Monday, March 31, 2008

Cabin Fever! Spring Fever! OUT!

It's spring here in Indiana...theoretically. You couldn't tell it by our weather lately, though. Snow, sleet, and generally about 20 degrees or so below normal. Of course, "normal" is pretty much defined as "the average of 10 abnormal years", so I expect that this year will go toward lowering the "normal" temperature a little bit in a few years.

Be that as it may, over the weekend we had some gorgeous weather, so we went out caching and benchmark hunting.

Our first quarry was a National Geodetic Survey Benchmark disc in Auburn, Indiana.
The benchmark disc is stamped M22, but its official designation (called a PID) is MD0692.

This was a fairly easy find - its coordinates were almost exactly dead-on, and the description given by the NGS was more than enough to help us find it. The fact that the benchmark was on a small concrete "pillar" that jutted up from the ground about 3-4 inches, and was right next to a Witness Post sign didn't hurt, either!

We got some good, clear shots of the benchmark disc and went off to find our next target.

Here's our next target, which was a little more challenging. It too is an NGS benchmark disc, as you can see.
This one was also set in concrete, but the concrete has been there long enough that the surrounding soil has "grown up" to the level of the concrete.
The landowner spread mulch over the benchmark and around its witness post sign - presumably so he didn't have to mow around it! Benchmarks can be hard on lawnmower blades - and are equally vulnerable to being cut.

Here's a picture of one we found last year. You can see the effect a lawnmower has had on THIS benchmark! That's why I think the owner of the land housing G198 was very smart to avoid the lawnmowing issue altogether.

The benchmark's stamp "name" is G198, but its PID is MD0933. They always stamp the "name" and the year it was placed in the middle of the benchmark. The year helps to determine, on occasion, if the disc is even still there! One we hunted this weekend was completely missing - we couldn't find any indication whatsoever of a disc. Since it was on the wingwall of a fairly well-maintained bridge, we were fairly certain that if it had been there, we would have found it. There were no structures or plants obstructing our view (yet), so we concluded that it was missing. A plaque on the bridge gave us our final clue - the benchmark disc had been placed in 1968, but the bridge itself had been completely replaced in 1970. We concluded that the benchmark was very likely removed and destroyed at the time of the old bridge's destruction.

Our final benchmark was one that was placed by the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, Water Division. While there are coordinates for the NGS benchmarks, which can be found at, the Indiana DNR database contains only descriptions of their benchmarks and their locations. We've really started to enjoy hunting the Indiana DNR benchmarks. It's like letterboxing, only without the box at the end! It's quite challenging, and stretches our hunting and clue-reading abilities to the limit at times.

We had not realized how very small some of these marks are, either. This triangle, for example, is approximately 2 inches per side, tops. Not exactly easy to find when you're looking for something chiseled in concrete, that may or may not have been worn down by the weather in the meantime!

We really enjoy looking for Benchmarks. They're useful, interesting, and many of them have histories. We've learned that benchmarks can be many things - not only discs, but chiseled marks in concrete, church spires, courthouse domes and even railroad spikes.

We're looking forward to our next benchmark hunt.
See you on the trails, the bridges, and the courthouse lawns!

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Hidden within Eyes and Windows

I’m going to be starting my third week of recovery this week. I'm still a little sore, but I can walk around very well and I'm able to drive a car. I’m really just restricted in what I can lift for the next couple of weeks. Last Thursday, I had my staples removed and got taped up in replacement. I was even able to find a cache after I’d had the staples removed, so I guess I’m definitely on the mend. Everything is healing according to plan and I should be back at work next Monday.

Friday I got to drive around a bit for the first time since the surgery. I went to the local big box hardware store to pick up some spray paint, then drove down to the local surplus store to get a couple of ammo cans. I’m used to having a supply of ammo cans and/or decon containers, but I’ve run out of both recently, so it’s high time I get restocked.

This week, I’m going to be working on the camouflage for one of those ammo cans for a puzzle cache that I’m planning for my 20th hide. The two pictures below are the puzzles for the cache. I guess once the cache page goes live it’ll make a little bit more sense than just looking at the pictures here, but I spent the better part of an hour finding the right picture and then another hour or so putting all of those eyes together for the graphic. It’s interesting to note that both of my sisters are in there as is my wife, my mom and dad, my three kids, my niece and nephews and lots of my daughter’s friends. For those who’ll ask, one of those eyes is from a Halloween mask my son wore one year and the other is rather large fish eye that you can see I pulled from a picture I took of my son down at the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach a couple of years ago.

I have several possibilities for where this cache is going to go, but I’m leaning toward the western edge of a park in our fair city because it’s the least cache saturated area and there are several good places where I could hide it. One of the reasons this area is less cache dense is mentioned in my last post. The five stage multi-cache is hidden over there and it takes up a large portion of room with all the waypoints that were created for that one. I’d loved to hide this puzzle in between two of the waypoints, but I don’t believe there’s enough room to do that, so I’ll have to be satisfied with one of the many spur trails up there. Then I’ll have bookend puzzle caches on each side of this rather large open area.

The cache will still be a short hike in to find it. When I first started caching back in 2001, all of the local caches were hikes. The closest cache to my home at the time was 7 miles away and a half mile hike to get to it. The other thing that stood out with caches at the time was the size. Most were large size, five gallon buckets, ammo cans, Tupperware containers, etc. I’ve made a conscious decision to keep it that way, at least with my hides. I want all of my containers to be at least large enough to hold a geocoin and/or travel bug, so I haven’t hidden anything smaller than a decon container. That's probably a little smaller than what I was finding most of my first year of caching, but I’ll hold to that size and no smaller as long as I’m caching.

The second thing I’ve tried to strive for is not to hide any “cache and dash” caches. All of my caches, you have to get out of your car and walk to find it. Even if it’s only a block, I’ve hidden my caches in such a way, that you’ll be forced to get out of the car if you want to find it. Because of these restrictions I've placed upon myself as a hider, I’ve come to realize that my caches don’t necessarily get as many finds as others, but I hope they can be viewed as quality caches as opposed to a numbers run kind of cache. My hope is, if enough newer cachers find my caches, they’ll get the idea that geocaching is not all about hiding an Altoids tin under the nearest lamp post skirt in every Wal-Mart shopping complex. Anyway, by the end of the week, the local park will hopefully have a new cache hidden in it.

Pictures are from the following caches:

Grand Prix Crache - by crash77
The Window of the Soul - by Webfoot

Profile for Webfoot

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

What's that smell?

You know that smell you notice when you open up a cache and have discovered an unsullied log, bereft of any signature, except your own when you’ve finished logging the cache? You have a First to Find (FTF), which can be highly prized by many cachers. I like to call the smell, Virgin Log. It’s actually become a joke between some of the cachers in my area. Will Webfoot get a whiff of virgin log this time? Usually not, because I’m not really a FTF hog. I’ll get the occasional FTF and they always seem to come in bunches as well. I can go months without getting any, then three or four will fall on a day or a week’s period of time.

I’ve driven as far as 77 miles away for an FTF and as close as ¾ of a mile where I walked to the cache from my house. I got an FTF during a torrential downpour that let up right when the Tadpole and I got to ground zero. I’d picked him up from school and it was pouring. I asked him if he’d like to find a cache, and he told me not really. When I told him that there was a possible FTF involved, his mood changed and said, “What the heck, let’s go for it.” So we drove over to ground zero, which was on the way home. As we were parking, the rain stopped. We made the quick grab, opened up the cache and found that we were the first finders. So we signed the log in the car, because it was sprinkling a little, then I went back over and replaced the cache. As I got back into the car, the heavens opened up into a regular deluge. I think there was someone looking down on us for that FTF.

If you’ve cached long enough, you’re eventually going to get some FTFs along the way. In my first four years of caching, I got a grand total of 3 FTFs. And as I look over my bookmarked list of FTFs, I can see that only one of those three did I actually and purposely go out and try to get the FTF. Since that time, most of the rest of my 32 FTFs, I’ve gone out to get them. I probably could have more, but I don’t get email notifications, or blackberry alerts like others in my area. One cacher in our area likes to sign his logs stating that the log now has blackberry stains on it when he’s first to find. My signature line, that the local know about, when I get a first to find is, “Love that smell of Virgin Log.” Interestingly, of the 32 FTFs that I have, I’ve only actually written that on about 10 logs, yet local cachers know that it’s my signature line when I get a first to find and seem to expect seeing it as well. Go figure.

I would have to say that my most satisfying FTF was one where I had to do a pre-emptive strike to keep another of the local cachers at bay. This particular cache had been dedicated to me and several other local cachers, including the guy who I figured would probably be my biggest challenge to get this FTF. Once the cache was published, we actually started a running conversation on the cache page that, in retrospect, probably loses a lot in translation, but at the time was pretty hysterical. While this conversation was going on, I had the presence of mind to send him an email asking if he’d be interested in finding it together. When he responded in the affirmative, it became a go for the following day. It was pretty much guaranteed that the FTF would still be there, since it was a hike up in the foothills, so off we went and after finding all five stages of this great multi-cache, we were standing at ground zero and smelling virgin log. Nice.

That was my 7th FTF of 2007. I’ve since found three others for an even ten for last year. As I stated earlier, they seem to come in waves. I haven’t found any in 2008 yet, but then again, I really haven’t tried for any and probably won’t until summertime rolls around when I have more time away from work. Until then, I'll just be satisfied with what I find, when I find it, even if it doesn’t have that special smell to the log.

Pictures were taken at or near the following geocaches, which were all FTFs for Webfoot.

At One With Nature - by juniperb
North of 1951 - by Lostlad
Higganbothem Express - by King Camilomilo

Profile for Webfoot

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Spring has sprung!

I don't cache much in the winter. According to my stats on It's Not About the Numbers, my longest cache drought has just been broken at 45 days from January of this year to March 15. I'll attend events and grab some easy ones and still go after a FTF, especially if the crazy Kentucky weather will allow. I just don't like being cold at all!

Yesterday wasn't tremendously warm, but the girls and I were heading to visit a sick relative in the hospital in a nearby town. I'd never cached around this area before and figured it would be a good time to finally pick up a few. This town was perfect for caching with my kids too, mostly fairly good size caches and only a few micros. We met some new cachers at one of the first caches as well. We ended up with a find count of 7 for the couple of hours we were out.

Finding the caches of course was fun, but the best part of the day was seeing the signs of spring all around. This year spring means a lot more to me than most for several personal reasons and I've been anxiously waiting for it. Out in the middle of the woods near one of the caches we found, was a field of buttercups (also known by people from not around here as daffodils)! It was such a sign of upcoming warmth and better days. I love when caching takes me places and I find beauty unexpectedly! I now have this wonderful memory of my three girls excitedly picking flowers and having a very fun day just with their Mommy.
Profile for queen_ladybug

Friday, March 21, 2008

Combat Caching

I took a picture of my “house” and posted it in the forums a while back. I am stationed in Iraq right now and the Army just finished putting 12-foot tall barriers around everyone’s trailers. It makes for a very post-apocalyptic scene.

One of the geocachers in the forum commented that, in a less hostile environment, the area would be a great place for a paintball war. I definitely agreed with him, and told my co-workers what he had said. That’s when we started discussing combining geocaching and paintball and eventually came up with an interesting game idea. I’m not sure what we will call it yet, although I like the name Combat Caching. This seems like it would be a lot of fun.

Our idea is to combine paintball wars and geocaching into a high-tech tactical version of Capture the Flag. The idea is simply to capture the other team’s flag and bring it back to your own base while preventing the other team from capturing your flag. When the game starts, each team will be given the coordinates to their flag and another set of coordinates. This second set of coordinates will lead team members to another hidden set of coordinates, which will take them to another set, which will eventually lead to the other team’s flag, making it just a big multi-cache. Fairly simple so far, right?

Here are the complications. The other team is doing a multi-cache to your flag at the same time. And you’re all armed with paintball guns. And it’s pretty likely that at least one of your clues may be within line of sight of one of the enemy’s clues. Should your entire team attack en masse in order to be able to defend themselves and overwhelm the other team? Should you send some of your team to guard your own flag?

This would obviously require a very large area to play in. A large wooded area, possibly combined with some sort of urban industrial site, would be ideal for a lot of sneaking around. The intermediate clues could be as sadistically hidden as the Warlord cared to make them. And you would have to maintain stealth, because if the other team sees you, they are welcome to start a gun battle with you.

Also, the “flag” would not be the normal rectangle of cloth on a broom stick. It would be a much smaller item hidden in an anchored cache in a defensible hiding spot (in order to prevent the home team from re-hiding their flag somewhere else). The container would have a combination lock on it. The home team would not be given the combination. The enemy’s final coordinate set would contain a puzzle that would reveal the combination when solved.

This game could be easily modified for large groups of people. Two or three groups could be allied on each team. Each group could have their own flag. The rules could say to capture all the flags of the opposing team, or even that the winners were the first team to return any ONE opposing team’s flag to any of their own bases. Each team would be given all the first clues to all the opposing team’s flags. They would then have to decide how to go after them.

The game could also easily be modified for time available. This would simply consist of the Warlord placing clues closer together or farther apart, or changing the number of intermediate clues prior to the final clue.

There are other concerns to address, like range limits, safety azimuths, cease-fire calls, and other administrative stuff. In the end, though, this is just a bunch of geeks with GPS receivers out geocaching while trying to avoid being shot with paintballs by another bunch of geeks with GPS receivers. If they’re not real careful, though, they might wind up having a lot of fun.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Animal Kingdom

I’ve encountered animals along the trail when caching, just as I’m sure everyone else has. I even have a cache named for the fauna experience that cachers might have while trying to find that particular cache. By far and away, the largest amount of animals that most people see while out on the trail has to be insects and arachnids. I remember several caches where we had to avoid bee’s nests in order to find the cache. I think bees even drove us away from one cache. Sometimes, the animals are controlled by man made circumstances, like the pond full of koi that I discovered at one virtual cache south of Fresno, California. Those encounters are surprises waiting to happen, as are most wildlife encounters.

If viewed from a safe distance, wildlife can be enjoyed by all. It’s when you surprise an animal, by accidentally coming to close to it, that problems sometimes occur. And it’s the bigger animals that that usually cause the most problems for cachers. Most reptiles and amphibians won’t pose a problem for cachers, but snakes can, particularly if they are of the venomous type. While hiking out on trail in May of last year, my friend and I encountered a nice five foot rattlesnake that was lying coiled up under a bush just off trail. When we had found the cache, we went off trail and didn’t notice anything out of the ordinary but on our return to the trail, I believe we ended up taking a slightly different route, which brought us in close proximity to the snake, who let us know we were too close right away. It’s been a while since I’ve heard a rattler’s tail go like that, and it took a split second or two to register what was going on, but we stopped, looked and saw that we had the snake in between us. We were able to make wide circles around the snake at that point and got back up to the main trail where I took a couple of pictures. It became something else to put in that memory bank for future stories of the road.

On another cache hunt, my son and I were looking for a way into an area to find a travel bug hotel that had just been placed. It was hidden down in this canyon behind some residential houses. The GPSr was teasing us, saying that the cache was only about 750 feet away, but we couldn’t find an access way down to it. Finally, after what seemed like hours of searching, we finally found a trail leading down alongside this one road that overlooked the canyon. As I stepped off the sidewalk, I realized immediately that the poison oak was going to cause major problems getting down to the cache because it appeared as an impenetrable wall of it leading across the trail. The other thing that bothered me was this rather large cat sitting in the middle of the trail. As we stared at each other, I kept thinking, this is one BIG cat, and when it turned around and disappeared into the poison oak, I realized that I’d been staring at a nice sized bobcat. Needless to say, we ended up finding a different way to that particular cache the following week, one that didn’t involve bobcats or poison oak.

One other time, a group of us had been working on a nice puzzle cache in a remote canyon and we were reveling in our triumph at the end of the cache hunt, when I looked up the trail and saw a coyote ambling down the trail toward us. I pointed it out to everyone else, and as soon as I pointed it out, something in the back of my mind was sending out warning signals. For one thing, the coyote didn’t look quite right. That little voice in the back of my head kept saying, maybe it’s not a coyote. Then, the “coyote” made a left hand turn into the brush at the side of the trail and it was then that we all realized that we’d been watching a mountain lion walk toward us. One member of our group wanted to go up and get a possible look at pawprints, but the rest of us convinced her that it would probably be prudent at that time to leave, since it was getting on toward twilight and the mountain lion was more in its element than we were in ours.

Another group of animals that I seem to encounter on a regular basis while caching are birds. I’ve seen egrets and hawks many times as they are quite abundant. Last summer, I got a rare opportunity at a virtual cache at the Grand Canyon to spot a California Condor. We’d heard from the rangers that they were out riding the thermals coming up from the canyon, so we went out and did the virtual caches on the west side of the canyon that particular morning. We were rewarded by seeing several birds hovering right along the rim, almost posing for us to take pictures. What made them particularly impressive was the fact that we were looking at a bird whose wingspan exceeded 9 feet in length. As far as wildlife concerns go, that condor was one of the main highlights of our trip last summer.

I don’t believe I’ve ever gone caching and not seen at least some kind of animal. Insects are a daily part of life and some of those smaller encounters can be things of beauty, so don’t overlook them – eh, it’s only a bee. Sometimes you can watch bees do some incredible things. And once you become more aware of all those moving little critters, you might be more in tune to spot others as well. On the caching trip where we saw the mountain lion, earlier in the day, we already spotted a Monarch butterfly and a large garter snake. That particular trip was a wildlife bonanza and it was in suburbia, not out in the wilds of a national forest. The animals are all around us. We just have to be observant and we’ll notice them.

Pictures are from the following caches:
Tower 212 I5
- by fontanabill
1 in the Rocks - by RedWilly
Curiouser and Curiouser - by Terra Girl, Bean Dog, and my faithful sherpa Max
Citadel Sink - Wupatki NM - by TerryDad2
The 12 Days of Cachemas - Day 9 - by Zombie Tribe
Peace on the Rim - by Timpat

Profile for Webfoot

Sunday, March 16, 2008

There's a balance out there

I have some down time over the next couple of weeks, so I’m thinking about hiding a couple of caches. With surgery scheduled tomorrow morning (outpatient – nothing too major, just something that needs to get fixed), I won’t be doing much of anything for a couple of days, but I figure once I’m walking again, I can start working on some containers and camo. That would definitely necessitate a trip to the local big box hardware store to get some paint. I have a couple of cans of primer and texture, but I need a couple more colors to work on the camo.

I actually went to our local surplus store today to check on the prices of ammo cans. $5.97 to $7.97 isn’t bad. Now that I think about it, why didn’t I buy a couple while I was there? Oh yes, by not buying them, it means I have to go back there again and look around more. I guess there’s some method to my madness.

Once I get the camo done on the containers, it will be just a short trip out to one site anyway, a quick hike in, place and take the coordinates and then I’m out. But I will have to work on the page because this one’s going to be a mystery/puzzle cache. I have one other mystery hide, the Cobol Canyon Trail, which is a math substitution puzzle. This new one is going to be a little bit more of the “think outside of the box” type of puzzle. It’s not going to be anything elaborate, just something similar to what I’ve already seen on-line. It’ll be interesting to see how it turns out once I’m done with it.

In the past, I’ve been accused of being wordy on my cache pages. Who me? Wordy? Yeah, well, I guess I am wordy, but in my opinion, cache pages that don’t tell a little story about the cache are pretty boring. Usually that means that it’s probably a lamp post or newspaper rack hide. Yep. Those are a dime a dozen, and so I’ve vowed not to hide any like that. I’m trying to take the tack, that if you can’t at least hide a geocoin in it, it’s not going to be hidden by me.

I also like to have my caches be a little bit of a walk from the parking area, so mine are not “park and grabs.” There are a lot of those out there, and I feel they don’t take a whole lot of thought or effort to place them. Slap a slip of paper in an Altoids tin and plop it under a lamp post. I heard one person in the forum call this “microspew” and I tend to agree with him. There’s very little cost involved, so there doesn’t seem to be as much ownership of the cache, because if it gets muggled, the person can always slap another one out there.

That’s one of the reasons why I don’t have as many hides as other people do. My basic strategy has been to hide one for every 100 that I find. That’s a 1% hide to find ratio, which is very low compared to others who have been caching as long as I have, and it’s also lower than many who have been caching less than I have, but that’s the ratio that I’ve decided to maintain. I can’t imagine having 100 hides. I think all I would be doing would be maintaining caches with no time to find any. Thanks but no thanks. With the ratio I’ve chosen, I get a nice balance. With 1861 hides, I have 19 finds, so I’m slightly above my average and if I hide this next one, I’ll really be above it.

With most of my cache hides, I usually post some pictures as well, so obviously, these pictures are all from my cache hides. I would say that all the pictures on the cache page help tell the story of the cache. I’ll post more about my next hide after I’ve recuperated a little and after I've hidden it.

Pictures and graphics are from the following caches:
Hotel Devore
The Cats Made Me Do It
Today, I Saw a Lizard
7 Miles Away and a Half Mile Hike

Profile for Webfoot

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

A Different Kind of Locationless Cache

I went caching last Saturday down in the O.C. My daughter was coming home from college and was going to be dropped off in Orange, so I thought I’d make a day of it and get some caching in before picking her up. I drove down to Anaheim and ended up getting a bunch around the Honda Center where the Ducks play their home hockey games. The day was rather open ended, which made it a fun day. I knew there was going to be a definite end to it, but I just went out and found caches. I came across a couple of lamp post caches, that I passed on because of muggles around and I wasn’t into waiting them out.

I found a couple of fast food caches that were better than some. Most fast food place caches tend to be lamp post or bush hides, but there was one that was hidden in the seating area. I was actually surprised that there weren’t any muggles eating there at the time since it was a beautiful day, but I had the area to myself, so I bought a Dr. Pepper and sat right by the cache. It made the find and the re-hide very easy to do. I’ll take that over a lamp post hide in the middle of a busy supermarket parking lot any day. The last cache was a micro, which led me over to Anaheim Stadium where the Angels play their home baseball games. That’s where I saw a water tower.

I’ve always found water towers very interesting. They tell a little bit about the town they’re found in, since most have been decorated in some way advertising something about the town. I found a water tower in Cutler, CA, when the locationless caches were still around. I would have done more if I’d been able to but since you could only log one per category in the locationless caches; that was it. That was the frustrating thing about locationless caches. I liked them because they made me more aware of my surroundings. I had a list of about 20 different locationless caches that I wanted to get. I’d get one, then add another. And yet, that’s what was frustrating, because once you got one, you couldn’t get another.

Enter waymarking. Most of the locationless caches were moved over to waymarking and now people were free to nab as many as they wanted. I’ve actually seen some really nifty water towers being part of the water tower management group, but I’m not sure I’d really seen a new water tower that was as cool as the one I saw near the stadium. It was situated on the grounds of the Grove Theater and made to look like something out of the 1920s, even though it probably wasn’t more than 10 years old at the most. Having grown up in the O.C. and gone to many Angels games, I knew it was fairly new.

So here I was, looking at this beautiful water tower and thinking to myself, “Self, you can waymark this one. There’s no limit to how many you can do.” So I did. I didn’t get a smiley face like when you geocache, but I got to document something that I find interesting and that’s what I think is the appeal to waymarking. Much like geocaching, you can choose not to find lame lamp post caches if you don’t want, in waymarking, you can choose what categories interest you and then you can waymark to your heart’s content.

I’ve tried to keep my focus of categories small, so I don’t overwhelm myself. I don’t always do waymarks all the time, nor do I always do them every time I see one that’s in one of my categories. Geocaching is still my first choice. But if the mood hits me, I’ll post a waymark or two. I’d done enough caching that Saturday, I’d cleaned out an area and so, the waymark seemed like a perfect way to end the day. In fact, it really wasn’t because once I’d documented that one, I knew of another one about three miles up the freeway, so I decided to head up to that one and get it too. But, just as I was getting on the freeway, my daughter called me saying she had arrived. So I guess it really was the perfect way to end an enjoyable day of caching and waymarking. The nice thing about waymarking is very few of them will get muggled, which means that other water tower will probably still be there the next time I head down into Orange County.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Friendly quirks

Living in Southern California, I’ve had the great fortune of caching with some very interesting and entertaining people, some of whom, I’ve developed very good friendships with that will probably last the rest of my life. One such person is 3blackcats.

I met 3blackcats after I goaded her into finding my Size Matters … Especially in California cache. It was a multi-cache that had a little bit of a twist and she and her sister had been out another time already to find the cache and couldn’t find the first waypoint. Trash talking ensued and that was probably enough to get her back out on the trail to find this one, which she did. For some reason, I had given her my phone number in case she needed a lifeline on it, but instead she called to brag and a friendship developed. A couple of days later, she, her sister 1bigdodgerfan, another cacher Lostlad, and I went out to conquer a well conceived mystery cache entitled Curiouser and Curiouser. We found it and 19 other caches that day and the next thing I knew, 3blackcats and I were caching together on a regular basis.

As you get to know people, you learn more and more of their personality, their quirks and what makes them tick. One of 3blackcats’ quirks is she doesn’t like to show her face when getting her picture taken. Well, not really, but it seems like that’s the case. I heard her tell it once that it was because of a witness protection program that had gone sour, but I’m not sure I believe that one.

It actually started out as a joke when she and Lostlad were caching near the Devil’s Punchbowl and she ended up getting one of her milestone caches out there. Lostlad wanted to take a picture, so she posed for the picture, with just her hand sticking out from behind a huge boulder. Her next milestone cache, I happened to be present and the traditional picture was taken, from behind her, looking over her shoulder at the view from the cache site. A legend was born.

As you can see from some of the pictures posted, she will go to great lengths to make sure she’s unidentifiable in the picture. Her sister, 1bigdodgerfan even got involved with this as well. The event picture was the best in my opinion. I didn’t even realize that she’d turned her head to make it look like she was reading the menu until after I got home and downloaded the picture to my computer. I busted a gut laughing at that one.

We’ve actually started making a game of it. How many clues can we reveal about 3blackcats before we finally show everyone who she really is? It’s just one of those diversions that keeps us entertained on the trail when we’re trudging along a steep part, or when we’ve ended up sort of bleary eyed from one too many lamp post caches. The last time I cached with her was right after Christmas, on a 4x4 trail up in the Cajon Pass. The wind chill that day was close to 20 degrees and most of the day was spent in a heated car as we bumped along a dirt road. Once we got near ground zero, we didn’t mess around taking pictures, but worked on finding the cache and moving along. It was that cold.

Our latest plans are to go out on next Monday afternoon. We may end up in an area that is ripe for another picture, but then again we may not. The one thing that I do know is, we’ll have fun.

Pictures were taken at or near the following geocaches:

Chelsea & Ginger's Favorite Walk #1 - by Chelsea & Ginger
Devil's Punchbowl by Yosemite John and Debbie
Crossroads - by fontanabill
Cache Addicts Meet & Greet #10 - by

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Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Trip of a Lifetime

One of my students has a fairly well off step-grandmother. A couple of years ago, she decided that her grandchildren needed to get the travel bug and told them for their 13th birthday, they could go on a “trip of a lifetime,” anywhere in the world they wanted to go. My student, being the oldest of this woman’s four grandchildren just passed his thirteenth birthday last summer and this week will be hopping on a plane down to South America to tour the Galapagos Islands.

When I heard about this trip, my first thought was wondering how I could get adopted by this kid’s mother – she happens to be one of my co-workers – so I could get a trip like this as well. I guess you could say I was as green as Kermit the Frog with envy, but I got over it and decided to live vicariously through my student’s talk about the preparations of the trip. My only request was that he send me a postcard from South America. We’ll see whether that happens as I’ve had a chance to look at his itinerary, which he gave me yesterday and he’s going to be a very busy boy over those 10 days.

The itinerary intrigued me, however, because I noticed that he’s going to be in Quito, Ecuador for a good couple of days before he heads to the Galapagos. Knowing that he is a geocacher, I semi-facetiously asked him whether he was planning on getting any caches while down there. His initial response was, “Oh, there can’t possibly be any geocaches down in Ecuador.”

With the gauntlet thrown, I took up the challenge and did a quick search by country on and came up with 24 caches in Ecuador. I then quickly mapped it and put it into the Geocaching Google Map so he could see where the caches were. Most of them are concentrated in Quito, 17 in a very large metropolitan park in downtown Quito with a virtual about 8 miles north very near the equator. Once I showed him that most were regular sized caches, he was very interested. In fact, I think the words that came out of his mouth were something on the order of, “Oh, I so have to do this.” He says his grandmother will really love this, so in the process, we may hook another geocacher as well.

I quickly sent his mother an email stating, I had to look and see if there were any geocaches down in Ecuador. Her response back was, “I’ll have to send the GPSr with him when he goes.” The ball was starting to roll. They’re fairly new geocachers and aren’t premium members so they weren’t really familiar with Pocket Queries (PQ), so I volunteered to make a PQ for the local caches down there and upload them into their GPSr for him as he didn’t feel comfortable hand inputting all the coordinates. It was kind of funny to look at my GSAK filter of the caches and see that the closest cache was 3462 miles away from home.

When I asked him at first, I really wasn’t expecting an enthusiastic response, figuring his time would be booked, but he said he had some open ended time the first couple of days, so this would really be cool to do. Both he and I agreed that these once in a lifetime trips do really come only once in a lifetime, so you need to make the most of them. Besides, he’ll be able to come back and state that he found a geocache near the equator. Not many people around here can boast about that.

One of these days, hopefully, I’ll get down to the Galapagos. It is on my list of things to see before I die. Whether geocaching is still around then, who knows? But at least for now, I'll be able to cache vicariously through my student when I read his logs on the caches that he found.

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Sunday, March 2, 2008


You ever had one of those days where you should have just stayed at home surfing the Internet as opposed to going out and finding some hidden caches? That's what happened to me today. I wanted to get some caching in today. I have a couple of find streaks going, that I'd like to keep intact, before the middle of the month because I'm going to be out of commission after March 17th for a couple of weeks. Anyway, I have one streak that dates back several years that I've found at least 10 caches per month. Another streak dates back about a year and a half where I've found at least 20 caches per month.

So I went out today alone. Originally I thought I was going to be caching with one of my caching buddies, but that fell through due to miscommunication. Eh. Stuff happens sometimes. So I first went out to find this one cache that's been eluding me for awhile. Bam. Another DNF on this one. I'm getting beaten by a five year old girl on this one. I think that's five times and I knew where it was supposed to be because I'd talked with one of the owners at an event last month. Sigh. This is not a good sign on how the day is going.

Two other micros merited quick drivebys. The muggle quotient was way too high for either one of these today. Ditto for number 4 as well. Number 5 looked intriguing, but it was hidden in a pooch park and Jack wasn't with me. I really need to bring him back here so I can get that cache and he can have some fun.

After that one, I started thinking back to when I had a consecutive streak going. I'd started it as a lark really, just to see how many days in a row I could find a cache. Because of different commitments I had that weren't happening at that time, I figured I had 33 days in a row, where I could conceivably find a cache. So I decided to do it. The only day I was worried during this streak was Easter Sunday, but I got up early that day and was able to actually get a hike in and find a nice cache. The streak ended on day 56, mainly because I got tired of finding micros all over the place that had bad coordinates. It wasn't like any of these caches had bad coordinates, but thinking about the streak, I can remember that as I'd missed a cache and thought about going for another to extend the streak, I thought to myself, am I having fun here? The answer was NO, so I went home.

That's what I did today. Granted, it was only one DNF, and four DNA(attempt), but I think I should have just stayed home today. Nah. It was a beautiful day and the sun was shining. It was a good day, even if I didn't find a cache. It's days like today that make the other days when you're just on a roll finding caches all get put into perspective. As the saying on one of my geocoins says, "God grant me the serenity to accept the caches I cannot find, find the ones I can, and the wisdom to know the difference." There have been days in the past when I didn't necessarily know the difference. Today was different, even if I can't find a cache hidden by a five year old.

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