Posts Tagged ‘geocaching’

Today I’m taking a break from posting articles laced with medical jargon, in favor of sharing a few photos from my latest efforts at geocaching.

My sister (Alexandra) and I (Jennifer) hunted for caches in Windsor Castle Park, in Smithfield, a couple of weekends ago. Though we found only 2 out of the 5 caches we were hunting, we lucked onto some forest-dwellers by happy accident.

First, Alex nearly got a face full of this corn spider‘s web:

Writing spider at Windsor Castle Park, Smithfield, VA. Photo by Jennifer Miele

The corn spider is also known as a black and yellow garden spider, writing spider, sewing machine spider and argiope. It has many aliases.

Later, this black snake darted across the path in front of us and posed for a photo (a little fuzzy due to the zoom feature.) He was a beauty.

Black snake in Windsor Castle Park, Smithfield. Photo by Jennifer Miele

This past weekend, we hunted geocaches in Newport News, starting at Lee Hall, moving on to Endview Plantation, and finally, a utility easement next to Newport News City Park

Lee Hall did not offer up its animalian inhabitants, but we did find a spooky old train depot.

Lee Hall Train Depot. Photo by Jennifer Miele

Window detail. Lee Hall Train Depot. Photo by Jennifer Miele

At Endview, I found another corn spider blowing in the breeze. Actually, it was raining, and we both got soaked.

Corn spider at Endview Plantation. Photo by Jennifer Miele

Near the city park, Alex and I spent over an hour thrashing through the woods, tearing ourselves up on pricker vines and giving piggyback rides to hitchhiking Lone Star ticks.

At one point, I spied a blaze orange object in the distance. Assuming it had to be the cache, buried deep in the woods where only the most intrepid seekers would dare venture, I made a beeline for the mystery object. This is what I found:

Bright orange fungus amongus, near Newport News City Park. Photo by Jennifer Miele

Let’s get a little closer. Photo by Jennifer Miele

Detail of orange fungus. Photo by Jennifer Miele

That is my absolute favorite fungus of all time, and I didn’t even know I possessed such a list. But, really, it starts here. Another of my fave fungi:

I call it the “classic” mushroom. Near Newport News City Park. Photo by Jennifer Miele

This also looks like a fun guy:

Photo of Jeremy Renner by Sgt. Michael Connors.

Finally, we realized that the cache was not where we were searching, and no amount of praying would magically transport it to our location. So we switched to the forest on the opposite side of the path. And Alex found it:

Success! Photo by Jennifer Miele

She also found this heart-shaped mushroom on the way in:

A Valentine for wood nymphs? Photo by Jennifer Miele

If you’re wondering what the “average” geocache looks like, there is no average. The can be small (aka “micro”) like this guy:

Micro cache. Photo by Jennifer Miele

 …or larger, like the ammo can shown in the “Success!” photo above, and any size in-between.

Curious? Grab a GPS device and and a smartphone, and beef up your next hike. Register for free at www.geocaching.com.

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The Monster Under the Bridge, waiting to be discovered.

     Confession time: I don’t own a dog.
I have plenty of cats, a bird, and a fish, but no dog. So I don’t really know what it’s like to go hiking through a park with a canine companion.
I have seen others do it, so I know the experience runs the gamut from strolling with a pet that seems unaware of any other park visitors, all the way to having one’s arm yanked out of the socket as the dog tries to chase every person, pet, and butterfly it sees.
I’ve often thought it would be nice if state parks featured dog rentals, so that folks like me could have a little company on the trail while the lucky pooches get some exercise and meet new people. Controversial? You decide.

If you’re lucky enough to own a dog and you enjoy walking your dog through the local parks, but the trails always feel the same to you, it may be time to take a closer look and discover the secrets you’ve been strolling past all these years.
It’s time to discover geocaching.

Go to Geocaching.com and register for a free account (go ahead and pay for a premium version if you’d like.)

The cutest cache ever!

Type in the zip code of the park you’ll be visiting and search for caches hidden there.
Load the coordinates into your handheld GPS unit (I use a Garmin Nuvi 200) and head out in search of your treasure.
Be sure to bring some dollar-store toys along to exchange with an item from the cache. I use Happy Rocks, bought on a trip to Shenandoah last summer, and Happy Magnets that I made using round magnets and happy face stickers.
When you find the cache, sign the log and update the website so others will know of your success.

You may be wondering if your dog will be any help – any help at all – in locating the caches. Well…it’s doubtful, unless the cache contains a T-bone steak (unlikely.)
The point is, you’re out having fun, exercising with your dog and seeing the park in a whole new way.  Enjoy!

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My sister (aka The Lady Contractor) and I team up to look for caches, and we’ve had success at Waller Mill Park in Williamsburg and Windsor Castle Park in Smithfield.

Can't find it on the ground? Try looking up.

Also look for caches hidden in First Landing State Park, York River State Park, and Chippokes Plantation.  Happy hunting!       ~~  Jen

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     …because we’ll be closed. 

     Happy Labor Day!  It is tradition to celebrate Labor Day by not working, so here is a list of things to do instead:

  • Visit the Butterfly House and Enchanted Storybook Forest at Norfolk Botanical Garden.
  • Skip “The American” and go see “Get Low” at MacArthur.  “Get Low” is everything movies should be and it has something to say.  “The American” is a waste of your hard-earned money.
  • Take a hike!  Try First Landing State Park in Virginia Beach, Waller Mill Park in Williamsburg, or Windsor Castle Public Park in Smithfield.
  • As long as you’re out and about, try geocaching at those parks.  Sign up for a free profile at www.geocaching.com and load coordinates into your portable GPS unit.  Your kids will love this global treasure hunt!
  • Explore history along the James.  Taking a driving tour of Route 5 in Charles City County and stop off at the famous James River Plantations like Berkeley, Shirley, Westover and Sherwood Forest.  Go here  to get directions and tour information.
  • Fall back on an old classic:  hotdogs and burgers on the grill, potato salad, ice cream, beverages, and not least of all – water balloon fights!

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