Archive for the 'Geocaching' Category

Moab – April 18

So long Salt Lake City, you seemed nice, but we’re not here for the city, we’re here for the better stuff.

While planning this trip, all I kept hearing and reading was that it was going to be near impossible to get into Arches National Park….it was high season, it was Spring Break, it was the week leading up to Easter. So basically, don’t make any plans that hinged on getting into Arches. So we didn’t. But we did figure that since we’d be passing right by the entrance on the way into Moab, we’d take a look. And if the line wasn’t too bad, we’d go for it.

THERE WAS NO LINE!

In fact, people were streaming out of the park!

Neither of us really had any idea what to expect beyond arches in general. So we thought we’d wet our feet with a 2 mile out and back hike on the Park Avenue trail; and what a introduction to Arches! It was gorgeous, and lovely and so unlike any other place we’d ever been. Huge slabs of red rock and off in the distance snow-capped mountains.

Next Up: Balanced Rock. Yes I know you’ve seen billions of photos, big deal it’s a rock balanced on another rock. But A. it’s right off the road B. there’s a virtual geocache and really C. it is cool. I will say that even this early in the tour of National Parks, I ready to do some full body tackling of the jackasses who blatantly ignored the signs to stay off the damn rocks and stay on the trail.

Onward to Delicate Arch viewing area. It was HOT. And we weren’t sure how much else we’d be able to see – all those warnings about no place to park! – so we thought we’d check it out from afar first. But before that, a parking lot snack, on the sidewalk in front of the car while ravens eyeballed us and waited for us to spill. Also, time to switch to shorts.

After checking out Delicate Arch from afar, Chad suggested we head out to Landscape Arch instead of hiking out to Delicate Arch, since we had technically seen it. And you couldn’t see Landscape Arch unless you walked out to it.

So, just to let you know, walking on sand is terrible. And there is a lot of sand in Utah. A LOT. Anyway.

You wouldn’t think anything quite so large as Landscape Arch could visually sneak up on a person. You would be wrong! Or at least in my case, it snuck up on me. Behind the arch is a rock wall, so as we approached there wasn’t the telltale bit of sky or light coming through the arch, it was visually deceptive. Until it was extremely obviously just there!

What is even more crazy, is that until 1991 you could just pretty as you please walk right up to it and hang out under it. Which is what was going on when some folks thought they heard thunder…until they noticed some small rocks falling and then a huge slab broke free! Needless to say, you have to keep your distance a little bit now.

Because it was so long, it was really difficult to get a good photo, which is pretty much why we go see these things for ourselves. This was clearly a trip where the photos we took were going to be used to jog our memory, more than memorialize what we were seeing.

It was starting to approach dusk and honestly the last thing I wanted to do was to try to set up our ultra light tent, that was had not used since our trip to Colorado several years prior, at civil twilight. We’d booked a little campground in downtown Moab – yes, downtown by a creek – called Up The Creek Campground. It was quite nice and the price was right!

What we discovered as we unfurled the tent and set up camp, was that we’d clearly never cleaned the tent properly cleaned the tent post-Colorado. As if we needed a head start on the sand collection!

I see that I failed to mention one important thing about Moab and our timing. It was Easter Jeep Safari Week (not to be confused with Discount Lion Safari). Which for some reason had escaped my noticed when I went into vacation triage mode and arranged the logistics of this trip. It certainly makes sense about the accommodations being difficult to find and insanely expensive – please see our decision to camp in Moab.

There were literally Jeeps EVERYWHERE. All shapes, makes, models, sizes. Sock. Lifted. Modified. Crazy modified that you couldn’t really tell it had been a Jeep. Falling apart (pretty sure that Willys was a legit WWII relic and it looked in about the same condition as the one we saw in Cambodia). Brand New.

As if I wasn’t overstimulated enough having gotten into Arches at first go and now here I was surrounded by Jeeps. Be still my heart. 

Clickity click on the thumbnails to see more photos in big form!

chris on April 18th 2019 in Family, Geocaching, Travel

Salt Lake City – April 17

It’s weird starting vacation on Wednesday.

The 3:30am alarm, which thankfully Chad turned off before it made that terrible noise, was as usual, FAR TOO EARLY.

WE did manage to leave the house by 4am. Which got us to the car place with plenty of time to spare.

Hooray for airport bars that recognize sometimes you need at drink at 6am.

The flight was uneventful and short enough that I was awake when we passed over some spectacular mountains. Obviously this trip is to the desert, but a good mountain range always makes me happy. This one was quite lovely. 

We arrived into Salt Lake City, as did all our luggages thankfully, since we had crammed all our camping gear into checked bags. Headed to get the rental car and I was immediately, “Uh no. THAT is not what I reserved.” A Hyundai Kona? What in the world is that tiny little car? I specifically rented a small AWD vehicle because we were going to the middle of nowhere Utah. This thing has about zero clearance and only slightly more luggage space.

Chad turned to me and asked, “Do you want me to go back and get the minivan they tried to upgrade us to?”

No. I did not. And car rental agencies, stop trying to sell a minivan as an upgrade. No one wants your stupid minivan unless they have 401 babies, which we certainly do not. That’s why there are always extra minivans available.  At any rate, so much for doing any baby jeep trails in Moab in this thing.

We stopped at Red Iguana (from Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives fame) for lunch. Looked SUPER sketchy on the outside. Totally yum and totally packed. Thank you, Google!

As we were leaving the restaurant, we caught sight of this….

Since it was far too early to check in to our hotel, we headed downtown Salt Lake City. The mountains were majestic. Rising up and ringing the City. Clearly my memory of here during the cross-country drive in a Ryder truck with Dad and Uncle Dan did not imprint on me that it was in a basin.

We took in the capitol – quite lovely – which left me wheezing and I was more than a little confused until Chad pointed out that we may be in a basic, but we were still quite a bit higher in elevation than at home. Ah.

It was lovely to see everything in bloom and nice and green. We walked around the giant block of Mormon, reading the historical markers which were everywhere. At least we now know what’s up with the beehive image all over the place.

Finally headed to the hotel for some much needed down time and an amazing sunset. Good job, Utah. We like you already! 

The rest of the photos here…..clickity click to embiggen! 

 

chris on April 17th 2019 in Family, Geocaching, Travel

Eigg-celent! – July 10

What I like about the Eigg pedestrian ferry:

  1. It doesn’t leave early.
  2. The Captain stops and turns for puffin sightings.
  3. Doggos!
  4. You only need to show up 15 prior to departure.
  5. Upon arrival at Eigg, half the island is at the port waiting.

In port, Chad ran into our AirBnB hostess, who happened to be leaving for Glasgow for the rest of the week. The Caravan is unlocked, she told us. And feel free to put any of your stuff in the refrigerator in the kitchen, the door is open. (By open she literally meant, wide open.) Oh, and if it rains, try to dry the dog’s feet off before he runs in the house or just shut the door.

That was our introduction to the Isle of Eigg, population just over 100.

To be clear, our lodging was a Caravan in the back garden of a house in the Cleadale part of Eigg. We had no real idea what this meant, but at $44 for the night, it seemed like a good deal, or at least far better than a tent. Our directions to the caravan ended with, “It’s the only blue Caravan.” So basically, if we got confused and took the left too early and came across a caravan in someone’s back garden, if it wasn’t blue, it wasn’t ours.

And to clarify, in case you’re confused like I was. The Caravan is in fact a small pull behind camper. I was thinking it was one of the oh-so trendy modern gypsy wagon caravans, which seem to be popping up all over AirBnB. (If only those included Gypsy Varners so you could take your wagon for a ride.)

To make travel around the island easier, we rented two mountain bikes, shouldered our rather heavy backpacks – plus Chad got to pack the cooler in as well – and headed off and UP. I should mention we were both wearing jeans and that it was a bit muggy and very sunny. Not the typical Scottish weather everyone goes on and on about. And most certainly not the type of weather I want to experience riding a bike while wearing jeans.

Also, I haven’t biked much on flat recently, let along on hills with a fully laden backpack (4 bottles of beer, three 12oz and one 750ml), sitting on the most uncomfortably bike seat I have encountered. I was drenched by the time I crested the first hill. It wasn’t long before my sweater was a goner and I was desperate enough to consider pulling over and changing into the only other pants I’d brought – my previously worn hiking pants. But I didn’t, not so much because I have some dignity, but because I’d have had to dig them out from the very bottom of my pack.

Finally arriving at blue Caravan in back garden, we were greeted by the house dog (I swear I thought I heard someone say his name was Wooflan…) and found the Caravan unlocked and the house door indeed wide open. 

Ok. So we’re here. We’re now thankfully NOT wearing jeans. What shall we do? Shall we ride back down into town and over to the trailhead for An Sgurr and hike it? Then ride BACK UP to our lodging? Or how about we do little exploring that involves riding bikes up slightly less hills? Maybe go over to the Singing Sands, grab the geocache that should be along the way? Not sweat to death?

Yes. Yes, that sounds like a far better plan. Far, far better. So, now about finding the trail to Singing Sands.

So the thing we struggle with in Scotland is remembering that just because there’s a gate on a road or trail, does not mean you must turn back. Those are most often there to keep the sheep or cows on one side, and to let those of us with opposable thumbs through. It took us about three failed attempts before I stopped to read a description of the trail that said, “Go through the gate.” Oh. My mistake. Alternatively, we could have just looked for the bikes piled up by said gate.

Bikes ditched we headed on the trail through the sheep fold. I’d figured out the answers to the geocache that would presumably give me the right coordinates. And it was relatively close to the trail. Only there was nowhere to hide anything substantial. We wandered around and finally consulted the hint. Um, yeah so I messed up somewhere.

Fair enough, we headed on to the beach and I figured I’d take a look at my math later (I screw up the easiest math puzzles, often times due to transposing numbers – spoiler alert!).

Singing Sands was breathtaking!

And we had it nearly to ourselves and then, shortly thereafter, completely to ourselves!

We waded in the surf and the tidal pools.

Checked out the caves and the natural arch.

And yes, the sand does sing when you walk on it.

I cannot express how much I love standing in the sand, water lapping at my feet, and looking up to the hills. It may be the perfect combination.

After a quick review I determined I had transposed the geocaching coordinates when I plugged them into my Garmin. Duh. Fixed that and as we headed back to our bikes we stopped to find the cache. I’d read the log prior to packing our bags to come to Eigg, so I knew the cache needed maintenance as it had gotten all soppy. Luckily I was somewhat prepared with a Rite in the Rain notebook and ziplock bags! Hey oh! Cache maintenance for good karma! While I did that, Chad sat on the rock and read his book.

After a short respite, the floofer took us for a walk down to Laig Bay Beach where we encountered beach cows – an entire herd – which was a completely new experience!

Not wanting to bike DOWN into town for a beer and then back UP to the caravan, Chad decided that we should hike up to God’s Finger. The trailhead was practically across the road from us, so it seemed like a solid decision.

It was straight up. Up. Up. Up. In very tall weeds. So of course I was on high tick alert!

Once we got to the point where we could stop climbing and walk on some flat, Chad wanted to explore further. It was hard to argue, so we followed some sheep up a trail and soon had a great view!

It was beautiful – the heather was gorgeous, contrasted beautifully against the varying shades of green. It also looked an awful lot the same in all directions. Which was when I began to be slightly freaked out because I didn’t have my Garmin with me and the mapping app on my phone wasn’t giving me a tracklog.

So there we were, surrounded by all this beauty and all I could think, as I looked over and saw the clouds rolling in, was “I do not want to be that stupid tourist who gets lots and has to either be rescued or dies of exposure due to being a dumbass.”

It was not a good spot to be in mentally. Not at all. But wait! Another app worked in a pinch to at least give me a track, although there were no maps. But hey, it’s better than nothing!

Chad wanted to continue to the higher points of the ridge so he could look across and see Arisaig Bay. So onward we kept going and suddenly finally found ourselves in the bog. Yep, it took us until we got to the top of the hillside on Eigg to finally find a bog. Squish. Oh, did I mention that our extra shoes were sitting in the car in Arisaig? Well, they were.

Heading back, the clouds I’d seen covering the far end of the island had reached us and it started to rain. And rain some more.

So, there we are, Chad in his waterproof pants, waterproof boots and rain jacket. Me in my rain jacket, no-longer-waterproof shoes, and water-resistant pants. Which is to say, I was soaked from where the rain jacket stopped to my toes!

As we lay there in the caravan, watching the beach cows make their way past, we decided to get up early tomorrow and make for An Sgurr.

LOADS of photos in the gallery for viewing….clickity click! 

chris on July 10th 2018 in Geocaching, Travel

Wandering Ft. William – Post Ben Nevis Recouperating – July 8

After going pretty hard for most of our trip, we decided we’d earned a rest day. What exactly does that entail for us? Well, it doesn’t exactly mean hanging out and doing nothing all day.

First stop, the Ben Nevis Visitor Centre, so I could get a pin and maybe a sticker or something. Plus, it was so foggy we wanted to see how bad it was near the trail head. Answer – densely foggy. I was so happy I went ahead and hate-hiked that mountain yesterday when it was gloriously sunny and clear.

Next up – Neptune’s Staircase. Wait, what? Fish don’t have feet. No, no they don’t. Nor is this a salmon ladder (my first guess). It is a series of eight locks that form part of the Caledonian Canal.

Which, as it turns out, is an engineering marvel that fell flat upon completion because it was….

  1. Poorly constructed – It’s still standing and functional, so I’m confused by this assertion, but that’s what the signs said.
  2. Too narrow – Victorian technology moved faster than they were able to imagine, apparently.
  3. Too shallow – See above.

We had very good timing because as we approached, we noticed four sailboats heading into the first lock! Neat! My first reaction to seeing the crew and the boats – “Oh hell no, would I be traveling very far via sailboat. Thanks.”

That being said, watching the boats go through the locks was pretty neat. For one thing, it was a lot quicker than I thought it would be. I believe they said it would be two hours to go through all eight locks. After watching the boats, we meandered up the trail a little bit before coming back to have a nice cup of tea and a pastry in the lock side hotel. Oh clotted cream, how I love you so very much!

Next up – finding the actual geocache. We’d already jumped through the hoops to log a find on the earthcache, but there was also a real cache nearby and so of course I was going to look for it! Found it before the midges got to me, those little bastards. They make mosquitoes seem harmless in comparison! 

We headed back into Ft. William to try our hand at more caches. This ended up being more difficult than imagined because while we found a very handy car park, we could not figure out how to get out of it and across the main road on foot. There was a railing and lots of vehicles. We tried a few different ways until Chad finally spied the underpass that led to freedom and the original Fort William, which was basically a nice little waterside park with plenty of signage and campers in the way of a cache. 

When our tummies started to growl we headed back to downtown Ft. William, which by the way is either the beginning or the end of the West Highland Way, and that makes for some grand people watching! And, if you choose correctly, some very yummy food and drink. This time around we chose wisely and found ourselves a nice little chain restaurant/pub that had a nice selection of cask beer. Hooray! 

Since yesterday had been a rather tiring adventure, after stuffing ourselves, we headed back up to our lodging (a nice Air BnB room in the neighborhood a bit up the hill – it came with a cat, the hill was modest to walk) for a well deserved nap! While this was not our first Air BnB adventure, it was definitely the first time we’d rented an en-suite room in someone’s house. But we figured eh, if our host was an ax murder, at least we’d be killed AFTER we hiked Ben Nevis.  She was absolutely not an ax murdered, but a very nice lady who had the first floor in a nice Victorian house. (Seems Victorian in the UK is a bit different than what I think of as Victorian here, mainly I suspect because Victorian here is considered a fairly definitive style not a time period in which things were built.) Our room was purple with a silver ceiling and all kinds of cute touches. I love it. And I slept like a rock. 

And one last photo…our car this trip was an MG3. I had no idea that MG even made vehicles any more. 

I mean, it’s a far cry from what I think of as an MG, but it got great gas mileage, the passenger seat had loads of leg room and it treated us well!

It was definitely a low key day, but we still took photos! Check out the gallery for more than what’s above (I think!)

chris on July 8th 2018 in Geocaching, Travel