Waypoint: Belle Isle Salt Mine Memorial

DSC00359N 29° 48.484’ W 091° 32.246’

ST. MARY PARISH

WHAT’S HERE:

The Franklin Visitor Center & Rest Area, part of the Cajun Coast Welcome Center, is home to a small bayouside park and a granite memorial which honors the memory of salt miners who perished at Belle Isle Salt Mine on two occasions in the 20th Century.

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On March 5, 1968, a fire broke out in the Belle Isle Salt Mine in St. Mary Parish. Twenty-one men were trapped 1200 feet underground with their only escape engulfed in flames. Coal miners from Kentucky flew in to help with the attempted rescue. It was not to be. This memorial is dedicated to these twenty-one men who lost their lives, to the rescue men who risked their lives, to the other miners who died at Belle Isle and to all the families who suffered the loss.

Belle Isle Point, located at N 29° 31.553′, W 091° 24.308′ in Atchafalaya Bay where the mine is located, is 21 miles SSE from the Cajun Coast Center’s memorial.  Belle Isle was one of the first places in Louisiana to be explored for gas and oil.

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Image: sunearthtools.com / Google

Cargill, Inc. was the operator of the perilous operation. They suffered another loss-of-life incident in June of 1979 when a scheduled blast went wrong. Five men were killed in the accident.

From http://www.belleislellc.com/Belle_Isle/History.html:

Starting in the early 1940s, Belle Isle was one of the first sites in Louisiana for oil drilling. The Belle Isle Field was once one of the largest oil and gas fields in Louisiana.

In 1962 Cargill Inc. started the Belle Isle salt mine at 1,200 ft below sea level, and the mine was a little over one-half mile in diameter when it was abandoned and purposely flooded in 1985. At that time, two deeper levels were just being developed.

Mineral exploration has always been a hazardous enterprise. In Louisiana’s salt-dome rich marsh, rescue attempts have always been doubly so.

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A bronze statue of a miner with a lamp stands testament to the dangers and the lives lost

The Cajun Coast Welcome Center pays tribute and honors the memory of the men who died enriching our economy.

Nearest Geocache Listing: GC2KNG5.

This Tag is growing. See our overview of geoLa Waypoints here.

North East South and West

Here was our question: Which Louisiana geocaches are the northernmost, easternmost, southernmost, and westernmost? What are our geo-extremes?

It seemed easy enough. Starting along the beach at the bottom of our state, one needs to only follow the Geo-map from one side to the other. There’s really only a couple places that our L-shaped geography protrudes with any kind of vigor into the Gulf. There’s the Mississippi Delta, and the Bayou Lafourche corridor.

A quick search for geocaches in both of those areas easily give us the site of the geocache hidden for us which is the farthest south, and the farthest east.

No place in Louisiana goes farther east and south, land-wise, than the Delta.

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And most of it is accessible only by boat

The three-veined Mississippi entrance doesn’t have any physical hides (presently). The closest place to the river’s mouth is Venice, where the world ends. At that ending we find a handful of hides, and the one farthest to the east is GC64VNP ‘Park at the End,’ one of BAMBOOZLE’s many droppings. It’s sitting on 89° 21.158’ W of Greenwich, making it the easternmost physical geocache in Louisiana.

That stretch of delta isn’t the east-iest dry land in the State, however.

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Here’s an interesting fact: The easternmost point of the Chandeleur Islands is farther east than Biloxi is.

The Îsles de Chandeleur arc out into Mississippi Sound, and even though they’re disappearing at a disheartening rate, they still are a beach with fauna and flora. However, there isn’t and there won’t be any physical geocaches there, since they’re part of the Breton National Wildlife Refuge.

Now, a swipe of the map westward leads across Barataria Bay past Grand Isle to the land of the Lafourche, and it is there we do find the southernmost geocache presently on our map.

It’s another one of BAMBOOZLE’s. GC3A0K7 ‘Come Get Me Big Doggy’ was hidden by Bam and Short Circuit 2, as a challenge to Big Doggy, a veteran player in the New Orleans Metro Area. To our knowledge, Big Doggy still hasn’t gone after it.

Measuring latitude 29° 06.463’, it is the closest place to the equator in Louisiana that you can sign a geocache log.

Now, astute map-heads will point out that there’s an Earthcache at the Head of Passes, more southern and more eastern than these.

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Image: geocaching.com / Leaflet

GC605FW ‘Foot of the Bird – Earthcache’ is an educational exercise touching on delta formation and river navigation. Its published coordinates are southeast of Venice, in the river proper. Auxiliary to the lesson, the owner has left a physical log at the Pass-A-Loutre WMA check-in station. Because the coordinates to that station are below the 29th Parallel, and nearly three more miles east than the pin for the earthcache, we can interject a kind of asterisk to our above statement about the southernmost log you can sign.

However, this author will claim that such an ‘additional logging requirement’ is optional for the Earthcache and does not count as a physical geocache, respectable and exceptional though it may be.

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Image: geocaching.com / Google

 

What started as a hypothetical question about geographical geocache extremes has blossomed into a monumental puzzle to solve.

Check this out. In the Caddo corner of our State we have a physical geocache, looking like it’s across the dotted line and properly in Texas, but listed in Louisiana, and hidden to the NORTHWEST of a Virtual cache, listed as being in Arkansas.

GC23HE8 ‘ArkLaTex’ and GC7EF5 ‘Two for One, Three at a Time’ seem to have swapped bathrobes. Is one of them not in their actual state? Who knows?

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Image: geocaching.com / Google

 

A Kind Of Controversy

Our North-West corner’s actual location has been the subject of much international, mathematical and astronomical debate since at least the end of the Jefferson administration.

Here’s a little history on the topic. The south and east boundaries of our State are easy enough to find, but where our legislative boundaries slice dirt can be much harder to project.

In 1804 Congress divided the Louisiana Territory using the 33rd Parallel. Everything south was called the Territory of Orleans, and is roughly our Louisiana today.

[For exhaustive history on the matter see: Oliver P. Stockwell, The Boundaries of the State of Louisiana, 42 La. L. Rev. (1982) Available at: http://digitalcommons.law.lsu.edu/lalrev/vol42/iss3/7 ]

Then, in 1812 Louisiana entered the Union as the 18th State, and its Western and Northern Boundary was at that time defined as:

Beginning at the mouth of the River Sabine, thence, by a line to be drawn along the middle of the said river, including all islands, to the thirty-second degree of north latitude, thence due north to the northernmost part of the thirty-third degree of north latitude, thence along the said parallel of latitude to the River Mississippi…

 

And on and on. It’s fascinating reading.

One thinks it should be easy to figure out. Turns out it wasn’t. Nineteenth Century geodetic and astronomy tech was good, but not to our modern degree. Those original, and later, surveyors were in error to the north by 2,220 feet when they laid a granite marker on the left descending bank of the Sabine River where they said it met the 32nd Parallel, calling it the International Boundary between the U.S. and Spanish Texas.

 

The marker still stands today. Aim for GCTBR8 and you’ll find it not far from the cache. See also this Waymark.

Since the granite Sabine-32° marker was off, their later mark for the 33rd parallel was off too. Therefore, we find there is some of Louisiana above Latitude 33°.

No big deal, right?

That’s actually the case. There has never been a dispute between Arkansas and Louisiana over the border. Whatever it is today, based on the original survey, is good enough for both parties.

It took some time before anyone asked the all-important question (it was 1841 in fact), ‘What is the granite marker’s longitude?’ Later, the Louisiana Geodetic Survey defined it as 94° 02’ 33.0”.

 

How To Give Up and Yet Succeed

This leaves us with the questions: Which geocache is farthest West, and which is farthest North?

To answer them, we are going to simply have to refer to the listings and follow the map down the border. Whatever state the Geo-map tells us the caches are in, we will use.

Of the caches which are shown as falling in Louisiana, the one with the greatest latitude will be Northernmost, and with the greatest longitude will be Westernmost. Sure, it’s arbitrary, or throwed-off a bit. Sure, the surveyors were either drunk or followed a snake. Look what happened with the ArkLaTex cache and it’s little ghosty friend.

There are a lot of candidates. For many miles the boundary between the Natural State and the Bayou State follows a road that’s supposed to be arrow straight but isn’t, and there is a series of geocaches along it to one side or the other, named alternately for local players. The AR-LA boundary was supposed to be a perfect parallel, but it’s not and so it winds a little bit. Due to surveyor’s errors, the Louisiana border dips slightly more and more south the farther east one goes.

 

The Winners Are…

So, after following the map east and south, and much aspirin, we have the following results:

Northernmost: GC17J60 ‘A Welcome Sign’

Westernmost: GC23HE8 ‘ArkLaTex’

Easternmost: GC64VNP ‘Park at the End’

Southernmost: GC3A0K7 ‘Come Get Me Big Doggy’

Honorable Mention: GC605FW ‘Foot of the Bird – Earthcache’

There you have it. A little history, a little geography, a little nonsense.

 

Here’s a challenge: If you find and log all five of them in the same day I have a little prize for you. How little? You’ll just have to try it and see.

Waypoint: LaSalle’s Landing

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N 29° 58.375’ W 090° 14.813’

JEFFERSON PARISH

WHAT’S HERE:

Most of the history books and school texts with which we are familiar instruct us that Rene-Robert Cavalier de la Salle left Montreal with Henry de Tonti and other Frenchmen in August of 1679 and canoed down the Mississippi River, looking for the mouth of that great river crossed by the Spaniard, De Soto 130 years prior.

Few sources attempt to tell us exactly the point where La Salle banked his canoes among the Chapitoulas (Tchoupitoulas) Indians on the lower river, erected a cypress cross over a written marker, and claimed the Mississippi watershed for his king and country. The City of Kenner tells us where.

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Well, almost. Here we find ourselves in Heritage Park, part of Rivertown, Kenner’s Historic District.

The placard reads:

IN 1682 THE FRENCH EXPLORER, ROBERT CAVALIER DE LA SALLE, LANDED IN AN INDIAN VILLAGE LATER TO BE KNOWN AS THE CITY OF KENNER. PROCLAIMING OWNERSHIP IN THE NAME OF LOUIS XIV, KING OF FRANCE, HE ERECTED A CYPRESS CROSS TO COMMEMORATE THE HISTORIC EVENT.

 

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The placard, and its bronze successor nearby, does not actually state that the explorer planted the stake here, but only that he landed at an Indian Village here. It’s a bit of literary sleight-of-hand, but it works.

Meanwhile, a visitor looking up from the placard will see a wooden carving resembling a Christian scene, topped by what could be the base of an ancient cross, surrounded there in wrought iron. One wonders, is this La Salle’s cross, planted here in Kenner?

Not likely. The mouth of the river is still some 110 nautical miles downstream from the Kenner Landing point. Granted, due to the unrestrained shifting delta, in La Salle’s day, that distance was reduced by as much as 25 miles. See http://www.sochistdisc.org/2004_articles/morris.htm. Furthermore, through further research, the sculpture’s artist’s name is Corrin Beckert, though that information isn’t seen here in Heritage Park.

Most encyclopedia entries attempt to put La Salle’s proclamation event nearer to Venice, Louisiana, citing the journals of the explorer’s official recorder, Henri Joutel.

At any rate, this present site was known as Cannes Brûlée by 1708, by which time French interests along the river ebbed and flooded with their economic exploits. A century later they would sell their New World claim to the newly established United States.

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Fast forward to 10 May, 1870. “Kennerville” is the host to the very first World Championship Heavyweight Prize Fight held in the United States, a bare-knuckle bout between Jed Mace and Tom Allen, both Englishmen. Mace took home $2,500. Bronze statues of the men, fists ablaze, stand here memorial to the occasion, 100 yards from La Salle’s River.

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Nearest Geocache Listing: GC5CHKP

This Tag is growing. See our overview of geoLa Waypoints here.

Waypoint: Frogmore Mound

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N 31° 36.277 W 091° 40.265

CONCORDIA PARISH

WHAT’S HERE:

Between Jonesville and Ferriday is a place called Frogmore, and it’s more than just a funny name.  One of the many earthworks of the native moundbuilding cultures can be found here.

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An interactive map highlighting the more prominent mounds in Louisiana can be found at  http://archive.archaeology.org/online/features/lamounds/map.html:

From their site:

The Louisiana Ancient Mounds Trail is about a five-hour tour by car with stops at the museums at Poverty Point in West Carroll Parish and Marksville in Avoyelles Parish, which serve as the hubs to the trail. Individuals or groups with an interest in learning more about mound sites in Louisiana can start near Epps at the Poverty Point State Historic Site. There they will be introduced to mound building by watching a video, looking through the museum, and touring the site itself. They can then drive to see the other sites with a better understanding of the mounds and the people who constructed them. The next state-owned site on the trail is Marsden, a group of mounds incorporated into Poverty Point Reservoir State Park and recently opened to the public. Though no full visitor’s center is planned at Marsden, there will eventually be more interpretative materials available there, and visitors can arrange for guided tours. Following the trail from northeast to central Louisiana, most of the rest of the historical markers are on privately owned mounds. These sites can be viewed from highways or to the extent each landowner allows (these markers will all have “No Trespassing” signs on their posts). The tour ends at Marksville, where there is another interpretive center.

The last time we passed Filhiol Mound in south Ouachita Parish, it appeared a Visitor’s Center / Interpretive Center was under construction.  We can suspect many updates have occurred since the above article was written in 2004.

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We mustn’t assume the entirety of our Ancient Mounds are to be found in Northeast Louisiana.

In Cocodrie, Louisiana there is the Elpege Picou (La Butte) Cemetery Mound, a native structure built many hundreds of years ago, upon which later generations of settlers put a cemetery, presumably safe from rising floodwaters.

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The Picou Mound in Cocodrie, LA, part of a larger 5-mound complex.  Cocodrie is approximately 25 miles south of Houma on Bayou Petit Caillou

The Ancient Mounds dot our state, and are testament to pre-European survival skills.  Did they build the mounds for dry safety, or for some ceremonial purpose?  We may never fully know.  Some of the mounds, like at Marksville, have been opened to archaeology. Others remain in private holding.

The Frogmore Mound can be viewed from the highway. A placard there prohibits trespassing. So there’s no geocache at the site.  But it’s still a worthwhile drive.

Frogmore is the home of the Concordia Parish plantation site, preserved mostly in its 19th Century setting.  Just beyond, in Ferriday we find the Delta Music Museum, showcasing the state- and local talents which made musicians such as the Lewis/Swaggart family there world famous, as well as many others.

Nearest Geocache Listing: None here. Site on private property.

This Tag is growing. See our overview of geoLa Waypoints here.

The Solomon Northup Geo Trail

 

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One of the many Site Markers along the Northup Trail

Much has been written about the storied locations accompanying the life of Solomon Northup, the black freeman from New York who ended up in Louisiana press-ganged into slavery for twelve years, and whose escape story is now part of our state heritage.

In 2015, Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne designated the Northup Trail as part of the Louisiana Trails & Byways Collection.  The entire overview of the sites can be found at http://acadianahistorical.org/tours/show/4 or for just the Twelve Years A Slave Book’s trail map in PDF click here.

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Marty Floyd (LAVNVet) opens the Northup Geotrail at the Epps House at LSUA

Through the efforts of LAVNVet and other owners nearby, there are Geocaches now at each of the Trail Markers and Northup Locations.  For finishers, he has a custom pathtag as a prize. Even if you’re not seeking a prize, the trail itself and the history sewn up within is a treasure in itself.

See the entire list of geocaches here: https://www.geocaching.com/bookmarks/view.aspx?guid=1cc4cca9-35fd-4985-8428-25745dfd363f

To achieve the pathtag, one must find the 15 primary geocaches, and five from the list of secondary sites.

Read the newspaper write-up about the Trail Opening here.

 

How-To: Mysteries & Double Decryption

Mystery Caches are like geo-sardines. Either you love them or hate them. And they’re everywhere. Very likely, you know someone who is good at mystery caching.

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If you want all smileys here you’ll have to deal with them.

Mystery caches (formerly ‘Unknown’ caches) appeal to that next-level geocacher. They add another level of hiddenness to the hunting experience. They grant giant asterisks of satisfaction to the find.

Dealing with a new mystery cache on the map can be a daunting challenge. The scenario typically goes like this (for me anyway):

  1. Open listing
  2. Exhale aggravatedly
  3. Decrypt the Hint, if any
  4. Read listing
  5. Scratch head
  6. Try a few things that worked with other mystery caches

If that doesn’t yield something like an answer or a breadcrumb along the path to a solution, then it’s common to close the listing and try again another day/month. What drives many players up the wall, this author included, is when a mystery cache doesn’t lend any help along the way to a solution.

Veteran mystery cachers know it’s that breadcrumb which is the hallmark of a good mystery cache.  A good mystery cache will give the solver at least one ‘a-ha!’ moment, reeling them in toward the final, or the next portion of the puzzle.

Since the ‘solving’ of a puzzle for coordinates can mean translating from one kind of information to another, mystery cache hiders regularly use Encryption to create something that must then be Decrypted.

 

A Breadcrumb Around the Corner

A coworker of mine is a fellow geocacher, who one day was getting off the boat while I had to stay and work the next two weeks.  He knew I was working on crafting my own Unknown Cache for the geo-map, and he decided to leave me a cryptic message to have a little fun with me.

01010010 01001001 01001100 01001010 01000001 00100000 01001000 01011010 01000010 00100000 01010100 01000110 01000001 00100000 01010010 01011010 01000110 01011000 01001100 01010011 01001101 00100000 01001100 00100000 01010010 01001100 01001010 01001010 00100000 01010001 01000001 00100000 01010000 01000110 01001100 01010011 01011000 01001100 01010011 01001101 00100000 01010001 01000001 01000001 01000110 00101110 00100000 01011001 01010101 01010100 01001000 00100000 01011001 01010100 01000100 01000001 00100000 01010100 01010011 01010000 00100000 01001100 00100000 01010010 01001100 01001010 01001010 00100000 01011001 01000001 01000001 00100000 01001000 01011010 01000010 00100000 01011001 01011010 01011010 01010011 00101110 

Well, I didn’t quite know how to answer that. But I did know what I was looking at.

The idea here is that the letters you see on the screen in front of you aren’t really there. The computer that houses this page has a packet full of 0’s and 1’s that your web browser turns into letters to make this page.  It’s called binary data.

There are several websites that converts binary data into alphanumeric data. Here’s a good example of one.

Once translated, you get:

RILJA HZB TFA RZFXLSM L RLJJ QA PFLSXLSM QAAF. YUTH YTDA TSP L RLJJ YAA HZB YZZS.

That’s one layer down.  Because we’re definitely on to something here.  This is the Breadcrumb effect.  The solver has attempted and achieved something that tells them Yes, you’re on the right road.  So many good Mystery Cache puzzles miss this important feature.

 

Substitute Teacher

RILJA HZB TFA RZFXLSM L RLJJ QA PFLSXLSM QAAF. YUTH YTDA TSP L RLJJ YAA HZB YZZS.  What this looks like is a sentence with the letters all wrong.

There are a couple of approaches here. If you’ve spent any time with the Hints portion of geocache listings you’re familiar with Rotation Ciphers.  The letters of geo-hints are typically rolled forward by 13 letters.  A becomes N, B becomes O, etc.  So, naturally, that was my first avenue of exploration.

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We hit the Decrypt link so fast we rarely see the Key on the right side.

To our dismay, translated in ROT-13 (rotated forward 13 letters) ‘RILJA‘ becomes ‘EVYWN.‘  So that’s not it.

Next, we explore whether it’s a rotation cipher, but not 13 steps.

ROT-14 yielded FWZXO, ROT-15 gave us GXAYP, ROT-16: HYBZR, so on and so forth.  I’ll spare you the legwork here.  Nothing of consequence came up for rotation ciphering.

This is when you step back and look at it with one eye closed.  Do you see the letter L by itself?  How many words in English have only one letter?  There are two: ‘a’ and ‘I.’

This is a Substitution Cipher.  The letters are actually other letters, and there’s a pattern to it all.

So, that letter L by itself is a vowel, either ‘A’ or ‘I.’

Look also at ‘YZZS.‘  There is a super-high probability that Z is also a vowel.  If so, it’s very likely an ‘O’ or an ‘E.’  Then there’s ‘QAAF’ at the end of the first sentence, and again, that letter ‘A’ is probably substituted for another vowel. Also there’s a ‘QA‘ which is going to be a two-letter word ending in a vowel.  So, He, To, Be, We, No… There aren’t many likely ones but they’ll help you figure out what’s the right one.

Take what you suspect to the other words with those letters, like ‘YAA‘ and see if your vowel fits into any words which could be there.  Unless my friend was trying to tell me something that had the word MOO or POO in it, which wasn’t likely, ‘A’ wasn’t ‘O,’ but ‘E.’

This is when you realize you’ll need to make a list of letters on one margin and a list of what they’re substituted for, on the other margin.

I like this puzzle because it has breadcrumbs the whole way down.  Once you figure out ‘YAA’ is ‘SEE’, YZZS becomes ‘SOO_’ and then you have to realize ‘S’ is ‘N.’ (Unless he wanted to tell me about SOOT which is possible, but again, not likely.

WHILE YOU ARE WORKING I WILL BE DRINKING BEER. STAY SAFE AND I WILL SEE YOU SOON.

Thanks a lot, bro.  All this so he could goad me about having to work while he was out having fun.  He could have at least told me he was out finding caches without me.

 

Moral of the Story

If you’re going to craft a mystery cache puzzle, especially one with more than one level of difficulty, remember: Leave a Breadcrumb.  The last thing you want is for your neighborhood FTF-hound to give up trying to figure out your mystery cache.