Category Archives: Navigation

England Creek (Right Branch) hike

Our route is in yellow highlighter

Our route is in yellow highlighter (map courtesy of Oxfam Trailwalker Brisbane)

Yesterday, I led my first ever off-track hike. I haven’t done any off-track walking since I was a member of the Brisbane Bushwalkers Club about a decade ago but since being involved in adventure racing and rogaining, I’ve gained quite a bit of confidence in navigation. I put it to the test at England Creek (Right Branch) yesterday in a low risk navigational exercise. I invited my fellow Scout leaders along on the hike and one said ‘yes’.

Morning views from Joyners Ridge Road

Morning views from Joyners Ridge Road

We started out walk at the top of Mt Glorious. The skies were overcast and a light drizzle fell, but the views to the north as we dropped down off Joyners Ridge Road were fantastic. Clouds hung low in the valleys and the mountain peaks were almost like drifting islands.

England Creek (Right Branch)

England Creek (Right Branch)

The walk down to England Creek follows the first 7.5km of the Oxfam Trailwalker Brisbane route so it will be familiar to many local walkers. It follows Joyners Ridge Road and then turns left onto England Creek Road at a major intersection. Once down at the creek, my friend and I stopped for a brief picnic on a rock before leaving the track to head upstream into the jungle.

We were still trying to keep our feet dry here

We were still trying to keep our feet dry here

At first we rock hopped carefully, trying to keep our feet dry. I never know why I always do this on trips or events when I know that there’s no chance of staying dry. It’s like I’m putting off the inevitable. But it must waste so much energy.

Trying not to fall into the water

Trying not to fall into the water

By the time we got to this deep pool bordered by dangerously slippery rocks, I had given up keeping my feet wet.

I need to get to the other side so might as well jump in after all

I need to get to the other side so might as well jump in after all

That was fun

That was fun

And then when I realised I needed to get to the other side, I just jumped straight in.

There were lots of little gorge sections

There were lots of little gorge sections

The creek runs relatively low at this time of year after all the summer rains have finished and washed through the catchment area. But through each of the little gorges it was obvious that water often rushes through here much more quickly and at a higher level: just check out all the wear on those rocks.

What a beautiful part of the world

What a beautiful part of the world

As we trekked upstream I couldn’t help but think about how beautiful this part of the world is and how lucky I am to have it on my doorstep.

Impossibly tall palm trees along the creek

Impossibly tall palm trees along the creek

Dwarfed by the palm trees

Dwarfed by the palm trees

While rock hopping, it can be tempting to focus all your attention on your footing and on the creek itself. But when you look up and around, you can see what a complex ecosystem places like this are. Check out the impossibly tall palm trees that looked over us as we tiny humans meandered our way upstream.

One of the many swimming holes that would be amazing in summer

One of the many swimming holes that would be amazing in summer

England Creek (Right Branch) would be an even more amazing walk in late spring or early summer when the weather is warm (but not yet oppressively humid or wet). It’s dotted with these beautiful swimming holes and rock slabs that would make perfect places to have a picnic and swim.

A pretty series of cascades

A pretty series of cascades

It also contains many pretty cascades. I am sure that in late summer when we’re in the middle of our wet season, these would be imposing and scary. But yesterday they were just plain pretty. That’s not to say they weren’t treacherous.

Scrambling up some slippery rocks

Scrambling up some slippery rocks

My mate just walked across the log

My mate just walked across the log

Even the rock slabs that look dry were perilously slippery and required careful negotiation.In many of these cascades, we scrambled up the actual falls where the flowing water stopped moss from growing.

As it climbed, the trees closed in around the creek

As it climbed, the trees closed in around the creek

We knew we were starting to get into the upper reaches of the creek when the forest closed in more tightly around us and the light grew dimmer. The water volume reduced, the creek bed turned to stones and the going was more slippery than lower down where we had the option of walking on gravel. But by now we’d been in the creek for about three hours and it had become our entire existence, making the change in terrain feel natural.

The rocks in the upper reaches are slippery and seem constantly wetI can imagine the water rushing through here in the wet season; it must be spectacular. Now, in the dry, it’s just plain beautiful.

At these cascades we decided to exit the creek

At these cascades we decided to exit the creek

After following the creek for almost four hours, we reached our critical decision point. We had to decide whether to swim across a water hole and climb through the flowing water or whether to make our escape out of the creek back to the ridge 600 vertical metres above us to finish the hike along Joyners Ridge Road. We could see from the map and terrain that from this point there would be many more cascades than there is flat creek. We also knew from our descent and map that the forest would close in more densely the higher we traveled. It was also between 1:30pm – 2:00pm, which was the time at which we agreed we would start looking for an escape route so that we could be sure to get out of the bush by dark.

Bashing our way uphill through the jungle

Bashing our way uphill through the jungle

So we turned north-west and started to climb through the thick jungle and lawyer vine.

My mate is only about 20m behind me but is barely visible

My mate is only about 20m behind me but is barely visible

We climbed until we could see patches of grass starting to dot the ground, knowing this meant we were nearing a ridge or spur.

We have to go that way

We have to go that way

We just kept traveling uphill until we came to a clear spur and then we climbed some more. Occasionally we saw evidence that other humans had been here: a mug half-buried in the ground, some lantana that had been hacked with a machete months ago and was starting to grow back, and the odd section of small landslide where a group of people had obviously all slid the same way. The evidence of humans was subtle and could have been made months ago by a single group. But it was still a good sign for us as we climbed the seemingly endless spur.

For those unfamiliar with lantana ... it has prickles

For those unfamiliar with lantana … it has prickles

At the top of the spur we reached a ridge that was totally infested by lantana. The horrible weed rose like a two metre high wall in front of us and it was at least ten metres deep. We knew that the track should have been at the top of the ridge so it took us by surprise that the terrain dropped off again. But instead of panicking or second guessing myself, I told my mate to stop for a minute so we could get our bearings. I tracked a few metres north on the ridge until I could see further west and there it was, the big wide track meandering it’s way up to Mt Glorious. We were on precisely the ridge I had thought we were on as we climbed and, as I suspected, this was the only place where the track ran just off the ridge line. The reading and mental practice I’ve been doing paid off in real life.

Back out on the track for the final few kilometres

Back out on the track for the final few kilometres

We followed Joyners Ridge Road the final few kilometres back to the car, having thoroughly enjoyed a day out in the bush. I have plans to do some more local off-track hikes to continue to develop my navigation skills, both for my own enjoyment and for the adventure races / rogains team Whoops Witch Way are going to tackle later in the year.

Total: 15km off-track hike

Multicaching in Brisbane

A clever geocache

A clever geocache

I was in Brisbane City today for the Variety Santa Fun Run and Walk so decided to do some geocaching and walking while I was there. I’ve found most of the regular caches in the city but haven’t attempted any of the multi- or puzzle caches so decided to do them today. A multi- or puzzle cache is one in which the coordinates listed on geocaching.com are not the coordinates of the final cache. You have to collect information from one or more waypoints to find the final cache coordinates. I have only done one each of the multi- and puzzle caches so today’s six was a big step.

I started the day with a simple regular cache outside the Gallery of Modern Art (photo above). This cache was located at the listed coordinates and was disguised as a magnetic bolt.

The Commonwealth Law Courts, Brisbane

The Commonwealth Law Courts, Brisbane

The first multicache I attempted started at The Commonwealth Law Courts at the northern end of the Kurilpa Bridge. The cache required me to note details from two plaques and to count certain statues. I then had to add the numbers I obtained using a certain formula to locate the final cache location. My GPS was affected by the surrounding buildings but I was eventually successful.

John Oxley plaque

John Oxley plaque

My second multicache started at the John Oxley plaque. John Oxley was the founder of Brisbane. As a city, Brisbane is still very young, having only been established in 1824. It became the capital of the State of Queensland after Federation in 1901. This cache required me to count the number of words in certain elements of the plaque before walking about 400m to find the cache. The coin I’m holding in the photo is a Geocoin. This trackable item has traveled over 31,000km from Germany to Australia and I’m currently holding it until I find a suitable cache to drop it in (todays were all too small).

Firefighter's memorial

Firefighter’s memorial

Firefighter's Prayer

Firefighter’s Prayer

The next cache started at the Firefighter Memorial where a plaque containing the Firefighter’s Prayer holds pride of place. Take a moment to read the prayer and perhaps think about the sacrifice firefighters make.

Cool sculpture

Cool sculpture

Centenary Park

Centenary Park

The Bard: Robert Burns

The Bard, Robert Burns

Former Premier Byrnes (do you see his bottle?)

Former Premier Byrnes (do you see his bottle?)

This multicache then took me on a 1km walk past some of Brisbane’s sculptures where I had to collect more clues. It took me past a really cool hand sculpture. And then on to Centenary Park, which is a small inner city park where I used to train with my high school track and cross-country teams because our school was across the road and didn’t have track facilities. Do you see the bottle someone gave to former Premier Byrnes? You might need to enlarge the photo. I don’t know whether Byrnes liked wine but someone decided to offer him a bottle.

Brisbane Dental School

Brisbane Dental School

My next puzzle cache was located up in Spring Hill near the St Johns Ambulance HQ but there was nothing worth photographing up there. On my way back towards my motorbike and final cache, I passed the imposing Brisbane Dental School, with it’s steep staircase and old facade (complete with old school street lamps).

Leichardt: One of my favourite explorers

Leichardt: One of my favourite explorers

The foundation of the Queensland Rugby Football League

The foundation of the Queensland Rugby Football League

My final cache of the day was a complex multi that required me to collect clues from three different locations and then to complete two stages of calculations to find the cache location. I enjoyed the history in this cache, which included my favourite explorer, Leichardt and the birth of the Queensland Rugby Football League (QRL). Leichardt was famous for exploring Queensland’s Darling Downs and Outback before he mysteriously disappeared. I’ve always liked to think that he escaped the hustle and bustle of colony life by living with Indigenous Australians he met on his travels. As for the QRL, rugby league is like a religion in Queensland. This tough full contact sport is almost exclusively a male domain. Unlike American football, Australian players don’t wear helmets and body armour. They just get out there and smash each other to try to prevent the scoring of tries (similar to American touchdowns but the ball actually has to be grounded).

Calculating the cache location

Calculating the cache location

I did a lot of maths today. This is an example of the process I had to use to find each cache.

I think this process of multi- and puzzle caching is great practice for adventure racing. While it’s not performed at the same high stress level as adventure racing navigation, it does still require me to concentrate while walking around in the hot sun. For example, I found my final cache at 12:45pm and had been on my feet since 5:30am when I parked my motorbike to go to the Santa Fun Run.

Total: 11km and 7 geocaches  found (6 multi- or puzzle caches)

Margaret River geotrail run

Weir on Margaret River

I woke on our final day in Western Australia feeling the need to go running and geocaching one last time here on the west coast. The air was cool and rain was threatening but still I desperately wanted to head out. I checked my geocaching phone app, selected a route that took me past a range of caches and set off.

I started by running through Margaret River township looking for a few urban caches. Of the five caches I attempted, I was only able to find two. It was a disappointing haul but I felt better after checking the logs to see that I was not alone in the list of ‘did not finds’ for each of them. But it was a good warm up for my run.

Trails along the river

Old footbridge across Margaret River

After running through town I was thrilled to hit the trails along the Margaret River. The soft brown soil felt wonderful under my feet and I quickly found a rhythm. I ducked and weaved my way down to an old footbridge across the river, on which a geocache was meant to be hidden. I say ‘meant’ because it’s quite clear both from my search and the logs that it is long gone. But that was okay – the run there was refreshing. Though the run across the bridge itself was slightly concerning … the bridge is certainly old.

The bright green moss was beautiful

The colours of my run were magnificent. Bright green mosses almost glowed against the brown logs and black rocks on which they grew. Purple flowers were striking against the bush. Bright yellow orchid flowers dotted the edges of the trail.

Wattles, Karris and Marris

I crossed the Bussell Hightway and ran along the 10 Mile track. Here, ancient Karri and Marri trees towered over an undergrowth of large blooming wattles. The air was filled with the mixed scent of moist soil and floral wattles. Even after it started to drizzle I kept enjoying the run.

Weir on Margaret River

Margaret River reflections

I found a geocache down near the Margaret River Weir and left a geocoin there for someone else to take on its onward journey. It was my third successful find for the morning. I enjoyed the sight of the reflections on the weir and on the river further upstream. The water rushing over the weir formed a rhythmic background to the melody sung by the many forest birds waking up for the day.

Total: 12.10km at unknown pace.

 

 

 

Stockyard Creek Orienteer

Found the control

After starting my day with the club run, I went home for a few hours to relax before heading off to the Stockyard Creek Orienteer event, hosted by the Toohey Forest Orienteering club. I’ve decided to give orienteering and rogaining a go because I want to advance my navigation skills and confidence.

I arrived early for the 1pm start. After a chat with some experienced orienteers I decided to attempt the most difficult and furthest course on offer: a 5km ‘red’ course. The controls on this course were all away from the trails that criss-cross the Stockyard Creek area and they were flung all over the field of play.

I set off at 1pm to try to find my way around the eleven controls. I underestimated the challenge of orienteering a fully off-track course and had a bit of a panic on my way to the first control. While I wouldn’t have had any difficulty navigating to the location under recreational circumstances, I felt pressure under ‘race’ conditions; not because I wanted to win but because I didn’t want to make a fool of myself.

Once I relaxed and trusted my navigation skills I found the first control easily and ran cross-country through the scrub to the second control. Then I got overconfident. I checked the map but not my compass and ran off in the wrong direction. It didn’t take me long to realise my mistake but the only way to correct it was to backtrack to the second control. Then I made the mistake of not trusting my compass because I was frazzled. It probably took me twenty minutes to get from the second to third control.

Once I found the third control I regained my confidence and found the fourth and fifth controls easily before again making a mistake on my way to the sixth control. I got three-quarters of the way to the control when I made an error. Instead of trusting my compass, I made an incorrect assumption about where I thought the control would be and went off in the wrong direction. I was tired and hadn’t drunk enough water. While that’s not an excuse it does put my confusion into context.

I might have been last but I finished

Once I found the sixth control, the final five controls fell into place easily. It took me 84:44 to complete the course, which was 60 minutes slower than the winner and 20 minutes slower than the next orienteer. But I am pretty happy with my effort. It was my first orienteer and instead of playing safe I went out on a limb by entering the most difficult event. I found all the controls, didn’t get lost and learned a lot.

Next time I enter an event, I’m going to take 5 minutes at the start to plan my routes, note the compass directions I need to take off each control, and identify attack and catching features so that I don’t have to stop and route-find as much at each control.

I can’t see myself taking up orienteering as a sport because I don’t get the same heart thumping excitement about it as I do about trail running. But it will be a good training tool to help me keep improving my off-track navigation skills and confidence. And it is a nice way to develop leg strength and concentration skills through cross-country running (which, believe me, is really tough).

Total:

  • 6.85km club run in bare feet @ 5:34 pace. Average temperature: 14.7’C. Elevation gain: 2 m.
  • 5km long course orienteer (I probably ran closer to 7km with all the geographical embarrassment I endured).

Trail running by night

My breath billows before me like a cloud as it hits the cold night air. I swap my motorbike jacket and boots for a light jumper and running shoes. Then I turn off the motorbike light and stand in total darkness for a few moments. The sky is filled with stars and the bush is silent. I breath in the serenity before turning on my headlight and hitting the trail.

I’ve set up a route that will take me past the five geocaches hidden in Venman National Park. I don’t know it yet but the trail will be over 11km long and will take me over two hours to complete, allowing for time spent searching for caches and signing logs. It’s still about 22’C but by the time I return to my bike it will be a chilly 12’C.

My headlight bobs up and down on my head as I run creating a bouncing light effect on the ground. It’s only 45 lumens but still cuts through the pitch black night. On at least a dozen occasions my light reflects off the orange eyes of tawny frogmouths; a large funny looking bird that hunts insects at night. One of them was only an arm-length away from me when I noticed it and we stood still staring at each other for at least 30 seconds before it flew away. I always think these encounters are such a privilege. I also saw a ring-tail possum, a black snake and an owl.

All I can hear as I run are my soft footfalls and the sloshing of water in my camel back. There’s not many singing birds out tonight; just quiet hunters. Occasionally I hear wallabies bounding away into the trees; clearly startled by my presence in their night-time domain. The serenity is divine, particularly in a world where we are almost always plugged into music, television, mobile phones and other intrusive devices. I wonder why I don’t come out at night more often.

The geocaches are all fairly easy to find. Only one causes me any trouble and that’s not because it was a difficult ind but because I found myself spooked by the hiding spot. The cache was hidden under a huge fallen tree. The base of the tree was at least a metre in diameter and the fallen tree was huge. The way it was splayed all over the ground felt creepy in the darkness; a bit like walking through a graveyard. It seems silly to have been freaked out but I was. Though I did just suck it up and look for the cache, clambering all over the tree’s carcass.

Total: 11.60km @ 7:57 pace and 74% maximum heart rate. Found 5 geocaches. Average temperature 18.4’C.

A big day out on foot in Brisbane

I had an energetic and cheerful day

I got off the bus at Royal Parade, Ashgrove in Brisbane’s northern suburbs. Last night I had loaded an 10km trail of geocaches into my Garmin 800. The trail would take me along the Enoggera Creek Bicycle Trail from Ashgrove to the Royal Brisbane & Women’s Hospital just north of the city centre. I decided to run the trail on foot.

Enoggera Creek Bikeway

The bikeway itself is mostly a smooth and flat concrete path that is flanked by trees and gardens. There are  a few brief sections where the path moves onto quiet suburban streets and wanders through sports fields. But the path is mostly a dedicated bicycle and pedestrian pathway.

The bikeway is well-signed

The bikeway is well-signed so it made navigation a breeze.

Cache of the day is hidden in here

Cache of the day

I had a fantastic time running from one geocache location to the next, stopping only to search for the caches. The cache hiding places varied from tree stumps to magnetic caches attached to signs and everything in between. I found twelve caches in total along the 11km trail, which isn’t a bad hit rate. I was unable to find one and was muggled for two (being muggled is when you are unable to search for a cache due to the presence of non-cachers).

The cache of the day was Bikeway Spencer. I think I was a bit lucky to find it because my GPS said I was still 10m from the cache location when I stopped to lean on the metal pole to think. The cap moved and my brain switched straight to ‘here’s the cache’ mode.

Brisbane Town Hall

After my successful morning geo-run along the Enoggera Creek Bike Way I met my partner for lunch then went into the Brisbane CBD to continue my geocaching adventures. This time I walked instead of running because I had plenty of time and only 6.5km to travel.

The Old Mill

Parliament House

Botanic Gardens

My geowalk took me to many iconic Brisbane locations, such as the Old Mill, Parliament House and the Botanic Gardens. I love my home city and feel proud to be a local. I love the way the sandstone heritage buildings contrast against our bright blue skies. I love the open green spaces. And I love that my city feels like home.

Brisbane River

Like many Australian capitals, Brisbane has a proud maritime heritage and we embrace our river as the focal point of our city. Yachts  are moored on almost every bend and our bridges form the solid foundation to the flowing water and bobbing, turning yachts.

This is a typical nano cache

During my CBD geowalk I found all eight geocaches that I had loaded into my Garmin 800. One of them was a nano so I decided to photograph it to show you just how small these can be. This nano is typical of the style currently favoured in the Australian cities where I have cached. They are my favourite caches because they are so tiny that they can be magnetised to some creative locations, such as statues and street signs. Eclipse mint containers are currently the most popular micro-sized containers and I found many of them today.

As an off-season training activity, I am thoroughly enjoying geocaching. The activity is giving me solid time on my feet. It also helps me keep my pace down. This is important because I have a history of leg injuries, particularly shin splints and ITB syndrome. Finding the balance between building a base and staying injury free has historically been a challenge for me. During my georuns, I tend to run 150m – 1.5km between caches, walk as I search for the cache, and stand / sit still while logging the cache and identifying the next cache. This keeps the pressure on my legs down.

Geocaching is probably a good help for adventure racing too because I have to plan the most efficient route between caches and navigate to specific locations. It also helps me ‘dial in’ my eye so that I can find the cache, which is more difficult than finding checkpoints because caches tend to be well hidden. So today counts as a big solid training day.

Total:

  • 10.38km run with 12 geocaches found
  • 6.32km walk with 8 geocaches found

I wasn’t in Kansas anymore

Well, it finally happened. I went running in strange places in the dark and found myself in a place where men meet for things other than a chat. I didn’t mean to. I was just following a geocaching trail I had set for myself. But it seems that local knowledge might have been helpful on this occasion.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I have no particular political, social or moral issue with consenting adults doing things together. But I personally am not all that interested in men, nor in engaging in particular acts with strangers. So when I was cruised, I decided it was probably a good time to leave the park.

It’s more amusing to me than anything else. Here I was, on my hands and knees innocently searching under a pontoon when I realised there were an unusually high number of condom wrappers. That was the first warning that I wasn’t in Kansas anymore. The next one was definitely the guy who greeted me with a cautiously cheerful ‘hello mate’. No one in Perth ever greets me when I’m out running so either he was also not a local or he actually wanted me to stop.

Whatever the case, it made this morning’s run a little more interesting and gave me something to write about other than to tell you that I went running and geocaching in the dark.

Total: 8km run. 1 geocache found.

Sunday morning MTB

Is there anything better than the morning sun shining through trees?

Sunday mornings are a good excuse for sleeping in but the bush is calling me. I still have my mum’s ute so I can take my mountain bike down the road to Daisy Hill Forest Park rather than being limited to riding in Bayview. Plus my partner has to get up to go to work. So everything points to me getting up. Mind you, it is already 6am and that’s much more civilised than 4:30am.

I load the bike into the back of Mum’s ute and drive the 20 minutes to Daisy Hill Forest Park. There are mountain bikers everywhere. I get a few dismissive looks as I mount my ugly but functional purple beast. It certainly doesn’t have the style of the tens of other bikes being prepared and ridden around the carpark. But I am used to this by now and know that I’m going to have a great time out on the trails.

A bearded dragon

I have some geocache coordinates programed into my Garmin Edge 800 so I hit the trails in search of the first one. It’s not long before I come across an overgrown trail to my right; it looks like the geocache might be down there. The trail is muddy and steep. By the time I get to the geocache I’m sweaty and dirty, and I’ve only been out for 15 minutes. I find the cache without difficulty and set off down the trails again. I am on less popular trails, well away from the five-ways. There aren’t many other riders out here in this section of bushland; a fact of which I’m grateful because I prefer to ride alone.

I ride some single track and fire trails, traveling from one geocache coordinate to the next. I drop down steep tracks, slipping often as my tyres fail to grip the wet clay. I can’t wait until my tyres wear out so that I can buy a set of off-road tyres to replace my commuter tyres. By then I’ll have so much practice riding with near-slick road tyres that I’ll have a massive performance improvement simply because all of a sudden I’ll have traction after training without it.

Nirvana MTB trail

More of the Nirvana MTB trail

Towards the end of my ride I turn down the Nirvana MTB trail. I can see why the trail has this name, it’s beautiful. I ride the trail in an anti-clockwise direction, dropping down a narrow winding single track from the top of the start ridge into a deep gully. I pass cyclists coming up the hill from the other direction who warn me not to continue to the end of the track; that I’m doing it the hard way. I don’t quite understand their warning so continue on my merry way. The trail enters a patch of dense rain forest, which is beautiful and cool.

I climb out of the gully back up towards the ridge. So far I’ve not come across anything too difficult or steep so I keep climbing. Besides, I’m down here to find a geocache (which I never actually managed to find). Near the gully floor I come across two more mountain bikers. They also warn me not to continue. I ask why not. They tell me that the exit to the trail is too steep if I keep going in the direction I’m traveling. One of the cyclists looks my bike up and down, and tells me that I’ll definitely not make it out.

Well, don’t ever tell me that I won’t be able to do something because it puts fire in my belly. I am now determined to see how steep this hill really is. I keep riding, grinding comfortably uphill with my heart rate fluctuating somewhere between 73 – 80% of it’s maximum. I stop to try to find the geocache and, after coming away empty-handed, continue up the trail to the ridge.

The climb is magnificent and never gets too steep. I admit to walking through some of the steep switch-back corners but that’s more a statement about my skill than the climb. Just near the top, while I’m waiting to come across this super-steep hill, I meet three more cyclists. They tell me I’ve come up the trail the hard way. Apparently that thing I just climbed was the gut-busting hill. It feels good to have climbed something others struggle with so easily; perhaps I am a little competitive after-all.

I enjoy the rest of my ride on fire trails, collecting a geocache and enjoying the cool fresh bush air. I return to the ute and find that it’s alone in the carpark. All the other mountain bikers who left at the same time as me are long gone. I listen to the whip birds calling each other as I pack my bike and change into warm clothes. The bush around the carpark is all mine for a few minutes before I head home.

Total: 12.65km geocaching MTB for 1hr 45minutes at 69% maximum heart rate. Average temperature 12.2’C. Three geocaches found.

Cleveland geo-run

Spider!

I haven’t been geocaching in a week and am starting to get withdrawal symptoms so this morning I set off with the coordinates of twelve caches loaded into my trusty Garmin Edge 800. I drove the 20km to Cleveland, arriving just after 5am with high hopes to increase my tally at least to 125 caches. Alas, it was not to be 😦 . I only found four of the ten caches I attempted and decided I was too geo-blind to bother running extra kilometres to attempt the two that were furthest from the car.

But that’s not to say I didn’t have a delightful morning. I had the footpaths to myself in the pre-dawn darkness and enjoyed warm temperatures (average today was 18.7’C).

I started by running across a sports field to search for Little Miss Show-Off. I found the GZ easily but the small cache was well-hidden under the very tree roots I was standing on. Once I moved my feet and looked under them the find was easy and I was quickly signing the log. I then followed the footpath out of the sports fields to The Path C. This was a simple cache; the only challenge was keeping my feet dry as I jumped across a storm water drain. With two finds from two attempts I was feeling confident.

From The Path C I followed the path implied by the name to search for The Path D, The Path E and The Path F. The path itself was beautiful, even by the light of my head torch. Tall gum trees grew along it, creating a silent avenue of spectators. The path itself was dead flat, making running easy and keeping my heart rate down for once. Unfortunately, my searches for all three caches were in vain. I felt better knowing that no one else has found The Path D and The Path E since February, with my DNF adding to a string of similar outcomes.

After my lack of success with The Path caches, I turned down a bush track to look for Emily’s 21st. I was starting to get worried about my geocaching skills but put them to rest when I walked straight through the bush to grab this cache. But not without a small squeal when I saw the guard spider. The photo in this post really doesn’t do the arachnid justice because in the photo it’s curled it’s legs up; it was more impressive when I first saw it with it’s legs out.

I left the bush behind to run down through suburban streets to My Backyard, which I found with ease before heading out along some more bush trails to look for A Micro in the Forest and The Pump House. As nice as the run was, I came up empty-handed on both occasions. On my way back to the car I took a short detour to look for Dean’s Museum, which I also managed to miss.

All in all it was a lovely run but a terrible geohunt. I usually have more success than this so am not sure what went wrong this morning. I guess it just means I have an excuse to go back to look for these caches again on another day. Perhaps next time I’ll wait until it’s daylight next time.

Total: 7.90km with average heart rate 66%.

Exploring Karawatha

Sun on grass … love it

I’d never heard of Karawatha Reserve before I downloaded the geocaching coordinates from Geocaching.com last night. It’s a little embarrassing really because the reserve is only about 30 minutes from my home. The public holiday today seemed like a good time to rectify this oversight. There are thirteen geocaches hidden in the Karawatha Reserve and they are scattered all over the park to make the trip worthwhile.

I thought I’d get to keep my feet dry

The council have done a fantastic job establishing a range of walking tracks to cater for most users’ needs. They include fire trail, single track, bridges and boardwalk. Some trails are flat while others climb steep hills or drop into deep gullies.

Single track through the she-oaks

The trails weave their way through a wide variety of flora and topography. There are wet grasslands where shaggy clumps of paperbarks flourish, their water loving nature guaranteeing strong growth. Creeks course through the wetlands, reeds softening their edges and water lilies adding colour to the brown water. On higher ground the grasses give way to dense pockets of she-oaks, impenetrable to most full-grown adults. Where the ground is rockier, bottle brush and grass trees thrive; the red bottle brush flowers adding colour to the various shades of green that make up the bush.

Pretty creek-side picnic area

Near the carparks there are pretty picnic areas for couples, friends and families to enjoy. The picnic tables are covered to provide shelter from both the searing sun and pouring rain that are a part of life here in Brisbane. The mown lawns in the picnic areas provide a cool soft surface for children to play on or for people to sit on if they don’t want to use a table. These aren’t picnic areas developed on the cheap but, rather, they are appealing places to stop and enjoy the stillness of the reserve.

Reflections

Karawatha Lake (I think it’s an old quarry)

Karawatha Reserve contains a lot of water. The creeks and ponds throughout the reserve contain brown swamp water. While many might think this unattractive, to me it’s the familiar water of home. When the sun is shining the sky and trees reflect off the smooth brown surface, making it prettier than it otherwise would be. Unlike the creeks and ponds, the water on Karawatha Lake can be called blue. It’s not ocean blue but colour is relative. While swimming is not officially allowed in the lake, families and teenagers were making the most of the last warm days.

A cache is 380m that way. No need for a track

Cache is still 180m that way. Wish I had gaiters

Argh! Cache is on the other side of the creek

I ran / walked 16.8km in my attempt to find all 13 caches hidden in Karawatha Reserve. During my hunt I traveled along a mix of trails but also did more than my fair share of bush bashing. At one point I thought I was following the best trail to reach a cache but the trail changed direction. Instead of backtracking I decided to just bushbash the 380m to the cache. I’m comfortable in this type of bushland and don’t fear getting lost. Though if I continue with this geocaching and bushwalking I need to buy myself a proper pair of hiking boots and some gaiters because my legs get quite scratched up when I wear my road running shoes.

When I was within 60m of the cache I came across a swampy creek. I looked for a way to cross without having to wade through but there wasn’t one so I just ploughed on in. The water was thigh-deep. The mud on the bottom of the creek was difficult to walk on in my shoes because I got sucked down in some spots and slipped in others. It was fun to make an epic of an otherwise simple cache (there was a trail leading straight to it from the other side).

Total: 16.8km hike and 12 geocaches (there was a cache I couldn’t find 😦 ).