Spinal Tap–The Backbone Trail Challenge Cache

March 14, 2009

Today was the day. No illness, no bad weather, no scheduling conflicts. Time to get the remaining caches necessary to qualify for the Backbone Challenge Cache–Spinal Tap.

This is a photo of me with the cache, but first, the story of what I did today.

I began today’s hike at Trippet Ranch and hiked to Will Rogers.  I parked at the end of the road near Another Topanga State Park. It’s a nice way to enter the Park without paying the parking fee, but there isn’t much parking along the narrow road.  The trail begins just down the hill from where I parked.

I began hiking about 7:00 a.m. I had a few resident deer welcome me to Topanga State Park.  They barely moved as I started up the Musch Trail.  The weather was perfect for hiking–cool, but not cold, with a small breeze.

Hiking in the Spring, after the rains, brings out the bright green along the trail.

Including my nemesis, Poison Oak.  It was pretty thick along the shady parts of the trail today.

My first cache was a multi–The MANLY MAN’S Musch Cache.  I was a little concerned about finding it.  I tried in October 2006 and DNFed the first part.  Today, no problem with either part of the cache.  After this one came TSP: Which Way Do We Go?.  Luckily, it was a quick one right along the trail.  Then it was up the hill toward Eagle Rock for Elin’s Everlasting Cache with a View.  After logging it, I retraced my way back to TSP: Which Way Do We Go and headed towards the Hub.

This is a view of Eagle Rock from the road as I hiked toward the Hub.  The Hub was the hub of activity today.  There were a lot of trail runners along the way.  I think they out numbered the hikers I saw 5 to 1.  After helping a few hikers and runners with directions at the Hub, I headed down the trail to Peak-A-View Too.  This was the toughest find of the day.

The hint for Peak-A-View Too is “Find a Yucca.”  I pretty much zeroed out at a very nice yucca and started my search.  Looked and looked some more.  While it was a very worthy yucca, it wasn’t the right one.  After expanding my search, I did find another yucca.  And this one had a nice white ammo box nearby.  Success!

Next on the list was Around the bend, on the BBT.  As I was logging this one, a couple of hikers came walking by.  I sometimes wonder what there are thinking–“What is that guy doing standing in the bushes off the trail?”

From Peak-A-View Too the trail returns to a nice single track trail for a while.  I enjoy hiking the trails much more than the fire roads.  The windflowers are getting into full swing and provide some nice trail decoration.

My next cache was Lower Limb.  I searched for a while and then decided to give up.  Since this is a fairly recent cache, it isn’t yet on the required list for the Challenge.  I gave up, entered the coords for the next cache, picked up my hiking poles and then noticed something out of place almost at my feet.  It was the cache–and a very nice on at that.  Much better to log it as a find than as a DNF.

BBT: Big Bend Lunch Spot is at a location that has been trashed by some inconsiderate hikers.  I found Ken’s decon container, but it looks like some squirrels may have beat me to it.  The cache was pretty well chewed up.

The next cache was Bend, Path & Beyond.  It’s located on a short spur above the main trail.  After finding the cache, I decided it was a great spot to take a lunch break.

After lunch, Somewhere between here and there. was a quick find.  The description said it was 40 feet from the trail, but the coords took me right to the cache.  It is actually at least 80 feet from the trail.

Backbone (Movie) Pass was my only DNF of the day.   Since it is a newer cache, it isn’t yet required for the Challenge so I didn’t mind moving on down the road.

Bigger than a Bison Tube wasn’t too difficult a find.  As advertised, it is bigger than a bison tube.  Eaten Alive is located right on the trail and, with the hint, was a quick find.  And, luckily, no bugs today.    Backbone Pear was the most interesting piece of fruit that I have seen.  I needed the hint because the GPS reception was a little spotty under the big oak.

Another BBT Cache is a Sr. Hikers cache, hidden under a rock in a large rock field.  Usually I don’t do too well with rocks on rocks caches, but I lucked out and found the cache on my first try.  And the hidey hole only contained the cache–no snakes today!

Turn Right for the Rustic Canyon is the anti-Bigger than a Bison Tube cache.  It is a bison tube.  Again, I lucked out.  The cache is silver and it was reflecting some sunlight so was easy to spot.

More Inspiration was my last cache on this segment of the trail.  Elin placed an ammo can 150 off the trail.  Someone thought that they needed the ammo box more than we did and stole it.  The cache contents were at least in a black garbabe bag.  How thoughtful of the thieves!

Fittingly, I started today’s hike welcomed by 4 deer and 2 other were at the end of the trail to wish me a good day.

Most of the afternoon, I was being buzzed by several helicopters.  When I got to the Will Rogers parking lot I learned why.  Two hikers were lost overnight.  There was a full-blown Search and Rescue activity going on in the parking lot.

My wife met me in the parking lot.  I arrived about 2:30.  She drove me back to the starting point and I got Another Topanga State Park before heading out to finish the Challenge.

I drove the winding road up to the trail head and quickly had Backbone Lunch Rock – East.  The next cache, Dirty Harry’s Manzanita is only .2 miles way, but the uphill distance is at least tripled that.  I was interested in seeing the small (very small, actually) white blossoms on the manzanita.  I first noticed them on the ground and wonder what they were.  A few more steps up the trail and I had my answer.

With Dirty Harry’s Manzanita, I was finally qualified to find and to log the final cache.  I wasn’t quite really for the final adventure.  Ken had mentioned that the approach to the cache was only for skinny cachers.  I concur.  I had to call on my caving experience to get to the cache.  It was a very tight squeeze.  The picture below makes it look easier that it really was for me.  Coming down is easier that going up, but it was still an ordeal.  I guess it is just more motivation to drop some pounds.

I enjoyed the entire experience of getting the Challenge completed.  Well, most of it.  I could have lived without the DNF on Hideout that required a return visit.  But, for the most part, it was a great adventure.

I found 93 of the 96 caches along the trail.  I first hiked the entire BBT in 2006-2007 as part of a NPS-sponsored hike.  From those hikes and some other caching trips, I had 57 of the required caches before Spinal Tap was published.  I collected the rest in 5 more outings.  I enjoy the BBT so the Challenge was a nice excuse to return to some very nice areas in the Santa Monica Mountains.

Thanks Ed and Don for the nice challenge.  It was a great adventure.


Return to Sycamore Canyon

March 4, 2009

In my quest to qualify for the Backbone Trail Challenge cache, Spinal Tap, I returned to the site of my DNF–Hideout.  I rode the 3 miles in on my son’s bike, my first bike adventure in probably 20 years.  Because of the rain, the road had some heavy areas of mud, which just added to the challenge.

Thanks to the efforts of SoCalifSue, Hideout wasn’t hiding at all.  It was a quick find.  Too bad for me that I didn’t follow SoCalifSue the first time.

While I was in the area, I also found “Bent”, Down by the Sea, and Got H2O?.

Now, it’s on to the final leg of the Challenge.  I’m planning to hike from Trippett Ranch to Will Rogers on Saturday, 3/14.  I haven’t had the best luck doing this section of the trail–sickness and rain the first time and bad weather the next time.  Hopefully, the third time will be the charm.  After this hike, I’ll drive over for the final.