Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Weekend Run and SkySite

This past weekend, I finally decided to head out past Gatesville, TX and look for the SkySite that I was assigned and do a little caching on the way. If you are not familiar with SkySites (I wasn't until just recently), this is an excerpt from their website.
Space Data launches SkySites (a communication relay device) via helium balloons. They fly up to 100,000 feet and "loiter" for 12 to 24 hours, providing a coverage area of about 400 miles in diameter. Their system cac be used for tracking vehicles, relaying data from remote oil or gas wells, provide text messaging or business communications in remote areas where no "land line" or cell phone service exists.
If the balloon starts to move out of its ground coverage area, Space Data sends commands to the SkySite to detach from the balloon, where it gently falls back to earth via a parachute. Because of the GPS tracking ability, Space Data tracks the SkySite on it's journey back to earth. Then the SkySite radios back to the next SkySite over head, its exact position.

I had previously picked one up that landed in a guys yard in McGregor, TX a few weeks ago, but this was my first one to hunt down in the wild using GPS coordinates. The SkySite that I was assigned to recover landed in an overgrown field just outside of Gatesville a few weeks ago. Using the GPS coordinates provided to me by Space Data and a printed Google map, I managed to navigate several small farm-to-market roads until I reached the property on which the SkySite had landed. There was a small home on the edge of the property where the land owner lives. She was very nice and allowed me to hike through her fields to recover the fallen SkySite. Some hunters were using her land for the weekend and accompanied me out to the crash site which was in a field full of head-high dry, dead sunflowers. If you've ever seen large sunflowers up close, you know that they are covered in itchy spines all over their stems. It wasn't the most pleasant hike, but the SkySite was right where the coordinates said it would be!

On my way back through Gatesville toward Waco, I saw on my GPS map that there were two caches near the downtown area. The first was a fairly recent regular cache, 1904 Leon River Bridge, hidden in a magnetic key holder on an old iron bridge built in 1904. This cache was pretty easy to find thanks to the good description and hints provided by BikerMike. The second one was a virtual cache, Gatesville Cotton Belt Depot, where you had to find information from historical markers and email the cacher owner instead of actually signing a physical logbook. This one was in an old railroad depot which now sits in the parking lot of the old Walmart and McDonald's.

Finally, between Gatesville and McGregor, there were large patches of cactus all along the roadsides. Seeing this reminded me that I had Zsolt's cactus-cache in my trunk which I got from Sawdust's October geocaching event, "When is a Film Canister NOT Just a Film Canister??." I then pulled off to the side of the road and pulled out this wilderness camo'd container and marked the coordinates. Since this cache is inside a fake cactus hidden in the middle of a field of real cactus, I thought I'd name my newest cache based on someone's first impression as they arrive at the location - Oh No You Didn't!

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