My 1-year geocaching anniversary

When our plans to go geocaching last weekend fell threw because of weather, I made plans for us to go out this week to make up for it.  And since Thursday was my 1-year anniversary of signing up for my geocaching.com account, it made a great way to celebrate.  I chose three geocaches close together in a nearby town.  But it was the middle one that I was really excited about because a) it was my first culvert cache and b) it has a 3/3 DT rating which helps me check off another spot on my Fizzy Grid!!

I came prepared with my fleece socks and rubber boots.  The small hill down to the culvert was a little steep.  Holding onto trees didn’t really help when I fell and luged down to the bottom.  No harm done and it saved me some time.  😉  We lucked out that the water wasn’t too deep this time of year but the slimy rocks on the bottom made walking a slow and careful process.  Once you make it to GZ, it’s an easy find.  I admired the view and took pictures while Tigra76 signed the log for us.


We managed to find all three of the geocaches quickly and stop at Tim Hortons for refreshments after.  This mini trip was such an adrenaline rush for me.  I had so much fun!!  This 3/3 just whetted my appetite for the bigger D/Ts!

And two days later, I discovered that falling on the hill bruised my hip and the side of my torso where I was holding onto the tree when I fell.  Oh well, only mild aches and pains and well worth it for the adventure!!

Live on,

Paula

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So much to know

I am so grateful to my coworker for recommending the book “Island of the lost” by Joan Druett.  Coming on the heels of my new interest in world explorers and geography, this was another great breadcrumb in my trail.  It tells the tale of two different shipwrecks that happened on Auckland Island south of New Zealand in the 1800s.

Five seamen (lead by Captain Musgrave) in the far south survive, astonishingly, for nearly two years before building a vessel and setting off in what would become one of the most courageous voyages of the sea.  Twenty miles of impassable cliffs away on the same godforsaken island, nineteen other seamen (lead by Captain Dalgarno) succumb to utter chaos. Only three will survive.

Not only do you reflect on differences in situation between the two parties but also on how you the reader would fare in their place.  Any conscientious reader should feel immense gratitude for his/her own current abundance.  I will never again take the availability of vegetables for granted!

I have difficulty dealing with the cold here in southern Ontario.  I am known for being cold, especially at work where I wear fingerless gloves year-round.  For the most part, I hibernate in winter and only go out in order to work, buy groceries, and occasionally socialize.  I do not generally “Play” outside.  But since I discovered geocaching in 2017, I am seeking the supplies necessary for me to spend time outside in winter.  Fleece socks seem to be the answer for my feet.  Taking a page from explorers, I am now in search of leather, fur-lined gloves that should fix my cold-hands problem.

One of the main lessons to be learned from the success of Musgrave’s party is the advantage of skills and knowledge.  Having even just basic or minimal skill in blacksmithing, shipbuilding, house construction, and a general intuitive/experimental mindset for making things literally meant the difference between life and death.  How to make rope, soap, clothing, shoes, how to identify edible plants, how to kill and prepare an animal for cooking, how to provide yourself with the basic needs to survive.  I do not have many of these skills but I am grateful that I know how to cook, how to sew, and have the intuitive/experimental mindset.  Putting IKEA furniture together fills me with joy instead of dread.  Being a member of Girl Guides of Canada as a young girl is where I learned a lot of my skills but I also learned from my mother.

Like Defoe’s book, Les naufrages involved as well as enthralled the reader; like Robinson Crusoe, it celebrated the value of hard work and the importance of human labor.  At a time when technological advances were booming, it brought renewed awareness of the blessings of tools and engineering.  It even affected the leisure time of its readers — a fashion arose for such activities as gardening, camping, pottery, sewing, leatherwork, and the keeping of pets.  In the past, these basic skills had been dismissed as the kind of thing our lowly peasant ancestors did to keep body and soul together, but now they became therapeutic recreational activities for educated city-dwellers.

-Joan Druett, “Island of the lost”

For me, this book i s an unofficial treatise on why the term ‘Maker’ should never ever be just about modern computing technology.  A 3D printer will not save you if there is no electricity.  Having the skills to make things by hand gives you an advantage over others.  And it could literally save your life.

Sadly, there will never be a traditional geocache on Auckland Island:

Today, the Auckland Islands is a World Heritage Area, UNESCO having assigned the group the highest possible conservation status.  The island group supports the world’s largest populations of wandering albatross and mollymawk and protects the breeding ground of the New Zealand, or Hooker’s, sea lion, now one of the world’s rarest seals.

It is possible to visit there, but only under the most rigorous conditions.  Tourist entry permits are issued, but only if a representative of the New Zealand Department of Conservation accompanies the party.  Landings are allowed only at designated sites on Auckland Island and Enderby Island, the other islands being absolutely off limits.  Footwear, clothing, and gear are thoroughly checked; strict measures are taken against the accidental release of mice or rats; no plants or rocks are allowed to be disturbed or removed; no animals may be closely approached; the collection of specimens or souvenirs is absolutely forbidden; no rubbish or refuse may be left behind, and smoking is not permitted.

-Joan Druett, “Island of the lost”

But perhaps someday maybe there will be an Earthcache?!

Live on,

Paula

An unexpected side effect of geocaching

I’m currently reading ‘Minds of winter’ by Ed O’Loughlin.  It is a novel about Arctic and Antarctic exploration and I find it fascinating.  It spurred me to find podcasts about exploration in general.  While listening to a 4-episode series about Ferdinand Magellan on Matt Breen’s ‘Explorers’ podcast, I was virtually following along using Google Maps.  I’ve heard of the Strait of Magellan before but didn’t know exactly where it was.  Then near the end of the series, Magellan lands on an island in the Philippines called Cebu.  Hearing about the history of the people who lived there and Magellan’s interaction with them also fascinated me.  I opened up my Cachly geocaching app…yep, there are geocaches on Cebu.  This whole string of topics has blown my mind.  Our planet is HUGE!  When you look at a map, all you really see is the big picture of the country or the continent but not the minute detail of each little island or each little town.  Almost every piece of land on Earth has people living there and all of those people have a cultural history.  This has sparked a desire not only to learn more about history and geography but also to explore as much of this world as possible myself.  Especially now that I have a 10-year passport! 😉  I would like to visit every country, even if that is a somewhat unrealistic goal.

Fascinating fun geography fact: the Atlantic Ocean side of the Panama Canal is further west than the Pacific Ocean side.  Sounds crazy but it’s true.  If you look at the Panama Canal on a map, the land curves like an S.

Live on,

Paula

Treetop trekking

My friend, KL, has wanted for years to try treetop trekking.  As adventurous as I am, I haven’t previously fit within the weight limitations for such an activity.  Having lost a lot of weight in the last few years, I was finally light enough to join her.  So we gathered some friends and went in October for her birthday.

Having been surprised by my fear of falling while doing the CN Tower Edgewalk, I figured I would probably spend some time waiting for my brain to get over it before I could fully participate in the treetop trekking.  But the one thing that the Treetop Trekking adventure park does that the Edgewalk doesn’t do is make you hang in the harness.  As part of the TT safety orientation, they have a mini version of a course about 5-10 feet off the ground and you have to hang in the harness and then get yourself back onto the course.  You’re supposed to stand back up on the metal cables but YH and I just scuttled across to the wooden platform at the tree.  The guide didn’t fail us for it.  Personally, I think they just want you to get to safety/get yourself back on the course.  If it actually happened to me, I would use whatever was on the course to help get myself up.  Unfortunately, KL had a health issue that prevented her from participating (this time).  Because the park doesn’t give refunds, we had no choice but to go ahead without her.  I felt bad about that since she’d wanted to do it for so long but we hope to go again next year.

Hanging in the harness

We picked the right time of year to go.  The fall colours were out, the sun was shining, and it wasn’t too hot or cold.  It was a perfect day for it.

Because YH went first, I got her tips on how to complete the complicated courses.  Some were easy to figure out (just step on each log) and some were more complicated (over one log and under the next, etc.).  And then there was the one that scared the crap out of all of us.  It seems simple: just sit or stand on the log and swing across.  But the log was slippery; perhaps too smooth from use.  This was the one course we all took the most time on.  Because it was the one that seemed to guarantee we would fall off.  Even though I knew the harness would keep me from falling to the ground and I felt safe in that regard, I still was scared of falling off the log.  Having a lineup of impatient people behind us didn’t help.  In the end, just like YH, I just went for it.  I didn’t fall off but the log did pull out from beneath me just in time for me to slide onto the wooden platform at the tree.  The next course after that was the most physically difficult for me.  Even though, again, it seemed simple (just step on each log), the distance between each log and the height of the guide line were just a little too much.  I just wanted to take a break on it.  When I finally made it to the wooden platform at the other side, I seriously wished for an emergency escape route.  But I still had a zipline and a short easy to course to go before I could reach the ground.  I enjoyed the ziplines because it gave me a chance to sit down and relax briefly.  Perhaps next year I’ll also go on the separate zipline rides.

One of the easier ones

I was so sweaty and exhausted by the end.  I had no idea something that seemed so easy could be so physically grueling.  I was very grateful for a steak and fries dinner after!  Despite the carbs and protein at dinner, it still took me a week to recover.  I’m not joking about that.  I couldn’t do the stairs at work.  I could barely walk for a few days because my thigh muscles were in so much pain.  But I was even more thankful to hear that I was not the only one of us to feel this way.  So I’m adding squats and lunges to my workout routine so it doesn’t happen again next time.

As for the fear of falling, it never came.  I think my brain was so focused on the precise movements of how to get across each course that it didn’t have enough left for worrying about irrelevant fears.  It knew I was in no real danger because of the harness and could focus its energy on each step I took.  I look forward to going again and I hope I’ll be in better condition for it.

 

Live on,

Paula

P.S. Thank you to YH and CM for taking photos and allowing me to use them here.  Shockingly, I was so focused on the activity that I forgot to take pictures!

Tiffin Conservation Area

I love hiking in the fall because of the colours.  I’ve been reading books on why and how being out in nature is good for you and I always feel better in the woods.  I wish I could do it more often.  And along with fall hiking, I love pictures of trails!

What was really nice about being out on the trails on a weekday is that we didn’t see many people.  Less than five people in the four hours we were there to geocache and walk the trails.

I learned that it is important to look at the scale on a map.  I always thought the Tiffin Conservation Area was larger than it actually is.  It has a 1:200 metre scale!

We saw some cool bark patterns.  We saw lots of downed trees that may have been caused by the tornado that went through this area in 2014.  A fallen tree with ripped up roots combined with other tree debris to create a natural tent!

While we were walking, my friend and I got to witness my instinctual reaction to seeing a snake.  I am very afraid of snakes.  Very, very afraid!  I hadn’t even consciously realized what I was looking at when I made a guttural noise and leaped to the opposite side of the trail to clutch my friend’s jacket.  The whole thing ended peacefully as the snake went its way and we went ours.  However, this third snake encounter this year got me thinking.  Perhaps because I was usually near the back of the pack and any snakes would have been scared off by the others ahead of me, to the best of my memory I’ve never encountered a snake in all of my hiking trips with Girl Guides of Canada.  Until I became a geocacher, I didn’t spend much time in nature and certainly not anywhere where snakes were likely to cross my path.  Now that I am out in the wilderness more, I am seeing more snakes.  So I am sincerely wishing that all of my future encounters are as uneventful as these first three have been and that it will cure my ophidiophobia.  I don’t like the idea of exposure therapy itself but I can tolerate the uneventful path-crossings as an at-a-distance version of it.

Live on,

Paula

Victoria Harbour

In order to earn the 2017 Earthcache souvenir, we headed up to Victoria Harbour to do ‘30000 Islands Archipelago’ (GC1KKNJ).  But first, we stopped for lunch in Victoria Harbour at the Queen’s Quay Pub and met up with a fellow geocacher.  We were going to find a few of the caches in a series she owns.

pirate_froglet solved the Doctor Who puzzle in order to find the correct coordinates for ‘BAD WOLF’ (GC7BG1Q) and we found the physical cache in order to log our first Mystery geocache!

I wanted to do the ‘Rats!’ cache (GC60BXQ) in the series because it is rat-positive!  I have pet rats and was thrilled that the description talked about how rats have an unfairly bad reputation.

The series is located along the Tay Shore Trail, which is part of the Trans Canada Trail.  Here the trail is paved and well-used.  We saw several people walking or biking the trail.

After a pit stop for bathroom/drinks/fuel, we made a spontaneous stop in Port Severn to find a geocache in the nearby recreational area.  There is a splash pad, beach, and picnic areas.  I christened my rubber boots (and tried not to fall in) in Severn Sound at ‘Splashing around in Port Severn’ (GC3VB65).

We then had a group FTF (first to find) at ‘Up at The Trailer #2’ (GC7CZV0).  Harmony61 had accidentally logged it earlier when we were finding another cache nearby.  So we made sure we actually did find this one and made her log legitimate.  The coordinates were off so it took us a while to find it but the scenery was beautiful.  Tigra76 found an empty turtle shell that still had the spine inside.

We dropped libkat59 at her weekend getaway in time to see a beautiful sunset and then headed home.  A 12-hour adventure!

What I learned from the day is that if anything requires a specific scheduled time, it is best to add a buffer to prevent tardiness.  I will keep this in mind for future excursions.

Live on,

Paula

100 Finds!!

On Saturday, September 30, I reached my first geocaching milestone: 100 finds!!!  I was prepared with a sign for getting my picture taken.  I enter this picture here because I discovered that my iPhone 6 is not very good at taking photos of people in dappled sunlight and you can’t actually read the sign clearly.

After 100 finds, I am still very much in love with the game.  I specifically chose this cache as my 100th find because we found it during the Festival at Fort Willow and made it such an awesome experience.

As usual, pre-geocaching, I’d never heard of Fort Willow.  I’ve been to the Black Creek Pioneer Village in Toronto and worked at the Simcoe County Museum one summer.  History is a patchwork of stories about people I know pretty much nothing about.  I typically enjoy the experience but it doesn’t have much personal meaning to me.  I’m not sure exactly what it was about this particular day but I found the history more affecting than usual.  And I have two theories: 1) This year I celebrated my 42nd birthday and I’m finally learning not to be so afraid of people.  I’m learning to connect with them on some level.  2) Along those same lines, I was able to connect that these re-enactors love their hobby just like I love my hobby of geocaching.  There was one family of re-enactors and their daughter was uncomfortable and didn’t say much.  I could tell she wasn’t exactly thrilled to be there.  It was a chilly autumn morning and I could relate to that lack of enthusiasm from my own childhood.  The most vivid example of the clash between time periods was a teenaged re-enactor talking on her cellphone.

Because it was such a chilly morning and because it was a thing you did back then, there were a lot of fires burning in the fort.  The entire place smelled of heavenly campfire smoke (one of my favourite smells ever).

There were horses who got startled by the noise of the muskets firing but were expertly handled by their riders.

I was saddened and a little bit put off by the commercial element to the fort.  I had already bought a souvenir and donated to the organization “at the door” and then I entered the fort and had a few stalls where they were selling stuff.  I guess I was unrealistically expecting a fun time without the in-your-face profit-seeking that I encounter in my daily life.

I got video of the cannon demonstration, including the inevitable shake of my phone as the explosion inevitably startled me.  I wished I had a tripod then.

My friend got to be a blacksmith apprentice for a while.  She obviously had a blast doing it and her enthusiastic enjoyment made me so happy.

I made it to 100 finds and I look forward to so many more geocaching adventures!!!

Live on,

Paula

Flora and fauna

Another thing that I love about geocaching is how much I’m learning about nature.  Owning my own geocaches means visiting the same spot time and again.  You get to see the seasonal changes in that area.

With a large number of geocaches in my area that were too far to walk to, and in an effort to save money from taking public transportation, I bought myself a new bike.  I also bought a mount for my iPhone so that it can track my rides.  I now know that I can generally ride 4km in about 15-20 minutes, depending on terrain, weather conditions, and how I’m feeling.

A week ago I rode my bike out to one of my adopted geocaches to do owner maintenance.  Because I originally found it in April, getting to the right spot was easy because there was no vegetation except some branches.  When I took friends there in July, it was swarming with mosquitoes and had a lot of overgrowth from this year’s wet summer season.  When I did owner maintenance last week (September), the mosquitoes weren’t as bad but the overgrowth is still dense.  However, this time I did not come out unscathed.  This time I had followers.  I have had burrs on my clothes before but I must say that I prefer these flat ones that I’d never seen before.  I spent about 20 minutes picking them off just one leg.  Then, after feeling myself up to make sure there weren’t any in sensitive areas, I rode my bike home so I could sit comfortably while I picked the rest of them off.

They are flat and have super itty-bitty Velcro-like loops on them that hook into your clothes or even your skin.  You have to be careful to make sure the burrs have actually fallen off your fingers before you reach for another one or you might end up adding to the pile.  I like these ones better because they don’t poke through your clothes and into your skin the way the typical spiky burrs that most people are familiar with do; these flat ones don’t hurt.  [Fun fact: they say burrs are where the inventor of Velcro got his idea]

Two days ago I went to do owner maintenance on another of my adopted geocaches.  I had my first snake “encounter”.  I saw it slither off into the long grass from the trail in front of me.  I shrieked, of course, because I am severely ophidiophobic.  I was on high alert for the rest of the 8km hike until I was on the path back home and saw a bunny rabbit cross the path.

Live on,

Paula

‘Road to Everywhere’ not inclusive

This year I discovered the game of geocaching and I love it mainly because I am exploring my own town, area, and country. I picked up the July/August 2017 issue of the Walrus magazine because the premise of the ‘Road to Everywhere’ article caught my attention. How disappointing to read an article about making more of the country accessible to travellers and explorers that also excludes Nunavut and the entire east coast with their proposed Great Circular Road. Canada does not begin in Quebec, even if chosen arbitrarily by the author. I live in Ontario but yearn to explore as much of our country as possible. The author has a good point about the Trans Canada Highway being inadequate and unrepresentative. The stereotyped flatness of the prairies probably prevents travellers and explorers from discovering the biodiversity of those provinces. The same could be said of the entire country, the point of the article as I read it. A Great Circular Road is just as inadequate and unrepresentative if you leave out whole provinces. It would be nice if the author had at least made an effort to include the entire country and not just the convenient places.

Live on,

Paula

Always something new to learn

I keep saying “Because I’m new to geocaching …” when talking about something I’ve learned through or about geocaching.  My six-month geocaching anniversary was a week ago and I don’t know when I will stop saying I’m new.  I guess what I need is another saying that will demonstrate my continuing education through and about geocaching.

Tonight’s lesson came from doing owner maintenance on a nearby geocache that I recently adopted.  My friends and I had found it back in April.  No one had found it since but it was in not-so-great shape when we found it.  So I thought I would go do a quick maintenance run.

Well, I learned that it can take me an hour to walk 3 kms when it involves steep inclines and land owners put up new fencing.  This included finding another path to my original route.

And I learned that vegetation can grow really quickly.  Although I know the route I took last time, I had to pick my way through tall plants and tree saplings that have grown up in the area in the four months since I was there.  After an adventurous and sweaty trek to and from the geocache, I have decided that there absolutely must be an easier way to get to it.  My route requires crossing a water source.  Perhaps there is a much easier route from the other side.  I will investigate this before I end up injuring myself on a future trip.

Live on,

Paula