On the Grid – April 2016

April is done.

Another month in the books.

Three full months and a handful of days left to go.

At the risk of sounding whiney, I’m glad this little challenge is getting close to being finished. Sure, it’s been fun and it’s caused me to get out of the house or out of the office and go caching more often but it’s also become a bit of a chore. I’ve found, these days, that when I tell ConnieLou that “today is a cache day”, it sounds more like I’m heading off to work rather than heading out to go do something fun. Also, there have been too many times lately that, while reading cache descriptions that I’ve heard myself utter the phrase “OK, this one looks quick/easy.” instead of “Oh, this one looks fun!”

Enough of that.

So what about the April caches? Fortunately there were a few caches in April that stuck out for one reason or another.

March of the Penguins in Palmetto (GC6E3TC) wasn’t in the prettiest of locations but it did present a challenge. It definitely wasn’t what I thought I would be looking for and I passed it by several times before I had that ‘Ah HA! ‘ moment. Turns out you have to think about the guy that hid the cache.

Ice

A Thrifty Cache (GC4D85Y) isn’t in the prettiest of locations either. However, it’s a nemesis cache for me as I’ve hunted for unsuccessfully several times in the past. I finally happened to look in just the right spot from just the right angle. I’m not too sure the owners of the shopping center could have found a brighter paint color…and the photo is toned down a bit because it was overcast…

Yellow

It’s possible to find surprisingly pretty places near my office. This stretch of the North Fork of Peachtree Creek is located near North Fork Screw Loose (GC5MRWC).

Creek 1

 

Unfortunately the banks of the creek adjacent to the road had not fared so well. Would be a good place for a CITO.

Creek 2

The watcher on the road sign didn’t seem too thrilled with the trash either.

Watcher

It’s usually hard to find a more peaceful place then a cemetery and most are pretty in their own way. Forty-Five Confederate Soldiers (GC17A2Y) in Greensboro, Georgia was dedicated to the forty-five unknown Boys in Gray buried in the cemetery.

Stars and Bars

Onward…

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Market Days on the Square

If you follow my blogs or follow me on Facebook, you probably already know the last month has been just a little crazy. ConnieLou has been recovering nicely from her surgery and has been feeling like getting out of the house more and more. The other day she reminded me about Market Day on the Square in downtown Newnan and we both thought it would be a great opportunity to get outside for a little while to walk around and enjoy some sunshine.

For folks that aren’t familiar, Market Days in Newnan are essentially a monthly artisans market on the Court Square that occurs on the first Saturday of each month from April through December. Imagine a much smaller scale, monthly version of the Yellow Daisy Festival at Stone Mountain or the Old Power’s Crossroads Festival near Newnan. All of the vendors are situated on the interior of the Square around the courthouse.

Courthouse

Tents and People

Art and Tents

There were many sorts of locally made products for sale. One could find jewelry…

Jewelry

Wood products and furniture…

Woodworkers

Pottery…

Pottery

There was also handmade soaps (I never realized that artisan soaps were ‘a thing’ these days), essential oils, paintings, cloth products, jellies, honey and barbeque sauces. If you were feeling hungry there were fresh made doughnuts…

Doughnuts

As well as boiled peanuts, caramel corn and kettle corn.

Of course there was entertainment…from a street corner performer trying to pay his way through college to a regular group of pickers on one of the courthouse patios.

Corner Musician

Patio Pickers

We made a couple of laps around the Square before heading off to find some lunch. We didn’t make any major purchases other than a bag of kettle corn, some boiled peanuts and a bottle of barbeque sauce but we got out of the house for a little while and had some fun…and since some of the vendors change each month, we might just have to do it a couple more times before the end of the year.

Posted in Main Street Newnan, Market Days, Market Days on the Square, Newnan | 1 Comment

On the Grid – March 2016

March.

It was a crazy month in our house.

The lead-up to ConnieLou’s surgery, the surgery day itself, and recovery following. It’s definitely been busy but I was able to find time to find a cache on each of the days I needed to fill the blank spots on 366 Grid for this month. Well, all but one anyway. March 11, ConnieLou’s surgery date, will remain blank for another year.

But that’s OK.

That blank day will be a reminder of the day she became cancer-free again. And when March 11 rolls around next year I have a multi cache picked out that starts in a location that’s very special to both of us to commemorate the occasion. Sorry, no hints. You have to wait to find out where. Anticipation can be a good thing.

So what about March 2015? Were there memorable caches beyond the non-cache of March 11? Sure there were! Let me tell you about a few of them.

First up: Treasure Your Teeth (GC5VQ14). If you guessed that this cache might be located near a dentist’s office, you would be correct. Treasure your Teeth is actually mounted on the side of the building in which the dentist’s office is located. I didn’t take a picture of this one but because it’s pretty darn obvious when you get there.

Next: Corny Joke Series: The Fence (GC6E610). So what’s the corny joke? You’ll have to check out the cache description to find out. This is one of the best executed hides I’ve seen in a while. I’m glad I found it early on because this one is only going to become more and more difficult as time passes. It’s also a cache that will remind one that caching in shorts isn’t always a good idea. Dang briars!

See the hint in the picture? No? Darn…

Fence

And wrapping up March: Tool Town (GCAMZ5). As I read the cache description I suspected that this would be a very run-of-the-mill hide on the edge of the parking lot outside our local cheap tool store…and I was right up until I picked up the container. I don’t think I’ve seen one quite like this before but it was pretty appropriate for the location.

Tool Time.

That’s it for March 2016. April is off to a good start.

Onward.

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The Best-Laid Plans of Mice and Men…

Be forewarned, this is a public service announcement as well as a blog entry. There are lessons to be learned. Now pay attention.

Wellllll, I’m not going to finish my 366 Grid this year and that’s OK. I had a feeling I might miss a day on ConnieLou’s surgery day…and I did.

But it didn’t go down quite the way I anticipated. We had to be at the hospital at 6:30 Friday morning so they could prep ConnieLou for a 7:30-7:45 start. I toyed with the idea of stopping to grab a cache on the way but we were cutting it close so I decided to wait until later in the day after her surgery was over…no problem. Or so I thought.

For the most part everything went according to plan until late afternoon. They took ConnieLou back to the O.R. at 7:45. Her surgeons came to visit with us as each finished to give us updates on how things were going. By noon the surgery was finished and she was in recovery and around 1:00 we met back up with her in a hospital room and found her awake and in good spirits. Her pain meds were doing their job. By mid-afternoon, with ConnieLou doing well, I was beginning to contemplate what I wanted to do for supper and figured that I’d simply grab a nearby cache while I was out. How does the phrase go? “The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” Yeah, that’s it.

By late afternoon the anesthesia was finally wearing off and with friends and family in the room, it was starting to get to be pretty warm…not a good combination. A nurse happened to be in the room doing her thing and ConnieLou asked for a barf bag. You can probably guess what happened next. Yeah, she hurled. Thankfully the barf bag did its job. At first we all thought “OK, she hurled, got it out of her system and things will be fine”. Nope. Before long she started having some pain and we began noticing some swelling. She also began to notice a warm sensation on her side which was found to be some leakage from her incision. The nurse was called back and she began to work on ConnieLou. She called in an assistant and when they began to talk in hushed tones and go out into the hall to answer phone calls we knew dealing with something a bit more serious. When the on-call surgeon came in we knew things weren’t getting any better. In fact, by then the swelling was significant and her drains weren’t draining (my apologies to the queasy). The on-call surgeon called her plastic surgeon and the decision was made to go back in and find out what was causing the problem. Fortunately the plastic surgeon was nearby.

By 7:30 she was back in surgery…and the cache was pretty much forgotten.

By 10:30 she was out of surgery, back in her room and all was well again. Turns out a blood vessel had ruptured, most likely when she threw up, and her incision had begun to fill with blood and was swelling. At one point, as she was being prepped to return to surgery, her blood pressure had dropped dangerously low. I think the phrase used by the anesthesiologist was “we nearly lost her”. It’s probably a good thing that the rest of us didn’t learn that little detail until she was back out of surgery, awake and again in good spirits.

I did happen to think of the cache one more time during the evening…but at that point my response to the thought was “Nope, not that important, I’ll get it next year.”

Up to now I’ve kept quiet about the nature of ConnieLou’s ailment, at least as this blog is concerned.

It was cancer. The C-word. Breast cancer to be specific. Few things strike fear and dread in the heart or mind of a man or woman like a cancer diagnosis.

Allow me to give you the back story…

ConnieLou began having some issues late last summer. She mentioned them to her gynecologist during her annual visit but he wasn’t too concerned. In fact, he pretty much blew it off and just told her to make sure that she had her annual mammogram when it was time. Fast forward to late January. Things didn’t get any better and when it was mammogram time, she mentioned her issues to the radiologist…and alarms started going off. They did a diagnostic mammogram instead of the standard version and it was no real surprise that it came back abnormal. Her GYN referred us to a breast health specialist for a biopsy which, as you’ve already guessed, came back cancerous. The fact that it was a lesser form of cancer was sort if irrelevant at that point.

We never really had that fuzzy warm feeling about the doctors and staff at the practice that made the initial diagnosis. There were a lot of things said and done that steered us in a different direction. We began doing our homework and happened to get a good recommendation for a surgeon, Dr. Frank Powell, from one of my high school classmates who is a surgeon himself.

We met with Dr. Powell initially for a consultation and almost immediately felt comfortable with him, his staff and the other doctors and technicians that would become ConnieLou’s care team. Over the next three weeks there were doctor’s appointments, additional tests, the results of which led to a couple of decisions to be made. Although the type of cancer was the lesser of the possible evils, it was fairly large…but…it didn’t appear to have spread. Dr. Powell recommended a mastectomy over a lumpectomy but did give her that option, probably coupled with radiation and/or chemo…not a very good option as far as we were concerned. The next question became a single mastectomy or double. Ultimately, with a lot of careful consideration and a whole lot of prayer, ConnieLou finally decided on double. Not an easy decision by any means but probably the best decision in the long run and not just to virtually eliminate the possibility of an occurrence on the other side. Surgery was scheduled and that brings us to where we are today.

Remember those lessons to learn that I mentioned earlier? Pay close attention here.

1. Listen to your gut. Unless you’re a major hypochondriac, listen to your gut. You know what’s going on with your body better than anyone else. If you think something is out of whack, get it checked out…sooner rather than later. Yeah, it may be expensive but if it is something serious, you stand a better chance of knowing earlier and getting it taken care of.

2. Be persistent. If you’re concerned that something is out of whack and your doctor doesn’t seem interested, insist that he or she check it out. Still no interest, find another doctor.

3. Get your mammograms as soon as you’re able. Yeah, they’re uncomfortable, or so I hear, but keep the following two words in mind: early detection. Enough said.

And lastly…

4. Do the self-checks. Ladies…check your girls. Again, you have a better idea when something’s not right than anyone. Don’t know how, ask your doctor. Don’t want to ask your doctor? Well, google is your friend.

Oh, and for the guys still reading…check yours too. Think guys are immune to breast cancer? Think again. Just do it.

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Oh the Places You’ll Go!

Congratulations!
Today is your day.
You’re off to Great Places!
You’re off and away!

Once again I found myself struggling for a title. More often than not, I have a title for a blog entry in mind as I start to write. Sometimes the title for the entry becomes apparent as the event that I’m writing about unfolds. Not this time. Jenna and I had gone down to Chattahoochee Bend to go hiking yesterday and while the story unfolded in my mind quite nicely, a title never did. As we sat down to dinner this evening I asked ConnieLou and Jenna for suggestions. ConnieLou suggested a line or a title from a Dr. Seuss book since Dr. Seuss’ birthday was last week…and then she tossed out “Oh the Places You’ll Go!” Both the title and the opening passage of the book fit perfectly.

Life has been busy…busier than usual for March. ConnieLou had a bridal shower to go to so Jenna and I decided to go outside and play. Jenna has a pair of new hiking boots that needed breaking in and I have some new GoPro camera doo-dads to play with. The sun was shining and the day was warm so we decided to go down to Chattahoochee Bend to try to hike a few sections of trail we haven’t hiked before.

We stopped at the Visitor’s Center, paid our parking fee, and headed down to Trail Head 2.

Trail Head 2

We took a few minutes to get our packs and poles situated and ready to go.

Ready

I don’t know if Jenna was excited to be hiking or just happy to be outside.

Happy Hiker

We hadn’t been on the trail long before Jenna had a chance to get a little mud on her boots.

Mud

Muddy Boots

We had plenty of opportunities to get into more mud later. Like the other trails at the Bend, the sections we hiked were well marked with blazes and were easy to follow.

Trail

Mile markers are placed at appropriate locations to let hikers know how far they’ve walked.

Mile Marker

We intended to hike a new stretch of the Wild Turkey Trail to get to visit a couple of the beaver ponds in the park. Unfortunately, we missed the turn-off to the new trail and ended up following the Tower Trail on down to the river. We may not have found the beaver ponds but we did get to see a couple of pretty bogs along the way.

Bog

Past the bog it was just a short hop through a stand of tall, narrow trees with very light colored bark, over a couple of bridges and through a couple more mud holes to the river. Then it was on to the observation tower.

TrailandTrees

Bridge

Upriver

Tower

Of course, we had to climb the tower and have a look around.

Jenna Tower

Observing

Tower View

After taking a few minutes to take in the view at the tower, we turned around and retraced our steps back to the truck, arriving as the shadows were getting long, another fun afternoon finished but for the drive home.

Want to see more? Check out the video at: Chattahoochee Bend – March 6, 2016

Photo creds:  Jenna Davenport

Posted in Chattahoochee Bend, Chattahoochee Bend State Park, Day Hike, Geocaching, Georgia State Parks, GoPro, YouTube | 2 Comments

On the Grid – February 2016

I don’t have a catchy, cute title for the February 2016. I only had six caches to find for my 366 grid in February, making it a fairly easy caching month but the rest of the month has been a bit of a challenge. ConnieLou had a fairly serious health issue crop up at the end of January that made February quite challenging. Doctor visits are rarely, if ever, fun and these have been even less so. But…as the world keeps turning, we have to move forward too.

Now back to caching. In many respects February was a quick, easy month caching-wise. Honestly, I chose mostly easy caches to complete the month but somehow, even with seemingly easy caches, there’s usually some means to make a story. February was no exception. Ready for a few highlights?

In past entries I’ve mentioned how one can travel long distances and even travel internationally without driving more than two of three miles from my office. Now I’ve discovered that even time travel is possible near my office. I found Yuletide Greetings (GC4VVKM) on February 8…

Time Travel

Marie’s Cache (GC632H8) was quick and easy but staying out of sight of the ‘sign spinner’ on the opposite corner of the street added a bit of challenge.

Spinner

Down Town Palmetto (GC49C6K) had me puzzled for a bit. I walked right by it several times before I finally stepped back just a bit, reassessed the situation, and had that ‘ah HA!” moment.

Tangeled

With February down, how does March look? For the most part, it looks doable with one possible exception. Looking at my stats I see that I need to find a cache on ConnieLou’s surgery day. Ugh! But…just by chance there is a cache in the woods behind the hospital. Hmmmm. Unfortunately, I’ve logged a DNF on that one before and its continued existence seems to be in question. Will I have an opportunity to look for it or possibly another cache…or do I even worry about it at all? I don’t know but here’s my take…if an opportunity to find a cache on surgery day presents itself, fine, do it. If not…so what? It’s just geocaching (yeah, someone just cringed). In the grand scheme it’s just not that important (someone cringed again). It’s pretty darn low on the priority list (someone just passed out) and can be done next year or the year after or the year after that or…you get the point.

Onward…

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Cachin’ the Long and Winding Road

Jenna and I were planning to go hiking this weekend but due to school commitments Saturday and crappy weather Sunday morning, that didn’t work out. By the time the weather finally broke Sunday afternoon I was ready to go do something outside. I asked Jenna if she wanted to go but by then she was wrapped up in a blanket, buried in a book and decided to take a pass. I decided that I would just go solo.

A few months back, one of our local cachers, GreatT, set out a short cache trail along Tommy Lee Cook Road, one of the side roads off the main highway near Palmetto, Georgia.

Palmetto

The eleven caches were TLC-themed and their named included (in no particular order) Sweet, Laughter, Forever, Compassion, Smile, Cherish, Talk, Hug, Love, Contentment and Care. It definitely gave one something to ponder as they moved from cache to cache.

Tommy Lee Cook Road is like many side roads with a few businesses where it meets the main highway and scattered residences and churches further along its length. And, as one might expect, it becomes more and more rural the farther you travel from the highway. Being a relatively rural side road definitely didn’t mean that it wasn’t a busy side road. You definitely have to pay attention to where you pull off and park and how close you are to the road while hunting the caches and signing the logs.

Country Road

View

The cache containers were simple and were generally hidden in a manner that they would be easy to find.

Container

By the time I finished, my cache map looked like this:

Map

It took a little over an hour to find all eleven caches, sign the logs and travel from cache to cache. Dodging cars wasn’t much of a problem and you still get the usual “what the heck is that nut job doing?” looks as you’re hunting the caches. Heck, over the years I’ve just come to embrace those looks and wear them like a badge of honor.

I think my family had their own interests in mind when I said I was going caching. They gave it away when they said “Hey, can you bring us a Blizzard?”

DQ

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On the Grid – January 2016 – Cool Weather Cachin’

So long 2015, Hello 2016!

The new year arrived and so did winter! After a couple of extra months of exceptionally warm late fall/early winter weather (think nearly 80F on Christmas Day) it’s finally getting chilly here! I can’t speak for everyone, but personally, I’m glad the cold is finally here to stay for a few months.

Jenna and I kicked the new year off right with a New Year’s Day cache, literally! Happy New Year 2012!!(GC26CY1) was our first find of the year. As we walked toward the cache we had a pretty good idea where we would find it. We also found that getting to the cache and back would be a little tricky.

Happy New Year

We managed to make our way to the cache’s hiding spot and found it easily. The container was camo’d in hot pink, the ‘calling card’ of the Cache Girls Gone Wild, the local caching group that hid the cache.

CGGW

We made an after dark attempt at finding Howard Hughes (GC5CEPQ) but once again came up empty, even after a hint from the cache owner, and moved on to a back-up. Howard might not have wanted to come out to play but a beautiful sunset viewed from near his hiding spot lessened our disappointment a bit.

Howards Sunset

I took a few short trips to England during January. Turns out ‘England’ is just a couple of miles from my office in Lenox Park, an urban greenspace between a cluster of office buildings and is also not too far from France and South Korea (If you read the September and December ‘On the Grid’ entries, you’ll get the reference). Lenox Park is home to a cluster of four traditional whose names somehow refer to places or features in England including: BIG BEN-ch (GC3TJGE), London in Lenox (GC4BZ92), Sherwood Forest in Lenox (GC3N803) and The Tube (GC3N80R). In addition to the traditional caches, there is also a puzzle cache in the group (A Quotable Cache, GC5M24N). Hey, if any of you puzzle cache gurus out there can point me in the right direction on this one, I would appreciate it!!

Lenox 1

Lenox 2

Lenox 3

Lenox 4

Lenox 5

I wrapped up the month with a quick and easy cache at a local gas station (Palmetto McFlash, GC69F2K). Under a lamp post skirt, right? Of course not!

On to February!

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Back to the Bend…Again

I’ve been needing to get outside. Badly. Life has been a bit crazy lately. I didn’t realize how badly I needed to go outside and play until I mentioned the possibility of going hiking this weekend to ConnieLou and her response was “You should, it would do you good.” That’s ConnieLou-speak for “I know your stress meter is just about maxed out and you need to do something to blow off some steam before you bust.” She knows me well.

I sent a text to my buddy Tom to see if he wanted to get out and go hiking somewhere. I wanted to go over to Sweetwater Creek State Park but had some errands to run early and dinner plans for the evening so we decided to head down to Chattahoochee Bend.

Bend Sign

We decided to walk the same route that Jenna and I walked about this time a year ago but in reverse. We started off on the Wild Turkey Trail at the Visitor’s Center then picked up the Brown Thrasher Trail after half a mile or so. The portions of the trails in lower areas were fairly muddy but that wasn’t exactly unexpected given the amount of rain we’ve had lately but the upland portion of the trail were in good shape.

Trail

We stopped at Trailhead 1 to eat some lunch. Normally I wouldn’t bother with lunch on a short hike but I have a new stove and cook pot that I haven’t had a chance to play with in the woods so we stopped, boiled some water and we each rehydrated a freeze-dried meal. I’ve got to admit, a hot lunch and a cup of hot chocolate hit the spot on a cool day.

Lunch

Tom Cooks

After lunch we crossed the road over to the Flat Rock Trail which crosses the large pavement outcrops in the upland portions of the park. Some of the blazes that were painted on the rock surface a few years ago are starting to fade but other hikers have built small cairns to mark the trail.

Flat Rocks

Faded Blaze

Random fungus

Fungus

(as opposed to regular fungus)

Once back on the Wild Turkey Trail, the trail passed between the split trunks of a fallen tree…

Stump

Two Trees

By the time we made it back to the truck we’d walked about five miles…OK, between 4 ½ and 5 miles, depending on whose smartphone tracking app that you want to believe.

Track

To check out my blog entry from last year’s hike at Chattahoochee Bend with Jenna click the following link:

Back to the Bend

And for a video of this trip…yeah, you got it…click the link:

Back to the Bend…Again

Posted in Chattahoochee Bend, Chattahoochee Bend State Park, Day Hike, Day Trip, Georgia State Parks, GoPro, YouTube | 2 Comments

Staying Warm While Camping

A great tip for keeping warm at night while winter camping from Michael at Hike, Eat, Repeat. Check it out!

Hike Eat Repeat

Easy and Efficient Heat Source

One of the biggest challenges in the backcountry is staying warm in unfair conditions. I have found myself many times in extremely high winds or damp conditions that prevent me from building a fire. If you do not have a heat source available, the only heat you have is the heat your body is producing. One trick to providing extra heat throughout the night is to make a hot water bottle. The key is to create an insulator that will keep the water warm for hours. The only items you will need for this project I have listed below.

  • Mylar Bubble Wrap (Can be purchased at any hardware store)
  • Duck Tape
  • The Water Bottle of Choice (I use a Nalgene Wide Mouth)
  • Knife or Box Cutter

I will give a brief description about how I made this water bottle insulator and I will attach my…

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