On Saturday, September 12, Daniel and I decided to head west of town for another geocaching run. We set out in the mid afternoon with no particular plan but to wind up in Staunton for dinner.

WARNING: The following narrative and photos include several "spoilers." Since this page is a) not intended for wide distribution, but directed at a very small audience of people who b) neither live in the Charlottesville area nor pursue geocaching as a hobby (yet), I figure that it's OK to reveal some details of where and how we found these caches.

Find #1: Kruger Cache

For the first cache, we started out with no clear idea of its location; we knew that it was in the Crozet area and near a golf course, but apart from that information, we relied on the GPS to point us in the right direction. This led to an interesting trip as we drove around on roads, feeling our way towards the destination. We knew we were in the right spot when we found ourselves parked at the gate to a golf course in a brand-new development on a large tract of land outside Crozet. Across from our parking spot was a trail leading across some unmown fields.

The trail gave us a pleasant walk past a small pond and some dramatic Blue Ridge scenery.

We found the cache, in this case a tin about the size of a cigar box, hidden under a rock on a steep banking between the trail and a stream.

On the way back to the car, we watched this butterfly, which held still on a thistle long enough for me to take a photo.

Find #2: Milepost 0

The second cache that we headed to was located just off the start of the Blue Ridge Parkway at Rockfish Gap. Most geocaches that are hidden in the woods seem to be located within 25 feet or so of an established trail. This one, however, required us to do some serious bushwhacking. The description says that it is located between the Parkway and the Appalachian Trail, but much closer to the Parkway, so we got as close as we could by walking on the shoulder of the Parkway, then plunged into the woods and down a steep slope. It was tricky going, but got easier when the ground eventually became less steep. We made our way in the direction indicated by the GPS until we arrived at an extensive rock outcrop where we found the cache in a cylindrical food storage container with a bail-and-seal top.

Unfortunately, the seal on the container had failed and it was half full of water. We did our best to dump out the water and clean up the cache, but the log book (a small notebook) was soaked and we couldn't record our visit.

A previous visitor to the cache had reported, in the online logs, seeing snakes in the area. We didn't see any, but it was a good reminder not go blindly sticking our bare hands into the many crevices in the rocks!

On the way back up the steep slope to the Parkway, I noticed this tree. It always fascinates me how trees grow around rocks and other obstacles. This just seemed like an especially dramatic example. (That rock is perhaps two feet long.)

Find #3: Rubber Chicken Cache

For our next cache, we picked one called "Rubber Chicken Cache." The description online told us that the cache housed a rubber chicken named Rupert, and that we should take our picture with him.

We knew we were looking for something in Waynesboro, but we didn't know exactly where we were going until we got there. The location turned out to be a city park popular for dog-walking (and indeed, we ran into a former fellow UVa English grad student out walking his dog).

We found the cache not far off a side trail, nestled at the base of a pine tree in a grove of pines, and not deeply camouflaged.

There's Rupert!

What fun.

Find #4: Eye on the Target

Our fourth cache of the day was hidden in a tree up a banking from a Park and Ride lot near the Waynesboro Target store. I don't have any pictures from this cache, but it is where we picked up one of my favorite "trade items" so far: a miniature soft toy dog. He's tiny and white and shaggy and cute. My heart melted for him. Dan suggested naming him Geo, which I thought was perfect. He's sitting on top of my dresser right now, but perhaps he'll go along on some geocaching adventures with us in the future.

Find #5: Tinkling Springs

The next cache that we went after was called "Tinkling Springs," and was located off a road by the same name (I allowed myself one "tee hee" upon seeing the road sign). It turned out to be located in an old cemetery next to a church.

As the sun headed down, Daniel and I explored the cemetery. Only a few things can divert our attention on the way to a geocache; an old cemetery is one of them.

Just before it got dark, we found the cache, a camouflaged cylinder hidden in . . .

. . . the crotch of a big old tree, at the edge of the cemetery.

After making this find, we decided to pack in the geocaching for a while, and we headed to Staunton for dinner at Baja Bean (an establishment familiar to many members of the Jensen family!).

After dinner, even though it was dark, we decided that we weren't quite done with geocaching yet, and we went after two more caches that were located in downtown Staunton. I don't have many pictures from this portion of the evening, due to the darkness, but we quite enjoyed being given a new perspective (literally!) on Staunton by the geocaches that we found there.

Find #6: A View from the Top

Cache number six for the day was a small cylinder (similar in size to the Tinkling Springs cache) attached magnetically to a metal structure on top of a downtown parking garage. It lived up to its name and led us to a great view. Staunton looks handsome from street level but is even more attractive when you get two or three stories up, where you can get a better look at all the ornamental detail built into the architecture.

While climbing to the top of the wrong parking garage (I initially was convinced, based on the description, that the cache would be located on top of the garage we were parked in; it hadn't crossed my mind that there could be two tall parking garages in Staunton!) we came across an interesting scene:

Evidently the "repeller" got plugged back in, but the graffiti was not painted over, nor was the bird the least bit troubled by the whole affair.

Find #7: VPG: STAN-tun

Our final geocache for the night took us on yet another unexpected little adventure. We parked at an old railroad depot on the edge of downtown; part of it is apparently still in use as Staunton's Amtrak station. A flight of stairs led us to a pedestrian bridge across the tracks; on the other end of the bridge, we found ourselves in a little pocket park on the side of a steep hill, overlooking Staunton. You can see the footbridge and the path through the park in Google Maps:

View Larger Map

The cache itself was an interesting one for us, as it was our first "nano" cache of its particular type: it was a bullet-shaped metal container, maybe about a half inch long, with a strong magnet in its base. (It was attached by the magnet to an iron railing.) The two halves of the container could be unscrewed from each other, and inside we found a tight-coiled slip of paper no wider than typewriter correction tape. It was a challenge to write the date and our Geocaching.com handles on the slip of paper, and then another challenge to get the paper coiled up again and re-inserted into the bullet.

I also liked the name of the cache. "VPG" turns out to stand for "Valley Pronunciation Guide"; someone has done a series of caches in locations like Staunton, Magaheysville, and Weyers Cave which I gather are frequently mispronounced by people "from away" (as we say in Maine).

Most interesting to us, though, was our sense of having discovered something new in a place that we thought we were familiar with. The pocket park was just a couple blocks away from the parking garage where I usually park when attending the theater in Staunton, but I never knew it was there! It appeared to be well-maintained and attractive, and I will be curious to go back there sometime in daylight.