Geocaching


This morning after I dropped Beth off at school I went home by a circuitous route through the back roads of Canterbury. I had solved a geocache puzzle some time ago (maybe a year ago) and decided it was high time I picked it up.

Before I got there, a white tailed deer sprung out from the woods and crossed the road in front of me. Since this was a country road with no traffic whatsoever, I stopped and looked at the deer for a minute. She had another deer with her, and I expect it was last year’s fawn. They were too far off in the woods to even think about photography, so I left my camera in the bag.

Then I went off to collect the geocache. It was in a guardrail next to this pretty little stream.

A stream in Canterbury, NH

A stream in Canterbury, NH


Having found the cache, I got back in the car and looked for a place to turn around. Not finding one, the road took me to a farm (Hackleboro Apple Orchard), so I turned around there. I don’t like turning around where a road ends basically in someone’s driveway, but sometimes, that’s what happens.

As I made my way back through Canterbury, I saw a very large cat bound across the road in front of me. It was a bobcat! I had never seen one in the wild before, so this was a first for me. It stopped about 100 yards into the forest, turned around and looked back at me. I didn’t have a clear view, so I back up ten or twelve feet, thinking I might be able to go for a photo. But the bobcat thought otherwise. As soon as I began backing up, it took off running again and was gone in less than two seconds. Sigh.

I drove slowly trying to remember exactly where it crossed the road so I could look at its tracks, but I didn’t find them. Instead, I saw a pair of farm dogs galloping down the fence row on the side of the road from whence the bobcat had come. Maybe that’s what it was running from.

I am almost ready for warmer weather now, not because I don’t like winter (I do very much), but because I need some temperatures more conducive to canoe repair. I can’t use epoxy until the temp is at least 60, and 70 would be much, much better. I thought I might be able to heat the garage up some with a space heater if it was 40 outside, so I brought one home from church and plugged it in. It only raised the temperature to about 50 in the garage – not nearly warm enough. So I returned the space heater on Saturday.

Speaking of Saturday, while I was at church, one of the kids in my Sabbath School class noticed a bird outside our classroom window and wanted to know what it was. I took a quick glance and erroneously pronounced it a mourning dove. Upon further inspection, I knew that it was most certainly not a mourning dove. I had no idea what it was. We observed the bird through the window for about five minutes from less than 10 feet away. It had a very long bill and would use it to probe holes in the ground, presumably for snacks of the invertebrate variety. It would bob up and down rather comically. What a day for me to have decided to leave the camera at home! I always take my camera to church with me, but when I saw it that morning, I inexplicably decided… nah. :-/

When I left the room it was still out there. I sought out one of our church members who is a wildlife biologist. He has done some birding, but even though that was not his expertise, he came down straight away. He thought it might be an American Woodcock, but wasn’t sure. When I got home I looked that up, and I have to say, he nailed it.

So three rare (for me) wildlife sightings in as many days, and exactly zero photos of them. Still, just seeing them was a treat for me, and perhaps not being able to take pictures made me observe them more carefully in person.

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I am sitting at the airport in Omaha, Nebraska as I write this, though I was not expecting to be here right now. My journey here started a month or two ago when I was invited to sit on the North American Division Pathfinder Honors Taskforce. This is the committee that reviews submissions for new Pathfinder honors and revises existing ones. I was invited because of the work I have done on the AY Honors Answer Book wiki.

It was a thrill for me to have been invited. Pathfinder honors have been a pretty big part of my life for a number of years now. It was not to go without a few hiccups though. The first was that my club had scheduled March 9 for our annual Pathfinder Sabbath, during which we present the church service in its entirety. But I am blessed with a large and capable staff, so I figured they would be able to cope with my absence quite handily. So we pressed on with preparations.

Our presentation this year was to be similar to the one we did last year – a broadcast television newscast set in Biblical times. This year we decided to cover events from the Book of Mark. We pre-recorded all of our “live action reporters in the field” so that we could project their performances on the screen, while our anchor desk interacted with them live during the presentation.

But one week before we were to make our presentation, the hard drive containing all of our footage – every single second of it – was subjected to a most unfortunate accident. So we rescheduled for April 13. The upside to this is that I will be able to attend the performance, and the kids all knew their lines even better when we did the re-shoot.

But I digress. I am still sitting in the Omaha airport.

I flew out here on Friday and met my friend Mark. He is the webmaster for pathfindersonline.org (and other sites), and he too flew in to Omaha, but from the DC area. We decided to share a car, so he waited for my arrival. Then we set out for Lincoln. We picked up a couple of geocaches on the way. Our car was a tiny little Fiat. It was so tiny, that I think I could have lifted the whole thing with one hand.

Mark and I standing in front of a Virtual Cache in Iowa.

Mark and I standing in front of a Virtual Cache in Iowa.

There is a trick of geography near the Omaha airport. The Nebraska/Iowa border was originally set by the course of the Missouri River. But after the boundary was set, the river changed course, though the boundary did not. So there’s a little spit of land on the west side of the Missouri that still belongs to Iowa. It’s funny to drive through that section of Iowa and see the signs say “Welcome to Iowa” and then “Welcome to Nebraska” in the space of about a half mile.

The cache above was in Iowa, and it features a monument honoring York, a slave who belonged to William Clark. When we got to the monument, I looked at the sculpture, and it showed a black man being pawed over by several native Americans. I said to Mark, “Hey, I bet that’s York, a slave belonging to William Clark!” We walked around the back of the monument, and there was a plaque declaring as much. Talk about a guy feeling pretty smug!

On Saturday, we went all over the Lincoln area finding more geocaches. I think we found nine of them.

A virtual cache in Lincoln.

A virtual cache in Lincoln.

We also saw three bald eagles. Two of them were juveniles, and one was an adult. I got a bad photo of the juveniles, but couldn’t get one of the adult.

Juvenile Bald Eagles

Juvenile Bald Eagles

The meetings started Saturday night around 6:30pm. I very much enjoyed them, which is a strange thing to say about a meeting, but we were talking about a subject about which I am highly passionate.

When I woke up on Sunday morning, there was an inch of snow on the ground.

The Blizzard Begins

The Blizzard Begins

It was still snowing quite heavily, and the wind was blowing a gale. It was a full-fledged blizzard. I kept an eye on the situation, as I was slated to fly out from Omaha at 6:45pm. My meeting ended at noon, and the situation outside was looking pretty grim. I consulted with Va and with those in control of the Division’s purse strings, and we all agreed it would be best if I stayed put in Lincoln for one more day. It seemed foolhardy to tempt the roads in a toy car.

The Toy Fiat

The Toy Fiat

My instincts were correct. Mark’s wife and new baby (12 weeks old) were schedule to fly into Omaha Sunday afternoon too. They were twelve minutes from landing at Omaha when the airport was closed, and they sent the plane back to Minneapolis. Not to be deterred, she tried another flight, this one directly to Lincoln. They took off, gained some altitude, and then the Lincoln airport was likewise closed. So she landed again. I don’t know how many frequent flier miles that would be worth, but a trip from Minneapolis to Minneapolis is about zero miles, even if you do it twice.

Meanwhile, the Nebraska State Police closed Interstate 80, so even if she had landed at Omaha, she would have been very hard-pressed to make her way to Lincoln.

There were a ton of other meetings scheduled for Sunday all the way through Thursday, and all related to my youth ministries. I was invited to sit in on a subcommittee meeting going over some new Adventurer Awards. I asked Va to provide some input on one of them, and she sent it to me straight away. It took me a little longer to get her input to the subcommittee, but they were all very excited about it, and I think it will make it into the Award requirements.

Mark, a handful of other people, and I were treated to dinner at El Toro, an authentic Mexican restaurant in Lincoln. The food was very good, but I could only eat half of it. I took the rest back to my room and forgot it in the fridge.

Mark’s wife and baby eventually did make it to Lincoln, and she had a car (as per the plan). So I returned our toy Fiat to Omaha. Along the way, I counted 28 cars off the shoulder, stuck in the snow. Most (perhaps all) of them had police tape on them. None of them were barely off the shoulder either. They were all way down embankments, pointing every which way, and I thanked God He guided me (and Mark’s wife) away from that fate yesterday.

While I was waiting here for the storm to pass, David was in Concord playing in a chess tournament. It pretty much took all of Sunday, but he played four games and won all four of them. This bumped his ranking up to 1985 (15 to go David!) and he will have to enter the “open” section from now on. He won $200 in the under 1900 section (as he was ranked under 1900 when the tourney began). I am very proud of him, and wish I could have been there with him to share the moment. But we shared via text & voice, so it was almost like being there.

So now I find myself with a bit of downtime. I needed to get the car back here by 2:15 to avoid another day’s charges, but my plane doesn’t leave until 6:45.

So there is time to write a blog post.

Today Beth and I walked to the Union Church. One of my caching friends had hidden a cache there, and it had somehow escaped my notice until now. I had been thinking about placing one there, but thinking about it and doing it are two different things. I thought. She did. And actually, she had hidden it exactly in the spot I had intended to.

On the way there, we saw a garter snake.

Garter Snake (Thamnophis sirtalis)

Garter Snake (Thamnophis sirtalis)


I haven’t seen many snakes this summer. I think this is actually the only one I’ve seen.

Once we got to the Union Church and found the cache, we headed over to Beth’s first geocache. Not so we could see the cache (but we did check on it), but so that I could check up on a shrub I had marked there last winter. I marked it by tying a length of yarn to it so that I could identify it when it had leaves. I find it funny that I marked it on the winter solstice and checked it on the autumn equinox. Pure coincidence! Here it is with leaves:

Marked Shrub

Marked Shrub


I still don’t know what it is, but I’ll dig through my books in a little while. If you look closely, you can see the blue yarn marker right in the center of the frame behind some of the leaves.

While we were out that way, we stopped by Sandogardy Pond for a few minutes. Then we headed home again. After I caught my breath, I put the roof rack on my car and loaded up my newly repaired canoe. David was spending the day with some friends, and I couldn’t talk Beth into coming with me, so I went alone.

Topside

Topside


I paddled it around the pond in a counterclockwise direction. For some reason, I always paddle around this pond counterclockwise. Maybe because that gets me to the wilder side of the pond more quickly.

I found a bullhead lily (Nuphar lutea) still in bloom.

Bullhead Lily (Nuphar lutea)

Bullhead Lily (Nuphar lutea)


And several fragrant water lilies (Nymphaea odorata).
Fragrant Water Lily (Nymphaea odorata)

Fragrant Water Lily (Nymphaea odorata)


I soon found myself at the north end of the pond where the leaves were beginning to redden. Autumn equinox indeed.
Paddling north

Paddling north


When I took the boat out I realized that I had failed to tie the grab loops onto the ends. In Virginia, that would have been illegal, and it may well be here as well. I should look into that. I’ll need to drill the tie holes out again, as I covered them with fiberglass during the repair. It will be easy to do – I just need to do it!

I would have to say that Music Clinic was an unqualified success.

Beth during a performance

Beth during a performance


This photo was taken during the morning church service on Saturday, but I don’t remember which song they were playing – maybe Vivaldi’s “Winter” from The Four Seasons. I do remember that all the songs sounded pretty good though.

The pianos were all on stage, with the band to the left, the kid’s choir in front of the stage, and the full choir to the right. The strings were down on the floor in front of the kid’s choir. There were a lot of musicians. This photo shows only about a quarter of the full choir.

Some of the musicians

Some of the musicians

After one performance, we sat at some tables located behind the choir where it was less crowded (but where we could still hear). Beth didn’t want me to take her picture, but I did anyhow.

She didn't want me to take her picture.

She didn't want me to take her picture.


It’s what Dad’s do.

After the morning service we had lunch, and then I had to help clean the kitchen again (which was great). Then we were free for the afternoon. I wanted to go for a hike, but couldn’t talk Beth into it. Yes, I could have made her hike with me, but it’s a lot less pleasant to hike with an unwilling companion. We went back to the hotel and she swam in the pool for an hour. Then we went to the room and I took a 20 minute nap. Not very exciting, I know.

Then it was time to head back to the school for supper and then a few more practice sessions (during which I helped clean the kitchen again). Beth went to her seat, and I went to the kitchen.

Pre-show excitement

Pre-show excitement


While I was in the kitchen, Va showed up. She found a seat, while I finished my assignment. By then the gym was packed and I had a hard time finding her. When I did, she was along the back wall and I had to climb over four elderly people to get to the seat she had saved for me.

I didn’t want to sit back there during Beth’s performances, so just before she went on, I clambered over the elderly again and got up to the stage for photo ops. I didn’t have the heart to climb over them again though, so I stood somewhere else with an even worse view, and waited for the Grand Finale (A Mighty Fortress, by Martin Luther). She had a piano part in that, and I took photos, but they don’t look much different from the ones I already posted.

After the performance, the three of us headed back to the hotel. I made a dessert run while the girls kicked back and relaxed. When I got back we shared the treat and then went to bed. I slept until 8:00. Va wanted to eat breakfast in Portland at the “Old Country Buffet” except it has some other name that I can’t remember up here. Hometown Buffet? I dunno. They used to have one in Manassas when we lived there, and they put out a pretty decent breakfast spread. Much better than your typical hotel continental breakfast. So we stopped there on the way home.

After breakfast we set out in a homeward direction. That’s when Beth had a bit of a meltdown. She was upset about something pretty minor and was crying as if someone had cut off her foot. I tried to give her some perspective and told her to think about the good things that happened to her this week instead of the bad things. I told her that’s what I was doing. Bad things happened to me while we were away (mop bucket), but I was choosing to think about the good things instead. She regained her composure, and I felt like I had done something right. I didn’t know how right until later.

The plan was to have another cardboard boat building session at the church at 1:00pm. We were running too late to go home and then come back to the church, but early enough that Beth and I were able to stop along route 4 and look for some geocaches. Va went on home.

At the first place we stopped to look for a cache, we saw someone at “ground zero” poking around some fallen logs. There was car parked there with e geocaching bumper sticker. I correctly assumed it was a geocacher. We introduced ourselves and then looked for the cache. Beth and I were not able to find it, and I don’t think the other cacher was able to either. But I did find something better:

My first skunk cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus)

My first skunk cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus)

I have been looking for skunk cabbage for a couple of years now, and this was the first time I had ever seen it. I recognized it immediately and called Beth over. “What is it?” she asked, so I told her “Take a whiff!” “Ewww!” It does smell rather like a skunk, but not nearly as strong. Peterson says it’s edible, but since I didn’t know what part was edible (or when) we left it alone. That’s a good thing too. When I got home I looked it up, and you’re supposed to let it dry out first, or its calcium oxalate crystals will cause some significant mouth pain. Maybe someday I’ll try it after properly drying it out first.

We stopped for two other caches, but only found one out of the three. Oh well. We got to the church right at 1:00 and found some Pathfinders already there waiting. So we did some boat construction. Both of the boats are coming along “swimmingly” as I like to say. That sounds like it might involve swimming, but it means “pretty good.”

I was too busy with the cardboard kayak to take any pictures. Which means I was doing too much of the work myself. 😦

The rest of the plan for the day was for Beth and I to go to our first Geocaching event, which was about a mile from the church. We met Bandyrooster there – a cacher that I have been corresponding with for a little while. She is a very friendly person, and it was great to meet her face-to-face. The three of us went caching for about two hours (I think – I was starting to tire by that point), and we found something like ten caches. Beth found one more than me, because we stopped at one I had found previously without her. Here’s a shot of Beth with Bandyrooster (aka, Marge).

Beth and Bandyrooster fishing out a geocache.

Beth and Bandyrooster fishing out a geocache.

Penny was over the moon when we got home.

Beth took a bath and went to bed shortly after that, and I stayed up as long as I could keep my eyelids propped open. Then I headed up too, and found this two-page note on my pillow.

Dear Daddy,
Thank you for bringing me to Music Clinic. I really had a fun time. Thank you for letting me swim at the hotel. Thanks for buying me Twistables. I love my new hair ties. Thank you for paying the Music Clinic fee, the hotel fee, and other payments for me. Also Thank you, for letting me have some free time in the hallways. I really enjoyed it. I really don’t have anything to offer you except for a really big hug and a kiss. Plus, of course this note.

Thank you for taking me Geocaching afterwards with you. That was so much fun. Please accept my full apologies about how I reacted in the car.

Love,
Beth

PS: THANK YOU!

That’s what I call payoff. I don’t think she’ll know just how fully this paid for all that money, time, and effort, until she has kids of her own.. It brings tears to my eyes to even type this. I count it as one of the best “fatherhood” events I have ever experienced. Sweetheart, you have repaid me in full.

Yesterday Beth and I took a a short hike to visit our geocaches.  Hers had been reported as somewhat vandalized, and I wanted to drop a travel bug in mine.  The vandalism to hers was not severe.  Someone had found it and scattered the stuff in it around.  The cacher who reported this could not find the a log book.  So we went there with a new log book, and hid the cache somewhere else.  We need to add more toys to it though.

Then we quickly made a visit to my cache.  I dropped the travel bug in it, and also emptied all the trade items and arranged them in a pose.

I don’t know which if these guys is Little Cohas.  We bushwhacked to the cache (that is the only way to get there), but from a different direction this time.  On the way, we saw a log crossing Little Cohas Brook, and from the other side of the creek, it was only 50 feet or so to the railroad tracks.  So we crossed the log.

Beth went first.  Penny went last, but she decided to swim across.  It was much easier going that way, because there is a trail that dumps out onto the railroad tracks. 

We went home and I got cleaned up a bit.  Va and I had tickets to see the Granite State Symphony Orchestra (compliments of my employer).  They performed three songs, one of which I am well familiar with, Rimsky-Korsakov’s Russian Easter Overture.  I especially enjoyed that one.  Va liked that las piece they performed, Tchaikovski’s Fourth Symphony.  I may have liked that one better had I been familiar with it, and I guess that says something about me.

The next morning we had a Pathfinder meeting, and we resumed work on the cardboard boats.  Here’s where we left them:

I need to bring in a second set of sawhorses to put the kayak on.  It’s hard to work on it on the table (can’t get the rope beneath it very handily).  I am very well pleased with the progress of the kayak.  If we pull this off (and it looks like we will), I am convinced it will be the fastest boat in the competition in May.

Today was our first full work day here at Holbrook Indian School, and that felt pretty good. Warran led about half the kids on operation repair seventy-four bicycles, and I led the rest on operation make window screens.

Making screens

Making screens


Removing an old screen from a frame

Removing an old screen from a frame


Emma got pretty good at this

Emma got pretty good at this

On the way to breakfast, we saw this strange bird up in a tree. It looks kind of crow-like, but it didn’t sound like a crow. I don’t think I could describe its song other than to say that it was a lot more mellifluous and pleasant than the crow’s “caw caw caw.” If anyone knows what this is, I’d love to hear about it.

Not a crow (I think)

Not a crow (I think)


After breakfast we got to work. Not a lot to say about that other than that the kids learned how to make and repair window screens, and they got better and better at it as the day wore on. Warran and company knocked out several bikes (I don’t know how many, but it was a lot), and my crew knocked out 53 window screens.

Just before lunch, we sent some of the crew to the grade 1-4 classroom. Two helped with math, and after that, three other Pathfinders presented the Whales and the Reptiles Adventurer Awards. I hear that it went well. Then it was time to lunch, and our Adventurer instructors ate with their students.

Then more bikes and more screens. Cody and Connor are building what could most easily be described as a Frankenstein bike. Inexplicably, they are convinced that a 12 inch rear wheel on a 26 inch bike is the ultimate thing.

Frankenbike

Frankenbike


Of course, the pedals have to go subterranian with this new configuration, so they are swapping out the crank for a much smaller one. They are debating extending the fork too. This doesn’t bother me since they have fixed so many bikes already. And maybe it will be a cool bike (though tenth gear will feel a lot like second with such a small rear wheel – I don’t want to think about what first gear will be like).

After dinner, I took Beth, Cody, and Trevor into Holbrook and we found a geocache. Now I can check off Arizona. It was after dark when we finally got to ground zero, but we managed to find it in spite of that (or rather, Cody found it). I traded my flashlight for a geocoin which I will release in New Hampshire when we get back home.

We also did laundry tonight (as planned). I am pretty tired, and frankly, pretty surprised that I managed to write an entire post without dozinnnnng… ZZZZZ.

Yesterday was an “off” day for me, which was a welcome change. I was planning to do a little tool shopping to prepare for our trip to Holbrook, but never managed to gather sufficient momentum to make that happen. Instead, Beth and I did a little geocaching.

After we hid our two caches in the beginning of this month, another cacher came and found one of them, and decided she would hide a few more (where “a few” equals “four”). So Beth and I decided to go and collect them – they are in our neighborhood (where “our neighborhood” equals “within five miles of our house”).

When we got to Battis Crossing, which is the road where two of the caches were located, the GPS still had not locked onto the satellites. So we drove past that to the next cache, which is near a fantastic little spring in Canterbury. I stop there a couple of times per month to refill the water bottles I keep in my car. It is some very good water. About half the time I drive by it, there are one or more cars stopped there filling jugs, and that was true this time too. So we passed that cache as well, and made our way to the fourth one (which I had already found the week before).

I pointed Beth to Ground Zero and she found the cache and signed the log. Then we hopped back in the car, turned around, and went back from whence we had come. There was still a car parked at the spring, so we kept going until we got to Battis Crossing. By then, the GPS had locked onto the satellite, so we were ready to look for some caches.

We found the first one with little difficulty, and then set out for the second one. That’s when I stepped on a very slippery patch of ice, lost my footing, and fell. Based on Beth’s reaction, I must have done some extremely amusing acrobatics in my bid to regain my balance. Luckily, I was not hurt (other than that I have had a sore knee ever since). I quickly recovered, and we found this trail leading to the cache:

Battis Crossing

Battis Crossing


This trail is a continuation of Battis Crossing Road, which the GPS insisted went further than it did. I assume it used to follow this trail. The GPS also said we were near Sawyer’s Ferry Road, which I have seen on old maps before. The old maps (including Tomtom’s) indicate that Battis Crossing used to connect to Sawyer’s Ferry Road. Both of those roads are only narrow tracks now. I would imagine that they used to meet near a homestead, but I didn’t see one anywhere (and this cache was pretty close to where the map says the used to meet). It would probably not be difficult to find an old foundation near there though.

From the name, I think we can probably assume that Sawyer’s Ferry was located at the other end of Sawyer’s Ferry road… on the Merrimack River. That would be pretty interesting to explore as well, but it’s on private property. I am not one to go knocking on the strangers’ doors and ask if I can explore their property. I might find the ferry by canoe someday though.

We found the second cache and hiked back to the car without any further incident. Then we went back to the spring to look for the final cache of the day. We arrived, and there were no cars parked there. We got out and hunted around for the cache. I found it in a place that Beth had already looked (much to her chagrin). We emptied the container out on the concrete wall above the spring and Beth went through it trying to decide what to trade.

Beth at the spring in Canterbury

Beth at the spring in Canterbury

We could have gone looking for four more caches (one of which I already have, but Beth does not), but by then, she was ready to go home. We’ll save those for another day.

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