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Wednesday, November 2nd, 2016

3:59 pm - Metro Gathering 2016
This weekend, I went to Northern New Jersey for Metro Gathering 2016, a geocaching mega event. (A mega-event is an event with at least 500 attendees.) Just like the previous year, there was an overlap between a furry con and this mega event. Last year though, FA United and Metro Gathering were both in the same general area so I was able to attend both. That's not possible this year, since Furpocalypse, the furry con happening this weekend, is much farther away in Connecticut. I had to pick one and Metro Gathering was it because I've already had enough furry cons this year. Hopefully next year, there won't be an event conflict.

There were actually two events. The "Pre~Metro Gathering Mega Meet and Greet" was held the night before at the Mt. Allamuchy Scout Reservation. It was a pot-luck dinner, with the addition of Halloween candy and some spooky food items. Saturday was the day of the main event at Waterloo Village. Since it's the Halloween weekend they had a "haunted village" theme. The sign-in log was a skeleton. There was a spider lair, a bat cache, and a werewolf, among other things. It was also an opportunity to see some interesting gadget caches that were on display. Also, a large bison tube was at the entrance. After finishing the caches in the village and chatting with some of my friends, I went for a hike along the Morris Canal Greenway and in Stephens State Park to get a series of caches that was placed for the event. All in all, it was quite a day!

Aside from attending the pre-mega and mega events, I also took the opportunity to find caches around Hackettstown, Rockaway, Dover, Denville, Ledgewood, Wharton, Succasunna, and Roxbury. Cache sites ranged from suburban and downtown areas to fishing areas and streams in the countryside. In addition, I hit the Bridgewater / South Plainfield / Piscataway area both on the way there and on the way home.

The caches...Collapse )

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Tuesday, October 25th, 2016

1:44 am - Perry Hall again, Northeast Philly
Another week goes by and another group of geocaches appear in the Perry Hall area. So on Saturday, I went for those. Also went a bit farther to Lutherville, Hunt Valley, and Jacksonville, where at least a few geocaches were outside of the urban sprawl, for a change of pace. Placing geocaches high up on lamp posts and signs is becoming a trend in the area. "Wrong Way, SubPar" and "Snowplowing the ManBear" were both placed that way. Fortunately, I didn't need a ladder this time. With a bit of work, I was able to get both of those down with a walking stick. "Key Lime Pie" was the best cache of the day. It's a two-stage multicache in which one has to find the lime, with attached key, and take the lime over to the pie to unlock it.

Sunday's trip was to Philadelphia, Northeast Philadelphia, and then Bensalem, Langhorne, and Levittown. It's not my favorite area but enough time has passed that there are lots of new caches around. First, I made a visit to Pier 68, one of the piers in the city that has been turned into a park. Later, there was an ampersand bench at another river view. The Veterans Memorial Park was nice too.

The problem with the Levittown / Oxford Valley area appears to be cache theft. I read the cache logs and noticed a number of notes about caches getting stolen and replaced a bunch of times. I tried to find a bunch of geocaches in that area anyway. Some were still there but I had no idea about the others. I logged my DNFs and by the next day, I saw that the cache owner had archived some of the missing caches. This is not the first time I've seen this problem. Sadly, nothing much can be done except wait for the cache thief to get tired of stealing caches. Thankfully, it seems to be fairly localized to a small area.

The caches...Collapse )

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Monday, October 17th, 2016

6:10 pm - Perry Hall again, Eagleville, Ambler, Willow Grove
Last weekend, I could see the "Just An LPC Cache" geocache in Perry Hall but couldn't retrieve it because it was very high up on a lamp post. On Saturday, I returned with a ladder. It was still somewhat out of reach but with a walking stick, I was able to slowly slide it down until I could get it.

Sunday's trip was to Eagleville, Skippack, Ambler, Horsham, Willow Grove, and Abington to get most of the recently placed geocaches in the "cache factory" area. One series of geocaches was all about the phobias: Swinophobia, Taurophobia, Musophobia, and Chiroptophobia, which would be the fear of pigs, cows, mice/rats, and bats, respectively. The last one had an interesting placement. The "bat cave" was a hollow tree and one had to crawl into a tree hole at the base and stand up inside the tree to retrieve the bat. So it was essential to bring a flashlight for this one. The last interesting find of the day was a dragon sculpture in the middle of the woods of High School Park in Cheltenham.

The caches...Collapse )

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Tuesday, October 11th, 2016

2:11 am - White Marsh, Pottstown Earthcache
It rained almost the whole day on Saturday but geocaches around the shopping and residential areas in White Marsh and Perry Hall were still doable without getting too messy. Not all mall parking lot geocaches are easy though. There were at least 3 for which I'll have to return with a ladder. One was about 30 feet up a lamp post and two more were high up in trees. Among the ones I did get, "It's all connected" was the most unusual cache container. It's tricky but the dead giveaway was it wasn't part of the fence on which it was hooked.

Sunday was International Earthcache Day. Rather than finding a physical cache container, you log an earthcache by visiting a site and answering some questions about the geology of that location. I knew there was an earthcache near Pottstown that I hadn't done, so I went to Ringing Rocks Park. The boulders in this area have an interesting characteristic. When struck with a hammer, some of them will produce a ringing sound like a bell. Not all the rocks rang though. I had better results near the center of the rock field and with some of the flatter slab-like boulders. The unusual cache of the day was Message in a Bottle. I thought that was pretty neat. I'd be concerned about a fragile glass container out in the woods, but the cache was located in a safe enclosed spot in a gazebo so hopefully it'll last.

The caches...Collapse )

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Tuesday, October 4th, 2016

12:28 pm - FSC completion
Took another two trips to Southern Delaware to finish the First State Challenge. I actually only needed 8 geocaches to qualify, so it may have been possible to get them all in a day. But I thought it would be a better idea to take my time and get some of the other geocaches and Munzees down that way and spread it out over the weekend.

So Saturday's trip was to the western side of Sussex County: Bridgeville, Seaford, Trap Pond and Dagsboro. There were some well-crafted caches, such as this birdhouse geocache, which looks like one of the nearby church buildings. I also saw the gratitude boxcar, a gift from the French for aid during World War II. And there was the No Trespassing House, which is probably not a tour site. :)

Sunday's trip was down the east side of Sussex County to Lewes, Rehoboth Beach, Dewey Beach, and Ocean View, with stops at Cape Henlopen State Park, the Wolfe House, and the Indian River Lifesaving Station. The last cache of the FSC was at James Farm in Ocean View. While I was there, I also found "FSC-2015 James Farm" from last year's FSC. I skipped that one last year because I didn't need all the caches to qualify for challenge completion but it's good to finally complete that set too. Last stop of the day before dinner was a visit to the Rehoboth Beach boardwalk. It's the off-season but there were still some stores and restaurants open. The advantages of visiting now are parking is free and the town is a lot less crowded.

The caches...Collapse )

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Monday, September 26th, 2016

3:58 pm - Deep South Jersey and FSC start
The First State Challenge geocaches were released early Saturday morning. I decided not to go for those right away and instead went to South Jersey to get some of those geocaches that have been piling up over the summer months. (I'd been avoiding that area because of the chigger infestation problem, although I'm not really sure how many of those cache sites are actually in the problem zone.) Anyway, this trip took me through Salem, Alloway, Stow Neck, Bridgeton, Vineland, Buena, and Millville. Most of the cache sites, including the TWD series, were at cemeteries, but there was one hidden on a tractor!

On Sunday, I started doing the FSC caches in Newark, Bear, Smyrna, and Dover. I wasn't interested in qualifying this year so I took my time and got 6 out of the required 10 in Northern DE and 2 in Southern DE, mixing it up with some non-FSC geocaches along the way. All the caches were small or regular sized and some were nicely decorated. There were some FSC cache sites that were new to me, like the DASEF brontosaurus, but I think some, like the concrete pier ruins at Port Mahon, were repeated from previous years. "Wilson Meets Holly" was a cache that I was glad to finally find. It's in a residential area very close to someone's garage, so I was wary about searching for it. But as soon as I found out that the neighbor knew about the cache, it wasn't a problem. He was outside doing some yardwork, so I asked him about the cache. He told me which side of the group of trees it was on and then I saw it in a few seconds. I'm so glad some of the locals are helpful.

The caches...Collapse )

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Tuesday, September 20th, 2016

11:34 pm - Birthday weekend - New London, Rising Sun, Conowingo, Royersford, Pottstown, Boyertown
My birthday was on a Sunday this year, so I didn't take a day off from work for that. Still it was a packed weekend. Saturday's trip was relatively local because I wanted to use the Golden Corral coupon and the only convenient Golden Corral location was not far away in Elkton. The day started with the Pokemon No geocache, a funny one in New Castle Battery Park, near home. The cache owner was just poking fun at the hordes of Pokemon Go players recently in Battery Park. To be honest though, I really haven't seen too much of that activity myself. There are small groups of players here and there but that's about it. Then I went to New London to get a set of new caches, and then to Rising Sun. Then I did a 2-mile hike on the northwest side of the Conowingo Dam. That was a lot of walking in hilly terrain but well worth doing for a set of classic cache hides that were all ammo cans. As planned, dinner was at the Elkton Golden Corral, where I did feast on various foods dipped in the chocolate fountain. (No one can tell which of those lumps are the broccoli and cauliflower. :) Chocolate-dipped strawberries are pretty good.)

Sunday's goal was to get the birthday Grand Slam at Denny's. However, Denny's is a 24-hour restaurant and I didn't necessarily have to get that for breakfast, so I was free to venture out to the wilds beyond Pottstown and come back later for it. So it was a fun day roaming the countryside of ducks, barns, covered bridges, and municipal parks with strong opinions about dogs. Despite all that, I still made it back to the local Denny's in Newark in plenty of time for a not-too-late dinner.

The caches...Collapse )

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Monday, September 12th, 2016

5:07 pm - Pottstown/Collegeville, Norristown/Lansdale/Perkasie
Since it's birthday coupon season, both of the weekend's trips were planned to more or less end in an area near a restaurant where I could use a birthday coupon. Saturday's trip was to Uwchlan and Pottstown, before veering off to Sanatoga, Trappe, and Collegeville. It's one of those opposite days where the high-difficulty caches took less time and effort than the "easy" ones. I was sure I'd previously checked the exact spot in the rocks where "It's not like the others..." was hiding but didn't see it until this trip. "Singing Frog Pond" looked almost impossible to access but in the end, I only had to push through the vegetation the right way to get to the frog. Dinner was at Texas Roadhouse in Royersford and the birthday coupon got me ribs.

Sunday's trip was to Norristown, then Lansdale, Harleysville, Sellersville, and Perkasie. There were a lot of cemetery caches that day. The "Coimetromania" and "Night of the Dead" series were both located at the many cemeteries scattered around the countryside and suburbs. "Oh No My Toe" is a pair of geocaches placed for a geocacher who had toe issues. "Udderly Ridiculous" deserves mention too. It is a two-stage geocache with the first stage at a tree with cows and sheep hanging from the branches. I needed to find all the cows (but not the sheep) to get the coordinates to the final stage. I could only find five of the six cows but thank goodness I had sufficient information to figure out the last number and the coordinates. And finally, dinner was at Perkins in Doylestown to get a free Magnificent Seven.

The caches...Collapse )

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Tuesday, September 6th, 2016

11:17 pm - Labor Day Weekend - Phoenixville, Pottstown, Annapolis
It was a 3-day holiday weekend. The first two days were trips to nearby areas where I noticed there has been some cache placement activity. Saturday's trip was to Exton/Uwchlan, Phoenixville, and Pottstown, with a hike into the hills of the Lock 60 Recreation Area. Sunday's trip was to East Goshen and the Sugartown ruins, and then to the Reading area for a set of puzzle caches, including this frog geocache.

Monday's trip was a long one to a new area. Every year, I try to use the Chevys birthday coupon. The nearest Chevys locations are all on the other side of Baltimore. Last year, I went to Arundel Mills but that mall was way too busy, so I figured I'd try Annapolis instead this year. And of course, it's a good excuse to get some geocaches on the way to and in Annapolis before dinner. Annapolis is actually a decent bay town with a lot of river and bay scenery, good sculptures, and cheeky parking signs. I also stopped at Kent Island along the way and saw some unexpected cartoonish murals. Animal encounters were a theme for the day as well. There was a grasshopper who stayed still long enough for photography. And that night, a small green snake fell on my head when I brushed up against a bush. Which was a surprise because I didn't think such an urban location would have a snake in the bush.

The caches...Collapse )

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Tuesday, August 30th, 2016

12:02 am - White Marsh / Pikesville / Reisterstown, Lancaster LXXI
It was the third and last Mission GC weekend. This time, I needed to find a mystery geocache for the souvenir and the very first cache on Saturday, "A really old Smarty-Pants", fit the bill. It wasn't a very difficult mystery cache, so I'm surprised I hadn't gone for it yet. All the information you need comes from a historical marker (that you can look up online, but don't tell the cache owner! >.> ) and it's pretty much a park and grab once you have the final coordinates. So once I was done with that, everything else was gravy. There were some challenging caches and a weird one, Hungry Roach. Mr. Charles was a nice character, although his geocache took some looking to find.

Sunday's trip was to Lancaster again to find some new geocaches, both traditional and puzzle, that had been published during the week since my last visit. There was a new Pokemon-themed series, although I only did two of those. Then there was a short tour along the Susquehanna River for a bunch of caches in Washington Township and Columbia, including this turtle cache. The interesting thing about Lancaster County is the locals archive and replace sets of caches every now and then to keep things fresh. I was sure I'd finished the caches along the Enola Low-Grade Trail two years ago but there was a new set of caches, which I may return to when the weather is cool enough for a longer walk.

The caches...Collapse )

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Wednesday, August 24th, 2016

12:25 am - Lancaster LXX and Lehigh Valley LVG GEM
Another trip to Lancaster on Saturday. Tried to clear out geocaches in Lancaster County Central Park, which I didn't get to on my previous trip. There was a long walk along the bend of Mill Creek and an Ursine Urn. Also a rat geocache. Moved farther westward to Landisville and Mount Joy, and the cutest geocache there was a zebra, even if it was a bit dirty from having sat under the bridge.

Sunday's trip was to Lehigh Valley for the "LVG G.E.M." geocaching event at Weggies in Hanover Township. Of course, I took the chance to grab some cache series before the event. Two of those were the "Characters" series, a set of play-anywhere Wherigo cartridges, and the "PBURG MALL" series, a ring of geocaches around the Phillipsburg Mall. Easily the best cache of the day was this Nintendo geocache, over on the Phillipsburg side.

The caches...Collapse )

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Thursday, August 18th, 2016

10:16 pm - FA United 2016
FA United was in Herndon, Virginia, this year. It was at the Hyatt Regency, just across the highway from the Dulles International Airport. I have to admit I had mixed feelings about the con moving to Virginia. For one thing, this would be my third trip to Virginia this year, after Fursonacon and Fur The More. Is it an overload of Virginia-ness? Also, I figured the con would have fewer attendees this year because I heard many folks from New Jersey who were regulars at FAU weren't planning to make the trip south. Still though, some of my friends were at this year's FAU and I recognized some folks from Fursonacon as well.

The new location is both good and bad. I thought the hotel was terrific! Every room in the hotel is a suite and somehow, FAU negotiated a group rate that is lower than what I paid at most other cons. So it's a win-win. Plenty of space to lay out my gear. This is the first hotel I've stayed at that uses RFID keycards. Instead of slipping the card into a slot, you hold it against the card reader on the door. Possibly for security reasons, the keycard is also needed to activate the guest floor buttons in the elevator. On the last day of the con, I realized that I could simply keep the RFID keycard in my handpaw when fursuiting. It was kinda neat and cute when I activated the elevator reader by pressing my paw against it. Two downsides to this hotel though. First was parking was inadequate. On Friday night, the parking lot was nearly full by the time I got back from dinner. Because of that, I didn't even drive out for dinner Saturday night. Instead, I got takeout earlier in the afternoon and kept it in my room for later. The other problem, of course, was the hotel wasn't within walking distance of any stores or restaurants. It was about a mile to the nearest strip mall and the oppressively hot summer weather wasn't conducive to walking that distance.

FAU didn't have a whole lot of scheduled programming that was of interest to me. I was in the fursuit parade (which thankfully did not go outside in the 100°F weather!) and the fursuit games. I also attended Majik's sewing panels, where I made a red star squeaky toy and an ice cream cone. I also went to the Majik Mystery Loot Brawl, where my prize was a corgi ear and tail set. This game is similar to white elephant gift exchanges at some holiday geocaching events. At each turn, the player can either pick and unwrap a gift or steal someone else's already-unwrapped gift. I didn't get my first choice of gift but this was good enough.

So those events were basically it for me. The upside though was I had plenty of time between events to get meals and find geocaches and Munzees. I went for the "Virginia Trains and Roads" multicache early in the morning (before it got hot) to qualify for the weekend's Mission GC souvenir. Geocaching was actually only so-so in that area. Munzee, on the other hand, was amazing! There is a very active Munzee community there and the Munzees are well-maintained. Out of the hundreds of Munzees I went for, I think only three were missing or worn out. That is excellent because I've been to areas where the failure rate was up to 50%. I also used these games to decide where to eat. Every time I went out for a meal, I took a look at what special Munzees or geocaches were out there. I went and got that, and then took a look to see what restaurants were nearby. That led me to some interesting local favorites and ethnic restaurants. (That's another nice thing about the area. The DC Metro area has a lot of good Middle-Eastern and Indian restaurants, and most of those places are good for tasty but moderately-priced takeout food.)

Will I be back next year for FAU 2017? Probably. Can't say for sure because a lot can change in a year, but I did enjoy the hotel and the area, and a smaller convention with less programming is a nice change of pace after Anthrocon.

The caches...Collapse )

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Tuesday, August 9th, 2016

1:57 am - Around Baltimore - Rosedale, Essex, Dundalk, White Marsh, Towson, Northern Baltimore
This weekend was about retracing an arc around Baltimore, to the east and to the north, to get some of the newer geocaches in those areas. The only part that was new to me was Northern Baltimore, just south of Towson, but even then, I'd been to a slice of the area a few years before. Saturday's trip was to Rosedale, Essex, and Dundalk, with the goal of hitting the "HBWLADS" series, which was placed for a recent geocaching event at North Point. When I got there though, I realized that I'd been there before for a previous cache series and some, if not all, the hiding spots were the same as the previous series. Still, it was a good revisit.

Sunday's trip was first to White Marsh, for some geocaches near the mall, and then on to Towson and south into Northern Baltimore. Kept heading south until the parking problems got too annoying and then turned around, back towards Towson. I couldn't believe that even on Sunday, parking was such a problem in that part of Baltimore but apparently, the roadsides, whether in residential areas or near businesses, are close to 100% filled with parked cars. For the day, there was another cache series, "Schmenards trail". There were 5 caches but for some reason, it was missing #4. The one thing I didn't like was two geocaches, "The Trash Cache" and "The Pearly White Cache", seemed to be intentionally hidden in the trashiest spots possible. The former was between a Jersey barrier and a fence, where litter accumulates and in all likelihood, never gets removed. The latter was hidden where people smoke outside the doors of a building and was literally sitting in a bed of cigarette butts, which made the cache name ironic. I hope it isn't the start of a new trashy cache trend but if it is, perhaps I should go to a different area or just play Munzee there, which is a very active game in the White Marsh area.

The caches...Collapse )

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Tuesday, August 2nd, 2016

10:40 pm - Quakertown, Lehigh Valley, Northeast Harford
The only goal for this weekend was to get the first of the three Mission GC souvenirs. There was a secret message that I decoded a week before and all it said was I needed to find a geocache with 10 or more favorite points to get the souvenir. That's easier said than done though. Geocaches with that many favorite points are few and far between. I had a couple of caches in mind and a backup plan for Sunday in case I couldn't get one on Saturday. Fortunately, it worked out. After geocaching my way up through Quakertown and Bethlehem, I arrived at "The Art of the Cache" on the Lehigh University South Mountain campus. Once I got there, I could see why it got favorite points. It's at a sculpture garden with some rather weird sculptures!.

On Sunday, I intended to go to Dundalk to get the caches that were placed for an event I didn't attend, but then I noticed that the northern and northeastern part of Harford County, Maryland, had a bunch of good countryside geocaches. (including this cow geocache) So that's where the trip ended up. I even got a few geocaches in Delta, PA, in the corner of York County I'd never explored before. Saw a lot of frogs that day. They were camouflaged among the leaves and I'd never have noticed them if they hadn't jumped around.

The caches...Collapse )

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Tuesday, July 26th, 2016

1:30 am - Doylestown and Lancaster
Two hot summer days this weekend. Saturday's trip was up to Warminster, Hatfield, Doylestown, and Plumsteadville. Didn't skip past the difficult caches this time because I figured the remaining easy caches were getting way too far away. It's a matter of trying your luck sometimes. "The King of Doylestown", in particular, was a micro cache with 4-star difficulty in dense woods with poor GPS reception. It took a combination of a bunch of different things to find it: I had a feeling about a certain area and I found a pen that a previous cacher probably dropped that turned out to be pretty close to the hiding spot. With some indication that I was on the right track, it was just a matter of poking around until I got it. "Prickerland II" was a different kind of challenge. The biggest hurdle was finding a way to get through a wall of overgrowth into the woods. I guess that could've waited until winter but what the hey?

Sunday's trip was in two parts. I got some local geocaches before heading over to Lancaster for the rest of the day. Once again, I didn't avoid the difficult caches. "Gardening in Pike Creek", although not an easy search, turned out to be something I'd seen before. Of course, I started from the wrong end of the row of bushes so it took a while. "Otters Cache 1" was a long walk in Wolf's Hollow County Park but the trail was mostly pretty good. The cache locations in Lancaster covered the usual assortment of quaint and historic sites, such as a covered bridge, Boehm's Chapel, and the Byerland stone meeting house.

The caches...Collapse )

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