Geocaching in Armstrong Redwoods SNR

April 2, 2008 by jwalker · 4 Comments  
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As promised, we continue our weekend excursion with a trip to Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve just outside Guerneyville, CA.

The best way to get to ARSNR is to take the Russian River Rd from US 101, then wind your way through some rolling winery country until you get to Guerneyville. Then take a right at the sign that points to ARSNR.

We had researched the caches inside the Reserve before we left Santa Rosa. None seemed terribly difficult and we thought we would be able to get to all of them by the end of the day.

To start out, there is admission fee to enter the Reserve if you go by car. ($6) But there is parking outside the main gate, at the Visitor Center, where you can park and walk in for free. Parking and walking in is OK if you are not planning on going all the way through the Reserve. However, we needed to go all the way to the other end, which was several miles away, to find all the caches. So we paid our money and continued on.

Before we entered though, we did park in the free lot and went inside the Visitor Center to see what they had in there that might be of some assistance during our visit.

They had several exhibits telling about the history of the area and plant physiology of the Redwoods.

History of Armstrong Redwoods SR

In 1860 R.B. Lundsford established a lumber camp on the north bank of the Russian River which grew with success and was later know as “Stumptown”. In 1867 a 25 year old Swiss immigrant, George E. Guerne, arrived in Stumptown. Guerne purchased land in the area and laid out a subdivision which became know as “Guernewood Park”. Guerne also built and operated a sawmill in Stumptown. Before long, Stumptown was renamed for its most important resident and has been known ever since as Guerneville.

In 1867 Thomas H. Stone and A. E. Laude established claims on 240 acres of valley property 3 miles north of Guerneville. These 240 acres are the heart of what is now Armstrong Redwoods State Reserve. This property and 200 adjoining acres were eventually consolidated under the ownership of Colonel James Boydston Armstrong in 1875.

In 1878, Armstrong made a gift deed of the 440 acres mentioned previously to his daughter, Kate Armstrong. The price recorded for this transaction was “in consideration of one dollar, love and affection”. It had been Armstrong’s intention for this property (an old growth, redwood grove) to be preserved and eventually be operated as an arboretum. The Colonel worked long and hard at assuring the preservation of the grove. In 1891, he attempted to establish an administration for the grove patterned after Stanford University’s, with Luther Burbank as the chairman of its first committee. Unfortunately, Armstrong was unable to realize his plan as it required a special act of the State legislature and such support did not exist at the time. Despite this defeat, Armstrong continued to work and plan toward the realization of his dream, the preservation of his beloved grove of redwoods.

Armstrong suffered serious financial distress due to the failure of a Santa Rosa bank. His daughter Kate was a life long invalid and her health went into a further decline as did his own. As a consequence of family pressure, 190 of Kate’s 440 acres were deeded to her brother, Walter. This parcel was later purchased by Armstrong family friend, Harrison M. LeBaron. Kate Armstrong died in 1898 and the Colonel passed on in 1900 after a series of incapacitating strokes. The struggle to preserve the grove was left in the capable hands of Lizzie Armstrong Jones – Armstrong’s surviving daughter – and the LeBaron family. They mounted an energetic campaign which used public meetings, rallies, and car-caravans to direct public attention to the need to preserve this last remnant of the once mighty redwood forest.

Their efforts were finally rewarded and in 1917 the County of Sonoma passed an initiative to purchase the property for $80,000.00. This purchase was contingent on a agreement that Lizzie and the LeBaron family each put up $5,000.00 of the purchase price as a donation – not an empty gesture when you consider what value a 1917 dollar had against today’s. The grove was operated by Sonoma County until 1934 when the State took ownership of it as part of the financial arrangement whereby Sonoma Coast State Park was purchased. The grove was opened to the public as Armstrong Redwoods State Park in 1936. In 1964 the grove’s status was changed when a greater understanding of its ecological significance prompted a more protective management of the resource. Since 1964 Armstrong Redwoods has enjoyed the status of State Reserve.

(Information provided by the Armstrong Redwoods State Reserve unit historian and by other works, materials and records, including information by Historian John McKenzie)

A year or 2 ago, we had visited the Redwood National Park just outside Crescent City, CA. The redwood trees up there are much bigger than the ones in Armstrong. However, the ones in Armstrong are nothing to sneeze about. They are plenty big!

Just as in Redwood National Park, the redwoods here are the coastal variety. (as opposed to the Sequoia variety) Coastal redwoods are the largest of the redwood varieties. In fact, they are the largest living things on the earth!

To get to the first cache location, we had to pass by the oldest and the largest trees in the Reserve.

(To make this page load faster, I have uploaded thumbnails of the pictures. Click on the picture to make it bigger so you can see it better)

Parson Jones tree

The Parson Jones tree is the tallest. It stands 310 ft tall. That’s taller than a football field is long! It is 1300 years old. But it’s not the oldest tree in the Reserve. That designation has been granted to the Armstrong tree. It’s “only” 300 feet tall but is approximately 1400 years old!

To put that in perspective, the Armstrong tree germinated the year 608 A.D. Kind of hard to fathom, huh?

Our first cache for the day was appropriately named:

Traditional Cache
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Traditional Cache Have You Hugged a Tree Lately
A cache by Laird Hidden: 5/22/2004
Size: Regular (Regular) Difficulty: 1.5 out of 5 Terrain: 1.5 out of 5 (1 is easiest, 5 is hardest)

N 38° 32.157 W 123° 00.378


In Armstrong Redwoods State Reserve. Enjoy the magnificent redwoods while looking for this cache.

Cache is a 5-inch round Rubbermaid-like container. No need to leave the trail to get to this one. All but last few inches are even wheelchair-accessible.
My readings were jumping around like crazy. Something about being in the middle of a forest filled with 300-foot tall trees! Coordinates above are from a number of readings averaged together.Initial contents include:- Log book (bring your own pencil)- Toy car- Pretty purple beads.

Our log on the cache page says it all:

March 16 by fluffy&itchy (4014 found)
We thinks it would “take a village” to hug that tree!
Nice trail. Loved our visit today.

fluffy&itchy/TN Jed
Homebase is Knoxville, TN
Currently, Santa Rosa, CA

The tree in question was HUGE! Not as big as the Armstrong or Parson Jones ones, but still a big ‘ol tree!

The cache was hidden under a boardwalk ramp that skirted the big ‘ol tree in question. You could park about 30 ft from where the cache was, but because of fences and signs that said, “Please stay on the designated paths, delicate plant life” the proper way to get to the hiding spot was to go to the parking area for the Armstrong tree, then walk about 300 ft or so, down an easy trail to ground zero.

I don’t feel bad about giving away the hiding place on this one. The container was pretty obvious when you walked up to it. It never ceases to amaze me how caches like this one, laying practically out in the open, keep from getting taken by muggles (non-geocachers). I guess it just goes to prove that most people do not pay that much attention to their surroundings.

Our next stop was:

Traditional Cache

Traditional Cache fork in the redwoods
A cache by Chronik Cachers Hidden: 9/27/2007
Size: Small (Small) Difficulty: 1 out of 5 Terrain: 2.5 out of 5 (1 is easiest, 5 is hardest)

N 38° 32.782 W 123° 00.196


Located in Armstrong Redwood State Park in the town of Guerneville near the Russian River

The Russian River is a beatiful place to visit and the small town of Guerneville is a great place to stay in any season. This cache is in a tupperware container located up the long windy road of Armstrong Redwood State Park. We attempted to take our bikes up to the destination about 2 miles up the road, but the hill is so steep that we had to walk the whole way. There is a minimal charge to enter the park with a motor vehicle, but it is well worth it to be able to enjoy the beautiful park’s scenery, hiking trails, informational posting about the age old redwood trees, and grab this quick cache. There is a place to stop and park your car at this fork in the road. Slightly up the trail on the right side of the creek that was dry at the time this cache was placed.

There was a small pull off area to park the car, then a short scramble up the hill beside a creek to get to the cache. It was a nice, peaceful place. We signed the log, traded a few things, then were on the the next one:

Pool Ridge Trail

I am going to save the write up for a future blog. It deserves its own blog for reasons I will explain then.

After we found the one on the Pool Ridge trail, moved on the the end of the Reserve road to find:

Unknown Cache

Unknown Cache Ethan’s Cache
A cache by ezzell, adopted by Team Psychopuppy Hidden: 3/21/2005
Size: Regular (Regular) Difficulty: 2.5 out of 5 Terrain: 2.5 out of 5 (1 is easiest, 5 is hardest)

N 38° 33.834 W 123° 00.548


A pleasant mountain ridge in a quiet and lovely location. Nice excuse for a picnic or just for a day in the great outdoors.

This is a puzzle cache. The coordinates shown are not the cache location but do indicate the general vicinity of the cache site. Thus, before you start, you will need to find Chris’s Cache to retrieve starting coordinates.

Ethan’s Cache also contains clue slips which will give you directions for finding Larry’s Grüner Petz-Baum Cache

December,2007 update:

Chris’ Cache was in a burned out area that needs some recovery time. Since it is a link in a chain of puzzle caches, here’s what you do. When you’ve received the longitude from Pool Ridge Trail for Chris’ Cache, subtract .163 from it for Ethan’s Cache. I’m just going to give you the latitude: 38° 33.551
Come find me!
This one was what is called a “mystery cache”, which means the container is not hidden at the coordinates posted on the cache page. You have to figure out the correct coordinates by solving a puzzle, visiting another cache, or various other ways as instructed by the cache hider.

We had gotten the coordinates to this one from the Pool Ridge Trail cache.

Puzzle/mystery caches are not as popular as regular caches, thus they do not get found as often as regular caches. They generally take more time to solve, thus most cachers do not want to spend the time solving for the final hiding spot. However, some cachers pride themselves on the brain work it takes to come up with the answers.

Much can be written about very interesting puzzle/mystery caches we have done or know of, but we will save that for another time.

We don’t consider ourselves great puzzle cachers. In fact, we weren’t planning on finding the next 3 caches because we already knew they would require extra time. But after we got there, we were enjoying ourselves so much, we decided to do the remaining 3 caches (all puzzles or multi’s).

We will stop here as we are going to write about puzzle/mystery caches in another blog sometime soon.

We had a great day visiting redwood country. We would highly recommend visiting the area if you are ever in this part of CA. The caching is great and the scenery is not to be missed.

In our next blog, we will discuss GeoWoodstock – the largest gathering of geocachers in the world!

til next time…

Happy caching!

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4 Responses to “Geocaching in Armstrong Redwoods SNR”

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