Saturday, September 10, 2016

Labor Day Weekend Geocaching Adventure.

I had a mission this weekend, to finish my DeLorme Map Book Challenge, which would also complete the Wyoming County Challenge. I knew that I wanted to finish both challenges by the end of this year, and with winter quickly approaching, this might be one of my last opportunities.

I set off Friday morning along the bottom edge of Wyoming, heading West. I needed to find one cache in each of the seven pages I had not yet completed. I had been studying the map and Geocaching.com for weeks, because on some of the pages, there were only a few caches total, so I pre-planned ones that were good bets. Several had not been found in years, or the last few attempts logged they were not able to be found. I wasn't going to waste my time on those.

I headed off with my map book, print outs of my route blown up to show side roads that I had to take, and estimated times of travel for each section. There were a few caches that I did not find, but I got one in each of the three sections on my way to my hotel in Rock Springs. I checked in, and then drove a loop to Fort Bridger, up to Kemmerer, and back to Rock Springs, finding a cache in each of those four pages. I was exhausted when I hit the bed for the night, and Georgia and I slept well.


Saturday morning we got up and headed up to Pinedale. There is a physical cache associated with the Wyoming DeLorme Map Book Challenge, and of course when I drove through Pinedale in November on my way back from Jackson, I completely forgot to get it until I was almost all the way back to Laramie. Today I went and found it. There was nothing else that I needed to do up this way, so I backtracked to Farson, where I got the largest scoop of ice cream I've ever gotten, and it was the "baby" scoop. I ate on that for about 20 minutes before giving the rest to Georgia, and she struggled with it, so I had to throw the last of it away. If you're ever in the area, stop here for sure.


I continued up to Lander and to the Sinks Canyon State Park. The Park itself is quite small, though lovely, and I sat for a while at The Sinks and then I fed the fish at The Rise. The trout are huge there! It's a protected area, with no fishing, and they don't stock the fish. I was talking with a guy there and he thinks the biggest ones could have been 24-36 inches long. It was hard to tell from the height we had to view them from. Georgia got petted by three different groups of little kids, and this was definitely the highlight of the trip for her.



I have always loved mammoths.
I made the unfortunate decision to drive the 24 mile loop out of Sinks Canyon State Park. Instead of being a scenic drive, it was a frustrating one lane track of bumps and near head on collisions by the other vehicles, four wheelers, and motorbikes coming at me from the other direction at speeds way to fast for the curvy road. I did, however, see my first wild moose in the US. I had seen some in Sweden, but I still had them on my list in the US, and this one was quite close.

After finally emerging back on the main road, I headed to South Pass City. For a tourist destination, it sure is hard to find, in my opinion. And the gravel roads, though there is no option to turn off, is long enough that you start doubting you're going the correct way. I finally got there in time to walk around and see the buildings, and do a little gold mining. There was a young boy there with his family, that walked me through what to do. I had just started to get the hang of it, when it was closing time, but the lady in the shop let me stay after they locked up the buildings and she left. I found some gold flecks, and while they are difficult to see, it's cool that it's actual gold, and I discovered it myself.





I didn't us a filter on this, it just turned out old timey looking.

My gold flecks in a jar, and a rock. I apparently collect rocks now. Rocks are cool.
I left South Pass City as a storm brewed up, and headed back to Rock Springs.


Sunday morning I was up early, checking out of my hotel at 6am. I headed straight up to see Boar's Tusk. Due to the rain storm the night before, I only got a short ways in on the dirt road turn off to the Boar's Tusk. I have taken my vehicle many places that it's not designed to go, however I was not willing to try it on this particular road. If it had been dry, and not soft sand/mud filled tracks, I would have gone for it. I could see it, but had really wanted to stand at the base and look up.

I continued on to the Killpecker Sand Dunes. Reading about them, they were supposed to be very impressive. Compared to the dunes I saw in Idaho, I was disappointed that I'd driven nearly an hour down a gravel road to see them.


I stopped at the Petroglyphs on the way back to the main road. Unfortunately, another disappointment. There was more graffiti than there were petroglyphs, though I did get a geocache while I was there.


Due to the slow going on the first half of my adventures, I was later getting started on my Wild Horse Loop drive, where my goal was also to get all 55 geocaches in the Run Wild Horses Run power trail. I was taking my time getting the first 10 or so, I saw three different groups of horses, and sat and watched them as they meandered past me.



If you've never heard of the film Unbranded, you should check it out. Four men take 16 wild caught mustangs from the Mexican border to the Canadian border. It is an epic film, and well worth the watch. These horses are pretty amazing.



At one of the caches, I found these memorial grave sites for two beloved canines.
 I had started at cache 55, and at about 40, a storm started brewing. There was massive thunder, and cloud to ground lightening, and I was on top of a mountain ridge, with nothing but sagebrush and me. I sped up for the next 20 caches, anticipating getting drenched at any moment, but thankfully the storm dissipated and I was free to take on the last 20 or so caches at a more relaxed pace.

You don't want to see this coming up behind you.

Are we done yet?
At this point, I could tell that Georgia was over this trip. She normally loves to sleep in the car, but for the better part of six hours, we'd been bumping along one dirt or gravel road or another, and she was done. We finished up the last cache, 02 Run Wild Horses  (there was no 01!), got gas, and headed home. As soon as we were on paved road Georgia fell asleep.







Saturday, August 20, 2016

International Geocaching Day.

Today is International Geocaching Day. I attended my first International Geocaching Day Event on this day in 2011. Heather had just introduced me to Geocaching a few months previously, as a way to get me out of the house after Nid and the children moved out here to Wyoming. I have come a long way since that day in Harrisonburg, in so many aspects of my life.

Today I needed to find one cache in order to get the souvenior badge. I found 13, and did not find 4. Two of them were missing, and two of them I chickened out on trying because the rock climbing was above my abilities to try, especially alone.
This was my first did not try. I'm pretty sure I know which crevice the cache is in, but I could not reach a hand hold that I was confident enough to pull myself up with. It was disappointing on several levels, because it was a strenuous walk just to get to the rocks, so not finding it was even more hard on my heart.
I was thankful that this "bridge" was actually sturdy.
This is my second did not try. I walked up to it. I looked up. I walked around it. I got back in the car. It's on the top. I wasn't going to try to get on the top by myself.
At one of my caches, there was the tiniest of pull offs 50 feet from the cache. It actually wasn't a pull off, it was just the first part of that particular road that had more than one lane. But it was so close to the cache, I parked there anyway. I had just sat down to open the cache and sign the log when a car pulls in behind me. Now, it really wasn't a pull over. so I thought that they must have been cachers. I was only 50 feet away, but pretty straight up the tree covered hillside, so I continued to do what I needed to do. I closed it up, and then got my camera and snapped this photo. As far as I can tell, neither of them ever looked up. I was hoping that when I climbed back down they'd roll the window down and introduce themselves, but they just seemed surprised when I appeared on the road, so I got in my car and left.
Today did have two technology problems that I'm having to deal with. My iPod froze near the beginning of my journey, and a hard reset isn't working. The good news is, at the elevation of the Medicine Bow forest I was at, I could pick up the Fort Collins country station perfectly. Not as good as my pre-loaded soundtrack, but better than nothing. Half way through my journey I got an error on my phone that my sim card was INVALID. I'd never heard of this problem, and so I turned the phone off an on several times. That didn't fix it, but my c:/geo app was working fine, so I continued on. When I got home I rebooted and took out the sim card. That didn't fix it either, so I called Straight Talk. I had already googled that this happened sometimes with Straight Talk phones (this is my first Android with a sim card, none of my others had them). I just got this phone in June when my other one crapped out on me, and I was already not impressed with this particular phone, and wishing I'd chosen a different one. The customer service lady told me that sometimes when you go into areas with no service, it basically breaks the sim card. She's going to mail me another one. Now, it's great that she's going to do that for free, however it takes 2-3 business days, and it's a Saturday. Which means it'll ship out on Monday, and get to me maybe Wednesday. So that's five days without a working phone. That's not cool. I told her than half of Wyoming doesn't have service, and her solution was that when I know I'm going into an area without service I should put my phone into airplane mode. That would be great if I knew where I was going to lose service. I was caching right where I was today last weekend and this didn't happen. In two weeks I'm going on a two-three day caching trip, most of which will be where there is no service. What if I turn it off, but then actually need help, and turn it on, but it breaks again and I can't call for help? I'm pretty disappointed in this new development.

When I got home, Georgia was so excited to see me. It was nice out, so I set up her kennel so she could lay in the sun. I left her there while I showered and made my call, and started logging my caches. I got up for something and looked in the bedroom.
She had abandoned her sunny outdoor spot, and gotten into bed. Crazy girl...

Sunday, August 14, 2016

A Little Hike... Straight up.

Yesterday morning after work, I set off to the Summit to get a Geocache that I needed to complete part two of the August Challenges. I had solved the puzzle earlier in the week that told me that I needed a multi, and after searching for the ones within an easy drive of Laramie, I chose one that looked the easiest, and was placed by one of my local caching friends, so I knew that it would be a quality cache as well.

A multi cache involves one where the original coordinates take you to a location that tells you the next coordinates, and so on until you get to the final coordinates where the cache is actually hidden. I had just found the first stage when I was stopped by a law enforcement officer and questioned about what I was doing. Officer Wick initially seemed skeptical of my telling her that I was Geocaching, and asked me to take her to the coordinates to show her. Apparently, there are artifacts out in the area where I was, and it's illegal to take them. She then went on to warn me about the dangers of hiking in the state/national parks. Apparently a Geocacher south of Denver was out searching and walked into a field of 16,000 marijuana plants. He didn't turn back and ended up face to face with two armed drug cartel members. She said that I was only likely to stumble on an occasional one out past where I was, and I assured her that I am very safe, especially since I generally cache alone, and I didn't think I'd be going down into the area where she thought there might be illegal drugs growing. She then seemed satisfied, and thanked me for chatting with her and went on her way. After saying, oh Geocaching is like the original Pokemon Go. Well, maybe, but I have to say I doubt that Pokemon Go will still be going in 16 years, which is how long Geocaching has been around.

My plan was to just get this one cache, and then go home. I looked at my GPSr, and there were a number of caches that were short to no hike at all, so I decided to get a couple before I headed home. My first one was near an old bunker.
I of course had to explore.



The floor was made of metal, and I could tell there was an open space underneath of it, making it a rather more creepy than it already was.  It was pretty cool, though.

I was lucky to be able to find the cache nearby quickly and discretely, as there were quite a few hikers in the area, due to the Wyoming Equality Rendezvous which was set up nearby. It looked like they were having a good time, and I'd never seen so many campers/motorhomes not on an actual campground. In hindsight, I wish I'd stopped in and asked if I could purchase a meal from their food tent, as I made an interesting decision to climb a mountain spur of the moment, and while I did it safely and successfully, I had only had a protein shake for breakfast, and had not packed nearly enough water for my journey.

0.3 miles from the cache at the bunker was another cache. It was rated a level 4 terrain, and I usually avoid anything over a 3, because I like to keep my caching casual. This one was calling my name, however, and I really wanted to find it. It had only been found twice before, back in 2014, shortly after it had been placed. One cacher had posted photos, and she wasn't young, so I thought, if she can do it, I can do it, so I started off. My destination was the little tree you see on top of the rocks in the center of the photograph.
Standing at my car, I was at an elevation of 8280ft above sea level. I had to go down before going up, and that elevation was right around 8200ft, maybe a little lower. The climb to the base of the rocks was about an hour, which included many breaks to rest. It was all bush-whacking, which makes it so much harder. I definitely need to invest in some hiking boots that cover my ankles, because my sneakers collected many pine and sagebrush nettles that poked my feet uncomfortably. Once I got to the bottom of the rocks, it took about twenty minutes to find the safest way up to where I thought the cache might be. I knew that it wasn't at the very top, but close to it, and it was. The top was an easy 30 foot walk up from where the cache was.
This is the tree that was visible from my car.
My car is right in the center of the photo, and is barely visible, so I circled it in this photo:



I got a little frustrated searching for the geocache, because I was hot and tired and dehydrated. When I did find the cache I was impressed that after two years, there was not a bit of moisture in it, and everything was in perfect shape.


I'm the third person to find this cache. I traded items for a 1946 Lincoln Penny. I have collected a number of unique coins from caches over the years, and will be adding this one to my collection.  I had thought that the trip down would be just as hard as the trip up, and while it did have it's challenging moments, mostly because I was exhausted and kept tripping as I bush-whacked my way through heavy under brush, I made it back to the car in pretty good time. I finished my water, and this is when I should have headed straight home (or stopped and asked the Equality folks for some food and drink), because I soon got quite sick from dehydration and sun exposure, that I am pretty sure more water and some calories would have prevented, or at least kept the symptoms bearable.

I found several more caches on my way home, and was very proud of myself for making a healthy lunch (at 3:00pm) choice instead of the greasy burger that I was craving. As I got into Laramie I called in an order to Sweet Melissa and picked up this healthy and filling meal of black bean burger with cheddar and sweet potatoes, and drank my Arbonne after workout drink.
 
This perked me up a bit, but it took Tylenol, Ibuprofen, a nap, and three more liters of water to make the headache go away.

All in all, it was a great day. And today, I am sore but not miserable, and already planning a trip to the top of these rocks, where there is a cache on the edge/under a cliff somewhere. I am thinking next Saturday would be the perfect time for that. It's got to be easier than what I did yesterday.

 After a short nap, I had to get up and go do a petsitting job. I was rewarded with these two different views on my way back home.