ago. That didn't stop us from jumping into the icy waters once again. The Blue hole left us feeling clean and refreshed as we finished the last hour of our trip to Santa Fe. All said, I found 5 geocaches over 1000 miles of driving and 5 states. Nothing to boast about, but each cache was a nice little diversion from the monotony of driving, and well worth the effort. Geocaching earns its keep once again!

Jumping into New Mexico, Head First!

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Adopting out caches

When I moved away from new Mexico, I adopted out a few of my caches, but for the most part left them under my name. A large portion of my caches placed in new Mexico were remote, rugged, and seldom found caches, and I figured that they would be ok left under my name. Also, I was highly into the Lonely Cache Project, and keeping the caches in my names helped me keep the points for those lonely caches. On the few caches I adopted out, I made the cheesy decision to log them as found by me in order to keep them in my LCP stats. Cheesy, but that’s what I did.

Now that we are moving away from Tennessee, I am faced with little different situation. There is no Lonely Cache Project here, but I still feel a strong connection to my caches. I realize that leaving them under my name is still a possibility, but the caches will survive much longer if I can find local cachers to adopt them. So at the CITO I hosted a month ago, I mentioned that I would be adopting out caches, and wow, I did not expect the response I got. Several local geocachers offered to adopt my caches, and many more told me that they enjoyed my cache hides in the area and hope that they will live on after I leave. It was really flattering to hear this. Many of my local caches do not get found often, but when they do I usually get really good logs. And many of my caches I am pretty darn proud of too. I had some good ideas while I was here, and was able to execute some of them pretty well. So I’ve been adopting out most of my caches, maybe even I’ll get them all adopted out. I am still a little hesitant to adopt out the Whereigos, as those can be tricky to do maintenance on since you need all the Cartridge details. And even after I adopt out caches, I add them all to a bookmark list I have called Adopted Out Caches, so that I continue to get notifications when the caches get logged. I love seeing logs on my caches, and I won’t let being a few states away stop me from hearing about what is going on with them.

Here’s a summary of my Tennessee Geocaches
Cache name
# of Finds
# of Favorite Points
My thoughts on this cache
A blast from the past
The idea for this cache puzzle came from finding the container, which is fairly unique… but I can’t go into too much detail about that without giving away some spoilers. There is more to the story as well, my college friend Diana Silverman, who is in the puzzle, actually is the daughter of one of the inventors of “the software” that the puzzle is based on. A little personal connection I have for this puzzle.
Clinton Crossword Puzzle
Yomegranate wrote in her log that this was one of her all-time favorite puzzle caches to find. That was a while back, and I’m not sure if that is still the case, but I’ll never forget that wonderful log. It only felt proper that she adopt this one.
Geocaching and Invasive Plants: A Study
The write-up for this puzzle is probably my favorite of all my hides. I had a blast coming up with it, and even got really good feedback from the Reviewer about this write-up, which hasn’t happened to me before. The log from Magkirk is pretty awesome as well.
Inception Challenge
A really bizarre challenge cache idea I had that was meant to be a meta, kind of a statement about how ridiculous challenge caches were getting. It just so happened that it got published shortly before the moratorium on Challenge Caches occurred in late 2014. Now that has lifted, I am curious to see if Black*dot will pursue making an online checker for this challenge. Might be pretty tricky to do. The cache itself is placed at one of my favorite local hiking spots.
Oddly one of my more frequently found caches. Unlike most of my caches, there wasn’t much thought that went into this cache placement. It was merely an irresistible location to me. It does have a slightly unusual D/T rating, which may account for its “popularity”. I think the rating is spot-on, and the cache is definitely not for everyone.
Lost quadcopter
After receiving a quadcopter for my birthday (and losing it for several months), I really wanted to find a way to use the quadcopter for geocaching. Building the container was half the fun. I hope it weathers well, I’d love to see it get found more.
Riding the Dragon
This cache is all about the theme. The location, container, story and stamp are all about dragons. It had a rather unfortunate start since it was discovered by bears at least twice. Hopefully it survives a good long time. I put a lot of work into carving the stamp.
TVG Game Night
Another themed cache that I had a great time putting together. In a bit more of a muggle prone area than I usually like to hide stuff, but hopefully it lasts. Ol’Fogies and some others have mentioned making spin-offs of this cache puzzle, other TVG Game-night style puzzle caches. I can definitely see something like that happening.
Thermodynamics: bull Run Fossil Plant
Another themed cache, and one that gets way more technical in engineering problems than a cache really out to. But I still had fun reviewing my thermodynamics material for creating the puzzle. It was also fulfilling when I got permission from TVA for this hide. Took me out of my comfort zone to have to approach a big corporation for permission for a geocache.
Hiking through History: The Indian Rock Loop Trail
Lot’s of stages on this multi, on trails that goecachers don’t seem that interested in. On the plus side, the State Park was really friendly about signing the geocaching permits.
Sharp’s Station
Just a simply hide that is a decent hike out on a trail in Big Ridge State park. I was hoping that placing some more caches would bring some more geocaching traffic to this park. That doesn’t appear to have been the case.
Obed River Swimming Holes
 Great long hike in one of my favorite lcoal areas
CT: Obed River Section

CT: Eagle Bluff Section
Not adopting yet
This was my second Whereigo hiking cache, and another long one, a twelve mile thru-hike. Not that difficult a hike if you ask me, but then not many geocachers have asked me. It is also in a region that doesn’t appear to have a lot of geocaching activity. I expect it to remain pretty lonely.
CT: Cross Mountain Day hike
A little different spin on the standard Multi cache. I designed it to be done from either trailhead, but still require the same amount of hiking either way. Only two finders so far… it’s another off-the-beaten track trail.
Lilly and Princesses Kid Cache
I might actually archive this one. It is placed near our house in Tennessee, and with the intention of being something that the kids and I could go check frequently to see what kind of toys kids are trading in and out. The two horses it was placed near have both passed away though, so it makes me a little sad now. It may also be my most found cache, which isn’t much of a distinction, as it is my only real drive-up park and grab.
Holston River Cave
In a cave, and a long way to paddle. Yet it was found recently by my friends MTippetts and GISpuma. Might have to see if they would like to adopt it.
Ridge hiking Frozen Head State Park
Not adopting yet
One of my first caches placed in Tennessee, and a doozie, since it involves 17+ miles of hiking. Kind of my introductory hike to the area. I’d love to see it get found a few more times.
Boulder Bars and the Power of Water
Not adopting
My only Earthcache placed in TN. I really wanted to do some research for an earthcache in this location (Obed River WSR) and found a cool article about alluvial beds that was published by the Park Service. The area has some wonderful hikes.
Songbird Trail
Birdsong theme, and a techno-gadget field puzzle too. This is another one of my favorite hides that I’ve put together out here. I like birds, and this area. Hopefully it brings some more cachers out too.

172 finds on 20 caches. Ton’s of really good logs and a good amount of favorite points. Not too shabby for two years.

Considering I also hosted 4 CITOs and one Event, I consider myself a pretty busy cache owner. And despite my reputation for putting out caches that rarely get found, and are in difficult places, my caches here in Tennessee are way more accessible than my hides in New Mexico. At least it feels that way.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

It's My Party and I'll Cry if I Want To... would cry too if you were leaving the TVG. The cachers here are exceptionally nice, and they threw an event cache titled Festive Fun Farewell For Friend Fugads. I am slightly embarrassed really, I've only been living in the area for two years and don't really know everyone all that well. But I guess my cache placements, and logs on caches I've hunted here have earned me a reputation, maybe notoriety even. Enough so that when folks from TVG heard I was moving back to New Mexico they threw me a party.

Parting is always tough, but it is easier when you have a great send-off. I took the whole family with me and we played with the other cachers both in the water at the park, and around the tents set-up. We even snuck off for a group hunt on a cache I had DNF'd a couple times. I definitely will miss this group. *sniff*, I'm tearing up already.

Event "Log Book"