Showing posts with label Adventures. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Adventures. Show all posts

Monday, July 02, 2012

Cruise Caching

As I mentioned in my previous posts, I recently returned from a very enjoyable Alaskan cruise.  One of the best things about cruising is going to bed in one city/state/country and waking up the next morning in another or on your way to another.  For geocachers, that means finding a cache in one place, going to sleep, and finding another cache somewhere else the next day - a great way to collect finds in multiple cities, states, or countries without having to spend hours upon hours driving.

Another fun thing about cruise caching is seeing other cruise cachers from all over the world who have found the same geocache that you just found - often within a few hundred feet of the dock.  Occasionally, you'll even find geocachers from your local region who have signed the log before you.  On my recent trip, that is exactly what happened. 

While visiting Victoria, British Columbia, Canada on our cruise, I saw a geocache called Jaiden's Cache (GC23RBJ) just 300 feet from the bow of our ship.  Instead of finding it immediately after leaving the ship with the large mob of people around, I decided to wait to find it later in the evening right before I got back on-board the ship.  By that time, it was already dark, but it didn't stop my search for pathtags or other small signature items.  I struck out on pathtags in every cache I found, but I did find a nice wooden nickel here.  It was dark enough that I didn't really pay attention to whose it was or what was on it; I just dropped in one of my wooden nickels and a few extra pathtags and grabbed it out of the cache.  When I could finally get it into the light, I noticed it was from Mrs. Captain Picard - a local geocacher in Texas. 

I thought it was kinda funny that I picked up a signature item from a local cacher over 2,000 miles away in a foreign county, so I sent her a quick email to tell her about it, but apparently it isn't that uncommon!
Mrs. Captain Picard:  "We dropped that wooden nickel personally a couple of weeks ago while we were on OUR cruise!  A couple of ports behind us?  HiDude_98!  On our SAME SHIP - Normasgirl from East Texas, but we didn't know it until we started logging and saw hers.  WOW!"

Monday, June 25, 2012

Volcano Caching

My oldest daughter has a strong fascination with and deep interest in volcanoes.  In fact, when she was finally old enough to have her own Geocaching name instead of what I used to call her (Geo-Baby) she chose the name LavaRocks - though we haven't been diligent in logging all of her finds online.  Needless to say, she has always expressed interest in visiting an active volcano.  Ideally, she'd like to see an actively erupting volcano in Hawaii, but this time she'd have to settle for somewhat quieter active volcanoes in Washington - Mount Rainier and Mount St. Helens. 

Before our recent cruise, we spent a few extra days in and around Seattle, WA.  On one of those days, we made a road trip south towards Portland, Oregon and spent the day visiting Mount Rainier and Mount St. Helens.  There were two Earth Caches that I really wanted to find while visiting:

      Narada Falls at Mount Rainier
      Mount St. Helen's Earthcache at Mount St. Helens

At a summit elevation of 14,411 ft, the clouds were so thick around Mount Rainier that we couldn't even see the top of the mountain.  Apparently the peak is only seen approximately 100 days each year.  Regardless, we had a great time exploring Mount Rainier National Park, learning about the volcano, viewing the glacial waterfalls, playing in the snow high up the mountain, and hiking on just a few of the many trails.  The forest, rivers, and numerous waterfalls around Mount Rainier make it one of the most beautiful natural places I've ever been.  It is a surreal experience watching your children play on the slopes of what is considered to be one of the most dangerous stratovolcanoes in the world! 

Further south, Mount St. Helens is a totally different experience.  Although most of the area surrounding the mountain has recovered well in the last 30 years, the area directly across from the 1980 blast is still very much a barren wasteland. Huge trees are still seen lodged horizontally in the mountainside from when they were blasted across the valley from the eruption, and the entire area is covered in a fine, gray, ash powder (as is easily seen in the aerial Google Maps photograph).  The area directly across from the eruption is now home to the Johnston Ridge Observatory which was named in honor of U.S. Geological Survey volcanologist David A. Johnston who was on duty at the USGS, Coldwater II observation post during the May 18, 1980, eruption.  This is where we spent most of our time during our visit to Mount St. Helens touring the exhibit and watching the seismometers record real-time seismic activity from this active volcano.

UPDATE: My thoughts and prayers go out to the four injured climbers from my town recently injured in a tragic accident last week on Mount Rainier and to the family of the park ranger who died while rescuing them.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Geocaching at Groundspeak HQ

This month, I had the opportunity to go on an Alaskan cruise that left out of Seattle, WA. Needless to say, when a geocacher is in Seattle, there is at least one place that you simply MUST go - Groundspeak Headquarters.  I made an appointment several months in advance with Lackey Sara via email and was given the not-terribly-secret coordinates (and the street address just in case).

Upon arriving at the third-floor office, the first thing you notice is the gigantic treasure chest staring at your from across the room.  I've found some very large caches before, but this was by far the largest one yet.  I wanted to look around first, but my two girls were so mesmerized that they just made a bee-line straight for the treasure chest.  To my surprise, it was amazingly well organized - a box for U.S. destined travel bugs, a box for foreign country destined travel bugs, and a box for tradable geocoins.  The rest of the treasure chest was full of other unusual items like a full-size, trackable Darth Vader mask and a giant wooden Groundspeak Signal HQ Geocoin.  I had expected to find numerous pathtags in the treasure chest too, but sadly this was not the case.  In fact, I brought around 30 pathtags (most donated by the lovely caching couple DE_Cryptoman and Entwined55) and left about half of them in the cache anyway.

Another perk of visiting Groundspeak HQ is the chance to meet and visit with some Groundspeak Lackeys.  On this visit, I had the pleasure to meet a geocaching legend and Groundspeak Lackey, Moun10Bike.  In the rare event that you haven't heard of him, Moun10Bike is a not only a charter member of, he is also the father of geocoins and designed the very first trackable geocoin.  If you want to follow him, he is very active on Twitter, @moun10bike.  To help commemorate my visit, I was given one of the nice Lackey X-ing travel tags and a Moun10Bike travel tag.

The office area itself was off-limits since most of the Groundspeak Lackeys were still hard at work.  However, the lobby/foyer area is still pretty cool.  They have two large, flat-panel displays showing geocaching photos and logs in real-time on an interactive world map.  They also have a small store display where they sell hats, t-shirts, travel bugs, travel tags, water bottles, etc.  Recently, they added a photo booth too, but I didn't have time to get my picture made during this short visit.  Finally, the entire lobby area looked like an elegant cross between a high-tech computer firm and an outdoor adventure center - probably exactly the look they were going for!

Thanks, Groundspeak, for a nice afternoon visit!

Thursday, May 05, 2011


Many years ago, when I first learned about geocaching, I was driving through my neighborhood when I saw a very interesting little, metal footbridge. When I saw it, I thought to myself - "Self, this spot is the perfect spot for an urban geocache." Later that day, I went home to my computer and looked online. Low and behold, there *was* a geocache at this spot. That cache became my first geocache find!

That cache was "R U NUTS??? (UMM #7)" placed by TheGeoGoes on May 3, 2004. TheGeoGoes were prominent geocachers in the Waco area from 2003-2006 and placed numerous well-loved hides. Unfortunately, they seem to have taken an extended break from geocaching for the past several years and only surface every year or two for about a month. The cache itself was a small magnetic hide-a-key container painted to match the bridge and was surprisingly difficult to locate under the bridge. The name was always somewhat funny (and maybe a little tacky too) because this bridge is on a public path near a row of hospitals and doctors' offices, but most closely in front of a local psychiatric hospital.

Last month, TheGeoGoes finally decided to archive this cache and several other geocaches despite the container still being there and found fairly often. So in honor of that cache by TheGeoGoes and to celebrate my first find, I placed a new, identical geocache designed to finally answer the question asked by their original geocache so many years ago - I M NUTS!!!

Monday, March 14, 2011

EarthCache Master

When I first began Geocaching in 2004 and throughout 2005, EarthCaches were extremely rare in Texas.  In fact, until December 2006, there were only three EarthCaches within a 200 mile radius of my home caching territory - the closest of those being almost 70 miles away.  Because of this, I have always viewed EarthCaches as somewhat of a rarity and something really special to be found.  It wasn't until October 2007 that I found my first EarthCache - Canyon Falls of McCormick's Creek (GC16PX4) in Indiana.

Last week, I found two more EarthCaches - just enough to qualify to become an "EarthCache Master" at the bronze level.  One of these EarthCaches was the one around 70 miles away from my home territory - Dinosaur Valley Earthcache (GCQMHY) in Dinosaur Valley State Park, TX.  If you've ever wanted to step inside *real* dinosaur footprints still in their natural state, this is the place to go!  The other cache was around 180 miles away - Wichita River (GC1PN9J) in Wichita Falls, TX. 

There are many other EarthCaches closer to my home territory now.  In fact, there are 73 EarthCaches within the same 200 mile radius at the time I wrote this post with some created as recently as last month.

So what exactly are EarthCaches?

EarthCaching is an Earth science/geography-based educational activity that draws from the ever-increasing use of GPS receivers and the growing popularity of geocaching. Educators and others realize that Earth itself offers its own treasures to uncover and endless opportunities for exploration, discovery, and learning. EarthCache sites, then, are “virtual” caches that provide the visitor who finds them with new knowledge or insights about the location itself - an “educational treasure” which is arguably more valuable than a trinket anyway!

Instead of leaving or taking anything from the site, visitors are asked to follow the EarthCache notes, make and record observations while at the site, and then log their visit on the EarthCache web site by reporting what they learned. Like geocaches, EarthCaches are developed by people all over the world. However, because they are meant to be educational, all EarthCache sites that are posted on the EarthCache web site must provide some scientific information about the site. All EarthCache locations that are submitted for posting are subject to approval and oversight by the Geological Society of America (GSA).

If you are interested in EarthCaches, I recommend that you begin by visiting the website to learn more about this cache type and then search for EarthCaches near you on the website.  Once you find at least three EarthCaches in at least two states/countries, you too can qualify to become an EarthCache Master.

Monday, February 21, 2011

FTF Hunts

Image from
One of the things that I really enjoy about geocaching is the thrill of being FTF - First To Find.  This special honor comes from being the first geocacher to find a newly published geocache, and is usually accompanied by a little Jig known as the FTF Dance - a slightly longer and more vigorous version of the normal Geocaching Happy Dance.

Over the years, I've been FTF on just over two-dozen caches.  In fact, my only traditional cache find in 2010 was an FTF on a monstrously difficult puzzle cache that stayed unfound for well over two years - GC18N56.  A couple of weeks ago, I saw another cache published about 20 miles from home and decided to be FTF on that one too since it was still unfound after several days.

However, neither of these recent FTF's were really true FTF hunts.  Don't get me wrong, I was the first finder on both geocaches and signed a clean log book, but both caches were published online for several days (or years in the first example) before being found.  This usually happens with out-of-town geocaches and difficult puzzles.

A true FTF hunt is different.  A true FTF hunt usually occurs when a new geocache is published in the middle of a safe, suburban area and is sought after by numerous geocachers within hours of being published.  True FTF hunters often have email and SMS alerts notifying them of such caches and are often ready to be FTF anytime day-or-night. 

Although I don't have email or SMS alerts notifying me of new caches, I decided to go on one of these FTF hunts anyway last week.  The cache was published in the early evening hours and was just 2 miles away in a very safe and easily accessible residential area.  I knew when I saw the cache listed on the website that it would be popular that night, but I didn't realize exactly how popular until I checked Twitter and signed the geocache log as STF. 

This is the Twitter dialog from that night.  Both of the first two messages were posted at almost exactly the same time -  9:17pm.  The last message was posted at 9:35pm. 

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Too many bad coordinates!

Although I've been geocaching for several years now, I've been taking it easy for the past year or two. In my recent return to geocaching, I've noticed something that I never really noticed a few years ago - coordinates WAY off from where the cache is described to be. For some, the coordinates seem to be just too inaccurate and well beyond any normal range. For others, the coordinates appear to be taken in one format (DegDec) but posted online in another (MinDec) without proper conversion.

These two examples come to mind:

1) Kinder Island by cwnation (GC1E5JD) - This cache includes the following statement, "should not be to hard once you make it to the island." However, the coordinates place this cache in the lake almost 100 feet from any island. This is an example of grossly inaccurate coordinates.

2) Jacobs Latter by Rohan Clan (GC1G7M5) - This cache includes the following statement, "Located on a populer path in camron park." However, the last time I checked, the Cameron Park with a landmark called Jacobs Ladder near a popular path is in Waco, not in Peoria. That's over 26 miles away! This is an example of coordinates recorded in DegDec format, but posted online in MinDec format without being converted. [Yes, that matters; no, you can't just move the decimal over a couple of places.]

Is this coordinate confusion becoming the new trend? How is it possible for a cache owner to view their cache page, see the map of their cache so far away, and do nothing to fix it? My little yellow eTrex can at least put the cache in the correct county! Isn't THIS the reason we have reviewers?

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Geocaching Without a GPS

Is a Global Positioning System (GPS) Receiver necessary for modern Geocachers?

In this modern age of detailed street maps, satellite maps, and now even "street view" photographs available at your fingertips, is a GPS receiver still necessary? To illustrate my point, I was in downtown Houston last week for a conference and was staying on the upper floor of a deluxe hotel. Even though I forgot to bring my hand-held GPS with me on the trip, I decided to locate my hotel on a map to see how many geocaches were nearby. There happened to be two caches within a block of my hotel - one of which was right outside my window. Despite not having my GPS receiver with me, I decided that I wanted to go hunting for these caches anyway.

To find each cache, I thoroughly read the cache description, pulled up the Google Map view of the coordinates, zoomed in as much as possible, and could identify within approximately 10-12 feet exactly where the cache was hidden. If fact, I felt more confident about finding this cache than I usually do whenever I use my GPS. Not only did I know what area of town the cache was in, what street it was near, and what park it was inside; I could tell which tree it was under and almost which side of the shrubs it was on. Needless to say, it took me longer to ride the elevator down from my hotel room than it did to find this cache - even without a GPS.
Aerial views are great, but Google has now gone one step further and added Street Views to its maps for most major metropolitan areas. This extremely close view can help you pinpoint exactly where a cache is located from ground-level. Using this feature, urban geocachers can not only see what an area looks like from above, they can view extremely close details of the hide location allowing them to scout out an area well before they arrive on the scene to begin searching. So, is a GPS receiver still necessary for Geocaching?

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Indiana Earth Cache

I've been hoping to have the opportunity to find an Earthcache since the first day that I began caching. Earlier this month, the opportunity presented itself while I was at a family reunion in McCormick's Creek State Park near Spencer, Indiana. While staying in the Canyon Creek Inn, I pulled up, entered my current location, and noticed that I was surrounded by caches of varying difficulty. Since I didn't have too much time, I had to make my decision carefully, and that is when I noticed GC16PX4: Canyon Falls of McCormick's Creek. This was my first cache in Indiana, my first Earthcache, and my first cache in about six months.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Year in Review: March 2007 - March 2008

Over a year has gone by since my last post. Sadly, part of this is due to my own lack of geocaching over the past 12 months. In fact, I've only found 16 caches this past year. In this post, I'll bring you up to speed on my adventures in geocaching and let you know some exciting news about the Texas County Challenge.

This past summer, I took my family with me on a business trip to Boston, MA. It was fantastic and we all had a great time. However, no trip out-of-state would be complete without finding at least one geocache in the process, and that's exactly what I did - found one geocache, Troll Lord Magnar - Boston's Mine. It was a nice cache in the middle of the Boston Common near a large statue and an old WWI mine. Although my family and I walked all over Boston during the week we were there, this was the only cache that I attempted to find. Otherwise, I found a couple of caches in north Texas near the Oklahoma border and a handful here in central Texas.

There was much more excitement with the Texas County Challenge. Just to refresh your memory, the Texas County Challenge is a physical cache that can only be found after finding or hiding a cache in all 254 counties in the state of Texas. In April 2007, TxOilGas became the first geocacher to complete this challenge. In May, his finds and hides were verified and he was the FTF on the Texas County Challenge. Later that summer, the second, third, fourth, and fifth cachers to complete the challenge also found the cache. A HUGE congratulations goes to TxOilGas (FTF), Blizzard (STF), Little Red Wagon (3TF), Enduroking (4TF), and les7h (5TF).

After the celebration event for the 5TF, les7h, I handed the reigns of the Texas County Challenge to the #2 man, Blizzard by allowing him to officially adopt this cache.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

The Hunt for More Dallas Coin Finale - Part 2

This is the second part of my account of what happened in the final hours of the Dallas coin hunt in the Dr. Pepper: Hunt for More treasure hunt.

Knowing that it was already after 2:00am and we would be returning less than 2.5 hours later, we decided that we would just go and grab a bite to eat at Denny's before returning to the park entrance around 4:20am. As we were approaching the park again, we saw what we thought was the same police car driving away from the park. Shortly after, we could see the first of many cars re-entering the park well before 5:00am. My wife and I decided that if we were going to find the coin and win the hunt that we would at least do so honestly and play by the rules. One of the official rules says, "Do not enter locked or closed premises or premises without authorization." To us, this included White Rock Lake park until 5:00am, so we sat and impatiently waited.

We knew that if the coin were just recently hidden between 2:00-5:00am under the small footbridge closest to the stone tables (the same bridge that we had thoroughly searched hours before) that it would easily have been found already by the pre-5:00am searchers. So we decided that we would thoroughly search one of the other bridges in that section of the park. There were two road bridges and one additional wooden foot bridge over the creeks branching off of the lake giving us a 1 in 4 chance of searching the correct place. Because of the words "amble," "ramble," and "rover," we thought our best bet would be the one remaining large footbridge over the creek instead of the two road bridges.

As soon as our car's clock said 5:00am, we drove to our bridge location and began our search. When we arrived, we were the first car parked there, but not the first people searching. One of the cars that we could see driving through the area before 5:00am was apparently dropping people off at the various bridges in the park and leaving again trying to avoid being caught by the police officer. Even though we knew we weren't the first hunters to search this wooden bridge, we gave it a good hour of our time anyway.

We grabbed our flashlights and climbed over and under every inch of that wooden bridge while trying to avoid spiders, wasp nests, and who knows what else. My wife and I both slipped and fell into the creek (feet-first thankfully) at one time or another so we both searched the creek bed under and around the bridge. We looked under rocks, in piles of debris washed up against the side of the bridge, under and over all of the bridge supports and girders, in the cracks between the planks, and in every possible nook and cranny. Finally, we decided that we had looked in and around every possible hiding place on and under that rather large wooden bridge and called off our search after almost an hour. At this point, we felt confident that the coin was not under our bridge and knew that if the coin were under one of the other 3 bridges that it was probably already found.

But we still didn't stop. We looked under and around the original small stone footbridge and both of the road bridges although not going into the water to search since these bridges crossed rather deep sections of the creek and smelled like raw sewage. Once we were convinced that we had searched all of the bridges in the area without success, we started our search on other areas thinking that maybe the clue didn't mean a bridge but instead was something that we would normally just step over instead of walk or drive over like a large rock. We searched drainage ditches under roadways, under all of the slides and playground equipment that kids could climb over, and even resorted to fanning out over the area looking under individual rocks, sticks, trash, and anything else that a coin could be hidden under. Still no success. After almost 8 hours of searching and waiting all through the night and early morning with only a few hours of a break at Denny's, we were tired, wet, and physically exhausted from our search. For one last attempt, I called for advice and maybe an additional interpretation of the clue. My mom suggested that maybe it was talking about "going over" the park guidelines possibly on a sign about dogs. With this latest interpretation, we drove around that area of the park and searched on, around, and under every sign that had any sort of rule including several ones about dogs.

Finally, after around eight and a half hours of searching every square inch of that park and zero hours of sleep, we said goodbye to some of the other hunters still hanging around and left Dallas around 9:30am. While talking with some of the other hunters just before we left, we compared clues and clue interpretations. Interestingly, none of the hunters present at the time interpreted all of the clues. Nobody understood "DeagleD". Nobody understood for certain "don't lose your head." We were the only ones that understood, "the truth shall set you free," but were the only ones NOT to understand that "Legal Hill Fop" was an anagram for Flag Pole Hill. Some of the hunters we talked too heard from another hunter that a guy found the coin in a small black pouch under the small stone footbridge at 3:30am, but who really knows if that is accurate.

Overall, there are several possible scenarios for what happened. The coin could have been found by accident earlier in the week. The coin could have been hidden after the police officer made everyone leave the park at 2:00am and found later by someone who sneaked back in before 5:00am (most likely scenario in my opinion). The coin might not have been hidden yet and could have been hidden later that day when all of the original hunters left. Or, all of us at White Rock Lake who didn't correctly interpret all 30 clues might have been searching for a red herring in the woods.

Whichever scenario turns out to be true (and we may never really find out), we had a fun time and enjoyed our late night adventure in Dallas.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

The Hunt for More Dallas Coin Finale - Part 1

On January 23, 2007, the Dr. Pepper: Hunt for More began. This nation-wide treasure hunt let Dr. Pepper fans, geocachers, and ordinary people have a chance at finding large cash prizes hidden across the country. Each day, for a period of 30 days, participants entered codes that were found under bottle caps onto a special website and were given clues that led to one of 23 hidden coins. Each coin was worth between $10,000 and $1,000,000.

"Clues revealed online each day will provide hints to help Dr Pepper fans/detectives locate the money. The clues will test consumers' knowledge of geography, history and world events." - Dr. Pepper: Hunt for More press release

For 29 days, I entered codes online and deciphered cryptic clues. Before long, I knew that the clues I was given were directing me to Dallas, TX around White Rock Lake. This is my account of what happened in the final hours of the Dallas coin hunt in the Dr. Pepper: Hunt for More treasure hunt.

Late Tuesday night, my wife and I dropped the girls off with my parents and made a late night drive to the White Rock Lake area of Dallas. The 29th clue that came out earlier that day describing the location of the hidden coin strongly indicated that the coin was hidden near the stone table area of the park. We made a quick stop at the Casa Linda Plaza and looked for anything out of the ordinary before venturing into the park that night around 10:00pm.

When we first arrived, we were alone in that area of the park and began our diligent search all around the stone tables, the picnic tables, the pavilion, the drainage ditch, around the playground, inside the plumbing covers, in hollow spaces in tree stumps, and under the little stone foot bridge. We searched, drove around the area looking for other possibilities, and checked the Internet for the final clue from 10:00pm until 2:00am. During that time, other cars arrived and we could observe several individuals, couples, and even one larger group searching the same area with flashlights - so we knew we must be at the right place. Also during this time at around 11:30pm, a Dallas police patrol car arrived and began slowly driving through the area with his spotlight observing the searchers.

As the hours passed by, the final clue had still not been released online. Finally at 2:00am exactly, I was prompted to enter another code and receive the final clue! It said, "Amble and ramble make like a rover. Look under this thing that you'd normally go over." Our first reaction was "THE BRIDGE!!!!" We had thoroughly searched the little, stone foot bridge adjacent to the stone tables just an hour before this last clue, so we immediately headed off in the car to the next nearest bridge just a few hundred yards away. We had looked around this bridge before, but not crawled under it. By this time, there were at least 3 other cars just sitting around the park area waiting for the same thing we were. At almost the exact same second that we started driving, all of the other cars must have received the clue and started leaving the stone table area heading to one of the other bridges including the one that we were going to.

Also, at almost the exact same second, the Dallas police officer who had been there for quite some time started driving by each car one at a time telling all of us, "I know that there is a contest going on, but the park closed at 11:00pm and will re-open at 5:00am. I have been told to issue citations to anyone still found here. You can come back at 5:00."

Sadly, we drove off and discussed our game plan for our return at 5:00am. Only this time, we knew for certain that we wouldn't be searching alone. We also found the police officer's timing extremely questionable since he had been there watching us all for over 2 hours. We suspect that he was told to clear the area at 2:00am to make way for the person hiding the coin and to keep people out during that time.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

4, 3, 2, 1... Jeeps!

A short while back, I noticed one of the new green Jeep travel bug icons next to a local cache listing on one of my regular pocket queries. I made a mental note to go out and find that cache on my way home from work that day. However, by the time I actually finished my work and could go home, I checked the pocket query to see if the Jeep was still there and noticed two more Jeeps in another nearby cache. This time there was a new 2006 green Jeep and also a 2005 white Jeep. I went home, grabbed my GPS and some good swag including a couple of new movie DVDs (I wanted to trade fairly considering I was planning on snagging all three jeeps), and dashed out the door with my 3-yo daughter behind me to find these three jeeps in two caches. Success!

I managed to come home with two green 2006 Jeeps and one white 2005 Jeep, but the fun didn't stop there! After putting the girls to bed and sitting down on the computer to log these exciting finds, I ran the same PQ expecting to see the same three Jeeps and noticed one more green Jeep pop up on the list. I couldn't resist finding 4 Jeeps in 1 night, so I grabbed my GPS, another DVD, and my headlamp flashlight and dashed out the door again! I ended up approaching this cache from the worst possible way and spent just over an hour getting to the wrong location and back again before I finally found the cache and my 4th Jeep TB for the night!

4 Jeeps at
3 Caches in
2 Hours on
1 Day

4, 3, 2, 1... Jeeps!!!

A few days later, I met another cacher, LifeonEdge, at another nearby cache and we swapped two of my green Jeeps for one of his green Jeeps and a yellow 2004 Jeep. Now, I have in my hands a yellow 2004, a white 2005, and two green 2006 Jeep TBs ready to be distributed! I think I'll plan a meet-n-greet event soon and distribute them that way once I complete the 2006 Jeep's missions.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Spiders and Madness

After our 45th day of triple digit temperatures, we are finally getting a little relief from the heat. Hopefully my caching adventures can start picking up again more than they have for the past few weeks.

However, I did manage to get out of the house and do almost all of a new cache series around our county a couple of weeks ago. I use a super secret program on my desktop computer to keep me informed of new caches to help me get a jump on FTFs. I'll write about this secret little program in a later post, but now back to the topic.

One night a few weeks back, this program alerted me to about a dozen new caches that had just been approved around 10:30 p.m. By this time, the temperature had finally dropped into the mid-90's and it was a fairly moonlit night. I'm normally not a huge fan of night caching except for specially designed night caches because I typically have a hard enough time spotting cache hides in daylight much less at night. But this didn't stop me that night! I calmly walked into our bedroom where my wife was already getting ready to sleep and mentioned, "I know it is 10:30 at night, but the news tonight was boring and it looks like Leno is going to be another re-run. Can I go out caching?" Surprisingly, her answer was yes!

I grabbed my GPS, a couple of flashlights, a printed Google map of the new caches spread all over the county, and headed out! I left my home about 10:45 and spent the next several hours driving a loop around the entire county finding caches every 10 miles or so along the way. All in all, I drove a little over 84 miles through Woodway, Waco, Hewitt, Moody, McGregor, Crawford (yes, President Bush's Crawford), Speegleville, and back to Waco again. I ended up finding 11 of the 12 caches I was searching for in the Guardrail Madness series and came away with 10 FTFs. Unfortunately, I entered in the wrong coordinates for the 12th cache and spent about 45 minutes trying to get to one particular area that I just couldn't quite get to.

GRIM001 - Of Salads and Sagegrass (Traditional Cache)
GRIM003 - The Far Crossing (Traditional Cache)
GRIM004 - Crossroads (Traditional Cache)
GRIM005 - Domage (Traditional Cache)
GRIM006 - The Fishermen (Traditional Cache)
GRIM007 - The Homecoming (Traditional Cache)
GRIM008 - Where is Nowhere? (Traditional Cache)
GRIM009 - Down on the Corner (Traditional Cache)
GRIM010 - Down South (Traditional Cache)
GRIM011 - Past the Glare (Traditional Cache)
GRIM012 - A Stone's Throw (Traditional Cache)

But the story doesn't stop there! While searching miles and miles of country road guardrails, I was quickly reminded of one of the other reasons I typically do not like night caching - too many "others" out caching with me. I don't know how far north, east or west these things live, but around central Texas these things can be found out in the country abundantly. These "things" that I am referring to are the GIANT yellow and black spiders known as the Black and Yellow Argiope. Unbeknownst to me, these giant spiders love to hang out at night between the posts of guard rails like the ones I spent all night searching for. One location had more of them then all the other spots put together. I probably saw at least a dozen of the smaller (1-2 inch) spiders and probably half a dozen of the larger (3-5 inch) spiders every few feet around one cache.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Caching in the BBQ Capital of Texas

Each year, in the heat of the summer, my in-laws flock from all around the country to the small Texas town of Lockhart to visit the rest of their central-Texas family. On our trip to Lockhart this year, I thought I would honor that yearly tradition with a couple of new geocaches and by finding the ones already there.

Last year, Lockhart had only one geocache located in Lockhart State Park about 10 miles outside of town, but none actually in the town itself. However, over the past several months, a few Lockhart-area geocachers have hidden 14 geocaches inside the town itself and a few in nearby communities. Of these, I was able to successfully find 13. I'm fairly certain that the last one, Lockhart Series #2, is actually missing since there weren't very many potential hiding places and they were all empty.
Since Lockhart is just a couple of hours from home, I thought this would also be a great place for a couple of hides. The small town of Lockhart, TX is typically known for only one thing - BBQ. In fact, it is home to three of the Texas Monthly magazine's Top 50 BBQ Restaurants and has been called the "Barbeque Capital of Texas." However, Lockhart is also the birthplace of the fictional character Americus from the Natalie Portman movie "Where the Heart Is." Although the movie was set somewhere in Oklahoma, it was actually filmed throughout Central Texas in Lockhart, Austin, and at Baylor University in Waco.
The movie starts with a pregnant Novalee Nation (Natalie Portman) being abandoned by her boyfriend at a small-town Wal-Mart. After accidentally being locked in the Wal-Mart overnight, she decides to camp out in the store for the next few months until she finally gives birth one night in the store to her daughter, Americus. When she is discovered, the media frenzy that followed dubbed Americus, "The Wal-Mart Baby." My new cache, Birthplace of Americus, is located very near this famous movie set location.

Yes, Sonny, it IS a Wal-Mart LPC!!! But, it is there for movie history reasons only. :)

The second cache hide, Plum Creek Reunion, is located near the Plum Creek Inn where my family reunions are held each year. This particular spot in Lockhart is also a great location to watch the single engine planes take-off and land at the Lockhart airport just a field away. The airport isn't a commercial airport at all, just a landing strip in the middle of a field for crop-dusters, flight students, and other small aircraft. There was even an old bi-plane there while we were at the site during this year's reunion!


Monday, April 03, 2006

Tiki Man

This evening, I had the opportunity to search for one of the areas most mysterious legend caches, The Woods of the Tiki Man. Since the weather was so nice, my wife and I decided to take the girls out for a Subway picnic at the City of Woodway's Carleen Bright Arboretum. The arboretum is the home to two caches including this "mysterious" cache. I had already found the first several months ago, but I decided to put this one off until later. Well, tonight was finally the right night for this hunt. This is his story.
Long before Carleen came along, this area was Tiki Man's. He romped in the woods, hid under the bridge waiting for billy goats, like his cousin the Troll, and just caused mayhem for any hikers who dared venture into his woods. One day, the tax man came by. Tiki Man had spent way to much time chasing goats, and not enough time earning money. So the tax man took his land and sold it for pennies on the dollar to Carleen, a woman of wealth with no taste for Tiki's OR goats. Soon both were banished from the land. The goats were sold, but Tiki Man went running into the woods vowing never to come out again.
I found the cache location very quickly and the hint made it pretty easy since there was an old tree stump just a few feet from the small trail. Inside the stump was a small wooden tiki man idol that looked a lot like the hidden immunity idol from last season's Survivor. Tucked into the back of the tiki man's head was the film canister with the log book. Overall, it was a fun find in a great location!

Friday, March 24, 2006

Misadventures in Geocaching

Have you ever had one of those days where everything that could go wrong, does - almost as if your every action were scripted by some satirical deviant who planned the whole thing just for his own amusement? Earlier this week, I had one of those days. These are my adventures misadventures in geocaching from that day.

For the past several weeks, my geocaching activities have been suspended due to the birth of my second daughter. After almost a month-long absence from geocaching, I finally decided to head out and grab two brand new caches that were just hidden in our area on my way to work.

Early Tuesday morning, two new caches popped up on my screen and both were less than 10 miles from my home. Even better, they were mostly on the way to my office with only a slight detour through the town of Hewitt. I rushed to get ready in the morning, rushed out the door, and drove to the first cache site, Chapel's End, as quickly as I could while still obeying the speed limits! I pulled up to the stop, got out of my car, and practically ran over to the URP listed in the cache hint!! I opened up the bison tube, extracted the tiny logbook, got ready to sign my giant *FTF* above my name, and then I saw it - "Giggledodge 3/21/06 FTF." ARGH!!!

That was how it all began. With this first failed FTF attempt, I knew right then and there what sort of day I was going to have. Reluctantly, I decided to go ahead and go find the second new cache just over a mile away, Twenty-Seven Feet. Wearing my dress shoes, khaki pants, and a nice dress shirt, I arrived at the second location to find the cache container near a roadside water tank in a small tree. Unfortunately, the tree was surrounded by thorny briars and I got several big red scrapes all up and down my hands and arm why retrieving and replacing this cache. If that weren't bad enough already, I open the log and read "Giggledodge 3/21/06 FTF." ARGH, ARGH!!!!!!

But as you can probably guess from the image, the misadventures don't stop there. Hewitt is one of those little Texas towns that has a reputation for being a speed trap and has an overabundance of police officers with nothing else to do, and I am unfortunately one of those people who will sometimes forget to do certain yearly activities whenever my life gets a little hectic. This time, while preparing for the birth of my daughter, I apparently forgot three very important tasks:
  1. Mount my newest vehicle registration sticker,
  2. Get my vehicle's inspection sticker renewed, and
  3. Put a copy of my vehicle's most recent proof of insurance in my glove box.
Normally, in most cities and highways across Texas, all three of these are things that police officers usually check if and only if you get pulled over for something else like speeding - NOT IN HEWITT! One of Hewitt's local police officers happened to drive by in the opposite direction as I was just about to cross out of their city limits, when all of the sudden I saw him turn around in the middle of the road and begin to follow me.

I immediately ran through a mental checklist of all the things I could have been doing wrong:  Was I speeding? No. Did I run a stop sign? No. Was I following too close to another car? No. Was I swerving or driving erratically? No, none of the above. The officer just happened to notice as we passed that I still had the "5" vehicle inspection sticker instead of the "6" sticker and he didn't have anything else more important to do. Lucky me, I had actually paid for my 2006 vehicle registration; I just hadn't put the sticker on yet. For this, I just got a warning, but I wasn't so lucky for the other two issues. ARGH, ARGH, ARGH!!!!!!!!!

In summary, on my first morning out caching since the birth of my child, I missed two FTFs, got an armful of bloody scrapes, two citations, a written warning, and ended up being late to work by the time it was all said and done. It was... in every possible way... a really bad day!

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Valentine's Day FTFs

Last night, just before crawling into bed, I decided to check my "New Caches" pocket query. This query shows me all caches approved within the past 7 days. By monitoring this list regularly, I am able to get a jump on any nearby caches and improve my odds of being FTF (first-to-find). As luck would have it, there were 3 new caches approved just last night. Two were in a local arboretum which closes after dark and another was in a bad part of town where nobody would attempt to go at night. I knew really had a shot at getting some of these as FTF!

With my GPS waiting by the door for me this morning, I headed out on my way to work and stopped briefly by the arboretum which was just under 3 miles from my home coordinates. I could tell from the description that one of them was a quick PNG (park-n-grab), but the other would require a little hike off-trail. Since I was in my slacks and dress clothes, I decided I better only attempt the PNG. It was a pretty difficult cache to find at first. The container was a decon kit tucked away in a hollowed out spot in the ground along the limestone boulder trail. The hollowed opening was then covered by an additional limestone boulder which looked like it was just part of the trail. In order to access the container, you had to remove the top limestone rock from the edge of the trail and reach into the hollow underneath the original limestone rock to grab the container. Luckily, I had seen some caches hidden in a similar fashion before. This was FTF #1 for the day!

For my second FTF of the day, I decided to stop by the bad neighborhood near the downtown area on my lunch break since it was only about 2 miles from my office. By this time of day, I was sure that LifeOnEdge (our local FTF-hound) had probably already beat me to it since he seems to jump on local caches as soon as they are placed. When I arrived at the location, I was the only person around and quickly found the cache tucked into a hole in an old historic oak tree near a granite monument. The cache was a small film canister that was covered in leaves. When I opened the log book, I discovered that I was the FTF! In humorous irony, as I was placing the log book back into the container, another vehicle drove up and parked behind my car along the side of the road. Out climbed LifeOnEdge! I had just beaten him to this cache by a couple of minutes, but enough to still be FTF! We talked for a few minutes and he told me that he was on his way to the 2nd arboretum cache to claim FTF on the only new cache that I skipped earlier this morning. Unfortunately, it looks like he missed being FTF on this one too.

Sara's Place
What's in a Name?

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Rockin with Rackin

Last weekend I went geocaching with a friend, Rackin, around the Highway 6 and Lake Waco area. Overall, it was a fun trip with 13 successful finds! Most were fairly easy to find and involved several short hikes, but one of the ones we thought at first to be a quick PnG turned out to be the toughest one all day. RockyHorror, is a small man-made concrete container designed to look like a small boulder. Normally, it wouldn't be so hard to spot a large concrete fake-rock in the woods somewhere near a cache site. However, THIS cache site is under one of the large highway bridges that span the lake and is hidden in the middle of a 30-40 foot rocky slope located between the frontage road and the edge of the lake itself. We immediately had the feeling that we weren't looking for a needle in a haystack; we were looking for the needle in a 30 foot pile of needles!!! Finally, after climbing up and down the rocky slope for almost 25 minutes and just as we were about to give up hope, Rackin spotted it hidden under another larger boulder so it could only be spotted from below. I'm sure that others might not have as much trouble finding this as we did, but I'm definitely glad to have this one crossed off of my list anyway.

Thank you, TheGeoGoes, for a tough but fun cache!

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

End-Of-Year Personal Best

On December 31, I jumped on-board for a Sawdust Geocaching Road Trip. Sawdust, DrHogg, and I hit 40 caches during this 12 hour caching marathon all over north Dallas in the Plano/Richardson area. I also got one very unusual virtual cache just outside of Italy, TX at a monolithic dome manufacturing plant.