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Monday, December 15th, 2014

6:42 pm - 12-13-14 event, South Jersey, Croydon/Bristol
On Saturday, I went to the "12-13-14" event in a strip mall parking lot in Deptford. We had donuts and conversation. Unfortanately, much of the conversation was griping about the impending NJ State Parks policy on geocaches, which is too restrictive (according to nearly every NJ geocacher I've spoken with) and does not grandfather existing caches. This will result in probably thousands of geocaches getting archived for not falling within the new rules. Many classic geocaches, including the NJ's first cache (Gerbil Cache in Ramapo Reservation), will not qualify and it'll be a shame to see those go. I'm not looking forward to seeing how this will play out and I think it'll be a disaster, but I can't do anything about it anyway.

The other interesting activity that we did at the event was work on the "Bring A Friend (Or Two)" geocache. This is a special cache requiring an initial step with smartphones to obtain directions to the cache container. This step is for at least 3 people to gather at the designated spot and visit the GeoMob website with location-enabled web browsers. Once the GeoMob website detects that at least 3 devices are connected, it spits out the info. Anyway, we got the info and then I went to the final cache site with my group. (Once we had the info though, we could've gone to the cache site individually but visiting the cache in a group would be keeping in the spirit of the cache.) It was fun and a bit different from the usual.

On Sunday, I went geocaching in Northeast Philadelphia and Eastern Bucks County, in Croydon, Bristol, and Falls Township. I actually seemed to have picked some of the most challenging geocaches for the day's adventure, so that was exciting. "Garysaurus?", "Fresh Cache", and "Indian Creek Park Cache" were all placed in such a way that even though you could plainly see the cache, retrieval required some out-of-the-box thinking. Fortunately, I had or could find the tools I needed. Actually, in the case of "Garysaurus", my car was the tool. I parked directly under the cache and climbed up on the hood to get just enough height to get the cache. (No idea what people passing by on Route 13 thought when they saw me do that!) "Where I Go in Bristol, PA" is a Wherigo cache where one has to do a number puzzle with the Wherigo app in the field to get the coordinates. "Don't Get On The Bus" was in a terrible spot and it was obvious why many people, including myself, gave up on this cache previously. It's at an overflowing trash can by a bus stop. I was lucky this time that I happened to touch the cache almost right away because, even with gloves, I was not going to run my hands all over the trash can holder.

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Monday, December 8th, 2014

5:17 pm - Phoenixville and Florence
Saturday was a rainy day, so I didn't plan on going out too far. Since most of the caches I planned to get were in Phoenixville and Charlestown, it was a good opportunity to pick up "13 Superstitions: Unlucky #13 and Friday the 13th!" along the way. It's the final cache in the "13 Superstitions" series and it was a good one. The combination lock on this one used codes from the other 12 caches. The most interesting cache site of the day was at "The Horizontal Trail". It's pretty neat that in the middle of Nantmeal Woods, there are musical instruments.

For Sunday, I planned to head up to the "Fall Get Together 2014" geocaching event in Florence. On the way up, I scooped up geocaches in West Deptford, Willingboro, and other towns along the I-295 / US-130 corridor, including some caches that I missed on previous trips. "Just Lying There Also", for instance, was tough to see earlier in the year but now that the leaves are off, it was easy to spot. Most of the woods and bush cache hides seemed easier this time of year.

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Tuesday, December 2nd, 2014

10:21 pm - Thanksgiving weekend in Delmarva Peninsula, Doylestown
Since I had a 4-day weekend and there were two events towards the south that I could attend, I decided to take a 3-day trip to the Salisbury area as a mini vacation. On Thursday, I went straight down route 13 and went past Salisbury to Princess Anne and Pocomoke City, which were areas that were new to me. There were lots of geocaches down that way, although those were mostly clustered around the major towns with miles of open space in between. Generally, the area was flat and rural with wide-open spaces. I thought I might have trouble finding dinner on Thanksgiving Day but to my surprise, Ruby Tuesday in Pocomoke City was open. In retrospect, I needn't have worried. It's not really the everything-is-closed holiday it once was and many businesses have extended Black Friday shopping into Thursday evening.

On Friday, I went to the Light in the Darkness geocaching event at an Irish pub in Salisbury. It was a small event but it was good and I got to try a shepherd's pie as well. One common thread throughout the 3 days was the "WGD" cache series. These are from the Wicomico Geocache Dash annual events, which I haven't been to. I'm glad they left these caches out the rest of the year, and even for multiple years after, for everyone else to find.

On Saturday, I ventured to the rural areas (around Hebron and Quantico) northwest of Salisbury before returning to Salisbury to finish the caches in Pemberton Park. In the evening, I headed back north to Dover to attend the 14th Central DE Furbowl. It was only a short visit though because I had to continue my journey home before it got too late.

Sunday was back to a standard geocaching trip to Bucks County. I went to Abington, Horsham, Warrington, Doylestown, New Britain, and Jenkintown. There were a few surprises like Graeme Park, a former governor's residence and interesting stone house / museum that I'd never noticed before because it was set back from the main road. There was also this funny sign. (which is actually for a laundry / cleaning service) I also finally finished the caches around Bradford Reservoir, which I'd saved for when the weather is cooler since most of the walk is across an area with no shade.

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Monday, November 24th, 2014

1:54 am - Lower Gwynedd and Buena
On Saturday, I went to Gwynedd, Telford, Souderton and Montgomeryville because once again, the Cache Factory area had new geocaches! Mostly though, I wanted to hit that area before a snowstorm came and made the area difficult for geocaching until Spring. The first six caches were at Gwynedd Nature Preserve. It's a nice preserve, with wide trails, that apparently was only recently discovered by active cache placers. I also took a hike on the Green Ribbon Trail, which runs next to the Wissahickon Creek. Then I went for 5 caches of the 50 States series. These were replacement caches since I'm sure I've already finished the entire series. And finally, I erased 3 DNFs. "Two Presidents and a Park" was in a spot I hadn't thought of checking the last time because it seemed way too close to the building. "Third Time's the Charm" was actually missing the previous time. (Maybe it should be "Fourth Time" now? :) ) And "Geo R Us" might have shifted, since I was sure I checked that spot the last time.

Sunday's goal was to hit the Bruno Melini and Blackwater Pond Parks Cache Trail (B & B Trail series) in Buena Township in South Jersey. The two parts of this cache trail couldn't be more different. The portion running through Blackwater Pond Park was quite rough, thorny in some areas, and even had a broken bridge, which thankfully one did not have to cross. (although I did that carefully anyway because it looked like the other side had a better view for the photo :) ) The other part of the trail, which runs through town, was asphalt and fairly easy. Of course, I took the opportunity to get a few more geocaches on the way to and from Buena. "A Stream Runs Through It" was a nice walk along the Salem River on the residential side of Woodstown, which I never see because usually, I just pass through the town on Route 40.

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Tuesday, November 18th, 2014

1:36 am - MEtroGAthering
This weekend, I was in North Jersey for MEtroGAthering, my first Mega-Event cache. A Mega-Event is a geocaching event with more than 500 attendees. The main event was on Saturday but since there was another event, the "Pre-Metro Gathering Mega Meet and Greet" at the Brundage Park pavilion in Randolph, on Friday evening, I decided to go up on Friday and stay overnight. Then I added another overnight to make it a full weekend mini-vacation.

One new thing that came along with the MEtroGAthering was a set of 10 lab caches. I got 9 of those on Friday but waited until Saturday for the 10th because it was available only at the event. The lab caches involve navigating to the given coordinates and finding a piece of info to enter at the lab cache website to log it. In my mind though, these are the same as virtual caches, except with automated verification, so perhaps Groundspeak should just reverse their decision not to publish any more virtual caches.

The mega-event itself was rather interesting. There were over 600 attendees, including a lot of geocachers I knew from Delaware, Pennsylvania (as far away as Reading), Central and North Jersey, and the NYC area. Despite the large number of people, it didn't seem all that crowded because we were pretty dispersed in an open area and Warinanco Park had lots of room to spare. There was a vendor village with various vendors, activities, and games operating throughout the event. Signal the Frog, the geocaching mascot, was there too. Of course, the best part was roaming around Warinanco Park in groups to find the 19 geocaches that were placed in the park for the event. I hiked out from the main event area with jbadger and over the course of the day, we ran into other groups of cachers at pretty much every cache site.

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Monday, November 10th, 2014

5:33 pm - DE Furbowl 55, Cecil, Pottstown North
On Saturday, I only went for geocaches around Newark, Hockessin, and Cecil County because I was planning to attend DE Furbowl 55 that evening. Actually, there were quite a number of local geocaches by this time because I hadn't been going geocaching on weekdays after work because of the earlier sunsets. I also noticed that some new geocachers have been busy placing caches around North East and Rising Sun, which is good because it keeps the Cecil County area fresh.

In the evening, I had an early dinner and then went to AMF Prices Corner for Furbowl. The place was busy! It'd been 11 months since my last Furbowl and my understanding is attendance is regularly in the triple digits now. I wore the Rakket Raccoon fursuit this time. It was a fun time, although I didn't stay all the way to the end because I had to prepare for the next day.

On Sunday, my first destination was Uwchlan to get more of the "13 Superstitions" series. It was a bummer though that the final 13th cache was under repair, but at least I got the required codes from the first 12 of those. There were some rather creative caches in this series, among them, the black cat and the clump of clover. Thank goodness the latter wasn't too deep in the bush or it may have been tough to find! After that, I went farther north to Nantmeal and Douglassville. Monocacy Hill was surprisingly packed. I wasn't able to get a proper parking space in the main area so I only got the two closest geocaches that I could access from roadside parking near a side entrance. And finally, I went way north to Bally for the "Stove Road" series of caches. The "road" here is an old woods road that's rocky, somewhat overgrown, and barely discernible in some spots, but the 4 caches were pretty good and worth negotiating the terrain to get to.

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Wednesday, November 5th, 2014

1:17 am - Furpocalypse 2014
This weekend, I was in Connecticut for Furpocalypse. From all appearances though, it might as well have been FurFright Redux 2014. Same hotel, same events, same charity... heck, even some of the prizes and goodies from the games and contests still say "FurFright"! For their first year, it's fine to ride on FurFright's momentum but I hope they'll eventually try new things and remake the con in their own vision. For the most part, I had a good time, which is hard to explain since it's pretty much the same con as last year. It could be that a slight change in the mood made all the difference. Last year, I had the impression that folks were a tad cold and distant but there was none of that this year. The only real issue I encountered this year was one of the hotel guests (not a con attendee) was very rude but I never saw him again after Thursday, so good riddance.

- Friday evening, I got back from dinner in time to join the ice cream and trivia hour. I was surprised that my group won this time. One of the prizes was the quizmaster's fake hair, which I used later at the dance.
- I was at the Saturday Morning Cartoons panel when the fire alarm started, so everyone had to wait outside in the cold. I was wearing my fleece bat pajamas at the time, so it wasn't too bad. Also, at least the alarm wasn't at 4am like FurFright 2 years ago.
- Fursuit parade on Saturday was indoors with the final photoshoot in the ballroom instead of outside, because of the rain.
- Since I enjoyed the sewing panel at FAU, I attended one again at Furpocalypse. This time, I made a squeaky toy.
- Went to the Big Gulp Party on Saturday evening. Thanks to dalesql for hosting.
- Fursuit games on Sunday: First game was a relay race where we went in pairs and one fursuiter would push the other around the course on a dolly. Second game was charades. And the last game was the figure-eight musical chairs. (a FurFright original) I was on the red team (Team Ebola) and we got second place.
- I skipped the closing ceremony in favor of a little geocaching spree around Newington followed by dinner. (Goldburger at Goldburgers) I returned in time for the dead dog party and a bit of pizza. Originally, there was a second fursuit parade scheduled for Sunday night but it had been canceled by the con. We got a bunch of fursuiters together and paraded anyway, which was hilarious since no one expected it.

Also, there was geocaching. Connecticut does not have as high a cache density as the Philly area but I still found quite a number. I focused on the Milford, West Haven and Prospect Beach areas (Date Night, WOOF Series) on the way to the con. During the con, I dashed out for mini caching sprees in Berlin and Newington. On the way home, since I had an errand to run in Middletown, I got a few there and a bunch more in Trumbull (America's Pastime series) on the way home. There was some good hiking, although I think fall colors were already past the peak by that time.

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Tuesday, October 28th, 2014

12:33 am - Town of Potts and beyond
Last weekend, I thought the area north of Pottstown was interesting, so this weekend I continued exploring further. Upper Pottsgrove seems to have a number of parks that are essentially strips of land between houses, so if there's a geocache, you know there's only one way to get there. "Beaufort's Run Sanctuary" is a good example of that. With all the ornaments and knick-knacks and padre statue, it looks more like someone's yard than a wildlife sanctuary! After that, I went farther north to Barto to the Padre Pio Center, where Padre Raffaele stands. I was surprised that they permitted a geocache right in the shrine area. It was hanging in a rather obvious manner on a tree and apparently, it was the groundskeeper's idea to put it there. The weirdest geocache of the day was "Gleep and Gloop". When I found the container, I saw that it was full of goop and I had to stick a finger in to get the log out. What a novelty.

On Sunday, I started with the stretch between Morgantown and Flying Hills, where there were a few puzzle caches that I'd solved. After that, I went to Robeson and the Birdsboro Reservoir Area. This is a neat area for a walk because the path is the abandoned Route 82, which reminds me of the abandoned turnpike, except that it's smaller. It's also a fairly easy walk as long as one takes care not to fall into parts of the road that have collapsed away. (geocaches: "Old 82 Parking", "Lonely Road", "Presidential Cache- Van Buren") After that, I went to downtown Birdsboro to see another collapsing structure, the old Route 345 bridge, which they are in the process of tearing down. ("Under Destruction" geocache nearby.)

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Monday, October 20th, 2014

9:48 pm - Phoenixville, Spring City, Pottstown and more
I'm not even sure what to call this area that straddles the Chester/Montgomery county line (perhaps the Schuylkill River corridor), but I hadn't been there in a while so this weekend was a good time to return. On Saturday, I started in Exton and continued through Uwchlan, Chester Springs, Spring City, Royersford, Oaks, and nabbed one last cache in King of Prussia, just because it was on the way to dinner. This area has a fair number of puzzle caches but I also went for a longish hike in Marsh Creek State Park for the two MCSP caches. The trail system there is twisty and confusing but I figured out the main approaches by watching where other people in the park were going. "Zeder" was in a rather interesting area, a hedge maze. I think it would've been better to go for that during the summer though, because the hedge had started to winter and I could see right through the bushes.

On Sunday, I hit Phoenixville and Pottstown. In Pottstown, I took a walk on one side of the Schuylkill River and then headed into town to walk the trail on the other side of the river. Interestingly, the town side had more challenging geocaches. "Big Buffalo", for instance, was in a tree hole that was too high to reach. After thinking about the problem for a bit, I made a pile of tree branches at the base so I could step up and get it. I wonder if the tree has grown a bit since the cache was placed. There is no other hole on this tree and only the most recent logs for this cache mention climbing or having to bring a tall person. I was close to running out of caches in Pottstown, so after that, I headed farther north to New Berlinville and Barto. I'll have to explore those areas on future trips.

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Monday, October 13th, 2014

5:44 pm - Montgomery and Bucks County, Rainy Day Puzzle Caches
Saturday was a rainy day, so I decided to do some puzzle caches around Norristown and Conshohocken. These were puzzles that I'd worked on at home. The actual cache finds were pretty easy, so I could do those while dodging raindrops. Well, not all were easy. "A Million Little Fibers" required a careful search among rocks. Then I was surprised to find a tiny snake sheltering under a rock just inches away from the cache. "Sculpture Garden" was another interesting one. It's a Wherigo tour of a sculpture trail in Plymouth Township.

The weather was better on Sunday, so I went farther north to Souderton, Perkasie, Plumstead, and Doylestown. I took a stab at some of the puzzle caches up that way too but I didn't have as many of those solved. "The Arboretum" was an interesting field puzzle. It's a walk around a small arboretum in Hatfield to get information from tree identification signs to derive the final coordinates. The treat of the day was a visit to the Doylestown Cultural District at night for one last (well, actually second last) cache before dinner. The building near the art museum was beautifully lit.

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Monday, October 6th, 2014

12:54 pm - Lancaster LXVIII Pirates Series, Montgomery County
On Saturday, I headed out to Lancaster for the Pirates geocache series. This is another themed series where you have to find a set of caches to get information for the final cache. One of the caches had a problem but I didn't really need its part of the final coordinates since I could infer the latitude degrees from the general area. So I found the treasure chest! Of course, I also got some geocaches in Upper Leacock and Ephrata along the way since I didn't cover that area on my previous trips this year. This being Lancaster County, there was ample opportunity to view cows and covered bridges.

Sunday was a trip to Montgomery County to do some recent geocaches. I also retried some caches with which I had trouble during the summer because of thick vegetation. "Binary Bytes" was an example of that. Although it is a puzzle cache, the cache hide is tougher than the puzzle. The bush still had plenty of leaves but in early autumn, it had thinned out just enough for me to see the cache. "Everyone's Favorite Breakfast Pastry" was another one that was tough in the summer, not so much for vegetation but for ticks, as other geocachers have noted in their online logs. But I think a few nights with frost have brought them down to a minimum. I had no trouble anyway.

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Monday, September 29th, 2014

4:19 pm - FSC 2014
This weekend was the opening of the First State Challenge, the annual state-wide geocaching challenge. The rules have been tweaked a bit. This year, to qualify for the prize, one has to find 7 out of 9 caches in each region (North, Central, and South). Beyond the challenge, it's a chance to learn more about the state as each cache description contains a write-up of either the history or geography of the location. There were a few places I'd never seen before, such as Carey's Camp, a church camp meeting site in Millsboro, and the Weldin ruins. Also rather interesting was "FSC-2014 Middletown Dead Poets", which takes you to two filming locations of Dead Poet's Society, a Robin Williams movie.

I finished most of the FSC on Saturday and only needed 3 more caches from the western side of Sussex County, which I didn't have time to cover. I got those on Sunday and actually finished the remaining two I didn't need because I wanted to see those locations. Ran into many of the local geocachers along the way since everyone was going for these caches the same weekend. After finishing the challenge, I still had time so since I was already in the southeastern corner of the state, I went for more caches in Fenwick Island and Ocean City. That's one area I rarely get to since it's pretty far from home.

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Tuesday, September 23rd, 2014

3:42 pm - Lancaster LXV, LXVI, LXVII - Birthday trip, Elizabethtown
Took the day off from work on Thursday because it was my birthday. After getting my free Grand Slam at Denny's, I headed over to Lancaster County. I thought it would be nice for a change of pace to take a stab at some geocaches that incorporate tours of the area. "E-Town Mural Trail - History in Pictures" was the perfect example. It was a visit to some murals and historic sites around Elizabethtown, followed by the final geocache at the town library. It's a fake book, which of course was placed in the non-circulating reference books section at the library. The tour was actually to gather information for both the final coordinates and the Dewey decimal number of the book. I got some of the digits wrong but was still able to figure it out. All in all, it was an entertaining experience. I also completed "Rudolf goes down in History....The Reindeer Series", a cache series I'd been working on and off for four years! Again, I didn't have all the information but was able to figure it out. The final cache for this was a bit of an adventure, with an old railroad bridge with gaps in the planks and an overgrown railbed to deal with. The cache description says "The rest of the way is a piece of cake" but that was written four years ago before the bushes grew up.

On Saturday, I returned to the Elizabethtown area. This time, I went for the series of caches along the Conewago Trail and the Lebanon Valley Rail Trail, which are connected. Most of the "Trail Watcher" caches along this trail are animals, such as the rabbit, dragon, and lizard. However, there were also a bowling ball (not part of the same series but still unusual) and an antique GPS. I also finally was able to find the caches I'd driven by so many times because those were close to the Pennsylvania Turnpike. The rail trail, in fact, goes under the turnpike.

Sunday was another trip to the Elizabethtown area, to the Northwest Lancaster County River Trail in Conoy. I tackled the "LOST on the NW" series of caches, which were all along the river trail. It was 3 miles of hiking out to the end of the trail, where it looked like there was construction to continue building the trail under the railroad bridge, and 3 miles back. Most of those were quite easy, except "LOST on the NW: I am King of the World". A big tree had fallen over that one, so I had to climb around the top and bottom of the rock wall and through some bushes from a few different directions in the course of searching for it. Dinner was a visit to Hoss's in Elizabethtown. It's one of those places where one can have ice cream and French onion soup at the same time and dress up fruit with peanut butter fudge because all those items are at the salad bar!

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Monday, September 15th, 2014

4:28 pm - LVGC Breakfast, Lancaster LXIV
Saturday morning was the LVGC Breakfast geocaching event at Borderline in Bethlehem. This was a pretty last-minute plan since I didn't notice the event in the list until just two days prior. It was a rainy day, so I opted not to hike one of the Lehigh Valley rail trails afterwards. There were still many geocaches around Bethlehem, Hellertown, and Springtown that were one-offs and not too far from parking, so I could hurry back if the rain picked up. The only disappointment in this area is some geocaches were never maintained, even after getting ruined over the winter. I replaced one of the caches since it had been confirmed missing by others and I knew the hiding style.

Sunday was another trip to Lancaster, this time covering the areas north of US-30 in Manheim, Lititz, and Warwick. Mostly, those were geocaches placed for previous monthly events (which I did not attend because those were on weekdays) and a new World War II puzzle series. In contrast to Saturday, the weather was great for walking around and I continued seeking a set of geocaches along a rail trail in Manheim that I started months ago. Also came across a curious structure, a fort-like stone wall that surrounds a drain near a park and library that aren't actually that old. But this is Lancaster, so if a castle can be a prison (see last weekend's entry), then a fort can be a drain. :)

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Monday, September 8th, 2014

6:11 pm - Lancaster LXII and LXIII, LOST Art
I hadn't been to Lancaster since April, so I figured it was time to find the new caches placed since my last trip. Even if it rained in the afternoon, all in all, it was a pleasant day. I also took a look at the castle-like Lancaster County Prison, even though it wasn't a geocache site. It's still in use today and looks pretty much the way it did when it was built in 1851 for $102,000.

That night, I noticed that a series of 46 puzzle caches had been published in southern Lancaster. The cache icons spell out the word LOST on the map but the actual locations are all along the Enola Low Grade Trail between Martic and Pequea. It's yet another example of Geo Art, the latest fad in power trails. :) Anyway, it was too much manual work and all the puzzles were similar, so I wrote programs to solve the puzzles and convert the answers to coordinates. On Sunday, I started the hike at the east end of the series and worked my way towards Martic, moving my car twice. The only one in the series I couldn't find was #5. Most of the caches were easy, although there were a few that I considered tricky. After that, I finished a few more geocaches around the area before returning home.

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