Friday, November 6, 2015

Canadian Caching (Nov 1-6)

Sunday, headed out to Canada.  I did most of the stuff that I wanted to do in downtown Toronto and Niagara Falls in previous trips, so this time, I figured that I’d spend the travel day looking for good geocaches.  Early in my caching life (although I’m still a baby, at just 5 months), it was all about the numbers.  Now, with 220+ finds, it’s about the ratings (called “favorite points”, which are awarded by premium member geocachers).   I’m also interested in finding unique kinds of caches, like more Letterboxes (after finally getting my first last month), and a true “Night Cache”, in which glowing or reflective marks are used to direct hunters to the cache.  I found both on this trip!  I like to find cool SWAG and trackables to carry on to their next adventure, too.  Check, and check.  And I ended up finally stumbling across and going after a First-to-Find (the race to first one to find a cache after it’s initially placed/born/published on, on my last night in town.

Sunday, I first hit a Travel Bug Hotel next to a Hilton Hotel, where I had uncovered a whole bunch of travel bugs on a previous trip.  I dropped off two there, knowing that that airport location would be a prime spring board for future travels for the two guys that I’ve been carrying.  I picked up one, too, which happened to be a beer bottle opener – awesome!  Beer and geocaching, two of my hobbies, having a baby.

Next, I went after a cache deep in a mini-forest, which previous finders said had amazing SWAG, and an incredible cache size.  I’m typically averse to bushwacking, since I started caching in the summer, and that always meant poison ivy, bugs, mosquitos, and more mosquitos.  It was cool here.  I had to go through some thick and tall brush, but at least there were no bugs.  I did see a snake, though!  It was small and thing but over a foot long.  I’m surprised that I didn’t freak out… I must’ve been super-focused on finding the cache.  I came across two apple trees, too, whose fruit was on the ground.  I ended up picking up one that just fell from the tree as I was watching, since it was in pretty good shape despite the fall (unlike the rotten ones on the ground that had been there for a while), and ended up eating it later – how’s that for a caching bonus?  It’s challenging to cache without a caching GPS or iPhone network.  I had to use the iPhone’s internal GPS, which takes a while to hone in on your location, but it’s usually workable, after a while.  I used my spidey senses and found it!  It was in the middle of a mini-forest, so I was kind of amazed.  

When I opened the cache, it had a first aid kit meant to stay with the cache.  I guess with all the brush that finders had to go through, it would be handy.  There was even a bowling ball in that cache – random!  There were lots of happy meal kids toys, too, which I loved, plus Garmin accessories.  Awesome SWAG.  I had recently created my own set of “signature items”, which are handmade products with your caching user Id that you can leave for others to find and collect.  I’ve found various creative ones from others, and I was inspired to create and leave my own… Mine happens to be a painted beer bottle cap with a runner stick figure.  On my way out, it was more apparent which direction other finders had come from in the past, although there was still a good bit of bushwacking needed.  Victory!  Biggest cache I’ve ever seen – larger than a carry-on!  

Next, I found a whole series of Letterboxes, all with hand-made stamps!  Letterbox Jackpot!  Usually, Letterboxes are crazy-rare, so to have 4 within a 1KM stretch of road was crazy (I only found 3/4).

After that, I went to a raw vegan restaurant, which had a pizza and a black forest cake – both were nice.  Traffic was crazy getting there, though.  By the time I finished with dinner, it was time to go after the designated Night Cache + Letterbox hybrid.  The cache owner had recently maintained the reflective markers, so I knew that the trail would be in good shape.  It was a cool night, on Nov 1st, the day after Halloween.  I was out in the dark alone, with a headlamp and LED handheld, and my iPhone with the story and instructions in hand.  The instructions on where to go were blended within a creative story about an owl and following fireflies.  It was a pretty awesome experience.   

Followed the fireflies for about a mile in the dark wooded trail, and found the cache.  The cache was a Letterbox, so it had a cache stamp that you could stamp into your personal notebook to add to your collection of Letterbox stamps.  I don’t  have my own stamp yet, but I drew my stick figure runner.  After that, drove into the town where I work while in Canada.  

I found a couple of caches during the week, one that wasn’t too hard because I had seen similar ones before, and one creative one that I accidentally messed up (and am trying to get fixed, with the cache owner).  I also failed to find one that I’ve attempted like 4 times before.  I may have one more trip / chance in the future to try it, but it’s eluded me so far.  Supposedly, a tool is necessary.

Wednesday, Nov 4:
I had taken three days off of running.  I had just raced a half marathon hard, and I was typically not in the mood to exercise in the evenings, with standing up all day while giving training probably factoring in.  I did finally get out on Wednesday night, though, at 10pm, after lots of coaxing of my body.  5.0 in 42:00, 8:24 average, 2 degrees of incline = 8:03 effort.  I had gotten a chance to sit at work on this day, which might’ve helped.  

Thursday, Nov 5:
Went out for dinner at a brewery in downtown London with my trainees.  Nice way to celebrate the end of the week.

Recumbent bike, 60 minutes.  Legs weren’t in the mood to run in the morning, or at night.  Since there’s no bike in my apartment complex’s fitness room, I like to take advantage of opportunities to bike, anyway, so it suited me just fine.

That night, I was still a bit wired (I had been biking from 11pm-midnight, but that’s not too out of the ordinary for me, anyway), and I was flipping through geocaches in the area, just to see if anything popped out, and I ran across a newly placed cache!!!  Premium members who pay are able to set up alerts, and they typically race to caches as soon as they’re placed, and as a basic free member, I figured that I’d never get to go after a FTF unless I got super super super lucky.  Well, today was my lucky day!  I was surprised that nobody had found it yet.  Sometimes, this happens if the cache is hard, but the difficulty rating wasn’t bad, and the cache description didn’t mention anything in particular, so hey – this was my chance!  It was 1:30am, but I couldn’t pass it up.  I raced to assemble my caching kit.  Once I stepped out of the hotel, though, it was raining and chilly.  It had been beautiful all week in London, ON, but the weather had finally turned.  No turning back for me, though!    I had an awesome caching vehicle with me this week – an Xterra, which is so cool and so me (other than the large size).  I went out, found a decent place to park, and started into the darkness with my light.  The rain was coming down, but I had my heavy Spartan Trifecta jacket.  I found a trail to follow through the grass.  The cache was at a large pond, close to a subdivision and school.  As I walked towards the cache, geese made a bunch of noise, which startled me a bit until I startled them away.  Followed my iPhone’s internal GPS towards the point.  Rocks were slippery, and it was raining, and the rocky promontory was maybe not the safest place to be caching at night, but I am careful.  There were slugs in the grass, which was kind of gross.  My only hint was that it was a “micro” size.  I was hoping that it would be easy, on the rail, but it was not.  First, I saw an odd trash grabber nestled between two rocks.  Sometimes, cache owners place “tools of the trade” at their cache, which you have to figure out how to use.  Next to it were two live gross, decent-sized slimy-looking frogs.  Each time I saw them when my light beam hit them, I’d jump psychologically (wouldn’t have been safe to jump physically, given the rocky ledge).   I looked between the rocks.  This was a hard cache, since there were different elevations at which the cache could’ve been hidden, and it was micro-sized!  Tried pulling at a couple of things.  The coordinates were pointing to a particular spot, which at least on the outside didn’t seem to have the cache…  it was a massive table-sized sewer pipe, which was especially loud since it was raining that night and was more active than usual.  Could it be?  I went down, then shimmied my upper body over the ledge, to look in it.  Bingo!  Thankfully, it wasn’t super deep in there.   I think it was partially the decoy “tool of the trade” (I call it decoy because it wasn’t necessary) that made me think to look in there, since if it was inside, you’d need something like the trash grabber to get at it.  I got it, and found the gloriously blank log, which I got to sign in the official “first to find / date / time” section.  Took pictures to commemorate it.  Victory!  Wow, couldn’t believe it.  So happy.

Friday, flight from Toronto got delayed.  I’d stay overnight in Atlanta, which suited me ok, since I had to be in Atlanta that day, anyway.  Ah, the weekend… nice to have this to de-stress, with all that’s going on.  

Had Poutine (the pulled pork variation! - love pulled pork) finally, plus a beer from Vancouver, with the airport's ipad ordering service.  Poutine is a Montreal dish made of fries, gravy, and cheese curds, traditionally.

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