...to find or not to find...

27 Dec 2007
3:34 PM

Good ol’ Livermore

While I was out and around this afternoon, I stopped to look for 3 caches here in town. They weren’t the kind I enjoy hunting, and in fact I passed on a fourth one because it was right in front of someone’s house (and probably on their property).

26 Dec 2007
8:05 PM

Danville with Karen

Karen and I headed to Walnut Creek (and possibly Clayton, I thought) to do some hiking and caching. The first stops were along Tice Valley Blvd near Rossmore. We DNF’d Secret Trailhead, Cardiac Canyon, and FishCache (I was uncomfortable with parking on this one—looked like someone’s driveway). I got so frustrated that we just went back to Danville and Hap Magee park where I picked up 3 caches (and another DNF).

22 Dec 2007
7:47 PM

More MV adventures

In the Mini Vanona caper, we discovered yesterday that despite our valiant efforts to recover a clue by hiking part way up Mission Peak, we’d hit a dead end. The cipher text we recovered, once decoded, told us to go back to the BART station and search the phone booth location more carefully.

Kusanagi did that last night and recovered a small magnet with geocache waypoint GCKGJB written on it. I expect he did this pretty much by feel behind the metal mounting frame of the phone, which had been removed. GCKGJB is an archived cache near the Arlen Ness Motorcycle shop and was hidden under an old concrete bridge. Kusanagi searched last night but came up empty.

IMG_4888.JPG This morning I stopped by, and after searching for a while located a mini-briefcase under some very old 2x12s. The briefcase contained a single sheet of paper with 3 photographs, one of them an aerial view, evidently indicating the location of a foot-bridge.

BriefcaseClueOn the drive home I kept thinking about how familiar the aerial photo seemed, and finally realized it looked like an area just west of Stoneridge shopping mall. I verified that was indeed the case as soon as I got home. As I was making plans to go there, Dan called, so I met him at the airport parking area and we went to Pleasanton together.

IMG_4889.JPG We searched around and on the bridge for some time (it’s an interesting bridge because the green structural stuff is fiberglass, not steel). We finally got an old sheet from the truck so Dan could shimmy under the bridge, where he quickly spotted a small container in a sealed plastic bag.

It was a small phone number book that we initially thought was blank. Then we noticed the back side of the pages contained dots along one edge. After some careful alignment, coordinates appeared.

IMG_4898.JPG IMG_4897.JPG

IMG_4890.JPG These coordinates specified a spot right on the corner of Valley and Santa Rita in Pleasanton. If there is a busier intersection in Ptown, I don’t know of it. My GPSr kept pushing me out into the street corner, so we searched all the poles and signs, but found nothing. Finally, Dan climbed up, stuck his head in a cobwebby space, and recovered a black plastic-wrapped tube.

Back at the truck, we unwrapped the tube and unrolled the banner. It seems we have successfully recovered the banner from being held hostage by MV.

We’re still puzzled by the 373 prefix phone number we heard on the taped message. Maybe we should have called it.


And on the way home we stopped to find the Sycamore Pole cache.

21 Dec 2007
2:46 PM

Mission Peak search for Mini Vanona

Dan has been playing with the Mini Vanona puzzle in the GBA forums, and cracked a message coded in Russian leet. That led him to a sign board at a trail head on the Iron Horse trail in Dublin where he found some more Russian words. A rough translation led him to a bus stop in Dublin where he found a mini-cassette tape. We played the tape (after Janet scrounged up a player) and the latitude hint given was plain (a phone number 373-0711), but the rest of the message was a more or less unintelligble voice followed by touch tones.

I decoded the touch tones (using the spectrum analyzer in my evaluation copy of Amadeus) as 925 227-9891. This was not what we expected. We did a reverse phone number lookup and failed to get anything useful. I dialed the number, and it was out of service.

Later, minicacher pointed out that it was a pay phone number on the Dublin side of the BART station. He checked around there (the phone has been removed), as did Dan and I. We found nothing. Later I speculated that perhaps the longitude of that phone booth is what we needed (and Dan independently came up with the same thought). Google Earth indicated the coords would be very near the main trail going up Mission Peak.

Today Dan and I hiked up there. After some searching I inspected a small white ribbon like flag and saw what appears to be ciphertext. Here’s what it says,


Update 4:00 PM: Rogue Ramblers posts, This is a Vigenere cipher, keyword: VENONABANNER

On the way back down, I stopped for two caches, one being the final for Inca Gold. I had found all the prelim stages for this puzzle over a year ago, and lost some of the info, so needed Dan’s help a bit.

15 Dec 2007
10:44 PM

Knoxville 4x4

For whatever reason, I woke up this morning long before the alarm was set to go off. Figured I might as well go have some coffee and breakfast, so headed down to the Main Street Bar and Grill in Clearlake.

After breakfast I grabbed my GPSr and a flashlight and walked across the street to the nearest cache, where of all things I found a brand new blank log and a first to find prize. It seemed like an auspicious start to a long day of caching. I hunted down 2 more caches before getting to Big O Tires as they opened in order to get my flat tire repaired.

As soon as they dismounted the tire from the rim it was apparent the tire was not repairable—it had a 1.5" slice through the tread and steel belts. They couldn’t get a replacement for a couple of days, so I had to make it through the day (and the drive home) with no spare. At least Big O didn’t charge me a thing for their work.

After Big O, all of us met up again and headed for the meeting point at Knoxville. Of course, we stopped and found four caches on the way.

IMG_4853 Our little caravan of 5 vehicles joined another 5 vehicles at the entrance to Knoxville. Dan had hitched a ride up with ProTechCC, so he joined me for the rest of day in the Ridgeline. The dynamics of a 4x4 cache hunt with this many vehicles was quite different from yesterday. In general, by the time the last vehicles had parked, the cachers in the front vehicles had found the cache and signed the log.

IMG_4857 We (the group) found 24 caches before we were back to Knoxville Berryessa road. At this point, several folks called it a day, but Dan and I jumped in bthomas’ Jeep and went back to get 3 caches on a nearby side road at dusk.

Back at my Ridgline, bthomas, and ProTechCC agreed to cache with us as we drove the road towards Lake Berryessa. We picked up another 18 caches on that drive, all done by flashlight.

At that point, Dan and I headed for home because I wanted to be back by 10 PM. The others cached some more around Lake Berryessa. Still, this was my high cache find day, with a total of 52.

14 Dec 2007
10:54 PM

GBA 4x4 trip to Clear Lake

Today I hit the road at 5:15 AM to head north to Clear Lake to meet up with a group heading into the hills north of the lake. By leaving that early I had clear sailing to Santa Rosa, where I stopped for breakfast at the Omelette Express. Besides being a tasty breakfast, there was a lot of it, and despite stuffing myself in anticipation of a very long caching day I couldn’t clean my plate.

IMG_4784 I hit the turnoff to Clear Lake in Hopland with enough spare time that I stopped for a couple of caches along highway 175. Close to Hopland the road winds through a pretty area of vineyards and farmland, but soon turns into a windy road snaking through the mountains to Clear Lake.

I arrived at our designated meeting spot in Lakeport (a gas station) before anyone else, so I gassed up and popped over to nearby Jack’s place to grab a cache. By the time I returned the Peninsula contingent had arrived (Matt/mjp303, Ben/bthomas, Brad/geobrowns, Tom/MotorBug with passenger Chris/airsax). After they all gassed up we stopped at a Subway so MotorBug could get a sandwich for lunch, and of course, the rest of us found the nearest cache. As we headed for Bartlett Springs Road with mjp303 in the lead, he couldn’t resist stopping for a couple of caches on the way.


Once on the dirt, we hit three high terrain caches, with the most memorable being this one with near vertical faces. We were all over this rock and confused about the description and hint. Geobrowns finally braved one of the near vertical cliff faces and made the find.

We stopped at Bartlett Springs. Apparently a recent fire destroyed a small bottling plant (perhaps it was already abandoned).

IMG_4816 IMG_4817

A mile or so beyond Bartlett Springs I got a flat on my right front tire. It turns out something (probably a sharp rock) put a 1.5" slice through the tread and steel belts. I had to run the rest of the weekend without a spare.

As we proceeded on we drove by Indian Valley Reservoir, which was extremely low. Noticing there was a terrain 5 kayak cache near the normal lake shore, we decided to drive out on the dry lake bottom and see how close we could get. We did fine getting there and finding the cache. But then the adventure started.

The following photos tell the story. First we had vehicles sliding sideways downhill in soft shale, and then getting stuck in some really gooey mud. We had to do a tandem tow to get them out.

IMG_4832 IMG_4844 IMG_4846

The lake bed mudhole really slowed us down from our plan and we didn’t reach our next cache until after sundown. It was another terrain 4.5, so doing it by flashlight was even more of an adventure. Bthomas and mjp303 found the best approach and made the find. The next attempt was at a terrain 5 cache, and while bthomas made it to the top he couldn’t find the cache, before his headlamp began to fade.

On the drive back towards highway 20 we picked up another 4 caches, so my total for the day was 15 caches.

After checking into our motel (Travelodge) we headed to Kathies Inn for dinner. By the time we were done and back to the motel it was 9:30 PM or so, and I was beat.

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