Saturday, October 30, 2010

Grail of the Alleghenies Legend, My 1000th Cache!

My route
(pictures should enlarge when clicked!)
It was early in the morning, a Friday,around 8 in the morning. The sun was supposedly over the horizon, but I couldn't see it. It was the 29th day of October, 2010.
It was cold outside of the Jeep and a slight amount of rain was falling on the hills around me. I was in the mountains outside of Altoona, PA. I was here to get my 1000th cache!
I had found my first geocache in May of 2007, on a hillside overlooking Sharpsburg and I had been hooked on the game ever since. It had taken me places I had never been before and brought me back to lots of places that were worth visiting again. Of course, after 999 finds, I had visited a few rather "lame" caches also, but the good ones always made up for those inferior placements!
View of the hillsides over Altoona
As I put an orange vest over my jacket and pack, to protect myself from any hunters that might be as crazy as I was, I wondered a bit about my sanity. It was raining, it was cold and the car was nice and toasty.
Aprox. location of cache
Looking at my GPS, I was ONLY a 1/3 of a mile away from the final cache. How hard could it be? Well.....
To get to the cache, I had to hop a guardrail and go down over a steep hillside, down about 100 feet to where I would cross a small (?) stream and then go back up the other side another 300 feet. Sounds rather simple!
I had originally thought about coming over the top of the mountain to get to the cache, but they were in the process of putting up windmills on the ridge and all the access roads were blocked off and posted. So, I had to start from the bottom.
As I started down the first hillside, I hopped from rock to rock, trying my best not to get caught in the jagger bushes that were growing between them. The rain made the rocks slick and the slant of the hillside increased the chance of slippage. The rocks here had been piled up as they made the road above, it was real steep and there was a nice accumulation of broken bottles and cans intermingled with the sticks and gravel. I definitely wouldn't want to fall here!
Luckily, the stream was easily crossed
After crossing the stream, I started heading uphill. The rain on the rocks made them slippery, I'm sure I said that before. The leaves that had fallen on top of them didn't help much either.
The slope of the hill
As I worked my way uphill, the rain turned to sleet and then to snow. It was as if the mountain didn't want me up there! About an hour after leaving the car, I arrived at the base of the cliffs.

View of the parking area from the cliffs
Perhaps a "quick" description of the cache is in order here.
Legend has it that in the mid-1800's, when the telegraph was just getting popular, a lineman was stringing a wire across the mountains. He was far away from any "civilization", basically on his own.
As he neared the top of this mountain, a terrible storm broke out. There was lightning and thunder, sleet and hail and he was in fear of loosing his life, alone on this mountain. He found a small cave in the base of the cliffs and hid there during the storm. When the storm finally let up and the sun came out, the lineman was so happy that he decided to return to the mountain with an offering of some type for it.
When he finally did return, he supposedly brought a chest filled full of various offerings. Speculation was that it was very valuable!
Over the years, many people had searched for this treasure, but no one has found it to this day.....
This cache uses this story as its base. There are 2 caches you have to find. The first is located in an underground passageway, many miles away. Once you find that cache, you can get the co-ordinates of the final cache.
4 weeks ago,I had found the first clue. Today I was back to get the final!
When I got to the top of the mountain, I saw the cliffs and started looking around for the cache. I figured it had to be in some sort of cave. The cliffs were filled with crevasses and holes!
After 5 minutes...."I think I see it!"
At the top of a long, steep dirt ramp I saw what looked like some moss covering something.
The treasure!
After working my way up the slanting mound of dirt, slipping a few times in the process, I found what looked like a camouflaged box. It was a net that was covering it and after I pulled it off, I saw a LARGE, rusted steamer trunk! WOW!
Opening it, I found a collection of "treasures", things that are normally found in caches, along with a nice leather log book.
The log book
This cache was placed here 3 years and 1 day before I located it! Cool!
This fact escaped me because I was so happy to have found it. My search for # 1000 was over. All I had to do was sign the book without slipping and get back to the car.....safely. Well, I guess it wasn't over yet.
My entry in the log book
After making my entry in the book, I re-hid things and carefully made my way back down to the base of the cliffs. I re shouldered my pack and headed back down. The way down went much faster than the way up, as is usually the case.
I was back at the car in 30 minutes.

Pointing to where I was
Sitting in the car, I was cold, the heater was running and my pants were slowly drying, but I was content. I had made it up and back safely. I had found a great cache for my 1000th, it was one that I'd be sure to remember.
Now, time to find a couple more caches and head for home
Last cache of the day
Not far away, I came across a cache called "Nevermore". Can you guess why? The cache was hidden in bottom of the plastic raven, perched on top of a stump. These guys are always thinking! That's what makes this so much fun!
I was back home by 4, a couple hundred miles had been added to the Jeeps odometer and I was hungry and ready for a shower. I had been wet, cold and out of breath at times, it was another perfect day of caching!
One final note, those interested in doing this cache...go to
and sign in!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Foggy Morning Walk

Early Tuesday Morning
3:10 AM
I set out from my house for my morning walk. I try to do this daily before work. Most days I manage to squeeze it in and when I do, I always appreciate it!
As I left the house, I walked into a hazy world of fog. The Moon was high in the sky, providing lots of light, but the fog took the sharpness away from everything. Everything I could see. My view was restricted to about 20 or 30 feet. The fog was also providing a nice quiet feeling, the small amount of traffic on Rt. 8, about a 1/2 mile away was barely discernible. The loudest thing I heard was a lone owl....hooting somewhere in the vicinity.
Walking around my neighborhood, I passed lots of Halloween decorations, gravestones that slowly appeared out of the fog only to disappear behind me. Pumpkins and ghosts hung from trees. The moon cast shadows through the now nearly empty trees onto the road in front of me. And the whole time I was walking....the owl kept hooting.
I'm looking forward to Halloween, hopefully it will be a clear night and we will be able to get the telescope out to let the kids look through it. Jupiter will be in the sky and the Moon will be below the horizon, it should be a nice dark night. Just right for Trick-R-Treating!
My walk is over, I have the memories of the fog, the quiet and the owl stored in my head. I am now ready to get working.....Happy Halloween!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Another Visit to the FayetteCong

A Return Trip to Fayette Cong
(pictures should enlarge when clicked)
3 of the caches I stopped at are on the map above, the map doesn't cover 4 of the others I did.
Looking off to the Southeast around 8AM
I found the cache...and whats that I see behind it?
That is the New Laurel Furnace, built around 1812 along Morgan Run. It was worked until 1838.
It is in pretty good shape considering its age
One side has collapsed and the stones are starting to spread a bit!
View of the collapsed side
On top of the hill, about a mile away from the furnace
This is looking towards the north. The Yuoghiogheny River is down in the valley. I am about 1821 feet above sea level here.

Fog is still covering the river

Going back down the hill to my next cache
This is a lot steeper than it looks!
Morgan Run
Some of the of MANY waterfalls
It isn't very spectacular because water is so low!
Helicopter coming out of the woods
As I was doing one of the caches, I heard a helicopter, somewhere close. Soon, I saw it, about 200 yards away! He was moving equipment from one spot to another. He would come in with a cable dangling behind him and soon would pop out of the woods again with something attached. In another 5 minutes, he'd be back.
I am guessing that it was some type of oil or gas equipment
Mill Run Reservoir.
This was built around 1904 by the Pennsylvania Railroad to provide water for their steam engines. With the coming of diesel engines came into use, it was abandoned and eventually turned over to Westmoreland County.
After this cache, I headed back towards home. Just in time it would seem!
The rain came down in buckets, then the sun would shine, then it would rain again....the sky was full of white clouds, and dark black ones, it all depended on which way you looked.
I managed to stay dry today, I came back unharmed and I found 5 caches.
Not a bad day!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Electrical Symbols

This was hidden in my pictures on my computer...thought I'd pass it along.

PA QSO Party 2010 Tally

Well, the excitement (on my part) is over. The contest is over until next year. I spent approximately 13 hours and 52 minutes on the radio. Most of it spent scanning slowly back and fourth, listening to stations I had already contacted. The fun is when you find a new operator in the batch!
This contest is sort of like a scavenger hunt. You have 67 counties in Pennsylvania. A "full sweep" means you have contacted someone in each county. This is fairly rare, but something that a lot of the participants are trying for. You search the bands hunting for the elusive counties and it kills ya to hear them answer someone else and then disappear before you can contact them. My final Log
I turned the radio off a little early, @21:58:03, almost 2 minutes before the contest was over!
The final hour was spent mostly on 80 Meters and most of the operators on that band were stations I had already contacted. I only made 3 or 4 contacts on 20 Meters. It was all 40 Meters during the day and 80 in the evening and night.

Activity Graph

PA State Map
I got 59 out of the 67 State Counties. I still needed Centre, Forest, Lawrence, McKean,Northumberland, Tioga, Venango and Wayne. I had heard a few of them, but just couldn't get them.
I got Pike County, in the far Northeastern part of the state with just a couple minutes to go!
An interesting observation I made is about "pile-ups". This is when a large bunch of operators are trying to contact one station. He will call for contacts and then everyone sends their call and he picks one to answer. They are usually a station that is rare and that everyone needs. Sometimes they can get quite ugly!
I find that if you just listen to the calling station for a short while, you'll hear who he is picking. Sometimes it is the loudest stations, sometimes it is the first to get their call in and sometimes it is the last station he hears. By listening, you can figure out when or how to call him. I had pretty good luck in the pileups I came across this weekend, usually getting a call back with-in the first 1 or 2 times I called.
So, I ended up with 98,604 points. I made 188 contacts. I talked with the Skyview Club about 4 times for 200 points each time! I also talked with a bunch of operators in different states that were participating in the contest. I talked to Arizona, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, West Virginia, Montana, Georgia, New York, Virginia, Maine, New Hampshire, New jersey, Delaware and Maryland. I also talked with a station in Ontario, Canada!
It was another fun contest, but it was tough....the radio is right beside the window and it was a BEAUTIFUL weekend, and I spent it indoors. Oh well, I always have next weekend to look forward to!
(This blog was edited on 10/13/10. The score originally posted was incorrect. I had given myself 300 extra points for each bonus station contact when it should have been 200!)

Sunday, October 10, 2010

PA QSO Party 2010- Update

Well, the area was cleaned up a bit and I started the contest at the designated time. It started out a bit slow but as the first hour worked its way through, the contacts started increasing.
Most of the contacts have been on 40 Meters, with 80 Meters coming into play in the evening. I think I have made only 2 contacts on 20 Meters. It is filled with foreign stations.
(pictures should enlarge when clicked)
Nice and clean....for now!
AB3AW, your Friendly PA Operator
Quiting time at 12:57AM, 126 contacts made so far.
The State map, showing counties contacted. (White is yet to be talked with)
Graph of QSO's per hour. Flat spot is when I went to Church.
Antennas in the morning. (I used the G5RV for all the contacts, the beam remained unused)
AB3AW, hard at it again
Current log, with 5 1/2 hours to go
QSO per hour graph
State map, only 11 counties to go...
Well, back to the radio...wish me luck!

Friday, October 8, 2010

PA QSO Party 2010

Once again, the PA QSO Party is just a day away.


The antennas have been checked and a new logging program installed on the computer, now I guess all I have to do is to clean up the area around the radio and computer so I have room to work.


My bills are done on the desk in front of the computer, so after awhile, it tends to get crowded with papers and envelopes.


The PA QSO Party is held every year around this date, this year it will be held between 1600Z Oct.9 to 0500Z Oct.10. and 1300Z to 2200Z Oct 10. (That is noon on the 9th to 1AM on the 10th and from 9AM to 6PM on the 10th)


The purpose of the party is to try and contact as many Hams in PA, the US, Canada and the World as possible during these time periods. PA Hams get you extra points when contacted. A PA Ham is considered any amateur operating in the state, no matter where their QTH (home) is.


Skyview Amateur Radio Society is the Bonus Station for the contest this year. You get extra points for each time you contact them!


The rules and other info about the contest can be found at


This has always been a fun contest to participate in, it isn't quite as "cutthroat as some of the others are. This has often been called a"The Friendly QSO PArty!


Here's hoping it is a day of good propagation, looking forward to making lots of contacts! Hopefully one with you too!



Sunday, October 3, 2010

Chain of Life

This weekend, I went and did some geocaches (of course) and spent Saturday afternoon at a party at a friends house, but the thing that struck me most over the weekend, was participating in the

Chain of Life,

in front of St. Bonaventure Church on Sunday afternoon.
Today, the first Sunday in October, was Respect Life Sunday and across the country, people were lining up to celebrate life and to pray for an end to abortion.

(Pictures should enlarge when clicked)

The people who showed up, (during a Steeler game no less!) said a prayer and then quietly lined both sides of Mt. Royal Blvd. It was a silent hour, an hour spent praying and thinking. They carried signs and many of them had rosaries.

Many of the cars going by would slow down and often we saw raised thumbs and waves. More than a few tooted their horns to show their approval.

There were a few that showed their disagreement, but they were ignored and hopefully the prayers that followed them will help them to change their views.

Some stood the whole time, some brought chairs...

All ages participated

Approximately 53 people showed up on a cool, cloudy day to show their support and to pray for an end to abortion. Driving through the gauntlet, being bombarded by signs and prayer.

Not only women are hurt by abortion, we can't forget about the emotions and the well beings of the fathers! They need our prayers also!

Along with the curse of abortion, there is the death penalty, end of life care, population control, teen depression and suicide, and sexual trafficking. All these things were being prayed for also!


Hopefully, at least one mind was changed as they drove past us this afternoon.


Hopefully, a grain was put in someones mind, perhaps one of the children that passed with their parents...hopefully, someday that small memory will help them make the most important decision of their lives!


Hopefully, our prayers helped someone passing by, I know the prayers certainly helped those that were standing alongside of the road!