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


23 Aug 2008
9:53 PM

Big group outing near Folsom

Karen, Dan, and I headed off early this morning to meet up with a large contingent from the GBA for some Sacramento area caches that could fill some folks Fizzy Challenge squares. We met at False Bottom (D4.5 T4), which I guess is in Roseville. There were about 18 of us (too large), so no cache lasted long before being spotted.

From there we headed off to Folsom Lake to seek The Hunt for Capitan Folsom’s Fortune (D5 T4). This was a basically a multi-cache. I suppose we might have completed it (more slowly) but we had a previous finder along as a guide dropping subtle hints. As we hiked along for the different stages, we picked up another four caches.

About lunch-time we were off to Scoobert’s Sunken Treasure (D4.5 T3.5) which required a trip into waste deep water and knee deep mud. Several were suited up for it, but three gung-ho guys jumped in, and everyone else let them do the searching. We guided them a bit from the shore to where the GPSr was pointing, and they had in short order. We found one more around the lake (and DNF’d one that was missing).

At this point, we split from the large group and went over near Highway 50 in Eldorado Hills. Picked up six in that area, and then drove towards Cal State Sacramento where Dan wanted to pick up some puzzles.

We found four, which I solved in the next day or so. We DNF’d Cryptanalysis after a very long search. It’s now been disabled by the reviewer and is on it’s way to being archived unless the owner takes action.

8 Aug 2008
5:44 PM

Lake George and TJ Lake

Took Dan to two Snoogan’s caches and picked up the Smokey Bear Flat cache on the way. Afterwards we went with Mark, Annmarie, and the kids to Lake George and hiked out to TJ Lake. Fishing was poor again, and the wind was whipping across the lake right into our faces. We couldn’t find a nice flat area for Chase to play in, so it wasn’t the greatest experience.

Dan and Janet had hiked to TJ Lake earlier in the day, and then continued on with a climb part way up Crystal Crag and scored a D5 T5 cache by replacing the container with the permission of the owner.

I forgot my camera—thought it was in the pack, but it wasn’t.

7 Aug 2008
9:34 PM

June Lake loop

First thing this morning I took Dan and Janet out to the Hardcore caches for a view of Banner and Ritter.

Here’s the money shot of my Ridgeline on a ridgeline with a fantastic (the Minarets) ridgeline in the background.

On the way back, we stopped at the Mammoth Earthquake Fault area so I could get the two quick caches there. That was an interesting fault because the crack isn’t from slipping (like the San Andreas is at Point Reyes), but has just pulled apart.

We also made a stop for a webcam cache that took far too long to update.

Back at the house we all packed up for another day trip and headed off to Black Point to explore the cracks. In the interest of time, I didn’t try to climb the steep, cinder moguls, but Mark made in just fine, with hardly any wheel spin. I think if I followed his line the Ridgeline would make it up OK.

Black Point was an underwater volcanic eruption. These deep cracks formed and then mineral deposits from the salty water precipitated out on the walls.

Even though I had been here a couple of days before with the GBA 4x4 group, I didn’t know exactly where the replacement cache was hidden, so we had to hunt a while. I think finding this cache is nearly impossible if you don’t read the description, the past logs, and look at the log photos. I logged it today with Dan instead of with the GBA 4x4 group. While we were hunting the cache, Cortnie climbed down with Mark into the lower reaches and then surprised us by climbing up and popping out of a hole that was only large enough for her.

We closed the day by driving around the June Lake Loop, picking up several caches. Mark and Cortnie tried fishing along Rush Creek and Silver Lake, but had no luck.

6 Aug 2008
7:52 PM

Rock Creek

Today was a simple hiking day for the kids to do some fishing. We drove south on 395 to Tom’s Place and then up Rock Creek. It was crowded and trailhead parking was tight. We got one vehicle parked at the trailhead so the girls didn’t have to hike anymore than necessary. We made the short hike to Mack Lake. Cortnie has become much more adventuresome since her backpack trip with Mark, so she wanted to take us on a shortcut (off trail) down to the lakeshore. She did very well choosing how we should descend a little rock scramble. Unfortunately, what none of us realized was that the route along the shoreline was blocked by vertical cliff, so we had to climb back up to the trail.

We staked out a beautiful little spot where Chase could play in the grass and Cortnie and Audree could try fishing.

This ended up being a delightful, relaxing afternoon. Unfortunately, both girls did fall and scrape their knees. Chase, however, had a ball.

On the way back to the house, we took the girls with us and stopped to hunt two roadside geocaches.

5 Aug 2008
10:03 PM

Champion Spark Plug Mine

Dan, Janet, Karen, and I headed down to Bishop, through Laws, and back north on highway 6, looking for the Champion Spark Plug Mine (or perhaps as it is marked on the topo maps, Jeffrey Mine). Now, it’s interesting that Mark had pointed out this location to me for non-geocaching reasons, so when I discovered there was a geocache (well, actually two) there, it was icing on the cake. I studied the topo maps and satellite photos a lot to get a feel for the approach, which was good, because Dan’s GPSr wanted to route us onto the wrong road and would have left us with a long, tough (or impossible) hike.

I drove to where I was sure the access was and encountered a closed, but not locked, gate. Not quite sure what to do, we discussed things for a bit. Then a local drives up to go through the gate and says, “You must be looking for the Spark Plug Mine,” and proceeded to give us directions (which corresponded identically with what I was planning).

We drove through a couple of gates and up into the canyon, proceeding to a small sign proclaiming “4x4 required.” We could have stayed on the road in the bottom of the canyon, but then the we would have an extra 1,000 feet of vertical to hike to get to the mine camp. We chose to hang a sharp left and climb the side of the canyon.

That was an adventure in itself, since I’m not very experienced in offroad driving. The shelf road was steep, very narrow, and in a couple of places off camber due to small slides down onto the road. These felt much worse than they were. The down hill tire was always in nice, flat, firm track, so there wasn’t much danger of sliding. Still, I had Dan spot me in a couple of places just to be sure a tire didn’t go where it shouldn’t. However, with a near insurrection from my favorite passenger, I parked at a good switchback and we hiked on the road about 0.7 miles. It turns out we had done the worst and steepest part so our hike to the real parking area wasn’t too bad.

I knew what the trail was going to be like from other web sites, but hadn’t told the others. They, and especially Karen, were disconcerted to find the trail was, in spots, a mere 6 inches wide on a 60° slope. In one spot, a shovel was left by the trail. I suspect the trail slides away every winter and has to be rebuilt. At least we didn’t have any steep climbs, and in less than an hour we were at the camp. I didn’t get any photos of the trail, but here is one from a site that has good photos and descriptions of the area. And here’s one from Dan.

Due to the efforts of volunteers, the cabins are in excellent condition. There are beds, chairs, and tables in the cabins; the cook house is fully stocked with stoves, pots, pans, and utensils. There are even miscellaneous dried and canned foodstuffs. The tool shed seems fully equipped to handle about anything that needs fixing. One of the cabins is a museum stuffed with minerals and artifacts. The only thing missing, so it seemed, was water, and that might be available earlier in the year. There are pipes and faucets that might be spring fed if it’s early enough in the year.


We plopped down in some folding chairs and had lunch, rested for a bit, and explored the cabins. Then Dan and I headed up to the mine while Janet and Karen stayed at the cabins. It wasn’t very far, but it was a steep 1400 ft ascent on another goat track trail at roughly 8,000 ft elevation.


Here’s a photo from about 1/4 of the way up looking back down the canyon. Beyond the cabins the trail down to the lower parking area is clearly seen. The trail to the upper parking area hugs the hillside to the right. The green area way down at the bottom is White Mountain Ranch.

By the top I was at my limit, with my quads and calf muscles threatening to cramp. Dan made it up quite a bit faster, and had found Ghosts of Miners Past (D3 T5) before I even got within shouting distance. This was probably the best FTF experience either of us have had—certainly one of the most strenous.

We weren’t done yet. Hall of Champions (D5 T5) is an archived puzzle multi-cache, whose final is at the mine. It was archived because the first stage went missing (it was in Fullerton). Dan contacted a previous finder and asked for the first stage clue. He passed the request on to Ranboze (who was co-FTF with bthomas), and she sent Dan the photo. A little waypoint projection with a Fizzymagic tool, and we were in business. The location was about 400 feet from Ghosts of Miners Past. We started climbing some more towards the mine tunnels, but as we watched the GPSr arrow point toward the cache location we were wondering what we were getting into. I don’t care for vertical exposure heights, and it sure looked like the GPSr was aiming us for a vertical cliff face.

We worked our way past where the structures used to stand (burned down, so I hear) and into the mine tunnel area. Dan knocked his dark glasses off and down a steep slope. I’d have left them, but he managed to recover them without sliding off the hillside.

Reaching the cache location was actually pretty easy, and our GPSrs (Garmin 60cs) did a remarkable job of nailing the location, despite the challenges. We found the cache after a fairly short search.

By this time, the clouds were pretty dark, and we were hearing the distant crack of thunder. Figuring it was time to get out of there, we started down, and at about the halfway point radioed Karen and Janet to start for the truck. We caught up with them before they reached it. Our luck held, and just as we reached the truck we got a few large drops of slushy rain.

This location is on my list as one of the best, most memorable caching locations I’ve encountered. Well worth the time and effort.

4 Aug 2008
8:42 PM

Bodie and Mono Lake

Today we all packed up and drove out to Bodie, a well preserved (but not restored) ghost town that has become a California State Park. Even Chase was looking forward to it.

We picked up 5 caches along the way, including a virtual and a puzzle. While I was wandering around in one of the back lots I noticed a couple of large birds. As best I can determine they are females of a Mono basin subspecies of sage grouse.

We peered through a lot of windows—not many of the houses are open. It’s amazing how they were left when people moved away. It kind of looks like the folks just vanished, leaving belongings on tables and shelves. I guess it was too hard/expensive to move it. The mine area is off limits except with a guided tour. One of these days I should do that.

After leaving Bodie we stopped at the South Tufa area on the Mono Lake shoreline. These photogenic rock formations form when springs of calcium rich fresh water react with alkaline salt water of the lake. The towers can grow (underwater) up to an inch a year. The reason we see these towers is that the lake level is much lower than it has been historically. There were two earthcaches here that we completed.

Mark and Annmarie and the kids headed for the house, while we took a little hike up to Panum Panorama Revisited. While the crater was interesting, we ran into old friends from southern California (and we nearly didn’t recognize each other—the context was all wrong). How cool to run into Todd and Jennie and family.

3 Aug 2008
5:44 PM

Mammoth

This was kind of a laid back day. We worked on getting our stuff arranged in the house and figuring out how things worked: like the grind and brew coffee maker, a kiddie safety barrier for the stairs, and the cable modem internet connection.

We verified the cable modem was dead (although we were able to snitch from an open wireless router that was close enough). We couldn’t find any suitable baby gates either, so we called the owner. He came over willingly enough (from Bishop) and found a nice baby gate for us tucked away in a closet. And, he said he’d call the cable company in the morning.

As I was surfing the web, I realized I was hearing a lot of aircraft noise, so I went outside, saw the smoke, and recognized a borate bomber. I drove a little ways to get a clear view and realized the fire was close to Laurel Canyon, and way to close to Mammoth for comfort.



I got my PS3 hooked up to the 50" big screen, and Dan did the same with his XBOX 2. My days were full enough that I never played a game or watched a blu-ray disk, though. I think Dan finally finished up Blinx: Tools of Destruction and Mark worked though Portal.

At dinner we found another deficiency of the house. There were only chairs for six around the table. I’d think with a 5 bedroom home, provision would be made to seat a larger number of people at the dinner table. We made do however, with a bar stool and a kiddie chair from the playroom.

2 Aug 2008
7:08 PM

GBA 4x4 X day 2

I guess the bear didn’t come down the hill after us—at least it didn’t wake us up by knocking over garbage cans. We decided to grab breakfast at the Breakfast Club; so did the rest of the group, so it was a big table.

After breakfast we rolled out to the end of Minaret Road as far as you can without taking the shuttle and then hit dirt up to the real Minaret view, not the paved parking area.

This was a pretty drive to over 10,000 ft to Hardcore Ezakimak (D3 T5). The Minarets, Banner, and Ritter were in clear view to the west.



Back down the road just a bit and we found Hardcore Sunrise or Sunset (D1.5 T5).

Before we got back to pavement we got Minaret Summet (sic) (D2.5 T2) and then we headed to Laurel Canyon, a rocky, intermediate 4x4 road. Using a bit of discretion, I parked the Ridgeline and hitched a ride.

Here’s the view looking back down the canyon toward Mammoth. The timbered ridge down at the mouth of the canyon has burned. The fire started the day after this photo was taken.

Bypassing a couple of the caches lower in the canyon, we climbed up a very rocky, rough, narrow, shelf road. We were riding in the back seat of Tom’s Toyota Forerunner and got bounced around a lot. One bounce I was not prepared for about knocked me silly as my head got whacked against the side window. Finally, we stopped at a beautiful little spot along the creek in a grove of Aspens to find Laurel Creek.

Then it was farther up the canyon, with switchbacks up the canyon wall, and a stop, of course, at Laurel Lake Switchback.

Finally, we reached the upper end of the road and had a view of Laurel Lake while we found Laurel Lakes.

Then we dropped down to the lake, found Ode to Ranboze and bthomas (D4.5 T5), relaxed while eating lunch, and some even did a bit of fishing.

On our return, we picked up Veet Voojagig’s Ballpoint Planet: Wormhole#1 Ca. (D1.5 T5) and Mammoth View Cache (D1.5 T3).

After returning to the base of Laurel Canyon, the group was headed off toward Bishop, but since it was 2PM we decided to stay around Mammoth and check-in to our vacation rental house at 4PM. This left us some time to find another couple of caches.

We did 8.5 Panorama (on a nearby hill with lots of exposed, sharp obsidian at the top)—it’s a seismic station, hence the 8.5 references earthquake magnitude. No doubt this general area is not through shaking or erupting.

After completing the photo for the virtual The Hidden Dragon, we drove into Mammoth, did grocery shopping, and went to the rental house off of Old Mammoth Road.

We rented this 5 bedroom, 3.5 bath house through VRBO. This always seems like an adventure in trust to me, but I tried to check out the owners as best I could, and it seemed quite legit. The house was larger than we needed, but since each family got a separate floor, it worked out well. It was in a very quiet neighborhood, rather than a townhome (which we could have rented) in the busy part of Mammoth.

1 Aug 2008
9:43 PM

GBA 4x4 X day 1

Karen and I hit the road awfully early this morning to meet the GBA 4x4 group at Virginia Lakes Lodge before 9AM. We got just a bit of a late start, and needed a coffee/pit stop break in Sonora, so we didn’t quite make it on time. Luckily, just as we turned to go down the road to the lodge, we met the group as they were leaving. While we were wishing for coffee and a scone, we wheeled around and joined the caravan.

Our first destination was off of Virginia Lakes road up toward Copper Mountain. First up was Mono Lake Overlook (D1.5 T2.5), followed by Copper Mountain Cache (D1 T4.5).


Here’s Karen and a couple of our vehicles with a great backdrop.


The group shot.

Then it was down to 395 for Mono Vista (a drive up at a viewpoint) and then off road a bit to get Ben’s Snowslide 1911 (D1.5 T2.5).


We next headed to Black Point overlooking Mono Lake on the north side. The access is through cinders and sand and is only challenging at one point—a short, steep section filled with moguls. Everybody made it but me, but in retrospect I think it was mostly driver error. I took a really bad line. But instead of possibly wasting more of the group’s time, we just hitched a ride with Ben for the rest of the way (about 3/4 mile).

At the end of the road it was a fairly short hike to A Claustrophobic’s Nightmare/Just Say NO to Crack (D5 T5). It certainly was difficult enough. Several of us were stretched out reaching as deep as we could into little cracks and peering under rocks with flashlights. After a while, Ben (who had been here on successful finds about 3 times) started looking. We were skunked. On the theory that perhaps it had fallen into unreachable depths (certainly a possibility), we put in a replacement. Ben was going to follow up with the owner to see if he would agree to the replacement.

After a long time in the cool shadows of this crack, we trekked over to Plumber’s Crack (D3 T5), which turned out to be much easier to find.

On leaving Black Point, we drove by the Mono Cemetery and did the Mono’s Pioneers virtual.

Time for lunch! Let’s go to Whoa Nellies for a killer fish taco lunch. What a busy place, and while we were sitting outside eating a short micro-burst of wind hit and smashed three of the umbrella shades. Luckily, no one was hit; they were hefty wooden frame umbrellas. While some of the crew were finishing up and others were getting gas, I drove up to a viewpoint and scored on What a View.

For the rest of the afternoon we headed off toward Mammoth for a couple more off-road adventures. Just south of the Mammoth Scenic Loop road we hit dirt on the west side of 395, heading up to Crash of the Golgafrinchan“B” Ark:Fintlewoodlewix (D3 T5).On leaving this cache, Ben led us onto a dead end road and ended up getting a rear wheel sliding off in the soft stuff on the downhill side. Between Brad’s winch and 5 of us on a strap to try to keep the rear end from sliding any farther down, we got him out.

Then it was on to Young Zaphod Plays It Safe (D3 T5). There were a couple of rough spots in the road, but the worst was the overhanging brush. Got some good pinstripes out of it.

We connected up with Sawmill Road and rolled down into Mammoth, stopping for Peach and Kika’s Cache.

Back out of town on the Scenic Loop and then off road to The Secret Dirty Golfball Graveyard in the Sky (D3.5 T4.5).We all piled out of our vehicles and headed for the cache in kind of a spread out group. I heard a loud snap of brush off to my left a bit and thought one of the others was up there when Karen yelled, “There’s a bear!” That froze us all in our tracks. Sure enough, and it was a big bear, and it didn’t run off. A couple of us took a few steps towards it, and it responded by walking closer to us, so we decided that was a bad idea, and backed off. It was a stand-off. We watched the bear and it watched us. Finally, a few of us looped around and down to the cache while others kept watch on the bear. We got the cache, and the bear didn’t get any of us. Last we saw of it, it was still standing cache watch.

We zoomed off to Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (D4.5 T4.5), hoping the bear wouldn’t cover the 1/4 mile or so after us. Nevertheless, our situational awareness was still high.

Caching concluded, we checked in to the Econolodge, ate dinner across the street, and crashed. It has been a very long day.


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