Sunday, December 27, 2009

Christmas Caching in Panama City

Last Thursday Brian and I headed up to Panama City, FL to spend Christmas with family (including my Dad, fellow cacher, PNutHed). In anticipation of a Christmas-day cooking frenzy, we went out to dinner on Christmas Eve. It just so-happened there was a cache in the parking lot of the restaurant. Coincidence, really.

We assumed it was a typical light pole cache, but lifted the skirt to find nothing. It was a bit disconcerting. That was, until Brian tripped, placed his hand on the pole for support, and something slid under it. Turned out it was the cache, which was an outlet cover, painted to match the pole. I don't recall ever seeing one painted before. I apologize for the poor photo was dark.

We spent Christmas day in a perpetual cycle of cooking and eating. Even though I was all by myself for about an hour when I ran to Winn Dixie to grab a few forgotten ingredients, I resisted the urge to grab any caches. This is not to say that I did not open the Geocaching app; I know for a fact there was a cache in the parking lot where I shopped, but I didn't grab it. Christmas miracle?

The next day we did some more cooking and eating, but we actually got out and grabbed a few caches. I'm proud to say that we found everything we seriously looked for. The one exception was a cache that is only accessible by sacrificing someone to the bog people. We didn't get a chance to really hunt for it, so it's a pseudo DNF.

The most admirable find of the day went to PNutHed, who saw something we all failed to see. The cache was a 4/3 (difficulty/terrain). I admit the rating alone intimidated me. Both PNutHed's Garmin and my iPhone showed the coordinates being off to the right of the gazebo (below), so we all hopped off the boardwalk and started hunting. The Garmin's reading bounced all over, but kept coming back to the same area, a pair of small trees. We scoured these two trees, tugging on every branch and berry. I was fixated on pine cones, which littered the area and fit the difficulty rating. After a bit I realized I was looking at the same cones over and over. The only way I could think to "keep track" was to toss away the cones after I was done with them. I cleared a small area to absolutely no avail. We also wiggled the loose bark of nearby trees, sifted through clumps of weeds, dug up partially-buried bottle-caps, tipped over a rain gauge (oops), disturbed multiple ant colonies, picked through a pile of clam shells, and pulled finger prints off found pen fragments (not really).

An hour passed with no good leads. I decided to look at recent logs for clues. One log eluded to the cache being on the gazebo, so, we redoubled our efforts there. We wiggled every bolt, duck-walked under the planks, and crept along the railings. Oy.

For the third time, I climbed up on the railings to look at a piece of metal that seemed out of place. PNutHed came up to examine it also. I climbed down, defeated. And then PNutHed spotted the cache.

It became abundantly clear why it was rated a 4/3, and why so many DNFs had been logged. Instead of trusting the coordinates, I had spent an hour flipping over pine cones. Our collective frustration was captured in this one photo.

Here's what the cache looks like next to the hidey hole.

Below is the nano incognito. It wasn't hard to get to, per se, just hard to see. It proves, once again, that geocaching is all about perspective. Sometimes it's just a matter of looking at the right spot from the right angle. But even with that knowledge, I'm not sure I would have spotted this cache.

Our next cache was another first for me. We found a naked log first, then the damaged cache nearby. Granted, the cache consisted of a baggie and velcro, but it had somehow been removed from it's original location. The log was dry, so we signed it, replaced it in the baggie, and stashed the baggie somewhere "safe." I posted a Needs Maintenance note and emailed the owner. Hopefully the cache survives.

Now for some administrative updates. First, Brian added a welcomed-addition to Team Evelev: a new cache bag! Goodbye, Hello Kitty. It has a million pockets, a removable rain cover, and space-age technology that is supposed to keep my back cool. It's wicked awesome. Several months back I swag-traded a pedometer for a geocaching patch, which you can get from Goundspeak for about $4. I sewed on the patch tonight.

You may be interested to know that you may be part of a global phenomenon. A tiny one. I recently figured out that my blog has been visited by people in 14 countries and 31 US states. Turns out, some of you come straight here (because I told you to), some of you click through my Facebook link, but a lot people are finding me on google. Try googling "camo'd bison", I'm the first result. I'm also getting a lot of hits on waterproof match containers - google image search "waterproof match container", I'm the #2 result. I'm also #2 for "decoys in geocaching". I don't want to toot my own horn too much, but this blog is slowly becoming a source for the cache-curious. And you were here first. Congratulations.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Cache Apathy

If you've found any caches in Seminole county over the last week, you may want to wash your hands (and your lungs). In addition to leaving my mark on the logs, I probably left some congestion-inducing cold germs. You will know you've been caching behind me if you feel like your head has been filled with cement and your chest is lined with wool. Next time you exclaim "found it!" you may look around for a geomocking hobo, only to find the gravelly smoker-esque voice is your own.

You will be most-shocked by the one symptom you can't treat with NyQuil: Cache apathy. Over the past week I've turned into an incredibly lazy, muggle-paranoid geocacher. I have the desire to look for caches, but I get out there and I just don't care. I walk away after only minutes. Those of you that cache with me know that's not my style.

Example: This cache in South Carolina. Four of us picked through the trees in the dark for over an hour.

I grabbed three today, but I gave up on four others. And two of the three I grabbed were of the platitudinous variety. If you're not familiar with platitudinous caches, it's a series by legendary cachers War1man & Mimi. The pair is infamous for hiding the most devastatingly devious caches in Central Florida and finding everyone else's the moment they are posted. I suppose the platitudinous series is an attempt to balance out their karma. Platitudinous means "without freshness or appeal because of overuse." In other words, they're super easy. Number padding at it's best.

I actually drove by a few caches today because I just didn't feel like expending the effort. At one in particular, I slowed down the car, figured out I would have to walk about 50 feet to the cache, and kept driving. Seriously. At another, I pulled into a parking lot and a little tuxedo cat jumped out in front of me. Actually, it was less jumping and more sauntering. Then I drove around the parking lot and found him with a veritable coven of cat-friends, who took a moment to practice yoga in front my car. "Not meant to be" I mumbled, and drove away.

Leander demonstrates kitteh-corpse pose.

Here's another example of how off-my-game I am. A few days ago our dear friend EyeoftheSeeker posted a cache at the end of my street - a full 3/10 of a mile away from where I sit at this moment. And for the first time in nearly a year, I went three whole hours without checking my email. I nealy spit out my Nyquil when I realized the cache had been posted. I had just gotten out of the shower and was in my pajamas, but I threw on a pair of slippers, grabbed my wicked new flashlight and headed out the door. I arrived at the location to find another cacher lurking in the trees, barefoot. Been there. Took us a while to hone in on the actual location, but eventually I found the cache. My only victory of the week was squashed by the realization that War1man & Mimi and had been there first. A cache gets posted while I'm at home, less than half a mile away, and I still couldn't get an FTF. Jeez.

Hopefully I get this funk out of my system soon. Brian and I are headed up to Panama City for Christmas to see family (among them, PNutHed, my dad). I'm looking forward to some fresh caching territory and, you know, Christmas cheer.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Lessons Learned and Other Geo-News

I grabbed a handful of caches this week. My first was an attempt at FTF. Twelve hours after publishing, the cache was still unfound, so I thought I had a shot, but I was beaten by a mere 30 minutes.

I learned something about myself at this cache. With over 200 finds, I have acquired the skill of invisbility...or so I seem to think. It seems I have far less stealth than when I first started caching. The area was teeming with muggles on their way to a middle school. The cache was located under a boardwalk and I had no shame about stomping around in the mud (in heels).

At one point a group of 12ish year-olds walked by and one said, "Is that a girl?" Another replied, "no, stupid, that's not a girl." The debate continued. So I popped my head up above the boardwalk and yelled "yes, I am a girl" and resumed searching. Their pace quickened a little after that. A few minutes later an elderly couple walked by and actually stopped to watch me. I tried to ignore them, but they looked nosy, so I stood up and waved at them. The woman waved back and shouted, "Isn't it muddy down there?" I replied, "Oh, it's not so bad" and ducked back under the boardwalk. It was then that I noticed a set of footsteps other than mine and followed them to the cache.

The wave-and-smile technique worked better than I imagined. I suppose she thought she had spotted someone with a nefarious purpose. Except that people who are up to no good don't typically acknowledge the presence of onlookers, so I basically cleared my name by just being friendly. Normally I'm happy to explain geocaching, but since this one is on the main route to school, I figured it wouldn't stay long if people knew about it. The best option was for them to think I was strange. Believe me, I was ready with the "I dropped an earring" excuse, but I'm glad I didn't have to use it.

I also came across my first bird nest cache, which was tilted to reveal the bison tube without much searching. I tried to position it so the opening would face the sky, but it didn't seem to budge. I suppose it's survived this long.

Last week my obsession was puzzle caches (it still is, don't worry), this week I'm on a kick for statstics. A quick google search of "geocaching statistics" brought me to
Cacher Stats, which amazingly ranks all geocachers with 200+ finds. The only catch is that you have to visit one of their currently-watched caches. If the closest cache is more than 50 miles away you can request that they add a cache closer to you. The closest one to me is 6 miles away and I grabbed it this afternoon. This website updates twice a week, so hopefully I'll be on there in a few days.

More digging revealed this neat stat bar, fed by Cacher Stats. You can get it here. As soon as I'm on Cacher Stats you can bet I'll be adding this stat bar to my blog.

And finally, the biggest news of my weekend. If you're like me, you were not aware that us geocachers are about to have own in-print magazine. You will be able to have a normal-people representation of your obsession right there on your coffee table. It's called FTF Geocacher and the first full issue is due out in early 2010. You will have to pay for a subscription, but they haven't released the price yet.

However, signing up for the preview issue is easy and free. Just go to, where you can read about the magazine and find out how to sign up.

But that's not the best part - the best part is I'm in it! They are publishing my review of Geocache, written by Contributor Evelev. I feel honored to be a part of this new publication. It's my own little contribution to the world of geocaching.

Which brings me to my final point, I had no idea I was contributing to the world of geocaching with this blog. I'm so new, so incredibly inexperienced compared to just about every other geocacher on the planet (not to mention verbose). I thought my readers consisted mainly of friends and family, people who read my blog just to be nice. So I have to admit it's both thrilling and terrifying that people are reading who won't forgive my smart-assedness. Oh well, I suppose that damage is done.

Where do I go from here? I've already been recognized on-the-street from this blog, so I must be well on my way to an embarassing segment on TMZ. And I expect a call from Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, or Bill Maher for me to appear as a free-lance geo-writer. Ever seen one of those on the panel? Or maybe I'll just go to work tomorrow and grab a cache on my lunch break.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Evelev Reviews a Geocaching Documentary

From time to time I search my DirecTv guide for all things Viggo Mortensen.

Seriously, how can you not love him? If I could go geocaching with anyone living or dead, it would be him. That's not a slam to the people I have already cached with, it's just a fact.

Anyway, one of the items that popped up was an interview with him on some PBS show...but it was on a PBS I don't have. So I went to the PBS I do have, to see if I could find it there. I did not achieve Viggo-glory, but I did come across a geocaching documentary, aptly named, Geocache. Here's the website. And here's the trailer.

Let me first say that throughout the course of this documentary I repeatedly uttered the words "I'm not like that...I'm normal" while rocking back and forth. Brian laughed, a lot.

They interviewed:
-Geocachers at GeoWoodstock IV
-Jeremy Irish (Groundspeak)
-Park rangers from Larimer county, Colorado (where Brian and I got married...some of you were there)

The geocachers scared me, probably because I could have given the exact same interviews. First, they all mentioned their screen names (as they should); unfortunately, screen names used off-line are the epitome of dweebiness. Second, they were hardcore, and not in a good way. One of the interviewees was a lady with the most finds (16,000 in 2007). She said (paraphrased), "I have a business, but my husband runs it so I can do this...I miss my kids, they lost interest a long time ago." Yikes. And then, there was the on-going debate between geocachers and park rangers. It went something like this:

Geocachers: We have a right to do this.
Park rangers: We're sick of rescuing your asses.
Geocachers: Geocaches are not litter.
Park rangers: Your crap is bad for the wildlife.
Geocachers: We promote awareness and appreciation of state parks.
Park rangers: So called "geotrails" destory flora and fauna.

I was thoroughly surprised at how much park rangers dislike geocachers. It makes sense. Geocachers aren't always seasoned hikers. We (I) don't usually plan out where I'm (I mean we're) going. I just want the blue dot to match up with the green dot. But by the grace of god I haven't come across poison ivy, or been stung by a scorpion, or disturbed a hungry bear. Yet, the geocachers were completely unapologetic. Can we just admit that we're kind-of a nuisance? Not all of us, but enough to cause trouble.

Other highlights included a Canadian geocacher who dresses up like Batman (yes, he caches in a cape), and a guy who found himself without a pen and signed the log in blood. I signed in pink highlighter once...

I thought I was a geo-dweeb, but it is not so. I'm average. Mundane, even. It's ok, I'd like to think of myself as the friendly, unobsessed face of geocaching that muggles can relate to. I'm positively nerd-chic.