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 happy....no 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.......