Sunday, July 9, 2017

Geocaching as consolation: Zapata Lake

I can't remember if or when I have climbed a 14er before. Growing up, my family went on many trips into high mountains of the west, but my memory of exactly where we went, and how high the peaks were is hazy. Living here in Santa Fe though, suddenly puts me in striking distance to several 14ers in Colorado, and this weekend I jumped at an opportunity to climb one. One of my wife's colleagues, Uttam, wanted to summit Ellingwood Point, and hatched a plan to leave at 2 in the morning drive up, summit the peak and be down off the ridge before 12pm. I guess there was a decent chance of afternoon thunderstorms. The trip sounded pretty intense but also the kind of thing that gets me excited. I talked him out of the 2am start though, instead suggesting we leave the night before and bivy at the trailhead. He agreed to this approach.
Full moon above our bivy

We pulled into the trailhead parking around 9:30 pm and the first thing we realize after getting out of the car is that the mosquitos are out in force here. Even at 9,000ft elevation, they are present. Neither of us had any real mosquito protection, we just had a few sleeping pads and sleeping bags. Not being able to do much about it, we set up the sleeping gear and settled in for the night, only foir it to start to rain on us. Luckily, I did have a tarp big enough to go over us, and it even helped keep the mosquitos off our faces, but even so I slept pretty fitfully. It didn't help that there was a big, bright, full moon shining directly overhead.

4am, the alarms beep and we get up and make our final preparations for the hike. By 4:30 we are on the trail and headed up to Zapata lake. The full moon lights the trail pretty well, and we don't have to use headlamps to make steady progress. Up and up we go. The moon sets behind the ridge to our south, and the sky lightens. We reach Zapata lake around 7am, and the sun is just about to pop over the ridge in front of us. We are making good time so far, but the going gets tough from here on out.
Zapata Lake

There is couloir called C2, which is the most efficient way to scale Ellingwood peak, but it is still full of snow, and not knowing how treacherous a snow climb would be, we opt for the C3 couloir which is rocky, but means we have a longer route with more ups and downs along the long ridge leading up to Ellingwood. Almost immediately after leaving Zapata lake, Uttam begins having trouble. We are above 11,000 ft and the altitude is starting to get to him. We slowly make our way to the base of a gully filled with loose rock and scree. The going gets even slower, and the slope threatens to rock-slide several times, making for a nervous ascent. I make the ridge top above well ahead of Uttam, and am pleasantly surprised to see I ahve a good cell signal, so I check in with home, and eat a snack. Uttam crests a while later, looking pale and tired. The loose rock was not something he had anticipated, and he really didn't like it. But we were on the ridge now, hopefully the going would be easier.

Twin peaks (the actual name) to our west from the top of the ridge

It feels like the going is easier to me,even though there are some climbs and descents we need to navigate along the ridge, but Uttam is still having difficulty. I stop and wait for him several times, watching as he carefully finds his footing on the rocky exposed ridge. After a few hours, we nearly reach the point where the C2 couloir joins the ridge, and I see footprints in the snow below, indicating someone had used that route recently. Uttam though, is not buyoed by our progress, but is sweating the clock. Despite having really clear skies, he still insists on being off the ridge by noon, and based on our current progress, that means we have no chance of tagging the peak. He offers to let me go ahead, and I contemplate it. I'm feeling pretty good still, not too tired, and the peak is invitingly close. But Uttam looks like he is out of his element and leaving him to fend for himself seems like a dickish thing to do. So we decide to turn around, just over 13,000 ft of elevation.
Uttam on the ridge top, typical terrain
Progress down is just as slow as coming up, especially the steep C3 couloir. I'm having a blast, finding snow slopes to glissade down (I brought my ice-axe along just for such an occasion). Uttam, looks a lot less pleased. But we make it down to Zapata lake, and then begin the long trek back to the trailhead. As a consolation, I stop to find two geocaches on the way down. Geocaching was really a big part of this hike, there is no geocache on Ellingwood Point. Although Blanca peak to the south does have a cache on it, GC2BMZY , and I had my eyes on that as a possible route extension. Even without bagging the peaks though, our hike still clocked in at 13.5 miles, over 5,000 ft elevation gain
 and took us almost 12 hours. We were both totally wiped out as we got to the car, and I can only imagine how much more fatigued we would have been had we summitted. Still, the high peaks were amazing to be in, and I will surely try to come back and try this climb again. I think Uttam will too.
View from small lake above Zapata Lake

Marmot at Zapata Lake

Uttam near Zapata Falls

Zapata Falls

Near GZ for one of the caches we found.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

The Mountain Goat Gang

It feels like it has been quite a while since I did a long hike without the family, a few months at least. So when I finally had an opportunity for "daddy" hike on Saturday, I went BIG.  A colleague of mine wanted to hike Truchas peak. I had already hiked Trucahs last summer, but I hadn't hiked Pecos Baldy, so I talked him into coming with me to Pecos Baldy, with the possibility of an extension out to Truchas peak. My hiking companions were the same co-workers who did the crazy ridge-hike with me last October on Mt. Wheeler. This time, our route would be almost entirely on well maintained trails, so the going would be easier. But the overall distance would be large, well over 20 miles by my estimates. I wasn't worried about our ability to hike the miles, I was worried that we would be chased off by thunderstorms. The forecast was for afternoon storms to roll in.

We left Santa Fe at 6am and made the hour long drive up to Cowles and the Jack Creek campground trailhead. The trailhead was already pretty packed, but most of the vehicles were probably backpacker groups as there weren't that many folks actually starting their hike. At 7:20, we were on the trail, heading deep into the Pecos Wilderness. The morning was foggy. We got to our first "stop" a geocache titled sex-tillion dollar view, but all we could see was fog and mist. It did look like it was starting to clear though. We had a few more small geocaches that we stopped for as we made our way up to Pecos Baldy Lake which we reached at a little past 10am. Not bad time at all! And I'm happy to say, faster than my buddy Birddroppings, when he did this same hike a number of years ago. The fog had finally lifted and we had great views of the Pecos Baldys above us. There were several backpacking groups camped at the lake, and we met one group of three women who were just starting their hike back to Jack's Creek. When they found out we were heading to Truchas peak, and doing it as a day-hike, they exclaimed we must me ex-military. They had attempted Truchas peak just the day before, but as a day trip starting from Pecos Baldy Lake, a "mere" ten mile trip, and even then, they were shut down by fierce winds near the top of the mountain. Yes, we were doing a rather foolishly long hike. But so far the weather looked good and we felt strong. So off we went.
Ryan at our first Trail Junction

Ryan and Austin sign the log on Sex-tillion dollar view

The "sex tillion dollar view". Not much when the fog is in.

At Pecos Baldy Lake, reading maps
The next part of the hike was one I was particularly looking forward to, the Trail Rider's Wall. I had seen this from Truchas peak before, a long, treeless ridge connecting Pecos Baldy to Truchas peak. It is mostly flat and meadow like, but falls away fairly steeply on both sides giving it wonderful views for the full mile length. I also had plans to hide a geocache on this formation. Plus the name is cool! As we made our way across the wall, I found myself humming "rawhide" from the Blue's Brothers, and taking in the views in all directions. Big mountains all around, clear weather above, nothing better.
Looking north at the start of the Trail Rider's Wall

A brief patch of snow along the wall

Views along the Wall
The Trail Rider's Wall puts you directly at the footstep of South Truchas, the largest of the Truchas group. The trail continues a bit east, skirting around the mountain towards some lakes and other trails. We left the trail though and found a faint casual trail used by hikers climbing Truchas. It was actually pretty easy to follow, but it was also our steepest climb yet, and it slowed us down somewhat. We encountered our first Bighorn Sheep on the flanks of Truchas. First just a lone sheep, then a small herd. We also ran into a couple groups of hikers coming down off the summit. Luckily, we had the summit to ourselves when we finally reached the top. It was 12:30, and we had been hiking for over 5 hours without much of a break. Time for lunch!
Steep climbing up the slopes of Truchas

Summit views

Ryan builds a snow man

Our attempt at a summit "leap shot"
On the way back down from Truchas we encountered a couple more herds of sheep, and even found out where they liked to congregate, a patch of dug up earth on a ridge top. Perhaps there are some salt deposits in this patch that attracted the sheep here. The area was all torn up, and had several well worn trails leading to/from it. We found another such congregation/salt-lick at the saddle beneath East Pecos Baldy which we reached a few hours after being on top of Truchas. It was starting to get late in the day and we were definitely slowing down, but we wearily tackled the steep climb up East Pecos baldy. We climbed up right through a group of sheep, who posed magnificently on the rocks above us, their silhouettes blocking out the sun above us. It was at the summit of East Pecos Baldy that we finally had to confront our growing fatigue. I really wanted to tag Pecos Baldy, a mere half a mile away along a ridge line, but Austin was pretty beat and was ready to start heading down. We still had many miles to hike out and he raised some good points. After some discussion, he and Ryan did start down the trail that led down to Pecos Baldy Lake, but I scampered off to Pecos Baldy. Amazing that I still had some pep in my step! I tagged Pecos Baldy and hid another geocache their, then booked my way down to the lake, determined to catch up, or at least not have them wait too long for me. Ryan and Austin had taken my water filter and were going to pump water at the lake (a couple of us had run out, including yours truly). As I jogged up to the lake, they were still pumping away. Phew, timed my little jaunt perfectly.
On East Pecos Baldy

Solo on Pecos Baldy

View from Pecos Baldy

Pumping water at Pecos Baldy Lake

The hike out felt much longer than the hike in, event though we did it in about the same amount of time.  What a difference 10 hours of hiking and 7000 feet of elevation gain makes! I heard at least a phew grumblings from Ryan that maybe next time he would prefer a shorter hike, but still as steep and hard. Just not so loooong. I can see his point, it was a grueling day. My GPSr indicated over 27 miles on the odometer (although the track log shows it coming in at 25.5 miles). But for me, I wound't have done it any other way. A long hike like this is exactly what I needed to get that feeling of inner mountain goat. Roaming the wide and wild expanses of the Pecos wilderness!

Growing shadows as we leave the Pecos Wilderness

Hiking through a burn area

The real "sex tillion dollar view"

Saturday, April 22, 2017

MOGA 2017

I got up nice and early on race day, because they wanted all the geocachers racing in the individual competition to be at the location by 7am. That meant getting up at 6am, and preparing for the race, but this is no big deal. My normal wake-up time is 5am. I packed all my racing kit, including a bag of extra clothes, and went downstairs to get my free hotel breakfast. Fueled up on eggs and bacon, I drove out to meet the rising Kansas sun and see what the competition area would look like.
Sunrise at the Lazy T Ranch, with one of the event gadget caches in the foreground.

The competition this year was at the Lazy T Ranch. I learned later that this is the first time the course has been on private land. Usually it is held at a state or county park I guess. I was one of the first competitors to get the waypoints loaded into my trusty Garmin 60CSx and I sat down with the map of the course to figure out my strategy.

Compared to last year, this course looked easy. Not only was there less ground to cover, but there were no odd multi-caches to throw off my route. The furthest cache was maybe a mile away and most of the caches were pretty well clustered in a few areas. This year, it would all be about speed. I had no doubt that people would be finishing well under the full 2.5 hours. Right before the race, all the competitors gatherd beneath a hill to take a group photo, and then the start was announced. "5... 4....3....2...1.... GO", and we all took off.

I started off by going west towards punch I25. And my start was pretty bad, because I ended up having to turn around after a few hundred feet because I was in someone's yard and I could hear the organizers yelling at me. "#42 you can't go that way!". I was wearing my #42 soccer jersey, so I knew this was me. According to the map I was looking at, I figured going by this proviate residence would be a good way to start, and I also figured that the houses here were part of the ranch and fair game as far as running around them goes. I don't recall them mentioning that going by the house wasn't allowed either, but apparently it was. So i had to back track a bit, and then work my way up a hillside towards I42. A couple other cachers were also going this way, but I soon passed them and was off thrashing through the woods to my first goal. I got slowed down quite a bit around I25, as there were some nasty thorny shrubs in that area. nothing like getting all scratched up at the start of the race. things got easier after that one though and soon I was flying from punch to punch. Quiote frequently I would run into other cachers on the course, everything was just so compact, but I never was next to any one cacher for long. I was basically running my own race, so i just kept my head down and had it. 

The best part of the course was the highland caches, starting with I47. Above the wooded hillsides was a nice open prairie with great views of the hills all around, and relatively easy running between points. I say relatively because the prairie wasn't golf-course flat, and the tall grass hid all sorts of little holes and rocks. But I'm used to this kind of thing. It was very much like my training runs out in the deserts around Santa Fe, so I made good time on this portion of the course. There were a couple punches that took me a few minutes to find, but mostly I was having an easy time of it. that changed at punch I79, where I joined three other cachers who had been there 20 minutes already. I searched with them for 5 minutes myself, but got impatient. if this one was missing, I would just need to skip it. and if a whole bunch of other cachers couldn't locate it in 25 minutes I figured there was a good chance it was missing. So off I went. only two caches later, at I64, I ran into another tough one for me. Luckily, another cacher walked by and I asked for a hint and was directed to where the cache was hidden, tucked into the gaping hole in a root. The rest of the course was fast and easy and I was soon running into the finish area. Of course you have to finish strong, so I ran as hard as I could this last stretch and flopped down in front of the Race Official with my card. I must say, the folks hanging around the finish area seemed a little surprised that I was finishing already. I was definitely the first person to finish, and my time was pretty darn good.

The next competitor to roll in, (Joe a previous winner of the Individual Comp) asked about #79 immediately when trotting in. When he heard it hadn't been found by me, he raced off to give it another look. I debated for a second about heading out after him. If he turned up I79 and I didn't get it, he would surely win. But on the other hand, if I79 was indeed missing, my going back out could allow another competitor to come in and beat my time. So I stayed put and drank down a coconut water. The race officials sent someone out to look for #79 as well, and I sat there, trying to be patiently optimistic.

A few more competitors came in and finally Joe came back as well, defeated by not having found #79. My gamble had paid off! #79 was indeed declared missing and I was the winner of the Individual Comp! The whole course ended up being less than 4 miles in length, and took around an hour and a half to complete. WAY shorter than last year's, which no one completed and took up the full 2.5 hours. Last year I had run over 8 miles! In some ways this is a good thing. It allows more people to finish the course and have more fun with the course, even if they aren't running hard. I also wasn't as tired or worn out for mty next competition, and I had some bonus time to go caching a little bit before the team comps. Which is exactly what I did. I called up team TKO, who were out caching already, and figured out a spot to meet them, and off I went.

Caching with TKO, or as they are better known when they are caching together, PLSF for Possible Lost Sequoia Fairy is a riot. Those guys had a list of hard D/T rating caches, virtuals and earthcaches, and other fun and interesting caches to go after in the Manhattan area. I hadn't prepared at all for caching in the area, so it was great for me to just tag along and help try to find things. Also, they are all just funny and fun people to hang out with. We ended up scoring 5 or six caches before we needed to be at the competition area again.
Once back at the Ranch, we got our maps and punch cards and strategized over a picnic lunch. The course for the 4-man comp was more or less the same size as the individual, which meant one thing: it was going to be fast! We sat down as a team and developed our plan. The course divided up pretty nicely into 4 quadrants, with two involving a bit more distance, but slightly fewer caches to find. Marty and I took the longer distance routes, and Kim and Tom took the closer routes with more caches. There was one outlier cache, T13, which didn't really fit into any route, but was also fairly close to the finish area. We decided that this one would be captured by whoever returned to the finish area first. Hopefully, while this person was grabbing this last one, the other members would be coming in and we would all finish around the same time.
As with the Individual Comp, the race started with a group picture, and then a brief count-down. At the start Marty and I were running next to eachother, which was a little odd, because he was supposed to take off in a slightly different direction than I was going. He figured that out quickly enough though and we soon separated. I was following behind another fast geocacher, the CherryCacher, but we spit up too choosing to go after different first caches. My first stop was T57, and I got there pretty quickly. But after a few frantic minutes of searching I couldn't find the bugger, so I decided to go to the next one and see if I could get this one on my way back, when maybe more other cachers would be clustered around it. I ran over to T27 where the CherryCacher was searching and joined him. Less than a minute late two more cachers showed up and they finally found the cache. I waited my turn to punch in, then was off up the hills to my next prize. it seemed like I was the first cacher to tackle the high hills caches, and for the most part I was running on my own. I quickly found all the caches up on the top prairie and started running back to T57 to try to find that one. on the way I got a hint from CharryCacher that it was on the ground. Thanks man! When i showed up this time, it was a quick and easy find. I then ran over to the last cache in my quadrant, found it, and almost a second later got a call from Kim. Kim had just finished her area and was heading back to find T13. That meant all i had to do was run to the finish area and wait for the rest of my team.

Unlike the Individual Comp, there were already competitors at the finish area when I ran in. But there was nothing I could do but sit and wait. I did learn that two of the folks waiting there were on the same team, and on a team with Joe and the CherryCacher. The CherryCacher came in a few minutes later and they were looking like a shoe-in to win at that point. I thought about texting out to my team mates to see if I could help, but decided that probably would just add confusion, so i patiently sat and waited. Kim finally showed up and she had heard from the other members of our team. Apparently Marty was having trouble finding one of his, so Tom, who had finished his route, had gone over to help Marty find his last one. While we were figuring all this out, Joe, the last member of the other team came running in. Their team quickly sat down to double check that all punches were completed, then turned in their cards. There final time was ~37 minutes!
The winning team: League of Extraordinary Gentlemen
So it didn't look like we would win, unless there was a strange fluke (hey one happenned last year), but Kim and I were still hoping to see Tom and Marty come charging down the hill to the finish area. Marty came in first, and Tom was only a short ways behind. We cheered them in, gathered our cards together and handed them in. Our time was ~46 minutes. Fast, but not fast enough.
With the team competition over so quickly, we had a bunch of extra time for some more caching, so off we went to find a few more of the areas interesting hides.
Pilsbury Falls

Of course its an Earthcache!
Konzaga Prairie, another fine earthcache
PLSF work on extracting an urban cache with a high D rating. Never would have gotten this one on my own, required a special TOTT
After some good caches found, I went back to the hotel to shower up and look for ticks. Thankfully none! We then all had dinner at a local bard/grill before heading over to the MOGA award ceremony. We arrived just in time for me to learn I had a winning raffle ticket. My prize was a cool Russian Ammo Can! If we had been much later the prize would have been given out to someone else, so our timing was perfect. Well, a little less than perfect, because no one on the PLSF crew had even had a chance to enter their raffle tickets into any of the drawings. They were too late... bummer. The award ceremony was much better run then last year's, with each contest being called out promptly and photos being taken off to the side while new winners were being called up.  As they were calling out the individual competition results, they passed over my age category for some reason, and I remarked to Marty "Why would they do that, it's not like the overall winner of the individual competition gets anything special." Or at least, that is what I thought. After calling out the 2nd and 3rd place finishers, the MC declared that this year, for the first time, they were presenting a new Cup for the overall individual Competition winner. It would be named in honor of a geocacher who had been instrumental in getting MOGA started, and who had passed away recently. And then they called me up! I was the first recipient of the new MOGA Individual Cup! 
MOGA 2017 crowd
When they got to the group competition, we knew what to expect, but I was still secretly hoping that somehow we had won. Up until they called team TKO up for 2nd place that is. We all went up to receive our medals, which are pretty darn cool. Then sat down as they announced the new MOGA cup winners, the team that had beaten us by nearly 10 minutes. We had run a good race, but they had run it faster. After that there was only one thing left to do. Hit the hot-tub! Nothing like a hot-tub and a cooler of drinks to relax after a long day of caching and competing.

Friday, April 21, 2017

The Road To MOGA 2017

For weeks I had been looking forward to participating in MOGA. That enthusiasm was only partly dampened by catching a virus from my son, leaving me with fevers, chills, head-aches and loads of phlegm. I had warned my team-mates about my sickness, and we had a replacement ready to go, but I was still determined to make it out to Manhattan, Kansas, and compete again. So early Friday morning, I blearily said goodbye to my wife, quietly kissed the sleeping kids on their foreheads and hit the road.

As any geocacher will tell you, long road trips aren't all that bad. There are almost always opportunities to find some cool caches along the way. This trip was no exception. I would be traveling mostly on smaller state highways, through the Northeast corner of New Mexico, the panhandle of Oklahoma, and through a giant hypotenuse of Kansas. Most of New Mexico passed while it was still dark, but the sun finally rose as I was passing Springer, NM. This part of New Mexico is pretty flat, although not flat by Kansas standards I suppose. There are prairies and gentle rolling hills, and usually a taller butte off in the distance. I spotted several herds of antelope along the road, and the morning dew soon rose into the air creating a gentle fog that made for a pleasant driving ambiance. I made my first pit-stop in Clayton, NM, for gas, a little breakfast burrito, and of course a geocache. The geocache I found was part of the Santa Fe trail, and I was hoping I would be able to find more of this Geotour since my route followed it pretty closely.

My next stops came pretty soon after since there was an interesting Virtual cache located at the tristate marker between Oklahoma, NM and Texas. I also grabbed a nearby traditional where I picked up a TB that had been left by some other MOGA-2017-bound geocachers that I had met in Santa Fe just a few days before. I was definitely traveling in their tire-tracks. There are actually a number of other geocaching points of interest in this little corner of the country, including Black mesa, the high-point of Oklahoma, and Point of Rocks, KS, another interesting stop along the Santa Fe Trail. All of these interesting spots were many miles off my route though, and would have required hours of additional travel time. Since I still had a long ways to go, I left these detour trips for some other time (if ever). Perhaps if I was to make the same trip over 2 days, I would have hit up these other spots. Oh well.

Tri-state corner

I was only in Oklahoma for less than an hour. Kansas would be the majority of my drive, and Kansas was flat. Big and flat. The highway I was on was a small state highway, just two lanes going opposing directions. The towns were spread pretty far apart, and SW Kansas towns seemed to be extremely rural. Farms lined the road just about everywhere, and there wasn't a whole lot to look at most of the time. I burned through quite a few podcasts during this portion of my drive. I also eagerly looked forward to the handful of interesting geocaches I had tagged as being worthy stops along my way. one was at a massive wind-farm. Another at a rural sod-house museum at a town that claimed to be the mid-point of America. A third was at Pawnee Rock, which to someone from NM, seemed to be a rather unremarkable rock outcropping, but for West Kansas, was a pretty big deal as a landmark. Pawnee rock was also a stop along the Santa Fe Trail, and while I was there I ran across another NM geocacher team who were on their way to MOGA as well. All these little stops help make the long drive a little more bearable, providing milestone goals along the route, things to look forward to in the next 50-100 miles.

Midway America?

Pawnee Rock

At around 5pm I finally drove into the bustling little city of Manhattan, KS, and quickly found the event hotel. The place was packed and thrumming with geocachers, as the Packet pick-Up event had just started. I checked into my room, then stood in line for my packet. The number of geocachers i ran into that I recognized kind of surprised me. I'm not that much of a social geocacher, but there were loads of people from east Tennessee, and a fair number of NM cachers that I knew and I tried to say hi to everyone. I also ended up talking to some Groundspeak Lackeys, Moun10bike and RockChalk, which was pretty cool. I knew both of them by reputation only, and I tried my best to talk them into competing in the MOGA events.
Quieting down at the MOGA central

The folks I was really looking forward to seeing though were my team, TKO, and I had to leave the event and drive over to a local brewery to meet up with them. Nothing beats meeting up with good friends over drinks and hearty food. And the best part was, my flu symptoms seemed to be fading. I had been checking my temperature throughout the drive and was usually in the 100-102F range. But I was feeling better now that I was eating real food and hanging out with friends. I was still coughing a bit, and had gobs of phlegm. But what can you do. I was committed to race and that was that.

My team was up for some more geocaching that night, but I was wiped, so I said my goodbye and made a bee-line straight to my hotel bed, where I practically fell asleep in my clothes.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

One last training run for MOGA

Panorama view from Tetilla Peak
I had a chance to do one more training run for the MOGA comps coming up, and much like my last training run, I chose a geo-art out in the deserts west of Santa Fe. This one was called the Bajada Arrowhead, and consisted of 18 caches out in cholla filled plains. The hides were much easier than the Geo-circle, all PVC pipes sticking out of the ground and for the most part very obvious to spot. So the training was mostly just me running around in the desert for an hour. After completing the art, I decided to hike up the nearby Tetilla Peak.  This made for a nice little finale to my training run, but was actually pretty tough on my dog. I forget how she is getting older and has a much harder time on rugged off-trail terrain. She was absolutely wiped at the top, and I ended up taking a different route down that was longer, but on more roads/trails. Poor girl.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Passover Geocaching

Nearly every year we visit the Washington DC area for our family Passover gathering. I always try to find a few caches while there, and this year I was able to rope some other family into helping me find caches including my brother and his wife, and my nephews.
My son and his cousin at one of the geocaches we found
Mainly, wee just needed some outside time in the nearby parks to allow the kids some time to blow off steam, and run around in the woods. The fact that I scored a set of water-pistols from one of the geocaches was just a lucky happenstance.
My bro climbing through thorns to look for a cache we couldn't find.

My son near a cache at the base of an abandoned fire tower.

The kids monkeying around at Meadowside Park

My intrepid caching companion