Oregon Vacation (5) Eight Waterfalls, Two Beaches, and a Webcam

I arrived in Oregon for a 7-day vacation, without a specific day-to-day trip plan. I travel alone, have a rental car, and live in a "central" location, so that I can have the flexibility to spontaneously decide where to go next. I'm obsessed with geocaching and interested in museums, but I don't want to spend all my time on these. I need to discover something new.

Planning for Multnomah Falls

Every motel has a shelf of tourist information booklets. When I was checking in on Jun 07 evening, I browsed that shelf, and grabbed a few maps. I asked the front desk lady for recommendation, and she mentioned Multnomah Falls. Photos from the booklet and online search are gorgeous. I have to see Multnomah Falls during this trip!

Official website tells me that parking is very difficult on weekends between 11:00 and 16:00. Therefore, I planned the visit on Monday Jun 10, and I would depart early so that I'm parked well before 11:00.

The Q&A section of Google Places reveals a potential problem:

Oregon Vacation (4) Hillsboro and Outlets

Jun 08 afternoon, I visited the birthplace of geocaching near Estacada, Oregon. My dinner is scheduled at Copper River Restaurant & Bar in Hillsboro, where I can attend a geocaching event.

GEO June 2019 Meet & Greet

Geocaching is generally a solo sport, except when I run into other geocachers on the trail. However, the "event cache" is an opportunity for geocachers to meet other participants of the sport. When I was planning my Oregon trip, I kept searching the event listing every week, until a suitable event showed up: Geocachers Exploring Oregon (GEO), Oregon's geocaching community, has a meet & greet on Saturday evening. Therefore, I planned my dinner to be at this event.

After spending too much time on the Un-Original, I drove 79 minutes to the event venue. Copper River is a large restaurant with more than 100 seats, and GEO is the largest group in the restaurant. I arrived at 18:02, just as the "official program" was starting and a president-level figure picked up a loud speaker to make announcements. I received a blue raffle ticket, and later won a geocoin.

I found a seat in the middle of a 30-person long table, and introduced myself as yoursunny to people around me. longtrails, who's seated to my left, remembers my name because I signed his challenge cache this morning. We chatted, and he offered me a document of driving directions to some of Oregon's historical caches.

Oregon Vacation (3) Birthplace of Geocaching

Jun 08 morning, I found GC12 and GC17, two oldest geocaches in Mt Hood National Forest, Oregon. I returned to GC17 trailhead at 12:19. It has been five hours from when I left the motel, I have chewed two protein bars, so it's time for lunch. Google Maps says there's no restaurant in the middle of the forest, but there are some near my next destination. I entered the address into HERE WeGo, ate a third protein bar, and started driving.

Here we go again, HERE WeGo commanded me to "turn sharp left toward SE Brian Ranch Rd", a narrow, steep, and unsafe road through the ranches. I ignored this command, and continued on SE Wildcat Mountain Dr. An hour later, I arrived at View Point Restaurant & Lounge, Estacada, OR. I need a burger right now.

view of Clackamas River from View Point Restaurant

Original Stash Tribute Plaque

World's first geocache, then known as "GPS Stash", was published by Dave Ulmer on 03 May 2000:

Oregon Vacation (2) GC12 and GC17

On Jun 07, I flew to Portland, Oregon and started my 7-day vacation. Oregon is where the sport of geocaching got started, and my primary goal in Oregon is to find some of the world's oldest geocaches. Saturday Jun 08, the weather was less than perfect compared to next few days. However, I couldn't control my excitement and decided to nab the important geocaches first.

Planning for GC12

GC12, formerly known as GPS Stash #8, was hidden on 12 May 2000, nineteen years ago. It is Oregon's oldest active geocache, and as I later learned, the second oldest active geocache in the world.

When I was doing my initial trip planning, Google Maps says I could drive right to it. Upon closer inspection, oh well, I would have to drive over a "road block".

Google Maps route for GC12

Oregon Vacation (1) Planning and Departure

I had a 7-day vacation in northwestern Oregon in June 2019. This is the biggest solo road trip I've ever had so far.

Why Oregon?

Earlier this year, Alaska Airlines messed up my flight, and then I received a $200 voucher. The voucher entitles me to a free flight to west coast.

Alaska flies to five cities on the west coast:

  • Seattle, Washington
  • Portland, Oregon
  • San Francisco, California
  • Los Angeles, California
  • San Diego, California

Geocaching is All About Expanding My Comfort Zone

I started geocaching as a hobby in 2013. Since then, I have found more than 1000 caches across 18 US states as well as in China. During these years, I stepped out my comfort zone several times, and became a more experienced geocacher.

Puzzles

Geocaches come with different types. Traditional is the most common type: the webpage of a Traditional cache has its coordinates, and I can straightforwardly find the physical container at that location. Another common type is a Multi: I need to visit a location, collect information such as reading text from a plague or counting the number of windows, and then find the physical container at a different location whose waypoint is computed from the answers from the first location. I'm quite familiar with these types.

One geocache type I'm uncomfortable with is Mystery puzzle cache. These caches are published with bogus published coordinates, but the webpage contains clues to find the real coordinates of the physical container. The puzzle could be a piece of cipher text, a crossword puzzle, a strange picture, or something else. Although I know a thing or two about classic ciphers, I could not get a hold of them.

This all changed when Geocaching HQ assigned me a mission to find a puzzle cache in August 2014:

Yuma Mega

Since my spontaneous visit of Pima Air & Space Museum on my 2015 birthday, I started a tradition of having a little road trip for every birthday. I rode a bike to Sweetwater Wetlands Park to see some birds with Tucson Audubon Society on my 2016 birthday. When my 2017 birthday came close, I planned something big: I wanted to attend the Yuma Mega, the biggest geocaching event in the Southwest region.

Finding the Event

I started geocaching as a hobby in 2013. Geocaching for me is mostly an individual sport: I rode bikes all over Tucson metro area, lift up lamp post covers and poke my hand into guardrails to find mint containers hidden within. Event Caches, on the other hand, are special geocaches that allow geocachers to gather and socialize. I browse Geocaching.com's event listing from time to time, and attend those events regularly. Normally, 15~30 people would show up in a local restaurant or city park. People would tell their stories, and plan out-of-state trips to search for large number of geocaches.

Yuma Mega is not just any event, but a "Mega-Event Cache". Geocaching HQ awards Mega status to events attracting more than 500 geocachers. I heard about Yuma Mega in 2015, but the date was adjacent to a conference trip so I wasn't able to arrange it. 2017's Yuma Mega event falls on Sunday Feb 12, which happens to be my birthday. 2017 is also my last year living in Arizona. It was "now or never", so I have to attend Yuma Mega!

I made up my mind on Nov 24, 2016, and booked a rental car and a motel room for the trip. Both reservations were cancelable in case there's a paper deadline on that weekend, but thankfully there wasn't one, so I'm greenlighted for the trip.

How I Started Geocaching

Geocaching is an outdoor treasure hunt game. Participants, or "geocachers", use a Global Positioning System (GPS) receiver to hide and seek containers, called "geocaches" or "caches", at specific locations marked by coordinates all over the world. I learned about geocaching by accident in Jul 2013, and I was immediately hooked to this game. Since then, Geocaching had a strong influence in my weekend activities, gadget purchases, and travel choices.

selfie with GC5WHZV container

It All Started from Jenny

Grocery stores offer discounts with a loyalty card, but I forgot to bring mine on Jul 12, 2013. I complained on Facebook, and my friends told me that I could give my phone number to the cashier, and they would be able to apply the discounts. Daniel's answer mentioned that I could enter "area code + 867-5309" as the phone number, and there is usually a loyalty card associated with this phone number. I did not understand what's special about this phone number, so I started online searching.

Facebook post about forgotten grocery loyalty card