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!