April 13-14, 2019

Asheville, NC

  • 4 traditional geocaches
  • 1 virtual geocache
  • 3 Whereigos
  • 2 multi caches
  • 4 puzzle caches

Deban asked me to join her for a weekend in Asheville while she attended the Tennessee Bar Association Board of Governors Spring Meeting. (Editor’s note: Yes, I am very proud of her for being elected for a second term to this prestigious group.) Since I have not had a chance to do much caching in downtown Asheville, this was a great opportunity to log some fun caches. I decided to focus on quality instead of quantity this trip.

We arrived on Friday evening, and checked into the hotel. We then walked to a restaurant for dinner with the TBA group. It was late when we returned to the hotel, so I waited until Saturday morning to start my caching adventure.

I got up shortly after Deban and ate breakfast while she went to her meeting. I then headed out on foot to start searching for caches. I logged one traditional cache near the hotel, and then began working on a multi cache.

This multi had five virtual stages scattered around the downtown area. At each visit I learned history about “Asheville’s Favorite Son” the novelist Thomas Wolfe. The first stage was a marker in the middle of a parking lot stating that this was the site of the home in which Wolfe was born. I also visited the “Old Kentucky Home” – the boarding house his mother ran where he lived as a child, as well as the site of his father’s tombstone shop, an angel statue memorializing his book “Look Homeward Angel” and the Thomas Wolfe Auditorium at the Asheville Civic Center. At each site I collected information needed to learn the coordinates for the final stage of the multi.

A bronze cast of Thomas Wolfe’s size 13 shoes, and a marker for his childhood home.

I had to get creative at the site of the angel statue. My job there was to find the year that the artist created it and subtract the first number in the year from the last number. Unfortunately, there is currently a fence around the statue due to construction. I looked at the front of the statue through the fence, and then walked around to check the side and back. I finally spotted the artist’s signature and year carved into the back, but couldn’t make out what it said because of the distance and angle. I took several pictures through the fence, zooming in as much as I could and trying for the best angle that wasn’t blocked by leaves on a nearby tree. I finally was able to get a clear enough picture that I could make out the info I needed.

During my journey about downtown, I also began working on a Whereigo cache that led me to various places highlighting the unique architecture Asheville has to offer. One interesting bit of info I learned on this journey was that the same architect had originally been asked to design matching side-by-side city and county buildings in the 1920s. However, the county officials apparently were not impressed with his style, so employed a firm from Washington, DC to design their building. As a result, the buildings are very different – one in Art Deco style while the other is Neo-classical.

What the two buildings would have looked like. The one on the left was never built.
The Neo-classical County Building (left) and Art Deco City Building (right)

A Whereigo is a special type of geocache where you download a game “cartridge” to your phone and follow its directions. From each stop you are given a distance to travel and a pointer on the screen to follow. Once you get within 25 feet of the next stop, information pops up on your screen. In the case of this architectural tour, the architect who had designed the building at each location gave me info about it. I would then have to answer a question to be able to move on to the next location. I love to do this type of geocache because I learn so much along the way. I also saw buildings and features on them that I never would have noticed.

Along the way I also attempted to solve and find a couple of puzzle caches. The first involved studying a section of decorative railing and counting various aspects of it such as circles, spheres, and iron “people.” To make certain that you had come up with the correct numbers, there was a checksum. I worked on it a while but could not come up with the correct numbers. I decided to work on it later at the hotel, took photos of each section of the railing, and moved on.

The second puzzle cache was one that is meant to be solved from home, but I managed to solve it while standing in the park. I then walked across the park to where it was hidden. As I searched for the elusive, tiny container for about 15 minutes, I enjoyed listening to a nearby blues guitarist that was “busking” in the park. Busking is “the activity of playing music in the street or another public place for voluntary donations.” His voice wasn’t the best, but he played his guitar very well. I was glad to finally find the cache container and sign the log.

At the fire station across the street, the firefighters were testing their equipment and cleaning their trucks. I tried not to be like all the little kids hanging around looking longingly at the shiny red trucks. I walked on by, trying not to stare. A little later as I passed again, I had to smile when I saw that the firefighters were all posing for a picture with a young boy and his mom. Lucky kid! Wonder if he will grow up to be a firefighter?

Fire trucks!
Lucky kid!

So, back to geocaching… I continued walking from place to place around town gathering the info for both the Thomas Wolfe and architecture caches. It was a little overcast but the rain that was threatening never materialized. There were a lot of people out on the streets.

While walking along one busy street, I noticed a young man walking in the same direction. All the way down the street he carried on an animated conversation with his imaginary friends. Most of that conversation was nonsensical, but he was very happy so I guess that is all that matters.

I also did a short two-part multi cache. It involved finding a flat magnet on the framework supporting a bell that sits on the sidewalk. On the back of that magnet a clue is written to help you find the cache. It was diagonally across the street hidden in a bush. The cache description said I was looking for a “relic from Ma Bell.” I reached into the bush and came up with an old cordless phone. I would say that at one time the log sheet was hidden in the battery compartment, but now it was just on the ground under the phone in a baggie.

Eventually I had visited all of the locations for both the multi cache and Whereigo. I wasn’t able to make the checksum come out right for the Thomas Wolfe multi, and the final location for the architectural Whereigo was some distance from town. I decided to save finding the final locations of both of those for the next day because it was getting near time for me to return to the hotel for lunch.

I made one more stop along the way to log a virtual cache. A virtual does not have a physical container and log book. Instead, you must visit the location and answer questions about what you observe there.

This virtual was a stop along the Asheville Urban Trail, a self-guided walking tour around town. To locate it, I had to download and study a map of the trail and then navigate to the appropriate stop the old fashioned way – using a map instead of a GPSr. There I found a kinetic piece of metal art called “On the Move.” When you spin the wheel, it produces the sounds of various modes of transportation from Asheville’s history. As I was collecting the info I needed here, Deban called and said their meeting had ended early. She said she would wait for me so that we could eat lunch together in the hotel restaurant. I returned to the hotel, having logged a little over three miles of walking about time.

Signal and I at the virtual cache

After lunch, we went with some of her colleagues to visit Biltmore House. This is the grand home of George Vanderbilt that was completed in 1895 and is deemed America’s largest privately-owned house. It boasts 135,280 square feet of living space, 35 bedrooms, 45 bathrooms, 65 fireplaces, a bowling alley and an indoor swimming pool. Because this was not my first visit here, I did not take any photos of the house. I did enjoy the tour as we saw parts of the house that I have not seen before.

When we finished touring the house, Amy (one of Deban’s colleagues) and I walked down to see the tulip garden and toured the greenhouses. They were very full of all types of plants and flowers.

Tulips at Biltmore

We also walked through part of the azalea and spring gardens before meeting the rest of the group back at the car. I did take a few photos of flowers along the way.

Dwarf Iris
I think this is a type of Squirrel Corn

We returned to the hotel and then went to dinner with the TBA group. Back in the room that night I was able to redo the puzzle I had attempted earlier in the day, and also find my error in figuring the coordinates for the Thomas Wolfe multi. I saved those coordinates and the final coordinates for the Whereigo in my phone so that I could find and log them the next morning.

On Sunday morning Deban left to drive to Nashville for another meeting, and I stayed in the Asheville area to do some more geocaching. I started out by finding the three caches I had saved coordinates for the night before. I then checked my geocaching app to see what other caches I might want to find. I made my decision by sorting the nearby caches by favorite points with the intention of finding caches that other geocachers had enjoyed.

The first was called February 14 and was just about 10 minutes away. It had 97 favorite points so I knew it would be a good one. I drove to Carrier Park where it was located, and followed a walking/biking trail toward the cache. It had started to rain, but there were still a few other walkers and runners in the park.

SPOILER ALERT! The next paragraph and photo shares the secret to solving this puzzle cache, so don’t read it if you want to figure this one out for yourself!

When I arrived at the cache site, I found a very well constructed box attached to a tree. It had a padlock on the door on the side. I studied it for a while, trying to decide how to access the key to the lock. I poked and prodded and wiggled various parts. I could tell it was likely some kind of slide puzzle, but couldn’t figure out how to get it started because all of the moving parts were contained in a frame and wouldn’t move. I finally checked the cache page for a hint, and it said “the very bottom.” I was able to slide the bottom panel to the left, which allowed the right side to slide down. This freed the first block that I needed to move, and from then on each step became obvious. When I slid the last block up, it revealed a hole in which the key was hidden. What a great hide

Great gadget cache!

When I had finished logging this cache, I shared the information with a friend back home in hopes that he will construct a similar cache. I then headed back to my truck. When I got there, I looked at my phone and noticed that there were two puzzle caches in this park. One looked as if it was very complicated – involving some math skills which is not my strong point. I decided to tackle the other puzzle though. It involved getting clues from the signs at a memorial for the old Asheville Motor Speedway.

This fantastic park was once the site of a NASCAR short track. The track itself has now been converted into a bicycle velodrome. Wooden stairs and ramps lead up to a pedestrian walkway over the track, allowing people to safely reach the former infield where you can find a basketball court, volleyball courts, playground, and an inline hockey rink.

Outside the track area is a baseball field, lawn bowling and picnic pavilions as well as a walking track that connects with the greenway trail along the French Broad River. This is a great park, and creative reuse of existing facilities along with the new.

After solving the puzzle, I had to cross over the track on the pedestrian walkway to find the cache container. Since I was inside, and there were no children on the playground, I decided to tackle that puzzle as well. After quite a bit of walking around and counting various objects in the playground, I finally had all the numbers I needed. I then had to add and subtract these numbers to determine the cache coordinates. At first the checksum did not work out, and so I started over again. I quickly realized that I had missed seeing a whole section of blue triangle hand-holds which had skewed my numbers. Once I added those in, the checksum worked and I was able to find the container.

Back in my truck, I again looked for nearby caches with a high number of favorite points. Within a mile were two more created by the cache owner of the February 14 cache, so I drove on to find them. The first was a bit of a disappointment, although I could tell that at one time it had been a great cache. However, the latching mechanism on it had become so loose that I was able to open it without going through all of the proper steps to trigger the latch.

The second cache was in much better condition. It was another clever gadget cache that had five rows of two switches each for a total of ten switches. On each row, one switch needed to be on and one switch off (think 1,0 and 0,1 like in the early days of computing). Once I had all of the switches in the right position, a light illuminated a screen which allowed me to read the combination for the padlock securing the cache door.

Throughout all of these adventures, a light rain fell from time to time, but it did not dampen (pun intended) my enthusiasm. It was past lunch time by now, but I had an apple and some Combos with me, so I munched on them as I decided what to do next.

The day before I had noticed a reverse cache box Whereigo on the map. This is a type of Whereigo in which you can start anywhere in the world, and navigate toward the location of the cache container using only distance from the cache to guide you. In the app, you query the cache box to see how far you are from the cache, and then start moving in a random direction and query it again to see if you are getting closer or farther away. The object is to find the cache using the least amount of queries possible.

Screenshot of reverse cache box

When I had first checked the reverse cache box while walking around downtown the day before, I had come up with a distance of 1.6 miles. I knew that was too far to try to find walking, so had decided not pursue the search since I was on the trail of other caches. I checked it again now, and was much further away so knew that it was on the other side of downtown. I began driving back toward and then through downtown periodically checking the distance. Several times I had to change direction when I found that I was getting further away rather than closer to the cache.

Eventually I got within 30 yards of the cache and decided to park and walk around to find it. I went in the wrong direction a few times, made adjustments, and finally spotted the cache. I was happy to be able to log one more Whereigo. This is a type that I have been wanting to find more of, because I am trying to qualify for a challenge cache back home. In order to log it you must have found 25 or more Whereigos. With this latest cache I was up to six Whereigos found. I have a long way to go!

I decided that I would look for another Whereigo to add to that tally, and drove to a nearby cemetery. This Whereigo had me walking about the cemetery to see different types of gravestones and the symbolism they contained. By now it was raining much harder. I was wearing a rain jacket and slacks that dry quickly, so wasn’t too concerned about getting wet. My phone is in a waterproof case so that didn’t concern me either. However, raindrops on the touch screen make it behave erratically. Since a Whereigo keeps you looking at the screen for directions, this was a pain. I kept pulling out my bandana to wipe off the screen, and finally just started walking around with the bandana over the phone. I would pick up a corner and peek under occasionally to make certain I was going in the right direction or to see what question I needed to answer.

I finally hit the final stage and received the coordinates for the cache container. They were nearly .2 mile away, so I probably should have climbed in my truck and driven there, but decided to continue on foot. By the time I had found the cache, signed the log, and made it back to the truck I was drenched and ready to call it a day. I’m glad I did because during my drive home it rained even harder!

Asheville is a very cache rich area, not only in terms of the number of caches, but the quality as well. I hope to return there soon to look for more. I may even take my bicycle next time and ride some of the greenways which have many caches along them.

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