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Thursday, July 24, 2014

Geocaching; What is this all about? A Beginners Special Feature



By Big Al

Note to readers: This article is intended for anyone to read, but it's especially for folks who are new to the sport. If you're not sure what it's all about then read on.




WELCOME TO THIRSTY THURSDAY!!
Grab a cup of coffee or tea, sit back and take it all in.

Geocaching (geo-cashing); what is this new sport that is becoming one of the best outdoor sports around. Geo, which means “earth” and cache, which means “a place where items are stored or hidden”, when combined together means “to hide something in the earth.”

In the old days items such as money or treasures were hidden in the earth to keep them from being found by unwanted people. Today, treasures, or “caches” as they are known, are hidden with the intent of being found by other people. The only catch is that you have to have the coordinates to get you to where the cache is located. And, not only do you need the coordinates it is to your advantage to have a GPS (Global Positioning System) receiver to help you get to those coordinates.




Once the coordinates are entered into the GPS you follow them to what is called “Ground Zero” (GZ). This is where the fun begins.

Let’s look at how the cache ended up being hidden in the first place. A Geocacher, one who plays this scavenger hunt, has to hide the cache. This is not an easy task. They first have to find a suitable place for the cache to be hidden. This could be on public or private land, and needs to be done with the land owner’s permission. The cache location could be in a log, under some rocks, in a tree, in a stone wall, or just about anywhere. Once the spot is found the Geocacher takes several coordinates with his GPS and records them. These are averaged out to get a more accurate reading. Once this is done the coordinates are then marked for later entry on the web site Geocaching.com, which is the most widely used Geocaching site. We’ll talk more about them later in the article.

So the Geocacher has a place to hide the cache. Now he must determine what size of cache container to use. There are several sizes of containers that are used. They are Micro, Small, Medium, Large, and Extra Large.










Bottle Cap Micro Cache

                                                                 Medium Cache

Large Cache

A Micro cache could be as small as a bottle cap, bolt or film canister, and usually only contains a log sheet to be signed by the person who finds it. A Small cache could be the size of a magnetic key holder or a small Rubbermaid container that could hold a log sheet and about a cup or two of contents. The Medium, Large, and Extra Large containers are usually Army Ammo cans of varying sizes, or Lock-n-Lock containers that can hold not only a log book, but they will contain different trade items (SWAG-Stuff We All Get) left by other Geocachers. The idea behind SWAG is that if you take something out of a cache you need to put something back in.

BEANIE BABIES SWAG

 The main requirement for a cache container is that it must be waterproof. If it is not then the logbook and SWAG could get wet, and no Geocacher wants to find wet or soggy stuff.

Next he needs to figure out how to disguise the cache so that it’s not as easy to find. If it is too easy then it is not as much fun. For our example we’ll use a small 2 cup Lock-n-Lock container that has an air tight seal. In it we will put a logbook and some SWAG, which might be a matchbox car, a rubber ball, a pair of dice, a keychain, a watch you’ve been waiting to get rid of that works but is the wrong color, and a Travel Bug (more on these later). Then he takes the cache out to the planned hiding spot, which for our purpose will be in some rocks. Now he puts the cache container in among the rocks, and then he covers it with more rocks. He wants it to look as natural as can be. Now off to the computer to get it published.


So the cache is hidden, and the coordinates marked. Now it just needs to be logged on Geocaching.com. Once their permission is given, and it has been reviewed, it can be published to the World Wide Web for all Geocachers to search for. Each and every cache has its own page associated to it. It lists the coordinates, historical information, and clues or hints to find it. There is also a log of all past Geocachers and whether they have found it or not. This is also where we will log it if we find it.

Geocaching.com is just one of the sites where caches can be listed, but they are by far the largest web site around for Geocaching, and the Basic Membership is free unless you want to purchase a Premium Membership. On this site you can learn just about everything you want to know about the sport. They cover where the caches are located, how to hunt for them, how to log them, how to hide them, and they even have articles on buying and using a GPS. If you’re looking for any information about Geocaching then this is the place to start.

Note: only members of Geocaching.com can hide caches that they then publish to their web site.

Now lets look for a cache. First we log onto Geocaching.com and type in our zip code. From there we look at caches that are hidden near our location. Once we have chosen a cache we download the coordinates into our GPS and off we go.



After a short drive we arrive at the parking area. Here we get out and begin our journey. Our walk or hike to Ground Zero (GZ) could be just a few yards, or it could be several hundred yards. Only time will tell. We follow our GPS headings to GZ and let the fun begin. We start by looking around right at GZ. We look high, we look low, and we look under and inside. We also take into account any clues or hints we picked up from the cache page. Let’s say our hint was “Don’t be stumped.” This would mean we need to look inside, or around, any stumps near GZ. Ah, there is a stump right in front of us. Upon further investigation inside of the stump we find the cache. We open it up and take out the logbook and sign it. Then we look through the SWAG. We decide to take the Travel Bug (TB). We then place the cache right back in the stump and leave it just as we found it so that the next Geocacher can have just as much fun finding it as we did.

When we are done caching for the day we go back home to the computer and back to the cache page.

There we log the cache as “Found”. Always be sure to put your adventures in the log and tell the owner how much fun you had. If you did not find a cache then be sure to log it as “Did Not Find” (DNF).










Then we search out the Travel Bug. A TB or Geocoin (GC) is an item that has been placed in a cache by another Geocacher. It is trackable on Geocaching.com through the unique trackable number on its tag or in the case of a GC the number is engraved right on it.

                                                                  Nocturnal Hunter Geocoin              
                                                                    
                               
                                                                          Scamper Travel Bug

TBs and GCs also have their own pages. They tell you all about the item such as what goal it has, how far it has traveled since it was released, and who the owner is. The TB or GC can also be logged into your account. This is one nice feature of using Geocaching.com. All of your “finds” are automatically numbered, and kept up to date, once they are logged in. Just be sure to take your TB or GC with you the next time you go out and drop it off in another cache so that it will continue to travel along on its mission.

Well we found the cache, took a TB and logged our finds. Now it’s time to move onto another cache. That’s the beauty of Geocaching, there’s always another cache to be found or a new place to hide one.

Happy Caching!

___________________________________________________________

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Why Not Wednesday ~ The Trouble with Trackables

DctrSpott and Boltzmann the geodog 
I've got a beef.

Anyone who has been caching for more than a week has surely run across some sort of trackable, usually a geocoin or a travel bug. I remember my first geocoin run in: I was thrilled by the shiny, round object, originating from France, and having made it all the way to Bloodhounded's Grace Chapel Cache. Since then, trackables might be my FAVORITE part of geocaching: I bought several, have tried to retrieve them from wherever possible, and even brought some caching around the world. I giddily brought half a dozen to California with me in March, and had brought 3 others to Jamaica with me almost a year ago. I still check them from time to time, my favorite made it's way to Germany and is now traveling back to the states.

So, I bought several trackables, and even was gifted some, and thought I'd enjoy monitoring their progress around the world. Out of 6 trackables, 4 have since completely disappear, and one is sitting in a disabled cache, each having traveled less than 100 km before doing so! Imagine my frustration. One lucky coin made it's way to Cachepalooza 5, and is now floating around Germany, having traveled over 10000 km. So, I suppose there is that.

Trackable woes have been a problem for cachers since before I even entered the game. The main three causes are muggled caches disappearing, taking their contents with them, new cachers not understanding how trackables work, and older cachers retiring from the game, taking their trackable inventory with them. People have griped and tried for a while to combat these three problems, with little success. The forums even have a trackable ambassador, who threatens trackable hoarders with the banhammer. The problem here is that the trackables are disappearing because the player leaves the game... threats of being banned from the game don't really have much effect on those who no longer want to play.


I have a couple techniques to try to prevent trackables from going missingTry to place trackables in premium caches. It seems unfair, to bias the paying players. But, at the same time, it makes sense: cachers who pay to play know how the game works. Those who pay their annual dues aren't likely to drop out, and they've probably been around the block a bit. All in all, premium caches are a safe bet. This being said, most of us won't wait to find a premium cache to drop a TB, and it's going to be difficult to find a premium that matches the trackables desired destination. Still, premiums are a safe bet.

Similarly, I try to make sure my trackables always end up in higher-difficultly caches. There is a tradeoff here: higher difficultly caches have lower visit rates. This being said, the visitors to these caches tend to be more seasoned; it's rarely the n00bs that venture out to grab that 10-mile hike cache. I find this preferable: I'd rather see my trackable hit infrequently, but stay in the game for a long time, then to get a couple hits and then disappear in the span of a few weeks. I imagine many cachers share this sentiment. Remember, geocaching is a long game, played on the scale of months and years, not that of days and weeks.

On that note, I also like to bring the value back in trackables. Just like the topic of "quality caches" that often comes up on cachecrazy, I like trackables to be something you earn, something worth the difficulty of venturing out and grabbing that challenging cache. By making trackables not a commonplace toy that shows up in every cache, but travelers that only grace the highest quality of cache, they'll remain an interesting, high quality, and (hopefully best of all) a permanent and non-disappearing part of the game.

But, off my soapbox. What is your opinion on trackables? Have any cool experiences? Let me know in the comments!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Save Your Pennies TB

This is one of the craziest stories I have ever heard! Kim bring you the whole story from her post on February 11th, 2012 on the one and only Snug Harbor Bay! You're going to love this....... 


My "Save Your Pennies" TB is charging across Europe and it's really fun to watch it move from country to country.

This TB has an interesting history so far.  We initially released this TB on Jan. 14, 2010 in cache GC22W1P. A week later, on Jan. 22, 2010, we were caching and found GC15CW9.  Imagine our surprise when we opened the cache and found our own TB?  We snatched it up, travelled around with it and then dropped it into another cache on Feb. 17, 2010.   From there, it got passed from cacher to cache until August 11, 2010 when it got dropped into GC1FAQE in Wisconsin. 

Then it disappeared.  We didn't hear another thing about this TB for over 5 months.  On Jan. 15, 2011 we were at a Geocaching breakfast event  GC2FJGY which was back in Illinois.  I was picking through the TB's on the TB table and I almost fell off my chair when I saw my "Save Your Pennies" TB.  How the heck did it get there?  We took a picture with it and then placed it back on the TB table for it to continue on its journey.

It got picked up by another cacher and traveled around Illinois again until June 6, 2011, when it was placed into another event cache, GC2QDDM.  There it was picked up by cacher Dutchlandian, who was headed to the Netherlands.  On June 15, 2011, my TB landed at GC2NQH0 in The Netherlands.

Since then, it's traveled with various geocachers to Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg, France, back to Belgium, and Hungary.  For over a month now a caching team by the name of Paleoteam has been caching in Belgium, Germany, France, and now Hungary.  They have been kindly dipping it into many caches along the way.  The latest was GC3C873 and Paleoteam was the FTF (first to find) on the cache.  I bet they loved that!

So far my TB has traveled over 7700 miles and is getting a wild tour of Europe.  I love going to some of the cache pages that it's visited and reading about places I'll probably never get to see in person.  It's kind of fun to think about all these great geocachers who are taking the time to move my little TB all over the place. 

Here's a couple of the pictures that have been posted for my TB...




I hope this little TB keeps travelling around and visiting all kinds of neat places.  What a fun journey.



Monday, July 21, 2014

Geocaching Road Trip! With Miragee......Let's go!


The decision to make the trip to Lakewood was made very quickly, with little lead time. However, I downloaded Pocket Queries for several areas across Arizona, Southern Utah, and Southwestern Colorado, as well as a circle centered in Lakewood. So, with GSAK on my laptop all loaded with fresh data, I was ready to go . . . just as soon as I got new tires. My old ones were measuring in the red when the man from Discount Tire checked them for me.


When I went down to have the tires checked that Thursday afternoon, I filled the tank. Now, on my way out of town, I was shocked to see that in less than 12 hours, gas had gone up another ten cents. I sure hoped gas would be less expensive along the way, and I was very, very grateful my sister was going to help me pay for the gas.

The reason for the trip was to help my mother clean and organize her apartment. She is 90 years old now. As I drove down I-8, I was very lost in thought about her future -- and my own -- when a car passed me on the left. An arm was waving a GPSr out the window of the vehicle as it went by.

I shook myself of of my thought daze and caught up to the vehicle to see that the arm belonged to $kimmer. She was with The Vulture and said the Splashes were up ahead. They were on their way to "Dateland," the first cache I had planned on stopping for.

We pulled into the parking at the famous Date Shake Shop and proceeded to tell the people sitting near the cache location we were on a "Scavenger Hunt" as we looked for the micro. Splashman made the grab and my name was added to the logbook.

From there, the five of us headed down the highway where we found two more caches. At the last one, Splashman pulled into the third parking spot from the end, The Vulture pulled into the next one, and almost simultaneously, I pulled into the last spot. It was precision parking at its best.

After finding that cache, we parted company. They were headed up to Phoenix for a weekend of caching. I was headed somewhere to camp for the night.

As usual, I hadn't planned where I would spend the night -- I'm almost incapable of planning, except when it comes to the preparation necessary for Geocaching -- so I didn't know where I was going. Fortunately, I found some BLM land not too far from the road to Mobile and set up my tent there where I saw a nice Arizona sunset.

The next morning I headed northeast. Once again I really didn't know exactly which highway I wanted to take, so I just followed the GPSr arrow to a couple of cache sites. The first two I tried to find . . . I couldn't, so I went in a Goodwill store and got a "treasure" there before finally hitting the highway again.
The road climbed up past Saguaro cactus and finally into Pinyon and Junipers, the habitat Edward Abbey referred to as the "pygmy forest," and finally up into cool, wonderful pines. I found a few caches in the "Rim Country" where there were signs warning about elk crossing the highway. I didn't see any elk, but late in the day, and I headed towards Canyon de Chelly National Park, I saw a mountain lion run across the road and up the steep embankment. That was exciting!

I loved the town of Holbrook, AZ, and even turned around and drove back over the bridge to take a picture of an amazing sculture at the entrance to the town.

I also took a picture of this great mural.


From Holbrook, I headed to the "Painted Desert" Virtual cache where I tried to photograph the amazing landscape.


I got to a campsite at dusk, which was the same time I found my campsite the night before. In the sheltered area of the campground, the wind was calm, so I set up my tent and went to sleep beneath tall cottonwood trees that were just beginning to show new spring leaves.
______________________________________________________________

This post was written by Miragee from her personal blog Musing About Geocaching. You'll find a lot of great articles and awesome adventures there. Karen is a regular contributor to CacheCrazy.Com.


Thank you!
BH

Friday, July 18, 2014

Confessions Of An FTF Hound - By: Smithie23

Back in September 2009 I was new to Geocaching. It had been less than two months since I logged my first cache, and I was learning the ropes, in regards to receiving mobile and e-mail notifications on things such as new caches, caches found, etc. I would read countless articles, on the Groundspeak forums, about cachers and their adventures. Some were claiming a milestone FTF (maybe 50, 100 or even more) while others had multiple FTF’s in one day. I didn’t think much of it. Big deal, you were first.

One Friday night, I received a text alert. The Enjoy, Enjoy Northeast Pennsylvania series had been published. For those unfamiliar with the series, NEPAG published a themed series of caches in honor of Manny Gordon, who recently passed away. There was to be a cache placed in each county as a tribute. It’s a great series, and I recommend checking it out. Anyways, I saw the Luzerne County cache was placed in theNescopeck State Park, a 20 minute drive from home. I decided to head out the next morning and try for the FTF.

The hike to the cache was not unlike others I had made, but as I approached GZ, say in the last 1500 feet or so, a different sense of excitement started to kick in. Maybe the FTF Hounds on the Groundspeak forums are right. Maybe there is something to being first. I found the cache after a little bit of searching, as I was only using myHTC smart phone at the time- it wouldn’t be until shortly after I found this one that my Delorme PN-40 arrived. There was only one thing left after actually finding the cache. Had anyone logged the cache prior to me? To my delight, there it was, an empty logsheet! FTF success!

Photo by Stellascapes
Since then, I’ve logged twelve more FTF’s. Most I’ve acquired by luck. I’ve been in the right place at the right time. I’ve only had one or two where I said to myself “No one has found this one yet?” I can credit a lot of that luck to having a job which has liberal policies regarding work hours and lunchtime. I can also take several different routes to work, which allows me to cover more ground.

I primarily cache Pennsylvania and New Jersey. The NEPA FTF hounds and the Sussex County FTF Hounds each have their own redeeming qualities. A lot of the newly published caches in NEPA are found AND logged before one can even say “Honey, I have to run to the store quick.” The new caches in New Jersey can go either way. Some could sit for two to three days before being found. Others are found quickly, but logged a day, or even two, after the fact.

Photo by Stellarscapes
My favorite FTF, to date, isGC2BT8Y- I DOUBLE DOG DARE YOU! This was a group FTF, and was quite the adventure.

In any event, I find an added excitement to the game, when hunting down an FTF. Not that I’ve done it before, but I would imagine it’s a similar feeling to powercaching. Not only are you trying to make the find, but you get that feeling your back is against the wall, that you’re trying to beat the clock. 

"If you ain't first, you're last!"
All things considered, and almost two years later, here is my take on the FTF debate:                                 

• Geocaching is what you make of it. There are many, many different aspects to it, and most, if not all, are very subjective. The FTF hunt is no different.

• There are caches out there with thousands of logs-but someone had to have the first one.

• Want to meet a fellow geocacher? Hunt down an FTF. On several of my FTF’s I met up with a fellow cacher, either going to or coming from the cache site, or stumbled upon him/her while on the hunt. (BTW, always offer to share in the FTF, especially if you’re about to make the find. The other guy will appreciate it. Remember, no one really keeps track of this stuff.)

• Wanting to claim every FTF is a major sign of being obsessed with Geocaching. Seek help immediately, or just go find the cache.

Photo by Shoob & Sheeb


Sounds to me like smithie23 is CACHE CRAZY! 
Photo by Shoob & Sheeb
Thanks for sharing an aspect of the game that many of us consider a treat but few of us actually set out to "get it"! Well, maybe more of us than we would like to admit. Are you an FTF HOUND?






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