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15 Hours,102 Finds and Two Very Tired Geocachers! –Part 1

The power-caching team with TreyB's cachemobile

The power-caching team with TreyB's cachemobile

Today was the reason we came to Austin.

Back in the summer,Dana was talking to The Outlaw when he offered to take us on a power caching run. Power caching is a special kind of geocaching expedition in which the object is to accumulate as many finds as possible in a defined period. We settled on a goal of 100 finds in 24 hours. This goal would be unthinkable if we were conducting a normal geocache outing,but we had some special advantages working for us. Two of them were The Outlaw and TreyB,veteran Austin-area geocachers with more than 20,000 finds between them. These two guys know the Austin geocaching landscape like the back of their GPS.

Their goal was to help us log 100 finds,and if that meant guiding us to some easy candidates,so be it. We weren’t playing by the rules here. The goal was volume,not purity of experience. The second advantage was that The Outlaw had already solved dozens of tricky puzzles that dotted the itinerary. This saved many hours,if not days of effort. The result was that we had corrected coordinates that went right to our targets.

We had some disadvantages,too,in particular the lack of available daylight in late November. As it happened,we finished after dark and had to locate our last few caches by flashlight. What follows is a diary of our long day. All direct references to caches have been removed in order to avoid spoiling them for others. Really persistent readers might be able to figure out some specifics if they try,but it’s probably not worth it.

7:02 a.m.
We meet in the parking lot of a large shopping mall as the sun is rising and log our first find. Outlaw remarks,“Walking is the enemy of power caching.”We are driving even 1/10-mile increments because it’s faster.

7:11 a.m.
Outlaw explains that the social rules of group caching hold that if you find a cache first,you walk away and let everyone else also take turns finding it. You don’t do that on a power run,where quantity is everything. First finder immediately alerts everyone else.

7:15
We find a match holder under a rock in a parking lot Island.

Outlaw and TreyB are talking about a series of local geocaches in which the posted coordinates are labeled as bogus,are the descriptions appear to provide no help whatsoever. It turns out the clues are there,but they’re hidden on the page. One appears if you highlight the area with your mouse. Another is embedded as a comment in the HTML. Several others are even trickier.

7:26
We log our first DNF (did not find). The cache is My Latitude Attitude ,a tongue-in-cheek screed about the evils of latitude that offers only the longitudinal coordinate and challenges you to figure out the rest. Outlaw did,and he tells us how. It didn’t matter;we couldn’t find it. Rats.

7:33
Dana finds a pillbox in a bush. We’re at a McDonald’s,so we grab breakfast.

Outlaw is telling more stories. In one memorable incident,he was required to find serial numbers on hand dryers in both the men’s and ladies’ rooms at a state line welcome center. The men’s room was no problem,but he had to seek help from an employee to get the other number. She listened carefully to his request and then cried out,“Are you one of those geonuts?!”Turns out she practically had the number memorized.

7:49
Dana finds a film can in a tree after only 15 seconds

7:51
We log our second DNF. The cache is down for maintenance. Not good.

8:01
It’s raining. We decide to hoof the.15 miles to this micro but agree it’s time we can’t afford to lose. TreyB bags a film can hanging from a tree in a jiffy. We lose three minutes coming back while we scrape the thick Texas mud off our shoes.

8:11
Another longish walk through a pretty park. D finds the decon immediately. That’s a box built to hold a decontamination kit used by the military.

8:19
This cache is missing but we still get to log it as found. That’s because Outlaw has found this one before and knew where it should be. He figured out from recent logs that it was probably gone and arranged with the owner for a replacement. Outlaw has brought along a half dozen containers and log books on the trip,just in case some caches are missing. The protocol is to call the owner before setting a replacement,although cachers who know each other very well can often skip that step.

8:22
Dana is on a roll. She nails a camouflaged bison tube in a tree in about 10 seconds.

8:25
Paul quickly finds a camo’d water bottle in a hollow tree stump.

8:33
We’re at a beautiful sculpture in a park in a ritzy section of Austin. There’s a film canister here somewhere. Paul’s baffled,but Dana finds it in about two minutes. Cachers have streaks,too.

8:43
Here’s a virtual and a micro in the same place and. The virt is easy enough:just write down some words on a sign to send to the owner. The micro is tougher. TreyB knows right where to look,though. He has that uncanny sense of a veteran geocacher. It’s a treat to watch him.

8:52
PnD had tried to find this one after dark the previous night,but it turns out the cache had been moved temporarily and they were looking in the wrong place. Outlaw and Trey know where to go,but that doesn’t help. The cache isn’t there. Outlaw fishes a replacement bison tube and log book out of his bag and hides it.

There are geocaching jokes,as Outlaw relates:

A man meets a woman in a bar. They talk. One thing leads to another and they end up spending the afternoon in bed. What’s the guy going to tell his wife? So on the way home,he gets out of the car,rolls around in the dirt and scratches himself all over with greenbriers. Arriving home,he’s a mess.

“Where the hell have you been?” his wife demands.

“I can’t lie,dear,” the man says. “I met a woman in a bar and we spent all afternoon making love.”

“Don’t give me that!” she screams. “You’ve been geocaching again!”

9:03
Quick grab bison tube in a tree. This is the first of a five-part series. Each part contains a clue to a bonus puzzle at the end. We need all five parts to solve the puzzle.

9:10
Another one is missing! Outlaw calls the owner in Indiana to get permission to replace.

9:38
We cross a wide park to pluck a micro from a tree about 400 feet from the car. This is the second stage of the five-part series,so we grab second set of clues for bonus final. Outlaw CITOs a gatorade bottle.

CITO stands for “cache in,trash out” and is part of the standard protocol for geocaching enthusiasts. Courteous cachers always keep an eye out for trash they can take with them when they leave the area. Many carry trash bags for just such a purpose.

9:26
We walk about 150 feet to a grove of cedar trees. The hint says “eye level”but we can’t find it for several minutes until Outlaw spies the bison tube attached to a tree.

9:35
We skirt a swimming pool in a complex of nice homes to find a series of live oak trees. The hint says you won’t find the cache in the trees. That’s technically true,but our goal turns out to be a magnetic key holder attached to the underside of a light fixture affixed to a tree. A little sneaky. We wouldn’t have found it quickly without help from Outlaw.

9:42
We walk across a wide athletic field to the next goal,a plastic jar at the bottom of a metal tube near a light post. On a true power cache run,we wouldn’t waste time like this. Someone would stay in the car and meet the cachers at their destination. Oh,well;TreyB makes the find.

9:48
We walk 220 feet to the edge of a hill that slopes away sharply. There’s lots of limestone on the ground,presenting tantalizing concealment possibilities. But Trey knows the owner has a particular style for this series. He quickly nabs the bison tube hanging in a tree.

Paul is calculating:We’re at 23 searches and 21 finds a little under three hours after we began. Outlaw says we’re on a good pace for 100 for the day. Paul’s not so sure.

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