Thursday, December 30, 2010

Lothlorien the Photo Squirrel

WARNING: The following blog entry contains spoilers to the caches listed within. If you feel you may be caching in Tucson anytime soon and don't want to ruin your hunt, please proceed with caution.

Our good friend, Samantha (Colonel Carter is her username on, is taking a vacation from Ohio, so we get to spend a month or so with her. Little did I know, she's also a geocacher, with almost 100 finds under her belt! We just had to go seek out some caches together. It was misting quite a bit (rare for Tucson), but we managed to get in some finds right before it started really raining. We had a great time. Have a look!

This cache had a hint: "I am cradled by and look like the Mallorn tree (California pepper tree)." Okay, none of us had any idea what such a tree would look like, but with coordinates set into our GPS devices (mine a GPSr, and Samantha's a smart phone), we set out in search of this cache. We ended up in a small wash (if you're not familiar with what a 'wash' is, see the second picture on this page). There were quite a few trees about, but we couldn't find the cache. I climbed up on the bank, and saw something stuck in the crook of the tree. It was the cache, disguised to look like a piece of bark! The only thing is, I couldn't reach it from the side I was on (some cacti were in the way), so Sarah grabbed the cache. We took a guitar pick, guitar key chain, and a pumpkin eraser. We left a daisy duck toy, a rubber stamper, and a zipper pull.

 Here's my honey with the cache container. Nice camo!

Here's the tree we were searching for.

I have no idea why this cache was given such a name, besides it being under a tree. We parked on a nearby street and got to the cache in quick order. Nikki found this one, and it was partially exposed. After exchanging items and signing the log, we hid it more carefully. The highlight for Nikki was finding a frog eraser. Nikki freaks about anything froggy, so she was quite ecstatic here:

What a cutie!

"I got my pencilllll..."

Colonel Carter and The Tucson Terrors!

Samantha wanted to walk to the next cache, and that was fine with us... or so I thought. On the way to our last geocache of the day, Nikki and Skylar got tired of walking. They headed back to the car. We were all of 200 feet away, but noooooo. Well, might as well grab the cache and catch up with them. I spotted the cache while our other party members were off checking other areas. It was right in a tall pipe sticking vertically out of the ground. The cache container was a film canister, hence the name of the cache. We took a pumpkin eraser (we've been finding those in almost every single cache!), and left another zipper pull.

No, there isn't something attached to my face. There was a drop of water on the lens.

Upon reaching the car, we saw that nobody was inside. No Nikki, no Skylar. Colonel Carter (Samantha) left a very excellent description of the situation on, so I'll let her take over at this point.

"As we went on to secure the cache site and make the find, Nikki and the baby got hopelessly lost. So much so that when we got back to the equipment, Nikki and Sky were no-where in site. Suddenly mission priorities shifted to SAR instead of standard recon. Making matters worse, Nikki didn't have her comogear with her.

I left Amy at her car with Savannah while Sarah and I took to the air in Jumper One to do a sweep of the area. We don't leave our people behind!

Sarah had a wonderful time as she found out what a seasoned pilot could do, and the places she could go with Colonel Carter at the controls. Didn't take long at all to find our two missing team members, and call back to Amy to set up a rendevous."

Never a dull moment. We did have an excellent time with our friend. One of many. Samantha is the best!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Polar Bear in the Desert

WARNING: The following blog entry contains a spoiler to the cache listed within. If you feel you may be caching in Tucson anytime soon and don't want to ruin your hunt, please proceed with caution.

It was Christmas break for the kids, but they had gotten themselves grounded and needed to get out of the house for a bit. I decided a walk and a cache hunt would be in order, so I grabbed my two older daughters and headed out. We walked for about 20 minutes, and found ourselves in the middle of a cactus garden of sorts. (These are found in patches all over the suburban areas of Tucson. Sand, cacti, aloe plants, and other such desert vegetation.) We came across a rusted out container and a lid, both lying on the ground several feet from each other. We thought this was the cache (darn muggles!), but thankfully it was a decoy (whether an intentional one or not). Sarah found it in a bush, and under a pile of rocks. Good find, Sarah! We took a pair of rings and a bag of erasers, and left a plastic centaur toy and a naked trollkin. We headed home after that, as we had some kind of appointment that we had to go to. Fun hunt!


Monday, December 13, 2010

Enlisted Aircrew

WARNING: The following blog entry contains a spoiler to the cache listed within. If you feel you may be caching in Tucson anytime soon and don't want to ruin your hunt, please proceed with caution.

Nikki and the kids had gone off to do something else, so I set off to find one cache during the late morning hours. The owner of the cache wanted to pay homage to his Enlisted Aircrew brothers and sisters, hence the name. I walked about two miles (since Nikki had the car), and turned down a side street. I crossed an alley and into a parking lot. I quickly homed in on what I thought to be the location. I was near a cactus, with an aloe plant next to it. I saw a few suspicious-looking rocks, but nothing was underneath them. Even when stepping between the two plants (very carefully), I saw nothing. My GPS was going all wonky on me for some reason. I don't know what could've been interfering with it. I walked back and forth about the area, and then it came to me. I remembered where we found the Safe Way... 234 cache. It was under part of a lamp post.

I opened the cache, and voila! An Altoids tin. (Very popular container.) I dropped the travel bug in (which was found in this entry), and signed the log. I headed on home. Just one find, but it was fun! I'll be keeping a sharp eye out for those skirt hides in the future.

The "skirt" is that square metal piece between the concrete base and the pole. It's hollow, and it can be pulled upwards, enabling people to leave objects in the empty space. Clever! You can see that cactus at the far right of the picture.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Chests o' Trinkets

WARNING: The following blog entry contains spoilers to the caches listed within. If you feel you may be caching in Tucson anytime soon and don't want to ruin your hunt, please proceed with caution.

We went geocaching again last Sunday, and the whole family came this time. We went after three caches, and we found them all. Read on...

Our first cache was nearby in the Safeway grocery store parking lot. That's all we knew. I parked in front and let my GPS tell me where to go. We soon learned that the cache was behind the store. We looked behind a tall metal cabinet thingie and found the skeletal remains of a bird. No picture for this one, sorry! The cache turned out to be underneath a metal plate on a lightpost. Nikki saw that it was loose and pulled it upwards. We found a little sardine tin underneath. We took some items and left some of our items, tiny as they were. They had to be, this thing was tiny. I forgot what the items were, sorry.

We got back in the car and headed for the next one. (I would just walk but everyone else gets tired quicker than I do.) This one was in a trail behind a bunch of houses. We found it pretty quickly under a tree. There was what looked like a birdhouse, but upon closer inspection, it most definitely was not. Observe:

The owner of this cache had built the semi-birdhouse himself. That's really neat! I also loved the way the "chest o' trinkets" looked, as well as the log book. These were all hand-made! Here's a picture of me holding both.

We also found our first travel bug in this cache. A travel bug is a trackable dog tag that you can place in a cache. It's usually attached to an item in some way. This allows you to track your item online. The item becomes a hitchhiker that is carried from cache to cache (or person to person) in the real world and you can follow its progress online. The one we found was in a small plastic bag with a lego.

This travel bug is "racing" with another travel bug. Whichever one goes the most miles wins. They both started in the U.K.! The travel bug with the yellow lego is till in the U.K. This red one made it to Florida, then up to Canada, back down to New Mexico, and ended up in Arizona - first partway up Mount Lemmon, and now down here near us. What a trip! The unfortuante thing is, our car is not so good. Otherwise we'd bring it at least 30 miles or something. I'll have to drop it off somewhere else locally. Maybe the next geocacher can do right by it.

Before we headed to the next cache, we decided to take a few miscellaneous pics.

The kiddos!

I really love this picture of me and my snookums!

Our last cache was a really tricky one. (Yes, this is really the name given to the cache!) It was located by the Pantano Wash, but farther south. Luckily for us, we didn't have do down in the wash, like last time. We looked so long for this damn thing. All that was around were little bushes and dirt. And my GPS was telling me I was 0.0 feet from the cache coordinates! Nikki and the kids kept kicking this log around, picking it up and putting it down, kicking it, etc. I picked it up...

The sun was in our eyes.

Wow! This guy carved a hole in the log and jammed an Altoids tin into it! There wasn't much inside since it was so small. And no wonder the coordinates were off. The Terrors were moving the log from it's original location, so when I was standing there, it was somewhere else. Geez...

We took some time to fool around and climb a tree. I'm a kid at heart, so I had to get in on the fun.  ;)


Sarah, get that thing out of your mouth!

This is really good picture of Sarah.

"Honey, take the picture! Can't... hold on... much... longer...!"

We took the long way around (by mistake) when going back to the car. Skylar was really tired. She kept stopping and sitting down on the sidewalk. I wanted to hit some more caches, but we had to call it a day.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

...And So It Begins.

WARNING: The following blog entry contains spoilers to the caches listed within. If you feel you may be caching in Tucson anytime soon and don't want to ruin your hunt, please proceed with caution.

I bought my Garmin eTrek Legend GPS about 5 years ago or more, and never used it. For one reason or another, I just never got around to going geocaching. Now that I have a family to share this with, and an area where the weather is almost always sunny, I decided to take up this little hobby. Here's a picture of the GPS that we're using.

So we set out to search for our first geocache. This one was near the Pantano wash. For those who don't know what a wash is, it's used to divert water away from homes and roads, etc., and out into the desert. It usually looks like a dried-up river, but it can turn into a raging torrent when the monsoons hit Tucson, which can happen in July, August or early September. First we looked on the east side of the wash. We walked about 18 meters, only to discover that we needed to go west. The GPS was telling us that the cache was down in the wash itself. The sides of the wash were way too steep to navigate, so we had to go alllll the way back. Once in the wash, we walked about the same distance. The GPS again told us to go west... as we were standing on the bottom of another steep wall of dirt. We went back again, and ended up on the west side of the wash this time. There we found it... finally! To be specific, Savannah was the one who spotted it. Here are some pics:

This... is the wash. Water flows from left to right. Well, it would, if there was any.

Walking down the east side of the wash. I love looking at the mountains here in Tucson. I wonder how long I have to live here in order to stop gawking at them.

Now we're inside the wash. Are you coming, honey?

 Javelina footprints. A javelina is a large, hairy kind of pig, somewhat resembling a warthog.

This is not the cache. It's an old cassette player with the lid missing.

We found it! It was in that old stump to the right. I'm holding the old can that is our first geocache, and the kids are holding up the little goodies they got.

We later tried to find a cache behind a CVS, to no luck. There were a bunch of trees in the area, and they were confusing the hell out of my GPS. I'm wondering if there's a GPS available that will work better with trees overhead. Since many caches are hidden in or around trees, this is pretty important.

We found one more cache in a stump by the Hilton Hotel parking lot. I didn't take any pictures because it was pretty dark by the time we found it. It was a pretty easy find, though there were a bit of brambles and pokey things about.

The next day we headed out again. Nikki was very achy and sore from the trek on the day before, so she stayed behind, as did Skylar. I took Sarah and Savannah with me, and we found a bunch more caches. It was some good quality time with my two older daughters.

This is so named due to certain homeless people that bed down in the area. Luckily, the place was deserted when we got there. This wasn't far at all from the Pantano River Park cache.

Sarah found this one. It was in a Bath & Body Works container. Savannah got a tiny bowling pin and Sarah got a bell.

"We're here searching for the infamous Kodak Cache. It's so named for the old film container that is the cache itself. What do we have here? A part of this metal fence looks suspicious..."

"Crikey! I found the bugger! It was hung inside the post, from what looks to be a straightened-out safety pin!"

"Ain't she a beauty!"

Here's another cache that was stuffed under the very rock that I'm sitting on. Unfortunately, these tiny caches don't have room for any swag -- errr, items.

If anyone has the wherewithal to invest in this hobby, I would recommend it. I heard that Tucson is a very cache-rich area (hooray!), but there are geocaches all over the world. Speaking of Tucson caches, here's a map illustrating the placement of these caches in my area. Just look at all of them! You can enlarge the pic a bit by clicking on it.

So has anyone reading this ever gone geocaching before? Would anyone like to try it?