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I’ve been trying to get this entry going for a week or so.  I’ve started and stopped three or four times but never really got going quite in the direction that I wanted.  I think I’ve got it now.

You may remember reading my First Impressions entries about the Tensa Outdoors’ Tensa4 hammock stand and Hammock Gear’s ‘The Journey’ winter tarp…well, a week or so ago I finally had a chance to use them together as intended.  In this entry I’ll tell about a few of the tweaks I had to make so that all of the bits and pieces would work harmoniously together.

First let’s talk about my hammocks and the Tensa4 stand.  I use 11-foot hammocks most of the time.  The first couple of times I set up one of my hammocks on the stand, I simply slipped the open ends of the continuous loops at the ends of the hammocks over the ends of the stand poles.  The height of the hammock was about right so I didn’t worry too much about it at the time.

So far, so good…  Now let’s add the tarp to the equation.

I knew that the tarp, even at 11 feet end to end, would be a little too long for to use with the stand with the hammock attached directly to the stand via the continuous loops so I had to add in some sort of suspension.  My normal hammock suspension consists of polyester straps, along with cinch buckles and Dutch biners so I knew it should work fine.  As I mentioned in my First Impressions entry for the tarp, my tarp suspension (ridgeline) consists of Dutchware Stingers and Reflectit.

Once I had the hammock connected to the stand via my regular suspension, had the tarp connected to the stand via the Reflectit and Stingers and had the sides of the tarp staked out I noticed that something was amiss.  My hammock seemed awfully low, and when I sat down then stretched out in the hammock, I quickly realized that it was not just a little too low, it was a lot too low…my butt was on the ground.  Time to rethink this just a bit.

I knew from reading posts on the Hammock Forums bulletin board and comment on the Tensa Outdoors website that the stand, an 11-foot hammock and a tarp with an 11-foot ridgeline were compatible.  When I took a step back to look at the situation I realized that the Stingers/Reflectit ridgeline combination was too long.  The geometry just didn’t work.  The question became how could I shorten the tarp ridgeline, thereby reducing the interior angle of the hammock stand which would allow me to shorten the hammock suspension to pull the hammock further up off the ground.

The solution to the problem eluded me for the rest of the day and for that evening but stopped me dead in my tracks while I was making coffee at 6:30 the next morning.  OK, don’t ask me why I was up at 6:30 on a Saturday morning when I didn’t need to be.  I just was.  The solution…simple…tie a loop that was just big enough to larks-head to the D-ring at the corner of the tarp and slip over the end of one of the stand’s poles in a piece of Reflectit.  I wish I could say that I ran out to the back yard before daylight to give it try. But no, I waited until I finished my coffee and the sun had come up to go.

Once installed, the Reflectit loops shortened the overall length of the distance needed between the ends of the hammock stand to accommodate the tarp by 5 to 6 inches and closed the interior angle of the stand enough to allow the suspension to be shortened and pull the hammock up off the ground several inches to a comfortable height.

A night in the hammock afterward convinced me that the setup was going to work pretty well for my purposes.  Oh, and for what it’s worth, the tarp got its first little weather test the next morning when a brief rain shower rolled through shortly after my morning walk to go mark my territory and the patter of rain on the tarp sang me back to sleep for a little while.

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Ready for another First Impressions entry?

After trying out the Tensa 4 hammock stand that I received as my anniversary present from ConnieLou for our 30th Anniversary last year, I realized that my 12-foot Wilderness Logics Big Daddy tarp was going to be a bit too long to use with the stand.  I knew Christmas was coming up so, of course I did what most anyone in that situation would do…I put a new tarp on my Christmas Wish List and began to look at options for shorter tarps.

I’ve been happy with my Wilderness Logics tarp so initially I began looking at an 11-foot version of the Big Daddy tarp.  But, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that if I was going to shell out the bucks for a new tarp, I didn’t want to just buy a smaller version of a tarp that I already have.  There really needed to be something about it that set it apart from the Big Daddy.  Enter the ‘winter tarp’.  What’s a winter tarp you ask?  Simply said, it’s a tarp with extra material, i.e. ‘doors’, at each end that can be closed off to provide additional protection from the elements.

As with nearly all things hammock related, there are quite a few options to choose from and I spent a fair amount of time researching options from a number of cottage vendors including Wilderness Logics, Dutchware, Hammock Gear, Warbonnet Outdoors and others.  I had almost convinced myself that I wanted an Old Man Winter tarp from Wilderness Logics when I learned that Marty Gallimore, the owner of Wilderness Logics, had passed away and they were closing down.  The search continued.  Ultimately I narrowed my search down to two vendors, Hammock Gear and Dutchware.  One thing to keep in mind here, by narrowing my search to these two vendors is in no way saying anything against any of the other cottage vendors of hammock camping gear.  I just happen to have other pieces of gear from both and have been pleased with the quality and price point.  What made me decide on Hammock Gear over Dutchware?  Honestly, it came down to Hammock Gear having a better Black Friday offer.

So what tarp did I ultimately decide on?

I went with the 11-foot version of Hammock Gear’s ‘The Journey’ winter tarp.  I went with the 11-foot version to meet my length requirements and opted for coyote brown over olive green.  How did I rig it out?  To keep things simple, I decided to rig the tarp pretty much the same way that I have my Bid Daddy tarp rigged.  The more familiar, the better, right?

Here’s the low-down… For a ridgeline I went with a pair of Dutchware Stingers with 12 feet of orange Reflectit spliced to each, Dutchware Tarpworms with orange Reflectit and 3/32-inch shock cord for tie outs, orange reflective guy line for panel pulls, a one-piece mesh tarp sleeve and 3/32-inch reflective shock cord with 3/8-inch side release buckles for the door pulls.

Unfortunately the tarp and rigging weren’t waiting for me under the tree on Christmas morning…but that’s OK, we knew ahead of time that it wouldn’t be.  Hammock Gear typically has a two to three week lead time for made-to-order gear but add in the Black Friday special and the run-up to Christmas and the lead tie stretched to nearly six weeks…as was expected.

Finally, with all of the pieces in place, I was able to get outside this afternoon, get the tarp rigged and hung for the first time.  Ready for a few photos?  Check ‘em out…

First the Goodie Box with all of the bits and pieces…

While there are a myriad of options to rig the tarp doors, I decided to go with a method utilizing shock cord and side release buckles that I’d seen on a YouTube video and in a related blog entry by Alan Dixon.

Views from the side and the end with the doors open and closed…

View of the interior with the side panels pulled out and a view without.  It’s much roomier with the panels pulled.  Keep in mind that it’s pitched fairly low…

And now for the rest of the rigging…

Stingers…

Tarp Worms…

Door pull clips…

And finally the tarp skin…

With the exception of the side panel pulls and the door pulls, the set-up is identical to my Big Daddy tarp.  It took a little tweaking to get the shock cord door pulls set just right but that shouldn’t be a problem down the road.  The tarp is a foot shorter than my Big Daddy and isn’t quite as wide the increase in coverage and protection from wind as well as rain should make the difference insignificant.

I’ll add a few more photos down the road after I have a chance to spend a few nights under it between the trees and in the Tensa 4.

All in all I’m quite pleased.  If I just had to find fault with something it would be the stuff sack.  Yeah, you read that right, the stuff sack.  The tarp fits just fine without the cordage and tarp skin but once everything is added, not so much.  Increase the diameter of the sack by an inch or make it a couple of inches longer and it would be perfect.

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Three o’clock in the morning is an uncivilized hour.

Even for getting up to get dressed and ready for a day trip to The City that Never Sleeps, 3:00 is an uncivilized hour.  Yet that’s what we were doing.  We were out the door by 3:45 and were through security and at our gate at the airport in Atlanta by 5:00 for a 6:00 flight.

OK, here’s the deal.  The Harry Potter, A History of Magic exhibit has been at the New York Historical Society Museum since early October after its run at the British Library in London.

Being Potter fans, naturally we wanted to go.  We had hoped to make a trip before now but with the girls’ school schedules, my work schedule and holidays thrown in we just haven’t had the chance.  Jenna was due to head back to school this weekend and the exhibit closes in a couple of weeks so she finally convinced me to take a day off from work and go so we could see it before the exhibit closed.  It didn’t take a lot of convincing really.  Unfortunately Ashley wasn’t able to go with us.  Hopefully the exhibit will move to another city and Ashley will have a chance to go.  Honestly I wouldn’t mind seeing it again myself.

Mother Nature treated us to a spectacular sunrise during our flight…

Of course our pictures didn’t come close to doing it justice…

Once we were back on the ground we made our way to the Upper West Side of Manhattan.  Riding the buses and subways in New York is an adventure by itself.

We made it to the museum a couple of hours before our ticket time so we had some time to kill.  It probably shouldn’t be much of a surprise that we decided to log a few nearby caches.  Poppy Evolution (GC72DFM), a traditional cache, was a quick easy find outside the American Museum Of Natural History, located just across West 77th Street from the Historical Society Museum.

Resolve (GC15JBT), a Mystery Cache and Cleopatra’s Needle (GC59BR5), an Earthcache, took us into Central Park…

With a few caches under our belt we stopped for a cup of coffee and then headed to the museum to see the exhibit…

Photography wasn’t allowed inside the exhibit but someone who must not be named took a few pictures anyway.  I won’t say who she was but she solemnly swore that she was up to no good.

I’ve got to say that the exhibit exceeded all of my expectations.  Learning about the historical background on which J.K. Rowling based part of the Harry Potter book series made the series even more fascinating…and fun.

After our time at the museum we grabbed a bite of lunch then began to make our way back to the airport for our flight home.  We discovered that the subway station at the corner of West 79th Street and Central Park West also held a treat for us in the form of tile mosaics on the station walls…

Friday afternoon rush hour traffic and construction at LaGuardia Airport made getting back to the airport and to the correct terminal a challenge.  We’d left earlier to get back to the airport than we originally planned but we still missed our intended flight home.  No matter, there was another flight to Atlanta scheduled to leave 30 minutes later (which ended up leaving an hour later…hey, airlines get caught up in traffic too sometimes) and then three more flights after that.

And then we were home.  Mischief Managed…

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I’ve decided it time (OK, way past time) to try a new photo size rather  than my usual 450 x 338 pixels so I thought I’d post a few samples to see how they worked with the template borders…

First up:  550 x 375

Next: 600 x 450

Finally: 700 x 525

Got an opinion?  Please leave me a comment!

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We didn’t get out to go caching on New Year’s Day.  I spent the morning tending some ribs on the grill and we all spent the afternoon piddling around and taking advantage of our last chance to be lazy before going back to work and getting back to the regular grind.

I knew that I had to make my monthly work trip out to Greensboro, Georgia and there were a few virtual caches not too far away in Athens that I wanted to do so I asked Jenna if she wanted to go.  I knew that she would probably want to go just to go caching but I decided to sweeten my offer with a lunch stop for sushi.  I wasn’t disappointed.

Friday morning found us driving east in heavy rain.  It rained on us all the way to Greensboro but the forecast called for the rain to taper off by lunchtime and just be cloudy the rest of the day.  Fortunately, forecast was right.  I did what I had to do for work and by late morning we were heading to Athens.  As we were leaving my jobsite we noticed a couple of deer by the side of the road.  We had just passed them when I noticed a buck behind some bushes.

Jenna wasn’t too sure what to think when I jammed on the brakes and threw the gearshift into reverse and hit the gas. She finally saw the buck I had seen and then we both saw the other.  We watched the deer for a few minutes before heading on to Athens for lunch at Inoko.

Our first cache stop for the day took us to a (sometimes) quiet corner of the University of Georgia campus to log ‘Break on Bridge’ (GC7088) where we found yet another buck.  This time, instead of a whitetail deer, the buck we found was made of metal.  The sculpture, known as “The Vigil” was constructed by two UGA art students in 2014.

From Break on Bridge we made our way to ‘Icon of Athens, Georgia’ (GC7B9PC), the metal Arch located at the north end of the UGA campus at Broad Street.  Friday afternoon traffic was heavy in downtown Athens and parking was scarce so we elected to do a drive-by to get the photo we needed…

After Icon of Athens we headed a short distance down the street to “Your Vision” (GC708A) to check out the mural…

We weren’t in a huge hurry to get home so we decided to make a little detour from our route home to log an Earthcache.  ‘ROCKDALE’ (GC61QH5) is situated on a patch of granite outcrop on the edge of Black Shoals Park in Rockdale County between Loganville and Conyers.  On the way to ROCKDALE we passed through the Haralson Mill Historic District where we saw the recently built (1997) Haralson Mill Covered Bridge…

Along with the Haralson Mill House…

And a former general store building…

We followed the Black Shoals Nature Trail a short distance to the GZ where we found a nice patch of granite with obvious signs of past quarrying.

We called it a day and headed home after adding another four yellow smilies to the map.

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…the old year that is.  Goodbye 2018 and begone!  While 2018 wasn’t all that bad for me personally, I have too many friends and family members that have experienced losses, challenges and hardships and are ready to put 2018 in their rearview mirrors.

I spent New Year’s Eve afternoon caching with my oldest daughter, Ashley, who was home for one of the few breaks that she gets during her last year in vet school at UGA.  The weather was dry and somewhat sunny for a change so we took it as an opportunity to get out of the house for a little while, log a couple of caches, and learn a bit of Georgia history in the process.  There were a couple of virtual caches down in West Point and LaGrange, Georgia that I needed for my Quest so we decided to tackle those.

Normally I’d drive but sometimes it’s nice to just navigate instead…

Our first cache of the day would be ‘The Last General to Die’ (GC5F72) in West Point.  The multi-stage virtual cache first took us to a cemetery where 76 Confederate and Union soldiers, including two generals, who fought and died in the battle at Fort Tyler located nearby on the other side of the Chattahoochee River above the town of West Point, were buried.

Eventually we ended up at Fort Tyler itself where, ironically, the battle at Fort Tyler was fought on April 16, 1865…seven days after Gen. Robert E. Lee surrendered to General Grant at Appomattox Courthouse in Virginia.

The second virtual cache of the day took us back up to LaGrange for ‘A Master of the Trade’ (GC774E), another multi-stage cache.  Our first stop was at the Callaway Memorial Tower.  There was some repair work being done on the tower so we were unable to get the information we needed to get to the next stage from the markers at the tower but Google helped us take care of that little problem.

We visited the Lafayette Fountain in the heart of LaGrange where we found another bit of information to help us make our way to the final stage.

Finally, we ended up at yet another Civil War cemetery…but a soldier’s grave was not our goal.

Instead we were taken to the grave of Horace King, a former slave who became an architect and engineer and eventually one of the most respected bridge designers and builders in the Deep South.  King gained his freedom in 1846, continued to build bridges and went on to serve as a legislator in the Alabama House of Representatives.

We wrapped the afternoon up with a stop for a Coca-Cola and Moon Pie…yes, I know one is supposed to drink RC Cola with a Moon Pie but I like Coca-Cola better, don’t hate.

So how’s The Great Georgia Earthcache Quest coming along?  Well, little by little the cache symbols are being replaced by yellow smilies.

Want to know about other Quest caches that don’t make the blog?  Follow me at @mrbream in Instagram.

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TGGEQ LOGO

Or maybe that should be Coollanta, fall has finally arrived.  Hopefully it will stay a few weeks.

Normally, going into Atlanta is something I generally try to avoid on the weekends.  I have to pass through town most every weekday to go to work and I’m generally not too excited when I have go into town during the weekend.  I’d much rather to poke around in the woods or go fishing on a pond or stream somewhere.  But…there was an EarthCache in the heart of downtown and two virtual caches in the Centennial Olympic Park area that I need to log for the Quest.  Soooo, I decided to head into town.

Since the EarthCache (Gneiss Cavern at Peachtree Center, GC374V4) is located inside the Peachtree Center MARTA station, I decided to drive to the College Park MARTA station and take the train into town then walk over to Centennial Olympic Park to work on the two virtual caches which definitely beats driving into town then having to find and pay for nearby parking.  Even though I’m not crazy about going into town, it’s always and adventure when I do.  There’s always something interesting to see, hear or even smell and getting there can be half the adventure, especially when riding MARTA.

The Peachtree Center station might just be the most interesting of the MARTA stations on the North-South line.  The station itself is carved into the gneiss bedrock about 120 feet below street level.  Instead of covering up the rock surface, it was left exposed in the station walls.

PTREE CENTER

With Gneiss Cavern at Peachtree Center taken care of I headed upstairs to street level.  An interesting side note, if one rides the escalators or walks the stairs at the Peachtree Center station, you’ll get to see panels of a beautiful, black fossiliferous limestone.

Once at street level and outside the station, I could hear something that sounded like a helicopter hovering between the buildings that drowned out the rest of normal Saturday afternoon traffic noise along Peachtree Street.  Naturally, I had to check it out.    As it turns out, my suspicions were almost correct, a contractor was utilizing a helicopter to lift large pieces of scaffolding into place on the side of one of the downtown office towers.

HELO

With my curiosity about the noise satisfied, I headed on over to the park to find Olympic Virtual Relay:  Leg 1 – Fire & Water (GC7B9NK)…

FOUNTAINS

and Olympic Virtual Relay Leg 2 – Spark & Flame (GC7B8XR)…

BILLY

It’s been quite a few years since we’ve been to Centennial Olympic Park.  ConnieLou and I went a couple of times during the 1996 Olympic Games, one of those times being the night before Olympic Park bombing.  The park has changed a bit since then and seems like it’s almost always evolving…

PARK NORTH

PARK SOUTH

WATER FEATURES

I decided to check and see if the commemorative bricks we’d bought back in 1996 were still there.  Yep, they were.

BRICKS

While I was in the park Visitor’s Center looking up the location of our bricks, I decided to slip into the restroom for a quick pit stop but decided to make a quick exit when my nose told me that the guy in the stall next door wasn’t taking care of business but lighting up a joint instead.  Can you say awkward?

Want to see additional photos from my TGGEQ adventures and life in general? Follow me on Instagram.  Search for ‘mrbream’.

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Time for another First Impressions entry…keep in mind that these entries are just my first impressions of a piece of gear based on one or two uses.  They’re NOT full blown reviews based on extensive use over time.

OK, yeah, I got a new piece of gear and had to play with it and show it off…kind of like the kid with a new toy on the playground but my playground is a blog.

I’ve been wanting a hammock stand of some sort for a while now.  We do a fair amount of camping in established campgrounds and it’s not unusual for the managing entity to not allow “camping units” off of the designated camping area.  If you can find a pair of trees that happen to straddle the designated camping area and are more or less the right distance apart you’re in great shape.  If not, you might be out of luck.  Now, with me setting out on The Great Georgia Earthcache Quest, it looks like I’ll be doing a good bit of solo campground camping over the next few years;  a hammock stand seemed to be the logical solution to the problem.

There are plenty of hammock stand options out there, both store-bought and do-it-yourself.   The store-bought options are usually geared toward the ‘Pawley’s Island’ style hammocks and don’t generally break down small to travel and often don’t work too well with most camping hammocks (gathered-end or bridge hammocks).  Most of the DIY options seem to involve long poles and while they might transport well in the back of a pickup truck or on a roof rack, they typically don’t travel as well by other means.

I’d been watching a thread on the Hammock Forums bulletin board about a different type of hammock stand called a tensahedron stand that essentially is a tetrahedron.  Basically, a tetrahedron is a polyhedron composed of four triangular faces, six straight edges, and four vertex corners.  OK, I know, that’s a geometric mouthful, right?  Stick with me.

Enter the Tensa4 hammock stand.

Somewhere along the way I saw someone mention the Tensa4 hammock stand.  As it turns out, a couple of Hammock Forums members came up with a way of making and marketing a tensahedron stand that breaks down small for easy transport and have formed a small cottage business,

Somewhere along the way I saw someone mention the Tensa4 hammock stand.  As it turns out, a couple of Hammock Forums members came up with a way of making and marketing a tensahedron stand that breaks down small for easy transport and have formed a small cottage business, Tensa Outdoor, to do just that.  I checked out their website, watched their videos, and was pretty intrigued.  Not too long after, Sean “Shug” Emery, another Hammock Forums member uploaded a video to YouTube in which he demonstrated the Tensa 4 stand.  Now I’m even more intrigued but, at $300, it was a little more coin than I wanted to drop ‘just because’.

A month or so ago, with our 30th wedding anniversary coming up, ConnieLou asked me what I would like for an anniversary present.  I had to think on it a bit and ran through a few possibilities before the obvious answer came to me…why not ask for a Tensa4 stand?!

So I did.

Just before we left town for a short anniversary trip to Niagara Falls, a box from Tensa Outdoors appeared on our front porch.  ConnieLou let me open it early to see what was inside but unfortunately I really didn’t have a chance to take it out back, set it up and try it out for a few days.  Yesterday, after cutting the grass and running a few errands, I finally had my chance.

The Tensa4 stand came packed in a heavy duty carry bag along with the cordage for the ridgeline, the baseline, one guyline and the head tether and two Orange Screw anchors.

Basically, the eight stand sections are extended and connected to form four complete poles…

The poles are then connected in the tetrahedral configuration with the baseline and ridgeline and anchored with the guyline and head tether.

With everything connected and anchored, the hammock is attached to the upper apexes.  I was lucky and after a bit of adjusting I was able to slip the ends of the continuous loops at the ends of my hammock directly to the ends of the stand without needing additional cordage or straps.

Since there was no rain in the forecast, I decided to forego adding a tarp this time around in order to give myself a chance to begin to get used to the stand without anything extra to deal with.  In the same train of thought, I opted to set it up with my simple DIY tablecloth hammock rather than my Chameleon with its integrated bug net.

While a little play was expected, I was pleasantly surprised at how sturdy the stand felt without a load on it and when I climbed in it felt rock solid. Once I got into my sweet spot, neither feet nor my shoulders bumped into the stand.  Getting out is slightly more tricky than normal because you have to get out and put your feet on the ground on the side of the baseline closest to the head end of the hammock to avoid ‘mousetrapping’.  I came back out later in the evening to give it a good overnight test and, again, was quite pleased.

All in all I think I’m going to get along well with the Tensa4 and really can’t think of anything I would change or modify.  My only concern is that my tarp with its 12-foot ridgeline might be a little too long.  We’ll find out about that soon enough.  In the event it is too long, maybe Santa might bring me an 11-foot tarp.  Hey Santa, just I case you’re listening, a Wilderness Logics 11-foot Big Daddy and a couple of Dutchware Stingers would be just the ticket.  Hint, hint…

That’s it folks.  As always, your mileage may vary.

Disclaimer:  We have no affiliation with Tensa Outdoors.  The Tensa4 stand was purchased by us and we’ve received no compensation, monetarily or otherwise, for this post.

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Niagara Falls…Slowwwly I turned, step by step, inch by inch… 

Who else remembers the ‘Slowly I Turned’ routine from The Three Stooges?  The general gist of the routine is that Moe is telling Curly the story about how Larry stole Moe’s girl and then lead Moe on a cross country chase until Moe finally caught up to them in Niagara Falls.  I remember it from after school TV on TBS, our local Turner network station and I’ve seen the routine so many times that when ConnieLou first suggested taking a trip to Niagara Falls for our 30th anniversary, it immediately popped into my head.

Fast forward about eleven months…

We booked a hotel through my friend Brian Levine, who is starting a new career in the travel business (more about that later), packed our bags, boarded the pups and then boarded a plane bound for Buffalo, New York.  Flying can be an adventure for us by itself.  ConnieLou work for one of the airlines and, while we fly for free, we also fly standby.  Sometimes we get on a flight, sometimes we don’t.  This time around all went smoothly and by 10:30 Friday morning we were waiting for our Uber at the Buffalo airport.  By 11:30 we were checked into our room at the Doubletree, munching on Doubletree chocolate chip cookies and trying to decide what to do next.

We decided to go grab some lunch then walk over to the falls area which was about half a mile away.  We’d noticed a tour desk down in the lobby, so we decided to stop by and see what they had to offer.  One of the tours they offered was a tour of the area from the Canadian side.  Since we’d thought to bring our passports and had not rented a car, we decided that this would be the best option to see things from the Canadian side.

The tour van wasn’t supposed to pick us up until 4:30 so we headed out for lunch and then to the American falls.  We stopped at the Anchor Bar for lunch.  You may have heard of Anchor Bar in Buffalo…you know, the place where Buffalo wings were invented?  Same folks.  They now have a local chain with a location in Niagara Falls.

By now I’m sure some of my regular readers are wondering whether there would be any geocaching on this trip.  Fear not, there was, and I logged the first virtual cache shortly after we reached the falls.  OK, I’m not going to go into a lot of detail about caching around Niagara Falls other than to say I managed to log four EarthCaches and a traditional cache on the U.S. side of the border and an EarthCache and an Earthcache on the Canadian side while we were there.

That first glimpse of the falls is a bit difficult to describe.  We’ve all seen photos and videos but, needless to say, they don’t come close to the real thing.  In reality, we first started to experience the falls when walked out the front door of the hotel as a dull roar in the background, much like a freight train passing on a distant set of tracks.  As we walked closer the volume grew until we were at the overlook and almost had to shout to be heard.  The amount of water pouring over the 180-plus foot drop is almost mind boggling…and then one learns that only about 10 percent of the water in the Niagara River flows over the American and Bridal Veil Falls and the other 90 percent flows over the Canadian or ‘horseshoe’ falls.

We’d just walked back into our hotel room, kicked our shoes off and plopped down on the sofa when we received a call from the guy at the tour desk letting us know that the van had arrived early, and we could head out whenever we were ready.  We pulled our shoes back on, headed downstairs and climbed into the tour van (OK, it was really a mini-bus).  We picked up a few more folks at other nearby hotels then headed for the border.  Once we’d cleared Canadian customs we headed upriver to pick up a few more folks on the Canadian side and began the tour.

During the course of the tour we saw the falls from the top…

From the side…

From behind…

And even from above from the observation deck on the Skylon Tower later that evening…

Below the falls we got to see a large whirlpool caused by the erosion of silt from an ancient glacial scour…

And the Niagara Escarpment where the edge of the falls originally stood some 12,300 years ago.  We lucked up and got back into the U.S. just in time to park and see the fireworks over the falls before being dropped off at our hotel.

We slept in Saturday morning (hey, we can sleep in on an anniversary trip if we want to…) then headed back over to the park at the American falls where we met up with Connie’s niece Julie, her hubs Dan and their kids Noah and Abby to take a ride on the Maid of the Mist.  Dan is a Buffalo native and they recently moved up to Buffalo where he works.  He went to college just up the road and we were all surprised when he told us that he had never ridden the Maid of the Mist or the other tour boat at the falls.

If describing the falls as viewed from the top is difficult, describing them as viewed from the bottom is nearly impossible.  Try to wrap your head around this:  at the horseshoe falls, over half a million gallons of water falls over a 2,500-foot-long cliff every second.  That’s right, over half a million gallons every SECOND.  And…that cliff is 175 feet above the river level at the base of the falls.  Words and pictures simply don’t do it justice.

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Maybe I should rethink this quest just a bit.

No, I’m not going to scale it back and no, I’m not quitting…definitely not quitting, well, barring some catastrophic event anyway.  Even then, if I can find a way, I’ll get it done.

No, I need to rethink how I’m going to go about getting this done.

Here’s what got me to thinkin’…  Last Friday I had a great day caching.  I had a meeting to attend up at Young Harris College in the afternoon so I’d planned to try to log a couple of Quest caches on the way up and a couple on the way home.  As I looked at the maps of my Quest cache lists on Geocaching.com and realized that if I drove up through Gainesville and Cleveland, Georgia, I could log as many as six during my trip…and I did…two virtuals, 2 EarthCaches and 2 State Park Caches.  Sounds great, right?  Right!

But something was bothering me.  Saturday morning I figured out what it was while I was enjoying my Saturday morning pipe and coffee out on my deck.

Friday was a whirlwind sort of day and I didn’t take time to really enjoy it.  I didn’t take time to read the informative signs, to really enjoy the short hikes, to learn a little something or to just really enjoy what I was doing.  Fortunately, I had been to all but one of the locations that I visited before so there wasn’t a lot that was new to experience.

Once I’d had that realization I knew that I needed to rethink some of the plotting and planning that I mentioned in my last update.  Rather than trying to squeeze as many caches into a day as I can I realized that I needed to slow down and enjoy the experience.  Instead of rushing from cache to cache I need to enjoy driving the backroads and seeing my home state.  Instead of just finding the tidbit of information at a cache that I need in order to log it I need to take time to read the interpretive signs and have a good look around instead of just looking ahead. I need to camp out on overnight trips and build a campfire instead of staying in a motel.  I need to make time to eat at the local barbeque joints and ‘meat & threes’ and to check out nearby hardware and antique shops.   So what if I have to go to some area twice or even three times and so what if the Quest takes longer to finish?

So I’m rethinking things just a bit so I can enjoy the process a bit more.

Now maybe you’re curious about the six caches I logged on Friday.  Well, here’s the rundown:  Click the links to learn more about each cache location.

EarthCaches:

Track Rock Petroglyphs and Soapstone (GC3TXMB)

Desoto Falls (GC5G8GY)

Virtuals:

The Worm And The Rooster (GC87B1)

Appalachian Trail at Walasi-Yi (GC7B7KC)

State Park Caches:

Don Carter State Park (GC49W26)

Vogel State Park (GC27C2C)

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