Tuesday, January 24, 2012

I Love OC in the Winter!

At least once every winter, we spend a day in Ocean City (NJ) geocaching.  There are a lot of caches over there and more all the time. It's really hard to do it in the summer, too many cars, too many people and it's HOT! I really don't like hot.  

Look what Kathy found in a backpack!  It's a pipe!
Janet and Kathy W.
Most of the caches were along the Boardwalk and they tended to be under the Boardwalk, usually just along the edge.  On this first one, I dropped Kathy and Janet off just up the street from the high school and then I parked the car.  By the time I caught up, they were under the boards, searching.  I didn't bother to check the coordinates or read the clue.  As we're searching, Kathy found a backpack that hadn't been there very long, so she decided to check it out...OK, so I egged her on! Inside it, she found a detention pass, cigarettes, a lighter, a tin of chewing tobacco (which surprised me because I thought it was a girl's backpack, and I have problems imagining a girl with chewing tobacco), and a glass Hash pipe! She decided that she should move the backpack a few feet away and just to mess with him/her, she took the pipe out and put it on top.  It doesn't take much to entertain us!

When I finally decided to check the coords and read the hint, it was a quick find.  Right where it said it was.  It only took us about 1/2 hour to find it but most of it was spent playing under the boards.

I was surprised to see that stalactites were developing on the underside of the cement under the boards!  Makes sense, concrete has a lot of lime in it.  And who says there isn't science everywhere? I just have to figure out how to put it into my lessons.  There are going to parents who aren't going to be happy with me when their kids what to check out the stalactites under the Boardwalk.  We don't have any hills much less mountains with caves so it's the best I can do!  

I was covered in sand spurs when I came out!
It wasn't under there!
Cloudy winter day on the boards
For the most part, the caches were easy to find.  But there were a couple that took a while. We met the new cacher who has been putting out all the new caches over there.  He was walking the boards; we'd find one, hop in the car, drive down to the next one and he'd be there waiting for us.  He said it was the first time he'd met people caching and he enjoyed watching us hunt.  Of course a bunch of OWLs crawling around under the Boardwalk and stairs can be pretty entertaining!  Especially when we kept getting covered in sand spurs (they call them hitchhiker here).  We managed to get his phone number and after he left, we were able to ask for hints on one of the caches that we couldn't find.  We went back to it and still could find it.  I think it's gone.  Anyway, we had a good time entertaining ourselves at his expense. We ended up with 27 caches, not bad for a fun day!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Egg Harbor City, Clever and Fun Caching

On the first Friday or Saturday of each month, the South Jersey Geocachers meet up and go caching.  Once in a while it will be on Saturday afternoon but more often than not, it's on Friday night or Saturday night.  This month about 9 people and it was a beautiful Saturday night.  It had been 60 degrees during the day and very pleasant at night!  There was no wind! The sky was perfectly clear with a full moon!

Now a lot of people would think that it's much too cold to be going out at night, in the middle of winter, to the woods.  I get that but there are so many advantages.  Of course you need to learn how to dress, layering is the way to go!  I generally have a layer of Under Armour pants under my jeans and a pair of Merino wool hiking socks.  I love my winter socks, I wish I could wear them all year!  They are soft, warm and thick on the bottom.  My feet almost never hurt or get sore when I wear them and they stay toasty warm. 

On the top half, I have an Under Armour shirt next to my skin then a warm shirt.  That's usually enough to start the night but as the night goes on I have a few coats that I wear.  They are all orange so that I can wear them at during the daytime in hunting season and hopefully not get shot.  One of the coats was a present from Bill, my son-in-law for Christmas a few years ago.  When he gave it to me, he told me that he was concerned when I was out there during hunting season.  How sweet is that? So I hold it up to admire it and the girls and Joe burst out laughing!  He tells me to check out the back.  I turn it around and he's pinned a target to the back!  

The advantages to geocaching in the winter?  Well, there are no ticks or chiggers, you don't sweat and it's much easier to find things when the brush was dropped its leaves!  Bushwhacking is so much easier.  
Spoiler alert...I'm about to show pictures of actually caches.  I will not tell you the names.
 Below are some of the clever geocaches you can find in the Egg Harbor City.

The instruction below are from what's known as a liar's cache.  You tell a crazy story about your adventure finding it.  When you go to the cache page, you will find some really wild stories, none of them are true.  When you log it, you read the other cachers stories and add your own twist!

 This cache is part of the underside of the shelf fungus on the tree.  The fungus is attached to the tree with a magnet, it's not a natural part of the tree.

 This red jeep has a container on the front bumper.

 There is a stick balanced in the bush that has a container on the end of it.

 When you approach the tree, there is a piece of bark that is attached with a magnet and the geocache is under it. Once it has weathered a few months, it will be especially hard to see.

 There are so many creative geocache hidders out there! We like to give them a hard time about how much time that have on their hands and how they need to get a life, but we're really grateful!  The keep the game interesting!  Thanks to all of you!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

New Years Eve - Woods Style

Kathy Wade checking out the water depth

I've never really cared for New Year's Eve.  I don't understand a holiday, that at it's core is about getting drunk. I'm not much of a drinker, I don't dance and I don't like loud parties.  After my girls came and my mom started coming to NJ annually for Christmas, NYE was a family event.  The girls stayed up, we watched movies and at midnight we would go outside with spoons and pots to make noise and welcome in the new year.  When the girls started spending NYE out of the house, NYE became a private time with my mom.  We would drink eggnog and snack on all our favorite foods.  We would rent movies and wait for the girls to come home.  It was special and quiet.  When my mom was no longer able to fly and visit it was lonely but not nearly as lonely as the years after her death.  I tried to invite people over for a quiet evening but they either wanted to stay in their own homes or go out and party.

Last year, that all changed!  There is now an annual New Year Eve Event in Wharton for geocachers.  We start at the Pic (Pic-A-Lilli) in Shamong on the edge of the NJ Pinelands. They have great food specializing in wings.  It's the "unofficial" club house of the South Jersey Geocachers.  We have dinner and enjoy each others company.  After a while, usually around 2 hours, we head into the woods.  There are usually caches that have been put out just for the event. One of those is the Christmas tree on the right.  There is a ball on that tree that you have to find and it has to log in it!  Very clever and super special!

We all headed out with the intensions of forming a parade through the Pines grabbing the caches as we went. As usual, I jumped in with Kathy and John of the Aufbau's.  This becomes sort of a traveling party, lots of laughs and joking, running to see who can get there first!  We end up down tiny, narrow roads and then have to turn about 6 or 8 cars around in no space and head to the next.  Early on, last night, John, was at the head of the line and made a left when we should have gone right, he quickly realized his mistake when he hit a dead end!  One other car followed us.  We both turned around and tried to catch up to the rest of the parade.  Cell coverage was minimal at best out there.  I usually have coverage  if anyone does, and I didn't.  We got a call from Mollie (that's Mollie in the yellow jacket) that was broken up, telling us which way to go. We were told to stay on Carranza Rd.  In Wharton, roads are dirt, covered in pot holes and small ponds.  The roads aren't labeled.  I was on Google Maps following along, telling him where Carranza Rd. was and when it turned.  At one point the road bears off to the left, apparently we were suppose to bear right but that's not what we were told.  When we realized that we weren't heading for the cache, we found a road to follow back in that direction.  
Car/truck parade in the woods
We were being followed by  the Moliveris.  Last NYE, they joined us in their little Saturn. During last year's event, there was about a foot of snow on the ground and they got stuck at every turn, or so it seemed.  Finally, we got them out, took their car back to the Ranger Station on 206 and they jumped in with other people.  This year, they borrowed a relatively new Jeep Liberty for a friend.  Now, if you take your Jeep into the woods, it's up to you to decide if you're going to get it scratched or stuck in a puddle.  I was surprised that they would borrow a Jeep and really surprised that someone would loan a Jeep to go mudding.  

That's  a BIG puddle!
The front end of the Jeep is in the water
We were back tracking down this increasingly narrow road and they were right behind us, doing a fine job of keeping up with John! And that's not always an easy task. Finally we popped out of the road right near the cache and saw the rest of the cars!  Success! .... well, maybe not!

The other cars/trucks left before we caught up with them.  In front of us there was a huge "lake" in the middle of the road but it looked do-able.  John took off on the edge of the puddle and got through it with very little trouble.  We were now on solid ground and staring at a "puddle" that was probably 40 feet across in front of us and we couldn't see the sides of it.  Kathy got out and was wading around in it trying to determine if we should try it.  

yikes, the water is up to the door!
When you're in the woods they're 2 different kinds of risks, first, the risks you take when you're alone.  You need to know what your car can do and realize that you'll have to call for help and you will be there for hours before a rescue.  AAA is not coming out to help.  The second type of risk is when you're other 4x4's, you don't need to be as careful, there are people to pull you out. They enjoy helping and we enjoy watching!  No one enjoys being the one with their car stuck!  You're going to take quite a ribbing.

Joe Oliveri
Mudwhore to the rescue!
As we were trying to figure out how any of those cars/truck got across that lake, Mr. Moliveri came up to the our car and told us that they were stuck in the puddle behind us.  It seems that he decided to drive right through the middle of the puddle, he didn't even make it half way across.  The Aufbau's had cleaned their car inside and out for their son's wedding the night before and  didn't have a tow strap and neither did the Moliveri's car. It took many calls and texts trying to get the attention of anyone that we were with.  Finally we got in touch with Mollie and she told us that she would send the Mudwhores back to help!  Meanwhile, I went though the woods to get back to the Molivers Jeep to take pictures and discovered that they was a road to the left of where we were, a go-around for the puddle...the other cars didn't go through the puddle!  They took the go-around!  And about that time, the Mudwhores come flying down that very road!  Mr. Mudwhore got his tow strap and handed it to Mr. Moliveri to hook it around the hooks on the back of the Jeep...but there weren't any.  Long story short, Mr. Moliveri had to kneel down in the mud to connect it the "a structural member of the the car", per the user manual. The first time it wasn't solid, so he had to get back down and try again!  Now it was relatively warm last night but not warm enough to be kneeling in muddy water!  It was around 45 degrees.  Once it was connected correctly, it just took a quick pull and they were out.
Connecting the strap to the car!

While he was being pulled out, John went back to his Jeep to turn it around.  Kathy and I were sort of watching both events at the same time.  For a minute John and their Jeep disappeared and suddenly popped out of the woods up above.  He apparently decided it would be easier/more fun/quicker to make his own road! I wish I had  a video of it!  It was hysterical!

The Wharton Ball
It's coming down  10-9-8-...
We only had 10 minutes to get to Friendship for the dropping of the ball - Wharton style; it was about 3 miles away.  In the Pines that can be a quick trip or it can take forever.  The roads are always changing.  We headed off down the go-around. We made it with a few minutes to spare, but no sign of the Mudwhores or the Moliveris.  We waited and suddenly the Mudwhores came tearing down the road just in time!  But the Moliveris were still missing.

Now I know Times Square has their ball, but so do we!  Kevin and Mollie have a ball that is solar powered.  It is 2 clear Christmas bowls connected with a ball of aluminum foil and a string of Christmas lights inside.  It is suspended between 2 big trees and some how Kevin lowers it from a distance!  We were given noise makers, beads, and glow stick necklaces!  We had a count down and toasted with sparkly cider!
Right after the ball dropped, the Mudwhores got a call from the Moliveris, they had a flat tire and needed help... again.  I don't know the whole story but apparently they backed into a tree turning around and then their tire blew out on their way to the ball dropping.  Not a good night for them.  They've since decided that NYE in the Pines is not for them.  and they won't be back next year.  I hope they change their minds.  They should probably find someone with experience to ride with,  however.

Final cache found!

Cheryl and Doug
Jack and Debbie
A close up

As I said earlier, the Aufbau's had cleaned their Jeep for the wedding the day before. It was really clean and shiny!  But everyone knows that a dirty Jeep is much more fun!  The 2 pictures below show the remains of a great night in the Pines!  It was a lot of fun!
NJ mud is a very fine, light gray color

I know that this type of evening isn't everyone's idea of a fun NYE party but neither is a loud party with a bunch of drunk people! If you're interested in joining us next year, let me know...I might has other plans that will supersede but if not, I'll there!