Friday, February 29, 2008

Caching with Munchkins

In my last post I talked about caching with others. I’ll take that one step further and talk about caching with the younger set. Caching with children takes on an entirely different mindset than caching with adults. First off, they are not mini-adults and we should not expect the same level of patience that most adults have, although I would suggest that some children have infinitely more patience than some adults, but that’s an entirely different story. The key to caching with kids is to not over do it. Find a hike and make it a short one. Hopefully, there will be more than just one cache along the hike. That was very difficult to do when I first started geocaching back in 2001. There weren’t many caches around and they were mostly hikes and long hikes at that. We found our spots to go caching. Now, it should be much easier for cachers to find hikes that have several treasure chests along the way that the kids can help find and enjoy. It makes the hike not seem as long if there are things to do besides just walking.

When my kids want to come along and cache, I’ll usually end up caching with one or the other of my children, or sometimes pairs of them. But, I have cached with all three of my children together only once. I think once was enough for my then 12 year old daughter. She really didn’t have much of a say so in the matter because we were on a camping trip in Utah and I had decided that we really needed to find a cache in another state, “just because.” She went along for the ride, but really didn’t enjoy the caching aspect of it much. She’s never been a cacher, however, she tolerates me caching for short periods of time when we’re driving down or back up to her school. We actually play a game as we drive around town. I’ll point out a spot, “Hey, you know there’s a cache right over there.” She’ll retort back, “Did you find it?” Most of the time, the answer is yes, but one time I answered no and she insisted that we stop so Daddy could find a cache that had eluded him in the past.

My middle son cached with me from the very beginning, but eventually over the course of the years, decided that it wasn’t his thing. On another trip to Utah, we cached along a route, (before there were route queries) and found 7 or 8 caches. He said he wasn’t feeling well, so we went back to camp and then my youngest and I went back out and found three or four more. I don’t believe the middle child has been caching with me since. In fact, he calls caching “one of the dorky things Dad does in his spare time.” One thing I’ve learned from being around him is you have to have a thick skin because he’s going to call it like he sees it.

My youngest is my cacher. While the other two have been out with Dad caching, he’s the only one who seemingly has gotten the spark and passion of using billion dollar satellites to find pieces of Tupperware in the woods. He’s cached with me ever since I started caching. The second cache we ever found was a hike of two miles (one way), he drank all of his water on the first leg of the hike. We found the cache, traded our stuff and then started to hike back to the car. Needless to say, the water had gone through him quite quickly and he started to cry because there wasn’t a bathroom around for miles. It was then he learned one of the great blessings about being a male: the world can be your bathroom. Most of the rest of the hike, he kept exclaiming, “I can’t believe you let me pee into a bush Dad.” Almost 7 years later, he thinks nothing of going out in the wilderness if he has to go.

The fun thing about caching with kids is the wonderment they get when they either spy the cache, or when it’s opened and all the treasures are revealed to them. A friend of mine asked me if we wouldn’t mind taking him and his two young sons geocaching. We settled on a date and my youngest and my friend’s clan hiked up along a trail near my house to one of my caches. I knew it would be a good cache to whet their appetites because it had a lot of kids’ toys in it. You would have thought it was Christmas when they opened that cache up. Unfortunately, they haven’t been out caching since, but they might in the future. They enjoyed themselves and it’s probably just a matter of time before they might start bugging their dad again to go out on a hike to find some treasures.

I don’t cache all the time with my son, but we definitely have our moments. He and I both like to cache during the summertime on our camping trips. Last summer we found 43 caches on a camping trip to Flagstaff, AZ and the Grand Canyon. This summer we’ll be heading up to the north coast of California into Redwoods National Park for some camping and caching, but we might not find as many. My daughter is coming with us. But she’s an adult now, so she might find it nice just to stay in the campground and rest while her dad and kid brother go out and do that geocaching thing. Then again, she may surprise us. After all, she did make me stop to find that one cache.

Pictures were taken at or near the following geocaches:

WD's Original - by sbell111
Old Frat Cache - by jeff_jones_86044
ONT Travel Bug Ground Control - by Crims0ngh0st & AcjLady
Plank's Resting Place - by ookami adopted by BootyBuddies
Bad Swag - The Travel Bug Starter - by Webfoot

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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Using GSAK Polygon Filters

Finally, the last episode in the adventures of GSAK line, arc, and polygon filters! Since we've already covered lines and arcs, that would leave . . . . POLYGONS! If you were paying attention during Geometry class, you know that a polygon is is a plane figure that is bounded by a closed path or circuit, composed of a finite sequence of straight line segments (i.e., by a closed polygonal chain). These segments are called its edges or sides, and the points where two edges meet are the polygon's vertices or corners. The interior of the polygon is called its body. Also, in a simple polygon, the boundary of the polygon does not cross itself.

You did remember that, right? Right?? Oh, well, even if you didn't, I'm sure you have the idea. A triangle is a simple polygon. So is a square. So is that hexagonal stop sign at the street corner. Unlike those examples, which are all convex and often equilateral, a GSAK polygon can be any shape as long as it is simple (no crossing edges), and each of its sides can be any length.

This filter will select all of the waypoints that are contained INSIDE a closed polygon. You can have as many sides to the polygon as you wish. To keep the example simple, I will just take the route I used in the previous example, and turn it into a closed polygon by connecting my last Rockford lat/long to my initial Schaumburg lat/long. There are two important things you have to remember about polygons. First, just like with a route, the lat/long pairs have to appear in order as you make your way around the polygon (but it doesn’t matter what your starting point is). Second, the LAST lat/long in your polygon definition has to be the same as your FIRST – that is, you have to CLOSE the polygon. Notice in the following filter that the first and last lat/long pairs are the same, and also that the box for specifying distance is no longer available.

Here’s the map, showing the closed polygon, and all the caches contained inside that area.

Finally, one other option that wasn’t discussed earlier is the “Exclude” option on the Arc/Poly tab. If you check this box, it basically reverses the filter – select all waypoints that are NOT within “x” miles of these points, select all waypoints that are NOT within “x” miles of this line/arc, select all waypoints that are NOT contained inside this polygon. Go back and take a look at the original map showing ALL of the northern Illinois waypoints. Using the same polygon filter as in our last example, but specifying “Exclude”, we get a result like the next map. See the big empty area inside the polygon?

The "Exclude" option works just as well with points, lines, and arcs -- that is, you can find everything that is NOT within 5 miles of a point (for example), or NOT within 2.5 miles of a route. You're limited only by your imagination!

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Monday, February 25, 2008

Group Caching or Going it Alone?

In the main forum a question was posted about how many caches have you found in one day. I gave a three part answer.

With a group? 37
With one other person? 31
By myself? 26

Obviously, I do a little of all three types of caching. I think the largest group I went with was following an event where there was a FTF available nearby. Several car loads of people decided to head over there and give it a group effort, especially since several people at the event had already come up empty earlier in the day. We ended up finding the cache, but it took close to a half an hour to come up with this well conceived cache. I’m sure the owner was loving every minute of it, since he and his wife were both there watching the entire process play out in the dwindling twilight of a cool summer’s evening.

Most of the group caching that I’ve done is more on the order of three or four people. There were four people in our group the day that I found my personal best of 37 caches. It was an interesting day, starting out in the morning going after several puzzle caches and some other larger caches. We had decided the area where we were going and each of us independently of the others had solved a puzzle or two, and so we drove around getting the puzzles first, actually bypassing some caches to make sure each person in the group got to find the puzzle they’d solved. After lunch, it became a numbers run to see how many we could get before we ran out of energy. The 37th cache actually became a milestone number for me as well, #900. I wasn’t actually planning on getting that many that particular day, in fact, I would be willing to bet that everyone in the group was surprised by the number that we got. The point is we had fun.

Most of the time, when I get larger numbers like that, it’s usually because I’m caching with one other friend. The particular run where I found 31 caches was a very quick run, done in about three hours on a Saturday in July. I’m sure we probably could have done a lot more as it was a pure numbers run, but I hadn’t slept well the night before, my PDA had died on me that morning, so I was taking notes longhand and hand inputting coordinates into the GPS. Trying to keep track of all the caches we’d found without the use of my PDA was a logistical nightmare. I was absolutely exhausted after the day was over. I’m pretty sure I slept well that night though. I had fun that day, especially since I was with my friend and so we shared jokes along the way, but it’s not something that I’d care to repeat. 31 caches would be cool, don’t get me wrong, but I’d just like to stretch those 31 caches out over a little longer period of time.

The 26 cache day when I was by myself, was on my roadtrip last weekend. Most of the caches were easy finds, not taking too long. Most were of the larger size, there were a few micros thrown in, but for the most part, they were smalls or larger, so the finding was a little bit easier as well. This was an incredibly enjoyable day. The scenery was great, the infamous snake incident occurred during this cache run and there wasn’t any set agenda or time frame that I was stuck with, outside of darkness. It was a fun day.

I guess my point to all of this is that caching can come in many forms. Group caching has its own dynamics which are entirely different than when you’re by yourself or only with one other person. I can remember one group caching effort, my first actually, where I was ready to go home after our first ten caches found. I’d never cached for more than 8 to 10 caches and I had had a great day and was ready to call it quits. My friends convinced me to come along for the rest of the afternoon and I’m glad I did. We found 10 more caches, two after dark, so I’d discovered another interesting aspect to caching on that group run – night caching.

The planning probably takes a bit more time when you’re going out with someone else, but the benefits of having a partner that shares your passion of caching, that helps you out when there are muggles around and is just there to share stories with you and laughs at your jokes is really priceless. Sometimes going alone is fine, but I’ve found that my most enjoyable times were when I was caching with someone else.

Pictures were taken at or near the following geocaches:

Curiouser and Curiouser - by Terra Girl, Bean Dog, and my faithful sherpa Max
Walt Disney Concert Hall - by EMC of Northridge, CA
Mid-State Parking - by General Grant & The Mad Dog
Sunset Crater - by wolfb8 (libby)
SwitchBACK! - by WestwardHo

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Friday, February 22, 2008

1000 words

If you’ve been paying attention at all, it’s rather obvious that I like to take pictures. When I go caching, I like to take my camera along. I don’t necessarily use it all the time, but I like to have it just in case. Sometimes, I get burned, when I’ve seen something especially cool, but don’t have the camera. I’ve even lamented about not having the camera along in a couple of logs.

As noted in another post, I’ll use my camera to cause a distraction in case muggles are paying close attention to me. But even though I’m using it as a distraction, I’m always thinking about how the picture could be used in the log that I’ll write about the cache find. Sometimes, the picture itself, will help tell the story of the cache find, and other times, the picture is there just because of something I saw, that I might not mention in the story, but thought it might make a nice looking shot.

When I first started caching, I had a 35mm camera so I most of the time I would only take the camera along when I knew I was going to end a roll of film and get them developed quickly after that. Then I had to scan the pictures and then upload them. I have a grand total of 5 pictures in my caching gallery that are pre-digital. Since going digital in late 2002, I have taken quite a few pictures. Some, as I looked through the gallery in anticipation of this article, made me think, whatdafuh was I thinking when I took that picture? Others, I’ve gotten lucky to be in the right place at the right time and others I’ve worked exceedingly hard to get the right shot. It’s probably like that with any photographer.

I’d wanted to go digital for awhile before actually getting my first digital camera, but I know one of the reasons I finally made the plunge was locationless caches. Locationless, or reverse caches are those caches where you had to find something, a specific object somewhere in the world, and then log it on the cache page. relates it to a scavenger hunt and has since discontinued them, moving them over to Locationless caches usually involved taking a picture and uploading it with your log. Without a digital camera, it would be very hard to log a locationless cache, so that sort of pushed me over the edge into the digital camp. I now have almost 600 pictures taken digitally that I’ve posted in many of my logs.

Pictures enhance logs, in my opinion. It would probably be possible to take a picture at every cache you found, but that might prove to be impractical, unless you wanted to post spoiler pictures for every lamppost cache that you found. I’m sure cache owners wouldn’t be too pleased with that. I found when I take pictures, there are some times that I just hit delete when I get home. I took a lot of pictures on my road trip and when I got home and looked at some of them, I thought to myself, Eh, that one really doesn’t need to be posted. So it got deleted. And that’s ok. As I noted above, I really should have deleted some of the ones that I actually did post.

Sometimes when I take pictures on caching trips, it’s for the historical nature of the area. Most of the photos on the road trip fell into this category. Other times, the flora and fauna are just too spectacular to pass up. I’ll see some flowers and then get on a roll and it seems like that’s all I have are flowers. Other times it will seem like all I have are little scurrying creatures of some sort. Sometimes the pictures bring a bit of whimsy to my life and so I want to share them with others who read the logs. And of course, many pictures help tell the story.

A picture really is worth a 1000 words. Right now I’m averaging 114 words per log according to INATN. I can’t imagine how long my logs would be if I hadn’t brought my camera along for the ride.

Pictures were taken at or near the following geocaches:

Hofert's Walls #1 - by bookishblondie and LegoIan
Carpe Diem! - by HaZzMaTt
Bridge of Sighs - by TRUROKR
Walk of Fame - by Dru Morgan
A Slanted View with a Gentle Breeze - by TheDeviousMaxPower

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Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Road Trip, the Finale

Now that all the logs have been written, it’s time to do a recap on the road trip from this past weekend. All in all, I’d say it was a successful trip, one that had a couple of surprises, and some interesting caches mixed in with the standard fare that one normally finds when out caching.

I got off to an early start on Saturday morning, but it didn’t really help me much because of a major accident on I-5 right at Gorman at the start of my PQ. That caused a major slowdown as the freeway was shut down to one lane going in my direction. I’d intended on bypassing those caches near there in the hopes of getting up to the Central Valley as quickly as I could, but the delay just ate into my time, and plans started being altered as I drove.

Once I got off of I-5 south of Coalinga, I worked my way up there getting a couple of caches along the way. The area is pretty rural and thus pretty bereft of a lot of caches, but I got a few on the way. I was hoping to be in Coalinga around ten in the morning, but didn’t get there until noon. After a quick stop for lunch, I had a major decision to make: make the run into San Benito County, or skip it so I could get up and see my daughter in Stockton. San Benito beckoned and I started that way, only to turn around when I found myself behind a truck on a road where there wasn’t going to be any turnouts or passing lanes. So I came back, cut over to the Interstate and headed north to Stockton. I ended up getting 9 caches that day, because the cut off didn’t have any caches on it and I really wanted to see my daughter. The rest of the day was spent enjoying the company of college students.

Sunday, was another type of day. I got some caching done in the morning, then went over to the university to bid farewell to my daughter, then headed north to Sacramento. The goals for the trip were as follows:

Find caches in 6 new counties – I got five counties, missing San Benito.
Have fun – that was a definite.
Get at least one cache for each year I’d been alive. After getting only 9 on the first day, that one seemed a little harder to achieve since I had miles to go and caches to find to get to fifty.

Soon after getting to Sacramento, I turned east toward Gold Country and the foothills of the Sierra Nevada. As I left the Sacramento area, the first new county I encountered was Amador County, the only county in the entire state of California that I'd never traveled in before so I now have been in every county in California. I cached all the way down Highway 49 to Mariposa where I spent the night. Mariposa is one of the gateway communities leading into Yosemite National Park. The area is filled with historical markers recounting the Gold Rush era of California, plus spectacular scenery mixed in for good measure. The most memorable cache I found on that day would be the Altaville School House cache, not for the cache, but for the experience.

When I found the cache, it was buried under a rock and some leaves, so I removed the rock and brushed away the leaves. At that point I thought that the cache must be loaded with swag because the cacher before me had left one of the toys on top of the cache. So I picked up the cache with one hand and removed the rubber snake with the other hand. It was at that point that I realized that I had a freakin’ live snake in my hand, which I quickly dropped. As I watched it slowly slither away, I’m not sure what I was thinking but it probably had the “S” word involved in it attached to the word Holy. Anyway, Sunday’s total of 26 caches found, gave me reason to believe that I could make my third goal of 50 caches.

Monday morning broke bright and cold at 36 degrees. I drove back down out of the foothills toward Merced, once again caching along the way and then headed home through the Central Valley. I got one new county (Mariposa) on Monday, added to Sacramento, Amador, Calaveras and Tuolomne Counties on Sunday for 5 new counties added to my county map. I’m now two short of the halfway mark. The two maps show the before and after for the counties. Alpine County is no longer an island out there and there’s only that one hole of San Benito County which will be fixed on a later trip. For a more detailed look of my cache finds, you can click on this link.

As I made my way down toward home, I’d stop every half an hour or so to get a cache near the freeway. I was also on the lookout for special caches, mainly puzzles or intriguing virtuals that I wanted to do. At the end of the day, I took stock and found that I had found 16 caches on Monday, bringing the grand total found to 51, one for each year, plus one extra for good luck.

I found 35 traditional caches. 9 virtual caches and 7 mystery caches, five of which were TRAKD’s county line series of caches. The series is an interesting way to learn a little bit about the history of each county in California. They’re all on the borders of counties. I had solved six of them, but couldn’t get to one, because of the direction I was headed at the time along with the amount of traffic on the road. Perhaps, some other trip, I’ll get that one. It was a fun trip, one that I know I will do again with new twists. My only question really is now; when can I go again?

Pictures were taken at or near the following geocaches:

Plane View #2 - by tmkbk & olymbicwannabe
Argonaut and Kennedy Mines - by whitetail39&travler13

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Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Using GSAK Arc Filters - Part II

Ready for a more complicated route? I’m going to travel from Schaumburg, to Downers Grove, DeKalb, Aurora, Rochelle, and Rockford, and I want to find all the caches that are within 2 miles of my route. I’ll use Maporama again to get my lat/long coordinates that I need. Here’s what my route looks like.

And here’s what the GSAK filter looks like:

Notice that you have to list the coordinates in the filter in the order they will occur on the route! When I apply that filter, I get 197 waypoints, which are plotted on the next map.

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Monday, February 11, 2008

Road Trip Part II

Now that the route queries have been set, the puzzles have been solved and the reservations made for the first night’s stay in Stockton, the next step for this would be to make some travel bug and geocoin grabs. The nice thing about the area that I live in is there are two nice travel bug hotels close by. The Ontario Bug Hotel is to the east of me and close to where I work, which makes it easy to stop by and get some bugs. I just found the Kellogg Hill TB Hotel - Just up from "My Town" a week ago or so. It’s a rather audacious hide to say the least, whereas the Ontario Bug Hotel, is a more subtle hide, making it a much easier grab.

My last road trip, I took a travel bug and a geocoin from the Ontario Hotel to take north with me. I left both in the Fresno TB Convention Center, one that I’ve used several times as I travel north and south along Highway 99 through the Central Valley of California. I’ll probably use that as a last resort this time, not that it’s a bad hide or anything, but I hope to find some larger sized caches on this trip and hopefully will have dropped all of the travel bugs I have in my possession by the time I get there, although, Bright Idea might be tough to drop. I’m going to need a larger container for that one.

That’s what’s nice about geocoins. At least they’re small and compact. Most geocoins can fit into small Altoids containers, which makes them easier to drop in a cache than say something like Cindy, the Cinderblock mentioned in another post last month. After hitting a couple of caches in the last couple of days and attending an event on Sunday evening, I now have enough to keep me busy dropping off next weekend. The ones that are going traveling with me are listed below.

Bright Idea
England Needs Geocachers Geocoin – this one is a non-trackable geocoin, with a travel
bug tag attached to it.

Yellow Fish
Team Ace Personal Geocoin

"Yantongshan, China" Unite for Diabetes Travel Bug – Funny, but I had this one late last year and placed it in a cache on New Year’s Day, only to find it in another cache. I guess it’s meant to be for me to take this one north.
Robin's Wildlife Muggles Red Wacker Geocoin
frotu33's Humane Society Geocoin
RShetley's WMA Vest Geocoin - I met the owner of this coin at the event on Sunday and realized that I've known his dad for about 20 years or so, as he teaches in the school district just north of me. Small World.
Nickell Geocoin
Proximity Guideline Geocoin – I was given this geocoin by the owner to take north with me.
Photogal64's Jailbreak Geocoin

All will get some nice mileage bumps before their final placement. I also know of a couple of caches in the Coalinga area that I’ll be traveling by that have some geocoins dropped by a friend of mine. I plan on grabbing those and moving them further north to other caches.

The one drawback to taking geocoins and travel bugs on a trip like this is the possibility that they’ll get taken from a cache before I’ve had a chance to log them into the cache in the first place. Once on a camping/caching trip to Utah, I attached little notes to each travel bug that I dropped saying that if they were picked up, please wait until such and such a date so I could successfully log them once we got back from our camping trip. One person didn’t heed that advice, while two others did. The one person who didn’t follow the note, dropped the travel bug into the cache that I’d put it in anyway, so it still got the mileage credit which was my purpose for the notes in the first place.

This time, I’ll probably be taking a lap top with me, to make my logs at the end of each day and possibly post something here as well on a nightly basis. Hopefully, there will be some hot WiFi spots that I can take advantage of from my motel room, so I’ll be able to log the day’s finds. I know there’s a hot spot at my first night’s stay, but I’ll be staying in a new place on the second night and so won’t really know until I get there. I guess, I’ll just have to play that one by ear.

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Saturday, February 9, 2008

Using GSAK Arc Filters - Part I

Enough of Webby's warm and fuzzy stories! Let's get geeky again!

Just a short time ago, I explained the basics of using a GSAK point filter and then extended that to including multiple points in a filter. With a few clicks of the mouse, it's easy to move on to an arc filter -- similar to's "caches along a route", but working from your offline GSAK database. (In fact, before introduce the oft-requested "caches along a route", this was pretty much the only way you could do it.)

We’ll start with a real simple one. You notice that the two points I used before in Schaumburg and Lombard have a north-south road that nearly connects them. For the sake of this example, let’s assume that I plan to travel on that road, and as I travel from Schaumburg to Lombard, I’m willing to go about 1-1/2 mile off my route to find a cache. So this example is very simple. In the filter, I will select “Arc/Line” instead of “Points”, and will limit my distance to 1-1/2 miles.This gives me 44 waypoints, all within 1-1/2 miles of the black line on the map which connects the two points of the arc. In this simple example, since I only have two points, it doesn't matter in what order I list them in the filter.

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Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Lost and now found

Whenever I find new sites that I like, I always register as Webfoot. People usually ask me why and I tell them a story about this project I created over 10 years ago called Operation Webfoot. The link is to a shell of what the site was originally, but it tells some of the story. The rest is here.

Operation Webfoot originated as an idea to help my 8th grade U.S. History students learn about geography and history in a unique way. I used stuffed animals which traveled around the United States, Australia, Belgium, Canada, Germany, Guam and Israel. Host families would take the stuffed animals to their local areas and report back to my school in Southern California. Students would use this information to publish a geographic travelogue for our stuffed "fuzzies."

Operation Webfoot started out from an idea I got from the National Geographic magazine. There was an article about a stuffed bear that had traveled all over the world just by being passed on by airline travelers. With this in mind, I found three stuffed animals to send on the airlines in the fall of 1995. We hoped that if people would send postcards to us, we would be able to track the animals as they traveled around the world. The biggest concern my students had was if we would get the animals back at the end of the year. The answer to that was no, but they thought it was cool they might have the possibility to meet up with one of our travelers on a trip of their own someday.

We decided to send the animals first with someone we knew, so we found parents who were going on business trips and the three animals took off. One went to Santa Cruz, California and was never heard from again. The second one went to Malaysia and then to India and we received postcards from Malaysia but we also never heard from that one either. The last animal racked up some serious frequent flyer mileage. He went to Boston, Massachusetts and back and then went to Las Vegas, Nevada and back. His third trip took him to Texas and then to Florida, North Carolina, Cleveland, Ohio and Newark, New Jersey. The school even got a telephone call from the airplane from a flight attendant while en route to Newark saying they had the animal and the most likely destination would be Denver, Colorado. After that we lost contact and the animal was never heard from again.

During the spring of that year, I heard about a similar project being done by the kindergarten teachers at Valle Vista School which is part of our school district. They were mailing the animals and tracking them via email. I took this one step farther and decided to create a webpage to track the animals. Our original webfeet were Huey, Louie and Dewey Duck (hence the name, Operation Webfoot).

Huey and Louie were mailed to Maryland and Canada while Dewey was picked up in person by a host family from Utah. All of the host families I contacted through parent bulletin boards on the Internet. The only requirement was they have email so we could be in contact with them at any time.

In October, we added Donald after a student got in contact with the White House about hosting an animal. After his stay in the White House, Donald became our international traveler. In November, Huey became lost for the first of many times and we decided to get a couple more webfeet so Michigan J. Frog and Kermit joined the troupe. The host families sent us a lot of great information and pictures. These pictures are just some of many that were sent to us either via snail mail or by email.

Near the end of the year Huey became lost in the mail permanently. It was a major disappointment not to be able to see all of the information and souvenirs he had accumulated over the course of the year but with email, we were still able to learn quite a bit about the areas of the country to which he had traveled. The picture at the top right shows Huey, with then Governor of South Carolina, David Beasley.

Kermit came back the week before school let out and the Monday of the last week of school, Michigan J. arrived. No other ducks made it home before school was let out for summer vacation. Donald arrived home on June 28 and was returned to the student who contacted the White House in the fall. Louie and Dewey never returned home to the disappointment of us all.

These setbacks did not stop us from continuing the project the following year. Michigan J. and Kermit were veterans at this and were ready to go again. The problem was to find another couple of stuffed animals to round out our collection of webfeet for the 97/98 school year. At the end of the school year, one of my students gave me another animal to add to my collection: a Miss Piggy. Even though she wasn't a "webfoot," we let her represent the project anyway. We decided to branch out and add other fuzzy creatures since Miss Piggy had already set a precedent by being a "non-webfoot." We added Gumby, Peggy Platypus, and later, Tweety Bird, who started his travels by flying to Belgium. Unfortunately, several problems happened again. Michigan J. Frog disappeared in Dallas, Texas but was replaced by a similar Michigan J. Frog given to me by a generous student. Gumby was lost in the mail and Tweety Bird disappeared in Mississippi. But the rest of the animals continued their journey and returned safely at the end of that school year. I worked with this project one more year, but because I wasn’t teaching history anymore, it was decided that the project would be shut down and the animals returned via mail to us at school.

Now comes the really interesting part. On Tuesday of this week, I walked into the faculty room at my school. It was a standard Tuesday, but I had a package, that was lumpy, in fact, it was lumpy and sort of felt like a stuffed animal. I was thinking to myself, "self, what company in Texas (that's where the postmark said it was from, as well as the return address) is sending me some sort of promotional stuffed animal?"

So I opened it up. It was a frog. The Warner Brothers cartoon Michigan J. Frog. But it was not just any frog. It was one of my original stuffed animals when I was doing Operation Webfoot over 10 years ago!!! Unfreakinbelievable.

Also inside were his National Park passport, which I purchased in 1997, and his journal. The first journal entry was written in a very nice script and signed by an email friend of mine and her husband. They took him and several others to Alaska on a cruise in August 1997. They then sent it to Lynn in Sacramento. Lynn was a freelance writer who took them to the California State Fair that year and then wrote an article about them in the Sacramento Bee and the Army Times. My email friends are quoted in the Army Times article.

Then, Michigan J. Frog went to Georgia - there's a stamp in his passport from Kennesaw National Historic Park. He then went to Maple Shade, New Jersey. The last journal entry is dated September 24th, 1997. As noted above, I remember him disappearing in Dallas, TX and that we replaced him with another Michigan J. Frog. This week, the original Michigan J. returned. This was a complete shock. There was no note, nothing to let us know what happened in the last ten years. At least the person left a return address, as I plan to write a thank you note to them and ask for some kind of story. As you can see from the picture, he’s now resting comfortably on my computer desk with some of the other original Operation Webfoot animals.

I told my two history classes about the project. They thought it was pretty cool, but were more interested to see the newspaper article from about 11 years ago that showed me with a mustache and beard. Supposedly, I look like Chuck Norris. As someone said, I started some of the first travel bugs, way before Groundspeak was even a company. I wonder if I could get some royalties from that? I’m now anxiously waiting and hoping that I get a response to my thank you letter, so I can fill in the 10 year gap in the history of Michigan J. Frog.

Profile for Webfoot

Saturday, February 2, 2008


I like to cache, usually with other people because with more than one person, it’s usually easy to make distractions so that the other one can make the grab on a cache that might be in one of those muggle prone areas. But what do I do when I’m caching all alone? Tying your shoe can only work so many times, as does talking on your “GPS cell phone.” That’s one of the reasons why I usually bring my camera along. Photographers can get into some interesting places with a camera, just because they can explain themselves away as trying to get a different angle on a particular subject.

As I was looking over my gallery of photos, I realized that some of my more interesting shots have come because I was using my camera as a distracter. Today, I went out to find a travel bug hotel, but ended up abandoning the hunt because of a couple of muggles across the street from where the cache was hidden. They weren’t going to move away and even when I got out my camera, they kept looking over at me to see what I was doing. I got a very interesting shot of a bee on some wildflowers, but the muggles didn’t want to budge from their spot so I left, found four other caches and came back later. The muggles had moved away and I was able to make the grab quite easily then.

Caches hidden near fountains and sculptures provide excellent photography spots to use your camera as a distracter while you search. The fountain pictured had all sorts of interesting little sculptures around it and I had a great time taking pictures of them while searching for the cache. I particularly liked the one I got of the guy trying to lift the cement slab up. You can almost see him straining to lift the piece of concrete.

Earlier this year, I was driving down from Northern California when I happened to take a break from driving to find a couple of caches in this small town. As luck would have it, I ended up getting to ground zero about fifteen minutes before a church service started across the street from where the cache had been placed. I could see the cache, but there was a very small chance of success in retrieving the cache at that time due to the high amount of muggles in the area. It was then I spotted this beautiful water tower, so I decided to walk the half block down to the water tower and get a couple of pictures, figuring as long as I was here, I could probably get a Water Tower Waymark along with the cache. By the time I came back after walking around the block, church was in session and I was able to make the grab quickly, without any muggle interference.

I’ve used two different kinds of cameras when I’ve gone caching in the past. My first digital camera was one of those point and shoot varieties. It took great pictures, and its small size made it easy to carry around. However, it was one more thing that I had to carry around in my hands, because it didn’t have a neck strap like my current camera does. My current camera, a SLR digital, has a neck strap so I don’t have to have it in my hands when I’m out caching, but it is a little bulkier than the point and shoot. Either one worked well as another type of distraction to dissuade muggles that I really wasn’t up to no good, so it’s probably a personal preference as to which one you choose. By taking your camera with you when you cache, you can give yourself another option with which to search for caches. It will also give you some pleasant memories of the place where you cached, that probably won’t fade as quickly if you’d just retained them in your mind.

Pictures were taken at or near the following geocaches:

Kellogg Hill TB Hotel - Just up from "My Town" - by jcworshipper clan
The Plaza - by juniperb
Power Me Up! - by mountain_mmike

Profile for Webfoot