Saturday, November 06, 2010

Seaside Washington to Salem Oregon

Had two weeks of holidays to use up before the end of the year so we decided to do a couple of driving trips broken up by the Halloween weekend. The first week we crossed the 49th parallel and went south though Olympia Washington, then cut west heading for the Pacific Ocean with no clear destination in mind. That was what this whole week was planned to be, "no plans"; just drive taking side trips and stopping when we came across interesting things.

We continued west with the intent of going to Aberdeen, well, just because we hadn't been there before....
We arrived at Aberdeen late in the afternoon, had a look around the town and surrounding areas, then began to think of where we wanted to end up for the night. Annette used her I-Touch to jump on a local wi-fi hotspot and found out about some resorts in the seaside town of Ocean Shores about 30 miles away.

"Want to go there I ask"? "Annette says "sure, why not"! So off we go with no idea of what we will find.
Well, what we did find was a ocean front resort based on sand dunes with hotels right on the beach. It was quiet and not very busy this late in the year, one could see how this would be crazy with tourists in the summer. We picked one of the best looking hotels and enquired about a room. We ended up getting a suite on the 5th floor overlooking the ocean for a very low price - it was a great bargain!

One of the best things about travelling after season are the hotel rates; for a room that was probably around $200.00 a night, we got it for half price. The other good thing - no people! We pretty well had the beach to ourselves and hotel to ourselves; I would guess the hotel was barely a quarter full. This was great as we were sure there was no one near us on our floor and everything was quiet at night. Only the ocean sounding like a freight train whipped by the winds disturbed our space, and that's only if we opened the door and stepped out onto the balcony.

The beach reminded me of California beaches; rolling surf a ways out, long runs of sand out to the water line, and the beach itself went for several miles in either direction. And, as it was after season, you were allowed to drive on the beach! What a cool feeling! Driving out onto the hard packed sand, with only another car or two in sight made for a feeling that we were privileged.

If you have issues viewing the videos due to the blog page format, go to my Youtube channel to view them.

ABOVE Video: Views of Ocean Shores down to Astoria Oregon 

We stayed the night in Ocean Shores, then in the morning after having explored the surrounding area, we continued south along the coast highway. This was one of our goals - to take the Coast Highway from Washington to Oregon as long as time would allow. The highway offered spectacular views of long sandy beaches and broad expanses of the Pacific Ocean. As we were south of Vancouver Island, the shoreline was exposed to the raw strength of the ocean, and the beaches all showed signs of how high the storm surges would get on the shore.

After cruising down the coast we came to the Columbia River and one of the long bridges that crossed the river. This one had a span on either side, with a long floating section in the middle. It took a good few minutes to cross the bridge, such was it's length. Now in Astoria Oregon, we again had a look around town and stopped for pictures where things looked interesting. They have a Maritime Museum that highlights the maritime heritage of Astoria, as well as showing the fury of the Columbia River as it empties into the Pacific Ocean.

Pictures taken and interest fulfilled, we continued south heading for our next night stop, which we decided would be Seaside. I have never been there, and have vaguely heard of it, but I can see why people love it.
The town has history - it was the end of the trail for the Lewis and Clark Expedition in 1805. Here is where the met the Pacific Ocean on their westward journey; there is a statue and plaque in the roundabout right outside our hotel where they stood as they realized their journey was over.

The town of Seaside had it's origins in fishing and forestry - two natural resources exploited in all settler towns on the coast. We did some exploiting of our, again getting a hotel room on the 4th floor overlooking the beach at a bargain basement price. We carted our bags up to the room, then just stood on the balcony for a while enjoying the sounds and view of the ocean. We walked around town for a while, then decided on one of the better restaurants for dinner. We walked off dinner as we again toured the compact town, again thinking this place must be a mad house in summer time. Today fellow tourists were few, and most of them were the older set. Matter of fact, in many places on our trip, we were the youngest tourists in the crowd!

In the morning we walked along the beach for a ways hand in hand, snapping pictures and taking video to help preserve the memories. Didn't need them really, the good feelings we had will last a lifetime with out any help. Back in town we walked the main drag and sauntered into a candy shop, one of the main ones in town. This place had all kinds of candy you've never heard of, as well as candy you thought they didn't make any more. The walls were adorned with old boxes of chocolates that you or your parents will recognize; it was like looking at a candy museum pinned to the wall.

ABOVE VIDEO: Seaside Oregon
From Seaside we headed south again with Tillamook our next firm destination. The Tillamook Valley is famous for it's cheese and dairy products which are shipped all over the NorthWest. The valley reminds me of the Cloverdale Valley, gentle hills ring the valley with it's rich soil supporting a legion of dairy farms.

We just had to stop and tour the Tillamook cheese plant - it's such a touristy thing to do we couldn't pass it up!  :)
They have done a great job of turning a common dairy plant into a main tourist stop complete with large gift shop where they sell all kinds of Tillamook cheese and Tillamook ice cream - yum!
The plant has made an upper floor viewing area that over looks the vats on one side where the milk is turned into cheese, and on the other side overlooks the large assembly line where they cut the large blocks of cheese and then package the smaller sizes for shipment to stores.

We spent a pleasant hour or so looking around the plant and gift store..well it did take a while to finish my ice cream! I even picked up a coffee mug with dairy setting as background on the cup, as well as a personalized "Ed" on the cup so my co-workers will know to leave my prize mug alone....  :)

ABOVE VIDEO: Canon Beach to Tillamook
After Tillamook we thought it was time to head for Portland, which was our most southerly point on this trip. Annette punches Portland into the car GPS, then for kicks punches in Salem as well. Turns out Salem is only an 20 minutes in arrival time from Portland - "well then, let's go to Salem"!

So off we go heading for a yet another city we had never been to but always wanted to. We left the coast on a windy two lane highway that ran along side a small river; you could have taken this scene directly from any place in BC, such is the common looks of Cascadia as it crosses the arbitrary man-made border into Canada.

I think my love for twisting highways was getting the best of me, as several times Annette suggested I might want to slow down so I could enjoy the view and she could live through the drive.  <:)
The highway took us inland and dropped us into the Williamete Valley; again I was reminded of how much this area reminded me of sections of BC. The closest to home would be the Cloverdale Prairie as it runs along the tops of the ridges over looking the farm fields below.

As it was getting late in the afternoon, we started running into traffic heading out of Salem for their suburban homes. Still, this didn't present any problems for us as we were going in the opposite direction.
We arrived in Salem at dinner time and after searching for a local wi-fi spot, we found out where our hotel of choice was located and cruised over to grab a room. Again a good deal was had, the cheapest so far for another suite. A late dinner capped of our night and we returned to our hotel to peruse our tourist books.

Annette wanted to hit some of the local craft and bead stores, which we did. We then headed into the downtown area looking for the old section of town and any historic sites. We drove around the area a while but to be honest, besides the Capitol buildings, the town looked just like any other town you would see.
We left town and headed north to the outskirts where one of the biggest malls in the North West lay waiting for us. As there is no sales tax in Oregon, Annette broke out the credit card and did her best to stock up on "stuff" she needed. Meanwhile, I sat on the closest bench I could find to each store and guarded her purchases........

Trunk full of souvenirs we headed north to Portland which is only 30 minutes or so away. We arrived late in the afternoon, just as people were getting off work. As it was the last work day before Halloween, we seen a few downtown workers dressed up in costumes, so of which gave us a good chuckle. We did a good driving tour of Portland and suburbs but again was tempted to say "nice town but nothing special to see", but if I did I'm sure I would be labelled as "boring".

As none of the town highlights grabbed our fancy, we headed out of town along with the rush hour crowd and soon crossed the river over into Vancouver Washington. We continue on with the flow of traffic and were soon on our way to Seattle. We ate up the miles on the freeway and in a couple of hours were in Seattle. We talked about stopping for the night in Tukwila, right across the street from South Center mall, but Annette said she had done her shopping, and in another 90 minutes we could be at the border.

We decide to push on towards home, crossed over the border in five minutes, (a nice change indeed) and we were home at midnight. For a couple more hours of driving we saved the price of a hotel room that we would put towards our next week's trip to Vancouver Island.      

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Squamish to Whistler to Lillooett - A Geocaching Road Trip

Video at the end of the report
A while back Cookie Cacher (Jeannine) and I did another of my much loved road trips that seem to take up all day and half the night. This one wasn't quite so bad, left town at 7.00 AM and back home at 12.30 AM.

As I have done several previous reports on this route I won't go into a lot of detail here, but will state that the video is great, as usual!  :)

Jeannine met me in Maple Ridge, parked her car, jumped in the Jeep and off we went aiming for the first of our caches along the Sea To Sky Highway. We began at Porteau Cove, where Jeannine set about finding the caches and I set about filming....(this seemed to be the way it went all day), and we continued on through Squamish and Whistler finding a few caches on our way either in town or at scenic places like Nairn Falls and Murrin Lake.

Pemberton was the turning point in our day; that is, we turned away from our northerly path and began heading east towards Lillooet, and beyond Lillooet, Lytton and the Fraser Canyon. A few miles east of Pemberton is Joffre Park, well know for it's jewel like lake and challenging climb up Joffre Peak where you can obtain an excellent view of the glacier nestled in it's crook. Even the view from ground level is phenomenal, a little taste of the mountainous back country while standing a few hundred feet from your car.

We continued along through The Pemberton Pass as we crested the Coast Mountains on our way to the Gold Rush town of Lillooet. Much history and many ghosts linger in this sleepy town; Lillooet is Mile Zero on the Gold Rush route, all Road Houses where named from their distance to Lillooet. 100 Mile House, 108 mile House, all came into existence as road houses along the Gold Rush route from Lillooet to Barkerville. Frontier justice was served out by judge Mathew Begbie, where it's reported that several men lost their life at The Hanging Tree on an old river bench of the Fraser River just above town. A more colourful Gold Rush fact is that a local entrepreneur brought over 23 camels to serve as pack animals on the Gold Rush route. Well, they didn't last long; the other pack horses and mules were afraid of them, they smelled terrible, and the rough rocky terrain of the BC mountains was hell on their tender hoofs. If you drive through Lillooet you'll marvel at the wide main street of downtown; this was so a stage coach with a full team of horses could turn around in the street.

From Lillooet we headed along the same path as previous explorers, from First nations trading goods, to Simon Fraser following the Fraser River to it's end, to Gold Rush miners following it upstream to it's start, we took the same route as we began our slow turn southward towards home. Lytton is a small town, much smaller than Lillooet, but where Lillooet has much of it's history in the White world, Lytton is an ancient town for First Nations. For thousands of years and many generations, this has been a home to our lands first peoples.

The clean blue Thompson River meets the muddy Fraser River and is swallowed up by it's larger and dirtier cousin. It's quite amazing to see the dual colours of the waters when the two rivers first join, it's almost sad to see the Thompson waters be dissipated by the Fraser.

From Lytton it was a straight south bound night time drive down the Fraser Canyon to the cross roads town of Hope, then 70 miles of freeway travelling back to Maple Ridge. We picked up about 25 caches, an hours worth of video, and a life time of memories.

If the video is too wide for your screen, go to my YouTube channel and watch it there..

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Ed's Oasis

OK, what does that guy we all know as "tjguy98" do when he's not geocaching or Jeepin' or working? Well, mostly just trying to enjoy life at a nice slow pace; a chance to have some quiet down time snatched between "having to be some where" and "wanting to be somewhere".

To accomplish that, Annette and I have turned our small back yard into a free style garden that's fits some where between the mess of an English garden and the resemblance of a West Coast environment. I've lost track of how much material we brought into the yard and how much clay we took out. The figures are something like over a ton of clay removed, 20 yards of top soil brought in, 3 yards of pea gravel, 8 yards of crushed rock, 10 yards of sand, a few pick up trucks of large boulders scrounged from the Stave Lake area to make natural retaining walls and the borders for the faux creek bed that cuts through the yard, 3 yards of river rock, 3 pumps and 3 revisions of a fountain and creek set up, more plants than I can remember...well, you get the idea.

Every year there is something more to do, or fix, or change, or change around just cause it's time for a change. This year it was the sun deck; the deck covering was wearing prematurely and if left for another year, the plywood deck would have started to rot as well. We knew it would be a few bucks to get the deck redone, and to avoid it wearing out again before it's time, we decided to bite the bullet and get a roof for the sun deck. This would also help with the heat in the south facing kitchen, plus make the sun deck usable in the heat of the summer.

A couple of days ago, in the waning of a late summer sun, I took a few pictures of our new deck, sunroof, and back yard. The pictures are not as brilliant as you might think they should be; keep in mind it's mid September and the yard is reflecting the approach of Autumn.

Nice place to sit and enjoy a cool drink and listen to the fountains

3 types of Clematis climb the arbour over the path. White mini Christmas lights on the arbour help light up the yard at night, as does rock lights in either back corner of the yard. Small star shaped solar lights twinkle through out the yard in different colours. A couple of small solar pagodas add a soft light amongst the back and side gardens.

Molly the kitty loves to race around chasing bugs in the back yard. Molly was a rescue cat; some one dumped her on the side of road in Dewdney at our son-in-laws farm thinking she could be a barn cat or something. Poor little thing, only 8 months old, was no match for the barn cats, so we brought her home with us. She now has the run of the yard and house, she sure knows whose boss and it ain't us!

Back patio deck..yes, we built this ourselves. Two pick up truck fulls of clay dug out and 3 yards of crushed rock, and over 5 yards of sand, all tamped down with a portable tamper and covered in 2 truck loads of Old English Bricks to match the English style brick retaining wall. Yes, we even rented a water cooled cutting saw to cut the bricks ourselves. With the exception of the sun deck and roof, everything in the back yard was built, dug or planted by Annette and I.

Another view of the back patio; note the second fountain in the left of the picture under the second arbour where we have climbing roses.

Tufta rock burbling fountain has the water disappearing into the rocks around it. Large tub like container hidden beneath the surrounding river rock contains a pump that cycles the water back up the lava-like rock to mysteriously appear at the top of the rock. Notches on the sides of the rock maximize the splashing sound of the water as it cascades over the edges.

So, now you know another of my favourite past times, one where I can go to put my feet up and relax, or putter away at something that "seems to need doing". A cool drink, a good book, burbling fountains and a kitty chasing butterflies in the garden makes for a pretty nice retreat indeed! 

More back yard pictures can be seen here (use the right click method on the link to go to the picture site). Click on SLIDESHOW in the upper right to see the pictures full size as they play through. Click here to go to the home page of my Flickr site to see ALL my pictures - ensure you have a full cup of coffee before you start!  :)

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Great Copper Rush - A Geocaching Event

Last year the Tulameen Turtles, AKA Kris Wheeler and Jordy Nielsen, hosted a weekend geocaching event in their hometown of Tulameen. The event highlighted the coal mining history of the area and how mining aided the development of the present towns, as well as towns that have faded away.

Video link at end of write up

That event was known as the Great Coal Rush; 80 geocaching addicts showed up for a fun filled weekend of searching for geocaches at historical areas from in-town places, to ghost towns up in the hills, and even on top of mountains. The event was such a hit that every one talked about it for months; those that couldn't make it to the event were sorry they missed out and promised them selves they would be at the next years.

Well, it just happened - The Great Copper Rush was held in the Princeton area spotlighting the contributions of copper mining to the Princeton region. 240 fellow geocachers showed up on the Aug 1 long weekend  for a smorgasbord of caches accessible by either car, truck, 4x4, and ATV. If you felt up for it, there were even hiking caches that taxed your body but rewarded you with breath taking views and put you right in the middle of history.

Ken and I only made it up for one day of caching, but we picked the best day - Sunday was the day that Kris and Jordy chose to get married while they had all of their caching friends in town. We just had to be there for that!

We arrived late at the Princeton Fairgrounds which was HQ for the weekend; the Turtles had arranged for the use of the fairgrounds which allowed the out of towners to camp in the in-field to save on costs. Tents, trailers, and the odd camper were set up around the grounds giving every one lots of elbow room. The fairgrounds also included a covered area that was used as the meeting area at night, as well as hosting a large pot luck dinner on the Sunday night.

Catapult Jeff and Iron Maiden were on hand to help distribute the event book, geocoins, t-shirts, and other trinkets that were pre-ordered by the cachers. We got our book and meandered outside looking to get our bearings to the closest cache. Well, just down the dirt road, about 800 feet away was the first cache; that was handy! We had no sooner pulled over and found the cache when we heard an SUV rushing up the dirt road and the driver began to lean on the horn - Teddy2K and crowd had arrived on scene!

We said our hellos to the group, and quickly realized that, as unprepared as we were to find the local caches, Teddy2K and group were fully prepared and in the groove. Well, being no fools, we decided to hitch our wagons with our fellow cachers and let them take the lead as we headed out as a group for a day of caching.

As the T2K group had done a lot of the out of town caches already, they worked in town finding the closer caches. That suited us perfectly as we only had a few hours to cache before it would be evening and the after dinner nuptials would begin. We spent the afternoon enjoying the company of our fellow cachers as we did some in-town caches and some caches on Forest Service Roads on the out skirts of town. Before we knew it, time was up and we had to return to the fairgrounds.

Awards were presented for categories such as "most FTFs", "most hiked caches", "most caches overall", etc. There were door prizes by ticket, and a prize for the geocachers who travelled the furthest to attend. But the highlight of the weekend was the marriage ceremony.

Kris and Jordy are pretty laid back folks, and their wedding ceremony was just as low keyed and sweet as they are. An informal wedding with family and 240 geocachers was right on the mark for them - Jordy was dressed out as Indiana Jones, which fit his love of the outdoors, and Kris sported fairy wings to show off her whimsical side. AND, she wore a dress! OMG! :)  Most of us only see Kris and Jordy out on the trails getting gritty while they search out the elusive ammo cans, to see Kris in a dress was a rarity for our group. Makes us remember that people have real lives outside of the settings we usually see them in.

The handsome groom and beautiful bride beamed at each other during the ceremony, and had the biggest smiles on their faces the whole time - it looked good on them! And they were duly moved when one of their wedding gifts was a high end Garmin GPS purchased with contributions from the weekend attendees. Plus they had a small nest egg to help celebrate their honeymoon

All in all in was a great weekend - all kinds of caching to fit each cachers taste and skill levels, complete with a Root Beer saloon, a kids movie at night on the big out door screen, and a poker game for the adults.

If that wasn't enough to wear them out, it's only been two weeks and already the Tulameen Turtles have let it drop that there will be another event next year, sure to be bigger and better than this year. A tall order indeed!

Many thanks to Kris and Jordy for countless hours of preparation time for the event. And thanks to their helpers, of which I know they worked just as make a very enjoyable weekend for their fellow cachers.

Click here to view the video

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Bike Ride To Conquer Cancer 2010 - Surrey BC to Redmond Wa

One of the many fund raisers for cancer is the Bike Ride to Conquer Cancer; the Vancouver ride goes from Surrey, a suburb of Vancouver, south into Washington state ending at Redmond Wa.

The riders cover 250Ks in 2 days, with the first night's camp is Mt. Vernon. The ride is very well organized, with many "sweeper" teams follwing along with the riders in case some one is unable to finish the ride. As well, numerous bike mechanics are on the road with riders, plus there are bike mechanics at each pit stop and at camp. They even have roving medical teams, all this co-ordinated through a communications section.

Annette had signed up to do the ride this year, and her friend Connie volunteered to go along with Annette. They spent most of Christmas and the Spring collecting donations through such fund raising items as dog biscuit wreaths and making bracelets with various cancer symbols on them.

Two months before the ride, while Annette and Connie were on a training ride, Annette had an unpleasant meeting with the ground and  broke her wrist. Six weeks in a cast and no way she was going to be able to ride on that special weekend. Annette opted instead to become a crew member with the Ride, and Connie decided to continue with the Ride on her own. Larry, Connie's husband stepped up to the plate and said that he would ride in Annette's place. A pretty big step up to agree to an endurance ride with little training.

As it was, Connie and Larry are in excellent shape, and they were able to do the entire ride with surprising ease - very impressive! Annette was kinda down about not being able to ride but she was glad she went along anyways to help out how ever she could.

The story is best told through the video; I couldn't possibly describe the ride as well as the video can, no matter how good you think I am!  :)
Watch for Annette and Connie to do the Ride next year - they are talking about the Calgary Ride next time!

If the video is too wide for the blog page, go to my YouTube channel to watch

Saturday, June 12, 2010

A Walk Through the Upper sections Of Kanaka Creek Park

Kanaka Creek Park is a GVRD created park that encompasses the entire course of Kanaka Creek, from it's head waters in the Coast Mountain Range in the northern part of Maple Ridge, all the way to where the creek flows into the mighty Fraser River directly across from the old townsite of Derby on the south side of the river, the site of the original Fort Langley.

Kanaka Creek, indeed the Kanaka area of Maple Ridge, is named after the Hawaiian labourers that sailed on the Hudson Bay Company ships from their home port in the Hawaiian Islands to North America. Some of the Islanders liked the area so much they left the employment of the HBC, married regional First Nations women and settled across the river from the fort, at the mouth of a large, slow moving creek.

Here the Kanakans, which means "native Hawaiians" or "kānaka maoli" in Hawaiian, established a small village inhabited by a mix of Kanakans and First Nations people. Many of them worked at the fort, and they rowed daily across the river to work. At the mouth of the river are remnants of a wier that the locals made to trap fish for food for the settlement. If you go to the viewing platform that over looks the confluence of the Kanaka Creek and the Fraser River, you'll see decaying wooden posts protruding from the water.

For our walk tonight, we chose the northen sections of Kanaka Creek; this is the area of the park that is bisected by Dewdney Trunk Road. Dewdney Trunk Road, or DTR, has a pedigree of its own. It was surveyed and constructed by Edgar Dewdney, running from Port Moody at the eastern edge of Burrard Inlet, eastwards to the town of Dewdney in the Fraser Valley. Edgar Dewdney also surveyed the land for the City of New Westminster, and, if you've done any travelling in the southern section of B.C., you'll be well acquainted with the "Dewdney Trail" which Edgar Dewdney surveyed. The Trail was to run from HBC Fort Hope at the head of the Fraser Valley, 720 kilometres east along the southern edge of the province reaching HBC Fort Steele in the East Kootenay area of B.C.

We parked at the intersection of DTR and 272 Street where an old logging road starts. This road, I'm told, goes as far north as the local mountains, which is a few miles back. We weren't going that far, we were only going as far as the geocache I have hidden 10 minutes up the road. This is a great area, a typical West Coast Rain Forest in all it's glory. Various types of moss coat the cedar and broad leaf maple trees, for which Maple Ridge is named. Sunlight filters down to the forest floor where ferns and salmom berry bushes spread their leaves to gather the sunlight.

As you walk along the old road, large cedar stumps, some 10 - 15 feet high, stand as sentinels to remind us of a time when logging was a manual job. Loggers would cut a notch into the tree approx 5 feet off the forest floor, then jam 6 foot long "spring boards" on which they would stand to help clear them of the bushes and smaller trees at forest floor level. Two men would handle a large saw and slowly work their way through a tree with a trunk so big that it took 4 men to reach around it.

Now, the remnants of those grand daddy trees serve as nursery trees for the younger generations; many old stumps have younger trees growing out, and around, the stumps. In nature, with death comes life.

We walked along the forest road, enjoying the setting sun as it strained to shine between the trees, casting bursts of light that lit up the hanging mosses that still dripped water from the earlier day's rains. It was a golden moment to be sure. Geocache found, log book signed, we sauntered up the road a ways further before we turned around and headed south for another section of the park.

We parked near Cliff Falls, a section of Kanaka Park where the creek runs through a small canyon of sandstone. Sandstone is a "soft" rock, which allows the river to wear away at it easily, creating sculpted formations of pot holes and smooth sandstone beds where the river rushes over. It looks like you could "slide" all the way down the falls from one section to another. Don't try it though, I know of at least one incidence where a young person enjoying the creek during the heat of summer under estimated the force of the water and paid a high price for their fun.

From the western end of this section of the park, there are several trails that run east on the north and south sides of the creek, as far as the Bell-Irving Fish Hatchery on 256th street. These are easy trails with moderate inclines, doable by most people.

For our short jaunt tonight, we stayed in the area of the falls. The falls are known as Cliff Falls, but I've also seen reference to them as Arnold Falls, which I could not find an origin for the use of that name. We found the two geocaches in the falls area, more importantly we got to experience the power of the falls and the beauty of the park created by the forces of wind, water, and earth. Hard to beat that!

Before we knew it, 9.00 PM was upon us, as was the descending darkness. Time to quit gawking and start "gittin" home. In total, we only spent a couple of easy hours in the park, but the two hours were breath taking. If you have the, _make time_ to spend a few hours amongst the beauty of the forest that is so close to home. The few geocaches may seem like the prize for coming, but you'll forget all about them once you start to walk the trails. The real prize is nature at it's finest.......

Monday, May 31, 2010

Black Bear in Our Back Yard

We had a young black bear come visit us after dinner tonight; he was a bit late for dinner at our house, but he was just in time to raid some of the garbage cans in the neighbourhood.

Annette and I were just running out the door around 8.30 PM to do a couple of errands, when we seen a lady across the street on her cell phone, looking at our house. As we came out she shouted "there's a bear in your yard"!, nothing new there: we have had several visits over the years since we've been here.

We went back in the house and looked out the windows into the back yard; the bear was standing on the back fence. As we have a short yard, he was only 40 feet or so from us, so we could tell it was a male!  :)

The noise we made opening the back door must have scared him, as there was garbage in our back yard that he was evidently dining on. He was now on the fence, balancing on the fence like a ballerina. Annette tried to get a picture, but he jumped down into the neighbour's yard behind us and sauntered over to their garbage cans. At this point I ran and got my cam corder and started taking some video.

He dined on the neighbour's stuff for a while, then the noise from the neighbourhood on the front street scared him, so he walked back to our fence, looked over at us 40 feet away, and then jumped up on the fence and walked along the fence into the neighbour's yard behind us and one door over. There he found some more good eats in their garbage cans, and dined there until the noise again scared him away.

Back up on our rear fence, he tight rope walked the fence and then dropped into our neighbours next door. He checked out their down stairs door, then decided he had had enough of the neighbourhood talking about him. He went along the side of the house into the front street, and then ran across the street into the ravine area across from our house.

A couple of screechers from a neighbour probably got him moving further into the ravine and away from the neighbourhood. A good example of a surprise for the neighbourhood, and why the Bear Aware program is important. Easy meals will keep this guy coming back until he can't find good eats around here.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Maple Ridge Caching Goes to the Dogs

Took advantage of the break in the weather to do a little caching close to home in; corralled MrTJ into coming along, which was good, as all the caches I went looking for were his. Hard to DNF with the cache owner along!

MrTJ brought his two geohounds, Jasper and Mya, and I picked up my daughter's boyfriend's geohound, Titus the Great Dane. We headed into the north part of Maple Ridge, where the hills start to climb towards the mountains. There are a series of old logging roads and horse trails in the area on which MrTJ has planted a series of caches, some with the word "EGG" in the name.

MrTJ has placed 6 caches in such a way that you can do a loop in under an hour and pick up all the caches. The terrain is not strenous, although in some areas it is not flat. Gentle slopes with the occasional steeper uphill section are the worst that this walk provides. Wear good shoes and expect a little water on the trails, with a spot of mud here and there. Most people will be able to do this series no problem; I don't do hills well and the worst I did was a bit of huffing and puffing.

The area is highlighted by tall cedar stumps complete with spring board notches from when the loggers swung an axe to take down these huge trees. Spring boards were typically 6 feet long, the loggers would cut a notch out of the tree about 5 feet up the tree and then jam the spring board into the notch. This would accomplish two things; 1) it would let them cut through the tree were the trunk was a bit smaller, and 2) it would get them clear of the florest floor so they could swing the axe unimpeded.

If you are looking for a healthy walk through our local wet coast forest with ferns and trees and moss aplenty, head to the north end of 236th street in Maple Ridge and enjoy a stroll through what makes Maple Ridge so special.

Walk through the rain forest with me by watching the video! You'll want to go there for sure!  :)

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Abbotsford Geocaching with The Jeep Brothers

Had a great day of geocaching in Abbotsford with brothers Alan and Ken, AKA Bowser98 and MrTJ. Yes, that's right, if you didn't know by now, we are three brothers who have or have had Jeeps during our geocaching lives. We are alternatively called the "TJ brothers", as TJ is in Ken's and my caching names. Bowser98 now has a Jeep Liberty, so he's now in the club!  :)

Video can be found at the end of the post

The weather was good on this day, which we were so happy for, as our last few excursions had seen us get absolutely soaked, several times in the same day - not fun! So with out a word of a lie, we were pretty darn happy to see the sun.

We started off where we left off on our last visit to Abbotsford, and that was pretty well right across the street from where we parked before. Our first cache was called "Yo Mamma", a pre-made cache that Micra Man won at a local geocaching event; the cache was complete, ready to go. Even had the cache name was attached - Yo Mamma! As the cache owner readily admits, a low effort cache to put out, just needed a place to hide it. The place he chose was the western arm of Clearbrook Park.

Clearbrook Park is a large park that has a little of everything; the western edge borders a large ravine area with the southern part consisting of open grass areas and softball fields. The heart of the park is the large ravine area, with numerous trails that gives one a good loop walk through the park. The main trail skirts the park's northern edge and leads past an active beaver pond, complete with the requesite partially chewed trees. Several caches are hidden in the forested area of the park, allowing the cacher to pick up 4-5 caches with a good walk thrown into the mix.

This write up could have been titled "Park to Park", as many of today's caches were found in well tended urban forest parks. The types of parks varied; we were in small parks with small trails, narrow linear parks along side of a hill, and parks with large lakes in the middle. All were well thought out and a pleasure to explore, a testament to the foresight of the Abbotsford Parks Department.

Some of the caches we did today were part of a series called "Mother Goose"; they were based on the various chracters like Little Miss Muffet and Jack and Jill. Like other series, you had to visit the caches and collect the clues before you could find the final cache. We got some clues today, and had done some of the Mother Goose series previously, but still have nore to find, so we are still working towards the final cache.

We did a cache called "PBC", which I still don't understand what the abbreviation means, but it was one of those caches where you opened a large ammo can to find 100 or so pill containers, all of them camo taped making it impossible to see inside; one of them holds the log have to search through a whole wack of them before you find it....not difficult, just designed to be a bit of a PITA in a joking sort of way. This cache also marked Bowser98's 1,000th cache........YAY BOWSER98 !!!!!!!

One of the well known parks in Abbotsford is Fish Trap Creek Park. This is a linear park that is divided into several parts as the park follows the Fish Trap Creek watercourse; the park is large enough that several caches are placed in various sections, and it seems every time I visit Abbotsford there is a new cache in the park. The main section of the park has baseball diamonds which are well used by the local teams; it also has a large lake that is just the right size for a good stroll around it's perimeter. In fact, there have been several multi caches that take you on that very stroll collecting clues before you are rewarded with the location of the actual cache.
The stroll allows you to see the ducks and Canada Geese that inhabit the pond, as well as the thrushes and Red Wing Blackbirds that love the marsh area, just to name a few of the feathered friends you'll find there.

We had a few more urban caches mixed into the pile; some on street corners on lamp posts, some at tiny parks designed to show off the civic pride in the city. In the midst of all this was a puzzle cache called "I, Jedi". To decode this cache's secret co-ordinates, you had to first know the Jedi code, then you could find the hidden co-ordinates in the code. Wasn't too hard to figure out, the reason I mention the cache is that it was in a typical urban ravine park that was under used, therefore a little "wilder" than most city parks.

This park trail started off going down a bit of an embankment where you had to jump across a small creek, or at least be dainty enough to step around the muddy areas to tip toe across the creek. Well, MrTJ was dainty and managed to tip toe across the creek - that is after he watched me try jumping from a slippery log across the creek onto the small creek embankment. Of course, I didn't make it - but I was smart enough to roll the camera figuring I'd have some action footage, be it good or bad. It was bad, I crashed to earth - good part was the feet stayed dry, and the video camera was saved. Only casualties were my dirty knees and my pride.

Back up the other side of the ravine, up a small hill we went, along a worn out path to find the magic cache, the secret of the Jedi! The signal was a bit tough amongst the trees and down in the hollow, and the clue fit a few objects. But 10 minutes of looking brought the hidden treasure into our hands. We were just heading back when Bowser98 rejoined us; he had left to go pick up Bowser98 Junior who had bused out to meet up with us. We stopped and waited for Team Bowser to find us in the forest, and then waited while they found the cache. The players all back together now, we continued on with our day of caching.

Another urban park we enjoyed was "Ravine Park", where we found two caches. The park itself is a small park, about 4 city blocks in size, but it too is in a shallow ravine. The neat thing about this park is its raised board walks above the marsh and small waterways. This allowed us to meander through the marsh with out getting our feet wet, plus it allowed us to get close up and personal with the blooming Skunk Cabbage. A pretty shade of yellow to be sure, just not fond of it's aroma.

Ravine Park is also home to a salmon enhancement project, as the slow moving creek and marsh make for a perfect rearing area. Neat to see the city take an active interest in raising salmon in the city and helping the species survive.

The next batch of caches we found were at Mill Lake, a large lake in the heart of Abbotsford. The lake is surrounded by easy walking paths, with park areas on the north and south sides. The caches we were after today were all on the south side, and being a sunny, warm day, this was where the majority of people were concentrated. Just to point this out, one of the caches had a family playing about 50 feet away from the wide open cache hide. Team Bowser stealthly found the cache while MrTJ and myself kept the citizens busy playing fetch with their dog, complete with running commentary to them. Ahh, teamwork - gotta like it!

With the 4 caches done at Mill Lake, we moved on into the downtown area of Abbotsford. Here, on one of the local large art projects, there was a nano cache hidden. This art project was a human size goose driving a minature delivery truck; the name painted on the door made mention of one of the long time merchants in the area. There are 5 of these art projects with a block or two of each other, they are really well done and defintely lend to beautifying the downtown core. They are part of a multi cache even; you have to visit each one, get numbers off them, then add the numbers together and off you go to the final. I enjoyed doing that multi as it pointed out these pieces of art I had driven by numerous times with out even noticing!

And that's one of the beauties of geocaching; pointing out great things that had escaped your attention!

We just had time for a couple more urban caches before Team Bowser98 had to leave and head home; the sun was on it's way down and MrTJ and I decided to pick up 3 or 4 more quick ones before we called it quits as well. Caching done for the day, we turned off the GPS', took our jackets off and had a relaxing drive homewards. I ended up with 33 caches in the bucket, MrTJ had a few less as he had previously found some, and Team Bowser98 had a few less as they left before we quit. Still, no one was complaining, 3 brothers and a nephew had a fun day of geocaching and seeing some beautiful areas of Abbotsford!         
A special thanks to all the cache owners of the caches we found today - "Thanks"!!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Caching Along The Fraser River in Delta and Surrey

Had another chance to go caching as a member of the "Jeep" brothers, whose members are myself, AKA tjguy98, my brother Alan, AKA Bowser98, and another brother Ken, AKA MrTJ.

We set our sights on the Delta area along River Road as our start point and meet point on the day. Our first five caches were in the Tilbury Industrial area, either along side the Fraser River, or in small "green" spaces mixed amongst the big block industrial buildings. While caching along the edge of the Fraser River always gives one an opportunity to view a working river complete with tug boats, barges, and wood mills, caching in and around old industrial parks somehow provide a feeling of gloom to the day. There's nothing pretty here, just the smell of diesel from the parked semis and scattered garbage from tenants who don't care about there surroundings.

The one bright spot was a cache called "Ant Hill" which was placed in an undeveloped lot back filled with sand as these industrial lots are. The cache was placed next to a fair size ant hill, and with the warm weather the ants were once again active; a little bit of nature in this artificial neighbourhood.

The Fraser River played host to the 3 brothers today as many of the day's caches were located along the shoreline. A typical one of these caches was one of the Blue Sky caches; placed in conjunction with BC Parks, these are designed to showcase the province's parks, and at the same time promote green caching.
This cache was placed right along side River Road, a mere dozen or so metres from the roadway. Perfect for biking or a bus trip to the cache; today we were car pooling as a way for us to cut down on our carbon footprint.

The cache itself was hidden inside an huge old stump that had been washed down river many years ago, and found a home resting on the fore shore of the river. Neat to see such a large piece of drift wood on a river that appears to us land lubbers as "clean" of debris.

That cache quickly found and logged, we moved on to an historic part of Surrey called Annieville. Annieville, and Annieville Slough, have their roots back in the 1890's when the area was a bustling fishing camp complete with a cannery for packing the salmon reaped from the vast runs at the turn of the century. 

Annieville Slough is a sliver of water where fishing boats can pull in protected by a few hundred feet of land that parellels the main shoreline. Old live in shacks and boat shacks line the water's edge, very reminiscent of Finn Slough in Richmond. 

While looking for the cache here, a sleepy Mallard duck wasn't too worried about having 3 humans walk around him. He walked just a few feet in front of Ken, and actually walked up to me and stopped just 2 feet away! Got some great video of him as he checked us out....

From there, we moved on to do a number of urban caches, none of them very spectacular; just more green spaces or small city parks with nothing too exciting, other than the caches themselves.
The one cache that did stick out was a cache called "Lest We Forget". This is a micro cache placed in North Delta at the local community complex. I don't want to give the hide away, suffice to say it is a very well camoflaged cache container, and, as usual with these best ones, it is out in the open.

As we drove up, we seen the telltale behavior exhibited by two individuals; head down walking slowly in an aimless pattern, covering only a few feet before stopping and changing direction. Sure enough, CoachDoug and Bear were on the prowl for the cache. We walked up to them, and in typical fashion played dumb and asked what they were doing. CoachDoug says "geocaching, ever heard of it"? "Why yes we have, is that where you use the GPS units to find stuff"? About that time CoachDoug noticed the official Geocaching ball caps we were wearing and clued in that we were pulling his leg.

After a few hellos, all 5 of us sauntered around for a few minutes before MrTJ made the find; we all said "good hide, good hide"! Log book signed and the cache put back for the next finders, we said goodbye to CoachDoug and Bear, and continued on with our caching day.

A few more city caches brought us to a cache called "The Pit". It was located in a short green space right behind some houses. The pit is actually one of those large sunken green spaces that Surrey utilizes to control the water drainage from the surrounding land.

As we walked past a house through the pit area to get to the rear green space, I noticed a lady in her kitchen window not 10 feet from where we had to pass. I said, "this is awkward, there's a lady sitting there watching us". A few more feet and she opens the window and says "it's around the back, right under the *******"
Well, knock us over with a feather....she says "there's lots of you coming around looking for it".
I guess she was just trying to be helpful, and here I was thinking we were making her nervous...  :)

A few more caches had us working east ward along the north side of Surrey as we headed towards Langley, if we even got that far. Well, surprisingly we weren't that far away now; the next two caches were along the new bike path that follows Golden Ears Way. The second one brought us to another piece of historic roadway, this time Telegraph Trail.

From 1884 to 1904, the only way across the Fraser River from New Westminster to Surrey was by ferry. The ferry ran from downtown New West across to Brownsville. In 1861 The Kennedy Trail linked Annieville, just down river from Brownsville, south to Oliver's Slough near Mud Bay, still Surrey but commonly called White Rock by most people. In 1865 The Telegraph Trail opened to link Brownsville with the U.S. border; in 1866 a link was extended to run to Fort Langley. It would be another 10 years before the most famous and enduring road names in the Fraser Valley would appear, that being Old Yale Road....only back then they didn't call it "Old".

It was this Langley spur of Telegraph Road that we found our selves on to find one of the caches along the brand new, modern Golden Ears Way. Quite the juxtaposition of the old and the new highways as one replaced the other. I stood at their intersection and I couldn't help but feel there was much more character to the old road than the new. The new highway shot like an arrow across the land, bisecting old residential roads, sliding under the freeway to then wind it's way between and up and over the North Surrey industrial area. The old road, on the other hand, meandered at a 45 degree angle to all other roads as dawdled along it's way to Fort Langley, much like an older person who knows there is more to getting somewhere than blasting along a freeway. The trip itself is just as enjoyable as the arrival......

With our last two caches we had made the transition from Surrey to Fort Langley as we headed for a couple of caches on Glover Road. The "Salmon River Cache" was located along the shore of the Salmon River right at a salmon fish trap used these days for catching salmon to count their numbers passing the trap as they go upstream.

The Salmon River itself is another historic piece of Fort Langley, as the original fort in Derby was located near the river. Salmon were plentiful then, and no doubt the Salmon River got it's name from the runs that filled the small river, like every other small tributary of the mighty Fraser River.

The cache itself was unique, not the first one like it in the Lower Mainland, but one that took a certain amount of time and effort to create. As a cacher, I appreciate when a fellow cacher takes the time and effort to make something special, and I always make sure to say so in my logs.

The last cache of the day was only fitting to finish up our historical tour in the area. This was a cache called "Telegraph Trail". It was located at the corner of Telegraph Trail and Glover Road on the outskirts of Fort Langley. At the location is a plaque commemorating the historic Telegraph Trail and the importance of the route.

You see, Telegraph Trail didn't start off as a road to the "suburbs", it actually was the local section of the trail blazed to string the Russian - American Telegraph that had it's ends in San Francisco and Moscow. In the spring of 1865, it had reached New Westminster from San Francisco; the first message it carried was the assassination of Abraham Lincoln!

From New Westminster it went to Yale and then along the Cariboo Road and the edge of the Fraser River to Quesnel. From Quesnel it continued to Kispiox, past Fort Fraser to Hazelton, where it was learned that Cyrus West Field had already completed laying his TransAtlantic cable, rendering the whole project obsolete. Still, it left the province with a working telegraph between New Westminster and the gold fields in Quesnel.

And this was also the end of the line for us; the overcast day that we started off in, for the past few hours had turned to rain, making us feel like wet dogs. Last cache found, signed and returned, we headed back to our modern homes, having enjoyed another fine day of caching and learning a bit more of our local heritage.    

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Going N.U.T.S. in Bellingham, and Finding # 2,000

I received a phone call from Cookie...Cookie Cacher that is, another geocacher whose name in her other life is Jeanine. Seems Cookie Cacher, who is much smarter than I, had been working on a puzzle series in the Bellingham area called N.U.T.S., and had solved approx 25 of the 37 in the series.

"Road Trip"? she says.....hmmmmm sounds good! This January has been so mild in the Vancouver area that you almost can't call it a winter; more like a mild Fall. Bad for the 2010 Olympics being held here, good for people like us geocachers.

So, road trip it is; 5.20 AM I'm really, I can get up that early if I want to! I bomb out of Maple Ridge over to Surrey to pick her up, only 10 minutes late - not bad considering I'm only half finished my morning cup of tea..........and we make the few miles drive south to cross over the border into the U.S.A.

A 20 minute run down the I5 brought us to the turn off we needed by the Bellingham airport to start our day of caching. Our first cache is a multi-cache that showed we weren't quite with it yet, as it took a few minutes to figure out the trick to the math that we needed to figure out to get to the next waypoint. We ended up solving the quiz and found the cache in the first place I had pointed out 20 minutes ago when we first got onsite. At least we were right!

That "toughie" out the way, we rolled on doing some of the N.U.T.S. caches, mixed in with a few regular caches, as we made our way along the coastline heading for the old section of Bellingham known as Fairhaven.

Fairhaven is the original section of Bellingham, just like Gastown is in Vancouver. There are many brick buildings from the turn of the century, with just as many stories about the buildings and places in the old town. The surrounding areas are a mix of blue collar sections with the occasional old estate style subdivisions reminiscent of a wealthy time. Old stately houses on large lots located on wide, windy streets show off their eloquence like a fine antique. You have to drive slowly down these streets so as to take in the ambience of what it was like to live here 100 years ago when you were the cream of society.
These sections are what I was looking forward to seeing; the refinement of the 1900's shown in the subdivisions came after the early, rough and tumble days that defined the early downtown area of brick buildings.
Like many cities, early buildings made of wood gave way to wealthier merchants who built stronger brick buildings and planted their families away from the hub bub of coarse downtown, relocating them in the stately suburbs that befitted their stature in life.

There are so many caches in the Bellingham area that we spent the day zig zagging back and forth through various parts of town; from the old section of Fairhaven to the beach front parks, from the present day working class suburbs to the University area high up on the hill, we rolled along through out the day picking up caches.
The area is so cache dense that at times, we would stop and grab a cache, then Cookie cacher would say "the next one is 658 metres away". We would go grab that one, then she would say "the next one is 427 metres away". It seemed like you would jump back in the Jeep, drive a block over, then get out and grab the next one!

The areas that I liked the best, were the old downtown Fairhaven section, the Boulvard Park area on the water front, the old stately homes on their curved, private streets, and the big old houses high above the city on the hill just below the University. These were the most photogenic places, and the locations that told the history of the city as it grew from a mill town to a bustling metropolis where every one can find a home.

To know the history of your own town, is to be able to recognize the various parts of a different town, ones who's growth patterns echo your own. In the Pacific North West, on both sides of the border, many cities are like kin with familiar pasts and easily recognizable points of time in their lives as defined by the building's architecture and their geographical location in reference to the water front. Above all, most cities first took route on the water front.
Early First Nations used canoes to traverse the water highways, going from summer camps to winter homes, trading with neighbours along the way. The Europeans used the water to access the forests and the fur trade that the lands supplied. Later, the loggers used the water front to build mills and process the trees from the old growth rain forest. The salmon were taken from the water and processed at numerous canneries and shipped as far away as Japan and Europe by sailing schooners and later steamers.

Yes, every town on the West Coast starts off at the water's edge, the growth of the town and the height of the various industries in that town, are patterns repeated up and down the length of the Western Rain Forest spanning from California to Alaska. We in Vancouver are plumb centre, and our city's history is one repeated in a hundred other cities - as I said, "if you know your own city's history, you'll recognize the history of a sister city".
Cookie Cacher and I continued through out the day non-stop, having a short tail gate picnic at one of the small parks where we had just located a cache. Sandwiches were eaten quickly, washed down with a drink or two from the cooler, then we marched on looking for the next caches that appeared in our sights.

The day turned to early evening, we made the decision to pass on the caches that required you walking into larger parks as we did not know the access points, nor was it easy to pick out trails and side trails in the dark as readily as it was during the day.

We opted to instead concentrate on easier caches that were close to the road or were simple drive ups where we could stop in well lit areas. Even then, when we first made that decision at 5.00 PM, we still found a dozen or so more caches until I finally called "TIME" at 7.00 PM. 

We still needed to get to the border, sit for a half hour or so in the line up, have dinner, and then drive home. As Cookie Cacher did not have to work the next day, it was me who had to call it quits and aim the Jeep north towards the 49th parallel.

The stats on the day were;
16 hours on the road, 46 caches found for me, 49 for Cookie Cacher, not so many miles on the Jeep this time, and some where in all of that I hit my 2,000th find! 

Jeanine was an awesome navigator, as she worked not just the GPS to find, read, and locate the next cache, she also read off the street by street navigation from her GPS. Having her in the shotgun seat definitely made for a much smoother day and contributed to our high cache count at the end of it all.       

Thanks Jeanine for another great day of geocaching!       

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

East Van - Burnaby - New Westminster Caching

Had a chance to get out caching today for the first time in 3 months - lots of rain, lots of cold, lots of dark, lots of work, and a touch of laziness all conspired to keep me off the hunt. Finally a semi-sunny Sunday rolled around, a couple of phone calls lined up two of my brothers, Bowser98 and MrTJ, for a day of caching in the Vancouver - Burnaby - New Westminster areas.

We had approx 30 caches on tap for the day, we ended up with 22 done which was a fair total for an easy day of caching and just having a good time. We started off in Vancouver at a cache in Everett Crowley Park called "Butterfly Garden" in a not so busy area of the park. The garden looked a bit forlorn in the midst of winter, however it would be a great attraction for butterflies in the summer. Bushes that butterflies find appealing are planted here to attract the winged wonders.

Near the garden was a sign board titled "Pollinators' Paradise" affixed to a 10 foot tall, very wide stump. Atop the flat part of the stump were 4 open faced boxes, lying on their sides. During the summer these would be used by the native "Blue Orchard Mason" bees; the artifiical nesting site is meant to encourage the bees to nest here, as well as to inform park growers of the importance of pollinating bees.

Above: "Skaters, strap on your helmuts"!

Next up was a puzzle cache that MrTJ had already solved and found, that Bowser98 had partially solved, and I didn't have a clue but was quite happy to go along for the drive and make the find as well. The cache was called "I see da nine". No hints or spoilers from me about the cache, other than to say there was a neat downhill sidewalk next to the cache that I just know skaters would love to test their skill on.

Above: "Tranquil Trail"

"Tranquil Trail" was next on our list, just off Marine Drive not far over the border into Burnaby. The cache was along one of those small urban trails that cut through a green belt to join one main artery with another. In this case it went from the old Marine Drive south along side a small creek to emerge at the new 4 lane Marine Way where the majority of the traffic now speeds along. The trail was a nice respite from the noise of the traffic, and Bowser98 even managed to do a bit of CITO/clean up of the water course as he jumped down into the creek bed to remove a piece of discarded construction material that may find itself employed as a unique cache container.

Above: Bonsor Park Cenotaph

After our walk along the trail, it was time to head back into the city, at least into the traffic. On the south side of Burnaby is Bonsor Park; in a corner of Bonsor Park is a small plaza with a Cenotaph commemorating our countries fallen soldiers. These are neat places to visit, as like many others, we would probably have ignored it unless it was Remembrance Day. It's good to be reminded of what our armed forces sacrifice so others can have a day where their biggest concern is finding the well hidden nano cache in the plaza.

Another interesting cache we found was in the north-east corner of Central Park on Kingsway. Central Park itself is a 90 hectare urban park founded in 1891. The park's natural highlights are its immense Douglas Fir, Western Hemlocks, Cedar, Poplar and Maple groves. Many easy walking trails crisscross the park, granting easy access to the half dozen or so caches hidden in the park at any given time.

Today we were after a cache in the Jubilee Grove, a small garden area created in 1935 with the planting of a ceremonial Oak tree from the Royal Forest at Windsor in England. In 1939 an archway was created to create an ornate entry into the gardens off Kingsway using the "rope twist" hand carved sandstone from the original Vancouver Club first constructed in 1893. In the early 1990s the Jubilee Fountain was restored and a garden walk created for the benefit of those visiting this small corner of the Central Park.

We grabbed a couple more urban caches in small parks and pathways that ran between streets as we worked our way down towards BCIT and a number of caches hidden around there. One of them was a well disguised micro tucked away on a parking lot pay station. The cache was tricky to find, the other tricky part was that there is a security camera very close to the cache; you can't help but think you are being watched as you search for the cache. Any minute now you expect to see the security guards driving up to give you the third degree. Luckily I got my eyes on this one in just a couple of minutes, which made us all handcuffs for us!

We finished the half a dozen caches in the area, then moved a few blocks away to a cache called "A Kodak Moment". The cache was located a small creek area right behind the Kodak building in Burnaby. The area is surrounded by industrial buildings and there didn't seem to be any easy way in other than entering through a small green belt and doing some mild bush whacking down to the creek, then follow the bank of the creek along for 150 feet. Either that or trespass through private industrial properties; at least that's the only way we could find in.

The cache was hidden halfway up the bank of the creek on a soft slope of clay; while we enjoyed the quiet solitude of a Sunday when the surrounding businesses where closed, the crows in the trees were not happy with us. This area is very close to Still Creek which runs east to west through Central Burnaby. Still Creek is one of the few remaining habitats where crows can congregate in numbers; as a result thousands of crows roost in communes. At the end of the day, it's not uncommon for the sky to be filled with crows as they wing their way back to Still Creek and the surrounding areas to roost. Lucky for us a murder of crows were in the trees all above us, telling us how we were intruding in their home.

Cache found, log book signed, cache re-hidden, we bid adieu to the crows and wandered a few blocks away to Broadview Park for a quick cache hidden at the lower end of the park next to a small creek. The same small creek in fact where we had just found the previous cache! Had to smile as we were signing the log book, as it doesn't seem that long ago I was on my 5 speed Mustang bike taking advantage of the rolling hills to get up a fair bit of speed as I hurtled towards the very same trail I was now standing on, a short 40 years ago.

With memories put back on the shelf for another time, we headed into East Vancouver to do a few caches around the Rupert and 1st Ave area. #1 was at Sunrise Park, where the usual thing happened that fellow cachers will identify with oh so well.........we get there, and not 50 feet from the cache area are 2 young girls wrapped in sleeping bags enjoying the view over Burnaby and the North Shore Mountains as the sun began to go down. Arrgh.... oh well, lets go have a look.....

Turns out the cache was retrievable from its hiding spot with the benefit of a large tree to be used as cover. Good! Finding the cache made us feel a lot better.

Another cache a few blocks away at the Rupert Pitch and Putt golf course took us a few minutes to find, at least we had the area to ourselves. The night had fallen, and the last of the hackers had drifted away as we approached the cache area. A few minutes of looking had Bowser98 making the discovery of a well disguised micro cache - another reason for us to smile, we found the cache!

This was the last cache of the day for Bowser98 as it was time for him to start heading homeward. MrTJ and I did the same, only we had a few more caches on the pile to do as we meandered along our way.

We aimed for New Westminster and a cache that was MIA last time we looked; "Match Point" was located at the tennis courts in Simcoe Park. Perfect I think, no one playing tennis in the dark. What I wasn't counting on was a couiple of hooligans and their dog hanging around in the dark, in the park, right at ground zero!!

"GREAT" I say in annoyance to MrTJ; oh well, lets saunter over there to see if we can annoy them enough they move away. Turns out the hooligans being here was a good thing, as it was none other than Pollywoggg and Helen & Theo with the cache in hand. As we got closer and I tried to figure out who and what these guys were doing in the dark, the tell tale glow of a GPS screen gave away their identities.

We had a good chat with our fellow cachers and decided to do the next two caches as a team. Well, at least that's what they thought. I was more of the persuasion I'll let them do the hard work and find the caches for us!  :)

First cache we went to was fairly easy, especially with 4 pairs of eyes. Good thing to as it was the cache called "The Bus Stops Here", and yes the bus did stop there a couple of times while we were looking. With all of us looking we found it after a few minutes, signed the log and then moved on.

We caravanned over to a cache co-sponsored the province of BC and the BCGA; these series of caches are called Blue Sky caches as they promote both environmental awareness and the beauty and history of BC.
In this case, the cache was hidden at the New Westminster museum located on the grounds of Irving House.
Our timing was poor as the historic Irving House and the museum was closed for the night, but we were still able to wander around to the museum at the back of the property and find the cache. The New West museum is one of the oldest museum sites in the province; it dates back to the days of Gold Miners, steam boats on the Fraser, and New West being proclaimed the second capital of the new province of BC. On display was a stage coach from 1876; neat to see what at the time was the main mode of overland transportation.

Above: our caching companions in New West.
Theo on the left checking out the garden, Pollywoggg in red holding the cache, Helen checking her GPS for the next cache, and MrTJ signing the log book.

We chit chatted for a while before we parted ways, all of us enjoying our short term caching team. MrTJ and I headed east again towards Maple Ridge, picking up a couple of more caches along the way in Coquitlam and Maple Ridge just to round off the night. 

By now it was getting on and a late supper would be in store for us, which was a lot better than no supper at all. We ended the day with 22 caches found, fellow cachers met on the hunt and 3 brothers who enjoyed a day of being together doing something we all love to do.

I hope to have more fun days like this soon; it never fails to recharge the soul.......