Friday, May 5, 2006

We discover Geocaching!

The Wilsons came for a visit in May this year, and when we got to thinking about what we might do, Tucker suggested we take a hike down the nearby Aldridge Creek greenway. It turns out a friend of his had shown him the locations of some hidden caches of trinkets that are part of an activity called "Geocaching". Tuck showed us where the caches were as we walked along the greenway, and we got curious about how many more might be near our house.

When we got home we went to the Geocaching web site and found out more about the sport. Well, one thing led to another, and before you know it, both we and the Wilsons had acquired GPS units, and were becoming consumed by the sport!

The following Saturday, our family went back out and found five other caches! It was so much fun that we decided to create our own cache to hide up the mountain behind our house. By the next weekend, we were up to 14 finds and it was reaching obsession status (at least for Dave) :-)

So what is it all about? Basically someone hides a container with a log book and perhaps a few interesting things, then they note the location on their GPS and upload the information to a site like .

Other folks find the locations for caches near them by using their zip code or home coordinates, and then they go searching.

The caches can be so small that they contain only a strip of paper for logging your visit, or they can be large enough to hold various trinkets. The idea is that you can take anything, but you should leave something of equal or greater value. Once you get home, you go back to and log your visit. For more information you can visit the information page.

The beauty of Geocaching is that it can be done anywhere in the world, and it adds another layer onto just about any trip or activity. Going on a vacation to Colorado? Just look up the caches in the area by plugging in the area code. Away ball game in another town? Same thing.

As with any sport, the more you get into it, the more there seems to be to it. What's nice about geocaching is that it seems to be easily picked up by someone new to it, yet it provides enough of a challenge to keep it interesting for veterans. The cache locations are often used to bring attention to special places with great views or historical significance of some sort.

Our first cache documented the history of our street, which is rather awkwardly split in half because early residents feared it would become a throughway for folks traveling to the south. Since that one we've placed a total of 10 more around the Huntsville area, and somewhere along the way we've managed to find over 1000 caches in three countries and 11 states!

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Vacation in Costa Rica

We head to Costa Rica purely for fun, and to celebrate our 20th anniversary, Gerrit's 18th birthday and impending departure for college life, and Philip's 11th birthday.

We've spent a lot of vacation time and travel over the last few years going to Venezuela for mission activities, but with so many family milestones happening this Spring we thought maybe it was time to head out for a purely fun trip. We had been hearing great things about Costa Rica recently, so Karen starting looking into it, and before you know it, we were on our way.

Costa Rica has been well known for its stability in an otherwise turbulent region, and it's recent ecological focus has inspired lots of eco-tourism. As admirable as that may be, we went for the volcanos and the beach!

We flew into the airport at Liberia, which is less well known than the one in the capitol city of San Jose, but far closer to our destinations. We rented a 4-wheel drive car (which ended up being a good thing) and headed to Arenal for our first stop. There are active volcanos running through the middle of the entire country, but the one at Arenal seems to be the most popular tourist spot.

Our hotel room was actually a chalet that had a gorgeous view of the volcano. Sitting in the rockers and watching the volcano turned out to be as much an attraction as the outings we planned to do things like: walking the hanging bridges through the cloud forest, white water kayaking, and horseback riding up the volcano.

We also watched butterflies emerge from their cocoons at the butterfly house, and sat in an outdoor jacuzzi one night watching glowing red lava spurt out of the volcano.

After three days we loaded back into the car and headed further up into the mountains to Monte Verde. The trip up required us to traverse about 30 miles of really bad, unpaved roads, and about twenty miles in we suddenly realized one of the tires was going flat.

Considering the fact that we'd seen very few houses, and almost no other cars we were glad we had a good spare. But things started looking a bit grim when neither Gerrit nor I could loosen the lug nuts on the flat tire (clearly they'd been enthusiastically tightened with one of those pneumatic wrenches).

Well, what looked like a potential disaster turned into quite the "God story". A lady walked up from the opposite direction and announced that a tire repair shop was just up the road. Moments later a car pulled up with a man and his dad offering to help. Between our two jacks, a couple of flat rocks, and some creative engineering we were able to get the flat off, the spare on, and drive to the tire shop to get the tire repaired.

Monte Verde was an interesting place; a strange combination of gorgeous mountain rain forests, touristy restaurants, and hippy hangouts. But the reason we'd come was for the zip line through the forest. Once we got all harnessed up and trained, we climbed the first tower and worked our way through nearly two miles of cables through the trees, out over deep valleys, and back into the trees. The views were spectacular and the ride was totally thrilling!

From Monte Verde we headed to the beach at Tamarindo where we stayed in a luxury hotel on the beach for three nights.

While there the boys took surfing lessons, we all went snorkeling (we saw a sea turtle, several kinds of blow fish, and hundreds of other fish), Karen had a massage on the beach and then found a place where she got a custom bathing suit made.

Each night we explored and ate at different restaurants. There was lots of kickback time to read on our own, but we especially enjoyed Mom reading aloud from the book "Marley & Me" about a family with a totally out of control Lab.

Far too soon it was time to head back to Liberia and our flight home. The flight took us over Nicaragua and it's picturesque lake with two volcanos in the middle.

It was a trip to remember!