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September 29, 2009

Summer Travels

One of my goals for the summer was to get out and explore rural Manitoba more this year, in addition to my goal of travelling more in general for the year. The summer was a busy time with several trips around the continent. From Kansas to Churchill, Regina to Buffalo Point....


May 3, Headingley, Beaudry Park and St Francis Xavier.

May 15, a trip out to St Leon and Treeherne.

May 17 a day with Ztirnats, enjoying the St Clements series of caches up through Lockport, Selkirk and Grand Beach. Stopped to snag two pesky caches in Victoria Beach that I had previous DNF'd before the community locked up for the season.


Victoria Beach, MB

May 18 hit up Manitou, the Pembina Valley, Morden, Altona and Morris.

May 31 was the annual Cache the Marsh event at Oak Hammock Marsh, a very enjoyable day.

June 7 headed for a day trip out to Spruce Woods. Hiked the bulk of Spirit Sands to pickup all the caches around, including 2 earthcaches. Along with the other caches of the day this added up to perhaps 20-25km of hiking. Continued caching in the extended area, hitting up Baldur and Clearwater, more areas I had never visited or hadn't visited in decades. Managed to snag 2 FTF along the way, including one that had been out for more than a year and had a 70m error on the coordinates.


Devil's Punch Bowl -
Spirit Sands

Clearwater, MB

June 20, found the newly published remaining St Clements caches and a few others around Selkirk and Lockport with the family.

June 26 kicked off a whirlwind tour with OHMIC to Kansas finding a few caches in North Dakota during a tornado. The next day we spent caching in South Dakota. Most of the day we spent in Watertown, SD, lots and lots of caches there and we had a very enjoyable time finding many of them including several series. We put on some miles the next day, hitting up Iowa, Missouri and Nebraska, all new states for me. Had some longer stops in Sioux Falls, SD, Sioux City, IA, Omaha, NE and Plattsmouth, NE. I must say the Iowa rest stops were the best. Free WIFI and the greatest water I can't stop talking about. By the 29th we had made it to Kansas City, completing our end to end drive of the I-29 interstate. Found quite a few caches in Wyandotte County Park outside Kansas City and snagged the final cache required for the Alpha-Numeric Challenge. Also ended up finding enough earthcaches in enough states to complete the earthcache masters along the way. At one point somewhere in Weatherby Lakes we got pulled over for speeding in an obvious trap location, after many minutes the officer returned with a warning. Unfortunately we needed to a find a cache just meters from where he was parked. We drove off and returned later, with a wave at the officer we went over and found the cache. On the way back we stopped in St Joseph, MO and eventually Watertown, SD again to finish off some of the series we started. Stopped in Fargo, ND and Grand Forks, ND to find some pesky caches from previous visits. With that we were pretty much done, zipping down the newly minted 110 kph section of Hwy 75 and off to bed early the morning of the 30th. The 4 day tour netted over 300 finds.


Watertown, SD

Falls Park -
Sioux Falls, SD

Petrified Wood -
Sioux Falls, SD

Sioux Quartzite -
Sioux City, IA

July 1, yes not even 24 hours home and on the road again. Ztirnats in conjunction with the MBGA organized a group caching tour of Churchill, MB. From Kansas to Churchill in what seemed like just a day, nearly a 20 degree latitude change. I jumped on board the convoy of cars destined for Thompson, MB and snagged most of the roadside caches along the Hwy 6 route, about 20. In Thompson we prepared for our train departure to Churchill, which we were told was on time, but upon arrival the note on the locked train station said it would be about 2 hours late. Which was perfect, we found some caches around Thompson and grabbed dinner with the assembled group. Some 2-3 hours late the train arrived and we boarded and off we went ... a mere few meters over onto the other siding and then the crew disappeared for a few hours while we all sat on the train waiting. I think we were sitting stationary on the train in Thompson for nearly 3 hours before departing. VIA and the rail line owners/operators aren't on the best of terms apparently. 16 hours of slow motion later we made it to Churchill the evening of the 2nd (I think it was 18.5 hours total, sitting on the train). Wearily we checked into our hotel, grabbed a shower and headed off for a pub nite dinner in town. The arranged venue at our hotel hadn't opened for the season yet so we ventured down the street to Gypsy's which would soon become our second home in Churchill. After dinner everyone was eager for a solid rest in a real bed.
The next day marked our caching tour of Churchill. With bus driver and bear guard escorting us around, we found the caches around the outer limits of the town. We also visited the old rocket range, now a research centre, although not much has changed and the bear jail, one of the few other remnants of Fort Churchill. It's hard to imagine hundreds of soldiers stationed up here, or what real purpose they could serve. We tried to find a mysterious cache that is somewhere to be found but we couldn't locate near the plane crash site of Miss Piggy, so called because it often carried pigs as cargo. We also ventured out on the ice to visit Nunavut near the site of the Ithaca ship wreck. The locals claimed it was purposely beached on the sandbar in an irretrievable location as the need for its services started to dry up. After a quick stop at the hotel we were back on the bus to head out to the Port of Churchill to board our boat tours. Unfortunately there was still too much ice to visit the Prince of Wales Fort but we took the zodiacs out around the ice flows. We spotted lots of seals, birds and beluga whales. It's pretty amazing how the whales are keenly interested in the boats, following along side them and bumping into them. When the hydrophone was deployed they would even bump that curiously. The next day was open for us to wander around town ourselves to find the remaining 3 caches and oddly that took all day. We explored every last bit of the town, from the Port to museums, hardware stores, Wapusk National Park Visitor Centre, gift shops, the community centre/school/hospital complex and a few other places along the way. One of the caches happened to be locked inside and word quickly spread across town, somehow we learned that the watch maker held the key and we wandered over to find that he had gone for lunch, a later return visit finds the watch maker knows the lady with the key, who it happened, just walked in the door at that moment after unlocking the door we needed to find the cache. After a fun day exploring we stopped at the local legion and then off to Gypsy's again. Then back on the train which left on time and got back right on time, 16 hours later. We tried to figure out how to get the train to stop long enough in Gilliam to find the 2 caches there, but couldn't. After arriving it was a long drive home from Thompson to wrap up the adventure.

Norad Radar -
GC106G0

Pisew Falls -
Thompson, MB

Thompson, MB

Prince of Wales Fort -
Churchill, MB

Miss Piggy -
Churchill, MB

Ithaca -
Churchill, MB

Rocket Range -
Churchill, MB

Gypsy's -
Churchill, MB

July 11, the next weekend, was the Cache My Ashern event. Quite an involved event but lots of fun caching with Lizardo which I hadn't done for some time. Netted nearly 50 caches that day. Two caches I'd heard a lot about beforehand, THE TURDLE SOUP CACHE which was DNF'd on the way to Churchill was found that weekend, but A True Manitoba Hideout was missed in a pile of poison ivy.

Ashern, MB

Percy Moggey’s Cabin -
GCX86K

July 16 I decided to take an evening tour and find caches in Sanford, Miami, Manitou, Winkler, Altona and Riverside with a surprising collection of FTFs as a result.

July 18 started out as a quick run for a FTF in Transcona, but which ended up being a 14 cache day hitting up East St Paul, Birds Hill, Beausejour and East Kildonan.

July 19 I headed out with MHz to the far south eastern corner of Manitoba which I have never quite visited. It was an interesting day hitting up many locations for Eastman Challenge entries. The highlight was probably getting out to Buffalo Point and exploring, plus finding a US Benchmark in the water to boot.


US Benchmark

Buffalo Point, MB

Buffalo Point, MB

Buffalo Point, MB

July 25 was a nice day to head out and find a few caches around Steinbach and get some more Eastman entries. Some really pesky DNF's though.

July 26 was a geocaching event at Lower Fort Garry. These events are great as you get to experience some of those tourists attractions you might not have visited in a while, participate in a challenge while interacting with the staff and finding some caches.

August 1 marked the start of another spur of the moment trip with OHMIC, to Regina this time. 2 Days of caching, lots of puzzles, lots of spruce trees, 2 large series, some positive twists on traditional containers and nearly 120 caches later, we've made a big dent but not cleaned out Regina. We nearly beat the locals to a FTF involving finding caches in Regina and Edmonton, but with a more challenging puzzle than expected and really bad weather, the find couldn't be made in Edmonton in time. Subsequently our helpers in Edmonton ended up beating the Regina helpers for that FTF and netting me an Edmonton find.


Regina, MB -
GC1DWQZ

August 5 was an evening run to wrap up the Eastman challenge and snag some caches in St Malo and resolve the DNF's around Steinbach.

August 26 - Regina Part 2. We left after work, attended an event in Brandon, talking with some new folk and some old friends and ended up finding a cache by canoe on the spur of the moment. We arrived in Regina late that night and wouldn't you know it but foodninja is in town so we went out for some traditional late night ninja caching. The next day we started caching before a 10am rendezvous with some local cachers. It turns out there was one new puzzle cache in Regina since our last visit, Beghilos. I set about solving this one, the first part was rather involved, searching out several parks in Regina and matching up the pictures from the parks. I managed to solve a few from memory and google maps before starting in the second part of the puzzle. After a bit I managed a solution. In course of making sure we could resolve some DNF's from the last trip I contacted the cache hiders in Regina and somehow the conversation turned to this puzzle and the full solution for the first part of the puzzle was offered up. So the story is, we met up with the cachers to all go find this cache together, they insisted I get the FTF even though I wanted to share it with them. We rounded up the gang and went after another DNF and then went our separate ways and continued finding some of the more involved and remaining caches in Regina. We managed to clear out all the puzzle caches that didn't have a multi component and wrap up with a dinner at Brewsters with a friend of mine. A good trip, some more enjoyable finds at a more leisurely pace for about 70 finds.


Giant Ammo Can -
Regina, MB

It's that big

August 29th weekend marked another Geoventure event in Birds Hill park. A great weekend geocaching event. mtolympus laid out another challenging challenge for us again this year and with my team of top notch cachers we managed to snag first place, marking an undefeated streak for me. Snagged some caches within the park during the afternoon and spent many long hours in the dark looking for one crazy night cache. Another fun weekend event.

September 5, I headed out with Wagonmaker to hit up my old stomping grounds in Morden. A fun day, netting a small amount of caches, but WM cleaned up with nearly 50.


Carman, MB

Morden, MB

September 6, I headed out again to southern Manitoba, stopping in Carman, Morden, Pilot Mound, Crystal City, Manitou and Mariapolis to find some of the new caches around the region. A beautiful day to be outside and find caches although I missed out on all the FTFs. Interestingly this trip included the 3rd cache I've found this year that was located on a 'Postage Stamp Province' plaque.

September 13, the day was finally right to clean up some orphans and DNF's. Headed towards the Delta Marsh to find a long standing, multi-year orphan cache all by itself and resoundingly did. Then headed east and north wrapping around Lake Manitoba. Picking up some orphans around Woodlands and St Laurent, finding some new caches in Eriksdale and some older ones further off the highway as well. Two more challenging finds marked the day spent toiling away, but it was capped off with a find of the previously illusive A True Manitoba Hideout, what a difference the thick poison ivy foliage made to not finding it.


Percy Moggey’s Cabin -
GCX86K

September 18, a quick spur of the moment trip to Pilot Mound, Crystal City, Manitou and Carman for some finds, but mostly to hide caches along highway 3.

September 19, Steinbach, Richer and Ste Anne on the way to the Turdle-Ranch for the Creature Feature at Jenga Ranch!

Fall has hit now, so that was the summer of 2009, a fun one filled with many adventures and suprises.

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September 07, 2009

Enjoying the Outdoors

Since I started geocaching years ago I've slowly been improving my collection of outdoor wear through experience and learning from the experts.

The first stop was a good pair of shoes, what a world of difference that can make when you're walking over varied terrain for several hours a day. I researched a good pair and found that 'trail' shoes were well suited to the terrain encountered while caching. I lucked into hitting a great pair on the first try and I've been buying roughly the same model since. The latest version even includes Gore-Tex, which doesn't make the shoes waterproof, but I can walk through wet grass and keep my feet dry. A good pair of winter boots was next on the list and currently up for replacement. Need something that is warm, that keeps you dry in even the deepest snow and slushy conditions, yet something that fits well so you can hike some distance or wear snowshoes. This spring I added a new pair of hiking boots, something that would work better than shoes in wetter or muddier conditions. It took until fall to get a good test for them, but what a success they were. We walked through swampy, boggy conditions, getting many a booter and my feet stayed pretty much dry.

The other thing that makes your feet happy is a good pair of socks. For years I had a favourite brand of socks that was just perfect all around. Just the right amount of cushion and breathability, wear and a durability. But I can't seem to find them anymore. So I've been trying various additions and have some useful additions now, especially for winter.

Still shopping for that perfect pair of pants. One that fits perfectly, has lots of pockets (always seem to be carrying lots of stuff while caching), one that drys quickly and resists burrs and is convertible to shorts. I have a few that do quite well so I haven't been looking too hard. I have been considering a pair of Gore-Tex pants for wet conditions.

Last fall I picked up a new rain jacket as mine was severely lacking. I snagged a nice one from Cabela's that included Gore-Tex. I'm very pleased with it, certainly keeps me drier and it does seem to be quite a bit more breathable than nylon shells I've had in the past. After a year of wear I've noticed the coating on the outer layer seems to have disappeared, meaning that when it gets really wet the fabric stays cold and wet. Although the Gore-Tex keeps the wetness from hitting my skin, it still feels wet and cold. I also got a fleece liner for the jacket and its made itself very useful for winter wear as well.

The other thing is several pairs of good winter mitts. I have a nice big warm pair of snowmobile mitts for the cold and wet days and a few pairs of soft gloves for warmer wear. I think I might need to get a new layering system with a soft inner and a nylon outer. Although I don't think anything will really solve the digging in ice issues we had this past winter.

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