On Saturday, the 28th of March 2009, a sorry group of geocachers — nearly 100 people in 19 teams — gathered in the springtime drizzle at the Buntzen Lake beach. The trail-runners that were also meeting there for a refreshing 25 km run through the park were pretty perplexed by our lot, but after explaining the nature of our gathering I think several of them were more interested in joining us than participating in their own form of self-abuse.
For us, we were participating in the Tailspin Geo Rally II.
The weather was damp but the spirits weren’t. Our rally team this time around consisted of me (Aerodoq), Carla and Tomer (OptimisticPrime) and Michael (QuigleyJones). Due to the expected difficulty of the rally (Scruffster and Ms. Turbos had warned us in advance to expect a more physical rally) we decided not to bring the 4 yr old and the 5 month old. Unfortunately that also meant that Gwen (LeftCoastMama) stayed behind this time. We were Team 4 this time around, scheduled to leave at 9:15 am.
The rally briefings were conducted by Irene in the dryness of the gazebo while Scruffster was down on the dock at the lake. Clearly something was up. After receiving our instructions, we were directed to the jetty and we were off!
Start (0:00 – 0:09)
It turns out that the starting point was actually on the jetty. The coordinates for the first cache were located in a cache to which we were required to paddle an inflatable raft. Two teams were ahead of us (Team 3 was a no-show at that point) and it was pretty clear that paddling out to the cache was going to be a soggy proposition. There were two rafts available, but we were told that one was underinflated and not particularly sea-worthy. Judging by the amount of water in the other raft, I’m not sure it was particularly sea-worthy either, but it seemed to be surviving the trip out and back to the cache. Now, I can’t swim so I don’t participate in the water events. In the end, Tomer and QJ decided to make the journey. Our rally officially started when they pushed off from the dock: 9:26 am.
I’m not sure Tomer’s style improved much from last year, but he and QJ made it out and back without any major difficulty. They did, however, each absorb several litres of water through their shoes, socks, and pants. Squish, squish, squish as we trotted back to the car. Total time spent retrieving the start cache was 6 minutes (out and back) and we were back to the car a few minutes after that.
Cache 1 (0:09 – 0:29)
And just like that, we were off! The rain really started coming down as we were leaving, and the two soggy boys took some solace from the idea that the other teams were going to get wet just waiting to paddle the rafts.
The first cache was located at the south end Bedwell Bay inside Belcarra Regional Park. The tracklog shows 10.4 km driving over 11 minutes. As we drove up to the cache, we saw the red van of Team 2 in what seemed to be a perfectly legal parking spot, so I dropped my team off at the obvious trailhead and then parked in behind the van. I trotted along the trail and found Team 2 hunched over, working on a puzzle but there was no sign of my teammates. I rather wrongly assumed that Team 2 had the cache there, but it became clear they’d taken the puzzle from the cache and then moved away from ground zero to figure it out. Following the GPS then, I located the team and shortly we had the cache in hand. We opted to take the puzzle back to the truck though, in order to figure it out in relative dryness.
The puzzle was put together in short order and we were off again to the central part of Belcarra. Time from parking to departure was 8 minutes.
Cache 2 (0:29 – 0:47)
Team 2 had pulled out just before us, and we were trying to get the coords into the navigation GPS while driving away. At first glance, it seemed we’d be able to approach the cache from the north side of the road, but on further study of the maps it was clear that wasn’t going to work. I ended up following Team 2 up a side road (they must have been dealing with the same issue) and pulled a U-turn pretty much in the same place they did. One difference though — we headed back east along the Bedwell Bay Road where they turned west.
After 6.3 km driving (11 minutes) we pulled close to ground zero and saw an obvious trailhead. And once again I dropped the team off while I went in search of legal parking. I should note that there were clear penalties for violating various rules, including parking violations and trespassing. This seemed to bother some teams more than others.
The trail system here was a bit tricky. For one thing, there was a lake between the parking area and the cache — and there was no lake on the Canada Topo maps loaded into my GPS. It took a little bit of time for me to figure out how to get around the lake but it was pretty obvious that my team was smarter than me and was well on their way to ground zero. As I was back-tracking, I ran into most of Team 2 who were also trying to deal with the fact that the lake seemed like a pretty big obstacle to get around.
I didn’t make it to ground zero for this one. I was intercepted by my retreating team — they’d already found and stamped our passport. Back to the road, picked up the truck and off to Cache 3! Total time spent from parking to leaving was 7 minutes. It seemed like we were setting a pretty good pace.
Cache 3 (0:47 – 1:00)
Cache 3 was at a private residence. Keeping in mind the trespassing rules, we parked the truck on the street — but it became pretty clear that we could have parked in the driveway. Oh well. This cache was a Virtual Cache! It was located at Ms. Turbo’s house and the station was run by her kids. There were several options available at this virtual — you could do nothing and move on to the next cache, you could play croquet and get various time bonuses depending on how well you did, or you could play Wii bowling and whatever you scored over 5 frames was the time bonus you got. My team quickly elected me to bowl (we have a Wii here, and while I don’t have the mad bowling skillz of my wife, they’re not too shabby) and I managed to get a 69. W00t!
Having a virtual cache on the rally was a great idea and a lot of fun. Thanks to Irene for opening up her house to us and to her kids for running the station!
I should also mention that we didn’t see any of the other teams at this cache, and we were the first ones there. After this point we saw no other teams on the rally — we were on our own.
And thank goodness too. Otherwise we might have caught site of a Skunk getting dried off:
Time spent here was 5 minutes, and it took us 8 minutes to get there from cache 2 (6.4 km driving).
Cache 4 (1:00 – 1:31)
The coordinates we picked up at cache 4 took us 12.1 km away. Along the route, we obliviously drove by the first of two bonus caches, each of which yielded a 30 minute time bonus if found. It turned out that the coordinates to the first bonus cache were on the shirts worn by both Scruffster and Ms. Turbos, but no one on our team noticed.
Cache 4 was located in the middle of the Coquitlam River. The GPS navigated us to the north bank of the river, but after sending out a recon party, it was apparent that fording the river wasn’t going to be the safest (or driest) decision. Fortunately I had all the local caches programmed into my GPS and it showed a parking waypoint for another geocache on the south bank. We detoured around a bit and drove right up to another obvious trailhead. Travel time to this point was 18 minutes.
The trail along side the river was pretty mucky, and we stumbled across a bunch of (if I may say so, *older*) mountain bikers taking some video footage of stump jumping. It was pretty impressive, but we were on a mission. We got as close as we could until it became apparent that the cache was on a small island in the river. All of us scrambled down the bank and hopscotched across some rocks to get to the island.
The cache was hidden beside a rather confusing tree. This tree had a yellow nylon rope wedged into it. It was as if someone had tried cutting down the tree with the rope but had managed to get it stuck. More likely, the rope had been tied around the tree when it was younger and then it grew around the rope. At any rate, I was trying to figure out how to separate the top half of the 50′ tree from its base to retrieve the cache inside when QJ pulled it out of a neighbouring stump. I guess I should have thought of that first.
Time from parking to leaving was 13 minutes here.
I should note that we’ve heard a number of stories of people fording the river from the north side. The river wasn’t in complete spring run-off mode, but was still reasonably full and fast. Also, the water was direct from the mountain reservoir. Brrr. You can read about some harrowing antics in the logs of the cache.
Also, some government agency had set up in the middle of the river and was using some interesting turbine-like machinery to perform a fish count. Cool, but we didn’t have time to tarry.
Cache 5 (1:31 – 1:53)
The next cache was some distance away, up a gravel mountain road into Pinecone Lake-Burke Mountain Park. The tracklog shows 10.7 km of driving in 13 minutes.
This cache was beside a stream and curious enough, there were two men on the south side of the stream peering under the overhang of a tree that had its roots washed out by the stream. They didn’t seem to be part of the rally (there didn’t seem to be a rally vehicle nearby since they were all supposed to be identified with their team number front and back) but they also seemed to be checking out a pretty obvious cache-hiding location.
Half the team went to investigate there, while QJ & I stayed on the north bank, following our GPS’ into a cave. After a minute or so of letting my eyes adjust to the darkness (darn it, I need a headlamp) I felt around and shifted things around until the cache was revealed.
Time from parking to leaving was 9 minutes.
The team’s conclusion on the other people there? Decoys placed by the conniving organizers.
Cache 6 (1:53 – 2:24)
This cache was just a little ways back down the mountain (4.1 km). We drove by what seemed to be a marked trailhead and resisted the urge to park the wrong way in front of it. We climbed out of the truck and set off into the woods but it quickly became evident that there was no trail there. QJ knew the area a bit and was convinced there was a trailhead and parking area to the south, so Tomer hoofed back to the truck while the rest of us bushwacked towards the cache. Shortly we encountered the trail system and quickly arrived at ground zero.
This one took us some time.
There were three trees that looked like good hiding spots, a bridge under which would have been good, and a stump out in the middle of a swamp which was also a reasonable candidate. We couldn’t rule anything out — after all, hip waders were suggested equipment for the rally too.
Tomer had managed to hike back to us after parking the truck just when QJ pulled the cache from the roots of the tree nearest GZ. Trust the coordinates, huh?
Also? I’m glad I didn’t pursue the under-the-bridge option too much. The water wasn’t too deep but there was only about 1″ clearance between the water’s surface and the bridge deck. I would have been very wet.
I did jump out to the stump in the middle of the swamp though. Fortunately I didn’t sink up to my waist. Unfortunately the cache wasn’t there.
Inside this cache was a maze. A Damned Hard Maze. You had to trace your way from one end to the other and your path intersected numbers along the way. The numbers “spelled out” the coords for the next waypoint. We all hiked back to the truck and Tomer set about finding out where we were going next. Did I mention that it was a hard maze? There was some added difficulty since the ink ran a bit on the page making reading some of the numbers … interesting. We eventually got it solved but ended up spending 25 minutes from the first parking job to departure.
As we were pulling out of the parking lot here, I think we might have seen the Team 2 van heading up to Cache 5, but I’m not certain.
Cache 7 (2:24 – 2:50)
This cache was located just off the Pitt River dyke. This was one of the more controversial caches from what I hear, since the most direct access to the cache was through some very obviously signed private property. We drove up to the driveway of this house noted the signs and then consulted the GPS to see what our alternatives were in terms of dyke access. You can see from the tracklog that we checked out a northern option before opting to try one street south. Fortunately there was public access there. Distance from the cache 6 parking areas was 10.4 km, 14 minutes.
It was a bit of a hike to the cache, but it was flat and reasonably dry. The cache was quickly found and the return trip was uneventful. From parking to departure we spent 12 minutes at this cache.
Cache 8 (2:50 – 3:10)
Cache 8 was just down the dyke a bit from cache 7. This time the approach was quite direct and after a paltry 3.5 km driving (4 min) we were off on the hunt again. And once more, this was a pretty easy find.
Inside the cache container, however, was a “paint-by-numbers” sheet and a box of crayons. We headed back to the truck, with QJ trying to solve the puzzle without colouring it in, me holding the GPS to see where the next cache was going to be, and the rest of our team strolling along the dyke hand-in-hand enjoying the rain.
All of us were oblivious to the sign indicating the coordinates to the second bonus cache.
Which was pretty near the parking area.
Also? I think next time I might bring the bike carrier and some bikes. We could have shaved off a few minutes riding along the dykes instead of strolling.
By the time we were back to the truck, QJ had deciphered enough of the coords that we decided that our next stop was going to be at Coquitlam Centre.
The rules of the rally this time around told us about a 45 minute bonus that could be had by visiting a specific photo booth in Coquitlam Centre. We had decided earlier that we’d pick it up on our way back towards Port Moody and this time seemed most appropriate.
Photobooth (3:10 – 3:42)
The drive to the photobooth was along the Lougheed Highway. It should be called the Slowheed Highway. We crawled along with the rainy Saturday morning traffic while QJ and Carla coloured in the puzzle to make sure we had the right coordinates for cache 9. It took us 22 minutes to crawl 6.8 km.
And when we found the photo booth, a women with three kids was just getting into it. I’ve *never* seen anyone get their pictures taken in a photobooth, but that’s exactly what they proceed to do. It took some time for them to get set up, and processing of the pictures took 3 minutes.
Fortunately we were able to get *our* pictures taken without having to wait for their photos to complete processing. We still had to wait for ours though, but we were able to squeeze in a bathroom break without incurring too much of a time penalty.
Total time spent in the mall was 10 minutes. We left without sticking the “Out of Order” sign on the photobooth.
Cache 9 (3:42 – 4:00)
Fortunately, the deciphered coordinates were only 2.3 km south of Coquitlam Centre and it only took us 7 minutes to get there (mall traffic, still). We had a minor GPS routing issue, but found the “trailhead” underneath some powerlines. A short tromp up the trail and down a slick muddly slope and soon enough we had the cache in hand.
This time, the coordinates were spelled out in ROT13 encoding. QJ and Carla deciphered the coordinates while I called Ms. Turbos to let her know we had completed cache 9 (as directed by our instruction book). Turns out she was sitting in her Porsche across the street watching us anyway! :)
Time between parking and leaving was 11 minutes.
Cache 10 (4:00 – 4:23)
Cache 10 was located in Port Moody. The coordinates put it between the highway and the railroad tracks. On the drive there, we reasoned that there probably wasn’t access from the highway so we opted to take a side street. Sure glad we did! There was a TransCanada Trail trailhead at the end of the sidestreet. Travel time was 11 minutes, 6.5 km driving. We scooted along the trail with a steep embankment on one side of us, and the sulphur processing plant on the other. This was one of the few places where my GPS didn’t zero-out right at the cache, which was hidden in a culvert of a small stream.
Coordinates were removed, the cache replaced and we trundled back along the trail with a spring in our step with the knowledge that we were almost done, and to boot, had done pretty well in our opinion. 12 minutes in and out.
Final (4:23 – 4:30)
The final coordinates were at the end of an empty pier. Completely empty. We surveyed the pier and then parked the truck. Maybe there was a micro or something out there?
As we were starting down the pier, though, Ms Turbos called out to us. She was coming from Pajo’s and duly informed us that perhaps we really didn’t want to be parked where we parked. I trotted back and moved the truck from its temporary stopping point (erm, it wasn’t parked) to a safer location.
We clocked in at 1:56 pm. My math makes that 4h 30 minutes, making it the 3rd fastest raw time. After accounting for the bonuses, I put us at 2 h 36 minutes, but I see our official time was 2h 50 min.
I guess we were assessed a 15 minute penalty for the parking gaffe on the wharf. (Irene has let me know that we didn’t get … erm -*docked*- … any points at the end, and she suggested that it might have been where we parked for Cache 1. We checked for parking restrictions there and thought we were ok, but in the end, it doesn’t change our final rank.) Total travelled distance was a little over 88 km.
We all gathered at the Port Moody Scout Hall afterwards to swap stories, travel bugs, and restore our blood sugar levels to normal.
Cuddlefish (mom to a 4 yr old) passed on a cuddly travelbug to me (father to a 4 yr old). That’s Keelong the Panda. He’s about 3 ft tall. I don’t know how long it’s going to take us to find another home for him, but he’ll come with us to the next event, definitely.
We had a great time! It was fun! I can’t actually recall when it was raining and when it wasn’t — we were so focused on the hunt. I feel silly for not noticing either of the two bonuses, but such is life. We’ll have to keep our eyes peeled more carefully next time.
Also, we didn’t bunch up at all this time which took a bit of the social interaction away from the rally, but also made the finds more “pure”. We didn’t come across any open caches this time. Unfortunately, being the first car through meant that weren’t able to score any of the apparently quite valuable “tattle bonuses”, but given our focused state, I’m not sure we would have noticed anyway.
I strongly suggest you read through the logs on the cache page to get a sense of some of the adventures the other teams went through and just how much fun this event is.
We owe many thanks to Scruffster and 911Turbos for putting together an excellent event. Can’t wait for the next one!