Friday, August 10, 2018

Where to Now?

The weather has been super hot, limiting any interest in local hiking. Once again, I put together plans for an overnight trip, looping up through Searchlight, Nevada and then over to Barstow, California before heading home.

As is typical when I'm traveling solo, it was an early morning departure, but the GPS in the car was loaded with the route,

and made creating a list of caches an easy task. I was going to concentrate on some earth caches and a handful of other caches that looked interesting.

One of the nice things about Cachetur is that the new app updates an estimated schedule based on actual arrival times. By adding a waypoint at the beginning for home, I was able to start the list with an accurate departure time - 3:39 a.m.

Cachetur estimated the trip to be 871 miles with a completion time (including time for the 25 planned caches) of 23 hours, 14 minutes, and 59 seconds. I'll admit to being crazy, but I'm not going to do a 24 hour trip without some rest so I decided I'd get a hotel in Barstow before starting back.
I took lots of pictures on day one (on the phone) and managed to lose every one of them when downloading them to the computer the first evening. This one is from the next day and the previous ones are from my old Canon camera which takes terrible pictures thanks to all its river abuse.

The best stop of the day was in Baker, California which bills itself as the Gateway to Death Valley. The thermometer stands 134 feet high to commemorate the highest temperature recorded here. It was 108 degrees when I was there, slightly cooler than the high in Phoenix that day.

This picture isn't mine - it was taken several years ago and is used in accordance with the Creative Commons license.

I got into Barstow about 2 hours ahead of schedule. A hotel room with a working air conditioner gave me a place to log the various caches I'd completed. An early start tomorrow for the trip back including a section of Route 66.

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Traveling Vicariously

Geocoins vary in shapes and sizes
There's a 'side game' in geocaching that involves geocoins or travel tags with unique tracking numbers. The intent is for these items to travel from cache to cache with the aid of geocachers. In order for this to happen, the tags or coins need to be logged into and out of the geocaches where they transfer from one geocacher to another. We quickly learned that the fancier and more expensive geocoins 'disappear' almost immediately.

Travel tags are less expensive, not as fancy, and with some luck will continue traveling, although they too have a tendency to evaporate into thin air. Many geocachers will no longer risk launching a travel bug, but I enjoy seeing where they go.

With one of our geocaching friends headed for Belgium for a couple weeks, I decided to launch a travel tag that I've had sitting around for months. I attached it to the back of a wooden wheel just to give it a bit more size so that it was less likely to be lost in the bottom of a cache, but I cut part of the tire off so that it wouldn't roll.

I just got some pictures of where it was dropped off.

A beautiful, sandy beach with a very well known name if you know any history - Dunkirk.

with remnants of war remaining to be seen.

The shifting sands don't bode well for the line of sight for a gunner, but do provide opportunity for the placement of a geocache large enough to host my travel tag. One of these days, a geocacher will pick it up and move it to a different cache.

Meanwhile, I can travel vicariously.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Trees, Mud, and Arrows

We headed to Flagstaff in hopes of cooler weather and a chance to do a little hiking in the trees.

We stayed at the Twin Arrows, more or less.

The version on the south side of the road doesn't have fuel, but does have lots of artistic visitors.

The version on the north side of the highway is much nicer, but the parking lot has a fair amount of slope AND we wanted to be able to drop the trailer while we were wandering around the area.

We ended up boondocking (as was the plan) on the south side of the highway about 1/2 mile from the original arrows on state land. The junipers aren't as classic as the tall pines in other areas but they have their own appeal.

We made the drive out to see Grand Falls since it would be flowing thanks to the monsoon storms. Grand Falls was created by a lava flow that dammed the Little Colorado river. It only flows during the spring runoff and after monsoon storms.

A different angle.

The road includes about 10 miles of gravel. We took one route in and another route out. Both were very washboarded. Other than the falls, the highlight was the small group (how big does a group need before it qualifies as a herd?) of llama that decided to cross the road in front of us.

I assumed that llama would be sheared like sheep, but apparently not.

BJ was taking a picture of the one hiding behind the mirror while I got a picture of the one that was following us.

While driving an old stretch of Route 66, we came across this memorial. No name or story other than the big and little cowboys, hand in hand.

We both decided that we need to come back and spend more time in the Flagstaff area.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

In Search of Mythical Creatures

With BJ's twice a week Physical Therapy appointments, the trailer hasn't been out of the garage since I got back from Prescott in April. She decided it was time to go for a trial run, so we headed out right after her Wednesday appointment.

Turk even got an upgrade as well. The hose clips on to one of the air conditioner outlets and provides a flow of air direct to his kennel in the back seat. It apparently works - he slept almost all the way to Flagstaff.

We set up camp east of Flagstaff at about 6,000 feet elevation. Reports had been showing mid 50's at night and low 80's during the day. Turns out the reports were about 10 degrees lower than reality but it was still much cooler than temps in the Valley.

Every summer, Geocaching headquarters does some sort of promotional. This year was a hunt for mythical hidden creatures. You needed to find 100 caches during the promotional period in order to earn all 13 mythical creatures.

Since BJ hadn't been feeling up to the typical bending and stretching involved in normal geocaching, we picked out a 'power trail' where we could work as a team. The 'No Simple Highway' power trail starts at I-40 and runs along forest service roads for over 25 miles.
High cache density (one every tenth of a mile) and simple hides would make it easier to get the numbers she needed.

Forest Service seems a bit of a misnomer here. The road was wide and well drained, but with significant washboarding in areas. The beginning of the road crossed both state land and private land before entering the Coconino National Forest.

We split up duties. BJ drove,

using the geocaching app on her phone to keep track of where to stop

while I used my GPS to locate the cache, swap containers, (a procedure unique to some power trails), and then stamp the log and reload the container while BJ drove to the next location.
I use JustFindingOurWay from my geo name while BJ goes as Turtlehkr. Since JustFindingOurWay is waaaay too long, it gets abbreviated when we're working together.

The caches were almost all located in the large rocks that had been pushed aside when grading the road once upon a time.

Nearly all of them had some sort of cairn or rock pile to indicate the location. The caches were mostly pill bottles of one type or another with a paper log to sign.

We started this run right after breakfast on Thursday. Neither one of us had any idea how long it might take us, but we reached number 100 in about two & a half hours. Had to stop for a picture at that point but Turk wasn't having anything to do with it.

In much less time than we expected, we turned 108 green cache symbols into yellow 'smilies.' and earned our World Turtle souvenirs. That yellow line is over 10 miles long.

According to GeoHQ, "Congratulations! You are one of few geocachers who successfully searched the ends of the Earth to witness the most rare and elusive hidden creature, the World Turtle."

We capped that day off with a rousing thunderstorm, complete with a couple very nearby lightning strikes before being treated to one of the most unique sunsets I've ever seen.

Before we left town on Saturday, we were introduced to a wonderful new place to eat in Flagstaff, and to a number of the Flagstaff geocachers including the folks that put in the series of caches that we'd just done. Eat n' Run's Arizona Breakfast Bowl was one of the best breakfasts that I've ever had.

As to the question about BJ's back, she said it wasn't any worse than staying at home! I guess that's as good as I could hope.

Saturday, July 21, 2018

International Troublemaking

BJ and I have had the privilege of meeting a geocacher from Europe who is working as a flight instructor here in town. She asked for some help to build some caches to be placed in Belgium. Most simply needed the right adhesive, but a couple required some other tools and techniques.

All of the caches have an aviation theme. The small ones are simply bison tubes epoxied to small aircraft.

The beacon was a bit of a fluke. She'd picked up a garden solar light and brought alone a couple clear water bottles. A bit of time with the drill press and suddenly the two fit together like they were designed that way.

The bird house was a near mate to one that I placed last December, with a couple minor design improvements. While she was working on the others, I started cutting wood.

The first coat of epoxy went on and all the doublers were glued in place.

A couple days later she came back and helped me glue the rest of the bird house together. It's much easier with a holder and someone with clean hands to shoot the brads that hold it together until the epoxy cures.

The ammo can got the camo treatment over some aviation stickers that serves as reverse stencils.

While that was painted, another cache with a twist was also painted. If you want to see that one, you'll have to travel. All told, there are 10 new containers ready to add some fun in Belgium.

After the epoxy cured on the assembly, I added the hinges, hasp, and checked for fit. Amazingly, it fit the way it was supposed to - the first time!

Grey primer, followed by grey paint, finished this one up, except for cache specific decorations that you'll have to travel to Belgium to see.

We stencilled the inside of the outer door, and after this picture was taken, the false hole in the birdhouse was painted black. The perch is just press fit in place right now so she can remove it when she packs all this in her suitcase for her vacation to her homeland.

I'm looking forward to seeing the logs on this one. Hope folks in Europe enjoy it as much as locals enjoy my cache that uses  a similar concept.

Edit 7/26 - The cache published today. The spoiler picture may help you locate it... if you're somewhere nearby.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Downtown Mesa

We've been Mesa residents for over 15 years, but rarely spend any time downtown. The city has made a lot of effort to wake up the downtown area and has made many positive changes in the past ten years. Downtown is now served by light rail and has a growing number of food and art venues. They also have a growing collection of sculptures and murals and an organized tour.

Some of the sculptures were part of a touring sculpture show that used to visit before the city started their own collection.

There are quite a few animals, from pigs to wolves.

Some are whimsical.

Others seem a bit out of place in a desert environment, even if they do have some interesting details if you take the time to look.

There are lots of people represented - some are not specific to a person, like this one of the citrus grower

or the girl reading a book.

Others are donated by families recognizing their lineage. This man was a school teacher, served as the mayor, and then had refrigerated storage for crops which led to him being the first Coors distributor outside of Colorado.

The Wolfswinkel family had a service station and Mrs. W would bring a warm loaf of bread to her husband every day for lunch. I'm not sure what was in the mason jar.

At least one of the sculptures highlights one of the more recent industries in town,

but my favorite is one that combines a people element with animals. This one is located right across the street from the Mesa Arts Center, where they offer all sorts of art related classes in addition to a busy schedule of performing arts.