Friday, August 28, 2009

A lesson in not overthinking

First, I forgot to take a picture at my one and only cache I'll take a moment to brag. Above is the coveted map of smilies. It shows 90 (of 117) cache finds in the Orlando metro area. I remember when I used to look at this map and see only three smilies. Unfortunately, this map is far less impressive when you see all that caches I haven't found. Whatever, I'm making progress.

My one and only cache (which I did not personally find) was an attempt at FTF. I was debating how late I was going to work when I got the cache-published e-mail. It was only four miles away, so I packed up my stuff and hit the road. When I arrived at the cache location I was greeted by fellow geocachers, the Orlando Holleys. It was nice to finally put faces with the name. Up until now I've known them only by the miniature holly stickers they leave at every cache they visit.

We looked high and low, in the bushes and under the pipes. There were two sucky parts to this cache: 1) The location was near a fence and we couldn't tell which side of the fence it was on, so we had no choice but to check both; 2) The cache was under power lines, so the gpses (plural of gps?) were wonky beyond belief.

The cache was rated a 2 for difficulty, so I was thinking nano, or something decently camo'd, but not too well camo'd. After 45 minutes of looking, one of the Holleys spotted the completely uncamo'd bright orange waterproof match container perched within the fence. Why it took us 45 minutes to find it, I will never know. We just overthought the difficulty rating. And we didn't recognize the hider, so we immediately distrusted their ability to take good coordinates, lol.
Despite the interference of the power lines, my coords were spot on.

Oh well. Yet again, it is clear to me why I geocache. It really isn't about what you find, or who even finds it, it's just fun to look. And it's even more fun to look with other people, whether you know them or not. I have yet to meet a rude or unfriendly geocacher. When you cross paths with other cachers, no proper introduction is needed. We already have a common goal and geo-tales to swap.

Ok, you can cut the weepy violin music now.

PS. The Orlando Holleys are the proud owners of the nut/bolt cache I found a few weeks ago. Clever, clever cachers.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

G is for Geocaching

Alas, it is back-to-school time. For me that means more time in the library and less time geocaching. We're also coming up on the busiest time of the year at work, so I probably won't get a solid day of caching until December. Woe. is. me.

But for the students at Harrisburg Elementary, geography means geocaching. When I read this article, I immediately went back to my own 5th grade geography lessons. The teacher would split the room into two teams, each with it's own oversized map hanging from the chalkboard. One by one, we went up to the board to face an opponent from the other team. We stood with our backs to the maps, eagerly waiting for the teacher to call out a state capital. Then, like wild-west gunslingers, we spun around, hunting with an outstretched index finger. All that mattered was being the first one to plunge that finger into the appropriate state.

It was terrifying, but it worked. Unlike Miss South Carolina Teen USA, I can tell you where "the Iraq" is located on a as.

But I digress. At Harrisburg Elementary, they aren't subjecting students to potential humiliation. They are letting them hunt for travel bugs and track their finds in the classroom. According to the Charlotte Observer, when a student finds a travel bug, they get to color in the state of origin on the school's map.

I'm jealous. Granted, I was in 5th grade in 1994/1995, before modern-day geocaching was born, but this is way cooler than elementary school students deserve. Life just isn't fair.

And the real root of the problem: If schools start training a new generation of geocachers, how in the hell am I ever going to get another FTF?

Sunday, August 23, 2009


The newly-initiated cacher you see above is Savannah, our 3 year old Malamute. She actually hates geocaching...which is why she won't look at the camera. This is Savannah's second cache, but I forgot to take a picture at the first one.
We tried this cache twice before, but there always happened to be muggles around, which was really surprising considering the area. It's less than half a mile from my house, so we just stopped by whenever we went for a walk.
As you can see, the cache is a camo-painted plastic jar. It was hidden under some palm fronds, so I spotted it right away. I spent the next 20 minutes getting Savannah to stay put long enough to pose for a picture.
Unfrotunately this was the only cache I got to do this weekend :( And tomorrow is the first day back to school. I thought I would do more this summer, but it's been so freaking hot and rainy. I can't wait for October, which should be prime geocaching weather.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Geocaching = Smarter Monkey?

I have this daily ritual where I read Fast Company while I'm getting ready in the morning (which is what I should be doing right now). Today they have an article entitled, Are Gamers More Evolutionarily Advanced? Being a gamer, it grabbed my attention immediately.

According to the article, (according to Slate) "human beings, it seems, are engineered to reward themselves with shots of dopamine when they find something new." In turn, "video games, it would seem, operate the same way: since every game's addictive trait is the achievement of a new level or a more advanced opponent."

Whenever I tell people about geocaching, I get one of two reactions: a) "Cool, where do I sign up?" or b) "What's the point?" To be honest, I think some people only answer a) because they're being nice. I get it, digging around in bug-infested bushes for pill bottles sounds absolutely bizarre. Having had these conversations dozens of times now, my canned answer is: It's not what you find, it's the finding that's fun. After reading this article, that statement makes more sense. Finding new things is fun by virtue of them being new.

I don't have any statistics about how many geocachers are also gamers, but some of the cachers I know do game. Regardless, I think the connection stands. Discovery is still discovery, whether you're finding buried treasure or the last package of frozen bacon in the depths of your freezer.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Rapid-caching on a Sunday Afternoon

First, my apologies for taking a week off. I came down with a super-flu last Saturday, which I wrestled with all week, and ended up with a raging sinus infection. Needless to say, no caching. I actually started a post last Sunday about geohazards, but I never finished it. I'll live to post another day.

Second, I finally managed to update my stats...but I still can't figure out how to change the colors. The background shouldn't be silver. I messed with the html one day, but I did more damage than good.

Now, for the caching. I went out today to do some shopping in the Oviedo area. I wasn't really planning to cache, but I already knew there were a few on my way, and I couldn't help myself. I ended up with four finds and one less travel bug.

The first one was way easy: a 35mm film cannister stuffed inside a brick wall. Forgot to snap a photo. It was rated a 2 for difficulty, not really sure why.

This is actually the last one I did, but I'm kind of a spaz when it comes to loading photos. They never go in the order I want. I really need to brush up on my html so I can stop relying on the "wizard."

This is another one that was rated a 2 for difficulty. I can see how it could be difficult, but it was practically out in the open. I suppose when the vines are thicker this might be a tough find.

I'm not sure what the cache container is, it's not something I have seen before. It was a small plastic cylindar, about the size of a large pill bottle but shorter, with a twist-off top and key chain. The key chain was perfect for attaching it to this fence. And! It was bone-dry inside. That's so rare.

My third cache was a mind-numbingly easy hide-a-key under a newspaper stand. The only hard part was waiting out random muggles. Why do people always feel a need to congregate randomly around cache locations? They probably don't like me watching them intently from behind my tinted windows...whatever, they're in my way.

This was another first in terms of containers. It's not really that cool, just a small, rusty, metal canister. It was perched in the guardrail near this little pond. Not tough to find, but blended in well enough that I doubt muggles would think to grab it.

I tend not to pay much attention to the descriptions, but this one included quite a tale. I leave you with an exerpt:

Antoinette's whole family was against the marriage so her and Ed ran away.
The family wouldn't leave it at that and followed. They caught up here at what
is now known as Lovers Leap. To show the family their undying love for each
other they lept from where the cache is now hidden. Since the slope is not
vertical they rolled to the bottom. When they stood up covered in sand spurs,
spanish needles, caesar weed burs, fire ants, and pond scum the family gave
their approval to be married.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Almost Paradise

I set up my account to send me an e-mail whenever a cache is activated within 10 miles of my house. At about 11 am I got the e-mail for this cache. At 1 pm I took my lunch break and went after it, thinking I might have a shot at such luck. Four people had been there before me. Oh well, at least it was easy. Light pole caches rock. And I have to admit the paint job is pretty cool.

This one is right across the street from where I work. I've been meaning to grab it for months, I'm just never on that side of the road. Previous attempts were foiled by smokers who really like to hang out in front of newspaper stands.

See this friendly-looking stick? It's an evil, evil cache. What's worse is it was like 10 ft. away from GZ. I know that's "within reason", but it's irritating. Especially when it's only rated a 1.5 for difficulty. The worst part is I didn't even get the glory of finding it. I was digging around in some bushes and an employee ran over saying, "Here it is...It's right over here." I was screaming (yes, screaming): "No! Don't tell me! I don't want to know! Please don't tell me." And then he handed it to me.

I admit it's pretty wicked...and it would have taken me a really really long time to get to it. But I don't feel like I earned it. *sigh*
Update: 8/20/09
I forgot to mention the most infuriating (and clever) part about this cache - it's classified as a micro! The description is "well-camoed bison tube." True, it is both a micro and a bison tube. However, new geocachers, such as myself, fall into the trap of looking for a lone bison tube. Now I know better...

Sunday, August 2, 2009


I almost forgot about nano's, but they are quickly becoming my favorite type of cache. In the photo above, the little black dot next to the bolt is the cache. There's a little tiny log inside. I never would have found this one without my mirror. We had checked everything else in the area when I reluctantly decided to check the underside of these pipes. And there it was.

Here's a better picture of both the cache and location.
Nanos are almost always magnetic and underneath something, so they're very easy to locate once you know what you're looking for. They are so inconspicuous that even if a muggle saw you put it back and tried to look for it, they probably wouldn't notice it. Plus they almost never require bushwhacking.

Good Camo

God is in the details, but so is the Devil

Well-camo'd caches that are "hidden in plain sight", are the core of geocaching. They make geocaching less a game and more a community.

This stick, precariously hanging next to the trunk of a tree holds a cache inside. I don't think it was supposed to be hanging like this, but this is how I found it. If you look closely there is a little piece of wire hanging off the end. My guess is that was supposed to be attached to another branch, so that it would hang horizontally. If it had been hanging that way, I probably never would have found it.

This is a little tough to see because it was midnight. This cache is a broken sprinkler head, stuffed with a baggie holding the log and some swag.

Unfortunately the camera focused on the leaves, but beyond the leaves is a bird house containing a pill bottle.

This cache is rated a 4.5 (out of 5), but I honed right in on it (not that I'm bragging). There were just no other options. The numbers on this electrical box are actually magnetic, and they peel back to reveal the log.

This is Brian with a false outlet cover. It was on the back of a building near all of their electrical equipment. We were about to give up when Brian nudged the plate and it moved.

This is one of the coolest caches I have seen yet. It's a fake bird. We looked high and low for this cache, and we were about to walk away when I looked up and spotted it. I had to extricate the log from the bird's ass with tweezers. Never thought I'd have to do that...

This is a nut/bolt combination. It's magnetic and was stuck inside the sign in the background. Brilliant, because someone could look right at it and never think twice. The bolt unscrews from the nut, revealing the log.

You can buy manufactured pine cone caches, but this is a real pine cone with a little log-holder glued into the top. There is actually a dead giveaway to this one: it's slightly opened. The other pine cones still attached to the tree are completely closed. They fall long before they open up like this.

I wish there were more like this, they are so fun!

Fences and Guardrails

This is a camo'd bison tube hanging on a fence.

This is a little hard to see, but it's a thin sheet of magnet holding a log to the inside of a guard rail. I've also seen hide-a-keys on guard rails. They're usually black, so they blend right in.

We stared right at this one for several minutes before I finally saw it. It's a perfect example of how bison tubes blend right in.


Technically, you're not supposed to hide caches on, under, or near bridges...but it all depends on the bridge. This poor excuse for a bridge is the home to an ammo can and some ants.

This is an actual bridge - there probably shouldn't be a cache here, but I grabbed it anyway. It's a camo-taped magnetic hide-a-key.

This is one of the more clever caches I have seen. It's a micro canister. A piece of fishing line about 15 feet long is all that connected the cache to the railing. The cache itself hung a few feet above the water. I was scanning with my mirror, looking for a nano, when I came across the wire. The log was all moldy and gross, but I couldn't believe how much thought someone had put into this hide.
As you can see, there are all kinds of options for bridge hides. You just have to be careful you don't look like a terrorist.


Here in Florida, these cabbage palms are everywhere, and they are a prime location for micros. They naturally camouflage 35mm film cannisters and pill bottles. They're less irritating than bushes, but definitely not my favorite.

The other option for tree-hides is to place them up in the tree. That black spidery-looking thing on the lowest branch is a bison tube dressed in electrical tape. I had to use a stick to get it down.

Trees offer more options that you think. I've seen small to regular size caches hidden in dense foliage. Decoys, like fake birds and pine cones, are also good hiding spots.


Spot the cache? It's an integral part of geocaching, and especially urban caching, but I'm not a fan of bushwhacking or shrub grubbing. It's kinda fun the first time, after that it's just tedious. Bushes are usually home to ants and other prickly things. Plus, nothing draws more attention than someone who is obviously not a gardner digging furiously through a bush with an electronic device in their hand.
Here are a few things I have learned about dealing with muggles while shrub grubbing:
  • Don't be afraid to put your gps up to your ear and act like it's a phone. Mine actually is a phone, but that's beside the point.
  • Sometimes I wear only one earring so that I can say, "One of my earrings fell out and I think I was walking by here." I've never had to say that, but I think it would work.
  • Find something in the bush worth looking a lizard, or a bee, or a cool flower. So when someone asks you can say, "I was just looking at this lizard. Isn't that cool?" The typical reaction is to smile, nod, and back away slowly.
  • Wear gloves...sometimes they just assume you're a gardner.
  • I often cache in one of my school t-shirts. I've always wanted someone to question me so I can say, "I'm a botany student. I am observing this bush for a project." This excuse also provides a good cover in the event they saw me frequently consulting my iPhone. I just need to download some kind of plant-identification app...
  • Of course, you can always just tell the truth. Most people couldn't care less.


Signs, signs, everywhere there really are signs. And so many places to a hide a micro cache! Signs are metal, so magnets are an obvious choice. The most common place to hide a cache in a sign is at the base of the pole, almost buried in the grass or sand, or up inside where the actual sign attaches to the pole. Another option, which I have yet to personally see, is a magnetic reflector, which slides open to reveal a log. In the picture below, the cache was hanging inside the post itself. I only found it by using my mirror to look inside.

Lock-and-Lock / Tupperware

This is my husband, Brian (an integral part of Team Evelev) with his very first cache find. It's called a lock-and-lock. Tupperwares also fit into the small category. These are cool because they're easy to camo and hide in just about any bush, and they hold small swag. It's the perfect balance between the traditional tupperware-in-the-woods geocache and urban neo-caching.
While we're here, Brian is cool because he has no fear of spiders nor any qualms about sticking his naked hands in places he can't see. I never would have found this particular cache on my own. It was buried under some wood, in a dense tree-filled, muck-soaked, hostel for spiders. I'm just not that gutsy.

Waterproof Match Container

I guess boyscouts would know what this is, but I had no idea until I found one geocaching. When I saw in the description that it was a micro "waterproof match container," I was picturing a plastic matchbox, like a hide-a-key. What I found was this little green cylinder, just large enough to fit a bundle of matches. This particular one was quite cleverly hidden in some bushes, where it was propped up to look like plant food. Even the landscapers hadn't messed with it. I almost always find these in bushes, usually painted to match the surroundings.

Jars and Canisters

Anything that has a tight lid is a good candidate for a small or regular cache. I have seen jars for peanut butter, garlic, Parmesan cheese (above), water bottles...and other canisters I simply can't identify. Usually they are camo-taped or painted, but not always, as you see above. Food jars can be tricky because it's nearly impossible to wash all the food smell out. I would be afraid animals would destroy it.
The smelliest cache I have ever found was made from an old garlic jar and filled with vampire paraphernalia. I wish I had taken a picture, it was too cute. There were no bugs around, that's for damn sure.

Ammo Can

And you thought only ammo could be stored in these nifty vintage containers. Like 35mm film cannisters, the ammo can industry experienced a resurgence with the advent of geocaching. These cans are rugged, watertight (as far as I have seen), and hold tons of swag. Plus they are just plain cool.
The ammo can falls into the regular size category. Since they're pretty big (roughly the size of a larg shoe box) you can only really hide them in the woods, or at least in wooded areas. I have also found them under bridges.
I like ammo cans. Because of the size, they are easy to find and almost always have cool junk inside. Plus it's tough to hide them in urban areas, so chance of muggles is minimal.

Saturday, August 1, 2009


Vials come in different shapes and sizes (micro), but they all pretty much look like this. They're usually camo-taped. For some reason these seem to work well in plain-view. This one was simply dropped in an open sprinkler head. I've also seen them perched in the crook of a tree.

Bottle Cap

This isn't such a great example, but it is essentially two bottle caps screwed together. It was buried at the bottom of a sign. I guess it's supposed to look like trash. I've also seen these painted and hidden in trees. The log was nasty, not weather-proof at all. Bottle caps fall into the micro category.

Bison Tube

I didn't know what these were until I started geocaching. It's called a bison tube aka (unofficially) the mini scuba tank. According to, it's called a bison tube because it was originally made by Bison Industries, not because it bears any resemblance to an actual bison. I have to admit, the first time I saw bison tube in a cache description I expected it to be brown and furry...needless to say I logged a dnf for that one.

These little micros are versatile. I've seen them hanging from fences, signs, trees, in light poles, and at the base of signs. Tubes like this are naturally camo'd for blending in with metal. Wrap them in camo tape and suddenly they are camo'd for a bush. And, they're watertight.

It is extremely important to note that just because the description says you're looking for a bison tube, you might not really be looking for a bison tube. Some cache hiders camo their bison tubes with wood, moss, and other natural materials. While the cache itself is a micro, it could be permanently affixed to camo the size of an ammo can.

Newspaper Stands

A local favorite is to place a hide-a-key under a newspaper stand. I used to think these were stupid, but they work on several levels:
  • They're super easy
  • Rain/weather doesn't really get under there, so the cache is rarely crappified
  • You don't draw much attention because most people assume you're going to grab a newspaper

The only drawback is that you are restricted to micro or smaller.

Hide-A-Key / Keyholder

Normal people use these to hold keys. Geocachers use them to keep logs. The beauty of hide-a-keys is they are magnetic and micro, so they are great for urban hides. I've found them on bridges, inside and under newspaper stands, and under electrical boxes.

Light Pole

This here is your average light pole. That metal box lifts up. What lies beneath? Usually bugs and dirt, but all too often, micro caches. You usually find pill bottles or 35mm film cannisters, but I have also seen hide-a-keys.

35mm Film Canister

This is not your mother's film cannister. These are easily hidden in trees and light poles. They come in the following varieties:
  • Naked - no camo. Black w/ grey top film cannister.
  • Clear/white
  • Camoed - The one above is camo-taped. I have also seen paint.
The downside to film cannisters is that they are rarely water tight. I have found several filled with water and a moldy log.

Pill Bottles

This is a classic micro urban cache. Usually found in light poles. They are innocuous, readily-available, watertight under most conditions, and can hold small swag. I got a superball out of this one.


Here's a cheat sheet of the terms I use:

  • Cache - the thing I'm looking for.
  • Camo - Any means used to make a cache blend in with it's surroundings.
  • Coords - Coordinates (lat/long), this is how I know where to go.
  • Decoy - A cache that blends in so well with it's surroundings it is in plain view of the public, and only geocachers know what it really is.
  • DNF - Did Not Find. The most dreaded three words in geocaching.
  • FTF - First to Find. It's an honor to be the first one to log a cache.
  • GZ - Ground Zero. It's where the coordinates take me. This is where the cache should be. Sometimes my GPS is wonky, sometimes the coords are just bad. And sometimes the stars align and I walk right up to the cache on the first try.
  • Large - I've never found one of these. I hear they can be as large as a 5 gal bucket.
  • Log - the thing I sign to prove I was there...not that anyone would question me.
  • Micro - A cache larger than a nano, usually a pill bottle or 35mm film cannister.
  • Muggles - anyone uninitiated to geocaching. They can be problematic because they draw unwanted attention (ie. police or employees, if the cache is on a business' property), or may even take the cache. Muggles are unavoidable.
  • Nano - A cache about the size the button on your shirt.
  • Regular - A cache larger than a small. Usually an ammo can.
  • Small - A cache larger than a micro...tupperware and peanut butter jars are common.
  • Swag - The tradeables inside a cache. Tradeables, not takeables. If you take something, leave something of equal value.
  • Travel bugs - Anything with a tracking number that is supposed to travel from cache to cache. When you find a travel bug, you're supposed to log it online and then leave it in a different cache.

Let's get the introductions out of the way. My name is Evelynn. username: evelev. You know, like evel knievel...

My husband is Brian. We live in Casselberry, Florida.

We geocache

I won't go into all the details of geocaching (because so many before me have put it so eloquently) but in a nutshell: people hide stuff (caches), post the coordinates online, and we go find it. To date there are over 860,000 caches hidden on all seven continents, ranging in size from your thumbnail to bigger than your head.

Here's how we do it

This year for Valentine's Day, my husband gave me an iPhone (I got him a stupid remote control helicopter...I was so outdone). I quickly figured out I could use it to geocache - a hobby I had wanted to get into, but never had the money for a GPSr. My first attempts were fruitless. I went to eight (yes, 8) locations before I found my first cache. It was quite disheartening, but once I found my first one, I was hooked. It was a medicine bottle hidden in the base of a light pole at a gas station. The landscapers must have thought I was completing a drug deal, but whatever.


In addition to my iPhone 3g, I have the (aka Groundspeak) app, which I use to locate caches and track my finds. It's a little pricey ($10), but well worth the "cash." Combined with the iPhone's (pretty decent) camera, everything I need to manage my finds is in the palm of my hand. Sometimes we plan a day of caching, sometimes we just go. When I plan to go caching I carry my handy Hello Kitty cache-enger bag (below). It contains:

  • A mirror (essential - perspective is everything)
  • A spider-whacking stick (a must in Florida)
  • Leather gardening gloves - aren't we all more daring in leather?
  • Pens
  • A mini first aid kit
  • Tweezers - Sometimes needed to remove logs that are almost too big for their cache.
  • Insect repellent
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Hair ties (both for my hair and to attach the mirror to the look at stuff I can't reach)
  • Various tradeables and travel bugs - my philosophy is you leave something meaningful or useful, not crap you get in a happy meal. I try to leave things people will want.

I don't trade stuff as much as I thought I would. For one, most caches I grab are micros, which can hold a quarter at most. And two, there are rarely things that I want. People tend to leave whatever they found on the floor of their car.

We do most caches during the day, but we've done a few at night. At night you are less likely to be spotted, but look twice as suspicious if you are caught. During the day, digging through bushes looks night it looks criminal.

Going forward, I want to track my finds on this blog...and maybe provide some useful information for someone who's just getting into geocaching. Now that I have over 100 finds and an FTF (first to find) under my belt, I feel qualified to run a blog.