Tag Archives: Geocaching

Lake Accotink – Morning of Geocaching

When I woke up this morning and turned on the news to see that it was 67 degrees outside I just knew I had to get outside and enjoy this weather.  After the last week of scorching temperatures, you could not have asked for a more perfect day than we are having today.  On Monday it was sauna outside….literally….when we had our afternoon OMGWTF Thunderstorm the steam was rising off the streets faster than the rain was coming down.  It was that nasty hot.  So today’s break in the weather was a welcome relief.

So I woke up and headed over to Lake Accotink.  I mapped out a route through the park that would have me hitting up 4 caches that should be right along the trails.  The first of these trails led me over the train tracks.

Bridge Crossing the Tracks

The bridge crossing over these tracks was definitely not my favorite type of bridge.  I hate looking down and seeing the ground about 50 feet below me.

hate. hate. hate.

Walking down the trail I decided to see if I could use the Panorama feature on my camera to take a picture of the trail as it wound down and around a little creek and it didn’t turn out half bad:

The trail winds around a creek

When the trail came around the little bend you could finally see the lake and the docks on the other side:

As I made my way around the lake I noticed that this didn’t seem to be the lake I remembered coming to as a teenager.  It really wasn’t much of a lake at all anymore.  We used to come out to this lake and rent a canoe or a paddleboat and spend hours out on water.  Now, there was hardly any water in the lake at all.

It was a pretty sad sight.  The water was mostly gone and nothing was left but a sea of mud and plastic bottles.  There were spots that were still nice around the lake though, like this:

and this:

or even the little wildflowers growing along the trail:

As long as you were on the trails that were away from “Lake” everything was nice though.  I found all 4 of the caches that I set out to find in the park and that was really nice.

Locke posing with a Letterbox Cache.

Every day that I have gone out Geocaching it has always been so freakin’ hot.  Today was the first day where the walk was actually enjoyable and I didn’t arrive back at my car drenched from head to toe in sweat.  It really made me wish that I had more time and that I had loaded up the GPS with a few more caches to seek out.

As I was walking back up the trail to the car I was already thinking about where I might go tomorrow since it is supposed to be even nicer.

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Woke up early to beat the heat….

Last night I decided that I would get up early in the morning and try to get out and find a couple of caches in my local area before it was just too hot to do anything more than melt into a puddle.  If you know me at all you know that I am not exactly what you would call a “morning person” so getting up and motivated early is a feat all by itself.  But I did get up, pack the back and headed out the door before 7:30am this morning…so Yay me!

The first cache I went for was only about 3 or 4 blocks from my place.  It was hidden back in a complete cluster of thorns and other leg grabbing foliage.  I walked around the area for about 10 minutes just trying to decide which way to try and enter the man eating bushes.  Eventually I found a pretty easy way in to the cache.

Gnome is Where the Heart is Cache

Today was the first day of trying something a bit different.  Over the weekend I decided that I would bring along a little friend with me to help document my finds.  After a rough couple of years on an island of chaos…this guy just needed a break.  So he is gonna be hanging with me a bit this summer and making some new friends along the way:

Locke, on Walkabout and making friends.

Wow, I just noticed that Locke really looks like he is about to slit that little gnomes throat in that pic.  Definitely not intended. 🙂  i am keeping a photojournal of all his visits to different hatches this summer.  You can find that here.  So far, at least after one day of hitting a few caches…this has been fun.  Unfortunately I have a couple of the shakiest hands ever and a lot of my pics come out blurry.

After the first cache, I headed over to a shopping center in my area for a quick “cache n dash”.  This was the first nano-cache that I have found.  I couldn’t believe how small this was either.  Not much bigger than the eraser on the end of a pencil.  Luckily the GPS coordinates were pretty spot on and I just had to poke around a bit with my fingers until i felt the little magnetized cache.  Inside this tiny little nano-cache was a rolled up piece of, what looked like, ticker tape that was the log.  I had to completely unravel the paper to find a clean spot to sign.

Seriously tiny cache.

After logging the find I moved on to the next cache on my list that was supposed to be located off of a Park and Ride near my place.  The coordinates led me to a small wooded area towards the back of the parking lot.  Once I arrive there I started to duck behind a fence that seemed to be right in the general area that the GPS was sending me.  Unfortunately, on the other side of the fence, I didn’t find the cache.  Instead I found two homeless guys sprawled out amongst a bunch of trash snoring away.  I decided that I was going to let these guy continue sleeping and not try to climb over them to move in and grab the cache.  Think I will just head back for this one on another day.

So I headed back to the car and headed over to Hidden Pond to see if I could grab a cache I didn’t get to the last time I was there.  This cache was located on the far side of the park so I headed off on the trail into the trees to follow the GPS to the hidden treasure:

Trail to the "Ponder This" cache

The trail led me along the banks of a creek that made for a very enjoyable hike.  Along the way I almost walked right into a Blue Heron that was resting along the banks.  It flew up and sat on a tree branch staring at me just long enough to allow me to get my camera out of my pack….but not long enough to allow me to snap a shot.  But the walk along the creek was really nice.

Hiking along the creek

Still hiking along the creek

After following the directions and the hint from the Geocaching site we found the cache pretty easily.

Locke finds a new hatch

There is another example of my shaky hands on my sensitive camera getting a blurry shot.  So again…Yay me.

By now it was almost 10 am and I was getting hungry for a little breakfast and the temperature was already up around 90.  I decided to call it a day and head home for some breakfast and a shower.

Not a bad way to start the day

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Geocaching Saturday Excursion: Burke Lake

Deb at Burke Lake

Welcome to Burke Lake

Last weekend, Deb and I woke up early and continued on our Geocaching adventure by heading out to Burke Lake.  Getting up and motivated before 8am on a Saturday is difficult for both of us so just accomplishing this was a feat for which to be proud.  We packed up the backpack with bottles of water, some breakfast bars, some trinkets to exchange in a cache or two, the camera and the GPS and jumped into the car.  Of course we had to make that stop at the Starbucks first to get our heads on straight before stepping one foot on the trails around the park.   Mmmmm…coffee.  So with a little caffeine in out system we were ready to start the day.

Starting the day

Getting ready to hit the trails

We arrived at the park a few minutes after 9am and it was already above 80° so we knew it was going to be a scorcher.   The weatherman was calling for temperatures in the upper 90s and late afternoon thunderstorms so we wanted to get here early and hopefully be on the road before the crappy weather kicked in.

Still being new to this sport we had a few issues finding our first cache.  The GPS was spinning us around in the tall trees and we walked back and forth around a small inlet a couple times trying to zero in on our goal.  We did eventually stumble on the object of our search after a bit of poking around every dead log and pile of sticks.  The GPS coordinates were a bit off from where we were supposed to be looking and the hint from the website didn’t help us at all…so we just kept looking until we found it.  There were a few “muggles” on the path nearby so we moved away from the cache’s hiding place to examine the cache and see what goodies were inside.   We picked through the toys and other trinkets and decided on taking a keychain and replacing it with a small Wolfman fingerpuppet that I picked up at a local Dollar store earlier in the week.  We signed the log and replaced the cache just as we found it and left our first find with a sense of accomplishment.

Pirate Deb finds her buried treasure

Part of what I am really loving about Geocaching is that sense of accomplishment when you find the object of your search.  Stumbling around in the woods without a purpose was a lot of fun when I was twelve but I am pretty sure it just wouldn’t have the same draw without that carrot out there on the end of the stick.  That little adrenaline rush you get, after several minutes of searching under every rock, is a great feeling.  It also is pretty cool seeing the beaming smile on Deb’s face when she is holding her “pirate’s booty” from the treasure we just unearthed.

After making our initial find we moved on to the next cache on the list.  The night before I had looked up the area around the lake and plotted our course from cache to cache so that we would constantly be heading in the same direction around the lake and not be doubling back over and over for the caches that we missed.

SUCCESS!

Things started out well too as we found our second and then third cache of the day with little problem.  But we then hit a string of a couple where we spent about 30-45 minutes searching the areas and not having anything to show for it.  That adrenaline rush from finding what you are looking for has its evil twin brother that sets upon you when you fail.  It is pretty frustrating when you are about 98% sure you are standing in the exact spot where the hidden container has to be but you just can’t find it.   Both Deb and I really hate giving up and we probably stay in these areas longer than we should have before sucking it up and moving on but it is just so hard to let it go.  It feels like the person that hid that damn tupperware container beat me and I am not the best loser in the world.   I hate failure.

But, as tough as it is to do, we do eventually give up on those fruitless searches and move on to the next on the list.  We kept moving on around the lake and every so often ducking off the path to search for our next little hidden gem.  There were a few times when we climbed out of the bushes and jumped back on the path when we received some startled glances from some joggers and bike riders.  Just gotta wonder what is going through their heads when two people climb out of the thick brambles and emerge on the path in front of them. especially when we are on the far side of the lake…the side that is not quite so traveled.

Deb signing the log

Deb signs a logbook

By sometime around 1pm we were starting to drag and the heat was really trying to drive us into the ground.  When we were in amongst the trees it wasn’t that bad but as soon as we emerged into the sun it was stifling.  We were both sucking down the last of our water when we realized that we were only about halfway around the lake.  We had made a bunch of finds but the weather was really starting to get to us.  I was completely drenched with sweat and Deb was starting to look terribly uncomfortable.  But there wasn’t much we could do but keep going…so that is what we did.

We did eventually make it all the way around Burke Lake and back to the car.  We were both sweaty, itchy and exhausted but pretty happy about our day at the lake.  We made a bunch of finds and placed our first travel bug along the way.  We are looking forward to tracking its progress over the summer and seeing all the places the bug travels.  And even as tired and footsore as we were….we spent a bit of the car ride home talking about where we would go next weekend.

I think we are both hooked.

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An Afternoon of Finds, Frustration and Totally Unnecessary Fear

Hidden Pond

Hidden Pond

After the past weekend of 90+ degree days, thunderstorms and tornado warnings it was gorgeous today.  Too gorgeous to stay inside all day so I packed up a bag and headed out to a nearby park for some Geocaching.  I picked Hidden Pond today because there were just a few caches hidden around the park and because I hadn’t been there for over 10 years easily.

Hidden Pond is a pretty little park in Springfield, VA that has a pond (duh), some great little trails and a stream or two to follow along.  A great little park nestled in among all the suburban sprawl where you can spend an afternoon enjoying a fun little walk.  We used to go here all the time back in high school and I couldn’t help but think of the crazy stuff that used to go on back in that park when I was younger.

My purpose today was to hit up 3 of the caches in the park and then just bug out home.  I thought it would be relatively quick but, like with everything else in life, I hit a snag or two along the way.  The first snag came in the form of a deer crashing through the bushes and bounding in front of me.  The freakin’ thing landed about 5 feet in front of me on the path and scared the shit out of me.  Then the thing just stood behind a tree about 20 feet away and stared at me.  I stood there for a couple of seconds wondering if the thing was going to turn and attack.

Hidden Pond Deer

The Hellbeast

The first thing that came to mind was how embarrassing this was going to be if it did turn and attack.  First off, the dear was a doe and I was now acutely aware of the fact that I have zero knowledge of wildlife.  Are these seemingly docile creatures even known to attack anyone?  Shit, I just didn’t know.  I started thinking about all kinds of things…like how I didn’t tell anyone I was even coming out here today.  I also worried that if it did start bounding back toward me that I would turn and run…screaming like a little girl.  Should I just stand still?  Should I walk away?  Should I call out to it and see if it is friendly?  Yeah, all that was going through my mind in the span of about 2 seconds.

And the deer just stood there staring at me.

After just staring at each other for a couple more seconds I pulled out my camera and snapped a pic…maybe when someone found my body they could see the last thing I took a picture of and hunt that rabid Bambi down to exact vengeance.  As soon as the picture was snapped the deer bounded off deeper into the woods in a flash.  Apparently the sound of my camera was all it took to scare it off.

I am such a wuss.

But seriously, in my defense, I am a total indoor cat and nature freaks me out.

I know…i am just a wuss.

Turtles Sunbathing at Hidden Pond

After I stopped acting like a 7 year old girl I did actually get to those caches.  I only found 2 of the 3 I set out to find because the GPS was acting really squirrely.  It is really frustrating when you are pretty sure you are standing in the exact location of the cache and you still can’t find it.  It is even more frustrating when you look at the logs other people have posted on the website and the last person to find it…which just happened to be yesterday…was a mother and her 6 year old daughter.   As if the deer thing wasn’t enough of a blow to the ego.

But after searching the area over and over with no luck I just finally threw in the towel.  I hate to give up but I was getting no where fast.

Maybe, if I keep this up, I will get over my fear of the outdoors….but if you saw the way I flailed about when walking through that spiderweb today…that is probably just wishful thinking on my part.

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Memorial Day Weekend: We Discover Geocaching

 

Pirate Deb

Pirate Deb

What did you all do over the Memorial Day weekend? Deb and I spent a portion of it looking for plastic containers, in the woods, using billion-dollar satellites; otherwise known as Geocaching. Knowing that Deb has always had a thing for pirates, searching for buried treasure just seemed like a great way to spend an afternoon. We had been meaning to get to this over the last couple of months but something always seemed to come up on the weekends and we just never had the chance to start. But this weekend we finally got to around to it.

For those that don’t know, Geocaching is basically a treasure hunting game where people from all over hide little treasures (or caches) just about anywhere and everywhere. You just log into the Geocaching website and find a few of the caches to get you on your way, grab a GPS and head out. Luckily, they have really good apps for just about every smartphone now so we just used the phone as our GPS and it worked really well. These caches can be hidden just about anywhere and there are usually a couple clues on the site to help you when you reach the coordinates on your GPS. We then just packed up a backpack with some water and other essentials for the day and headed out.

Log signing

Signing the log

The first cache that we found was literally a stones throw from Deb’s place. Unfortunately for us, I had no idea how to work the app on my phone when we started out so we walked about a mile in a big circle before I figured out how to use the GPS. When we realized where we were supposed to be I was a bit embarrassed. We headed to the small park where the GPS said I should have taken us initially and after just a few minutes of searching we found the small magnetic container hidden under a picnic table. We opened up the container and found a couple of small items and a logfile. We signed the log and carefully replaced the cache in it’s spot (making sure no one was watching) and headed out excited to have the first one under our belts.

Coin Trading Cache

Coin Trading Cache

We hit a few more of the spots during the day. One of the spots was a cache that was setup as a foreign coin trading cache. We found this one and Deb, having just returned from her business trip to Brazil, added a 25 Centavo coin to the collection. We took away a crappy little Canadian coin to make some room in the cache. I had to shoo away a couple of bratty little kids to make sure we could get to and then replace the cache without their noticing but we got in and out with no problems.

We didn’t always have great luck when we were searching though. We spent about an hour searching a small park over in Arlington for a cache that we are now pretty sure is no longer there. We searched under every rock and bush, up every tree and signpost and in every spot we could think of before just giving up. We were really glad this wasn’t the first stop we had on our circuit of Arlington or we might have just given up altogether.

debcoins

Deb at the Coin Trading cache

All in all though, this was really a fun day. A really cheap way to go out and have a lot of fun and get some good exercise along the way on a gorgeous day. We ended up exhausted and sweaty and our feet were pretty sore but we had a great time. We are planning to do a lot more over the weekends as we get further into summer. I think next week we are going to be hitting up Fountainhead Park and seeing how many caches we can find while enjoying a fun little hike through the woods.  So… if you are looking for a challenging way to spend a sunny day and want to get out and get a bit of exercise for both your body and your brain…you really should give Geocaching a try.  You never know, we might run into you on a trail out there somewhere in the area this summer.

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