Wednesday, February 27, 2013


Florida has an abundance of signs dealing with critters.  We encountered the one above while on a visit to Nalcrest a retirement community for postal workers located just east of Lake Wales, FL.  Our companions on this outing, Dick and Dee Weeks, have friends who live here and assured us alligators are ALWAYS found on their visits--except, of course, on days of such assurances.

The community does surround a system of lakes and canals where the gator population can be challenging.

Panthers also are known to inhabit that general area as announced by signs like this along SR 60 in the area south of Lake Kissimmee.  Although these wild cats are an endangered species folks are advised to be cautious in the area.

Then, there are feral pigs and the relatively new challenge of large python snakes just establishing themselves in the Everglades, generally south of Lake Okeechobee.

Yes, indeed, snowbirding has its challenges.

I hope we don't find you feeling sorry for us, however.  < Smile >

Saturday, February 23, 2013


Approximately 40 members of the Vero Beach Geocaching Breakfast Club followed-up its monthly breakfast meet-and-greet recently with a CITO (Caches In Trash Out) event at the town's Indian River Aquatic Reserve.

Ten new geocaches had been hidden along the reserve's 2 mile walkway and the task of participants was to find them and collectively be first to sign their logs.

Participants also were provided with gloves, spring-loaded pick-up sticks and trash bags.  Trash along the trails in this newly established public park along the inter-coastal waterway was captured with enthusiasm equaling the search for the new caches themselves.

Crew leaded Happy Hunter briefed the launch with his " gotta' love it" Americanized, Czech accent then, his GPS in hand, led the assault; stopping when nearing each cache site and pointing the eager searchers to its general location.

Many searchers were equipped with their own GPS units or smartphones with a geocaching app.  As you might imagine it didn't take long, in an atmosphere of spirited competition, to pinpoint the cache locations; some done with extreme creativity for this special challenge.

One cacher had bisected part of an old tree branch, mechanized the fitting which concealed the cache log, then cleverly placed it in a tangle of Mangrove branches so it looked like it actually lived there.  

One veteran cacher had it in his hand then dismissed it as being the actual cache--much to the mirth of his highly-competitive colleagues.  He will remain nameless in this story to protect him from further embarrassment (the good natured variety, of course) but his caching name resembles the skeleton of a fish.

Speaking of veteran cachers; I added the recorded caches for the first 20 folks who logged this event and they average 3,792 caches each.  My total after about six months of experience is 570.

I am proud to confess making one of the day's 10 finds by pirating guidance from other cacher's instruments.  As newbies, Sue and I had left our GPS inert and were content to participate as observers for the day.  

The small photo left shows the density of the tropical vegetation cachers were dealing with.  It often included water from the ebb tide beneath their lofty perches.

The inter-coastal waterway (below) forms a picturesque background along the east perimeter of this event with our leader HH with the white hair in the left foreground. 

*          *          *
Just a few days before this delightful event I was caching near downtown Vero Beach and, ironically, one of my caches that day was placed by Happy Hunter, who, at that point I had never met.  His cache was named HH Strike Two.  I logged it as being "diabolical".  

If you are a cacher in Vero Beach, don't read any further.  I will spoil your hunt.

HH's cache was about 50 yards into a subterranean storm sewer; pretty much directly underneath where his coordinates had directed me on the surface.  Great hide, HH.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

I took the photo of this very much alive and wild alligator while sitting on my bicycle on a sidewalk just a few blocks south of downtown Vero Beach, FL.  I couldn't see the end of its tail but I estimate it was some 6 to 8 feet in length.

I had just finished a geocaching run in the downtown area and was planning to attend a geocaching flash-mob event with local geocachers a few days later when this photo was made.  That story will run Saturday and involves an area where live alligators are very much more likely to be seen.

Please stop by and take a peek.

Meanwhile, with our Syracuse, NY friends, the Weeks, we spent a recent day visiting a huge flea market in Stuart, FL.  It was there I took the following photo which rattled my amusement bones:

Saturday, February 16, 2013


Imagine finding yourself in this sub-tropical jungle-like setting in search of a micro sized cache.  It's in the view above about 50 feet off the trail--somewhere.

"Micro-sized" means something about the size of a 35mm film can. (Older folks will remember what they look like.)

Geocachers use some form of GPS instrument to help them locate these devilish little hides.  And, GPS technology is marvelous but it often will only get you somewhere near the middle of, say, a 15 foot diameter circle.

And, that "circle" really is a cylinder stretching from the ground, or below, to somewhere above.  Folks are not allowed to bury their caches but they are sometimes found at an elevation in the trees that requires a robust climb.

While not technically "buried" I once found a cache about 100 yards back in a long, walk-through sized storm drain.

So, there you are (as in the above scene) thrashing around in challenging habitat much more suited to the local snakes, spiders and assorted other creatures that can make your day quite uncomfortable...but usually don't.

The key is to dress appropriately, make lots of noise, avoid spider webs and hope you do not corner a feral pig protecting her piglets.

Then, there are the alligators to consider.

In the above scene I was in the very-large, Oslo Road Conservation Area which stretches nearly a mile East to West between US 1 and the intercoastal waterway.  The area is laced with canals, some impoundments and miscellaneous other natural features where gators would be more comfortable than geriatric humans--or any other human for that matter.

My means of defense include but are not limited to the following:

I do carry on a fairly noisy conversation with myself from time to time whilst thumping on every hollow log that comes along with my hiking stick.  I keep a can of critter spray handy--the kind favored by your local postman and have a high quality whistle on a lanyard readily available.

I did find the cache which was hidden in the above photo.  The cache owner said it was not hidden under anything, and I believe that, but when I found it it was thoroughly concealed by Spanish Moss--which likely grew since the cache was hidden--or was used for added concealment by some well-intentioned cache looker/finder that preceded me.

That's the cache in the lower photo after I uncovered it; a bluish, plastic bug with a water-tight tube for the log stuffed in its thorax.

Here's a view of the other cache found on that day's hike:

Look about 1/2 inch down from the top center of this image.  Here's a clue:  the cache name was "Who Who".  Remember also you can click on these images and see a larger view.

Also, you need to know, this is not the view I could see from eye level.  I did the photo by holding the camera above my head.

I saw this cache with a lucky, eye-level sight line.

Then, after I thrashed my way to the cache through the thick growth of palmetto plants, I couldn't figure how to get the log out of the little owl.

...until I noticed a black wire with a small pill bottle hanging on it in the undergrowth below the owl.


Wednesday, February 13, 2013


of Dangles

Brian Boardman, a veteran square dancer from Lawrenceville, GA, shows a "small part" of his collection of dangles while enjoying the 2013 Florida Winter Festival, a state-level square dancing event held recently in Lakeland, near Tampa.

His collection caught my eye as one of the largest I had ever noticed.

Dangles are usually about an inch or less in size and given as souvenirs to folks dancing for the first time at a square dance club or event.  Sometimes they are awarded to folks for their first time dancing to an individual caller.

My lady Sue who has been dancing almost 30 years has a collection of dangles which commemorates nearly 30 years of "Octoberfest" dances alone, conducted by our home dance club, The Johnny Appleseed Squares in Mansfield, OH 

All of her collection are red and show the year of the dance.  They are displayed in three columns abreast and over a foot long which she usually wears at the following year's event.

Brian was surprised when I knew his town was in Gwinnett County GA.  I remembered that from long-ago visits with my late wife Carol's older brother Denny and family who lived there.

Small world.

Speaking of a small world; at this weekend event Sue and I were traveling with Mike Friedman and Linda Adkins dancing friends of ours from the Delaware, OH area who are visiting in Vero Beach.  Also at this event we were pleased to encounter Al and Bonnie Putnam from Galion, OH who winter just a bit south of Vero Beach and former Appleseeds Cris and Barb Harding from Ashland, OH who winter south of Tampa.

And, we had just danced a week or so ago in Vero Beach and Fort Pierce, FL with Ashland friends Bernie and Frank Phillips who were passing through the area on a short visit.

And, at one of those dancing events we helped celebrate Al Putnam's first-ever calling of a square dance.

Small world indeed.

Saturday, February 9, 2013


Earthcaches are my favorite form of geocache.  There is no little container out there waiting to be found.  Rather these caches are designed to highlight some interesting geological or historical feature for example.

In this case, Mr. Gibson's folly comes to us from Sebastian, FL.  Back in 1885 Capt. David Gibson organized a team of volunteers to dig an inlet through the barrier surf to allow ships to get to the growing villages of Sebastian and Malabar.

The work was a success, but--a few months later the canal was slammed shut by what we now know as a category III hurricane.

Today's version has a modern steel and rock seawall protecting both the north and south side of the inlet, the north one curved nicely to divert the ever moving, sand-laden ocean currents from filling the navigable channel.

In the top photo you can see plainly the fairly smooth canal water at ebb (outgoing) tide boiling as it collides with the open ocean which, itself, is fairly smooth in the distance.  In the smaller photo below, a slow shutter speed helps reflect the velocity of the outgoing tidal water as it sluices past a bridge abutment.

In an Earthcache the person who creates the cache usually posts a small series of questions designed to help participants learn about the cache features and, with their correct answers, prove they actually visited the cache location.

In this case there were questions about tidal flow, cause and effect.  Measurements also were required on the beach of a swimming cove to see how our results compared to other geocachers.

We also were asked to provide other interesting photos which reflect critters we might have encountered for example.

The one to the left shows an aquatic worm, exposed by the low tide on the beach, busily doing some home construction.  Below it is a photo of interesting sand geometry created by the outflowing water of the ebb tide.

The bottom photo shows some seabirds flushing from their lunch table as we slid by only to circle, land and resume their lunch behind us--again part of life's cycle influenced by tidal action.

The only thing we revealed in our log posting for this cache was the distance we measured of the size of the swimming beach.  Other questions were answered directly to the cache creator via email.

Based on our on-line log, our emailed answers and our photos the cache owner then chooses whether or not our effort is worthy of being awarded a little smiley face--acknowledging the legitimacy of our claim and adding one more official "cache found" to our growing, personal history of success in this delightful activity.

As of January 24th our count of caches "found" was 510.

By the time of this story being published our cache count has grown to 570 including a "Smiley" for this earth cache.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013


"No Shoes, No Shirt, No Problem."  That's my kind'a place!  ...Archies, across from the beach, Ft. Pierce, FL where Sue is enjoying some casual--very casual--dining with friends Mary, Dee and Dick.  We had just finished one of our regular visits to the classy, weekly arts and craft show on the waterfront in downtown Ft. Pierce and while meandering back to our wheels we stopped to watch...

...this manatee and three or four of his or her friends frolic in the city marina's boat basin.  Locals tell us gobs of lettuce often fall overboard much to the delight of this crowd of loveable sea creatures.  The one visible by the piling seemed to be savoring the warm sunlight on his or her back--which is about all you see of them other than two nostrils and a bulbous nose when they take a sniff of air or that huge, round and flat tail when they put the propulsion in gear.

Ladyfriend Sue (center) is enjoying a display at the nautical museum of the Sebastian Inlet State Park where recently we accomplished an Earthcache; one of my favorite segments of the delightful hobby of geocaching.  Please stop by Saturday and we will tell you all about that latest adventure.

Saturday, February 2, 2013


Located in Cocoa Beach, Florida, they bill themselves as the World's Most Famous and that becomes believable when you begin seeing their billboards almost continuously along I-95 on the way to the sunny south.

That store, the "flagship" of their retailing outlets, is 52,000 square feet, in its own class of whimsical, Disneyland architecture, filled floor to ceiling with everything for the beach lifestyle.

It's open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

The company started on the New Jersey shore when Ron DiMenna discovered his passion for surfboarding.  When his father heard Ron wanted to buy a new sufrboard from California he advised, "Buy three, sell two at a profit and yours will be free."

Turns out dad was right and the retail surfing empire was born.  He opened his first shop there in 1961 then headed to Cocoa Beach, FL two years later.

The original store continues in operation in nautical-sounding, Ship Bottom, NJ.  There are a pair of stores in Myrtle Beach, SC and another half dozen or so sprinkled around FL from Panama City to Key West.

While my Syracuse friend Dick Weeks and I are hardly part of the beach culture and our chicks didn't spend a lot of time in the string bikini department, I did leave with a spare, shark's tooth necklace and a visor emblazoned with the surf shop logo.

I have no idea what the girls purchased.  And didn't ask.

Life is good.