Monday, December 20, 2010

Here I go, There I go, Where I go

Last month, while on a road trip to Stockton, Chaosmanor and I were fortunate to attempt a couple of Wherigo caches.  A Wherigo cache is similar to a multi-cache in that you have to find clues as you walk along a route planned out by the cache hider.  You need a Wherigo enabled GPS unit in order to complete a Wherigo cache.  The Geocaching website explains a Wherigo cache this way:

Wherigo is a toolset for creating and playing GPS-enabled adventures in the real world. By integrating a Wherigo experience, called a cartridge, with finding a cache, the geocaching hunt can be an even richer experience. Among other uses, Wherigo allows geocachers to interact with physical and virtual elements such as objects or characters while still finding a physical geocache container. A Wherigo-enabled GPS device is required to play a cartridge.
Since I don't have a Wherigo enabled GPS, I haven't been able to find one until now.  In fact, the closest Wherigo caches is 20 miles away from me.  Chaosmanor recently purchased a Garmin Oregon GPS unit and it is one of the ones that are Wherigo enabled, so when we were planning out this route, I spotted a couple of Wherigo caches in Lemoore, CA and decided to put them in our bookmarked route.

As I noted above, doing a Wherigo is similar to a multi-cache, only the clues are given to you on your GPS unit.  You load the cartridge form the Wherigo website into your GPS unit, then head out to the starting coordinates and play the cartridge.   There are several ways to play the game.

One way is to play locationless cartridges.  These cartridges can be played anywhere.  There's a tutorial at the Wherigo site that allows you to try a Wherigo out before actually doing an actual physical Wherigo cache.  When we got to Lemoore, Chaosmanor let me have his GPS and I tried the tutorial out in a little park south of the first cache we were going to attempt.  If you're familiar with GPS units, the learning curve for these isn't that tough, although it took five to ten minutes for me to get the hang of it.  Once I solved the relatively easy tutorial, we walked across the street and tried the physical Wherigo.

This second cache was a relatively easy cache to do.  It was located in a large park, with very little tree cover, giving us ample signal strength to our GPS.  We picked up the clues by answering questions, then headed to the second waypoint.  Each waypoint is located in a zone, which is the way the Wherigo cartridge works.  Once you get to the next zone (which can be a variety of sizes), you then can get your next clue.  Eventually, the clues and cartridge took us over to where the cache was actually hidden allowing us to log our find.

We then headed into downtown Lemoore to attempt the other Wherigo cache.  We parked near the starting point, opened the cartridge and began.  This one was a little trickier since we were walking through the old town section of town.  Tall buildings cause signal bounce, so we didn't always get as close as we could to the center of the zone in order to answer the questions which would lead us on to the next waypoint.  This could be because the zone may have been too large.  I'm not sure on this, but it's something to consider if you're going to attempt a Wherigo in a city environment.

I enjoyed the second Wherigo more than the first probably for a couple of reasons.  One, the first one was in a park, where any kind of cache could have been hidden.  There wasn't much interest generated outside of going through the steps and finding the cache.  I also was new, it being only my second attempt following the tutorial.  The downtown Wherigo, I had a little bit more experience utilizing the cartridge and the buildings in the downtown area had some local history attached to them, which made the walk more interesting in my opinion.  Your mileage may vary depending upon your own experiences.

I enjoyed walking through the downtown area.   I'd been there previously, finding a virtual cache in one of the areas we walked through on this caching experience.  Looking at some of the turn of the 20th century buildings was enjoyable to me, especially looking at some of the Victorian architecture.  It gave me an idea for a Wherigo cache in my local area, although I'm not sure how I'll be able to set it up, since I don't have a Wherigo enabled GPS at the moment.

I'll have to download the Wherigo builder onto my other computer and try it out.  Perhaps I will be able to create one, without the need of a Wherigo enabled GPS.  We'll have to see about that.

There are quite a few Wherigo caches in California.  I noticed one in Yosemite Valley near Yosemite Fall.  I found this interesting because the National Park Service doesn't allow physical caches, but when I investigated it further, I discovered that the physical part of this Wherigo is outside the park in nearby El Portal.  I've heard rumors about Geocaching possibly bringing back the virtual cache.  If this does become a reality, I can see where some very interesting Wherigo virtuals could be created, especially in a National Park environ.

The upshot of all of this was it was a new experience for me to try, using my GPS.  They probably aren't for geocachers who are numbers runners.  They take more time than the regular cache.  I would estimate the first cache we found in the park took us 15 minutes to complete and the second one in downtown took us closer to 45 minutes.  We might have been able to solve the second one more quickly but we did get sidetracked.  All in all, they were enjoyable experiences, something that I'd like to try again in the future.  I'd also like to create one.

Pictures were taken at or near the following geocache:
Lemoore's First Wherigo! - by JohnE5

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