Sunday, August 4, 2013

Geocaching This Weekend

I took Friday off work because I'd already put in for it for Nathan and I to spend time together, so even though I didn't have him after all, I have plenty of PTO available, so I kept the day off and had a three day weekend.  Woo!

Friday, after cleaning up a little around the house, I did one of my new things I like to do when geocaching--I start with the cache closest to my house (that I haven't found), and once I find it, I find the closest one to that one (that I haven't found) and so on.  It forces me to do caches that don't necessarily sound interesting, and it's fun to see where I end up.  A couple weekends ago, I did that and ended up in a local cemetery, when the next cache was a night cache (need darkness and flashlights to do it), plus it was time for me to be heading back home anyway.  This time, I ended up traversing over the top of Awbrey Butte, and ended the chain with a DNF (Did Not Find) roundabout cache near Newport Market.  It had just been replaced by the cache owner, so I'm sure it was there, but it was apparently a small one hanging in VERY bushy shrubs, so those just take luck of catching a view at the correct angle, and I didn't have the luck this time.

Saturday,  I lazed around through the hottest part of the day, then headed out later in the evening.  I want to put together a few caches around a "bone" theme (more on that later), and this cache indicated that you should park in the "boneyard," where law enforcement puts roadkill bodies to be eaten and taken care of by the elements.  There were some photos that looked cool, so I figured I'd go pick up some "clean" bones, maybe take some pictures, and do the cache while I was at it.

It's a multi-stage cache, but the description said it was a scramble, a hill, then a nice easy walk to the final.  Um, yeah.  Not so much.

The journey started off as expected, in a boneyard.

I took the obligatory lichen photo (hey, it's more common than flowers in most of the places I frequent, so it's becoming more common than flowers in my photo repertoire).

It WAS a scramble to the top of a hill, but that wasn't too bad, and the view was worth it.

Then there was a gap in a barbed wire fence, and I had to choose which side to be on.  My GPS showed that the cache was straight down the fence, not indicating one side or the other.  So I picked the side with what looked like the better trail, and went for it.  Of course, I picked wrong.  I got to where the cache should be, looked around a bit, and found it, but couldn't reach it from that side of the fence.

I looked for a spot where the wires seemed most slack, and after deciding that going BETWEEN wires was better when you're (a) skinnier and (b) have a partner to help hold the wires, I tried stepping OVER all of them.  I could push them down just low enough, but holding them there while maintaining my balance, and trying to keep my crotch from moving anywhere while simultaneously lifting first one leg, then the other, over the wire proved too difficult for me.  My pants bore the brunt of it, getting a nice big tear in the upper thigh.  Oh well, there was no one around to witness it or the aftermath, so I kept on trucking.

This was a multi cache, with two waypoints then the final.  I found that first waypoint after my run-in with the barbed wire, and it pointed away from the fence.  I thought.  But then it quickly sent me back across the fence, and that was when I realized that the fence was down not too far past where I'd ripped up my pants trying to cross an intact section.  Ugh.

The GPS pointed me straight down a very steep hill.  At that point, I debated just calling it quits and heading back to the car.  But I was in this far, and the cache description made it sound like just a little bit of a pain in the butt until I found a nice trail to walk on.  Yeah.  Not so much.

I scrambled down the hill covered in loose rock.  Oh, did I mention I was wearing sandals?  Now, I've been hiking in sandals ever since I discovered off-brand Tevas in high school (and before that, often hiked barefoot, but that's not practical in Central Oregon).  I've even scrambled over boulders all day in sandals.  A few times.  Large rocks, fine.  Trails, awesome.  "Off-roading" in loose Central Oregon rocks, sand, and dust?  Not so awesome.  I LOVE my Chacos, and love the way the straps are ultra-adjustable so you can get the perfect fit.  However, that perfect fit means that once a rock gets in, its never coming out, short of removing the entire shoe, as if you were wearing hiking boots or something.  But of course the likelihood of a rock getting into your shoe in the first place is much higher.  Not fun.  So I was often limping or walking on the edge of one foot while scrambling down, trying to ignore the rock(s) in my shoe until it got unbearable, and I'd stop and remove it.  Rinse and repeat quite a few times as I scrambled further and further down the hill, wondering how much lower than the car I was now, and whether I could go directly back to the car or would have to hike all the way back up and then down again.

Finally, I made it to the second waypoint, slid under the barbed wire fence this time (there was a steep slope that made this not only possible, but rather easy), found the next coordinates, and plugged them into both my phone and GPS.  Which both said it was about a quarter mile away.

The sun was going down, so I once again thought about just going back to the car, but decided after all I'd been through, I couldn't go back without getting the cache.  Ugh.  So I pressed on.  I found the trail I THINK they were referring to in the cache description, but it was NOT a "nice" trail.  It was a rather lousy trail, full of rocks that liked to try to get my to trip or twist my ankle.

Then the trail, such as it was, seemed to peter out into multiple game trails heading multiple direction.  I consulted my GPS, which showed a straight line path that cut the corner the river was making.  (Great, so it was actually MORE than a quarter mile I'd still have to actually walk to get there.)  So I figured the closer to the river the better, which led me into a network of game "trails" that weren't always actual trails so much as just places where the grass was more bent out of the way than others.  Sure, it was scenic.

But I also worried about snakes and ticks and just all those annoying little cuts/scratches you get from grass that make you itch like crazy, and oh no, what if there are actual poisonous plants in here that give me a big old rash, and did the grass just move on its own?  I think it did.  Must be a bunny, must be a bunny, must be a bunny.

Amidst that, though, I did get to see a doe bedded down.  She spotted me before I spotted her, of course, but she let me get fairly close before dashing off.

Do you see her?

Can you see her now?

I bet you see her now!
So that was cool.  And again, I'm not saying it wasn't pretty, in its own way.

But it was tiresome, trudging through that grass, and even though I was close to the river, and could hear it, I couldn't see it anyway.

This was taken at chest height.  And I'm tall.

Finally, I meandered my way on the game trails back away from the river a bit, and FINALLY found the "nice trail."  What a relief to be able to just walk for a while, without having to test my footing every step or worry about a snake popping out and biting me or whatever.

This pile of sticks must have been deposited here when the river was higher.

Ooh, another deer!

I meandered along the trail, making much better time than in the weeds next to the river, while watching my GPS honing in on the location of the final cache.  I broke out of the forest next to the river, into clearer desert terrain, and took a photo of myself in the sunset light.

Huh.  The clue said "between," but I didn't see anything for a cache to be between, except shrubs.  I pulled out my phone (I'd been using my GPS, since its batteries last longer), and it indicated that the cache was back the way I'd come.  I'd typoed the digits when entering them into the GPS.  Or at least, I hoped so, because I was heading back to where the phone was telling me to go.

At this point, I started thinking how glad I was that I not only had both devices (either of which could navigate me to the car if I couldn't find my own way), spare batteries for the GPS, and two head lamps.  Who knows how long this could take, and it was definitely getting dimmer out.

This rock looked like a nice place to sit and think, if one had time for that.

Finally, I found where the cache should be, and luckily enough, it was an easy find, so I quickly sat down, signed the log, and headed back for the car.

It was nice to finally get a glimpse of the river!

Now, I have to admit that I sometimes am looking at once device or the other (not both, usually) while walking, and while I like to think that I look up every step or so to check my route and prevent walking off a cliff or even just tripping (which, I rarely trip, so I guess I'm doing pretty well), I confirmed to myself that I am able to watch where I'm going in the real world while also watching where I'm going on a tiny screen.  I stopped dead in my tracks when I saw this.  Now, Grandma Curtis (or anyone else who doesn't like snakes), don't look at the next few pictures.  Just scroll past quickly until you get to the second big gap of white space like this one:

I had JUST been telling someone that in my nearly 13 years in Central Oregon (and not that I'm completely outdoorsy, but I do get outside once in a while), I'd never seen a snake except one I was 99% sure was a garter snake, because it looked like this:

(This is a random photo from Google Images)

Seeing a brownish snake concerned me, because I know rattlesnakes are brownish.  However, once I found this website and did some further google image searching, I'm pretty sure what I saw was either a northwestern garter snake or a gopher snake, both of which are harmless, to me anyway.  (The biggest clue that it's not a rattlesnake is that its head is barely wider than its body, instead of nearly twice as wide.)   Of course, I didn't google it on the trail, so I gave it a WIDE berth and hurried on my way with a little extra adrenaline in my veins.  Okay, enough talk about snakes...

In better news, I also saw lots of evidence of baby deer traveling with their mothers, though I only saw does in the flesh.

Speaking of which...

However, that "nice" trail they promised, and which I'd finally found after bushwhacking originally, petered out back into game trails, though at least this time I knew where I was headed, an I went ahead and got an early start on heading up the long hill when I saw a decent-sized game trail headed the right direction.  After many out-of-breath rest stops, I made it back up to the top.

I followed the barbed-wire fence back to the original cut where I'd decided which side to travel on, then headed back down the hill to the car.  I made it back to the car JUST as the sun was dipping over the hill.

Today, I got the notion to FINALLY start working on a cache I've been thinking of doing.  Nathan and I have found some bones on horseback rides back in the day, and now I know of a ready source of them, so I thought it would be fun to do a cache with bones as the theme.  Then I thought of a few locations that could fit the theme (no, I'm not going to give them away--start geocaching and join in the search!), so I decided on doing a few caches that all give hints to a final "bonus" cache that would be extra super cool.  So the first step is to figure out where to place that cache, note the coordinates, and then start placing hints to those coordinates (whether puzzles people have to figure out, or just plain giving pieces of them away) in the other caches.  So I headed out to the site I wanted the final bonus cache to be, noted coordinates of the actual cache, nearby parking, etc., and made a second trip from car to cache with a huge bag of bones, as well as the cache container full of cool stuff.  I placed the cache, as well as a waypoint with clues to that cache, marked all the locations in my GPS, and went back to the car, hot and thirsty, even though I'd drank nearly two bottles of water (saved some for the drive home) and had a Frog Togs Chilly Pad to keep me cool.  I hate to think how hot and thirsty I would have been without either of them!  I walked about two miles on those two trips, plus scouting out a spot for the final cache, which isn't a LOT, but sucks when you're trudging through loose lava (in sandals again, but I did bring shoes in case it became unbearable), and it's 90 degrees out.  Oh well.

Oh, and I lugged my camera around the whole time, but never took it out of my backpack, so I don't have any pictures even if I wanted to drop a hint about where I was.  :-)

I stopped by one other potential cache location to ask permission, and had to e-mail the actual owner, so I've now done that.  I have a few more ideas, but I doubt I'll pull them all together before leaving for Canada, so I'll go check on that final cache one more time before actually making it live, to make sure no one (animal or human) has destroyed it or anything.

So, that was my weekend.  How was yours?


  1. Dear Husband is a hiker. He bagged one of the Catskill high peaks this weekend. Because I've been listening to his explanations of what he's been doing (this time and the others), I have a clue what you were doing. I still don't know why anyone would want to hike/climb, but there you are.
    Dear Daughter likes geocaching, although she hasn't done a lot of it.
    Me, I'm challenged enough just walking around the neighborhood, what with the terrain. It's not like the flatlands I grew up on!

  2. Heh, I didn't hike or climb as far as he did, I'm sure, but it's entirely possible I was at a higher elevation than him at points throughout the weekend! :-) (Bend is 3400 feet or so.)

    Hey, as long as you're getting the prescribed amount of exercise, there's no need to feel bad that it's not hiking! It's just a good thing you're getting out there and moving around.