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Friday, February 27, 2004

Shut-In Creek (Bell Mtn Wilderness) Geocache -- GCHM37 

I tried to reach this one a couple of weeks ago, but the roads were so icy I had to back off. Today I finally made it! Another Hairy Hillbilly masterpiece. I don't know how he finds these great hidden treasures, but I'm glad he does it. I've gained a new appreciation of the Ozarks since I started geocaching, and Hairy's really been a great help.

This one is 4.5 stars on terrain and, believe me, it's not for the faint of heart. The walk in (all down hill) wasn't too bad, although it was a lot of bushwacking through some rough ground. The climb back out was the killer. Twice I thought I had reached the top of the ridge, but still had more climbing to do. Disheartening at best. At least the last mile or so back to the truck is easy. My round trip time was three hours. I took a lot of photos and my logbook entry was a bit wordy (imagine that!). But I didn't go skinny dipping, or take a nap. I pretty much kept moving the whole time, very slow at times.

Hairy says don't cross the creek, but the whole time I was stumbling down to the cache I was looking at the other side, thinking how much better it looked over there. So, on the way out, where the road/trail ends, I crossed over. It is better on the other side. There is a relatively decent foot path. Only problem is that if you go too far upstream (on the limestone) it's hard to find a place to cross.

Okay, so I got a little wet crossing the creek. No big deal. Well, it probably would have been a big deal if the temperature was 30, instead of 60. Anyway, I was already well north of the waypoint where I started down on the way in, so I set my sights on the parking lot and started bushwacking. It was steep, but not too rough and considerably shorter. The direct route probably saved 20-30 minutes. Did I mention how steep it was?

There are two types of geocaches that I like -- the physically challenging and the mentally challenging. This one is definitely the former. I couldn't do this everyday, but it's great to throw one into the mix every now and then. It does make one appreciate the "mentally challenging" caches all the more.

Thursday, February 26, 2004

Ft. Davidson -- back in business 

Okay, my Ft. Davidson micro is back up and running. It's in a different location now. Far from the road, hopefully safe from the Hun and his spies. Hope this is the last time I have to do this.

Wednesday, February 25, 2004

Speaking of "The Hun" 

Many readers have written, asking to whom I refer when speaking of "the Hun" in my weblog entries (see "Ft. Davidson Blues...", 24 Feb 04). Historically the Huns were a nomadic people who invaded Europe in the fourth and fifth centuries a.d. and were defeated in 455.

The most common usage, however, in the past century has been as a disparaging term for Germans, especially German soldiers in World War I. Generically speaking, a particularly barbarous or destructive person was also referred to as a Hun.

In my notes, "the Hun" is that destructive person(s) who takes some perverse pleasure in stealing my geocaches. I have other names as well, but this is a family blog, folks.

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

Fort Davidson Blues... 

Strider informed me yesterday that my micro at Ft. Davidson is missing again. He found the hole in the tree, but no micro. That makes twice in two weeks it's been stolen. We are being watched. It almost has to be someone in the trailer across the road.

The cache is temporarily disabled until I can replace it. It will be in a new area, which I've already picked, but will need official approval before the cache goes out. This time it will be where the Hun can't find it.

Sunday, February 22, 2004

Die Fledermaus - Hawn Park Geocache 

I probably should have stayed home today. Promised Lin I would do laundry while she was in Rolla. But... I found a great spot for my Hawn Park geocache, while I was out there yesterday. Plus I've got a funny idea for the cache. Plus I didn't want to have to do it on a cold, snowy day. So I put the cache together and headed out after lunch.

It took a couple of hours to hike in, find the spot I wanted and place the cache. It's a 1.2 mile hike to the cache (by trail) or 0.7 mile bushwacking, which is almost as easy. Ran onto six or seven whitetail deer that were more curious than afraid. The cache is placed among rugged rocky cliffs. The kind where Roy Rogers used to shoot it out with the bad guys. From the top of the hill above the cache the view has to be the best in the park.

I intended to call this cache Die Fledermaus ("The Bat"), but when I got back and checked my email, I learned that we're going to use a standard naming convention, so it will be called "Know Future-01." But if this stays on as a permanent cache after the competition, I'll call it Die Fledermaus.

Saturday, February 21, 2004

Midwest Invitational Geocaching Competition, March 19-21, 2004 

Twelve of us out there today, tagging courses, hiding caches, getting things ready for the big weekend next month. Got a lot done and I think we're all feeling better, like we can pull this thing off. Best part was I met some new geocachers - Thundermonk, Dorcus and Bridgette.

Also saw some new parts of Hawn Park, new to me anyway. I tagged one spot today (Team #3) that had an awesome view from the top of 100 ft sandstone bluffs! D/T = 1/3. Very much worth the walk to visit this spot. I think I'll hide my event cache in this area.

Wednesday, February 18, 2004

Geocaching Notes 

I was FTF on both of Mamalu's caches - one yesterday and one today. Both nicely done! I really liked 'Watch Your Step,' except for the mud.

I think the neighbor across the road must be messing with my Fort Davidson micro. I replaced it today. If it turns up missing again I'll place it somewhere else.

FTF for 'Pop Quiz' used a method that I never thought of, but I think he/she just got lucky.

Monday, February 16, 2004

Pop Quiz Geocache 

Spent Sunday at Silver Mines Recreation area, on the St. Francis River between Fredericktown and Ironton. I put out three micros and an ammo box. This is all part of a new multi-cache I'm working on. It will be called "Pop Quiz." It should be available in a week or so. I think it will be a good one. Watch for it.

A Perfect Hillbilly Hideout II--Shut-in Creek GCHM37 

Tried to find HHB's new cache on Saturday. Snow and ice are mostly gone around the house, but it's a different story out Bell Mountain way. FS 2228 was really icy. On the last long hill before FS 2359 I lost traction and had to back it down to the bottom. In the process I nearly slid into the ditch. Had that happened it would have made for either a long walk or a long wait. Luckily I got the truck straightened out, and then turned it around. I crept back to the black top then high-tailed it back to Libertyville. We'll save Shut-in Creek for a warm day in April. Or maybe June. That way I could skinny dip in the creek.

Saturday, February 14, 2004

Midwest Invitational Geocaching Competition, March 19-21, 2004 

Today I hung tags for Course A - Saturday. The website describes this course as "... mostly level terrain and close to parking and road areas. It is mostly in pine areas." Let's call it "gently sloping terrain," for the most part. There are ten tags to find and the course is 2.9 mi long, walking straight from point to point. The highest tag is at about 870 elev, the lowest at about 770.

Overall, I would rate the course difficulty at 2 to 2.5 and the terrain at 1.5 to 2. It will not be difficult to get to the tags, unless it is snowy &/or icy. This is very possible here in March. More likely, however, it will be an early spring weekend. Probably windy and cool - the word blustery comes to mind.

I think it will be a challenge to find some of the tags for this course. Partly because they are well hidden, in hollow trees, under rock ledges, etc. Also, the forest canopy is high and dense, even in winter. This means the competitors will most likely get different readings than we did when we laid out the course. The clues, if provided, will be all-important.

Thursday, February 12, 2004

A NEW NUMBER 

This happened back in 1975-76, when Lin and I were newlyweds and still students at the University of Idaho. I came into our student housing apartment one evening and told her that in physics class our instructor had announced a revolutionary discovery - a new number!

A Professor Bleen, at Oxford, had discovered the number after many years of research. The new number fell between eight and nine, and was to be called "bleen," in his honor. Hence, from now on, we would count like this: "..., five, six, seven, eight, bleen, nine, ten, ..."

"It explains everything," I told her. "It's why rockets go off course minutes after lift-off. It's why things don't fit together after you cut them out, no matter how carefully you measured. It's why our checkbook balance never matches with the bank. Everything that we don't understand will become clear now that we have bleen!"

It was a joke, of course, but Lin, a physical education major, took the bait - hook, line and sinker. It sounded pretty reasonable, after all, at least to her. The next day she told all of her friends, and even some of her instructors, about the new number. Some of them believed her, most thought she was nuts. I thought it was pretty funny at first, but after a couple of days it was getting out of hand. She was the laughing stock of all her friends and fellow students. I had to put a stop to it.

I had to tell her the truth. That sounds easy, but believe me, it wasn't. Lin has simmered down over the years, but back then she had a quick, and volcanic, Irish temper. We had some epic battles in the early years, and this was one of them. I'll skip the details, but when I regained consciousness...

We laugh about it now. It's one of those stories that always gets retold at family get-togethers. I learned a lesson, though. That was the last big-time practical joke I played on her. Some other time I'll tell you about my summer job, chasing the geeks out of the plaster mill with a cattle prodder.

Tuesday, February 10, 2004

FORT DAVIDSON - BATTLE OF PILOT KNOB GEOCACHE 

Met with Mr. Walt Bush at Ft. Davidson State Historical Site near Ironton, MO today. Asked if I could place a micro on this site. He was reluctant at first. He looked up the MDNR guidelines for geocaching and they are not supposed to allow geocaches in "archeologically sensitive" areas; this Civil War battleground would most certainly qualify in that category.

I was about to say "thank you" and leave, when he said he knew an area that would be okay. He got out some air photos and showed me a wooded pasture a few hundred yards northeast of the battleground. He issued a 12 month renewable permit for the cache. This seems like a reasonable approach, much better than the 30 day permit that the Dept of Conservation issues. This permit requires the cache owner to "...monitor the cache monthly and maintain it to be family friendly."

It was nice to have a constructive meeting with the local supervisor and get his blessing and approval on the spot. It's not always possible to sit down and discuss a cache with right official, but it certainly helped this time.

I know, I don't like micros much either, but my goal is to set out one geocache each month this year. I've got some locations in mind for future caches, but I can't get to them in this snow and ice. So this is a compromise site. The real prize here is the fort, the battle and the museum. Spend an hour inspecting them and I think you'll feel it was a worthwhile effort. At least I hope so.

For more info about Fort Davidson and the Battle of Pilot Knob, go to:

http://www.mostateparks.com/ftdavidson.htm

Sunday, February 08, 2004

ROADSIDE GEOLOGY - SIMMS MTN FAULT GCHAQ8 

US Hwy 67, Farmington, MO

Clue 1: Look in a crack for an orange match case.

Clue 2: I didn't realize it when I placed this clue, but blast holes are very popular mouse nests. When you find this one don't be surprised to have someone looking back at you.

Clue 3: I considered going to the top, the view there is great, but I thought half way makes a better hiding place, as most non-geocachers would not stop here.

Cache: So obvious that you shouldn't need more clues. There is room to park off the south shoulder of Rt H. Start from the north end of the road cut. A short and easy walk to the cache.

ELEPHANT CACHE II 

Elephant Rocks State Park, Iron County, Missouri

You may have visited Elephant Rocks many times, but you'll never see this building unless you know where to look. One way to find it is to hunt for my Elephant Cache II geocache.

Many geocachers have asked me what purpose this building served before it fell into ruin. Frankly, I don't know. I have my suspicions, however, and they are based on the presence of railroad tracks and a service pit inside the building.

The distinctive red granites from this area have been a favorite of architects and developers around the country since the 1800s. The oldest granite quarry in the state opened near Graniteville in 1869. The stone takes a high polish and is ideal for tombstones and building stone. Granite taken from the site furnished stone for the Eads Bridge and the cobblestone streets of St. Louis. Other quarries north of Elephant Rocks supplied the turned columns on the front porch of the Governorís Mansion in Jefferson City. In many cases these were large stones that weighed several tons each. The only practical transport method would have been by rail.

A unique geologic feature as well as a scenic landmark, the Elephant Rocks and quarries were eventually purchased from the Heyward Granite Company by Dr. John S. Brown, a retired geologist of the St. Joseph Lead Company. In 1966, Dr. Brown deeded the 135-acre site to the state for use as a recreation area and park. A clause in the deed prohibits commercial use of the granite for a period of 99 years. Prior to this, several civic groups in the Ironton-Pilot Knob area maintained and protected the massive rocks for the use and enjoyment of the public.

There are reports of a letterbox placed elsewhere in the park recently. For details, go to:

http://www.letterboxing.org/BoxView.asp?boxnum=7107&boxname=Elephant_Rocks

BUFORD MTN GEOCACHE 

Buford Mtn Conservation Area, Iron County, MO

On the Geocache page I didn't mention that there is a small enclave of Melungeons living in this area. Melungeons are dark-skinned people of mixed ethnic heritage. They are commonly found in remote areas of eastern Tennessee, eastern Kentucky, western North Carolina, southwestern Virginia, and southern West Virginia.

This is the westernmost Melungeon settlement. They came here during the Civil War, driven out of their ancestral homes by battling armies. They have lived in this area, supported by the state government, ever since.

They live in very primitive conditions: small stone huts, no electricity, no cars. The state supplies them with clothes, food and a modest stipend. Their children attend a nearby special school, operated by MDC, which provides them with an 8th grade education. The Melungeons are misunderstood and often villified, even in the areas where they are well established. Most of them here on Buford Mountain are literate. Some have completed high school. They do not, however, mix with the general public. Only their closest neighbors are aware that they exist.

Melungeons are curious and gentle, but very timid. You won't see them, but they'll be watching you. They love to go through my geocache to see what people leave, but they understand this stuff is not for them. Try placing a trinket (or better yet, a book) along the trail as you walk to the cache. It will most likely be gone when you come back. Google Melungeons for more information on this sad, but fascinating group of people.

SILVER MINES I GEOCACHE 

Silver Mines Recreation Area, Madison Co, MO is named for actual silver mines, active in the 1920s, but long since played out. This is one of the many beautiful and spectacular "shut ins" on the St. Francis River. Whitewater enthusiasts from around the country bring their kayaks to enjoy the challenges of the river during the spring White Water Festival. “Shut ins,” or river canyons, are peculiar to the volcanic terrane in this part of the state.

The cache is close to the "air conditioner," between the trail and the river bank.

OZARK TRAIL - MARBLE CREEK GEOCACHE  

The nine-mile Marble Creek trail is in the Marble Creek Recreation Area, Madison County, MO. It is the little orphan of the Ozark Trail, laying half-way between the Taum Sauk and Wappapello sections. This section will eventually connect to the Taum Sauk section via Ketcherside Mountain. It’s a pleasant day hike and an excellent mountain bike trip.

This cache is some distance from the trail, but it is easy walking along an abandoned logging road. My advice: Dont bushwack. Stay on the road. I flagged the road in blue, but that may be gone when you get to it.

ROADSIDE GEOLOGY - FREDERICKTOWN 

Missouri Highway 72 between Fredericktown and Ironton is packed with interesting geology, much of it exposed in road cuts. This entire field trip takes place within 50 ft of blacktop, so you can do it anytime, even in the worst weather. 72 is not a busy highway and it has broad gravel shoulders, so you can park safely.

Geology students from colleges all over the Midwest come here to study these exposures. You can, of course, go straight to the cache and skip the field trip. But if you are at all interested in the local geology, I hope you’ll take an hour to examine these rock outcrops.

The cache is hidden within the highway right of way. In dry weather you can climb straight up the roadcut to the cache, but if it's wet and muddy, I recommend you go to the west end of the cut and get on top. Then walk back to the cut, staying close to the edge to avoid the dense cedars.

VARGO TRAIL CACHE 

This park has really nice walking trails. I come here quite often to stretch my legs and enjoy the scenery.

This is a three-part multicache. The first clue is a small (2" x 1") metal tag attached to a wooden gate, but in such a way that it's out of site. Don't give up until you've searched every square inch of that gate, and don't bother looking at anything but the gate.

The second clue is under a rock. Feel around under the rock for an orange waterproof match case. Don't try to lift the rock, you'll hurt yourself. Think of the island as a clock. The bridge is at 12. Look under the rock that is closest to 8 o'clock.

The cache itself is hidden under a dead log, in a clump of trees.

It appears that there is also a letterbox elsewhere in the park, go to this link for more information:

http://www.letterboxing.org/BoxView.asp?boxnum=6971&boxname=Engler_Park

Pickle Springs Natural Area 

Pickle Springs (Ste Genevieve County, MO) has some of the most spectacular rock formations that you’ll see anywhere in the Midwest. Over millions of years, water has carved arches, deep canyons and other scenic features into the Lamotte Sandstone. You can hike the loop trail in about an hour, but you’ll want to stay longer.

This one has to be a virtual cache, because traditional geocaches are prohibited in Missouri Conservation Department Natural Areas. Reliable sources, however, suggest that there may be a letterbox nearby. For more information go to:

http://www.letterboxing.org/BoxView.asp?boxnum=6964&boxname=Pickle_Springs

Sedimentary rocks on Mars? 

"When we saw virtually a complete circle, I was thrilled beyond anything I could have ever dreamed," said Steve Gorevan, who led the team at New York-based Honeybee Robotics, which designed the drill.

Oh, please. Leave a little something for when you discover that there had been life on Mars at one time.

I studied the latest photos from the Mars rovers this morning. The rock outcrops are definitely bedded (layered). What does this mean? My first take is that they are sedimentary rocks (sandstone, shale or limestone). This means that they were deposited in water. If they are limestone, it's a good sign that there was abundant life at one time.

Bedding, however, does not necessarily mean there was water. Windblown sand dunes have internal bedding structures. Certain igneous rocks, such as rhyolites, can have a layered appearance. The sampling and chemical analysis will tell the story.

I wonder how NASA will react if the initial results provide evidence of past life. Will these lovable nerds, continue to gush and wet themselves on camera? I'm betting not. Here's what will happen: the nerds will be ushered back to their workstations, with duct tape over their mouths. The professional spin doctors will take over and the result will be - silence.

Fear of failure (being wrong) will overrule the joy of discovery. Can you blame them? NASA has been the object of intense and prolonged criticism from all quarters. They spend too much. They quash competition from the private sector. They can't even put a satellite into orbit. Premature claims that Mars once supported life would be a public relations debacle.

If, in the next few weeks, the press conferences suddenly go south and we stop seeing new photos, you can figure something big is going down.

Saturday, February 07, 2004

Midwest Geocaching Competition (3/19-21/2004) 

Six of us met at Hawn State Park this morning at 9:00 AM (Brawny Bear, Happy Kraut, Tim, Mamalu, Strider and myself). Temperature in the low 20s and a stiff breeze. Mamalu has a cold and looks like she feels pretty sh*tty. Surprised that she made it.

We split into two groups. Each of us laid out a course. Tim, Mamalu and I laid out 12 waypoints for our course. We finished about 12:30. Afterward we went to the Midway for a leisurely lunch and plotted our courses on Bear's laptop.

So much to do in the next six weeks. It will get done, I guess, but it sure seems to be slow going at this point. Glad I'm not in charge.

AUDUBON TRAIL GEOCACHE 

This is the first geocache that I set out. It's on a nice trail in the Mark Twain National Forest. The cache site itself is nothing special. I started from Bidwell Creek and hiked up to the cache site. You can reach it just as easily from above by starting at these coordinates (approximate):

N37° 43.132' x W90° 11.125'

Then walk down the ridge to the cache. Either way, you’re going to walk some steep slopes.

Friday, February 06, 2004

Welcome to my web log! 

Well how 'bout this? Just signed up and got myself a blog! I plan to use it as my homepage for geocaching.com. This is where I'll share my thoughts on the caches I've found and placed. I may post some additional clues for my caches.

Tomorrow we meet at Hawn State Park (near Farmington, MO) to lay out courses for the Geocaching competition in March. Snow and ice on the ground. High tomorrow in the mid-20s. I'll let you know how it goes.

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