Sunday, February 04, 2007

A Few Cache Finds and A Cache Meet = A Good Day

On Saturday brother Ken (MRTJ to the caching world) and I spent the morning and early afternoon finding a few caches in the Coquitlam-Port Coquitlam area before we headed over to a cache meet sponsored by the British Columbia Geocaching Association.
We started off in Minnekhada Regional Park located in north east Coquitlam. The park lands were originally part of a hunting retreat for Lieutenant Governor Eric Hamber. There is a beautiful lodge onsite built in 1934 and still used today for weddings and business functions.
The actual word minnekhada means "beside running water" in the language of the Sioux who live in the Great Plains of the U.S. The name was given to the area by an American who farmed in the area before World War I.
The first cache we looked for was a puzzle cache called "The Rosabelle Cipher (I hate puzzle caches, that's only because I'm so bad at them) which I was fortunate enough to have received a hint on how to solve. A fellow cacher took pity on me and gave a hint, with which I did some research and came up with the code to crack the puzzle. I passed the code along to MRTJ and I let him do the hard work. Fast forward a couple of days, MRTJ has solved the puzzle, has the co-ordinates and off we go.
We parked the Jeep, suited up with the big jackets, strapped the GPSrs to our hips and took off down the trail headed for the Lower Marsh area of the park.

It was late morning but the area was quiet; no doubt the the temperature of 2C was keeping most folks away. The trail from the main parking area to the Lower Marsh was an easy stroll along a well maintained path, perfect for kids and strollers alike.

At the Lower Marsh area I snapped a few pictures while MRTJ zeroed in on the cache itself in no time flat. After months of looking at the cache write up with a blank look on my face, the actual search and find was quick. Almost anti-climatic but it still felt good to cross this off the list

Having conquered our first cache and feeling confident, off we went down the trail for the next cache titled "Feathers, ferns and fungus". This cache is also in the Lower Marsh area so we didn't have to walk too far, which was just as well as the day was staying cold and there was a hint of snow in the air. The temperature was right at the border between rain and snow; it was predicted to get warmer as the day wore on but so far we weren't feeling the change. There was still ice on the water in the southern part of the marsh.

A few minutes of looking and MRTJ had the cache in hand; well, I looked as well but I made MRTJ do all the scrambling up and down the hill while I took the pictures. HEY, it was my camera!

The next cache on the list was a multi called "Unlimited Ducks". A "multi" cache is a cache that leads you to a series of waypoints before the actual cache location. These type of caches are designed to maximize your visit to an area by leading you to various points of interest; locations such as historical signs, dedication plaques, etc. You typically have to find a number or some wording from these points of interest that you incorporate into the final waypoint co-ordinates.

In this case the cache started at Minnekhada Lodge itself; the lodge is situated on a rock bluff overlooking the fields to the west that were once Minnekhada Farms. Near a lovely red bridge over a pond we located the first clue; armed with the numbers we punched in the next set of co-ordinates and off we went.

Here is a good example of a waypoint location in a multi; the above picture is a dedication plaque to a restoration project for the Lower Marsh area. The cache owner wanted all to know how much effort has been put into rehabilitating the area for nature and by making you come and read the plaque you discovered the history of the area.

We found the cache after a few more stops, and then moved onto our next target. "Beside Running Waters" was the next cache on the list; both Ken and I wondered about the name of the cache at the time, as the area didn't exactly match the cache name. However, after reading the history of the park, I now know that minnekhada means "beside running waters".

Near this cache, and coded as part of the clue, was a neat log bridge; while I was expecting a bridge made out of sawn logs, the bridge was in reality a large log with a handrail fastened to it. I thought that was a neat way of using nature to aid in the making of the local trail.

The above picture gives you an idea of how much rain this area receives; the park is tucked up against the mountains in the north east part of Port Coquitlam and as such the mountains catch the clouds and squeeze the rain out of them.

For our last cache search in the park we cheated a wee bit and drove out of the park and turned north to travel along Quarry Road for approx 1/2 of a mile. We parked at the side of the road and followed a side trail back into the park that linked up with Quarry Trail at the north end of the Upper Marsh. This saved us approx a mile of walking and valuable caching time. We were on a schedule today; not only did we want to beat the rain coming in, we also wanted to attend the BCGA Meet in the early afternoon.

Cache #5 in the park called "Quarry Trail" took us a wee bit longer to find than expected. We fell into the trap of looking in the usual places instead of keeping an open mind to potential hiding places. We looked and looked some more, and then looked some more before we found the little treasure. A good hiding spot and the co-ordinates were pretty darn close.

Our next cache on the list was a puzzle cache called "Canada Cup 1976". For this cache you had to determine a selected player's jersey number from teams whom played in the Canada Cup that year. I didn't feel confident on my final answer as I felt I missed a player some where in the solution; and, sure enough when we got to the area we found a great view of the Coquitlam River in it's upper reaches, but we were no where near the cache. At least we weren't close enough to having the correct co-ordinates. We looked around for a while before we gave up and chalked this one up as a "Did Not Find", or a DNF as known to cachers. We'll have another look at the puzzle and have another go at this one in the future.

Kirsh cache is hidden some where in this picture.....where would you look?

Our last cache before the meet was called "Kirsh Cache" located at Heritage Mountain Elementary School. The cache started as a Show and Tell project by one of the Mini Seekers, one of the young members of the caching team called Seek&GoHide. After the Show and Tell part was over, the teacher Mrs. Kirsh helped place the cache in a spot for the rest of the caching community to find. The cache is what is known as a drive up cache as you can park very close to the cache location.

OK, enough caching....On to the BCGA Meet !!!

The sport of geocaching has grown exponentially in the 7 years since it started; as the price of GPSrs come down more and more people buy them for hiking or boating or as driving aids. As these same people research their new toys they come across articles on caching in the papers or on the 'Net, or by even word of mouth. The old adage about "telling two friends and they tell two friends" is very true. In the two short years since I started in the sport more and more non-cachers have heard of the sport than previously.

More and more GPSrs turn up under the Christmas trees, and to capitalize on the new comers to our sport the BCGA timed an event for just after Christmas for those people wondering what they could do with their new gadgets.

The BCGA held 7 event meets across the province to maximize on exposure as well as unite the B.C. caching community. Volunteers in each location made arrangements and acted as hosts for the event, as well as played Santa Claus and gave out caching items as door prizes.

The event was titled 'The ABCs of Geocaching" and as such was aimed at welcoming the new comers as well as giving them an idea of the types of caches they would be looking for in the field. All cachers were welcome and many of the familiar faces showed up, and many of them acted as informal "teachers" for the folks just starting off.

"You mean I have to find these tiny things hidden in nooks and crannies filled with spiders and who knows what else, just waiting to bite some poor cacher's fingers?"

A "Travel Bug"? Just what in the world is a Travel Bug, and where does it travel?

Answer, anywhere you want it to....just attach a small toy such as a car or animal, make up a story that the TB wants to travel around to visit...? where ever in the world you want it to go. Cachers who find the TBs log their find, and then move the TB along to the next cache some where along in the direction of the TBs goal.

Scruffster records the event for future black mail... I mean for posterity...

Team "M.S. The Brain and Pinky" (left and centre) celebrated their 1,000th find by attending the event. Congrats to them!!

Caching really is a family sport; here teams Seek&GoHide and Kittyclan personify the families you'll meet out on the trail.

Caching is represented by all types of folks, and they really are a good crowd of folks as well. It's hard to find a negative person in this sport!

The moment we've all been waiting for....the door prizes are given away. "Pick me, pick me" !!!

We even got to celebrate the birthday of a team member of the 911turbos. I didn't ask how young Irene is....I'm afraid she'd stuff me a really hard puzzle cache that no one could solve and I would never be found !!! Happy Birthday to a great member of the caching world!

There you have it; a day of caching and a day of meeting old friends and finding new ones. See you on the trails.....