Saturday, May 30, 2015

Smart Phone / Hidden Text Puzzle Tip

BSW2010 showed me a nifty trick.  He asked several of us why we hadn't solved one of his new puzzles (FTF was waiting!).  In answer to our "we think it's white text on the cache page and we can't solve it via smart phone", he said we were wrong.  There's any easy fix for this.

Today, while TaGeez and I were at a puzzle 'final', we found a container with a note stating the 'puzzle' on the cache page was a red herring and the true final was hidden somewhere else on the page.  Harrumph!  In the past I would've driven home to solve it on my desktop, but home was 15 miles away.  So I tried BSW's trick....

Go to the cache page where the suspected "hidden text" is located and copy all the text.

Then open up a blank email or your notepad or Evernote and paste the text.  When you copy/paste from a webpage to a word document, hidden or "white" text pastes as black text (see below). It worked!  We were able to plug in the "new final" and make the find!

And, oh... if you were wondering about BSW's puzzle.... it wasn't hidden text after all. The brat led us onto another wild goose chase!

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Caching Celebration - Discover Me!

In celebration of the 4th anniversary of my first #geocache find and Geocaching's 15th, I'm posting my 15 Years of #Geocaching #geocoin #trackable for discovery. Please tell me where you are from and your favorite geocache or geocaching memory. #gogeocaching

4 Years Later

Four years ago today, 3inaTree accompanied myself, WikidKriket and SnakeyLicks to the Detroit Zoo and taught us this (new to us) experience called "geocaching". And we haven't looked back since!

Monday, May 25, 2015

GJJ: Charlotte to Detroit

As I told my family, this was more of a driving adventure than a geocaching road trip.  Yes, we did a TON of geocaching and managed to pickup at least 3 caches in every state we crossed paths with, but we stopped to smell the roses, too.  Nothing more fascinating than scenic mountain views and roadside America!

As we took I-75 down, we elected to return via I-77.  It was hundreds of miles of roads and mountains.

Ok, we couldn't pass it up.  In upper North Carolina is the grave site of the original Siamese twins, Chang and Eng.

The Bunker Brothers GCF338
The cache page gave a fascinating history of their arrival to the region, their marriage and 21 kids (their descendants number in the 1,500's!), the shocking demise and burial.  They have an amazing mountain view from their final resting place.

And just a few miles up the road is another site of historical significance.... do you recognize it?

As a military wife passing the highway signs for Mount Airy (Mayberry, RFD), I always wanted to stop, but there was never time.  TaGeez was more than game to pull of and explore the little town.

Mayberry Reflection GCJF9C
Unfortunately, it was Sunday and EVERYTHING is closed except the packed churches nearby.  We strolled through town, grabbed a few caches and visited the historic replicas of Mayberry's garage, county courthouse and Floyd's barber shop.

I have to say this is one of my favorite pictures of us EVER.  Taken at the Virginia rest stop, Virginia really is for lovers!

Have you ever noticed this from the freeway?  This is the Shot Tower of Jackson Ferry.  Now that it's been pointed out to me, it's very noticeable from the highway.  It was used to make lead shot in the 1800's, and it has several very interesting signs out front explaining the history and manufacturing process.

Old Tower GCG1RB
What I found more interesting was the view from the hill.  Beautiful!

Well, we did stop for a cache so we pulled off to grab it.  It was the first time we found one literally in the mountain!

Wildflowers lined the highway from Charlotte through Columbus.  This had special meaning to me as I was driving along the mid-Atlantic roadways.

This leg of the journey was on Sunday - Mother's Day.  And 22 years ago this very week, I was also driving these exact roads from Carolina to home.  My mother had passed, and I was going to see her for the very last time.  Every time I remember that trip two decades ago I recall how sunny the day was (unfathomable blue skies) and the hundreds of miles of wildflowers in the median.  Who would've thought all these years later, during this same week, on Mother's Day, I would be on these exact roads, heading in the same direction? Blue skies.  Wildflowers.

Slightly Scenic LPC GC4J28R
And don't forget the scents!  Most amazing floral breezes!
Still feeling the effects of my trip down memory lane and witnessing a 3-car fatal accident on I-77, we decided to stop at another highly-favorited cache for some fresh air. This is (as the sign professes) the smallest church in Wythesville and one of the smallest in the country.  The inside contained 3 pews and nothing else.

Seek and You Shall Find GC36192
At first, we were confused.  The coordinates took us towards the back corner, but there were only rocks. What's the big deal?  After a moment's contemplation, the realization hit home.  The cache container was not outside the church, it WAS the church!

With caution, we opened the door and stepped in.  And there was the log!

I wish we had more time to explore all the other novelties along the roadway, but time was drawing short. We had several must-see stops still, so we made some miles on the highway.  I had totally forgotten that you must drive through (not one but two) mountains along this route!  Too cool! 

Leaving Virginia, we arrived in West Virginia around dinner time.  Although it had been my hope to spend more time in the state capital, reaching home by midnight was our priority. TaGeez humored me, so we grabbed this special cache in Charleston.  Regretfully, we had to skip the webcam as the cache page absolutely forbade visiting the campus on the weekends.

In the Basement of the Library GC36G4CZ
After Charleston, our route took a new path towards Hocking Hills, OH.  After crossing a rather impressive aqua-colored bridge, we finally had our first rain of the trip.  Weirdest 5-minute deluge I've ever experienced because there was not a cloud around and the sky was vivid blue.  We were rewarded with a double rainbow for our troubles.

Double Rainbow!
The drive from the Hocking Hills area to Columbus was probably the least thrilling of the trip (construction, tiny towns, rural amenities), but we had one more stop on our agenda.  The Columbus webcam on the OSU campus was the only functioning webcam on the entire trip!  And we even took a pretty impressive picture in the dark!

March to the (Missing) Arch GCGMQV
We arrived home around 1 a.m.  Exhausted.  Exhilarated.  And already plotting our next adventure.


Sometimes it CAN be about the numbers, but it also helps if it's about the experiences, too.
  • 2,000 miles across 10 states in 4 days
  • 8 new state souvenirs: KY, TN, AL, GA, SC, NC, VA, and WV
  • 61 caches including 2 JASMER fillers
  • 4 webcams, 20 Virtuals, 2 lending libraries and 1 Earth Cache.
  • Major, memorable stops include Newport (KY), Lookout Mountain (TN), Stone Mountain (GA), Oakland Cemetery (Atlanta), and Mount Airy (NC).
  • Roadside curiosities included: Many unique bridges, a GIANT bell, multiple riverboats, a striped horse, the Great Locomotive Chase, 1970's gas pumps, a dead armadillo, the deep red clay of the Appalachians, a confederate Bas-relief, the White House, a large silver bird, a baseball diamond that isn't, an Olympic 'torch', and the memorable cemeteries (Revolutionary War, forgotten Confederate, the National Cemetery and Oakland Cemetery).

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

GJJ: Atlanta to Charlotte

Saturday was day 3 of the trip and definitely not as expected. We threw the playbook out the window (or it may've been knocked out of our hands by that wayward construction barrel).  More a little later on that... just know that, although I'm sharing a plethora of Virtuals, there are no spoilers in the following images.

Waking, we were hot and sticky.  I lived in North Caroline many years ago, but I've been away too long to be used to it.  TaGeez and I decided to stop at some local Virtuals, hoping the shade would help.  First stop was another "forgotten cemetery" - this one with Revolutionary War heroes.  It was accessed by driving through a residential area, and the graves were quite different than we'd seen to date.

Minutemen in Tucker GC72AA
Already behind schedule, we knew we'd have to cut half the Atlanta Virtuals off our list, but we decided, since this next one was on the way to make a stop.  Notice anything familiar?

Funny story about this one. We were paying close attention to state laws about windshield-mounted GPS units - most of the states didn't allow them.  So, our Nuvi was off the windshield and down near the gear shift.  Instead of "blocking our view", we spent quite a bit of time driving and looking down (How safe is that?!?).  As we pulled up to this GZ, we were looking down, trying to see where it was leading us. BEAUTIFUL residential area with enormous houses - we watched as some maids were being dropped off at the servant's gate.  As we pulled up to the coordinates, we looked up and were confused. As we hadn't looked at the cache's pictures, we didn't know what we were looking for.  It wasn't until we turned around and decided to leave that this beauty loomed across the street from us.  We had driven right past it. How'd we miss it?
1600 Briarcliff Road? GCG2J7
The next fabulous stop has (currently) 351 favorite points!  I probably would've been more inclined to favorite it if reaching it wasn't such a nightmare.  It's in underground drop-off at one of the largest International airports in the country!  For people who drove from Detroit to see it, we sure spent a lot of time in the airport!  As a bonus, however, we grabbed another nearby Virtual that served as the final qualifier for a really tough Challenge up here in Michigan!

A Different Species of Big Silver Bird GCGFDE
While in the South, I wanted to introduce TaGeez to some of the Southern favorite spots.  I think he was more enamored by Chick-fil-A's advertisements then he was the food.  It's blurry, but this was a water tower we passed on the way from the airport.  What a hoot!

Roadside Atlanta

Again, we had to cut many Virtuals off our list, but we did stop for the ones with the highest points. This one was more impressive via Google Earth than in actuality.  Nope, this is not a ball field.  It is the parking lot (of a former ball field near where the current Atlanta Braves play).  Wanna guess which "Aaron" they are talking about?

Aaron's Home GC58A1
And right next door was one of the Olympic venues.

Olympic Park - downtown Atlanta
Passing through Atlanta, this next stop was our main goal. Oakland Cemetery is considered one of the 10 most beautiful and interesting cemeteries in the United States.  I could write several blog posts on the remarkable sites within these walls.  The photos do not do it justice as the sun was too bright to really focus.
Oakland Cemetery
Oakland Cemetery is the oldest cemetery, as well as one of the largest green spaces, in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S. Founded as "Atlanta Cemetery" in 1850 on six acres of land southeast of the city, it was renamed in 1872 to reflect the large number of oak and magnolia trees growing in the area. By that time, the city had grown and the cemetery had enlarged correspondingly to the current 48 acres. Since then, Atlanta has continued to expand, so that the cemetery is now located in the center of the city. Oakland is an excellent example of a Victorian-style cemetery, and reflects the "garden cemetery" movement started and exemplified by Mount Auburn Cemetery in Massachusetts. [Source: Wikipedia)

Jasper Newton Smith Mausoleum
The first thing many people notice when entering the gates of Oakland is the mausoleum of Jasper Newton Smith, on which sits a striking life-size statue of Smith himself. Jasper Smith was a real estate investor who financed two buildings downtown.... Smith was well known for refusing to wear a necktie due to a bad experience as a child. Therefore, one story describing the creation of his statue notes that when the artist sculpted him wearing a cravat, Smith refused to pay until the offending item had been chiseled off.

Can you see the neckties tied to his gated door?
As we wondered away from Smith's grave, we passed rows and rows of Victorian angels, walled family plots, and enormous landscaped displays of funerary artistry.  As we headed amidst the throng (there were SO many people perambulating about) back to the brick-paved road, I noticed this little headstone and plaque off behind a bush.  It turned out to be one of the most fascinating markers I've ever seen.

In memory of James Nissen Died Sept. 22nd 1850
Legend states that Dr. Nissen, the cemetery's first internment,
was fearful of being buried alive; therefore, he requested
his jugular vein be severed prior to burial.

Again, the pictures do not do this place justice.  I've always been fascinated by Detroit's Golden Era "garden cemeteries", but the various sections of Oakland were breathtaking. To date I've visited Cleveland's Lakeview Cemetery, colonial cemeteries in the Boston-area, Civil War-era cemeteries along the Outer Banks, and Wild West cemeteries on the sides of mountains in Colorado. This was another unique experience.  

I loved the care that visitors today focused on the family plots.  Each row seemed to be bustling with people planting and others strolling.  There were Segway tours, walking tours, self-paced audio tours.  

The cemetery is broken up into zones.  The original 6 acres is prime real estate.  We visited the mausoleums near the Visitor Center, the Jewish section, the Confederate section, the Black section and Potter's field. Interesting to see all the granite masterpieces everywhere except in the Black section and Potter's field - these were more like parks than final resting places. It wasn't until afterwards where I read that these sections did have headstones once upon a time, but they were made of wood and have since deteriorated.

Another amazing feature of this garden cemetery were the Magnolia trees.  They were all over the Confederate section - big waxy leaves and beautiful blossoms.  Stunning and fragrant! The blossoms were as large as my head and many of them just out of reach.  It looked like God decided to dab white paint blotches all over these deep-green towering trees.

We finally found one low enough to snap a picture.  TaGeez snapped the one below.  Pretty amazing for a cell phone camera.

Source: TaGeez
If Nissen's is my favorite plaque, then the Confederate Lion is my favorite memorial.  Isn't he beautiful?  He's featured in the middle of the Confederate section in the shadow of a very tall obelisk (built of granite from Stone Mountain, the Obelisk, for many decades, was the tallest man-made object in Atlanta). He was a very big tourist draw, protecting the memory of several thousand unknown Confederate soldiers buried in Oakland.

The Lyin' Cache GC84DF
Heading back to the front gate, we veered to the grave of golfer Bobby Jones.  His plot is unique - there's only one headstone.  The rest of the plot is a putting green with a tee and a golf hole.  It is bad luck to accidentally knock the golf ball off the tee so we were very careful.

The Master GCD42A
Golfer Bobby Jones' grave
This time dwindling and the humidity rising, we made a few more stops in the mausoleum section before heading out.

Look at these cacti!

And that was Atlanta.  Leaving later than we hoped, we turned our car towards Augusta, South Carolina and our next targeted JASMER cache.  But things didn't go quite as planned.

The highway between Atlanta and Augusta was beautiful. Well-maintained roads, lined with very lush, very verdant greenery.  Very tall, thin but lush trees. Peaceful. Until we reached the 41 miles of construction. Then the wayward construction barrel that attacked our car causing a flat tire in the middle of... where?  Oh, driving back to Conyers we found a very helpful Pep Boys.  Southern courtesy.. they felt guilty charging us $10 for a new tire valve and sending us on our way. Just $10 and several hours of our time!

The Cacher's Cache GC5H3EJ
After getting our tire fixed, we grabbed a nearby cache. Inside
the cache were more caches as swag. We grabbed one and will
hide it outside a Pep Boy's back home. It will be called,
"Georgia on my Mind".  Fitting, eh? 
Now many hours behind, we returned to the road, hoping to make the Modoc Stash before dark.  Modoc is located in the Sumter National Forest - not somewhere you might want to take a 2 mile trek, in the dark, with no cell service. But we were on the road, right?  Again, no easy sailing here.  We still had a major road closure, an inconvenient detour, and a tailgating Sheriff's car to contend with!

At 7:02pm, we pulled into (after driving right past) the parking for Sumter National Forest.  This was the second most important cache on our trip - a JASMER qualifier for December 2000.  If we didn't get this one, the next closest to home is near Boston.

Entire journey from 7:02 pm - 8:32 pm.
After changing into hiking gear, packing extra batteries, waypointing the car, and turning the Tracks feature on the 3 GPSr units, we headed off into the woods.  Thankfully, after messaging several previous finders, we knew not to bushwhack and stay on the snakelike path. The direct route meant climbing over mini-mountains with the threat of ticks and Copperheads in wait.

After one mile of brisk hiking along paths hugging several small mountains and meandering over 3 river crossings, we had it in hand!  Modoc Stash GCF4! I believe the birds were doing their best rendition of the Indiana Jones theme song in our honor!

Modoc Stash GCF4 - December 2000
We signed the log, dropped some Michigan path tags plus my NCEES trackable, and posed for pictures. Putting everything back, the hike back to the car was with lighter foot and soaring heart.  Corny, but true. We made it back by 8:32pm and, within minutes, the sun went down and we were driving in pitch darkness. You've never experienced darkness like a rural road in a Southern national forest under a starless sky.

With all the travel delays earlier in the day, we knew we'd have to bypass Columbia on this trip. But we did stop for a large travel bug hotel on the way to Charlotte.  It seemed odd finding a "hotel" behind an "adult entertainment shop" next to a trucker's stop off the freeway. But the duck was worth it. Finding it was easy - opening it was another puzzle, especially as exhausted as we were.

The Duck Inn TB Motel GC4N3FV
We reached Charlotte after midnight.  My review of the Hyatt Place Charlotte/Arrowhead hotel is titled "Definitely worth more than we paid for". The best (non-expense account) hotel we've ever stayed in. A deserved end to several exhausting but rewarding red-letter days. 

Next: Heading home while enjoying the wonders of Roadside America.

Monday, May 18, 2015

GJJ: Knoxville to Atlanta

Big day on the adventure!  We tour Virtuals, pose for webcams and even grab a Jasmer. But it was not all geocaching - we saw some amazing sites off Lookout Mountain in Chattanooga and Stone Mountain in Atlanta, too.

Note: There are no spoiler pictures for the Virtuals.  Just a bunch of selfies for our qualifying logs.  
And not even good selfies - it was hot!  Even at 7:30 at night it was over 90 degrees and sticky!

Our first full morning found us packing and having breakfast at the seriously unfabulous Knoxville Clarion Inn.  But that's OK because we knew we had some miles to go and many, many, many stops along the way. The town of Cleveland, TN was a two-fer: a webcam and a virtual. Not much else.
The Village Green Webcam Cache GCHFG6 - it was down. Bummer.
This is a tiny Mausoleum in the middle of the town housing the Craigsmile family, a tragic story about a little girl killed in a train accident and the sad story of her remaining family.  Per the cache page:
Today, if you visit the mausoleum, you will notice red streaks the color of blood appear on it. The stories say that the bloody stains first began to appear on the Craigmiles mausoleum after Nina was interred there. With the death of each family member, the stains grew darker and more noticeable. Some of the locals began to believe that the marks were blood, coming from the stone itself, in response to the tragedies suffered by the family.
The Blood Stained Mausoleum GCKNVT
After Cleveland, we headed down to downtown Chattanooga for another series of Virtuals. First stop is a long-forgotten Confederate Cemetery that housed the remains of 155 unknown soldiers who died in hostpital during Bragg's Kentucky campaign.

The Unknown GC518E
Afterwards, we visited the Chattanooga National Cemetery.  Beautiful, isn't it?  

Here is a fascinating story.  Look at the train atop the monument.  Here's a snippet of the story:
The Great Locomotive Chase was a military raid that occurred April 12, 1862, in northern Georgia during the American Civil War. Volunteers from the Union Army commandeered a train and took it northward toward Chattanooga, Tennessee, doing as much damage as possible to the vital Western and Atlantic Railroad (W&A) line from Atlanta to Chattanooga as they went. They were pursued by Confederate forces at first on foot, and later on a succession of locomotives. 
Because the Union men had cut the telegraph wires, the Confederates could not send warnings ahead to forces along the railway. Confederates eventually captured the raiders and executed some quickly as spies; some others were able to flee. Some of the raiders were the first to be awarded the Medal of Honor by the US Congress for their actions.
 The next day we visited Oakland Cemetery where the captured had been interred, hung and buried in an unmarked grave (they were eventually reburied here).  In Oakland Cemetery (somewhere... we ran out of time plus it was so blasted hot!) is a headstone for the Confederate conductor of the train.

The Great Chase #3 GC5148
 In the background, you can see Lookout Mountain looming.

Rest in Peace GC4E66
 But before heading up that mountain, another attempt at a webcam.  Again, not working.

I See You! GCPB7G
Lookout Mountain was the scene of the 'Last Battle of the Cherokees' during the Nickajack Expedition, which took place in the 18th century, as well as the November 24, 1863 Battle of Lookout Mountain during the American Civil War. [Wikipedia]

They have an Incline Railway

The Most Amazing Mile GCMFYC
A fascinating exhibit detailing movement of the Civil War Battleground (played out overlooking an amazing view).  The best part is when JimLob65 told me the history of the battle on this mountain - I have no idea how the Yankees managed to gather the resolve to ascend, and I am amazed at their success.

And, of course, it's now a tourist destination.  

Unfortunately, we dallied in Chattanooga longer than intended so we moved onto Atlanta.. via Alabama. Thanks to Ratspazum who reminded us that a slight detour of a few miles would add another state to our stats.

The visitor center was absolutely beautiful, lined with the state flower.  But outside of that, it was terribly poor and very sparse.  

Our first Alabama cache: Barn Art GC3W3RJ
As per our regular routine, we stopped in every state at the gas station. We discovered that the drive from Detroit to Atlanta (and South Carolina to West Virginia) was all uphill.  Thankfully, gas prices were half as much as last year so it wasn't as painful going twice over our budgets.  We averaged from $2.22/gallon to $2.57/gallon.  This stop threw us for a loop.  As we pulled up, I asked TaGeez, "Do you know how to run these?"  Luckily he's a jack of all trades and a keeper of useless knowledge.

I sent this picture to my Dad, laughing at our Alabama 
experience.  He promptly told my brother (who lent us
his car for this adventure).  It wasn't long before I receive
the text from him.  Uh oh! Busted! He said we're nuts!
After driving up one side of an Alabama mountain range and down the other (passing a dead armadillo in the road (I've never seen a real one before! He looked like he was napping), we eventually made it into Georgia.

The Chieftains Trail - Chieftains Museum GCG00X
By now things were running very behind - after dinner - and we hadn't accomplished any of our Atlanta goals.  Although it was a beautiful drive into Atlanta, we needed to keep going through and head East.  There was no way we could reach Atlanta and NOT get our target JASMER cache: Beaver Cache (the beavers have left) GC1D hidden June 3, 2000.

Fearful that the neighbors would have issues if we attempted this past dark, we skipped the hotel and dealt with Atlanta rush hour traffic to reach the small residential community.  These people have money!  Pulling into the designated parking near the tennis courts and swimming pool, we headed around the courts and towards the pretty little pond (lined with oh so many No Trespassing signs!).  Walking 300 feet, brushing off mosquitoes and watching the sun dip down, we found our prize.
We did it! Beaver Cache GC1D
The container was a little wet so we cleaned it out, deposited some Michigan path tags and dropped TaGeez's NCEES trackable. Funny epilogue on this trackable.  We drove it all the way down from Michigan to release it in Georgia only to have the next finder drive it all the way back to Michigan again!  It's in the U.P.!

After discussing our options, TaGeez and I decided we should stop at Stone Mountain on the way to our hotel.  We figured we'd have no time in the morning, and we had hoped it would be a little cooler than midday.  We were correct about the former but not the latter - 91 degrees after dark!

The beginning of the famed Appalachian trail, Stone Mountain is equal parts state park and tourist mecca. It is famous for it's Confederate bas-relief (and light show) on the North wall of the mountain.  It took three artists 56 years to complete - the first artist, Gutzom Borgium, went on to create Mount Rushmore.
The largest high relief sculpture in the world, the Confederate Memorial Carving, depicts three Confederate heroes of the Civil War, President Jefferson Davis and Generals Robert E. Lee and Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson. 
The entire carved surface measures three-acres, larger than a football field and Mount Rushmore. The carving of the three men towers 400 feet above the ground, measures 90 by 190 feet, and is recessed 42 feet into the mountain. The deepest point of the carving is at Lee's elbow, which is 12 feet to the mountain's surface. 
Now, before you ask, no, we didn't get the Tour of Stone Mountain (June 2000) Multicache.  There was too many stages, too much climbing and we were running out of time.  We did, however, grab a few more Virtuals before riding into the sunset.

Appalachian sunset
Our next adventure will feature a White House, a giant silver bird, a home run king, a Confederate Lion, Oakland cemetery and the trials of reaching one of the oldest caches in the area: Modoc Stash GCF4 (December 2000).