Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Caching & Quilting

BJ and I have spent a lot of time in Utah, but almost all of it has been in the Moab / Canyonlands National Park area. This year, while looking for a different route to the northwest, I realized there was a big area that we hadn't investigated and it had some potentially interesting caching. That was enough to spawn the idea of spending the better part of a week in south/central Utah.

We visited a lot of earth caches where geology is included as an explicit component of the cache description and answers to 'test' questions must be filed before you can claim a find. Like any caches, they tend to take you to places you might not visit otherwise. Landslide mechanisms anyone?

We also visited a lot of virtual caches. This type of cache typically brings you to a historic marker and you then must report some esoteric detail that wouldn't be easily found on the internet to prove that you actually visited the location.

It was fun learning weird historical facts and visiting some interesting places while looking for virtual caches.

Not all of the caches were as advertised. These were all supposed to be 'regular' sized.

I'd hoped to finally reach Potters Pond, a cache that was placed in August, 2000 but we were skunked again! Last year I couldn't get there because of a forest fire. This time there was still snow and the Forest Service hadn't opened the road yet. We got within 11 miles, but I'm not hiking twice that far for a cache!

A certain someone posted this to her Facebook page, "So while John Schroeder thinks our road trip is about geocaching.... I'm laying out a trail to quilt shops. Saw this cute Barn quilt in a shop in Springville, UT."

This is just a little defense of the driver... Please note the name of the business. Turk and I waited while the necessary shopping was done

including patterns and a variety of materials,

before we headed off to visit another virtual cache at another monument. It's an interesting way to find what a community thinks is important.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Valley of Fire State Park

Valley of Fire is the state's oldest State Park. We've driven by several times, and driven through once, but this is the first time that we've stayed at Valley of Fire State Park in Nevada. It's popular as a day trip from Las Vegas but also has camping available. There is one loop that has power & water ($30) and two other loops that are dry. ($20) All of the sites are first come, first served.
Because the weather was perfect - up to the low 80's during the day - we elected to stay in the Arch Rock campground which is all dry. Many of the spaces are tucked into the rocks creating private alcoves, unlike the W/E area where there's no shade or privacy.

We drove right past Elephant Rock when we entered the park and didn't even notice it - then! I thought it was pretty amazing.

I've never studied geology, but I must admit I loved all the short hikes we did in the park. Around every corner you'd spot another rock with some interesting feature.

There are lots of trails in the park of varying links. We did several that were 1 to 1.5 miles to various places of interest. My favorite was the White Dome loop. The trail starts out very sandy and drops down through a narrow canyon

and then returns back through a short slot canyon. Turk went on strike...

We spotted several arches, including one hidden in a slot canyon that I wouldn't have found if it wasn't for a geocache nearby.

I enjoy petroglyphs and there are panels scattered around the park. The most popular panel now has stairs up to a viewing platform. I really liked the stairs that had been carved into the rock but they're now off-limits.

This park will get way too hot for me during the summer, but I'm looking forward to coming back sometime in the cooler months to do more exploring.

We successfully completed all seven of the Earthcaches in the park. Well worth the time!

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Rolling the Dice

We've been trying to balance historical weather averages. Wanted to stick around for Mother's Day but I wanted to avoid 100+ degree weather as much as possible. We've only had a few days of hot weather so it looks like that roll of the dice is working.

Our daughter and son-in-law took us to the Olive Mill in Queen Creek to celebrate Mother's Day.

In addition to their olive oils and other olive products, they are also well known for their fast casual restaurant. They had a special Mother's Day brunch menu that was very popular. The order line moved quickly although they warned us that it would be about an hour before our order would be ready.

Outside, they had lots of tables under a variety of shade shelters and patios with misters running to nicely manage the temperatures. The crowds were shifting enough that we were able to snag a table as other folks left and had a very enjoyable time.
After brunch we stopped by the world famous (or at least locally famous) Pork Shop for some last minute supplies.

We hit the road Monday morning for points north, rolling the dice once again on the weather. It turned out to be just cool enough that we could be cheapskates and park in a casino parking lot in Laughlin. And the Yahtzee didn't cost us anything, either!

Looks like we're going to hit the jackpot on weather for our couple days at Valley of Fire near Lake Mead. I was afraid it was going to be too hot.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Movin' On

We had a chance to wander around Lost Dutchman State Park one morning last month. The flowers were in bloom and it was a classic, beautiful spring day.

Miles of yellow stretched to the horizon,

and in a few places other colors popped as well.

In my mind, the best part of spring is the sunrises. Unfortunately, as the sunrises get earlier, the days get hotter. We've now 'enjoyed' our first triple digits days.

Which means it's time to be thinking of roads headed north. Looks like this year we're going to spend some time wandering around parts of Utah that we've typically ignored before heading further north. Should be fun.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Outwitting the Minion

I rarely do geocaching art. BJ and I did a simple one north of Las Vegas 18 months ago but I usually find them boring. I usually don't pay too much attention to my Difficulty/Terrain rating grid either, but last summer I realized it was getting nearer completion so I started watching out for caches that would fill one of the grid slots. There are 81 spaces in the grid. Our second trip to Globe a couple weeks ago was in part because of a cache that would fill a slot, leaving me with just two slots left to fill.

I recently realized that there was one spot in the state that has caches that could fill both empty slots. Seems that there were three caches in the Minion series east of Tucson that had high difficulty and terrain ratings, including the two pair of ratings I was lacking.

Given the near 100 degree daytime temps, I figured I would get in position and then do the 2 mile hike to the caches in the predawn darkness.

I got in position before sundown and decided to do the hike in the waning light instead of waiting. I picked up a few of the caches on my way in so that I'd know what I was likely looking for and so that I would have a nice round caches found number when I finally got to the primary target.

I found the first one that filled a slot as the light totally disappeared. There wasn't any moon but the starlight was enough to be able to stay on the trail in the smooth parts without any artificial light.

After picking up #80 and another cache, I headed toward the one that will fill the 81st slot in the grid. My calculations of where it should be were apparently off slightly but I found it once I opened up my search radius.

I love nights in the desert which made this trip even more special. I headed back to the truck and settled in for the night.

As the eastern sky started to glow early the next morning, it backlit the sliver of moon that was just getting around to rising.

I went out again, this time looking for the one and only letterbox type cache in this series, serenaded by a Peregrine falcon sitting on a power pole hunting for breakfast.

With the sunrise creating long shadows I made my last hike back to the truck. I'd toyed with driving in for this cache but the road was very deep sand AND more importantly, narrow enough that I would have ended up with Arizona pin-striping on the truck. 'Sides that, I need the exercise.

I'm sure glad that I'm not trying to make a living as a rancher leasing this state land. On most of it, all I saw was creosote and prickly pear. At least in this one spot there was some dry grass to add interest.

I added a few smilies to the map and got the caches that I really cared about.

The grid is full and it's one more thing I can ignore now but I'm glad it was the impetus for a fun night hike!