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Archive for November, 2010

congratulations, it’s a Jeep

Nineteen years is a good run.  But all good things must come to an end.  And so it was with the Toy.  Which is to say, there was room in front of the house for the Jeep I had been coveting for ages.

Welcome Home Edmund!

My very own Little Black Jeep

1999 Jeep Wrangler

84,000 miles

Hard top

6 cylinder

5 speed



Who says your convertible has to be a sports car to be fun?

chris on November 25th 2010 in Vehicles

Explore West Virginia Day 2

It was with much relief that I remembered to set the clock back an hour before passing out in the fluffy comfort of my room at the Fairfield Inn Beckley. The day had been one heck of a road trip, starting at 5:30 a.m. for me and ending way too close to midnight.

Morning came much too early for my liking, as it is prone to do of course. But we had a time to  indulge in delicious breakfast before it was time for  MAGPI to regroup(re-gaggle?) to check out. Which was when we found out that it was a whopping 24 degrees outside. “Twenty-four what?” was my gape-mouthed response to the well meaning lady who had imparted said information.  Degrees. Fahrenheit. As in below freezing. As in, my windows will need scraped. As in, where the hell are my long johns. Sigh….let’s roll I guess.

So with the obligatory group photo and ice scraping out of the way, we headed out to the Beckley Exhibit Coal Mine, where, following Knight Who Says Ni’s instructions, we parked and then started walking away from the cache. Uh, Cache is over there…like near the cars, someone noted. Oh she knew, she knew. But you can’t get there from here. And so you’d best just catch up you slackers

Much like Day 1, Day 2 of MAGPI Takes a Long-Arse Drive started with a frigid hike up a hill. Oh boy. My FAV-O-RITE. And on a full tummy no less. Please let this not be an omen of things to come.

Just as we crested the confounded hill among much wheezing and complaining we met a nice gentleman who assumed that we (yes all seven of us, who were clearly not out for brisk morning exercise, judging by the amount of complaints) were new to town and were unaware that this park had a quite nice walking trail. Great. Thanks. Don’t care. Please move along now. Which he did, eventually. In exactly the direction the arrow was telling us to head. Awesome.

I guess it was a good thing that we were more along the stagger in the cold like zombies mode of movement because by the time we finally got to ground zero, he was out of sight.

Targeted cache number one taken care of, we rolled back down the hill and were on our way to the New River Gorge.

It’s pretty much impossible to say anything about the New River Gorge that has not been said before and in more eloquent terms, so I’ll just post some pics and say we really did put ourselves behind schedule by taking our time to enjoy the drive. (Don’t forget to clickity click at the bottom of the post for the full gallery.) But isn’t that what this caching challenge is all about?

Our fun at the NRG coming to an end we headed out to parts unknown. (Oh wait, that was last night’s portion of this trip.) We actually headed out for the Greenbriar River Trail, or at least a part of it.

You make one small navigational mistake and the next thing you know the entire group leaves you behind. I guess that was their way of getting revenge for us trying to lose them on the way out of Lillyhaven last night.  Fortunately for our beleagured group it was a short walk on the trail, but that was enough to convince me that I need to load up my bike and hit the trail. It’s too nice a trail in a beautiful part of the state to be satisfied with this quick fly by (although I can not tell you have joyful I was that it wasn’t a 10 mile bike ride to the cache….getting a little stale on the seat time at this point in our adventure).

After a quick find and a near miss by wvhunter (DON’T BACK UP!!!!! There’s a car there. Holy carp!) the little black jeep re-took it’s status as lead vehicle  and headed to Hills Creek Falls.

I probably should mention that by this time the sun had come out and taken the bitter evil chill out of the air. It was actually kind of pleasant in the jeep and I had downgraded from all three layers of my parka to just one. That is until we got to Hills Creek Falls and saw….SNOW. Oh yeah. Snow. On the ground.

I really, really wanted nothing more than to stay in the nice warm vehicle listening to music and perhaps fit in a snooze while everyone else went after the cache, but it was made pretty darn clear that if I did that, my name was not going to be in the log book. Grumble, grumble, grumble. The things I do for a smiley. Hrumph.

There was another car in the parking lot, which seemed odd considering the aforementioned snow, until we found out (by way of wvhunter’s geo-vehicle being discovered) that it was phyrfly & technomountaineer. Guess we aren’t the only cachers throwing common sense to the wind.

I’d say we took a mighty circuitous way to the cache, but it was worth the laugh I got when I rounded the corner to see pbump on his hands and knees digging at the base of a tree. It was only made better when Knight Who Says Ni walked to the other side of the tree, moved a log and said, ‘I got it!”  That alone was totally worth getting out of the car, no matter how many layers of parka I had to put on!

It was hard to get a good view of the falls since there was snow on the boardwalk and as we all know Wood + Snow = Falling. (No, I didn’t fall, thanks for asking.)

Since the next (and final for us) stop was Cass Railroad. And since the bumps had already tackled that cache we said our fond farewells, hard to hear over the chattering teeth, piled back in the now cold vehicles and headed out.

We arrived, via a long series of curves, hairpin turns, and cutbacks that made me thankful I’d doled out Dramamine to my navigator, at Cass around sunset. It was still and very, very creepy. That quiet that signals bad things are just waiting for dark. We made haste to the cache and since it was starting to approach bitter again, with the wind picking up and the last vestiges of sunlight going down made a quick decision to go home via Elkins so we could seek gas and dinner.

It was a long, hard, cold two days of driving and caching with some food thrown in to keep us going. But damn it was one good time.

Author’s note: As a native West Virginian I am astonished about all the places this series of caches led me. Some I had never heard of (Hills Creek Falls for instance), some I had never bothered to go see (Matewan Flood Wall) and some I have visited over and over (New River Gorge for instance). I just want to say Thanks to all those who organized this ExploreWV Challenge. I had a blast.

chris on November 22nd 2010 in Geocaching

Explore West Virginia – Day 1

We at MAGPI are nothing if not a bunch of OCD overachievers.  And so when our core group found ourselves only a few caches short of completing all 3o of the ExploreWV caches we knew it was time. Time for a Group Hunt. But not just any group hunt, a highly organized, well choreographed overnight group hunt. Yeah, I can smell disaster, can’t you?

And so at 5:30 am on a bitter Saturday morning I found myself struggling from the depth of my warm, warm bed to pack my stuff into the Jeep and heading out. I don’t get out of bed that early to get to my job.  After meeting up with Aquacache & stuffing his belongings into the Jeep (you know, a wrangler does not have a lot of cargo space) we made way for Fairmont’s Evil Mart where Gentleman-Carpenter & wvhunter were awaiting.

It was incredible that we showed up at 7:00 am precisely and were underway by 7:05 am. This NEVER happens with MAGPI. Mark it down, it won’t happen again.

Still amazingly on schedule our two vehicle caravan arrived at the Spencer Civil War site only to find the gate at the bottom of the hill chained shut. Yes, still. Chained shut. Damn it. About that time the Bumps arrived. They also were less than thrilled to find the gate chained shut. (I can tell you that I found it an even bigger PIA since I already had this particular cache and I had in fact driven up to designated parking at the top of the hill.)

With no other choice, we walked. UP in the frigid COLD. Have I mentioned I hate mornings? Well I do. And I hate cold. Sucks. At any rate at least I had on all three layers of my new parka and probably gloves. Although for some reason I had neglected to actually put on the fancy long johns. They did lots of good sitting in my luggage in the jeep.  And as you can see by the next photo, I’m clearly not the only one that was UN-thrilled about starting our morning with some serious cold weather cardio. We MAGPI though are made of sturdy stuff or at the very least have no common sense. So it was upward we went, gasping for air.

At any rate, I helped the group not make the same stupid decision I had done on my attempt. As in, I said, “Do not follow the arrow. Do not go up to the top. Follow the nice path. Do not be idiots. Trust me on this one. ” Now I know, asking cachers to trust me is a big deal because everyone knows I just follow the arrow blindly. But I pleaded my case and sure enough, there was a nice clear wide swath for them to walk upon. I think they were secretly happy that I was willing to let them learn from my stupid mistakes (briars, thorns, brand new clothes).

Inexplicably our next stop was Walmart (yes, twice in one day and the day was young). Once we escaped the clutches of the Evil Mart we made a pit stop (ok two of them) so Aquacache & I could grab some of the Black Walnut Geotrail caches.  After all, if I was organized enough to remember to bring our passports for the trail (each cache has a stamp that you put on your passport), how could I pass them up?

After those little detours are caravan numbering 3 vehicles headed to Charleston to take on the State Museum, Booker T. Washington monument and Clay Center.

Assuming that wvhunter had left time in our schdedule so everyone could thoroughly explore the State Museum we meandered through. After much reading, learning and photo taking we found ourselves at the end of the line. Which is when we lucked out and ran into Robin (she who organized the ExploreWV extravaganza). Fortunately she recognized wvhunter, who is, after all, pretty hard not to recognize – either by sight or by sound.

From the Museum our merry little caravan headed over to the Clay Center. We pull up, spill out of our vehicles in our best caching outfits and see lots of really dressed up folks. Oh joy, we are so not going to stand out among these people. Especially not when we are doing things like inspecting the shrubbery.

I’m just glad I was the one taking pics for a change, as it tends to be me that’s caught arse end in the air. It was still pretty brisk out so we didn’t stick around too long. Well that and our clear disregard for a dress code made us seem a bit out of place. Piling back into our jeeps, we set sights on the lovely town of Milton and the Mud River Bridge.

We roll into Milton with your truly in the lead and what do we see at Pumpkin Park? Oh yes, a ton of people on the tiny island. Hmmm, wonder what’s up with that? What’s up with that turns out to be day release workers – you know, of the criminal variety. Well at least they can’t escape far with the little rowboat. After all, Mud River Covered Bridge is no longer on Mud River.

The real trick was for us to not get scooped up by the Department of Corrections and shipped back to jail, because honestly, we look shady. We just do.

After our quick escape we headed to Heritage Farms. Where we encountered the largest Unnatural Pile of Rocks (UPR) I have probably ever seen. Now I had already found this cache, so I was much amused by the look of sheer disbelief on the faces of my fellow MAGPI when they beheld said UPR.

Fortunately for them, they didn’t just trudge ahead – I must be the only trudger I guess. And so the find was not quite as difficult as one may presume upon arrival. Drat. I was waiting for a good laugh.

Poor Knight Who Says Ni was trying to rendezvous with us, but we weren’t making it very easy on her by doing a slight shift in cache order. But since we were as close to being on schedule as this gaggle of MAGPI could be, we managed to meet up with her at Ritter Park in Huntington. Well managed with one missed turn, but manage we did.

Since we had two Mr. Tall Cachers was with us, this group of MAGPI, unlike KWSN & I, didn’t have much difficulty retrieving the cache. (Also, I’d like to note it was not wedged in tight like it was when I found it….just sayin’).

I finally got to see the entrance to Ritter Park which is magnificent. I had missed it on my earlier trip as…well…we left the same way we entered. But today I was in search of a gas station since not only was my gas light on, it had been on. And the jeep is not noted for its awesome MPG capabilities. And  so my faithful navigator navigated us out the front of the park and (before I had to ask for a ride) to a gas station.

Properly gassed up, our caravan of MAGPI headed to Chief Logan State Park. Fortunately KWSN was well versed in parking location for this cache, having learned that there was better suited parking than what was mentioned on the cache page. I, for one, was glad because there was some sort of reenactment going on and I was pretty sure they would have been displeased if we’d all parked right there beside their teepee.

As it was, we were still faced with an uphill hike on leafy ground in the cold. Yes, it was still cold. It was still breezy. It was, after all, a typical West Virginia Fall. But we survived, although I managed to show my true caching form by falling uphill.

By this point I was saying we’d make it to Beckley, our designed overnight spot, by 10 pm., figuring it would be 11 pm. and hoping and praying it was not going to be midnight.

With that un-uttered thought in mind, I handed the keys over to Aquacahe and we led the gaggle to Matewan. And this is what I learned at Matewan:

  1. 95% of vehicles look black that late at night
  2. You should really look to see if the floodwall is open or closed
  3. Regular camera flash is REALLY BRIGHT in the dark
  4. Matewan has a cool flood wall
  5. Matewan is not really close to any place we needed to be

That aside, I really wish we had more daylight so I could have seen the entire floodwall. I took some photos, but didn’t really have time to enjoy the scenes. After all, we were getting to that point where we needed food and a place to stay and we still had one more cache between us and Beckley.

So we bid fairwell to Matewan, clambered back into the vehicles and set off for Lillyhaven. Where? Exactly.

We arrived at Lillyhaven in the pitch dark. So yes, I live in Morgantown. But even when it is the dead of night with no moon and a thick cloud covering, there is enough ambient light on my street to see things. Not so in Lillyhaven. Not so at all.

Knight Who Says Ni had been here before and was supposed to help us locate the parking. On the first pass my little black jeep still had lead car status and no amount of mappage proved helpful. So wvhunter chimed in that his Oregon said to go a different way. Still no dice. With no recourse, KWSN took the lead, drove us around the block a few times and then had her AHA! Moment where she recognized a narrow dirt road between chain link fences. You think I jest, I do not.

By the time we made the parking area I’m sure all of the fine town of Lillyhaven knew that a black jeep, a rock red jeep, a khaki cherokee and a silver BMW were all lost. We started out to the cache in the pitch black and soon saw flashlights bobbing ahead. As I was calculating who I needed to outrun and how fast I could unlock the jeep and get it in gear (power locks, where are you?) cachers appeared. Whew. (You know I was thinking zombie hobos.)

After conferring with the cachers we did our best to make our find in the dark without arousing too much interest from the locals.

And then it was time to head to Beckley, where we arrived, beleaguered, hungry & dirty before 10 p.m.

Dingleberry Margarita Anyone?

chris on November 22nd 2010 in Geocaching

Not that Creek

So I had a bit of free time and was looking to pick up a cache that perhaps involved a nice little drive.

How about GCKRT4 Virginia Iron Furance – which is not in Virginia, it is more nearly North of Albright.

I challenged my fellow cachers to figure out where I’d been that day.

Despite the general consensus of my caching friends that (and I am quoting 3_Dogs)  “If you took a photo from the middle of a stream it is likely a stream you’ve fallen in. How often do you find a stream and not fall in?” I had not fallen in this particular creek.

And of course once I denied that I had fallen in, 89SC said, “I was going to say Decker’s Creek but you’ve fallen in there more than once.”

It is nice to know that my reputation precedes me. I swear I get no respect around here.

chris on November 14th 2010 in Geocaching