A Walk in the Park

The United States is blessed with numerous parks for people to enjoy. There are national parks, state parks, county parks and municipal parks which provide activities ranging from picnic tables to mountain climbing. There truly is something for everyone. We of course like to get out our trusty GPS for geocaching and other stashing activities.

The west gate of Mt. Vernon

Here’s a view of George Washington’s Mt. Vernon estate that most people don’t see. This is the West Gate. In Washington’s day, this was the entrance to Mt. Vernon. All the trees you see were terraces and fields with crops and orchards. Washington rode out here almost every day to take it all in. Today, this view is seen from a quiet residential street intersection in Mt. Vernon, VA. and is not on the official tour. We found out about it – and hunted it down – through a geocache.

The very first national park was Yellowstone National Park which was established March 1, 1872 by President Ulysses S. Grant. The National Park System wasn’t established until August 25, 1916 under President Woodrow Wilson. There are currently 417 areas in the system which cover over 84 million acres in 50 states, the District of Columbia and in US Territories American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.

Alphabetically the parks range from the Abraham Lincoln Birthplace to Zion National Park. Some of them are very well known such as the Grand Canyon and Yosemite.  Some are much lesser known such as the Natchez Trace or Capulin Volcano. The largest national park is Wrangell-St Elias National Park and Preserve in Alaska. It’s bigger than Switzerland. The smallest is Thaddeus Kosciuszko National Memorial in Pennsylvania.

There are only 59 actual National Parks. In addition to them, there are also National Monuments (Mt. Rushmore), National Military Parks (Gettysburg), National Historical Parks (Independence Hall), National Historical Sites (Ford’s Theater), National Historic Landmarks (Fort Bowie), National Historical Trails (The Appalachian Trail) and National Recreation Areas (Glen Canyon). There are a lot more categories, too numerous to mention. What’s the difference? In a word – money. Who gets the most. Who has priority of repairs, maintenance, people, etc. National Parks are at the top of the food chain. National Historic Landmarks get nothing and are usually run by local organizations and volunteers.

In 2017, 331 million people visited all the units run by the NPS. In the last five years – 1½ BILLION.

The National Park Service doesn’t permit traditional container caches in the parks but they will occasionally have one in the office that you have to ask for. You’ll find that out on the geocaching website. There are virtual caches, photo caches,  webcam caches, earth caches and waymarks which are equally challenging. They have the added benefits of being informative and educational. Benchmarks abound in these areas. There are also geodashing points, where you can end up literally in the middle of nowhere. All these things will take you to parts of the park that are off the beaten path.

State, county and municipal parks are not so strict. With the explosive growth of geocaching in the last several years, it’s hard to find a park anywhere that doesn’t have at least one geocache in it. Even the tiny memorial parks have them. Many of these caches are quick park ‘n’ grabs but many will also take you as far in the wild as you want to go. We’ve canoed to several caches and rode on horseback to a cache in Butch Cassidy’s Hole-in-the-Wall in Wyoming. Historical markers abound in these parks and often the geocaches are designed around them. It’s a great way to explore and learn.

Geocaching and related activities have taken us to some of the most interesting and beautiful out-of-the-way places in this country. It remains an unregulated activity which relies upon the participants to respect and protect the environment in which the caches are located. Please do your part to help preserve it for others to enjoy.

Cheers … Boris and Natasha

Our Top 10 Geocaches – #9

We are closing in on 5,000 caches.  Every one is different and you’d be surprised how many you remember.   Picking out the 10 best will be difficult.  Here’s what we’ve got so far:

#10 – Easy to Overlook, Tucson, AZ

Tonight, we continue our Top 10 geocache countdown. The #9 slot is a find from September 2011 called “Nuke on a Mountain.”

Geocaching in Wyoming
KidsRN at Ground Zero of “Nuke on a Mountain. It’s #9 on our geocache Top 10.

This is our kind of geohunt. North of Sundance, Wyoming is a geocache on Warren Peak called “Nuke on a Mountain”.  It’s outside the perimeter of an old NORAD radar site that was powered by a nuclear generator in the early-mid 60’s. You can see the perimeter fencing. The installation is still intact but was shut down years ago and is strictly off limits. Outside the main gate there is a weather beaten information placard that tells the story of the two nuclear generators that were here. One of them now powers McMurdo Station in Antarctica. Getting here is a 30 mile drive on back roads, then a steep hike. If you try for this cache, be sure you read the log notes about route selection. The altitude here is almost 7,000 feet and it gets your attention.  Once you’re up here, the scenery is spectacular, including a long range view of Devils Tower. There are a number of other cool geocaches in the immediate vicinity.  A couple of them are park’n’grabs but most take some work.  Bring water, sun screen and a tank of oxygen.

This link will open a Google Map of the area.

This link will open the cache description page on geocaching (dot) com.

Duke Nukem … The Cachemanian Devils

Our Top 10 Geocaches – #10

The geowife and I are closing in on 5,000 caches.  Every one is different and you’d be surprised how many you remember.  We started scanning our memory banks for the 10 best caches we’ve ever done.  Some make the list because of the difficulty.  Some because of the scenery.  Still others because of the overall experience or some unique aspect.  Picking out the 10 best will be difficult.

Ground Zero of the Easy Overlook geocache.
Ground Zero of the “Easy to Overlook” geocache. Located in the edges of Sabino Canyon near Tucson. A five mile round trip desert hike to get here, but the scenery is worth it.

We love the desert and spent the winter of 2011-2012 in Tucson.  It was geocaching heaven. This particular cache was in the Sabino Canyon National Recreation Area and was one of our first long range desert finds.

This link will open a Google Map of the area.

This link will open the description page on geocaching (dot) com.

Cache on … The Cachemanian Devils

Hawaiian FTF (First to Find)

Wai'ali'ali Gorge in Kauai, HI

Wai’Ale’Ale Gorge on the north coast of Kauai. If we had not gone for the FTF, we would have missed this view. Not a whole lot of people come here or know about the place. That’s the lure of geocaching. It takes us places we would have never seen otherwise. The altitude at this vantage point is 5,148 feet. Sea level down at the breakers, of course, is zero. You can do the math in your head. This gorge is almost as deep as the Grand Canyon.

The Holy Grail of geocaching is getting an FTF (First to Find) on a newly hidden cache. Some people are really hung up on them. Others just kind of take them if and when they happen along. That’s the way we are. So imagine our surprise when we picked up our rental car on Kauai, called up caches on our Droids and there is a two day old FTF sitting up near Waimea Canyon. The cache is named “End of the Road.”  As it turns out,  they weren’t lying. Where we live,  an FTF is gone in minutes. We figured we’ll check it out. Maybe there’s something to this “island time” business and nobody’s bagged it yet. Off we went. The GPS took us right to the cache and its empty log book. A couple of geocachers from Minnesota just passing through grabbed a Hawaiian FTF.

Mahalo…Boris and Natasha