April Fools at Google

Google is at it again...

They are advertising a new feature in my gmail account - "custom time" - where one can set the time that the email was composed, for up to 10 emails per year.

My first thought was that this is a pretty useless feature. My second thought was that this doesn't seem right... My third thought came after consulting the calendar - April 1st.

Twin Ponds Cache

Had a new cache pop up yesterday morning that was only about a mile out of the way on the way home from work. Since the cache appeared to be a pretty quick find (about 100' into the woods), I decided to give it a shot on the way home (since there was a good chance of making the FTF).

The cache was located very near to Twin Ponds (which was actually the name of the cache) and is in an area that I had considered putting a cache last year. The new cache probably wouldn't stop the placement of another in the area as it's not quite where I had been looking at before.

I've been thinking about a new puzzle cache for the past couple of days (I have the idea in my head, I just need to execute it now). If I did that, a cache in the Twin Ponds area may work out well...

Caching Cloquet

I had some time to kill on Friday night after work (as I was transitioning to work a midnight shift), so I needed to stay up until about 4am. What to do......???? Watch some movies or go caching? Hmm...

I ended up searching for a total of 9 caches, finding 8 (the 9th was a micro beneath the snow). A couple of the ones I found were beneath the snow as well, although I lucked out and located them. One of them required digging in the snow for about 15 minutes, although it was a half mile hike to get to the cache so I wasn't going to give up without a little bit of work.

Someone mentioned to me on Saturday that they don't cache at night as it's a little on the creepy side. This is something I can really relate to. When I started caching at night, I would park the truck so the headlights lit up the woods in the area of the cache, and would cache no further than the headlights would illuminate. As time went on I eventually was able to get over that "creepy" fear and now will take half mile and mile long hikes in the woods, although I almost always get the willies at some point, even when hiking along wide open trails (such as Skyline Parkway earlier last week). I am able to eventually shrug the willies off and continue on, although I have in the past cut caching trips short due to feeling on the uneasy side (not cutting the hike short, but deciding to call it a night a little earlier than I had planned).

All that said, caching in Cloquet was fun. Mostly because there were almost no long hikes - caches were normally within a block of the parking, and there was enough ambient light between the city lighting and the moon that a flashlight was not required for walking, just for the actual cache searching.

I think the hardest cache I did was Fauley Park - a locomotive cache. I'm not really a fan of locomotive caches, just because they are such a pain to locate. That's why I placed a cache on Mallet #225 before someone else could (saved me the trouble of having to find one there as you know someone would have placed one by now). The cache in Fauley Park wasn't really hard to locate, you just had to have an idea what you were looking for (I did) and then stick your head in the right spot (something that took me a while to do).

All in all, 8 caches in about 4 1/2 hours including a decent amount of driving time. I left a few caches that I'll have to go back for (by 4am I was starting to feel like it may be time for a nap). I've got an off day coming up this weekend that I may try and knock some of the remaining ones off...we'll see.

Caches Along Skyline Parkway

I headed out last night and found two caches along Skyline Parkway near Maxwell Road:

Green Tea and Eddie's Hideout.

I knew that Green Tea was winter friendly, or relatively so, based on the logs and the hint. I wasn't really sure about Eddie's Hideout though.. I parked the truck where Maxwell Road is gated off during the winter and hiked into the area. I knew from dmnrec's log that Eddie's Hideout had a trail that went close to it, but was a ways from the parking, so I decided to do Green Tea first (which was the farther of the two caches). The thing about Green Tea is this: it's about a 6/10ths of a mile hike (no problem), but the last 250' is the killer. It's about 250' from Skyline Parkway and in that 250' you drop down the hillside about...well...250'. Previous logs talk about sliding down the hillside. I figured with some snow on the ground still that I may have a little bit of an advantage as the snow would provide additional traction to keep me from sliding down the hill. I think this proved to be true.. I skirted the side of the hill with some success, only feeling a little uneasy a couple of times, but got my feet full of snow by the time I got to the bottom. I ended up stopping and dumping all of the crystallized snow out of one boot when I got to the bottom (that foot was starting to feel awfully wet and cold), and then I wasn't doing too bad, although had by that point already told myself that I wasn't going to be going after Eddie's Hideout but was instead going to be high-tailing it back to the truck.

I found the cache after a short search, logged it (my hands were getting pretty cold by this point - did I mention that I didn't have any gloves on either?), and headed up the hill. Going up the hill was much easier than going down - I was able to hike straight up the hill and only had to worry about the steepness of the hill in one spot where I wasn't able to easily make the next step.

By the time I got to the top my feet felt nice and warm, hands were doing better, and I felt like finishing off the only other cache in the area (which is the only one in about a 5 mile radius from that location that I needed to do). To get to Eddie's Hideout I hiked down the snowmobile trail a ways until I came to a hiking trail that was used once much earlier in the winter. From the snowmobile trail to the cache was about 350'. I wasn't really looking forward to crashing through the snow and filling up my boots once again, and luckily it didn't turn out that way. The snow in this area supported my weight for 95% of the steps I took so I didn't break through hardly at all. I was able to find the cache by luck I think - it was below the snow level but an area had melted near the top of it so that I was able to spot it and get it out.

The moonlight for the night was what made it enjoyable. I didn't need a flashlight for most of the hike as the moonlight lit the area up quite well, even though it was hidden behind the clouds.

I'm planning on hitting some of the caches in the Cloquet area tonight after work, so we'll see how that goes..

March 15: Ride Up The Arrowhead Trail From Cook, MN

Jamie and I headed up the Arrowhead State Trail from Cook, MN on Saturday, hoping to make it a 300 mile day. It started on a bad foot (and I won't even count the sled problems before we got my sled loaded on his trailer) - we couldn't find the parking lot that we wanted to start at. Turns out that the parking lot near Britt, MN on Hwy 53 that we've used in the past is now gone - in fact, Hwy 53 now goes right through what used to be the parking lot. We figured this out when we were just a couple of miles from Cook, so we ended up parking in Cook (after a little driving around there) and riding from there.

We should have known that the trail would be poor as soon as we started - it was pretty much bare with some ice spots for the first 3 miles. After that things improved, although the trail was very thin with lots of rocks sticking through.

We headed into Orr to top off the tanks. The Orr cutoff, both north and south, was in similar shape to the Arrowhead Trail (other than the short stint on the lake while leaving Orr).

We got about 50 miles north of Cook when the trail turned into a plowed forest road. We rode the road (ha) about a quarter mile, but with no end in sight we decided at that point that riding on gravel wasn't part of our plans, so we turned around and decided to call it a day. Some of the best riding we saw during the morning was on the way back, on the Arrowhead Trail between the Orr cutoffs. Because we went into Orr we missed this part of the trail on the way up (but by going into Orr we had enough gas to get back to Cook - otherwise I would have been on fumes by the time we got back).

All in all, it was an unexciting end to the season, especially since we later learned that the Taconite Trail was in much better shape. The weather experts are predicting 4"+ of snow for Monday night though, so a short jog around home may still be in the future (although I loaded the sleds on the trailer and got everything ready for spring already).

Total trip mileage: 107
Total year mileage: 1746

The Move to Flickr

I've finally completed the move of my Gallery2 pictures to Flickr. It wasn't much fun. I found a plugin for Gallery2 that was supposed to export the pictures, with descriptions, to Flickr. It worked intermittently and only for the smaller albums (20 pics or less for the most part). For the larger albums it exported pictures for a while and then it just died, so I'd have to delete what it exported and try again. And it was S-L-O-W, sometimes taking 45 minutes to export 20 800x600 pics.

In the end I was able to export most of my pics using that, but exported a few of the albums (mostly my private family pics) by uploading the originals to Flickr and abandoning the Gallery2 versions.

I'll be removing the Gallery2 installation from this site either tonight or sometime early next week. The Random Image block on the left side of this page is from my Flickr collection now (and has been for about a week), as is the block of newer pictures near the bottom. For those of you that have access to the family albums, keep in mind that the newer pictures block on the bottom/left doesn't include the private albums like the family pics.

If you're interested in viewing my albums on Flickr now, you can click here. If you're interested in the private albums as well then you'll need to sign up with Flickr and add me as a contact.

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