Nebraska Star Party

Well before I got into geocaching, I picked up the lost art of astronomy. Once you understand some basics about astronomy and how to use a telescope, it’s amazing some of the views you can see. You can see things so distant it boggles your mind that you are looking at them. And things so beautiful to render many people speechless. What better way to enjoy the night skies than with others who appreciate it as well. The Nebraska Star Party is an event just for that.

When I first learned of THE NEBRASKA STAR PARTY, I was unable to attend.  This was back in 2001, soon after I got into astronomy.  The next year, I made a point of going, and I’ve been going every year since.  Within a few years, I began helping with the event’s children’s program.  A year later, I was one of the presenters, giving a presentation on how to enhance an astronomy outreach program.  I quickly was offered the chance to be a board member when we decided to become a separate organization.

In 2007, it was the first year I went and did any geocaching, having picked that up only a few months earlier.  There were not a lot of geocaches in the area.  The nearby town of Valentine had maybe a dozen, and the area around Valentine was pretty sparse.

Then last year hit.  It was the first year since 2002 that I was unable to go.  I probably could have gone, but it would have made packing for the move to Kansas City interesting since I was moving at the end of the same week.

This year, I can finally go back to the event.  The event starts July 19th and lasts until July 24th.  I will probably be arriving on the 18th.  The event combines several activities I enjoy, allowing me to get some camping in during the week, enjoy the night sky, and get some geocaching in.  But the geocaching landscape has changed a bit in this area.  The following is an image of the 100 mile radius around the town of Valentine, located in the center of the large red circle.  This just shows what I HAVE NOT found yet:

Valentine - not found

Definitely more than a dozen caches now. And to think that much of this is owned by James Bridger, a cacher from Valentine. Here’s a view of what I have found already:

Valentine - found

On this second map, it’s much easier to see where I’ll be camping. Find the Samuel McKelvie National Forest just to the lower left of center. Now, find the clump of caches on the lower right side of that park. The Southern-most point of those caches is where I’ll be camping. I will be camping right along Merritt Reservoir, close to THIS LOCATION. The views at night there can be stunning, as evidenced by this photo of the night sky that I took a few years ago (click on the photo to go to my Nebraska photos and find a few more shots that I took at this campsite):

Now for the extra fun part…the route. My plans include three extra stops. One to Southwest Nebraska to repair a few of my geocaches. The other is to Lincoln and Omaha. Omaha will serve as my stopping point on my way to the event, and I’ll be staying with 8601 and TC. I have to go to Lincoln for a follow up appointment with my dentist. And the final location I’ll be stopping at is Grand Island on the day I will arrive at my campsite. I’m stopping there for an event that morning since it is on my route.

The return trip is still undecided. This will be when I go to repair my caches. Because of where I will be, I can either A: go back to Omaha for a day or two then head home, or B: head home from there, making a stop to grab MINGO, the oldest active cache in the world. I passed a few miles from it twice last year before I learned it was even there. DOH!

Here is an image of route #1, which includes me going through Omaha on the return trip. This route is actually the longer route and will keep me away from home an extra day or two:
NSP - Route 1

This next image shows route #2, which includes me making a stop at Mingo. It is the shorter route, though shorter by about an hours driving time and some mileage. But it also gets me home faster as I won’t be spending a few days in Omaha at the back end of my trip:
NSP - Route 2

Like I said, I haven’t decided what I’m going to do yet.

The hardest part about this trip will be keeping my streak going. As you can tell by the maps of the caches I haven’t found, there isn’t a lot near my campsite that I haven’t found yet. This means that I will have to travel every day to get caches. The good thing is that I know of several other cachers who will be at the event, so we can possibly travel together. That will make things a bit more bearable. Plus, on the map of caches I haven’t found, you’ll notice one icon near my campsite. Out for over a year, it has only had a few finds. Why? Because you have to get a boat to even get to the cache site. It’s on an island in the middle of the reservoir. Some of the cachers that will be there and I are already planning how we’re going to get that one.

And with regards to my streak, I finally hit 50 days in a row. That was exciting considering that my previous record is 12 days. If I can make it to 50, I can make it to my goal of 88 days. Maybe I can even make it to 100 days or beyond. That would be cool.

Total days in a row cached: 50 days
Total caches during streak: 270 caches


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