Blog Template Musings about Geocaching: 2006-04-16

Musings about Geocaching

Friday, April 21, 2006

After getting a new set of tires, I was on the highway

The decision to make the trip to Lakewood was made very quickly, with little lead time. However, I downloaded Pocket Queries for several areas across Arizona, Southern Utah, and Southwestern Colorado, as well as a circle centered in Lakewood. So, with GSAK on my laptop all loaded with fresh data, I was ready to go . . . just as soon as I got new tires. My old ones were measuring in the red when the man from Discount Tire checked them for me.

When I went down to have the tires checked that Thursday afternoon, I filled the tank. Now, on my way out of town, I was shocked to see that in less than 12 hours, gas had gone up another ten cents. I sure hoped gas would be less expensive along the way, and I was very, very grateful my sister was going to help me pay for the gas.

The reason for the trip was to help my mother clean and organize her apartment. She is 90 years old now. As I drove down I-8, I was very lost in thought about her future -- and my own -- when a car passed me on the left. An arm was waving a GPSr out the window of the vehicle as it went by.

I shook myself of of my thought daze and caught up to the vehicle to see that the arm belonged to $kimmer. She was with The Vulture and said the Splashes were up ahead. They were on their way to "Dateland," the first cache I had planned on stopping for.

We pulled into the parking at the famous Date Shake Shop and proceeded to tell the people sitting near the cache location we were on a "Scavenger Hunt" as we looked for the micro. Splashman made the grab and my name was added to the logbook.

From there, the five of us headed down the highway where we found two more caches. At the last one, Splashman pulled into the third parking spot from the end, The Vulture pulled into the next one, and almost simultaneously, I pulled into the last spot. It was precision parking at its best.

After finding that cache, we parted company. They were headed up to Phoenix for a weekend of caching. I was headed somewhere to camp for the night.

As usual, I hadn't planned where I would spend the night -- I'm almost incapable of planning, except when it comes to the preparation necessary for Geocaching -- so I didn't know where I was going. Fortunately, I found some BLM land not too far from the road to Mobile and set up my tent there where I saw a nice Arizona sunset.

The next morning I headed northeast. Once again I really didn't know exactly which highway I wanted to take, so I just followed the GPSr arrow to a couple of cache sites. The first two I tried to find . . . I couldn't, so I went in a Goodwill store and got a "treasure" there before finally hitting the highway again.

The road climbed up past Saguaro cactus and finally into Pinyon and Junipers, the habitat Edward Abbey referred to as the "pygmy forest," and finally up into cool, wonderful pines. I found a few caches in the "Rim Country" where there were signs warning about elk crossing the highway. I didn't see any elk, but late in the day, and I headed towards Canyon de Chelly National Park, I saw a mountain lion run across the road and up the steep embankment. That was exciting!

I loved the town of Holbrook, AZ, and even turned around and drove back over the bridge to take a picture of an amazing sculture at the entrance to the town.

I also took a picture of this great mural.

From Holbrook, I headed to the "Painted Desert" Virtual cache where I tried to photograph the amazing landscape.

I got to a campsite at dusk, which was the same time I found my campsite the night before. In the sheltered area of the campground, the wind was calm, so I set up my tent and went to sleep beneath tall cottonwood trees that were just beginning to show new spring leaves.

Goin' on a road trip

Looks like I'm going to get the opportunity to cache in a few new states -- Arizona, maybe New Mexico, Colorado, and Utah.

It should be quite an adventure as I drive to Colorado to visit my mother and sister.

Now, I'm off to the tire store to get new tires for the trip . . .

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Preparation for my Road Trip

Planning is not really in my vocabulary.

That is why Geocaching has been so good for me. Something that is hard for me is now something I can do . . . as long as it is planning for caching . . .

I only had a few days to get ready for the trip, but I got five new Pocket Queries on each of those days.

To create the PQs, I looked at my Mapsource maps and picked out some widely-spaced places along possible routes. I got the coordinates for a National Monument south of Phoenix, a high plateau on the way to I-40, Canyon de Chelly National Park, Gallup, Cortez, Great Sand Dunes National Monument, my destination west of Denver, Zion National Park, and Red Rocks Canyon outside Las Vegas, etc.

Using those coordinates as the center points for my 100-mile diameter circles, I created the PQs. Because I knew I wasn't going to have time to do any long hikes, I limited the PQs to caches having a Terrain rating of '2.5' and under. I even limited the Difficulty to '3' and under, because I didn't want to spend a lot of time looking for a cleverly-cammoed cache.

Then using some of the suggestions offered up in this thread, I continued my preparations.

In GSAK, I created a new Database I called "Road Trip." I put all the data from the several PQs into that Database, ending up with almost 4000 caches in the database.

In Mapsource, I created a few alternate Routes. Mapsource has a setting under Edit/Preferences where you select the kind of roads you want to travel on. You can even create a route that follows major highways for part of it, and minor highways for the rest of it, as I did with my first route through Arizona.

I saved each of these Routes as .gpx files and put them in a folder on my laptop under Geocaching/Routes so I could find them easily.

Now, before using the Arc/Poly filter in GSAK, I did the "Last 2 DNF filter" for the entire database to select the caches that couldn't be found by the last two cachers. On a road trip, I really didn't want to look for a cache others had had difficulty finding.

I deleted all the caches returned by that filter.

After that, I filtered the data by state, so GSAK didn't have to sort through all 3473 caches in that "Road Trip" database for the first "Arc/Poly" filter at the beginning of my adventure.

I chose a width of five miles along that first section. That was a distance I thought I might possibly divert if a cache looked interesting enough.

After running the filter, and seeing that it returned well under 500 caches, the waypoint limit for my Vista C, I sent those caches to my GPSr. If that Arc/Poly filter had returned more than 500 caches, I would have narrowed the distance along the route to only four miles.

Now, the GPSr was ready. I just had to get my Palm M500 ready.

I cleared the filters in GSAK and set a new filter for only the caches in Arizona. I ran that and then Exported the data in the Palm .pdb format, creating a file called Arizona.pdb. I cleared that filter and filtered for the caches in Colorado. With those caches selected, I Exported the data as another .pdb file for my Palm. I did this for each state in my Road Trip database.

Doing this gave me a manageable chunk of data for each state. Now, in Cachemate on my Palm, I created new databases for each state.

Using the Install tool on my Palm Desktop, I made sure each of those .pdb files (Arizona.pdb, Colorado.pdb, Utah.pdb, NewMexico.pdb, and Nevada.pdb) would install to the card on my Palm, and not on the main, limited memory of the Palm itself.

After doing the HotSync, I put the Arizona data in the "Not Found" folder in the Cachemate Arizona database. Likewise, I put the Colorado.pdb file Exported from GSAK in the "Not Found" folder of the Cachemate Colorado database.

Now, I had all the data on my laptop, all the data in the state databases on the data card on my Palm, and caches for the first section of my trip on my GPSr . . . I was set.

Because of the Vista C's 500-waypoint limit, I knew I was going to have to go through part this procedure a few times along the trip. However, I also knew I would need breaks for food or coffee every few hundred miles, so this wasn't going to be a hardship for me, and it would keep me in practice.

This also gave me the flexibility of changing my route along the way. If I found myself on a different highway than I thought I was going to take, I could create a new route for that highway, using the Edit/Preferences in Mapsource to make sure it would choose that type of road, and not the Interstate parallel to where I was. I could save that new Route as a .gpx file, and then use it in the Arc/Poly filter in GSAK.

Before sending that new set of caches to my GPSr, I would have to delete the "Geocaches" that were already on it. I figured I would keep the "Geocaches Found" on my GPSr before sending the new waypoints to it.

Since the Palm already had all the data on it, I wouldn't have to do another HotSync.

This would give me something to do during the break. It probably wouldn't even take as long as it would to drink that cup of coffee I needed to keep me alert for the next couple hundred miles of highway.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Whew! I don't think I've ever hiked 12 miles before

Recently there has been a "war" going on in the huge Mission Trails Regional Park. SD Rowdies, cegrube, the local FTF hound of late, and the BradyBunchBoys, plus a few others have been placing caches nearly every .1 along the trails . . . and not along the trails.

I had not even found many of the older caches in the area, so now there were many caches to find on our SDCET day. John and Jahoadi let me ride with them from our East County location and we met up with Toby's Gang, duganrm, and fisnjack at 9:00 in the morning at one of the several trailheads. It was cloudy and overcast, but the temperature was mild, so it was a perfect day for our lengthy hikes.

Along our route, John and Jahoadi placed several caches, one of which was at this cool, gnarly oak tree.

On the far side of this section of the park, after we found "Jumping Jack Flash," duganrm noticed a bit of a Geotrail. He walked over to the object and discovered a 35mm film canister. After some quick consultation, we realized we possibly had a "Prisoner of War" -- an unactivated cache. He called home to have Rogue check to see if there was a brand new cache at the coordinates. There wasn't.

So, he walked her through the cache-submission form and she submitted it for approval. The whole scene was very funny. And, today, now that the cache has been approved and cegrube was FTF and realizes what happened, it is even funnier.

We haven't, however, heard from the other side yet . . .

After that we took a turn to the south down Shepherd Canyon where there was one section of incredible rocks.

While we were on the hike, jahoadi and john passed 1000 caches. Too bad we didn't have a little celebration and a picture-taking event at whichever cache it was.

The other hike from the trailhead on Barker Way turned out to be 2.8 miles. The last time I was on that hill with Princess Toadstool, the only cache there was a puzzle cache, called "Flagman's Cache."

Now there are ten caches on that side of the mountain . . .

The sky was clearing and the clouds were beautiful. I took this picture on our way down a narrow trail from SD Rowdies "Why I Oughta . . . ," to a cache from which we had to hike back up from . . .

I did okay climbing up the hill, but my feet hurt when walking down the steep, zig-zagging trails. I was often far behind my companions, but they were patient with me, and I sure appreciated that. I hoped the new Asolo boots I got at the R.E.I. used gear sale would be more comfortable than my other boots were after several hours of hiking . . . but they aren't.

We got down the hill after sunset and just in time for dinner. duganrm said a place called Beef 'n Bun had really good shakes, so that is where we headed. The shakes did look fantastic, but I didn't get one. I did have a great hamburger, and really enjoyed the company of these three people. In fact, I told them this is the first time in my life I have been able to play with the "cool kids."

It really does feel that way. These weekly adventures with such wonderful people are far from my experiences of the past several years since I have been so debilitated by illness.

After dinner we took duganrm to a nearby Barbados Sam cache the rest of us had already found. He found it easily, even though it is a very clever hide that a muggle would never figure out.

When I got home, even though it was after 9:00 p.m., I logged the Trackables I left and picked up. I even logged several other caches before finally giving in to fatigue and heading off to bed.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

This is what our track looked like for the big hike on the northermost "battlefield," during which we hiked 9.07 miles according to my GPSr:

And this is what the static version of my Magnalog of the first hike looks like:

This is the Magnalog of the nearly-three-mile hike up to the area where "Flagmsn's Cache" is hidden. And this is the static image of the hike and the elevation profile.


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