Geocaching Destinations – The Hotel del Coronado

Opened in 1888 on the shores of San Diego Bay in Coronado, the Hotel Del is one of the most recognizable buildings in the world and America’s grandest Victorian seaside resort. It was built by Elisha Babcock and Hampton Story after they purchased all of Coronado for $110,000 in 1885.

Built on 33 acres, it was the largest hotel in the world upon completion.  It was also the largest building in the world outside of New York City to have electric lighting.  Thomas Edison supervised the installation of the electrical system.

The front of the Hotel Del
Bravo Lima in front of the Del a couple of years ago. There was a geocache right behind him. It’s gone now, but there’s plenty more where that came from.

You have to see The Del to really appreciate it.  Pictures don’t reveal the true scope, size, setting or architecture of this national treasure. When you go through the doors, whether it’s to stay or just have lunch, it’s like walking back in time.

Movies have been filmed here. It has been featured in books and been home to writers.  L. Frank Baum did much of his writing here and used The Del as a model for his Emerald City in The Wizard of Oz.  He also designed the chandeliers that still light the main dining room – the Crown Room.

The list of stars and VIP’s who have visited here reads like a Who’s Who of the last century. One of The Del’s favorite stories is about the visit of the Prince of Wales in 1920, who later became King Edward VIII.  He abdicated his throne to marry American divorcee Wallis Simpson, who lived in Coronado.  They met at the Del.

There’s also a resident ghost – Kate Morgan –  who died here under mysterious circumstances in 1892 and frequents the old section of the hotel.

And of course, there are geocaches.  Lots of them, strung out along the Silver Strand from downtown Coronado to Imperial Beach. The sun, the surf, the geohunt – life is good at The Del.

The interior courtyard of the Del.
The interior courtyard of the Hotel Del. No geocaches here. Sorry.

Much has changed in Coronado since The Del opened. The city has grown up around it. A cracker box fixer-upper in town runs about $1,000,000. The US Navy has a substantial presence here with the Naval Amphibious Base and North Island Naval Air Station. The Naval Special Warfare Center where the Navy SEALs are trained is practically next door. In fact, some of their rough water boat training takes place on the rocks of the jetty right in front of The Del.  The SEALs routinely run along the beach, much to my daughter’s delight the last time we were there.

If you come to southern California, don’t miss The Del.

Hooyah … The Cachemanian Devils

Geocaching Experiences – The Hoffman Mansion

Geocaching and exploring have taken us to some spooky locations and sites.  Many of them involve tales of killing, treachery and tragedy.  These are almost always accompanied by stories of ghosts and paranormal activity.  I’m not a guy who is easily spooked, but we have experienced some things in our travels which converted me from skeptic to open minded.  There are definitely things out there that can’t be explained.

One of those places is the Hoffman Mansion, outside of Peoria, OK.  We stumbled upon it while looking for a nearby geocache called… (drum roll)… the Hoffman Mansion.

The haunted Hoffman Mansion
The caretaker's quarters at the Hoffman Mansion. This is the only structure that remains in the compound. Everything else has been demolished but their foundations and outlines are clearly visible.

The history of the place and the tragedy that happened here are well known.  The compound was built in the 1880’s and bought by the Hoffman family at the turn of the century.  In the 1920’s, they ran a camp for boys there.  One night, one of the Hoffman family tortured and murdered five boys who were staying there, then hanged himself.  All were buried in the family cemetery which is on the grounds.  The Hoffman family lived in the mansion until 1960, when it was bought by a family from California.  They lived there for several years, then abruptly packed up and moved, never to return.  The main house and several other structures were condemned and demolished in 1998 after over 30 years of abandonment and neglect.

Nevertheless, there appears to be something present there.  Visitors, passers by and paranormal investigators have reported voices, lights and the sounds of children playing.   Investigators say there is an enormous amount of paranormal energy.  One interesting detail is that there is absolutely no graffiti anywhere on the premises. The taggers don’t go there. 

The compound is posted and fenced.  We, however, ventured into the grounds via an open gate.  At least I did.  The geowife didn’t want any part of it.  I walked around for about a half hour.  It must have been quite a place.  There were two large concrete aprons with shredded tennis nets and rusty basketball hoops along with several large foundations, one of which looked like a swimming pool.  Normally, I can poke around a place like this for a long time, but after 30 minutes, I’d had enough.  Completely quiet and deathly still,  it was really creepy.  I kept turning around to see if anyone was there. 

More detailed information about life and death at the Hoffman Mansion is hard to come by.  There are no known pictures of the compound when it was intact, which is unusual considering it was occupied for almost a century. The cache is still there, just outside the property line near the cemetery. In addition to spirits, there’s lots of poison ivy, so beware of both.

Good haunting … The Cachemanian Devils