GC18: Tarryall

To get to Tarryall, the oldest cache in Colorado and twentieth oldest active geocache in the world, one would take the Ute Pass out of Colorado Springs.  Heading west on Highway 24 will take you past the turn offs for the North Pole, the Pikes Peak Tollway, and Green Mountain Falls.  You’ll be tempted to stop for lunch in Woodland Park, and maybe grab a couple of other caches along the way.

A little further up the road from Woodland Park, you will reach Lake George.  You will look for a turn-off for County Road 77 that leads off to the north.  To get to this cache, you would turn right at this turn off, following the signs for Tarryall Reservoir.  You will gape at the incredible beauty along this secluded road.   Clear creeks run down from the mountains in rivulets along green pastures.  You are trying to pay attention to the road,  but every now and then a brilliant flash of natural beauty catches your eye, and you will glance at your companion and say, “wow,  did you see that?”

Then, you will take a left hand turn on to a dirt road that may or may not have a sign, we don’t remember.  Google calls it La Salle Pass Rd and it looks like it goes on for a while out there in the wilderness.  You will kinda veer off in the rutted dirt road to the right.  If you are in a car with low clearance, you might find yourself having to park along this road and walk the rest of the way in.  Maybe you will be lucky, like our new friend from Alabama, rmayben9, and some cachers from Texas like us, in a Subaru like ours, will pick you up and give you a lift the rest of the way down the dirt road until it is time to stop.  At that point, you will walk slightly uphill, at 8,000 elevation, and look for an ammo can hidden near a tree.  Maybe you will even get some sub-standard cell phone pictures like we did.  You will see some very interesting plants and possibly, as the occasional log reports, black bear.  We saw no animals but we did enjoy the plants.

After this, you will have to walk back down to your car and make it back out the dirt road.  You might even find some more caches along the way out, although not if you were pressed for time like we were.

You will feel a sense of accomplishment for finding this very old cache, and feel refreshed from the nice drive and short hike.  It will be worth the diversion, trust me.


Grandfather Caches of Massachusetts

canoe launch

I found myself in Massachusetts over the weekend, and I had some time on my hands to go exploring. What else would I rather do than go find grandfather caches in the woods?

In case you have missed the definition of the term, a “grandfather” cache is one of the active original caches hidden within the first four months of geocaching’s birth. I have a list of them up there on the top called the 100 Oldest Active Geocaches. I try to find them whenever I can, to get them off my “to-do” list before they get archived, although these are truly the ones that have stood the test of time.

main trail

When I realized I was able to spend some time caching in this beautiful state, I looked at my list to see which of these grandfather caches were nearby. There were potentially up to four of them in the vicinity of my drive, but I also was doing other things and didn’t have the whole time to cache. On Friday I found Camera Cache, and on Saturday I found Lowell, aka Second Mass. These pictures here are from the latter.

I actually would have found them both Friday, but I had trouble finding the parking spot to Great Brook Farm State Park, where this second cache is located.  They posted parking coords on the cache page, but it didn’t help me because my GPS was not working, and I didn’t know how to mark or follow coordinates, and not just waypoints, on my smartphone. I drove down shady lanes trying to find the parking lot according to Google Navigation, but I could not find this elusive spot.  That night at the hotel I googled the location of the parking lot, and figured it out, and made the short hike the next day.

boardwalkThe trail starts at the canoe launch in the first picture, then one takes the main trail up about a quarter of a mile before turning off on a side trail. The trail was very reminiscent of the piney woods of Huntsville State Park, except with large boulders.  It was essentially also a pine forest that was found here, something that surprised me because I was expecting hardwoods.

The cache itself was a classic large ammo can, tucked into a rock covering near one of the infamous stone walls of New England.  In this book I am reading, “The World Without Us”, by Alan Weisman, he talks about how the stone walls of New England cover some 260,000 miles.  They were present in all the little nature preserves, arboretums, and parks I visited in my little tour of New England.

J was a little worried about me hiking all by myself in this big ole forest with my recent leg issues, but my leg felt great and there were lots of families out enjoying the nice weather in this park.  Apparently during the right time of year, you can follow the trail to the end, where there is a working dairy and ice cream shop.  I didn’t know that at the time but next time I go back, I might check it out.  I did venture over to the other side of the street from the parking lot, to another trail, where I found little woodcutter’s cabins tucked back next to rolling brooks.

The other grandfather cache, the one I found the day before, Camera Cache, was a lot less camera cache 1exciting but still a cool little classic.  For this one, I drove to the back of a sunny park in Shrewsbury, MA and parked my car next to a concrete road block.  I walked about 0.13 miles down a little wooded trail that lay between two fields, currently being used for lacrosse practice.  Four players ran shoulder to shoulder around the fields to my left, while on the right, the coach gave me the hairy eyeball while two of his players searched for a missing ball in the nearby thicket.

The coords were a little off, but the hint helped me find the ammo box located along, again, the stone wall along the forests edge.  As I was signing the log and preparing to put the cache back, a great swarm of lacrosse players spilled out from the tennis courts behind me, and came running alongside me, nary giving me a glance, on their way to join the few already on the practice fields.  I had to wait for several minutes for the horde to pass before being able to put the cache back unnoticed.

Shrewsbury on a mild spring day seemed to be a place for boys; all through town, I saw groups of boys jogging, practicing sports, riding in cars, eating ice creams.  It was very interesting, and made me wonder where the girls were in this town.

These caches were the 50th and 52nd oldest active caches, according to my list.  They were great little adventures, not difficult to get to, yet giving one a perspective of the area they were in.  In my next trip to New England, I want to get the other grandfather caches in the area, and do some more exploring of the Great Brook Farm Park.  I also want to have other New England adventures, like exploring Walden Pond, the exit for which I saw a few times and was tempted.  No matter how much you explore, there is always more to see in this great big land we live in.

second lowell


Something Wicked This Way Comes: Snoqualmie Version

After our disheartening defeat at GCD, we drove across the highway and found the parking area for our next quest: to travel through the Snoqualmie Tunnel to the other side to get another grandfather cache, one called “IronHorse”.
Jason had already found this cache, but I had not. Both of us had been to this area before. Many, many geocachers have. This area was a mecca for geocaching, due to it being a common route to the last remaining APE cache in the US, which sadly was archived in the previous year due to it being muggled repeatedly by that geo-pirate I mentioned in the last post. Jason claimed a find on the APE cache in 2005 when he was sent to the Seattle area for business. I found the APE cache myself in 2008 when I was up in the area for a work interview, and was considering moving up this way (still would love to do that). Both of us had taken the other approach to that famed cache – going up the Lake Annette trail, which was beautiful.
There was a typical traditional hide now in the spot the APE cache formerly laid, but neither of us had our sights on that today. He wanted to share the experience of the tunnel with me, help me find IronHorse, and also we wanted to find a cache hidden inside the middle of the tunnel called “Bloody Fingers, Dirty Diapers”.
As we approached the entrance to the tunnel, we were joined along the path by an unlikely trio: a man leading a horse, and a dog following alongside. It soon became clear that the trip intended to walk through the tunnel with us. I found that kind of amazing, because I don’t know many horses that would willingly walk through this tunnel. I don’t even know that every person I know would be willing to go through the tunnel. It is kind of creepy! Basically, it is an old abandoned railroad tunnel that was converted to a hike and bike trail, with no embellishments. There is no light in the tunnel. It goes on for two miles. After you get about a half mile in, the light from the entrance behind you starts to dim, and it grows progressively darker, until it is pitch black. Eventually, you can make out a tiny speck of light ahead. If you walk towards that light, it grows a little bigger, eventually looking a bit like a church window in the distance. Eventually, that church window widens in your view until you realize it is the exit.

So here we are, walking with the man, the horse, and the dog, and kind of making casual conversation with the man, but also sort of paying attention to the little pockets in the wall that used to hold lighting or electronics or some abandoned train machinery or whatnot. According to possible clues on the “Bloody Fingers, Dirty Diapers” cache page, the cache is located within one of these, and I was kind of counting and looking along the way, which slowed us down deliberately to pull us a little away from our odd walking companions. I wanted us to have the tunnel experience on our own, a little bit.
Eventually, they drifted away from us, and the click clack of the horse’s hooves advanced ahead of us and disappeared. We were half-blindly looking about for this cache, in the middle of the tunnel where the light is all gone. We had our headlamps on, but it only allowed us to see a few feet ahead of us.
Suddenly, we heard a noise in the distance behind us. “What was that?”, I asked Jason nervously. “It’s nothing, don’t worry about it”. To me, though, it sounded like a frightened animal. It sounded like a large, frightened animal wailing. And the sound happened again, and it was getting closer….
I was getting spooked. My mind was racing trying to figure out what it could be. I oriented myself towards the noise, looking for a light coming towards us, something to indicate that the noise was human.
Then, Jason decided we were done looking for the cache, and needed to move. He encouraged me to start walking and look later. Then he picked up the pace. He said he was not worried about the sound, but his pace indicated that he also felt the prick of danger. He actually began hiking so fast I was having trouble keeping up with him, and thought about asking him to slow down, but then I would hear the noise behind us again, growing closer maybe, and I could NOT get out of the tunnel fast enough.
The last mile seemed to last forever. As we got closer to the exit and that window of light grew larger, I could see shapes moving around in it. I was confused at first, but then realized it appeared to be the silhouette of the cowboy and his dog. Where was his horse, though? And why was he dancing around the exit like that?

As we got to the exit, finally, I realized my recognition was correct. The cowboy was standing there to greet us, anxiously smoking a cigarette and asking us, “Did you see him?

Whaaaat? See who? The Poltergiest of Snoqualmie? I was really confused. He explained that he was waiting for his friend, another man leading another horse. I told him about the sounds I heard, and he explained it was probably the horse. Jason told the man that I had been scared it was some kind of bear or cougar who had wandered in the tunnel. “Oh, that happens all the time,” the man said. Really? Man, I would totally pee myself if I was walking in that tunnel and came across a predator like that in there with me.
Apparently, the man leading the horse did not listen to this cowboy when he counseled this guy to bring a spare flashlight. The man had his flashlight die on him, and was leading this horse, who had never encountered this kind of adventure, through the tunnel in absolute darkness behind us. Those noises were the sound of a horse in terror, which I am both surprised and glad I had not heard before enough to recognize.
This other man finally showed us, the horse blowing and snorting, shaking and rolling its eyes. After a few minutes, the men mounted up and rode off to have a mountain trail ride, the dog trailing behind.
Jason and I found IronHorse, then had a picnic of dinner rolls and cheese, bought at the Pike Market yesterday, at a table surrounded by mountains, crisp air, and singing birds. It was totally awesome, and totally worth the terror.
The way back through the tunnel was so much less frightening. Children on bikes following their parents breezed through. We must have seen about 20 bikers, a few hikers, all kinds of people. And we found that cache we were looking for after all, about halfway through. I am really glad we went, although it did take up a bug chunk of our day and energy. What else would have been a better way to spend our day, besides having this crazy adventure surrounded by so much beauty?DSC_1706


The Original and Un-Original Stash and Misadventures in Molalla

I’ll just say that perhaps our plan for this whole day was overly ambitious, this fourth day in our vacation. This was the same day I wrote about in the post below, where we left Ashland in the morning (after dwelling way too long at a posh hip diner in town with terrible, annoying alleged free wifi) and drove north to points just south and east of Portland, where we hiked an hour or more doing the GC16 cache, and then afterwards, where we made our pilgrimage to the spot that started it all.

The Original Stash Tribute Plaque (GCGV0P)

In May of 2000, Dave Ulmer hid a bucket here and then posted the coordinates on a website and asked people to see if they could find it. This was the beginning of geocaching, but before there was even a word for it. So many people were interested in the concept, and then wanted to hide their own and find more, that a game was born. Read more about the history of geocaching here. Eventually this original geocache was destroyed, but Team 360 and some others realized the importance of this location and had the plaque made. A person finds the plaque and signs a log at the nearby ammo can to claim the find.
I had actually logged this find in August of 2008, in a previous life, but J had never been here. As someone who has been involved with the game from the early years (2003), I thought he really should have this find under his belt. Plus, it is part of what is called the Geocaching Triad, or Trifecta – which includes the (now archived but reborn as just a regular) APE cache, Groundspeak Headquarters, and this cache. We were headed to Groundspeak later this week, and I wanted us both to be able to say we completed the Triad.
Meanwhile, while he was checking it out and signing the log, I made the trek right up the hill behind this cache site to get a grandfather cache, GC92, or: The Unoriginal Stash.
I didn’t get this one last time I was here because daylight was fading and I really needed a flashlight to be able to find it, and it is up this hill that is really muddy and slippery. That day, I had already gotten the bottom of my jeans dirty that day and we were kind of in a rush to get to the Portland airport at the time to fly back to Houston. This time I had daylight and wasn’t in a terrible hurry. I didn’t fall down either, which I thought was impressive because it had been raining on and off out here (go figure, being so close to Portland) and the ground was quite wet.
We weren’t in a particular hurry up to this point in the day, but perhaps we should have been. The thing is, we didn’t give ourselves enough daylight to get to GC12 and 17 together in one day. GC17 we ended up having to skip entirely. It’s a five mile round trip hike when done correctly. We had about an hour until the sun went down when we got to the area where the trails began, and we gave it all up on GC12, which should have been a lot simpler.
To get to GC12, you take these forest roads that get more narrow and remote. We finally ended up parking at this “y” juncture and first taking the wrong fork, then the right fork to walk to it. It was only about a half mile walk but it was like the longest half mile ever. Some people drive right up to it, but the trees lean their branches in and scrape their little “fingernails” against the car, and we didn’t want to have to pay for a paint job on the rental car. So we walked, but we weren’t really thrilled about it. I think we were sore from some other hikes or just kind of tired and not in the mood, but mostly we were a little freaked out, feeling really small and vulnerable in this forest. J was worried about human predators and I was worried about animal ones. Then, the cache took forever because it was surprisingly hard to find, considering it is a big white and blue bucket.

So it was almost dark when we got back to the car from this misadventure. Plus, we needed to find a camping spot for the night, and my original idea was to find one northeast of this little area, and we never made it out that way.
We had a long day of hiking and driving and the last thing we wanted to do was go without dinner and fumble around in the dark pitching a tent to stay in for one night, so we wended up paying too much for an only halfway decent hotel in Sandy, Oregon.
Now we’ll have to go back to this area one day, yet again, so I can scratch that darn GC17 off my list of the oldest geocaches left unfound.