Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Testing The Water

Finally we got out for some caching again this weekend!

It really started Saturday morning when four new caches were published about a half-hour drive from the apartment. I had just wrapped up a bunch of the errands for the morning and started on some of the chores when the phone bleeped new cache publishes. Well, I really didn't have anything going on aside from an interview at 3:00PM – about six hours away – and going on an FTF hunt would be research for next weekend's recording of the Cachers of the Round Table, right? According to the morning's weather report we were to be getting some storms rolling through, but they didn't expect those till closer to noon. So by the time I got there I should have about two hours to find a pair of traditionals and two more multi-caches, and there were several more caches in that park and some neighboring parks. I decided then to load up both the GPSMap 60CSx and the Colorado 400t (even going solo now I'm using both units so I have one for finding the cache then the second for the paperless functionality). The best way to accomplish that (and I had decided at that point there wouldn't be much of a point in going for the FTF since I was at least half-an-hour from the first fine) was to build a small Pocket Query centered on one of the new caches, set to run that day and delete itself. Then I ran down to the car and retrieved the Nüvi 200 to load up while the PQ ran and downloaded. By the time I returned the PQ had arrived and I loaded the 60CSx through MacCaching, directly copied the GPX file onto the 400t, and used the Garmin POI Loader to transfer the caches onto the Nüvi. So I packed up the units and loaded them, and myself, into the car and made my way out to Clinton Township. When I arrived at the park the lot was empty. Quickly the hope of an FTF returned and I quickly made my way to the closest newly published cache. After getting FTFs on the two new traditional and one of the two new multi-caches, I started to hear the thunder in the distance. I headed right back to the car, stopping for one cache near the car, and made it safely back to car before the rain set in (though I didn't finish loading up the car till the first drops hit). Thus ended my Saturday morning of geocaching, but the first attempt we'd had at getting out for more than a month.

Testing the Waters
The real fun though was on Sunday. When I woke Drie to get ready for the weekly family brunch, I mentioned that I wanted to blow off the Sunday chores and go out caching again. Of course she was game, so I dropped our buddies TeamLegend4 an e-mail to see if they were interested. Just before we walked out the door they e-mailed back and we were on for an afternoon of caching in Clinton Township. So we called them as we left the brunch and planned to meet at the same park just more than an hour from then and made way for home. We ran a new PQ, loaded up the units, grabbed the camera and water testing gear (for a few earthcaches), and headed back to Budd Park. TeamLegend4 arrived before us due to some unexpected construction delays, so they had the chance to hit the three new caches I'd hit the day before. As they were headed to the final stage of the multi, we were pulling in and prepping to cache. As they logged the final, we chatted and they shared that our hopes for the FTF on that final multi which hadn't been logged yet were very slim as there was another name in the logs from today (Sunday), but we had hopes of running into another cacher while on the trail. Sure enough we ran into Tek Trekkers at the final of GSS - Take a Walk (GC1E34B). Of course we chatted for a bit, and helped them find another cache in the park they'd been fighting with on previous visits to the park. We headed off for an earthcache followed by a couple more hides within the connecting Canal Park. This earthcache was pretty common for most of the earthcaches we've hit around Michigan which required a water sample to test the pH level. This however, required that we take a sample and wait fifteen minutes then provide a description of the sample (the above photo was taken as we waited). This gave us the opportunity to chat and play with our cameras before moving on to the physical caches in the park. After one DNF, we hit another cache where the a previous Cacher has not sealed the container well, so the contents (including the logbook) were soaked and starting to mold. I slipped in a piece of paper with my log on it, then attempted to log that we found it, and it needs maintenance through the WAP GC interface. Ugh! The WAP is down. So on the walk back I kept retrying the logs without much luck. Meanwhile, Bill used a phone-a-friend on the cache we'd just DNFed, and through a pretty good description of the location we determined that the cache was in fact not there. Oh well. Time for some munchies (and restroom) before our next batch of caches. But due to the insane construction on Groesbeck, we ate Burger King (BTW -- don't bother with the Apple Fries) and used their facilities before hitting the trail again.
Clinton Township has been a supporter of Geocaching for several years, hiding a new Parks Brochure Cache each year. The FTF prize is to have your photo on the cover of the next township parks brochure.

George George Memorial Park had been a golf course before being donated by the George family. The family donated the land and constructed the park in honor of their grandfather. The 30 acre park features two fountains, gardens, covered public pavilion, a playground, and walking trails.
Our next stop was another earthcache at a USGS Gage Station along Moravian Road. We had a good bit of luck actually here as the bridge was closed and Clinton Township has just opened the new George George Memorial Park (the new park is truly unbelievable). So we dropped the cars in the park's parking lot and walked over to the bridge. This earthcache required less work as the last had, but we spent nearly as much time enjoying the location. Then it was time to work our way back into the park for three more physical, another earthcache, and a virtual cache. The entire walk from the cars to the first cache we could only marvel at the beauty of this incredible park. We walked past a fountain that looked to have been built for the kids to play (though the signs prohibited entry into the fountains and water) with the cement sloping easily from walkway to fountain, and a little river passing behind the wall. Once we located the first cache in the bridal garden we signed the log as we took in the views. We still had four more caches to hit though, so down the trail we strode toward another physical cache. Another easy find, though we had some trouble due to the muggle traffic. So we had another earthcache to do which required two samples for pH testing. So we hit the first location, collected that sample, the required photos and moved on to the next traditional cache. Another quick find and we were off for the second water sample. A short walk along the riverbank, then an easy climb down next to a culvert and we had out second sample. Just one more cache (a virtual) and we will have completed all the caches in this park. We first needed a quick break at the restrooms where we enjoyed the air conditioning and drinking fountains. What an amazing park. After collecting the required information for the virtual, we grabbed the pH testing gear from the car and sat at the larger fountain out front to test both samples. For kicks, we collected a sample from the fountain as well, the whole time enjoying the cool mist blowing from the fountain. Being that it still wasn't 5:00PM and there were three more caches to find in Mill Race Park, we packed up and drove around to the entrance of the park. Alas we discovered no parking, and no real entrance at the coordinates. After further examination of the cache description we realized that it had been written before the George George Park's opening, and that we were to use the parking there and walk over the closed bridge to collect these finds. While Mill Race Park was a township park, it hadn't been maintained and consisted of mostly wild growth over a single path wandering through the woods. At the end of this path, the furthest cache in the park and the location of the old Franklin settlement, all signs long vanished. The only sign we found of human activity being a couple of discarded tractor tires aside from the overgrown dirt road and a few "No Hunting" signs near the entrance (though we found what we thought to be the original parking lot with a light near the road). We made quick work of the caches in this park and got out quickly as we were loosing light. A quick check as we exited and we didn't find find any ticks or other hitchhikers, so we headed out to the cars. We were exhausted from that short mile hike though and ready to head out for a shower and dinner. We parted ways and headed for the respective homes. Shortly after that Drie found a tick on her leg which prompted a call to TL4 notifying them of the presence of the nasty creatures. That didn't stop us from finally catching a virtual cache we kept missing along 16 Mile Rd. That made a total of fifteen caches from Noon to about 6:30PM without a single drive-up cache – a very pleasant total for an afternoon of caching. The real problem though was to come as we got to the e-mails and logging. Drie spent her time that evening collecting the information and e-mailing the cache owners of all the earth and virtual caches. My job was to take care of all the logging on Geocaching.com. Thanks to the problems with the WAP interface, that turned out to be a much nastier problem than I'd expected. One of the caches had been logged nine times, another four. Once I straighten out that mess, there were eight caches that didn't have any logs at all. After more than an hour-and-a-half we were finally finished and ready for a good night's rest. It was a much needed break from the heavy schedule we've been under the last several months.

The problem now being that we're anxious to play hooky again and go caching more often. But Friday we have an interview to record after work, Saturday we're recording episode 13 of Cachers of the Round Table, and Sunday we have the usual family brunch followed by another interview (though this time its hopefully a video interview in person). The following weekend is even more busy with a major project at the office taking both Saturday and Sunday. So when might we be able to get out for some more caching?

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