My Geocaching Megablog begins on a cold New Year's Day, 2009, staring at a pile of rocks in the Hagerstown City Park. Earlier that day, the first set of caches in the Maryland Municipal League Geocache Trail series had been published.
The MMML GeoTrail consists of approximately 70 or so geocaches distributed in eleven districts throughout the state. A geocoin was being offered to the first 500 cachers to find 2 caches in each of eleven districts. Each cache has a code word (conveniently missing from this picture) and a stamp. The MML distributed a passport book in which you were to stamp the stamp and record the code word from each cache.
The next day I went to seek the next closest cache at a small park in Boonsboro. There was a thin layer of ice on the pond in the park.
The geocaching game has adopted the Harry Potter term "muggle" for people who are not in on the game. Generally speaking you do not want to be observed by muggles playing the game. I was being observed by these beasties, which I call moogles. I retrieved the cache and made them promise not to tell anybody. Two days in and I had found the required two caches in my home district!
The most well-protected picnic pavilion in the state. The cache near here was not part of either the MML series or CAM (which I will write about and you will read about shortly).
The following day, taking advantage of some cold, but sunny, weather, I headed west in the state to finish off the westernmost MML district. When I say "finish," I mean obtain the two caches in the district that were required to obtain the MML geocoin. Later I would find the cache in Hancock, Maryland, the last cache I needed to find to close out my home district.
Make a wish! To find the geocache near here? Maybe!
This is the top of a blend air door actuator for a 1999 Dodge Intrepid.
And this is the bottom.
And this is the burned up guts which caused it to stop working, leading to its ultimate replacement. It also led me to not do too much geocaching over the next couple months, since my Intrepid is the primary Cachemobile, and the malfunction of this actuator basically left my car stuck in the maximum cold setting of my air conditioner. Or in other words, my car had no heat in the middle of winter. This little bugger took me almost four hours to get out of my car. Securing the replacement part is a job I still have not completely finished. That may have proved prescient, since the new actuator may have stopped working. Between work and bad weather, completing (mostly) the repair took me a couple months. I did get the heater and air conditioner working again for a couple months, anyway.
A picture of a dog in a truck. The dog must be camera-shy, because he had his whole head out the window for miles just before I took this picture. This was the best I could manage at the time, seeing as how I was also driving sixty-five (-ish) miles per hour in a perpendicular direction.
After a hiatus of two months, I was on my way to the Baltimore to attempt to find another couple caches in the MML series. One was located in the Inner Harbor. The good news is that I was able to park for free in the parking next to the visitor information center (which is where the cache is located). The bad news is that I got to the visitor center just in time to see them switch the sign from Open to Closed. And the second stage is in the visitor center, you see. Not that it mattered, since luck was not with me and I could not find the first stage.
The other MML cache in Baltimore is at the Enoch Pratt library, where this bust of Edgar Allen Poe resides. An observant security guard thwarted my attempt to look inconspicuous and directed me toward the first stage of the cache. The second stage was actually in the library. Fortunately, I still had about 15 minutes before closing time here.
If not for the guard, I probably would have still been searching after the library closed, too. That might have been a slightly better time to do it, since near closing time there are tons of people. I was not able to replace the first stage because of all of those people, so I headed to the church across the street to kill some time.
There was some impressive artwork inside.
Apparently this was painted just as it was starting to rain.
The architecture in here was really pretty cool.
To get that picture, I had to put my camera between these pews on the floor, pointing straight up. Hopefully it did not disturb the people in the pews too much. I don't think it did. Nobody was really paying attention to me in here.
But it gets better. This church has a crypt!
Unfortunately, I did not have time to explore the crypt because my parking meter was running out of time.
I exited the church. The front of the library was now mostly vacant. I replaced the cache and was on my way to the next in Bel Air, Maryland. Unfortunately, I was not able to find that one, and had to spend some extra time looking there.
That meant I arrived in Aberdeen later than I had planned. This was still winter, so the days were pretty short. Think it can't get worse than a cache outside a sewage plant?
How about having to go behind the oil recycling shed at the wastewater treatment facility? There is small wooded area behind the shed, not a bad spot for a cache, actually, but there was some trash there. Before I signed the log book, I set my GPS device down on the ground. I got back to my car and then realized that I had walked off without it. Thankfully I needed my GPS device to get to the next cache. If this had been my last cache of the day, which it was supposed to be, I might well have driven off without it. That would have been so bad! But whew! It worked out OK! I was able to make my way back to the cache site without it (it was dark!) and fetch it.
Unfortunately, that was another delay, and I had to find another cache in this district--or I had to come back to it. And I did not want to do that. So I parked my car next to this one . . . after determining that it was unoccupied! Not easy to do--it was sitting back in the shadows near the town hall.
The town hall. The cache was located here. I despaired somewhat when I was following my GPS device to the coordinates, but the cache was located in a convenient spot. Another district was finished! But it was late and I had a drive to get back home.
I was tired the next day, just like this sleeping squirrel . . . . Anyway, I was tired, so I just did some caching around town instead of heading off somewhere else in the state. My friend Dan was along with me while I was searching for caches on this day. He found the cache near the squirrel. I, umm, found the squirrel.
I took the next weekend off and then the following weekend, caches in the Cache Across Maryland 2009 series were published. In CAM, the object is to find ten or eleven caches across the state, each of which has a letter in it that enables you to decode the coordinates to a picnic held somewhere in the state. Now instead of having just one series that has me running over the state to collect caches, I have two. But hey, I have two cars now, so I guess that makes sense. Right?
A log cabin in the Fort Frederick state park, but outside the fort. I took the picture from inside the wall of the fort.
Having rounded out March, the Cachemobile was back in business, I think. So the first weekend of April I headed back east to find some more caches. But I didn't start at the crack of dawn, exactly. It was already approaching sunset here when I arrived at this park. But hey, dawn to dusk is technically earlier and later than sunrise to sunset, so I was in business!
I wound up having to ignore these signs. Or at least some of them.
I noticed this sign. Umm. And that was about it. I didn't photoshop this. And there's not anything on it that was too faint to read. It just said "notice." So I did.
And here's what we're dodging the dangerous cliffs to find.
My late start meant I was late getting to Mount Aventine in Chapman State Park.
Hmm. You might be able to surmise from the blackness behind this sign that sunset wasn't quite going to work for me as a cutoff.
Ah. That's better.
I took this picture at night, using maximum exposure settings. Then I used GIMP to brighten it up some more. This was a little bit creepy, a little bit cool, and more than a little bit unnerving until I was sure it--and the nearby kennels--were empty. I did not know that this house and another I had encountered earlier were back here. Nobody seemed to be home in either of them. Or maybe they were in bed rather than creeping around the property in moonlight. Either way, I was able to retrieve the cache without disturbing anybody. Or anything.
The next weekend, this is what I woke up to. There were five cop cars near my house. I do not know what they were expecting to come down the tracks, but my guess is they weren't waiting on a train. I never did hear who or what they were after.
My friend Dan has had a few days off work here recently, so he has been able to join me on some of my home-based geocaching (as opposed to traveling around all over the state invading parks at night--that I get to do by myself!). This is a picture of Dan with the cache . . . a jalapeno . . . on a fence.
There was a cache near this silo. That's a pretty big soccer ball on the side of that thing.
I just took this random picture of the soccer field because I was there (and it was, too). The interesting thing is how the focal point is way off to the left. Don't know how that happened.
Here is another tall thing by a cache.
A geocache smiley. I'll bet you non-geocaching types wouldn't expect to see a smiley face on the back of a guard rail. But there you go. It's sort of an X-marks-the-spot thing for geocaching.
Another day of caching, this time before heading down to D.C. I got to this park around 7:30 a.m. On a Saturday. This is in Gaithersburg? Well, yes, it is.
A goose, enjoying the park.
Maybe we should try putting this sign on the fence along the border with Mexico . . . . This was just a cosntruction site in downtown Rockville.
This pink tree is also in downtown Rockville!
Later, in another park, I searched out this cache. Size is hard to judge in some pictures. Just trust me, you have to be looking for that little bison tube to find it. I had to hustle off to D.C. after finding this one!
I did some more caching on my way back from D.C. This is one cache that is not going to disappear! It's next to a police office, and the location is on CCTV!
I chased away a teenage couple up to no good in this caboose. I would have liked to have found the cache sooner, too! But at least I found it. This was the Bladensburg MML cache site.
If you see this, you might think, oh, what a nice sunset in Bladensburg. I think: I am running out of daylight! Actually, this one was the last cache I found on that day. I've decided to break up the Megablog into three parts. This ends Part I.
Sunday, June 28, 2009