As some of you may already know, we are currently workamping in Northern California. Santa Rosa to be exact. We are about 50 miles from San Francisco to the south and about 70 miles from Sacramento to the north east.
Northern CA offers many interesting places to visit. We have been able to visit several while we have been here. Of course we always try to incorporate Geocaching into any trip we take, whether it be down to the corner store or half way around the world (or in this case, all the way across the US)
This last weekend, we decided to visit Point Reyes National Seashore on Saturday (about 40 miles to the southwest along the Pacific coast) and Armstrong Redwoods State Park (about 30 miles to the north)
The weather was the best it had been in a while. Both venues provided breath taking views of their respective subjects.
In order to get the Pt. Reyes, the short way, we followed a route that took us south to Petaluma, then due west to the coast. In this case, the shortest route was a very good choice.
The road to the coast took us though some very beautiful countryside. Wineries abound in this area of Northern CA. This road had tons of them. Grape fields for as far as the eye can see. Although, not as far as the eye can see when one is in Sonoma or Napa. That will be another blog for later on.
Our first stop was at a French Cheese Factory called “Rouge et Noir“. It is supposed to be the oldest cheese manufacturer in the US.
Nope, we didn’t stop for the cheese. (neither of us particularly care for French cheeses) There was a cache hidden there. From the description, the container was a bit unusual, thus adding to our curiosity.
The name of the cache was the same as the name of the Cheese Place. It was supposed to be a micro cache hidden in an unusual way, but still true to the name.
It only took a minute to find it and it was true to the title. It was a black film can that had been inserted into the end of a piece of redwood. (Rouge et Noir, or black film can, redwood) The whole piece had been inserted under one of the split rails in a split rail fence, so it looked like it was part of the fence.
Since this was a “log only” cache (not big enough to hold trade items, just big enough for a log sheet), we signed our geocaching names, then off down the road we went.
A short distance down the road, we came to the town of Point Reyes Station. This Town owes its existence (and obviously part of its name) to the railroad that ran through for 59 years ending in 1933.
It is a quaint little “artsy” place. Full of antique shops and Yuppie hang outs. Not a cache to be found though, which was pretty surprising. Places like this naturally beckon for a cache to be hidden there.
We stopped at a fresh produce market and bought some of those CA seedless navel oranges Fluffy has seemed to have taken a fancy to. Then we continued on to our destination.
There were plenty of caches on the route to Pt Reyes but we wanted to get to the Light House and Visitor Center before they closed. So, we passed them all up until we got inside the Seashore proper.
Since Pt Reyes is a National Seashore, it is administered and run by the National Park Service. Physical geocaches are not generally allowed on any property administered by the NPS, unless VERY special permission is granted. So, the caches in places like these are usually “virtual”. Meaning, there is no container. You have to answer some questions and email the cache owner the answers to prove you were there.
In this particular instance, there was a true Virtual and an Earthcache to be found.
We made our way to the Light House peninsula. It was quite a way to get there. The Pt Reyes land covers a very large area. There still are working cattle and dairy ranches on the property and the cliffs overlooking the Pacific are very photogenic.
When we finally got to the parking for the Visitor Center and Light House, we were told by a Park Ranger, that the stairs down to the Light House were closed due to high winds. Upon further conversations with the Rangers, we find out this area has the highest continual wind speeds on the west coast. This day was no exception. The Ranger told us this day was a little higher that normal (55mph sustained!) but not by much.
BTW, the highest wind speed ever recorded on the west coast was here (133 mph)
When we got out of the Jeep, in became immediately apparent that we needed to put on our jackets and lace up the hoods to keep from getting buffeted too much by the relentless winds. The best I can describe it was trying to stand up while someone was trying equally to push you down. We felt as if we were going to “take off” at any point.
It is about 1/2 mile walk, one way, from the parking lot to the Visitor Center and the start of the stairs down to the Light House. The “trail” is a paved drive, so even handicapped individuals would not have a problem accessing the area. There is even handicapped parking available closer up the hill, if one needed to get closer.
Our quest was a Virtual and an Earthcache, both in the same general vicinity of the end of this “trail”.
We went after the Virtual first.
We arrived at the place where we needed to get all the answers to the questions on the cache page:
A cache by yfbtanky Hidden: 6/5/2003
Size: (Virtual) Difficulty: Terrain: (1 is easiest, 5 is hardest)
N 37° 59.740 W 123° 01.389
An historical spot in a fascinating area.
Located at 37°59.740N 123°01.389W This facility resides on a peninsula rich in history and geology, well worth spending some time exploring. You must E-Mail me the answers to the following questions before logging your find:
1. Who was the first European to visit the area?
2. When was this facility built?
3. When was it decommissioned?
4. What skull did you pass on your way to the waypoint?
5. What is revolving outside the main structure?
6. How many steps to the waypoint?
Have a great tour.
It was a real bummer not to be able to get down to the Light House, but as stiff as the winds were, we totally understood why they had closed them for the day. (they close them anytime the wind get s over 40 mph, which is quite often)
We were able to get all the answers to the questions even though we couldn’t actually get to the Light House.
This place is also a major Grey Whale watching spot. At the lookout point, above where you enter to go down to the Light House, Docents were there to help answer whale questions. They had free spotting scopes for you to use to see the whales. The whales come as close as 150 yards away, so they are normally pretty easy to see. Unfortunately, the winds were keeping the whales from showing themselves this day.
We took a few pictures at the lookout area, then made our way back toward the Visitor Center to get the information for the Earthcache:
Point Reyes Conglomerate
A cache by TerryDad2 Hidden: 10/12/2007
Size: (Not chosen) Difficulty: Terrain: (1 is easiest, 5 is hardest)
N 37° 59.788 W 123° 01.230
Send a note with
- Examine layers of rock in the outcrop and determine which part(s) of the Bouma cycle is missing if any.
- How many sequences can be seen in the outcrop
- Without climbing or removing any rocks, see if you can find on of the Porphyry tuff pebbles. If possible post a picture of it, otherwise describe it in your log
Now, don’t be scared off by the technical nature of the logging requirements for this one. I only posted the questions. On the cache page, when you read the complete description, (which I didn’t post here due to it’s length) you would easily be able to answer the questions above just by looking and observing the conglomerate formation.
We got all the answers, took some more pictures, then headed back down to the parking lot. All the while, our jackets and pants legs blowing in the stiff wind like flags on a pole.
It was an interesting experience. I had never been in winds this high before, so trying to stay upright with cliffs plunging down to the sea only a few yards away, seemed to be the order of the day. (no hurricanes in TN ya know) However, at no time did I feel unsafe. The trail is well far enough away from the edge as not to put you in danger, and the lookout point. where you whale watch, is totally fenced in. I felt of the fences along the route and they were the sturdiest fences I had ever seen. They definitely were not going to move!
We made a little side trip, heading out of the Park, over to a place where Elephant Seals hang out. The seals were there, but they were all snoozing on the beach. Kind of looked like beached driftwood to me. But hey, I’m sure the seals were aware of what they were trying to do. At this point, if I were one of those seals, I’d be trying to stay outta that gosh awful wind too!
We ended our day stopping for dinner at one of the seafood restaurants along the coast on the way back to the RV in Santa Rosa.
I wanted to tell you about this adventure hopefully to convey how interesting Virtual and Earthcaches can be, especially for families with children. The educational aspect of these types of caches almost never disappoints.
Some hardcore, purist, Geocacher’s do not consider these types of caches to be true Geocaches because there is no physical container to find. I, on the other hand, find Virtual and Earthcaches to be some of the best caches I have visited.
Saddly, after January 2006, new Virtual caches were no longer allowed to be published on Geocaching.com due to pressure put on Groundspeak Inc. (parent company of Geocaching.com) by the “purists”. Thankfully, the the exisiting Virtuals were “grandfathered”, so there are still plenty out there to find.
To learn more about what Earthcaches are and what is required to get on approved, go to www.earthcache.org
Till next time…