Friday, October 31, 2008

Akano Monument

I found this monument today while searching for a Geocache hidden there. It's a monument placed in honor of the local villagers that were killed by Japanese soldiers prior to, and during the Battle of Okinawa in 1945.

Many people fail to grasp the enormity of the horror that was the Empire of Japan in the early 1940s. There's a reason why most Okinawans don't, and won't, consider themselves Japanese. Many of them were forced to work as slaves, digging the caves, tunnels and bunkers that protected the Japanese soldiers from American bombardment. The Okinawans that refused to work were put to death. Many of the women were rounded up, and made to work in "comfort camps," as slaves to the soldiers.

Prior to the American invasion of Okinawa, the Japanese soldiers told the Okinawans that the Americans were barbarians, who would rape, torture, and eat the Okinawans. All they really had to do was tell the Okinawans that the Americans were, "worse than us." As a result of the misinformation, thousands of Okinawans ended up committing suicide, rather than face the Americans. This was one of the greatest tragedies of the war in the Pacific. Peace Prayer Park is located on the spot where entire families hurled themselves off of cliffs, ending their lives in the harsh surf and rocks below.

The Akano Monument is a small token, dedicated to those local Okinawans that did not survive the Japanse occupation. Local farmers will sit around the monument in the afternoons, enjoying the shade of the large banyan tree.

I'm honored to have come across this piece of history.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Wild West and Dog Watcher

Today made for a couple of interesting finds, and a little frustration. I was able to find a cache located at a Japanese police dog training facility, and one at a country western nightclub known as Western World.

The cache at Western World was inside of a fake rock, and I had a little trouble finding it, since the entire area was covered in similar rocks.

My third stop was at the Kurishiki Dam for a seven part multi-cache. I found part one, entered the coordinates for part two, and never found it. I had to be right on top of it, since my GPS zeroed out, and I found the benchmark that was mentioned in the hint. I simply coudn't come up with the cache. It's been a while since it was last found, so perhaps recent maintenance workers muggled it. I still had a good time, and the scenery was great. Here's a few pictures:

At the dam

Big spider at Western World

Doggy boot camp

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Got it!

Well, it's official: I'm the proud owner of a Garmin Colorado 400t. This thing rocks! Talk about head and shoulders above the competition...My old GPS isn't nearly as accurate as this, and doesn't have a tenth of the features. Here's the short list:

-High-sensitivity receiver that keeps an accurate lock on satellite signals, even in dense canopy, deep ravines, and even in my house! This thing doesn't lose a signal when outdoors.

-High-resolution color screen that makes it easy to discern terrain features, routes, points of interest, and, most importantly, Geocaches!

-Roller wheel controller that also toggles like the four way button on the old 60 series units (see my old post on that one). This control makes it a breeze to operate this thing one-handed, and I can scroll through mucho stuff in a hurry.

-"Paperless caching." I can download a "pocket query" of Geocaches in my area (up to 500 at a time), and load the resulting file directly to the Colorado. It will then display the caches on the map, as well as the complete description, size, difficulty, trackables (full inventory), and the last five logs. It will even show the decrypted hint if I choose to click on that. No more printing out the cache descriptions to take with me.

-Built in topographic map of North America. I think the built in map is of US and Canada, with parts of Mexico, but I'm not entirely sure. It won't do me much good here in Okinawa, but I already have the Japan maps (to include auto routing).

-Great autorouting capability. It gives me turn by turn directions to my destination as I drive. I can create custom "shortcuts" for the scroll wheel, so I can switch from autorouting mode to Geocaching mode quickly.

-Dedicated Geocaching mode. This thing is made for cachers! Well; we're included in the target audience anyway. I can even fully customize the attributes of the Geocaching mode, or create a whole new profile for a different "mode" of my choosing. On-road, off-road, show trails, show roads, whatever tickles my fancy.

-Audible alerts. This sucker beeps at me when things happen...Getting close to the cache? It will let me know when I'm within 500 feet. Turn coming up? It lets me know. Car overheating? Well; it won't do that, but you get the idea.

I've been using this sucker for a few weeks now, and I absolutely love it! I've read a couple of reviews about it that were not favorable, but that was prior to the firmware being updated. I've not had a single problem with the operation of this unit. In fact, my old 60 model had more hiccups than this bad boy has had. It has proven to be accurate, reliable, and fun to use. This sucker is definitely a keeper!

I think I'm done for Christmas and birthday gifts for the next decade or so. HUGE thanks go out to my wife...Yes; she puts up with my antics.

Wild Hogs

'Wild Hogs' was the name of the cache. It's located a few miles north of Kadena AFB, just off of Highway 58. We had just dropped the boy off to play paintball with his JROTC unit, and I thought, "Why drive right by a cache and not stop to grab it?"

My wife sat in the car, and it's a good thing. The vegetation was dense, and I have a couple of cuts to prove it. There's also the matter of the small habu that I saw along the way. He was just hangin' out sunning himself (enjoying a lazy Saturday morning).

As I was heading down the trail, using a broken off tree branch to knock down the worst of the spider webs, I learned the hard way that the ruts in the trail had clay mud in them...That stuff is slick!

I had parked less than a quarter of a mile from the cache, so I thought it would only take a couple of minutes to reach "ground zero." Silly me...35 minutes later, I had the prize in hand. I grabbed a geocoin, a travel bug that started its life in Iowa (it has over 19,000 miles on it), and a pin from North Platte, Nebraska. I dropped off a couple of travel bugs and a coin that I had been carrying around for a little over a week.

I wish my wife could have come along, since she enjoys the caches that don't have muggles around. There were a few hobo houses along the way, but no hobos present at the time. It was a good time, and a nice way to start my day. The rest of the day was spent shopping...YUCK!

Sorry for the blurry pic, but this is a cave that was along the way.

Here's the start of the trail

The cache!...and my badass GPS!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Silly and Absurd

I often enjoy browsing through cache listings from parts of the country that I would like to visit. It's like sight-seeing by proxy. There's usually some nice pictures in the logs from various folks' visits.

Whenever I do that, I never fail to come across some log entries that are just plain comical (and sometimes a bit sad).

One individual wrote that they were shocked (shocked I tell you) to find a decaying, dead racoon near a cache in the woods, and that they were "glad we didn't have our kids with us today!" Huh? Imagine that, a dead racoon in the woods! Why on earth were they glad that they didn't have their kids with them? Have they taught their kids that animals never die? Maybe their kids think that the dead animal fairy comes, and replaces the carcass with a shiny new nickel?

Another dainty soul wrote that they came across a man with a pistol in a holster on his belt, and they were so terrified that they almost couldn't move, but managed, somehow, to make it back to their car and call 911. Guess who was the first to respond to their call? Yep; the same guy they originally saw, who happened to be a captain with the local police force (and was hunting for the same cache on his way home from work). Turns out his badge was clearly displayed on his belt, but the cacher was so overwhelmed by the sight of a gun, that they didn't even see the badge. Why does the mere sight of a firearm strike terror in some folks?

I also can't seem to get over the amount of log entries that are so rude and inconsiderate. I'm referring to those where cachers label a cache as "lame," or even, "trache." Don't like micros? Don't go after them (the cache listing really does show the size of the cache...right?). There's plenty of people that DO enjoy hunting for micros, and there is usually a significant point of interest nearby as well. I only have one thing to say to those that would belittle someone's cache: "Get over yourself; this sport doesn't revolve around you."

Am I the only one that scratches their head in wonder over these things?

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

What's In the Bag?

Here's the trackables that I currently have my hands on...Two of these are mine. How many trackables do you usually have with you on a regular basis? (I really like that Japan geocoin in the center top of the pic...wish they still sold them).

Monday, October 13, 2008

My First Nano Hide

I hid my first "nano" cache the other day, and a few people have found it already. These things can be a real pain in the rear to find, if you don't know what to look for. The first one I went after took me three visits, because I just didn't understand how small it really was. The smallest size category listed on the Geocaching website is "micro." The nano is a sub-category of the micro.

These little boogers hold only a tiny, rolled up log for cachers to sign. They are magnetic, and can be painted to match their surroundings. In, on, and under electrical boxes are favorite spots. I hid mine on the bottom side of a bolt, on the back side of a guard rail. The odds of a stranger stumbling upon it are almost zero. With the hints that I gave in the cache description, it's really not that hard to find (once you've already seen what a nano is).

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Spiders

My kids and I had a great time today. We beat around in the jungle, dodged deadly animals, scrambled over boulders and up muddy slopes, and found a grand total of two caches.

The first cache was a significant hike for us, since we found every trail except the correct one. Once we got on the right path, it was a short walk to ground zero. My son made the find, and we watched a gecko stalk a cricket. Then it was back through the mud and bugs to the car.

The second cache was a multi, and the cache owner even states in the listing that you'll feel like Indiana Jones when going after this one. The first stage was pretty easy, but a unique container. The second stage was a significant climb through spider country. I stopped counting huge spiders at 20 or so. Every leaf that brushed across my neck or arm felt like one of those big damned spiders scurrying across my skin. Big, big fun. I saw a couple of small snakes (not habus), a few geckos, a frog, and even more spiders.

The final leg of the multi was actually an easy find. I just had to climb up on top of a large coral outcropping.

We had a blast, and the kids will sleep well tonight (so will I).

The trail at the first cache

This van couldn't make it up the trail...or maybe it was just stolen

The stream at the second cache (the multi)

Saturday, October 11, 2008


The weather man lied! It turned out to be nice and sunny today. A fine day for me to mow the lawn and check out the view of the Kin power plant (with coal ship alongside for offload). It was a little hazy, but still a neat view from southern Kin/northern Yaka. No caching today, just some errands to run. As usual, you can click the pictures for the full size versions.

Ship offloading. Taken from Kin Red Beach

The power plant as seen from northern Yaka Village

Power plant from Kin Red

Friday, October 10, 2008

Okinawa Weather

Now that the weekend is upon us, the weather forcast (and the gathering dark clouds outside) tell me that my chances of getting in any geocaching this weekend are a little slim. Seems like most weekends are raining, with beautiful weather on Monday. There is, however, a silver lining: I'm off of work on Monday and Tuesday!

These were both taken behind where I work today

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Travel Bugs

A Travel Bug is any object that you want to send out into the Geocaching world. You simply attatch a Travel Bug Dog Tag to your object of choice, register it on the Geocaching website, and then place it in a geocache.

Once you "release" your bug, you can track its progress on the website. Activating the tag creates a web page just for that item. You can post a picture of it, a description, its goal, and view the log entries of those that find or move it.

I have activated my Travel Bug for the "geochallenge" that is mentioned in the below post. It's actually an old electrical connector from a guided missile launcher. This is the umbilical connector that makes the electronic connection between the launcher and the missile. Here's to hoping that its next "launch" will carry it for many thousands of miles!

My Travel Bug

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Sticks and Stones

Sticks and stones may break my bones, but some of those plants out there can really draw blood!

My son and I went after three caches today. One cache was near the Hija Bridge (a little north of Kadena), and we couldn't find it. We found a nice little trail that headed off into the jungle though, and it appears to be a great spot to dump a stolen vehicle and strip it...

The second cache ended up being a "nano" size container, and it was at a freakin' Starbucks! My son actually made the find, and we successfully avoided the locals.

The third cache was the most fun, and the toughest. It was a "multi-cache," or a three part cache that required us to find two caches in order to come up with the coordinates of the final cache. This was one of the most unique containers I've seen yet, but I'm not going to post a picture of it, just in case any local cachers stumble upon this blog. It was located at the Kadena Marina, and one leg of the multi was atop a coral outcropping that was covered in very painfully sharp plants.

My son and I had a great time, and we managed to eat up half of a day. I even hid a new cache, and I'll be eagerly waiting to see who finds it first! After it's been found a couple of times, I'll post pictures.

(Click the pictures for full size versions)

Near the Hija Bridge

Tropical fruit, free for the pickin'

View from the Kadena Marina

Friday, October 3, 2008

A Challenge Issued

The gauntlet has been thrown down, a challenge has been issued. P.J., from Hoohaaa Blog has set forth this challenge. Here's the details:

Each participant must "release" a trackable Travel Bug in a geocache near their home. They can't touch it after that. The person whose TB travels the most miles in one year wins. Simple as that.

Many of my fellow geocachers are in the Air Force. Several of them are pilots...Do you see where this is going? I may have an "unfair" advantage. Then again, if some well-meaning cacher moves my item to some obscure spot, it may never move from there. Always a gamble.

I look forward to the challenge, and being able to track my item's movements online. I'll issue updates as the challenge progresses. Oh yeah, P.J., what's the prize for winning?