Saturday, October 24, 2009

The Evelev School of Flip Flop Geocaching

Brian and I were on-campus last night for the Robin Williams concert. We started out the night with falafels and ended it with a little caching while the traffic cleared out. It was a cache I've been eyeing for several weeks. I've stopped by after class a couple of times but always find the area crawling with muggles.

I had a hunch as to where it was, which happens when you observe rather than look. My hunch was right, it was under this piece of concrete.

This morning Brian and I went out for breakfast and then grabbed a few caches in the Oviedo area. I hadn't planned to do any geocaching today, so I wore flip flops. Best idea ever.

Brian found this one. It's a slight variation on the fence pole cache.

And the cache in it's full glory. A bison tube hanging from a piece of fishing wire.

This is a close-up of how they screwed the wire into the cap. I've never seen it done quite this way before.

Here's a shot of Brian using Geocaching Intro to look up the next cache. Now that we've used it a few times, I can say it's pretty accurate and user-friendly. The major drawbacks being that there is no satellite map and you can only look up the three closest caches. I highly recommend it for any beginning geocacher.

This cache was described as a "redneck pumpkin." I'm still not sure what that means.

The next cache marked my 175th find and opened a new chapter in my life as a geocacher. First, I learned I should start wearing closed-toed shoes all the time. Second, I really should look at the ratings before I go trapsing through the woods. Although I probably wouldn't have ever attempted this cache if I had. I have to give a lot of credit to Brian for nudging the crap out of me.

Let me just say, this sign is less of a warning and more of a challenge. Did they really think I couldn't do this in flip flops, with a NY&Co purse? (btw, thanks Aunt Rachel.)

Our first challenge was hopping across this little stream. Brian went first and lost his shoe in the muck. So he laid down these palm fronds for me, which actually held up quite well as a makeshift bridge.

Then we wandered down a trail parallel to the creek until suddenly we were 51 ft from GZ. I walked to the edge of the creek and realized the cache was on the other side. I assumed there must be a different way around, but then I looked at the cache description (for the first time) and discovered it was a 2 for difficulty and a 4 for terrain. The description reads: To get to this cache you must have very good balance since the only way across the little creek is to walk across a fallen tree. Great.

Brian pointed me in the direction of the most sturdy-looking tree and threatened to go across without me. I slipped off my flip flops, rolled up my jeans, and put my iPhone in my purse (couldn't take the chance I might fall in). Brian suggested I take his cane, lest I lose my balance or find the need to bash something with a stick. Off I went, shimmying accross the log, Dirty Dancing style. See below for a slideshow.

I poked around a bit on the other side before deciding I would need shoes if I was going to go farther. After Brian frisbee'd my flip flops over, I bushwhacked my way in the direction of the cache. Mind you, I left my iPhone with Brian, so I was bushwhacking "blind" with only a rough idea of where the cache should be. After a few minutes I noticed a suspicious-looking tree, peeked my head around it and found the ammo can. I picked it up and yelled "I got it!"

The next thing Brian heard was a scream and a thump. For when I had looked back down at the cache, there was a wolf spider (2" diameter) perched near my hand. I screamed like a much littler girl than I already am and threw down the can. Turns out, the cane wasn't such a bad idea because that's what I used to shoo the spider, who was far less afraid of me than I had hoped. It took several jabs for it to scamper away.

When it was gone, I picked up the can and looked for the nearest clearing so Brian could take a picture. See below. This might be me, it might be the missing link. I can't really tell.

Then I began the task of opening the cache, which was rusted shut, as ammo can sometimes are. I had to use my patented Evelev technique. It involves turning the can upright, steadying it with one hand and stomping it until it opens. Inside I found some decent swag, on account of this being seriously more than a park and grab. I took this cigar tin from the Dominican Republic. It doesn't have any cigars in it, but it's pretty cool.

Now you know. It is possible to do a level 4 terrain in flip flops...but I wouldn't recommend it.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Geocaching at Sunset

Certain people make fun of me for this, but I really like to immerse myself in geocaching. I don't want to remember the cache, I want to remember the whole experience. This is why I take lots of pictures and why I blog. It's also why my favorite time to geocache is at sunset. Even mundane locations are beautiful when the sky melts into shades of gold, orange, and red. Plus there's an added sense of urgency when it's about to get dark and I don't have a flashlight. For reasons unknown to me, we get our best sunsets between now and the end of the year, so I have a lot to look forward to.

But before I talk about this week's caches, let's spend a moment in geohazard corner. As Vikki4FSU recovers from Lyme disease, I count my blessings that I'm not in her shoes. That was until I took my car in for an oil change this week and learned I needed an alignment on my tires, a mere four months after I bought the car. The guy asked if I go over lots of speedbumps. I said no, and neglected to mention the off-roading we did in Naples. It reminded me of when Vikki4FSU said, "if only we had a boat, we could get to that cache." To which ZykoMike responded, "geocaching is cheap until you say, 'I need to a buy a boat for this cache.'" Indeed. It's all cool until someone loses an eye. Or buys a helicopter. Or gets Lyme disease.

I ended up with 6 finds this week, which is really quite good considering I worked 12-hour days all week and wrote two papers. On Thursday I ended up near the airport, at sunset. Since it was the first day all week I'd gotten out of the office before dark, I scoped out the area and found four within a mile radius.

Three were part of a series of waterproof match containers hidden in different but obvious locations. The first one was tucked into the pipe you see above. The second was hidden under a rock, under this crapified traffic cone.

The third was tucked into this cabbage palm. As if the palm itself wasn't a hint, there was a pronounced geotrail. While these caches are usually easy, I am really starting to dislike them. They're usually infested with ants and the fronds have no respect for personal space.

Then I tried for this one, also located in a cabbage palm, but I didn't find it. I was over the bugs at that point, but the bridge was super cool.

My last cache of the day was a plastic jar loaded with swag. I only took a geocoin. The cache was perched behind a tree. I used my mirror to avoid reaching into the unknown.

Then I got to finish the day with this sunset. This picture was taken a few feet from the cache.

I didn't think I was going to grab any caches this weekend, but I was able to squeeze this one in this afternoon. I had looked before with no luck. Today, I stopped by on a lark. As soon as I pulled up, something the Orlando Holleys had said to me at another cache fell into place, and I started twisting all the rebar. I can't believe I missed it before.

Here's what the extracted cache looks like. I've been hoping for one of these. Very clever. You know I'm a sucker for caches like this.

That's all for this week. Hopefully this cool weather holds out for next weekend and I get to take full advantage.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Tips and Ticks

I found one lousy cache this week. That meager accomplishment is dwarfed by the fact that I went after three others. Ugh, it just wasn't a good week for caching.

On the upside, I learned something new. I thought I'd seen it all when it came to light pole caches, but I was wrong. As you can see in the photo above, there is no skirt for the cache to hide under. This cache was a magnetic hide-a-key hidden up inside the pole. I think it's common knowledge that I don't like to stick my hands in places I can't see, so it should come as no surprise that I found this cache by sliding my mirror around at the base of the pipe. Then I stuck my hand in, but at least I knew there was a reward.

This was one of the muggliest caches I've done. It's at a big box store everyone knows and loathes. I was able to park right next to the cache and just had to wait for a lady to finish loading groceries into her car. It took less than a minute to locate the cache, but as soon as I did there were people everywhere. You know me, I played it cool. I took the cache back to my car and waited for the muggles to clear out. I always wonder what people think when they see a chick in "business casual attire" roll up a piece of paper, stuff it into a baggie, and hide it in a light pole.

Now, let's take a moment to talk about geohazards. It's serious business. Only by the grace of God have I gotten this far without much more than mosquito bites. Most recently EyeoftheSeeker was stung by a wasp (ring finger) and ZykoMike had a run in with some poison ivy. I'm still itching fire ant bites, weeks later.

A few weeks ago Vikki4FSU started feeling ill. On Thursday she was admitted to the hospital and was told she may have had a stroke. They discharged her on Friday with no information. Unsatisfied and still feeling crappy, she went to a different hospital today. The diagnosis is Lyme disease.

This is the adult deer tick, the harbinger of Lyme disease. To prevent Lyme disease, Wikipedia recommends wearing long-sleeved shirts, trousers, and a hat. Light colors are recommended because they allow you to see the ticks if they do hitch a ride. Pants should be tucked into boots or socks...but unless you're a commando, that looks pretty dweeby. I don't personally recommend it. Plus, I can tell you from experience, ticks go right through socks. You don't want them exposed. Wikipedia also recommends reducing the local deer population. I suppose you could take it upon yourself to do that.

If you do find a tick with it's head burrowed into your skin, pull it out with tweeezers. And for God's sake, don't twist! I've always heard you should apply a flame to the tick to make it back out, but I would imagine that is advised against. Brian's preferred method is "draining" the with a needle. Or, "pop it like a grape," Brian says.

So, what's next for Vikki4FSU? Lots and lots of antibiotics. Even after treatment she may experience fatigue, joint or muscle pain, and neurocognitive symptoms. But since she reads this blog, I'm going to say she'll be just fine :)

Let that be a lesson to all you neo-cachers. Spiders aren't the worst things out there.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Cache Patrol in Winter Park

After the cache-a-thon in South Carolina a few weeks ago, we took a little break to catch up on real-life stuff. Boo responsibility. It's been far too long since we geocached. We spent the day caching in Winter Park.

Before I delve yesterday's adventures, I must take a moment to add a geohazard to the South Carolina scrap book. While we were looking for the "bark cache" I felt something sting my back repeatedly. I assumed it was mosquitos (with a vengeance). Two weeks later, I still have four itchy, swollen, white bumps on my back. Fire ants are to blame, but it was so worth it.

We planned to cache yesterday, but I didn't plan on hitting Winter Park until I saw a cache posted at the Steak 'n Shake near Brian's office. He needed to stop by work for a few minutes anyway, so I tagged along.

Upon closer inspection of the satellite map, I realized the cache was either inside or on top of the Steak 'n Shake. I had to twist Brian's arm to convince him we needed to eat lunch there and scope out the situation. While we waited for our food, I sized up each group for their cacher-potential, but I didn't see anyone as shifty-eyed as me. Like a drug smuggler, I studied each server's routine, waiting for the perfect moment to peek under another table undetected. I could hardly eat (though I assure you, I did) as I thought about all the magnetic surfaces in the building. Brian suggested I drop a handful of change near the table I wanted to check. Too risky, people tend to help you pick up change. Here's the best plan I could come up with: we would wait for a line to form, and then Brian would go stand at the end of that line to pay, and I would snoop around. The longer the line, the more time I had. But the moment I stood up, I realized the table I wanted to check was filled with dishes. I peeked under it and found nothing, which was probably for the best. Even if I had found the cache there, how could I have retrieved, signed, and replaced it? I had planned to sit at the table and do that, but how could I, being that a server was on her way to clear the table? Hmm...the other tables I wanted to check had families sitting at them. So, we didn't get it. And upon inspection of the logs, I don't think it's under a table anymore. I was too focused on my own preconceptions to look elsewhere. Let that be a lesson to you.

The next cache was an easy grab. A small lock-and-lock hidden under some palm fronds...woo. Next on the list was a cache I visited several months back, when I first started caching. My first try was after work one evening, in heels and a pencil skirt. I was not prepared, physically or mentally, for bushwhacking, and I never found the cache. Here's why I'll always remember this cache: During my initial search, a rickety white van pulled up, and a creepy old man got out. I froze...thinking about whether I should try to run in the heels or go barefoot. And where I should run since all the businesses nearby were closed for the day. Then he threw open the side door and emerged with a 5 gallon bucket. "You're scaring the raccoons" he said as he walked past me (now acting like I was taking a phone call). He walked about 15 feet into the trees and dumped the contents of said bucket, spilling what looked like pink and white pork rinds. "Come get your dinner, babies!" Then he got back in the van and drove away. And a moment later, a raccoon showed up and started munching. I snapped a photo and scurried back to my car.

This time I came prepared to bushwhack, which wasn't really necessary. Brian actually spotted it, but I had to climb around in the trees. Victory, sorta. No raccoons this time.

We made the next cache way harder that it was. I did some very unneccessary bushwhacking thanks to this hole in the bushes I mistook for a geotrail. I didn't see any bugs, and I know why. The leaves on those bushes are covered with prickly little hairs. Super fun.

Thanks to the tree cover, the iPhone was wonky, but when it finally settled down I walked right up to the cache. It was totally out in the open.

We moved on to a cache I've wanted to do for a long time. It's located near the Scenic Winter Park boat tour. Way back before we were geocachers, the future team Evelev and future team EyeoftheSeeker went on the Winter Park boat tour. I highly recommend it. Come for the cache, stay for the boat tour.

Thanks to an uber-generous hint, I went right to the cache. Surprisingly, it didn't smell at all.

The next cache was a twist on the classic newspaper stand cache. Being that this newspaper stand has an aesthetically pleasing case around it, you can't exactly throw a hide-a-key under there. The cache consisted of an envelope with a magnet glued to the back. The envelope was then placed inside the case, on the back of the actual newspaper box. Very clever.

After that I took Brian on a death march for two caches we never found. One has most likely been muggled. The other was probably there, but I distubed a wasp nest and decided not to stick around.

Our luck turned around after that...kinda. We went after a level 3 difficulty nano, which I found in about six seconds because it was just laying on the ground. I unravelled the log to find it completely full. What gives? As the last signer, you're supposed to log a "needs maintenance". Or am I the only one that has the decency to do that? After I closed up the cache, I decided to look for the real hiding spot. I saw the hole you see below and thought, "bingo! It's supposed to look like a screw." I slipped the nano into the hole and it dropped down another inch. Uh oh...I just lost my first cache. Luckily, Brian was able to fish it out with a bobby pin. Feeling retarded, I left the cache where I found it, which is where you see it below.

Next was a cache I meant to take a picture of, but I forgot. It was under a pay phone. I didn't even know pay phones existed any more. The hint said, "call the automated hint line: 407-xxx-xxxx." At first I assumed it was the hider's number, but I'm pretty sure it was the number for the pay phone. I should have dialed it.

The final cache of the day was super easy, but cool in that I've never seen this type of container before. It's a metal tube, badly camo'd with a little strip of Spanish moss. I think it would have blended better if they had ditched the moss and hung the tube vertically, but that's just me.

I guess I can't really criticize hides yet, since I don't have any. Soon. Once I take the time to figure out if my iPhone coords are accurate, I will.