Monday, April 21, 2008

Another Fine Day Caching in South Surrey

ABOVE: Old 1950'sh car in Cougar Creek Ravine

Had another great day geocaching with my brother Daryl and my other brother Daryl, AKA Ken and Alan. In the caching world they are known as MrTJ and Bowser98.
In tow with us today was Bowser98junior (Chris), trwfan (Cam) and Brent, a friend of Chris and Cam. Brent came up with some of the best finds of the day, we gotta keep that kid around!

All pictures can be viewed here at my Flickr site.

We spent the entire day in the South Surrey - North Delta area mostly visiting city parks and small neighbourhood green belts. That's something I've come to really appreciate about Surrey: they have done an excellent job of retaining green belts whether it be small house lot size kid's parks or large parks conisiting of many acres. Unfortunately, as much as I enjoy the trails through the forested areas, they start to look all the same on the camera and in one's mind after you have visited quite a few of them in one day. Hence, I do not have that many pictures from this caching trip.

We did visit a couple of places worthy of mention; one was North Delta Watershed Park and the other was Cougar Creek Ravine.

ABOVE: South entrance to Watershed Park

North Delta Watershed Park is exactly that, a watershed area comprised of a large artesian water supply from where North Delta draws its drinking water. The park is 153 hectares in size and is open to walkers, joggers, horse back riders and mountain bikers alike. The forest is dominated by a second growth coniferous forest; 11 kilometers of gravel trails wind their way through the forest.

The other noteworthy location we visted was Cougar Creek Park; we visted two locations here. The first was the west side where it is relatively level ground with minimal elevation drop. Here there is no sign of the canyon as the creek is almost at zero elevation; a short jaunt under the road and the creek empties into Burns Bog.

ABOVE: Lower stretch of Cougar Creek

As you walk up the trail you parallel the creek along a small soon to be overgrown trail in the flood zone. Except for the odd muddy spot the trail was in good shape as it had not rained significantly for a few days. The cache location is in the vicinity of a huge old stump from the turn of the century. That's one thing I love about the Lower Mainland; the huge old redwood cedar stumps that are still visible in many of the area's parks.

ABOVE: Way huge stump in Cougar Creek Ravine Park

The second cache in Cougar Creek Park was 3\4 of a mile to the east, in the infamous ravine area. The creek has cut through the soft clay of the surrounding hill side and carved a 100' deep wide ravine through the heart of suburbia.

While there is something you could almost call a trail down the hill, basically it's "point your nose down the hill and look for a nice sturdy tree to stop you if you become a run away" type of trail!

ABOVE: Cam carefully walks the trail along the edge of the ravine; One little slip of the foot and you're tumbling down 30 feet to the creek below

In the dry it's still a bit slippery; when the clay banks are wet and slippery it's almost as bad as being on ice!

ABOVE: Dumping ground for shopping carts, old cars, and anything that can be picked up and thrown over the edge.

Down in the ravine we found old shopping carts, an old wringer washer washer, numerous types of metal containers, and 4 old cars circa 1950s. It was kind of fun trying to guess the make of the car by the flattened shape of the body and the odd grill still visible.

Have a look at my Flickr site for all the here

ANNOUCEMENT !!!! Sound the trumpets !!

There is a new geocaching blog on the scene, this one hosted by the Tulameen Turtles. Have a look at their blog here.

They've got a great looking blog home page already populated with a couple of caching stories, some YouTube videos and a slide show of pictures. An excellent start indeed!!
Way to go guys!!

Monday, April 07, 2008

Planting Seeds Up Harrison Way

ABOVE: My Jeep perched above Harrison Lake

All pictures in this set can be seen here on my Flickr site

Laara , AKA "MsChief Gps_y" and I did a run up the west side of Harrison Lake planting half a dozen caches as part of the British Columbia Geocaching Association (BCGA) 2008 Spring Blitz.

This is a month long mass planting of quality caches to kick off the spring geocaching season. The month culminates in a get together for a afternoon of fun, renewing old aquaintances, and making new ones. Prizes are also awarded for the best caches in various categories.

Our first stop was in the Mission area where we stopped to allow Laara snatch a cache that she had not been to yet, and seeing as how we were going right past it it was an easy stop and grab.

ABOVE: Silverdale Wetlands

The cache is located in a new wetlands conservation area called Silverdale Wetlands; in the marsh area the river has been enhanced by adding spawning channels and ponds for the young fry to hide in. As well, song birds are encouraged to nest here with the addition of bird houses on stilts above the ponds.

ABOVE: Salmon carving at Silverdale Wetlands

There is even a neat carved salmon statue to highlight the salmon habitat in the park.

ABOVE: Lake Errock

Stop #2 of the day was at Lake Errock to pick up a cache called "Just Because"; the cacher owner placed this cache here "just because" he liked the spot. It is a small community of summer cabins and full time homes that have resisted the hordes of outside people by posting "No Parking" signs anywhere near the lake, as well as prominently placing signs stating that the facilities are "private; members only".

Still, it's a very scenic spot with the old elbow of the Fraser River long ago cut off from the river, and it is now a small fresh water lake set amid surrounding tall hills more reminiscent of mountains that hills.

OK, on to the main event.................

ABOVE: Signboard for the Weaver Creek facility

Our first cache plant was at the Weaver Creek Spawning Channel, an artificial channel on the banks of Weaver Creek built to enhance the survival ratio of Sockeye salmon, and to a lesser extent, Chum and Pink Salmon. From the early 1940s to the late 1950s the Sockeye runs where around 20,000; in the early 60s extensive logging in the watershed exacerbated a natural tendency for the river to flood, resulting in runs in the 12,000 mark.

ABOVE: Weaver Creek Spawning Channel

The International Pacific Salmon Fisheries Commission, a joint U.S. - Canada commission created to enhance the Fraser River salmon fisheries, decided to build numerous fish hatcheries and salmon enhancement channels. Weaver Creek is the most succesful of them, first being run by Fisheries and Oceans - Canada, and for the past many years it has been staffed and run by the local Chehalis First Nation. This is historical Sts'a'itles land; Chehalis knew this as "running aground on a sandbar (with the chest of the canoe)" in the Sto:lo tonque. The Halq'emeylem language is spoken from the mouth of the Fraser River as far upriver as Yale, with different dialects spoken between the "upriver" and "down river" peoples.

The Scowlitz peoples inhabit the area around Harrison Bay, while the Chehalis occupy the territory at the mouth of the Chehalis River where it empties into the Harrison River; the Chehalis are the peoples furthest away from the Sto'lo, "the river", or as we know it, the Fraser River.

ABOVE: Parked on the side of a forest road on a wet day in a coastal rain forest

Cache hid in an out of the way spot, we continued up the road looking for another good spot, and it wasn't long before we found it. An old beaver pond, no longer a viable habitat, was overgrown with cottonwoods and birches which love the water environment. The marsh is reclaiming the land slowly, and you can see the various types of trees and plants creating a new forest where once it was a pond.

We found a good spot here as well, typical location in a rain forest with every thing covered in different types of moss. Ever tried to count the many shades of green in a forest? I tried once and I got lost after 20-something, it's just remarkable all the slight colour variations.

ABOVE: The View Point

Further up the road at mile marker 5 we came to one of my favorite places, a scenic viewpoint overlooking Harrison Lake with a good view to the south down the lake. There are better view points that come and go dependent on the active logging, but this viewpoint is always here waiting for me. Here's the routine; break out the cache, find a good spot to stash the cache, mark the waypoint, and continue on, and that's just what we did

ABOVE: A healthy beaver pond

Next on the list, a beaver pond in good health. I picked this one to contrast with the previous pond that was no longer in use and being reclaimed by nature. This new pond had vibrant colours and clear water, it just looks healthy!

ABOVE: Sandy hill just right to play on

Further up the road is another one my favourite places, I just had to hide a cache here. I named this cache "PlayTime"! That's because this location is an old sand hill that was once used as a source for surface fill on teh forest road, now it is a mild play area for city folks who have an SUV and don't often have the chance to play in it.
The hillside is not very big and you can't make a mistake on the hill, its a safe environment for beginners!

ABOVE: Short video of me playing on the hill

ABOVE: Second video of me playing on the hill

The two videos are courtesy of Laara, who defied "death by raging Jeep" to film the videos

The videos are deceiving in that they make the hill look much smaller than it is. Plus the Jeep is so sure footed that it made climbing the soft, sandy hill look easy. Well, I'm sure the driver had a lot to do with it! :)

ABOVE: Snow stop; good name for a cache!

I was aiming to plant the last cache at 20 Mile Bay Recreation area, but Mother Nature had other plans. At the 17 mile marker we hit snow on the road on an uphill section of the FSR. We were far enough north and just high enough that we were at the snow line on the shadow side of the mountains. Here amidst the trees the shadows linger longer, and so does the snow; not willing to risk powering up hill through the snow just to run off the side of the road into a ditch, we decided to turn around and look for one last good spot.

ABOVE: Small waterfall on side of Harrison West FSR

Just 100 yards or so down the road we came across a small creek that had a good size waterfall coming off the hillside and continuing under the road to the opposite side. This was a great little area, lots of moss growing on everything from the forest floor to the tree limbs of the older second growth forest. I found a good hiding spot that is easy to spot from the road, ensuring the cacher of a find. If you come this far looking for the cache, you should at least find it!!

ABOVE: Good reminder why you shouldn't try to act like Mario Andretti on these roads

The last of the six ammo cans hid, we turned around and started the long drive back down to mile zero. 45 minutes later and we were back at the Sasquatch Inn, wondering if the Sasquatches had as much fun as we did today.

Thanks to Laara for helping me hide the caches and ensuring we got as accurate readings as we could on the hides. And of course thanks for the good company!

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Laughing in Langley

ABOVE: Treehouse built in the style of the twin brothers who owned what is now Redwood Park

C'mon, you knew I was into these rhymning titles!

You can view the complete set of pictures here on my Flickr site. Be sure to leave me a comment at the end of the story, I would love to hear what you think of the day's write up.

Well, laughing is a good title as we did laugh a lot today, both with and at each other during the course of the day. And anybody else who had the good fortune to cross our paths. :)

We started the day where we left off last week; in the heart of Redwood Park in South Surrey. We had found 3 caches last week before darkness over took us and called an end to our caching.
Well, today the first one on the list was the one we couldn't find last time.

ABOVE: Signboard telling about Redwood Park

Redwood Park is a 32 hectare park with trees from around the world planted by twin brothers David and Peter Brown. In 1893 for their 21st birthday, their dad gave each of them 40 acres of cleared land as a birthday present. The boys immediately began collecting seedlings and trees from around the world, and brought them back to plant in their private arboretum.

ABOVE: Picnic shelter in Redwood Park

The first cache to find was called "It's Not Easy Being Green", a comment a lot of us will remember from the Muppet Show. And sure enough, a frog figured into the hunt some where along the way. The cache was a two stage multi; the first being a small micro container that we had trouble in the dark finding, and the second stage was the actual cache location. We all agreed we thought the final location was a cute hide! No spoilers here...

ABOVE: On the way to find "It's Not Easy Being Green"

#2 cache to find in the park today is called "Below the Bird @ Redwood. Already I don't like the sounds of it......"is there a hill" I ask not trying to sound weak kneed. "Only one way" was the smart ass reply from one of the two comedians I was with today.

Down the hill we go as we realize the park is located on a steep hill that slants away to the south. Well, going to the cache was OK so far, so I guess the return trip is the uphill part.

It took a little while for the GPS' to swing around and zero in, but not before we had searched a wide spread area. Eventually MrTJ hollers that he has it and we start doing the wave we're so happy! No, not quite that bad, but I could have done the wave I was so happy; I hate to get DNFs !!

On to the next one a short drive away in an area called Stokes Pit. For as long as there have been teenagers, this old gravel pit has been the scene of many parties and good times for any one with a 4X4, a motorcycle or an ATV. These days the city of Surrey has bought the land, made it a city park called Latimer Pond Park and are revitalizing the area. No more parties, or motorcycles allowed, just families taking their kids for a stroll to see the ducks, the occasional dog walker, and a few geocachers.

South Surrey and Langley seem to be inhabited by people who love to make caches part of a series; I think we did 4 or 5 series today as we worked our way around the Langley area.

"Near & Dear #4 - Stokes Pit" was the first one we picked up today in this particular series .

ABOVE: L to R; Bowser98, kindersurprise, kindersurprise father, MrTJ and Bowser98junior

As we drove up to the area we noticed a couple of dudes walking around holding their hand in that tell tale fashion while they tried to read some thing on the device in their hand. Well, this will be easy; we'll just wait a minute or two, then follow them and they can just hand us the cache!

Turns out we surprised kindersurprise while they were on the hunt, and our timing was perfect, they already had the cache out! We had a good talk with them as we signed the log and put away the cache; as it turns out they were also going to the next cache in the same park, this one called "RFI1". We walked together as we headed around the small pond with a few dabbling ducks having a rest on the still waters; the ducks where mostly Mallards, with a few Buffleheads thrown in for good measure.

A few minutes walk brought us around the lake on a mogul type of trail, and of course, as luck would have it, a couple of Bubbas riding off road motorcycles had decided to stop there and have a couple of beers. Pretty sure there were several signs back at the entrance stating that this was a park and _no motorcycles_ allowed; I guess some guys just don't get it.......

Of course the fact we stopped right by them and started looking around made them pretty curious, so i decided that tell them the story of geocaching while the others looked for the cache. Pretty soon they were spell bound by my tale, which made it easier for the other teams to gang up for the discovery of a micro hanging in the woods without being noticed.
Cache signed and put away, we walked back to the cars with kindersurprise chatting as we went. We enjoyed our social visit, team kindersurprise were nice people and as we said our goodbyes, little did we know that our paths would cross again.

Remember the game called Clue? Well, now you can play the geocaching version; the latest series in the Langley area is based on the game of Clue; multiple caches provide clues for the murder weapon, the room the crime was committed in, and the murder weapon.

Above: Rees-Callard Natural Park

"Clue: The Dining Room" was our first visit to a possible scene of a crime, how ever the scene we visited was a lot nicer. Rees-Callard Natural Park is a small park in the Brookswood area that looks like it's just been turned into a park recently and none of the amenities have been constructed yet. So far the acreage looks like an abandoned grass lot with a small forested area at the back of the property. The cache itself was located in the forest belt, some what shielded from the prying eyes of the neighbours.

ABOVE: You can hide it anywhere!

Next stop, "Short under a bridged circuit" just up the street and around the corner. This cache was a regular sized container hidden under a bridge that goes over a small creek. In the rainy season you are going to get your feet wet, as the bank of the creek is barely wide enough for your feet at the best of times.

Over the edge goes MrTJ, while Bowser98 and I stand guard above. Our job was to guard any pop bottles, tin cans and beer bottles that MrTJ found and through back up to us; "that's real money" he said , "guard it well".

Well, the story sounded good anyways; truth is he was the first one to jump over the edge to go look. "Hey, I had the camera so I couldn't do too much jumping could I?"

ABOVE: Playground at Bell Park

On to "Near & Dear #1 - Bell Park. This is another small park in the area amidst a residential area; the great thing about these small parks is that they all have great playgrounds for the little ones. And of course for us adults the toy of choice was our GPS' which we used to find the cache.

ABOVE: In the ravine we go!!

"Brookswood: Under the Saddle" was another series of caches, this time from two years ago. I had done some of these caches last year, and was just now getting back to work on the rest.

This cache was located in a ravine at the back side of a school, sure glad we were here on the weekend. This would be a bitch to do during the school hours, if you didn't get run off by the school first.

We looked around the top of the hill first, as that's where the GPS' put us, but as we slowly worked down the short, steep hill to the ravine bottom the "under the saddle" part became failrly obvious. Oh yeah, this was one of those "slippery clay on a steep hill down by a ravine" type of day, and every one made sure we had traction control engaged before we tackled the hill.

ABOVE: Lots of space here

Another Brookswood cache, a short multi, brought us to a forested area at the end of the play field of another school. "George Meet Linda" was a good little hide tucked away in the roots of a tree that were above the ground. The GPS' wandered a bit in here and it took a bit of looking and a bit of re-checking of checked-already places before the cache container poked it's head out.

ABOVE: On the way to the Fairy cache
"Forest Fairy".............all right......keep the wise cracks to your self; it's a cache in a long strip of forested municipal land that is now green space. A short walk along well marked paths brought us to the hiding spot for the cache. An easy find for the group and we only had to worry about a mom and her two kids riding their bikes along the path to disturb our signing of the log.

ABOVE: Troubled Bridge

Just a few minutes walk in the same green space is another cache that MrTJ and I had already done, but one that Bowser98 had not. This was one of the Brookwsood caches; "Water Under Troubled Bridge" at the location of an old bridge where at one time a road must have crossed the small creek set in a marshy environment. The old path down to the cache was definitely an old roadway at one time.

The cache was found quick enough and we spent more time taking pictures and talking about the location then we did finding the cache. OK, back up the hill we go to the geo-mobiles to continue on our journey.

ABOVE: On the Simond Nature Trail

Back to the Near & Dear series with "#3 - Simonds Nature Trail" A small creek cuts south to north through a neighbourhood and past a school, and in the creek setting was this cache. Another one of those caches that was an easy hide but did not want to appear for several minutes, but we found finally. As usual I took more pictures as the other two signed the log book; what a team!

Back down the trail we go for another 700 feet to the next cache which was on a very wide walkway from one street to another. But before we could get too far, who should appear but team kindersurprise again! Another pleasant trail side chat before we said good bye again and continued on..

"Clue: The Hall" was a micro cache located inside a huge old cedar stump that seemed to take up half the walkway space. This was a quick garb and sign, until MrTJ said "hurry up, some ones coming"; turned out to be team kindersurprise again!! Another trail side chat ensued, through which we found out they had just recently come from the next cache we were going to.

"OK, we'll follow you back there and help you look again" we say, and off we went.

"Near & Dear #2: City Park" was a good size city park tucked away behind houses where the park grass followed the contours of the creek.

Kindersurprise beat us to the cache location, and showed us some pens and stuff that they said had probably come from the cache that had been muggled. I looked around 15 feet away in an obvious place and was rewarded with a small cache container hidden under forest floor detrius. I think kindersurprise was a bit embarrassed by the quick find of a "muggled" cache. Of course, that didn't stop me from razzing him!

The last Near & Dear cache, and clue, we needed was a parking lot cache at the nearby Kwantlen College. We had hoped to catch up to team kindersurprise and go to the final with them, but a slight routing error put us a few minutes behind them - bugger!

Oh well, we got the clue, now we just need to put the answers together for the final cache location.

"Clue: The Ballroom" was located at a major softball complex and I guess it was opening day, as every diamiond was in use and cars where parked everywhere! As it was later in the afternoon we found a few empty spots to park, and then followed the GPS as it lead us to the bushes behind one of the diamonds alongside a swampy crick.

A quick find, sign of the log book and we were off to the next cache..............

"Library" was located alongside a new condiminium complex that had just been built alongside a busy 4 lane commuter road. the city sought to buffer the walkers from the road by putting a small garden area between the sidewalk and the sidewalk.

Lucky for us a cacher thought this was a great place to put a hide for us! And a quick find, thank you very much, grab the clue and off again!

Another series called "Letter Hunt" had us down a new path; that is for Bowser98 and I. MrTJ had been here already and showed us where to park just around the corner from the cache.

ABOVE The Letter cache sceanrio

A nice broad walkway cut between back yards of new houses, which afforded us a peek into their crowded houses. Not much privacy here....

Bowser98junior found the cache, we signed it and he put it back....good work team!

One more cache in the area, just a couple of blocks away. I'm sure this cache, called "Cabin Fever", was picked because the crowded feeling you get from all these brand new houses squeezed together.

At this point I thought we were done, as I only had a couple of caches left but they were not in the general direction of where we wanted to go. However, Bowser98 and MrTJ were game to continue for a few more, so off we go to look for "Watergate 2".

ABoVE: Watergate #2

This cache had been replaced, as it went MIA the first time. the cache is located along the Nicomekl River, and the original cache was in the flood zone. So, last time here, I donned my trusty rubber boots and waded through the large pods of grass looking for a floating cache. I didn't succed in finding the cache that day, but I did succeed in looking like a stork!

This time the cache was found in a different environment, one that was safe and sound from the floods.

Last cache of the day brought us back to "On the Right Path", a micro hidden very cleverly in the area of a paved walkway. Last time we were hear, we got totally skunked, not a clue!

This time, with a hint, a friend, and a more bodies, we had another go at this one. SUCCESS!!!!

Found it!! And it took Bowser98junior to find the cache for us......again!!

Well, this was the last for the day, # 19 for MrTJ, #20 for me, tjguy98, amd #21 for Bowser98. I think finding 20 caches was a heck of a good caching day!!

Time to head home for a very late dinner........