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Feedback Needed! Finding a Geocache

This is a full draft  chapter from Joy of Geocaching. We need your input! What have me missed? What have we got wrong? What new stories can you contribute? Please note that the section on “evil hides”will be filled out with more information and examples in the chapter on “Hiding a cache,”which we will also post here.


You can spend anywhere from five minutes to five hours seeking a geocache. So-called “park and grabs”often have a 1/1 difficulty/terrain ranking and may be labeled as easy finds by their owners. If you want to run up your found numbers,these are a good way to do it. Multi-stage caches may spread out over miles of terrain and require hours of searching,with each stage contributing a clue to the final destination. We’ve seen multis with as many as a dozen waypoints. If you fail to find even one of the stages,you won’t find the final.

Good planning is essential to a successful outing. Think about how much time you can devote to the hunt,how much daylight you have,your tolerance for weather conditions and your frustration threshold. There’s nothing like searching for a cache for three hours,only to come up empty-handed. A good rule of thumb is to mix one challenger in with several easy finds. That’ll make the day worthwhile,even if you don’t nab the big treasure. Geocaching Swiss Army Knife (GSAK) is a great tool for planning your outing (see chapter XX).

Geocaching can be a multi-day trip or a quick diversion as you drive home from work.  Many people squeeze geocaching into their lunch hours as an excuse to get outside. Our favorite story about rapid caching comes from Ray King (peasinapod),who is a US Airways pilot.  Ray’s job enables him to cache all over the country,but our favorite story was about the time he logged a find during a 30-minute layover in Omaha.  Ray ran off the plane,through the airport across the parking lot,grabbed the cache and was back in the cockpit for an on-time takeoff!

The better you prepare for your journey,the better your experience will be.  Veterans tell us that they often spend as much time in preparation as they do in the field.  Complex excursions like power-caching runs and series may require a month or more of planning.  And then there are extreme examples like the DeLorme Challenge,a contest that requires players to find or hide a cache from each page of the DeLorme atlas for their state.  Players who complete the gauntlet must send the final coordinates to a designated owner,who e-mails the coordinates of the final container.  There is a DeLorme challenge in nearly every US state and hundreds of people have completed the circuit,with some needing three years to do so.

Chances are you’re not that dedicated,at least not yet.  In our previous chapter,we gave you some tips for narrowing your search.  Now let’s look at what you need as you hit the trail and approach your destination

Toolkit

We asked dozens of geocachers for their recommendations of what to bring on their outing. Here’s what they advised us,listed in order of importance from essential for your safety to merely convenient.

Cell phone - If you’re geocaching alone,don’t leave home without it. Many woods caches are located in remote places and you don’t want to be down with a fractured leg waiting for someone to pass by. Cell phones also have rudimentary location features that rescuers can use to find you.

Whistle or horn –Again,for the solo cacher,a noisemaking device can alert others if you get into trouble.

Spare batteries –This is also essential for safety. If you’ve ever seen The Blair Witch Project you know how easy it is to get lost in the woods. The first thing you should do upon leaving your car is create a waypoint where you parked so you can find your way home. You never want your GPS to die while you’re out in the field. These devices can devour battery power quickly,so always keep spare batteries. If you want to invest in rechargeables,we recommend Nickel Metal Hydride (Ni-MH) or Lithium Ion (LI-Ion) batteries,which hold a charge longer.

Gloves –You never know what you’re going to encounter outdoors,and sharp rocks,stinging insects and unrecognizable liquids are a constant concern. Of your five senses,touch is the one you want to use the least. At the very least,bring surgical gloves to keep your hands clean.

First aid kit - It’s easy to cut yourself out of doors,but even urban caches can be hidden under sharp edges. Make sure the kit also includes snake bite medication.

Hiking boots -Believe us,sneakers don’t cut it in the woods. Your journey is likely to take you over rough terrain or through the woods,where rocks,tree roots and puddles are a constant hazard. There’s nothing like stepping in a puddle early in your search and spending the rest of the day with wet feet. Hiking boots give you better footing and some protection from moisture.

Warm/wet weather gear –These are especially important if you’re going to spend several hours outdoors. Know the local climate or consult weather.com before you head out.

“The most important thing to pack is knowledge. You should know what dangers are out there in the area you plan to hike. This may include poison bushes and wild animals. In our area we have poison oak,as well as stinging nettles. These plants should be left alone. Be sure you know what they look like in all seasons. Poison oak looks shiny green in summer,yet sheds ALL its leaves in winter. Touching the leaves on the ground can cause a reaction as bad as touching the live plants.”   “Rattlesnakes are common in most states,but don’t usually attack hikers. Over 80% of bites are caused by hikers trying to move them,touch them,or pick them up. Ticks are the most dangerous thing in our area. If they attach themselves you may contract Lyme disease. Find out what type live in your area. Mountain lions and bears are rare and seem to move away when they encounter humans.”

“It won’t matter if you have a backpack of stuff. Spend some time getting familiar with the local fauna and animals.Many parks and recreation departments have classes about these things.”

-Stephen O’Gara (Ventura Kids)

Hat –It protects you from the sun and helps keep you warm on cold days.

Sun block –You can get a nasty sunburn even on a cloudy day. Block up with SPF 15 or above and reapply sun block every two hours.

Mirror –A pocket mirror can be a great help when peering over railings or under benches. The less you fish around with your hands,the less chance you have of hurting yourself. Get a plastic model that won’t shatter.

Flashlight –Even on a bright day,your search may involve looking in dark rock outcroppings or hollow tree stumps. We always carry a small LED flashlight and leave a large D-cell unit in the car in case we need it.

Bug repellent –If caching in warm months or in the evening,you’ll be glad you brought this.

Water - Long hikes can dangerously dehydrate you. Plus,if you are injured and need to wait for assistance,you don’t want to go thirsty.

Walking stick –Useful for long hikes over unsteady ground. MoosyGirl uses an old ski pole,which is a great idea! You can also use the stick to snag caches hanging in trees or hidden in hard-to-reach places.

“When I went caching in the snow,a fellow cacher had a spatula. That moved a lot of snow very easily. I almost always have one of those 5-in-1 things with needle nose pliers. If you don’t have needle-nose pliers,make sure you have tweezers in your Swiss army knife for those nanos.”

-PZ Dude

Snacks –Power bars and granola are nourishing and portable.

Pen - You’ll need a writing implement,since small caches rarely have them.

Camera –We’ve seen all kinds of wildlife out in the woods and some beautiful scenery on other excursions. Portable digital cameras costing less than $200 can make sure you never miss a photo op. We use a Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ5K,but there are lots of options. Just remember that the vaunted megapixel rating is far less important than the quality of the lens.

Knife - You’ll sometimes have to cut away vines or undergrowth to reach a cache or use the knife blade to pry open a sticky lid. A Swiss Army-style knife or also gives you tweezers and a screwdriver,which may come in handy.

Trash bags - We encourage you to adhere to the geocachers’motto of “cache in,trash out.”Make it a point to pick up a few items of refuse and leave the area cleaner than when you arrived. Doing this good work benefits everyone in the caching community.

Plastic bags —Electronics don’t take kindly to the rain,and if you get stuck in a downpour you’ll want to stash your cell phone,GPS and any other delicate goodies in a plastic bag.

Where Do I Keep All This Stuff?

trailmate_lumbar_packInvest in a water-repellent backpack with lots of pockets. Always tuck your equipment away in the same pockets so you won’t have to rummage around for it. If your funds permit it,wear a fishing vest. It’s got lots of pockets that are ideal for the small items you have to carry and you can keep it stocked and hung in your closet between outings. Another option is a large fanny pack like the Trailmate Lumbar Pack pictured here. It has space for nearly everything mentioned above and fits conveniently around the waist. At $40,It comes highly recommended by the folks at Cache Advance (www.cache-advance.com)


Sidebar:The Geocacher’s Creed

Back in the early days of geocaching,a group of passionate trail-blazers got together online to address growing concerns that the game could be banned in some areas because of abuses by a few people. They hashed out a set of voluntary principles for the community.

The seven principles stated below may look simple,but they were the product of months of debate and fine-tuning. They were created as a consolidate existing information and behavior “into a concise format that serves both to guide geocachers and to instill a sense of trust in landowners and land managers.”Learn more at http://www.geocreed.info/

When placing or seeking geocaches,I will:

1.      Not endanger myself or others

2.      Observe all laws &rules of the area

3.      Respect property rights and seek permission where appropriate

4.      Avoid causing disruptions or public alarm

5.      Minimize my and others’impact on the environment

6.      Be considerate of others

7.      Protect the integrity of the game pieces

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Tricks of the Trail

The most challenging and unpredictable geocaches are usually those you find in the woods. They may involve hikes of several miles,in some cases,and finding even large containers can be challenging in dense underbrush or poor light. Added to that is the fact that GPS don’t like thick woods. Signals may suddenly drop or become unreliable and signal bounce off of rock walls can suddenly render them almost useless.

So why both with woods caches at all? Because they’re great exercise,a never-ending source of challenge and a wonderful way to discover new places to hike and explore. We like urban geocaching,but bouncing between parking lots and street signs loses its novelty pretty quickly. Urban caches are great for running up your numbers,but woods caching is what makes the game special to us.

When Paul started geocaching in 2006,he had lived in the same area for nearly 20 years. Imagine his surprise to discover that nearly every search took him to a park,reservation or nature preserve that he had never seen before,some less than a mile from his home. That’s what’s great about geocaching:it’s a chance to discover the little-known getaways that other people love,and to make them your own.

What You’ve Gotta Know

Read the cache description to know what you’re getting into. Many owners will give you an approximate time to complete the search,particularly if it involves multiple stages. We budget a half hour to find even the most basic woods cache,and we add 15 minutes for every stage. Puzzle caches (see below) are a different story entirely.

Map the parking coordinates on Google Maps and measure the distance from the cache location. You can do this by clicking the Google Maps link just under the hint section in the cache description,then clicking the location of any parking coordinates and plugging the result into the “Get Directions”option on Google Maps. Google Maps will give you the distance between them. Or you can just eyeball it.

Choose your time of day so you don’t get stuck after dark in the deep woods. There’s nothing like spending two hours getting to a final,only to discover that it’s too dark to see anything.

Michael Jacobus,publisher of Geocacher Magazine,tells how he plans ahead:“If we’re going to be away for hours,we have a geocaching backpack with first aid equipment,water,snacks,map,compass,extra batteries,flashlights,a change of shoes and socks and a fully charged cell phone,”he says. “And we’ll always let somebody know where we’re going and when we should be back.”

Consider the terrain rating as expressed in the cache description. A rating of 3 or above may indicate a steep trail or lots of rocks or other hazards. Match this ranking to your skill and stamina for that excursion. You can double-check your work with Google Earth,which will give you a 3D-like view of the area. Or you can purchase a topographic map for your GPS or computer,like DeLorme’s Topo USA.

Enter at the recommended trailhead. Most cache owners aren’t interested in endangering you or getting you stuck in dense undergrowth. They’ll generally tell you where to enter the trail. Take their advice.

Stay on the trail. One of the most common mistakes novice cachers make is to plunge into thick undergrowth for the last 300 feet of their search. After all,the trail appears to be taking them in the wrong direction and 300 feet doesn’t seem all that far. Trust us:it is. When you’re out in the deep woods with thorns penetrating your flesh and branches slapping you in the face,300 feet can seem like miles.

Most cache owners place their hides near marked trails for their own convenience as well as for the convenience of seekers. Trails tend to meander and double back upon themselves. If your GPS indicates that the cache is at a 90 degree angle to your direction of travel,chances are the trail will make a big turn ahead. If you can find a trail map before entering the woods,you can cut out the uncertainty.

Mark Eisenbraun (Bigdaddy Mark) found this out the hard way. While caching in Columbiana County,Ohio,he and a friend decided to go after a cluster of five large caches in a nearby park. (GCTPFV) Here’s what he told us:

The GPS was heading us down a steep but nicely maintained packed gravel trail.  We headed in for about two hundred yards,when the GPS started pointing us into the woods.  We were still about five hundred feet to go when the trail turned behind this monstrous hill.

We discussed if we should bushwhack to the cache,or stay on the trail.  I said the cache is only rated at a 1.5 difficulty,so I couldn’t see going through the woods.So down the path we headed.

At the bottom of the hill the GPS turned perpendicular to the path reading less than two hundred feet.  We started climbing the hill.  It was at such a steep angle that standing straight up I could touch the hill face with an outstretched arm.  We dug in and kept climbing.  The higher we got the softer the ground became.  With every step I got dirt over the top of my hiking boots.

Huffing and puffing,I pulled myself up using any sapling I could get my hands on.   After what seemed a lot longer than it was we got to where the cache was and quickly came up with the find.  While I was standing with both hands on my knees trying to catch my breath,I looked off to the right.  You guessed it:There was a nice flat path cut through the woods. Now,whenever we wonder which path,I always think of this cache.

Clever Hides

In geocaching lingo,an “evil hide”is a compliment. Cachers always appreciate a clever container or inventive placement,which can turn an easy difficulty 1 into a devious difficulty 4.

One of our favorites bore a name that made sense when we arrived at the coordinates. We can’t tell you the exact name,but imagine and finding more than 200 film canisters velcro’d to the underside of a stairway! What words might come out of your mouth? We set to opening the containers and found that each held a different message telling us that it wasn’t the cache. We had popped open about a dozen when we realized that no owner would be mean enough to force a player to go to that much trouble. We theorized that the collection was decoy meant to confuse us. And we were right. It turned out the treasure was about 20 feet away hidden in something that was nothing like a film can.

And there’s one of the secrets of geocaching. If it looks like the cache is in an impossibly difficult place,then it probably isn’t there. Veteran cache owners are skilled at throwing players off the track with startling locations and then placing the actual target in a very mundane place. It’s one of the things that makes them so evil.

Clyde England offers a great example of this. The developers of Geocaching Swiss Army Knife was once searching for a container that had been described in the hint as magnetic. There were lots of metal objects in the search area and England examined all of them to no avail. After more than an hour of fruitless searching,he pulled out his cell phone and called the owner,who told him that the cache was indeed magnetic but that fact had nothing to do with its location. England quickly found the container in a nearby tree. There was no metal in sight. The “magnetic”label was strictly meant to throw searchers off the trail!

Suspend Belief

The rules of the game dictate that geocaches can’t be buried,but that doesn’t mean they can’t be hidden. Owners conceal containers in devious ways,often stashing them in holes in the ground or suspending them in trees. As long as the cache isn’t buried,anything is fair game.

The most common hiding spots for woods caches are piles of rocks,branches or leaves. Urban caches are usually attached magnetically to the underside of signs and utility boxes or hidden under the the plastic skirts at the base of light poles. However,containers can also be suspended or camouflaged in interesting ways.

Fishing line is a favorite tool. Small caches are often hung from this nearly transparent thread and lowered down into hollow fence posts or storm drains. It turns that fishing line is almost impossible to see if you aren’t looking for it. We once searched for a half hour for a cache that was hidden this way. Several times we had our hands right on the fishing line but didn’t feel it.

available_in_winter

Hooks and wires can be used to suspend caches at eye level or above. These materials are especially popular with owners in cold locations who want to keep their hides available during snow-covered months. If there’s an

“available in winter”icon (left) on the description page,you’ll probably find the cache elevated in some way.

rock_cache
From the top,a prefabricated rock cache looks like any other stone.  But flip it over and twist…

When approaching any cache described as a “micro”or “small”container,think about looking inside nearby objects. The crown of a hollow fence post can sometimes be popped off and a micro hidden inside. A hook or wire may be used to attach a small camouflaged container to a tree branch like a Christmas ornament. Containers may be suspended overhead and lowered by fishing line. Always look up and always replace and secure suspended caches as you found them.

One of our favorite hides used fishing line attached to an old basketball backboard that had been overgrown by woods. The line was tied to a container suspended from the top of the backboard. When the line was detached from a holding clip,it allowed us to lower the container from its hiding place 15 feet up.

Unusual containers are the most difficult to find and give the greatest delight to their owners. It’s not unusual for dedicated owners to spend hours crafting a container out of wood,rock or bone. Sites like CachingBox.com sell pre-fabricated containers disguised as pinecones,rocks and even snakes. CachingBox founder MacKenzie Martin his bison tube cache attached to the back of a rubber rattlesnake is a popular seller. People also request custom caches made out of model scorpions,lizards,rabbits and other woodland or desert creatures.

One of Martin’s favorite containers was a birdfeeder that had been disguised to look like it was full of birdseed. The owner had sprayed the inside of the clear plastic container with glue and covered the surface with birdseed. From outside,the feeder appeared to be full,but popping open the top revealed an empty box.

Martin is always open to fashioning a cache out of unusual materials,but he has his limits. “I keep getting requests for the horse manure cache,”he says. “I’ve even seen a couple of people selling them. But I wouldn’t even know how to start making one. We’ve also had requests for road-kill caches. That’s kind of disgusting.”

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Tales From the Trail:The Spider Cache

We didn’t know whether to categorize this story from Ventura Kids as scary or funny,so we’ll just leave you to enjoy it:

“I once found a geocache under a lamppost skirt. As I lifted the skirt I saw nothing. Knowing that sometimes the cache is magnetic,I leaned down and looked up under the skirt. Just as I peeked up into the skirt,a giant wiggling spider fell on my face! Panic set in as I dropped the skirt and backed up. The giant wiggling spider fell to the ground and began chasing me as I moved backwards! It seemed like forever before I realized that I was backing downhill,and the spider was just rolling along with me. I moved to the side and watched it  roll down the hill. After gaining my composure,and waiting for Sandy to quit laughing,we walked over to the spider. We quickly realized it was made of rubber,which made it wiggle,and the geocache was cut into the rubber body. Ever since then I love lamppost caches!”

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Explaining Just What The Heck You’re Doing

Early in your geocaching experience you will have to deal with the issue of explaining to somebody else just what you’re up to. Why would an otherwise grown-up man or woman spend 20 minutes poking around under rocks in a lovely park in the middle of the day? This is not an usual question nor an unreasonable one,so be prepared.

Geocachers refer to the uninitiated as “Muggles,”a reference to ordinary mortals in the Harry Potter fantasy book series.  Many people will stop and look at you while you’re peering into dark places and rustling in the bushes,but few will bother to ask for an explanation.  However,some will ask,and when they are wearing uniforms of law,they deserve particular attention.

We’ve asked scores of geocaches how they deal with Muggles,and each has his or her own tactics and favorite stories.  In general,the best approach is to tell people what you’re actually doing:“We are engaged in a treasure hunt using global positioning systems.”  Most Muggles will be sufficiently baffled by this response that they’ll move on.  For the few that express interest in learning more,show them your GPS and explain to them how you’re trying to pinpoint the treasure.  You can even invite them to join in the hunt.

Some veteran geocaches have come up with original approaches to deflecting Muggles or avoiding questions in the first place. Ray King (peasinapod) of Phoenix invests in a bright orange reflective vest that gives him a built in aura of responsibility. “If you’re wearing an orange safety vest and carrying a clipboard,you can do practically anything you want,”he says. We love this idea.  People wearing brightly colored vests and hardhats become almost invisible to the general public and so can do unusual things without attracting attention.  Several geocaches told us they’ve tried this approach in busy public areas.

Trey Bielefeld of Round Rock,TX carries a geocaching brochure with him to hand out to inquisitive bystanders.  This satisfies most people and a few get interested not enough to want to join in the game.

Ken Alexander (Granpa Alex) of Sanford,North Carolina,uses the opportunity to recruit new geocachers. “I share the game with them and invite them to help me hunt as I sell them on the fun it brings,”he says. “I have never had an experience that did not turn out well.”

Our two favorite Muggle stories,however,both belong to Brad Simmons (MonkeyBrad) of Chapel Hill,TN. While caching with a group of friends in Jacksonville,FL,he retrieved one cache that involved reaching inside the rear end of a kids’horseback ride amusement at a Wal-Mart. “We got there at 10 at night and got the cache,”he says. “Suddenly,there were about 50 people were milling around the front of the store. There was no way for us to return the cache to this unusual location without being seen. We came up with another tactic. I started yelling at my friend and we walked away across the parking lot shouting and yelling at each other. While we distracted everyone,my wife slipped the cache back in place.”

Monkeybrad also tells about the time he co-opted a curious officer into the search. “We were in a park that was closed but we didn’t know it,”he says. “When the cops approached us,I threw my keys in a mud puddle. The officer set about helping us find the keys. And while we were searching we happened to find a Tupperware container (the cache). We opened it up and said,‘Whaddya know,there’s a book in here that people have signed!’We all ended up signing the book,including the police officer.”

That,friends,is grace under pressure.

Geocaching At Night

We have enough problems finding geocaches during the day,so we don’t understand why anyone would want to complicate the matter with the cover of darkness.  Nevertheless,some geocachers have told us that there is nothing like nighttime for a good group experience.

All we can say is:Be Careful! Our own experience with an night caching has been mostly frustrating.  Darkness accentuates the difficulty of finding an item that is already concealed,and even brightly lit urban locales can be treacherous after dark,depending on the neighborhood and the local residents.  Nighttime noises can freak you out:Paul once placed a cache after dark in a wooded area where the crash of deer and other woodland creatures plummeting through the forest just about sent him scurrying back to his car.

We recommend that you never go geocaching alone after dark.  You should also make sure that someone at home knows where you are,when you are due back and how to reach you.  Always carry high-powered flashlights and cell phones. And be prepared to get out of an area if you sense any danger.

Geocaching at night is at least three times as challenging as geocaching during the day,so plan accordingly.  It’s best to stick to relatively simple and large targets. Stay close to the road so that you can call for help if you ever get in trouble.  That said,roadside caches are best avoided after dark,when poor visibility and impaired drivers are threats. We also recommend you avoid multi-caches,which often have small stages bearing only written coordinates.  These are hard to see after dark.

Have we scared you off yet?  Night caching can actually be fun if conducted in an area where there is a good lighting and other people around.  Sports complexes,highway rest areas,city sidewalks and shopping malls are good spots.  Consult resources like Google Earth to get a sense of where you’ll be hunting.

Geocaching in Winter

We love living in the northeastern US,but we’re all too aware of the difficulties of geocaching in a cold climate. In addition to frostbitten fingers and toes,winter geocaching presents its own unique set of challenges,particularly when there’s snow on the ground. We don’t want to warn you off of the sport in mid-winter,but it pays to know what you’re up against.

Geocaching in snow probably adds two difficulty stars to the ratings posted on Geocaching.com. This is because cache owners in the northeast are fond of hiding their treasures in the thousands of stone fences that ring the area. Once upon a time,these wooded areas were grasslands where cows grazed. The cows are long gone,but the stone fences that farmers created from the rocks they turned up in the fields will last for hundreds of years.

The fences present great opportunities for hides,but in winter they tend to get covered with snow. If more than a foot of snow is on the ground,many of the caches that would be simple finds in warmer months become almost invisible. Check the description carefully to see if the owner has taken this into account. Veteran owners will usually tell you if winter caching presents any special problems.

Snow isn’t as much of a problem for urban caches,micros and nanos,which are more likely to be hung in spots above the snow line. When in doubt,opt for these smaller containers.

Needless to say,dressing appropriately is a must.  Heavy gloves,thermal boots,a hat and layers are a foregone conclusion.  Use Google Earth to determine how if you’re going to have a long walk ahead of you. We recommend keeping a supply of those chemical hand  and foot warmers with you in case you start to feel numb.

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Great Hides

Most people won’t congratulate you for putting them through two hours of mindbending frustration,but then again geocachers aren’t like most people. Some of the greatest enjoyment we got out of researching this book was asking veterans to share their stories of “great hides.”  These were geocachers that put them through mental and physical gymnastics but rewarded them with ingenious placement,camouflage or containers.  Here are some of the best stories they told us.

Dave Grenewetzki (dgreno) has lots of stories to tell. One of his favorite finds was in a huge public park. “There’s a tree in this park that has an electrical conduit running up the trunk and at the top of the wire is a light fixture. Looks innocent enough,right? But when you open the junction box,you find a fishing reel. If you wind the fishing line,the light comes down the tree. Unscrewing the bulb reveals the cache.”

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Dgreno discovered another favorite while on a cross-country trip with TeamAlamo and Bthomas. The city cache said,“Report to this location,find the desk with the artwork behind it,and tell the person you’re there to geocache.”The location was a security desk of a 40-story office building.

The players did as requested and were politely told to have a seat;someone would be with them in a minute. A building maintenance man guided them to the top of the building,then to a service elevator. They got off on the roof of the building,overlooking the city. There was a huge treasure chest filled with local swag. It turned out the owner was chief engineer for that office building,who,upon finding out that cachers were leafing through his treasure chest on the roof,brought them to his office and showed them all the best places to go caching,where to eat and what to do in the city.

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Cathie Ensel (rubberpaws) tells of a challenging (5/4.5) puzzle cache that required seekers to visit hides by certain cachers in 16 different counties. “Having it almost completed,we decided to try to be first to solve the puzzle. But to get the three remaining counties we needed,we had to drive 13 hours and over 350 miles in one day. We left the Sierra foothills,drove to the central valley,then the back roads of the agriculture areas and then to the mountains and then home. The next morning,we left in the dark to head to another city and were on the levees at 6:30 in the morning carrying a 20-ft pole. We hiked a long way to a huge tree to try to get the cache down. That also proved to be quite a challenge! But yes,we were first to find by only a few hours.”

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Susanne LaSpino,who is one half of Turtle Team,once spent an hour-and-a-half looking for a woods cash. “We were walking around where the cache should be,looking everywhere. We had noticed some reflective red tape around a tree but thought it was something for hunters or surveyors so we just kept on looking. Finally,just to take our minds off the frustrating hunt,we looked under the tape. And there were the coordinates for the next stage written inside.”

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Laura Goodwin (thrifty-chick) remembers “The cache name was a series of numbers. My GPSr took us to the front of our local public library. That’s when it dawned on me that the numbers in the name were its Dewey decimal numbers. We rushed to the shelf and started counting down until we found the book with that exact number on the spine. My daughter picked it up and opened the book. Taped inside the front cover was a geocaching log to sign. As I recall,it was an “adventure”book. Gee,I hope no one ever checks that book out!

9 comments to Feedback Needed! Finding a Geocache

  • Laura Goodwin (thrifty-chick)

    Thanks SO much for including me! Can you include my Geocaching.com name? It’s ‘thrifty-chick’. Thanks again!

  • Laura Goodwin (thrifty-chick)

    Thanks!

  • Laura Goodwin (thrifty-chick)

    Another way of “blending”when geocaching:

    What I’ve done,when looking for a geocache (especially when I may have started to attact attention),is I pull out my cell phone and sit down and pretend to talk on it. People usually then turn away,to mind their own business. I never really dial anyone,it just helps to look as though you’re not really up to anything.

  • Great idea,Laura. We’ll include it.

  • Laura Goodwin (thrifty-chick)

    An environmental alternative to a regular [battery-eating] flashlight:one you can wind-up or shake. My kids love our wind-up flashlight,which is also an emergency radio. They actually fight over who gets to wind it up. I’ve probably saved a fortune on batteries,plus I don’t have to remember batteries for it. It contains an LED lamp,for a more concentrated beam. A perfect tool!

    Also,

  • Laura Goodwin (thrifty-chick)

    In the section,“Explaining Just What The Heck You’re Doing”…wouldn’t my cell phone muggle escape suggestion be good there?

  • In the ‘Toolkit’section you discuss having spare batteries and mention that NiMH are one of the good rechargable choices. As a certified broadcast engineer,I want to warn you of a potential problem with these,a problem this type shares,to an even greater degree than the old NiCAD rechargeable ones. NiMH (Nickle Metal Hydride) batteries lose their charge whilst sitting in your emergency back up pouch even faster than the old standby NiCAD (Nickle Cadmium) batteries do. Here’s the scenario. You charge your backup NiMH or NiCAD batteries,put them in your caching hike belt or pack,and figure you’re good to go. A few months later you do,indeed,run your GPSr and/or flashlight batteries down out down the trail. When you place your backup batteries into your GPSr and/or flashlight,they may work for a little while,but perhaps not as long as you expected or needed.

    Few people are organized enough to remember to recharge these two types of batteries on a schedule often enough to be relied upon. Not even us,with this knowledge in hand.

    Not wanting to show a problem without a solution,we suggest you have a good quality standard alkaline set of batteries as your backup,as they do not lose their charge for years. It may be interesting to label the bag their stored in with their ‘expiration date’,which is usually several years from their purchase date,a period you’ll probably notice and/or use them before.

    A final note about rechargeable batteries vs. standard alkaline cells. Rechargeable cells voltage is in the 1.2 to 1.25 volt range. Standard alkaline cells are at 1.5 volts. A GPSr or flashlight that uses two batteries is thereby at least a half a volt lower than using rechargeable cells,suffering the receiver sensitivity of the lower voltage right out of the box.

    Summary:

    In your ‘Toolkit’section you mention the wisdom of having backup batteries,and specifically NiMH or LiON types. NiMH ones lose their charge ‘on the shelf’surprisingly fast,and LiON AA cells are pretty much NONEXISTANT (for highly technical reasons too deep to get into in this level of discussion). The old standby NiCAD rechargable batteries also have a bad habit of self-discharging ‘on the shelf’,so the best back up batteries are good quality standard Alkaline ones,as their shelf life is years instead of a very few months.

    Safety first,and Happy Trails,

    Hosta Hillbillys

  • Howdee!

    Another note to your upcoming book (do we get a percentage of the royalty)? You rightly mention making a waypoint of where you park your cachemobile. Since that’s so easily forgotten,we strongly recommend enabling the ‘bread-crumb’trail feature on your GPSr,as that’s yet another way to find your way back. Besides,sometimes it’s way fun to look at how much ‘wandering’you did on the way to or from the cache. We’ve even uploaded said ‘bread-crumb’trail as a graphic to our logging of a cache to show the cache owner and others what the ‘trail’entailed . . .

    Now,doubling back,spare batteries are fine,but what if,even if you ‘sheltered’your GPSr in a QUALITY baggie before the downpour hit,the GPSr quits ANYWAY! Can you say compass?

    Safety first,Happy Trails,

    Hosta Hillbillys

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