Monday, June 27, 2016

July, 2016

June 16, 2016

We are on the road again! After a 4 month hiatus while waiting for another grandchild to be born, a visit from Brian's mother, and to take care of things around the house, we left Houston a week ago. Our long-range goal is to generally follow the Continental Divide all the way into Canada. Of course, we will be doing lots of geocaching so let me start by explaining what that is and how it impacts our travels. Definition of geocaching: We use GPS technology to find caches hidden by other geocachers (see for more information). We do not travel from Point A to Point B via a direct route as we used to because we choose to meander from county to county. In the past 9 years, we have found caches in 1600 of 3,142 U.S. counties. We go by the pseudonym of “zoothornrollo” when we log our finds on the website. (This is often abbreviated as “zhr” when we sign our name on some of the smaller cache logsheets, hence the curious name of this blog.) We are headed to Denver to what is known as “Geowoodstock” - an annual gathering of approximately 2,000 geocachers from around the world. We attended such an event 5 years ago in Pennsylvania and are looking forward to it again on July 3. As you read through this blog, you will see references to our geocaching adventures. The most important thing we can say about it is it leads us to unexpected discoveries and surprises and to places and people we would never encounter if not for geocaching. Okay, now on with the highlights so far....

We usually leave before dawn on the first day of a road trip, but this time we didn't leave until 9:00 a.m. because our first stop was Dallas to visit Brian's brother and sister-in-law, Bruce and Sarah. We had a nice visit to their lovely new home, a follow-up to our family gathering with their mother in Houston last month.

Day 2 found us camping and exploring Chickasaw National Recreation Area in south central Oklahoma. The area has lots of historic and natural interest for us, especially “Little Niagara” and the travertine deposits from the springs in the area.

Stone bridge - Chickasaw National Recreation Area, Oklahoma

Little Niagara on Travertine Creek, Chickasaw NRA

Travertine Creek-  We walked the trail early in the morning and no one else was around.  The afternoon before, the place was teaming with screaming kids in the water.

Next, we moved north to the Wichita, Kansas area to work on the Kansas State Star, a series of 50 caches the appear in the shape of a star on the geocaching map. We have completed similar “geoart” series in 8 other states and will head to the Colorado Star tomorrow. After that, we wandered around western Kansas and encountered some really scenic places: the Gypsum Hills, old wooden railroad water tower, a 16-sided round barn, a prairie preserve, wind farms, and a national grassland. If you travel the back roads (and gravel roads) as we have done, you will see how varied and scenic much of Kansas is – it is not all flat!

Oldest surviving wooden water tower used by the railroad, southern Kansas
Looking at gypsum crystals in a road cut in the Gypsum Hills of southern Kansas

Fromme-Birney Round Barn, Kiowa County, Kansas

Big Basin Prairie Preserve, Kansas

Gray County Wind Farm, Kansas

Shortly after entering the far southeast corner of Colorado (an area of the country we have not seen in our previous travels), we stopped to find a geocache near some old, preserved windmills on a modern wind farm. As we were leaving, a man in a pickup truck stopped by and asked if we were taking pictures of the old mills and if we wanted to see more. We said “yes” and he said “follow me.” We followed his truck farther into his ranch and then he stopped at a large metal building. Inside were dozens of old restored windmills – his father's collection, The largest one was more than 30 feet in diameter and dates to 1870. After about 20 minutes, we were on our way again (after declining Mr. Emick's offer to see his bison, Santa Fe Trail ruts, and petrified wood on the ranch). This is the kind of experience that keeps geocaching interesting for us after more than 20,000 “finds”. In Lamar, Colorado, we stopped at the “world's oldest building” - an old gas station made out of petrified wood, 150 million years old.
Windmill Collection on the Emick Ranch near Lamar, Colorado

old gas station built out of petrified wood, Lamar, Colorado

We then traveled from county to county on the Great Plains of Colorado and visited two National Parks sites: Bent's Old Fort and Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Sites. From eastern Colorado, we found ourselves pretty close to one of the oldest active caches “Arikaree” that was placed in May 2000 when geocaching first started. It is in a gorgeous corner of NW Kansas known as the Arikaree Breaks.
"Thelma and Louise" at Bent's Old Fort National Historic Site near La Junta, CO
Arikaree Breaks in the very northwestern corner of Kansas
(Fellow geocachers, this is the site of GC31 "Arikaree", placed in May 2000)

From there, it was only 2 miles to Nebraska so we made another of our route deviations to get some new counties. Tonight we are encamped in a campground in Scotts Bluff, Nebraska where we camped with our kids in 1997. It is next to a zoo and I have heard the lions and peacocks while sitting at our picnic table writing this blog.

Other things seen while geocaching:

Cool relief map of Clark County depicting historical events

"Oh bury me not on the lone prairie!" (Weld County, Colorado- Pawnee National Grasslands)