Sunday, 24 February 2013

CITO At Fort Rodd Hill

On February 24th Landsharkz hosted a CITO the which I have never seen before.  I have been to many CITO (Cache In Trash Out) Events over the past couple of years, but never one that took place at one of my favorite childhood locations.  This is of course the one and only Fort Rodd Hill!

Fort Rodd Hill is home to some of the oldest and rarest Gary Oak Ecosystems.  While Canada did at one time have many of these ecosystems, expansion and growth of the Human Race has systematically been wiping them out.  Here in Victoria you find them on the rocky hilltops near the shoreline.
To learn a bit more about Gary Oak Ecosystems check out this article from Parks Canada:
Fort Rodd Hill and Fisgard Lighthouse National Historic Sites of Canada and Garry Oak Ecosystems

These ecosystems are not only at risk from Humans, but also from other invasive plant species.  And one of those invasive plants is the Daphne Laureola.  To learn more on this plant please check out this link also:

This plant is very prolific, and handling it requires special care as it does have some toxic properties.  The sap of this plant can cause rashes and such, and Work Safe BC also has some words on how to handle this plant, since you can also find it growing in your yard: Work Safe BC Info On Handling Daphne Laureola

Landsharkz coordinated with Parks Canada to have us come in and assist them in removing this plant from their Gary Oak forest areas. 
With enthusiasm and an eagerness a number of local cachers converged on the grounds of Fort Rodd Hill and met with the Parks Canada staff for a briefing of what we were up against and what tools we would be using.   
They graciously gave all of us new pairs of work gloves, showed us the cutters we were to use and away we went.

We walked down to near the Lower Battery and were shown our work site.  And I have to say there was a lot of this plant down here.  We set right to work cutting at the root and pulling the saplings.  It was actually a lot of Daphne to clear, but time flew while we all had fun chatting and working.  Soon it was already noon, and Parks Canada supplied us with a nice pizza lunch. 

After lunch we worked away until 3pm, and by that time we had a huge pile of Daphne Laureola.  The staff at Parks Canada were most impressed, and were even more impressed at how we recognized natural indigenous plants and worked around them and left them to thrive and grow.

With that said a big thanks goes to the cachers that showed up to help clear this invasive plant out, a bigger thanks to Landsharkz for planning and hosting the event, and a SUPER HUGE thanks to Parks Canada for allowing us to come into their environment and help them take care of business!
Also a thank you to A-Team for graciously letting me use his pictures from the event in this blog.


Sunday, 10 February 2013

ET Highway Day 5: The Last Day (For us that is)!!

Day 5 started just like all the rest.... Early!
We all rose and started to get ready and met at the Little A'Le'Inn Restaurant for breakfast.  Discussing what we had to do that day we hurried our eating and headed out.  First on the list was the UFO!  This was exactly like the Alien Head, and we had it all done in short order and headed out to grab some of the surrounding caches by foot.  This took us a few more hours and then we headed back for a warm cup of coffee and a snack.  We said our farewells to the wonderful staff of the Little A'Le'Inn, bought a few keepsakes and trackables and headed back out.

This leg of the trip had us cleaning up some more caches we ignored on the way by before and doing a few small powertrails again.  The going was a lot slower today, but it still had the outcome of some amazing numbers.  Here we saw more of the flora and fauna, and even more diverse lansacapes.  We moved along grabbing cache after cache.  These powertrails were made by a cacher by the name of nvtriker, all of them named after people that have come out here to cache the ET Highway series.  We saw caches named after sole seeker, cache crop, Tugman and Wifey and more.  And one day all of our names will be out there in the Nevada high desert!

We continued until we reached a point where all were in agreement that it was time to head back to Las Vegas.  On the way there we hit just a few more, one near a gas station, the other a letterbox hybrid just off the highway.  And to add a little more excitement to the mix, Paulboy got us pulled over by highway patrol for speeding past a 16 wheeler.  The Highway Patrolman was actually very nice and when he found out we were geocachers let Paulboy off the hook!   I have to say that I do not recommend trying to get away with speeding here, just cause we got off lucky does not mean you will.

We pulled into the Excalibur Hotel and Casino, unloaded, and checked in.  Here I said my farewells to the team, because I had decided not to leave with them to do the 6th day of caching down at Route 66.  Being sick all those days, the lack of sleep, and constantly being on the go had taken its toll on me.... I was just too tired to continue on.

So this marks the last day of our journey in Nevada.  Just Leafy, Postie Bear and myself enjoyed a relaxing day on the Las Vegas strip on the 6th day while the others did 800 plus caches on Route 66.  And I have to say that is what was really needed for me.

The 7th day we headed to the Airport and started for home.  Luckily we run into seekandsail before we boarded our flight, and we got to learn a bit about their fun day in California.

Well that completes my story about our adventure on the ET Highway.  We hope you enjoyed reading about it as much as we enjoyed the experience.

And as one last thing to share, you will find below this post a musical photo montage recapping the adventure.  Enjoy!

Saturday, 9 February 2013

ET Highway Day 4: The Road to Rachel and One Big Alien Head

Day 4 began like all the rest in the trip, EARLY!
We all met up in the parking lot of the Clown Motel and headed back over to the Mizpah Hotel for breakfast.  We learned that the restaurant here opened at a good time, and this meant we didn't have to eat at Texaco again.

I don't know what was my problem this day, but it was my worst yet.  I was feeling better, but I mentally was not alright.  Seriously I was a total jerk this day, absolutely miserable.  Maybe I was just done... Tired of being sick, tired of being tired, tired of all the caching!  But like I said I was a jerk, and I felt bad about it after.

But on with the story about this day!  We began with a couple of traditional caches in Tonopah followed by a earthcache. With those out of the way we were back on the highway and completed a small powertrail that consisted of caches placed by those who had come and completed the ET Highway series.  At the end of the trail Paulboy placed one on behalf of our team "CIA Thanks You - GC45PJN", so if you are in that area be sure to find and log it.
The reason people from so far away can place a cache there is because the cachers maintain it.  In fact every cache in the whole series and in the surrounding areas a maintained mostly the cachers and not their owners. It is kind of a requirement, so make sure you bring film canisters with paper in them to use as a replacement.

After we completed that we kept heading back down the highway, picking off caches we skipped when focusing only on the ET caches.  We eventually got to another earthcache and went on a short walk to get a cache that claimed to be the original ET Highway cache (not tied into the series).  Continuing on we also found a fun little cache inside a skull.  JuRuu just wanted a picture with it, but when he held it up for the shot we noticed the cache inside.

We eventually got back to Rachel and stopped in for a quick bite to eat and a coffee, and headed back out.
This part of the trip would be more like regular caching, and did not require driving around at all.  We first did another small powertrail across from the Alien Head, and once that was done headed over to the Alien Head and completed that.
I have to say the Alien Head is a lot of fun, and it left me looking very forward to doing the UFO the next day.

After returning to the hotel the whole group headed out to do a Whereigo, a multi-stage, letterbox hybrid, regular, another earthcache, and a mystery-puzzle in the dark so that we could complete and sign a challenge that required you to find 6 different cache types in one day.  And before calling it quits for the day did one last small powertrail  A great time was had by all, but by this time everyone was super tired from all the walking.
Very much our smallest number day so far, but man it was worth it!  And as the day came to a close all turned in for the night once more, dreaming of one last day on the ET Highway.

Friday, 8 February 2013

ET Highway Day 3: Snow Day

I was the first to awake this day, my chest congestion triggered a coughing attack that caused me to run to the bathroom so as to not awake my father Postie Bear and Just Leafy.
After getting past that, I decided to look out the window to see if the weather reports were correct.  And of course they were.  Laying on the ground was a light dusting of snow, but nothing to be concerned about.
There really wasn't any place open to eat at this particular time of the day, so we hit the Texaco to try and stock up on snacks to tie us through to the evening.  The service station's attendant told us that he could make us breakfast, and he did.  We were a bit skeptical, but it actually turned out to be alright... Almost McDonalds in quality!

Just as we were about to pack up and head out the snow started again, and some of us decided to buy tuques and gloves as well.  The temperatures were very low this morning at about -10 Celsius, later in the day raising to about a flat zero.  So it was a blessing that the Texaco had what was needed.

This turned out to be the hardest day for me health wise, the cold and the thin air at our elevation of over 6000 Feet above sea level really made it hard for me to breathe.  I was coughing and coughing, so I did not assist in the running but tried my best at navigating.  Thank god Cougar Kid had Fisherman's Friends (I could not find one place that sold them) with him, as the Hall's I was forced to buy were no longer doing the trick.  The Fisherman's Friends were just the thing needed, and allowed for deep inhalations and allowed me to speak and call out distances without coughing up a lung.

There were a few caches that were not a part of the series strewn in the mix, and these were a welcomed diversion.  They allowed all of us to get out and do a bit of traditional caching, but they were not hard to to find.

This was an interesting leg of the series, because none of the caches were on a straight and logical path.  Instead they had us heading in one direction for a few hundred, then they would force us to drive 15-20 min in another direction to get another few hundred, and this would continue all day long.  It would continue to snow off and on too, covering the landscape intermittently with a light dusting of snow.  It was beautiful, and filled Just Leafy and I with a sense of awe! 

We did not have to go so hard this day because there was only about 590 left for us to do.  And by the time light started to fade yet again we made our trips goal come true.... We finally got 2000-E.T.

With giant grins on our faces, we setup the tripod and camera once more and grabbed a group shot holding the ammo-can in jubilee.  As we loaded back up into the van, we decided to grab just a few more on the way back to Tonopah.

When we arrived we were greeted with a nice dumping of snow everywhere.  It is interesting how a difference of 500 Feet can have such a drastically different effect on the weather.

After a quick stop in at the motel for a brief clean up it was time for a nice celebratory meal at the Mizpah Hotel, where we were treated to a nice congratulatory dessert (I am sure Just Leafy had something to do with that).

We returned to the Clown Motel and turned in for the night, as tomorrow brought new challenges that had to be over come.

Thursday, 7 February 2013

ET Highway Day 2: Roadrunners, Jack Rabbits, Coyotes and Head Injuries OH MY!!!

We awoke the next day not feeling refreshed at all.  Travelling takes a lot out of you sometimes, and with all my previous lack of sleep I was already a wreak.  We quickly dressed and met the team in the parking lot and headed over to the Sinclair Station for a quick breakfast and lunch supply run.  We were back on the road by 6:45am blasting down the highway to where we ended the day at 0625-ET.  Sunrise in the desert is a beautiful sight, and I am glad I got to see it.
It didn't take us long to blast past Rachel and arrive where we needed to start today.  The goal in mind was to at least reach 800 cache finds, and this meant go now, go hard, and don't stop.

We pushed on just giving it all we had, runners ran faster, navigators were trying to be more accurate at distance count down.  And because of this we had our first... OK second injury (on day one Just Leafy smashed her knee at the very first cache we did), where when Paulboy jumped out of the vehicle he smashed his head on the holy crap handle on the ceiling and knocked himself unconscious.  Just Leafy being our team medic got Paulboy back up and moving very quickly, but he refused to quit running... And so continue running he did!

We sadly at one point had to waste 40min to drive all the way to Tonopah to fuel up.  This doubled up meant that when we got back we would have to no matter what put an extra hour in after sundown to meet our goal.  And once we had the van fueled up, we rushed back to the spot we stopped at and really got back to work.

We cached on and on, seeing new and wondrous vistas.  And we saw so many neat wildlife like Roadrunners, Jack Rabbits, Coyotes and more.  There was even at one point a leg trap set for the coyotes almost right beside a cache.  We used a stick to spring that one, as it would be too dangerous for a unwary cacher who had their eyes on the prize. And we passed the half way mark by doing 1000-E.T.

Soon the light started to fade away, and once again the temperature started to drop.  This night turned out to be the the coldest yet, but we could not stop.  The van's heaters on full we pushed and pushed until we hit 800, but why stop there right!?  We did an extra 41 more (total daily count 848) before we were all just too tired and too cold, and with that slid the van door shut for the night and drove on to Tonopah where we stayed at the Clown Motel (do not go here if you have Coulrophobia, a fear of clowns).
Here we learned that it was supposed to snow that night, which did cause some hearts to sink.
After a quick dinner and clean up we turned in to sleep once more, wondering what tomorrow would bring.

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

ET Highway Day 1: The Start of The E.T. Highway

We roused that day nice and early to get a nice start at 6am to drive to Alamo the only city with fuel along the ET Highway before Tonopah.  We stopped here for breakfast and fuel for the van and found that the nice folks here at the Sinclair also make fresh sandwiches, so we ordered a few of them and were on our way.

We did 5 in this area before the turn off to the ET Highway.  This put Just Leafy and I in position to get our 2000th cache find on 0001-E.T. - GC2ZK7J.  This has been long awaited and planned for find for by us, and boy am I glad to have gotten it done.  It was a great ammo-can painted light green with an alien on it.  We all gathered around and set up the camera on the tripod to take a quick group photo.
With that out of the way we were on our way to get this geo-bucket list done. 

The caching was fast, and furious.  It is unlike anything we have done before!

Really you don't have to put any effort into it at all, the caches are all visible from the road hidden under a little pile of rocks.  You just jump out, open, sign, replace and you are on your way again in seconds.  The faster you go, the more you get done.  To some that may sound monotonous, and to the extent I would agree.  But as a team working together you can take nice breaks and watch the wondrous scenery.

As we cached along we arrived in the little town of Rachel (population 47), the little big mecca of all things extra-terrestrial since it is so close to the mysterious Area 51.  This is the cutest little place with a UFO being towed by a tow-truck, and little cafe/bar that serves fantastic food and is staffed by the most wonderful people (they love cachers)!

But this was not our destination, so after a quick lunch we were on our way again.

We cached on and on and on, and eventually we ran out of light.  We cached as long as we could after, but the temperature drops significantly after nightfall so eventually we had to turn back and head to Alamo once more to check into our motel.  Completely exhausted we all turned in after dinner, and dreamed of the day to come.

We ended day 1 with a total finds of 639 geocaches.  I think we could have found more!  But with the first leg of the trip from Las Vegas to Alamo, shopping and getting over the learning curve, the smaller but impressive count was to be expected.

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

E.T. Highway Adventure: Travel Day & Event

Well the time finally came and gone, but on February 4th Just Leafy and I started our adventure to the E.T. Highway powertrail series.  This adventure started with us leaving Victoria at 8:30pm with a flight to Edmonton.  My health was seriously not at it`s  best, as I was hit with a pretty crazy cold the week before.  Little did I know that the lingering chest congestion would hinder my adventure later on, but blissfully we traveled onward.

After arriving in Edmonton we were put up in hotel compliments of Westjet.  They really messed up a few months ago and cancelled my flight replacing it with one that had a 6 hour layover in Los Angeles, effectively causing me to be late for my own event in Las Vegas.  This would not do, and a comprimise was made with Westjet that would include the above overnight in Edmonton, but would get me to Vegas 6 hours before my event.  And so on February 5th we flew onward in the early morning hours to our destination.

We arrived in Las Vegas without any problems and was very pleased that our bag was the 6th one off the ramp onto the conveyor belt.  We proceeded outside and grabbed a taxi to our hotel, and soon met up with one of our caching companions seekandsail in the lobby of the Excalibur Hotel & Casino.
Since we could not check in yet (too early and rooms not ready) seekandsail let us store our luggage in his room, and we walked over to the food court in the MGM Grand to have a quick breakfast before setting forth and adventuring for a while!

Wanting to show Just Leafy and seekandsail everything I could, I literally wore myself right out.  I had walked myself too far and stretched my energy too thin, and I could not stop coughing.  It almost got to the point that I would not be able to get myself back to the hotel.  But I did, and Leifa and I checked in and retired to our room and presently I passed right out from exhaustion.

The rest of what happened that day resides in Leafy's mind.  But all it consisted of was running around and meeting up with Paulboy and some of the other crew and renting the vehicle.

I awoke at 5:30pm and started to get myself ready for my event.  I felt like crap, and moved slowly about conserving energy.  And soon enough the time came and Leafy and headed out way over to the Luxor Hotel & Casino to where I was hosting the event in the food court.
I have to say Las Vegas cachers are as bad as us BC cachers!  I arrived early to find I was late!! 
It was a great time, over 30 cachers from all over came and attended the event.  Lots of laughs were had, and I got to reconnect with others that I had met at the event I held here in May 2011.  Even Clay4 creator of the E.T. Highway series was in attendance.  Paulboy made him a honorary member of our team and gave him a customized team shirt.

After the event, we all sat and had a quick meeting to discuss the trip.  And soon retired to our rooms to get what we could for sleep before heading out!

Monday, 4 February 2013

And So The Adventure Begins!

Well the time has come, and spirits couldn't be any higher!  Today is the day we embark on a journey filled with laughs, good times, and tons and tons of geocaches.  Our geocaching team called the CIA (Canadian Island Aliens) are heading to Nevada to attempt (to us) an unprecedented number of cache finds!  We are expecting to possibly find 2800 to 3000 geocaches total along the E.T. Highway, surrounding area and Route 66.  It will be go, go, go.. And I am sure we will be pretty bagged (and sick of geocaching) once we complete it all.

Today is more of a get ready and travel day.  We flew out of Victoria to Edmonton and are spending the night at a hotel compliments of Westjet!  The reason of this is that they buggered up and cancelled our original flight, rescheduled us with a completely unacceptable flight with a 6hr lay-over in Los Angeles on Tuesday.  This would have us arrive in Las Vegas 30min late for the event we are hosting at the Luxor Hotel and Casino that very night.  Upon calling them and explaining my situation they came up with this solution, which is way better as it will have us arrive in Vegas at 8am'ish, whereas my original flight would have had me there at 2pm.

So here we are in Edmonton excitedly awaiting our next flight.  Keep checking back to read more about our grand adventure, I am sure we will have tons to tell you about!