Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Ida UhOh!

After a couple more days in Spokane with my brother and his family, it was time to see if I could finish off all the remaining counties in Idaho. With the exception of one that was so weathered that it was difficult to read, all the historic markers in Idaho were large and clear. The best part was that many had a geocache nearby.

Some signs were easy to read, but after I stopped, I wasn't sure what the other sign was supposed to say.

This one, and several others like it, were easy enough to read. Not sure why the geocache was ALWAYS past the sign...

Some signs seemed to be primarily targets. How long has Bell Telephone Company been gone?

I enjoyed some beautiful gravel roads up and over massive hills. They'd had a bit of rain in the recent past, so in most cases, the gravel roads were nearly dust free.

My favorite boondock of the whole trip was here, alongside another minimally travelled gravel road east of Emmett. The sunset was beautiful, but it was the hour+ long conversation with the landowner that made it special. His family had been on the land for four generations and it was clear that he loved the land.

Cleaning up counties in Idaho isn't easy because all the valleys and rivers run north to south so I'd drive up one valley to a pass, and then down the next one, slowly working my way east.

Every now and then I'd stop just because the old buildings spoke to me. I wonder about the stories to be told about settling this land.

Most of the geocaches were non-descript, but someone put a lot of effort into this waypoint for a cemetery multi-cache.

It was about this time that the Silver Subie started showing signs of ill health. Clutch travel was slowly, but noticeably, changing. I got as far as a series of challenge caches outside of Atomic City when I decided I couldn't ignore it any longer.

After a consultation with the Subaru dealer in Pocatello when the Service Center opened - a consultation that primarly consisted of "we can't look at it until early next week" - I pointed the car towards home. The plan was to see how far I could get before I needed to put it on a trailer.

Utah wasn't in the route plan this year, but it was the shortest and fastest way home!

It was a 981 mile day, but I got home that evening without needing to trailer the Subie. I parked it in a corner and put the dunce cap on it. It will get some attention one of these days soon.

Unfortunately, it means that I have three counties orphaned in eastern Idaho. Obviously, I'm going to have to go back - maybe next summer.

Monday, July 12, 2021

Wandering the Northwest

After a good night's sleep at a boondock north of Brookings, I continued to pick off my missing Oregon counties with a drive up Highway 101. I had most of the counties, but that wasn't going to stop me from enjoying the view.
There's a little arch in the rock down at water level that I never would have noticed except for the virtual cache that mentioned it.
I took advantage of some state forestry land east of Eddyville for another good night's sleep. As all good boondock spots, it was far enough from the highway to mask the noise and had good connectivity so that I could get my caches logged. 

The next morning I started with a visit to the University in Corvallis so I could get my picture taken - twice. There are two surviving webcam caches here!
I snagged a whole batch of well maintained challenge caches near Talent, Oregon and spent a couple hours with a very good friend in Newberg before heading to Scappose. The plan was to work a challenge trail there, but after getting "enough" to claim the county I left since they appeared to be very poorly maintained. Home for the night was another boondock near Cathlamet, Washington.
With my typical early start, I headed up the Columbia, first on the Washington side, and then switching to the Oregon side.
That afternoon found me working a challenge trail in the high hills west of Milton-Freewater, Oregon. I took advantage of one of the several snow parks along Highway 204 for my home for the night. Once again, I picked a spot with no one around, no noise, and decent connectivity.
The next morning I finished up the last of my Oregon counties and started on the ones that I'd ignored in SE Washington. The caches weren't memorable, but I loved my time in Pomeroy. There was a large collection of classic signs and antique vehicles that deserved more time than I gave it!

The Subie started sqawking at me a bit, so I changed up plans and headed to Spokane, making sure to pick off my last two SE Washington counties along the way.
After a couple layover days with my brother and sister-in-law in Spokane, and a quick, easy fix that was much easier in their garage than at my planned boondock, it was time to head north and west. For some reason, in spite of visiting both several times, we'd never logged caches in Ferry or Okanagan counties, so I fixed that oversight.
As I was wandering across the northern expanse of the state, I realized that I was approaching a milestone. Facing a series of challenge caches, I shuffled the sequence because I thought the name of this one pretty well summed it up!
With the milestone out of the way, and rain coming down, I had my pick of campsites at South Grandy Lake along the road to Baker Lake. At least I know how they keep things green and mossy!
I had one more county to complete my Washington counties, and it involved ferries. Parking at the ferry terminal cost nearly double what my walk-on ticket to Friday Harbor cost. I found all of the caches I looked for within reasonable walking distance, and then wandered around town, amazed at the changes since I'd last visited.
After a morning meet & greet with several folks from Geocaching HQ, another reviewer, and some other cachers, I chased around visiting some of the high favorite caches in the greater Seattle area and ended that day with a very nice boondock overlooking a full (seems like the stumps are showing usually) Lake Keechelus in preparation for a priority.
I started through the tunnel at 5:30 a.m. and had the whole hike (both ways) all to myself. The goal was a very rare geocache. BJ and I had visited several years ago but the cache was missing at that time, so it was nice to come back and log one of the two remaining Project APE caches. After the APE cache, I visited the challenge caches in the area and then headed back to Spokane.

Saturday, June 19, 2021

Cleaned up California

I left home early on June 2nd, headed for Taft, California. I routed via Palmdale in order to avoid LA traffic. I was hoping to spend more time checking out the Blackbirds on display but the museum was not open.

I needed to route through San Francisco, but I'd already decided to NOT try to get down to the iconic Fisherman's Wharf. Instead, I found a cache highlighting some of the murals. There were some very talented painters represented.

I hadn't been through wine country in decades. The architecture of wineries was varied and interesting, but the rusty truck statue in Calistoga caught my eye.

I think one of my favorite caches in Northern California was one dedicated to the Unknown Stage Robber. It was tough to find with terrible coordinates, but it left lots of thoughts about times past.

The last county I needed to finish California was Siskiyou County. The cache at the Hayden Hotel was nondescript, but the history it highlighted was interesting. The road was slow and the trees were beautiful.

The 58 California counties have now been officially visited! The chasing counties concept worked - I enjoyed lots of back roads that I wouldn't have visited otherwise.

Thanks to the temperatures, I sprung for a hotel for the two nights in Taft, but was able to find comfortable, safe locations to boondock the other 4 nights in California. Silver Subie for the win.

Friday, May 21, 2021

Clean Up on Aisle 5

About 18 months ago, I stated playing with a trip plan, hoping to intentionally visit some counties that I'd never visited with my GPS in hand, and even more important, attend a couple major events in Seattle and Abbotsford, BC. Of course, we all know how that went. 

For the past couple years, I've picked away at California counties, including a bunch in Eastern California from my quick trip last summer and a small handful more just last month. Most of what is left is up the central corridor, the area that's typically our third choice for travel. That white area is enough to bug me into trying to clean them up.

In normal years, Oregon gets visited, but you can see the spots that have been ignored, primarily in the corners. There would have been another blank in the SE if it hadn't been for last year's quick trip.

As a Washington native with family ties to the state, I was a bit surprised to see how many counties I was still missing. I'm especially looking forward to getting some caches in San Juan county since I haven't been to the islands for years. Thanks to some other very interesting caches, I'm going to end up with a very circuitous route.

By the time I get finished cleaning up these three states, I should head directly home, but I have two more states where I've found caches in more than half the counties. There's certainly no straight route to getting the remaining 24 counties in Idaho, but I'll get to see lots of backroads and beautiful country in the process.

On last summer's trip I visited all the counties on the west side in Colorado. This summer, I'm hoping to finish up with the east side counties that I'm missing. With BJ's blessing, I'll take a couple extra days to visit the Colby, Kansas area as well, to drop some ink on the world's oldest existing geocache.

Eighteen months of planning and dreaming. There are nearly 1400 caches loaded in the GPS. The route totals about 8500 miles and I expect it to take 36 days. It will certainly be a great test of the Silver Subie's boondocking capabilities. I won't find all the caches I've loaded, but I expect to clean up the white spots in all five states.

Wheels should be rolling June 1st.

Monday, May 3, 2021

California is Challenging

Day three started with a beautiful sunrise after a night that approached freezing. The overnight air temperature didn't matter - my down sleeping bag was warm! The weather forecast was for high winds and low daytime temperatures.

I was glad that I'd thrown the sweatshirt in at the last minute. It was definitely a three layer morning. Thankfully the wind held off, leaving a beautiful, clear day. 

There was a line of about thirty challenge caches about 20 miles east of my overnight boondock. The open desert made the short walks to the caches easy.

I ended up skipping one by mistake, and not finding another. I also skipped a few that I didn't qualify for, and doubted that I ever would! I managed to pick up the vast majority of that series much quicker than Cachetur.no or I expected. 

With that series done, it was time to let the trip planner point me in the shortest direction to Palm Springs for the next cluster of caches. I had to stop at this corner for a picture. The area looked sort of abandoned, but it left me with questions about what the owner had hoped to do with this.

The Palm Spring series was quick and easy, except for this one. My GPS says three feet, leaving me wondering if the gardner got it??

The original plan had been to overnight again just south of Joshua Tree, but I was running well ahead of schedule so I kept going. I knew I wanted to remove and archive 7 of my remaining caches in Quartzsite, but even then it was too early to stop.

I finished the day about 500 miles and 37 challenge caches after I started it, with the Silver Subie parked in the driveway. With those three counties turned green on the map, it makes my trip planning for a major road trip this summer much easier.

Did I say how much I love the flexibility the Silver Subie provides??

Sunday, April 18, 2021

Another Short Bit of Wandering

With vacinations out of the way, it was time to make a long weekend trip. I figured the distance was too long for an overnight, so I positioned to some BLM land just outside of the south entrance of Joshua Tree National Park for my first night. Found a spot just about the time the sun was setting, fixed dinner, and went to bed planning an early departure. 

The intent of the trip was to get caches in Orange, Los Angeles, and Santa Barbara counties.

The next morning I left at 0'dark thirty to time my first Orange County cache at first light. I got a letterbox and a multi out of the way before stopping for a virtual at a Vietnam War Memorial.

I also picked up a challenge cache and a mystery cache before leaving Orange County.

My first stop in Los Angeles County was for a challenge cache. I picked up another challenge and a traditional that started with "X" to help me out with another challenge. I'd hoped to stop at the Getty Museum for an Earthcache, but Covid continues to make some things difficult.

I didn't "need" any caches in Ventura County because we'd picked up a few when we camped along the beach on an RV trip a few years ago. That didn't stop me from getting a beach picture just because I could.

'Sides that, there was a series of caches in a Bird Sanctuary that had caught my eye when I was planning the trip. I ended up doing three of them (a Wherigo, a challenge, and a multi) but cut my time short because I had already heard about construction and slow traffic on the way to Santa Barbara.

My first stop in Santa Barbara county was a bust for me. There was supposed to be a challenge cache somewhere near this burned out tree, but I was never successful in finding it.

I did manage to find a cache in one of the nicer areas of town and left before they could tow the Silver Subie. 

From Santa Barbara, I backtracked a ways and then headed east. Didn't find another challenge cache I wanted, but eventually ended up in an area with a bunch of hand made fake rocks that I wanted to check out. 

Home for the night was a boondock outside of Palmdale. 435 miles for the day and 3 new counties. It was only as I was doing this blog post that I realized I never logged a virtual and an earthcache that I visited, but now I've lost those notes. Oh, well - there will be others.