Monday, September 29, 2008

Kenmin No Mori

I was able to go to a neat park this evening after work. It's actually north of where I work, so it's not really "on the way" to my house. It's a little off the beaten path, and it's huge. The road that I took to the park ended at what looked to be the back gate to the park, and it was closed. There were paths on either side of the gate, making the gate appear to be there for the sole purpose of keeping vehicles out. The adjacent sign showed the park hours, and I was there in plenty of time.

After about a half mile walk, I got to the "park proper." There wasn't a soul in sight. I had this entire, very large, park to myself. It was a bit eerie.

There is plenty of room to roam around, several miles of hiking trails, and a huge "roller slide." A roller slide is a long, narrow slide, with conveyor belt type rollers on it. Kids will bring a piece of cardboard with them, and ride down these large slides. This one appeared to be well over 100 yards long.

We had a nice tropical storm come through about a week or so ago, and it brought heavy rain with high winds. The cache itself wasy laying out in the open, but it was far enough off of the trail that it hadn't been disturbed. It probably looked like a piece of trash to passerby.

I signed the log, pulled the trackables out, just in case it was kids that had found it, and left a trackable that has dozens of replicas here on the island.

I had no trouble finding the correct spot, and I re-hid the cache in what seemed like the best spot, with plenty of natural camouflage. It was a fun way to end the work day. This one officially exhausts those caches that are even remotely located close to work!

It wasn't until I arrive back at home and re-read the cache description that I realized the park is closed on Mondays! I'm glad that it's in a very rural area, and nobody noticed me poking around!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Nice View of Foster

I stopped at a cache on my way home from Camp Foster today, and it is at a new library, campground, and park.

Those that have been to Okinawa before will remember the large building on the top of the hill near Foster that has an airplane on top of it. This new facility has been built right next to it. The view is great, and I DNFd the cache. After talking to another cacher later, I realized that my daughter and I were right on top of it (my new GPSr is awesome like that), but simply failed to move enough of the rocks covering it.

We still got to enjoy a nice view, and a pleasant afternoon between rain storms (another typhoon to the south of us).

As always, you can click the pictures for the grownup version.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Iha Castle Remains

I stopped on my way home today to explore the Iha Castle remains. This is a ruin of a 13th century castle that is between Ishikawa and Uruma.

I had a fun time, and the cache was well hidden. The owner even glued fake leaves on the container. Nice camo job...

Here's a shot of the entrance to the castle.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Another Dam Cache

I made a second trip to the Kanna Dam today at lunch. I picked up the other cache that was there, and it was an interesting find. It was completely uncovered, and doesn't require any camouflage at all. It's in such a great spot that it's literally impossible to view it unless you're right on top of it.

I got some great pics of the dam, and had a great lunch. The skeeters weren't even bad!

I stopped at another cache on my way home from work, and it took much longer (no steps to climb, but a 1/3 mile walk from the parking lot). It was located at a neat little beach, and it was a tough search. The sawtooth plants got me good, but I survived.

(click pics for full sized version)

View from the cache-

View from the top-

After work near Ishikawa-

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Another Park Cache

I was able to go out with my son today and grab a couple of caches. The first one was at a neat little park near here that has a great view. Climbing the stairs wasn't too bad, and there were hardly any mosquitoes (but there were a couple of bums).

The second cache was at the Southeast Botanical Gardens, and it was a quick park and grab. It was a micro, with nothing but a log to sign.

These were fun, easy, quick caches, and let me spend an hour or so with my son. It was a good way to end the weekend.

(click the pics for full sized version)

View from the top of the park-

Confucious say, he who get in hurry, not find cache-

Friday, September 19, 2008

Kinserfest and Morinokawa Spring

I took the kids to "Kinserfest," a carnival-like festival that's held annually at Camp Kinser, and was able to hit a couple of caches on the way home. My son was working at the festival, so it was just my daughter and me.

The first cache was near one of my favorite restaurants, the Garlic House, or, more properly, Arin Krin. That cache was a DNF, or Did Not Find. Too many muggles about for us to search properly.

The second cache was at the Morinokawa Spring, which is located at a neat little park that I never would have known was there. It's a nice little spot of natural jungle, in the middle of urban sprawl. The mosquitoes were out in force, so we didn't linger long. My daughter actually made the find!

I took many pictures today, not just pictures at the cache site, but at various spots here that folks back in the states might find interesting. Here's a few for your viewing pleasure.

You can click them all for full sized versions. Enjoy!

Heading north on highway 58 near Camp Foster

I thought Graceland was in the U.S. Who knew?

The spring. I don't know how old it is, but it looks pretty old.

Near the spring.

Now we know where Popeye goes to get his ride fixed!

Garmin Colorado

This beauty is my next big purchase. It's going to be a while, because it's far from cheap. It does, however, provide a ton of features that previous models do not, and it has a great interface with the new control wheel.

One of the biggest selling points is that it allows "paperless" caching without the use of a PDA. When you load caches to the Colorado, you are loading the entire description, hint, logs, size, and even the inventory (trackables). No need to print out the cache page, or use a PDA for that stuff.

It has the latest generation of high-sensitivity receiver, electronic compass and altimeter, and the ability to wirelessly exchange waypoints with other GPS units. It comes pre-loaded with some pretty decent topo maps of the U.S., but nothing for Okinawa (what a shock!).

Maybe, just maybe, the boss and I will decide that our tax return has enough room left over for one of these; I'll keep my fingers crossed.

Lack of Caching

The typhoon that was a near miss has prevented me from doing any caching over the past week. Looks like we'll finally have some decent weather this weekend, so I'll be back on it. There's a couple of caches near the Kadena ammo area that I want to grab, and one of them is supposed to be a pretty decent hike...We'll see.

My son joined the rifle team at his JROTC unit, and that's going to suck up a bunch of his time. He won't be doing as much caching with me, unless it's only on the weekends. We're sort of running out of caches near the house that we can hit anyway. He's working at a festival on Camp Kinser tomorrow (Saturday) with his JROTC unit, so I have to drive him down there, hang around for a while, and then I'll be free to hunt for some caches!

I should be heading to Aberdeen, Maryland toward the end of October, and I plan on doing some caching there. I have to attend a week-long conference there, but I should have at least one Sunday and a few aftenoons to myself to explore; I'm very much looking forward to that. There is, however, some rumors that the conference is being pushed back to December. If that's the case, I will not be attending, as I will have moved to my new unit by then. Only time will tell.

I hope to have some caching news to report after this weekend, and some pictures too. Stay tuned for updates!

Friday, September 12, 2008

Lessons Learned While Geocaching

Geocaching is a fun, clean, and healthy activity that the whole family can enjoy. It can also be a bit frustrating at times, and there are a few dangers involved (depending on where you search for geocaches). I've only been Geocaching for a few months, but I've already learned quite a bit about it. Here's some of the lessons that I've learned so far.

GPS receivers are imperfect. My GPS unit will only get me in the vicinity of the cache, it will not put me right on top of it. I have to keep reminding myself of that, and remember to get a good bearing and distance, and then just go to that spot and search (and search and search and search). Bumbling around with my eyes glued to my GPS is only going to result in frustration.

Tree cover, tall buildings, and even large metal objects, can adversely affect the accuracy of my GPS unit. When approaching these objects, it's best to find a clear area, get a good distance and bearing, and then head to that on my own. I need to remember that once I enter heavy jungle, blindly following the arrow on my GPS is foolish.

If a cache has not been found in a while (a few weeks?), various wildlife may have made the area surrounding the cache their home. Here in Okinawa, spiders and snakes are the most common. Walking through waist high vegetation during habu mating season is dangerous. Making plenty of noise, poking through the brush with a stick, and taking it slow are good countermeasures. The spiders in Okinawa are not small, and they love to hang their webs across paths and trails. Some of them look big enough to take down a small child.

The steps leading up a 13th century castle can be very slippery after a good rain. The steps leading up a 13th century castle are very abrasive, and will easily scrape skin off of knees and elbows. Slipping on the steps leading up a 13th century castle doesn't make you look very cool at all.

If I find myself needing a machete, I'm probably searching in the wrong place.

If my searching is drawing unwanted attention from locals, my GPS unit can look just like a cell phone.

Geocaching is addictive.

Kids like to search for caches too.

Mosquitoes don't care if you've got a good reason to be there. The mosquitoes on Okinawa are big, plentiful, and love to congregate near caches.

All of these lessons are pretty simple, but they can be easy to forget when I'm tromping through the jungle, dodging spiders, and wiping sweat from my eyes. I'm just glad that I discovered this activity when I did, and wish that I had found it sooner. I've been to some really neat places during my time in this gun club, and it would have been fascinating to search for caches in some of those spots.

Kanna Dam

I was able to head north of Camp Hansen during my lunch hour yesterday and search for a cache at the Kanna Dam. It's about four miles north of Kin Village, and there's a nice park there called Lakeside Park. The cache was well hidden, and well guarded. I lost track of how many large spiders I saw, and how many webs I walked into (face first). When I logged my find, I wrote that, "If anyone is planning on looking for this cache soon, I cleared about a dozen spiders out for you."

It looked like some "grass ninjas" had been working in the area recently, and all of their cuttings had been dumped in the vicinity of the cache. That increased the amount of brush and such that I had to search through. In addition, the tree cover was messing with my GPS pretty good. Once I remembered that my GPS is only going to get me near the cache, I ignored it, and concentrated on looking in places that I would hide a cache. After that, it took me about two minutes to find it.

It was a great way to spend my lunch hour, and I had just enough time left over to suck down some chow, and grab a quick shower before returning to work.

It's a shame that I'm running out of caches to search for close to my work. Maybe I can encourage some local cachers to hide some more in that area.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Day of Caching

I was able to spend the better part of the day caching with my two kids. They are sufficiently worn out, and will probably sleep pretty good tonight. We went after a few caches on a "man made" island that is actually reclaimed land. I think the entire island is made of garbage, since that's about all that we found. One area had more hobo houses than anything (and a bag full of cans of shaving cream...your guess is as good as mine on that one). We did get to watch some young baseball players, and they were quite good. The coach took a turn at bat, and the pitcher put him down with ease.

All in all, a fun day, and our only find was a "virtual" cache that is right on the end of the Kadena AFB runway.

Monday, September 1, 2008

First Event Cache

I attended my first event cache here on Okinawa yesterday, and I had a great time. I met some great new people, and was able to put some faces to the names that I have been seeing online for the last couple of months. Thanks for the pointers PJ!

I took the kids with me, and they got a kick out of seeing some of the very extensive geocoin collections that other folks have. I bought my son his first geocoin, and excitedly placed it in a cache this morning. In our haste to get it on its way around the world, we failed to take a picture of it. I've asked the coin company if they have any stock photos but, if they do not, I'll have to go get it out of the cache I placed it in, and snap a pic of it. It certainly suits him.

Here's a picture of the whole group. I promise you, I am in this pic somewhere. (click the image to view it full size)

The boy's first coin: