Sunday, January 31, 2010

Not much to say

Didn't do a whole lot geocaching this week. I'm also not ready debut my geo-reputation article, so...*crickets*

It seems like I say this a lot lately: I grabbed one lousy cache this week. It was newly posted, but before I even got in the car I knew I didn't have a chance at FTF. This was confirmed when I arrived at the cache location to find three other cars. I got to meet Old Scouter Dad, Emerald Cowgirl, and thinairmagic. Mljungquist arrived at the same time we did, and EyeoftheSeeker was already there.

I've come to the conclusion that FTFs just aren't worth the trouble. I have one under my belt and I won't deny that I did a booty-shaking happy-dance when I found it. But in retrospect, it's way more fun to find a difficult cache than to be the first to find an easy one. I don't know how it is in other areas, but here in Central Florida, most new caches are found within 30 minutes. In order to get an FTF, you really have to see the new-cache email the minute it arrives, sprint to the car, and then hope the cache is less than 5 miles away. For me, those stars rarely align. I'm not saying there aren't some bragging rights to be had...but I certainly don't feel like any less of a geocacher for not having a bunch of FTFs.

By far, the best part about the FTF pursuit is running into other cachers. Tonight I was reminded of how geocaching brings people together (you can wipe the tear, I'll wait). Having met my fair share of geocachers, I've found that we are a diverse group. All we really have in common is geocaching, yet, there is no shortage of conversation. I challenge you to find a geocacher without a story to share.

As I approach my first anniversary of being a geocacher, I think it's time I start going to events. There's a get-together at a Sanford restaurant in two weeks that I might attend, and a CITO later in the month. As you may have seen in the Groundspeak weekly email, April 24th & 25th is the official Cache In Trash Out weekend, so I expect to see lots of those pop up. Hey, it's the least we can do.

Speaking of stories, the first issue of FTF Geocacher is in the mail. Even an anti-ftf-er like myself can appreciate it.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Geocaching by Canoe

Yesterday we got to do something I've wanted to do for a very long time - geocache with a canoe. We only went after one cache, but it was a blast and I can't wait to go back and do more.

We rented a canoe from King's Landing in Apopka. They offer guided tours, but obviously we wanted to do our own thing. Below is an approximation of the path we took (the red line). I can't say for sure how many miles, but my estimate is 4-6 round trip. I was tempted to turn on Motion-X to track our path, but I couldn't risk draining my battery.

I've been back and forth for months about buying a waterproof case for my iPhone. Since they're pricey and I'm not sure how often I would use one, I opted for a plastic baggie. At home (and on YouTube), this works great. You lose very, very little functionality and obviously the baggie is crystal clear...a little too clear, in fact. So clear, it creates a ridiculous amount of glare. I ended up storing the iPhone in the baggie, but having to remove it whenever I needed to check our location. After all, what more could I possibly have to fear than a wet iPhone?

Below is our little two-man canoe, with plenty of space for our stuff. Let me tell you, this thing is rugged. We Titanic-ed into a seemingly small stick that was firmly rooted in a massive log. Mr. Ismay, we did not founder.

And away we went, off to find our first 5/5. In Miccosukee, "Wekiva Springs State Park" roughly translates to "spiders ahead, turn back now."

We paddled like vikings for about 20 minutes before Brian wanted to know how far we were. Our distance from the cache had started at 1.26 miles (as a crow files), and we were now at .96 miles. So we paddled, and paddled, checking the distance every 15 minutes or so, and somehow we managed to overshoot it. So we turned around and headed back to an area where we'd seen several candidates for geotrails. As I watched the distance fall down to 7 feet, to the right of us appeared this little clearing. Bingo!

But as we got nearer to the shore, Brian says, "I think that's a gator nest," referring to that mound on the left side of the picture, "but it's not mating season, I'm sure it's empty."

At this point I looked at the distance again, which was now bouncing around 200 feet. We hung out in the canoe for a bit, waiting for the distance to settle. With neither of us talking or paddling, it became eerily silent. And then we heard what I can only describe as a gutteral burp. I looked at Brian, "what the hell was that?" "Gator," Brian said, nonchalant as ever. "Seriously??" I said. "Yeah, but it's not breeding season, this nest is abandoned", Brian said. I went back to the iPhone. And then we heard it again, but this time louder. I looked at Brian, "Is that seriously an alligator?" "Yeah, really," he said. And I replied, "Then shouldn't we get the fuck out of here?" (I won't sensor that, I was totally spazzed.) "Yes," Brian nodded. I shoved the iPhone back in the baggie and again, we paddled like vikings.

I didn't take the picture below (I got it from Discover Magazine's blog), but this is what may have been waiting only a matter of feet away from us. That's why we heard only a burp, not a full bellow. Plus, Brian says, it's too cold for gators right now and they can hardly move. I know for a fact that gators can't digest food until the water gets above 70 degrees, so they won't swallow you, but they will bite, and maybe store you for later.

In retrospect, even considering that area for a cache was one of the most retarded thoughts of my entire life. This is why park rangers hate geocachers. The cache was hidden with permission, in a reasonably safe location on the other bank of the river, but that didn't stop someone (me) from following my iPhone in the wrong direction.

We headed for the other side of the river, and the distance dropped down to 25 feet. After "parking" the canoe, we started exploring on land. Brian found the cache a few minutes later.

Now he insists I call him "5/5 Bri-Bri".

I happened to have this little carved black bear travel bug. It only seemed fitting since black bears are frequently spotted in this area.

In my infinite cleverness, I packed our lunch in an ammo can. I dub thee, Ammo Can Cafe.

And lastly, Brian has a heart-to-heart with his sandwhich.

The moral of the story is, don't mess with things that could eat you. As glorious as it might sound now, dying in pursuit of tupperware just isn't that cool. I don't think there's a terrain or difficulty rating that covers alligator death roll.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Evelev in not a number hound

I came to this realization yesterday. I am ridiculously slow when it comes to finding caches. I have a method, and I will find the cache eventually, but 15 times out of 18 somebody else finds it first. This is a fact, because that's what happened yesterday.

So, yes, I marked my 250th cache find. But am I proud of it? Not particularly. It's ok, I still celebrated with a flaming bundt pan filled with alcohol.

Please note: I'm not asking anyone who caches with me in the future to let me find the caches, because that's worse than me not finding them at all. But this is my blog, and I can whine about it if I want to. Plus I'm sure a few of you know exactly how I feel.

Anyway, this is how it went down. EyeoftheSeeker (EOS) invited us out for a day of caching, but I was left with the responsibility of planning out the route and driving. The planning part was frustrating because still isn't working properly since the last update, and EOS has 5x as many finds as me, making it difficult to find places he hasn't been. Oy. I ended up giving myself a starting point and searching out caches in the general direction I wanted to go. Alas, it was still an epic fail because EOS forgot he'd been to those caches until we started visiting them.

One of the first caches of the day was one we visited back in May when we were still very new to geocaching. So new, in fact, that the cache's description mentioned a bison tube, and I was looking for something resembling a tiny buffalo. So yeah, we weren't even close last time. This find went to EOS, but was well worth the second visit.

In case you can't tell, that's a camo-taped bison tube sticking out of the lizard's neck/shoulder. Certainly one of the cuddlier caches I've seen. And then, for the second time, a cache tried to eat a member of Team Evelev.

We moved on to the next cache, which Brian found quickly. I've seen similar hides, but nothing quite like this. It appears they used a crapload of glue to seal this 35mm film canister into a fence cap. Genius.

Then we visited a travel bug And then we grabbed lunch at the White Wolf Cafe, which was awesome. The next find went to EOS. Want to guess which bolt (below) is real and which one is the cache? This should be super easy, but it would have been tougher if the hider hadn't hidden the cache right next to a real bolt.

At this cache we also came across our first letterbox. I don't know anything about letterboxing except that it's similar but older than geocaching, and uses stamps. We signed the book, sans stamps, and I plan to try to log it.

The next cache we would never have found if not for EOS having already been there. The cache is located on this portable sign, which was moved a good 50 feet from GZ. Brian found this one. We'll definitely go back to grab a gyro.

We grabbed a few more super easy number-padder caches. I found one of them, but only because EOS had already found it, and Brian wandered around the car.

The next one went to Brian, which was well-deserved. While EOS and I were following our devices around in circles, Brian followed his geosenses right to the cache. I've seen plenty of pill bottle caches, but the camo tape made it a tad different.

This is the view from the aforementioned cache, which was too pretty not to include.

Next was a cache I missed due to my tunnel vision. The description hinted heavily towards it being a piece of bark, so I patted down the tree like it was getting a cavity search. EOS spotted it on the ground, right where I had just been standing.

Unknowingly, the following cache was my 250th. But since I never keep track of how many caches I've grabbed, I didn't realize this was my 250th until I was logging it last night. Oh well, Brian found it anyway.

The cool thing about this area (for me) was the local bird population. When we approached the cache we were greeted by some very noisy well-fed geese. Also present was a flock of ibis.

The cache resides somewhere in the picture above. I'll give you a hint: it's not decent or legal. It would have taken Brian and I a long time to find this one if not for EOS mentioning that he'd seen something like this before.

While you ponder, enjoy this picture of Brian and the ibis eyeing eachother cautiously.

It's called a cypress knee. It grows out of the water surrounding the cypress tree. Supposedly it is illegal to cut them, though I can't find a solid confirmation of that. It's possible that this one is fake (thought it didn't look it), or cut before this was illegal. I suppose you would classify this as a bison tube, since that's where the log was, wedged in the center of the cypress knee.

Technically I found this next cache, but I think Brian passed it by intentionally because he felt bad for me. Basically I was the organizer/photographer/chauffeur for their little bromance escapade. Anyway, the above cache was made from a jerky can. I'm a little surprised it hasn't been sasquatched.

It wasn't until I found the next cache (which I think EOS wandered away from intentionally. Yes, I am that paranoid), that I thought about my 250th. We did a quick count and thought this was it. So we snapped a publicity photo, only to find this was my 252nd. Oh well. It's kind of like when your birthday is on a Thursday, but you celebrate on Saturday.

After that we passed by a cache because a bum was sleeping near it. Then we found this one that has amazingly not been muggled. It's not like it's in the middle of nowhere. I guess people see stranger things that film canisters strapped to No Parking signs around here.

We couldn't help but notice the Barnum & Bailey train cars nearby. According to Brian, they walk the animals from the train station to the arena two miles away. Fascinating, huh?

You probably noticed my new header above. You will also notice my lack of effort on the html front...I'll work on that later. I created that for this cacher-community website that is currently offering free advertising. Well, let me tell you, I got denied because I'm not selling anything. Of course, if I'd like to pay for the space, I'm free to do that. But people who are actually making money and have a budget for advertising? No, it's free for them. For a couple of hours they had a spot on my sidebar, but they won't be making another appearance here. So much for cachers helping cachers.

Since I'd like to end on a somewhat brigher note - FTF Geocacher has gone to print! If you haven't signed up for a subscription, you're running out of time.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Caching in this Bitterest of Florida Winters

My caching week started out with a very pouty ftf-less Evelev.

Despite yet another EyeoftheSeeker cache in my own neighborhood, which I arrived at within 40 minutes of posting, I still didn't get FTF glory. It's not that I'm an FTF hound, it's just that I got schooled on my own turf, again. And it's not like it was an easy park and grab, either. I poked around for a good 45 minutes, in the dark, in record cold temperatures (for Florida that's like 40F), in heels and a skirt, under power lines (wonky signal), creeping over various tumbleweed wannabe's that ripped holes in my tights. Then I finally find it, and two people have already signed the log. Oy.

Alas, I am not too bitter to admit that this hide was quite clever. I tend not to pay much attention to titles anymore, but the title for this cache was a good (but not glaringly obvious) clue. The cache itself was simple - a bottle cap with a chapstick tube glued to it.

Today we decided to make a third attempt at a particularly evil cache nearby. The previous two attempts lasted over an hour and left us feeling defeated. EyeoftheSeeker found this cache yesterday, which gave me hope that, a) it was still there, and b) it was in good shape and replaced properly.

Several of the people who found it before me admitted in their logs that they received a hint from War1man, but I was determined to find it on my own merit. The first attempt was an honest hunt - we poked around like normal, seriously confused about what we were looking for. The second attempt could only be described as ravenous. We yanked on every branch, flipped over every rock, and ripped out a bunch of weeds. This third attempt I spent a lot more time just looking, mostly because it was cold and my hands were shoved in my pockets. Eventually I was just glancing around, kicking some pine cones when I noticed a tuft of grass with an odd sheen. I looked away, thinking I was grasping at straws...but I couldn't resist the urge to give it a tug.

Below is what I had to work with.

And this is what I found. I admit, I'm pretty proud of myself for finally spotting it.

The rest of the day consisted of pretty easy, normal caches. Brian found the one below. It started out as an Altoid tin, and was surprisingly dry inside.

Our final find of the day was this peanut butter jar hidden off a nature trail. Although this is the first time I've seen a cache with munch marks, I'm not at all surprised to see that someone took a nibble.

We also crossed paths with some new cachers. We arrived at a playgound to see a family of four hanging around. Assuming they were muggles, we went about our search. I saw the woman looking at some handheld device, but I assumed it was a phone. It wasn't until they split up and began wandering in different directions that Brian whispered his theory about them being geocachers. I still wasn't completely convinced, and they seemed to be eyeing us cautiously, so I didn't approach them. I figured if they were geocachers, maybe they were trying to let their kids get the find without assistance? I found the cache quickly, signed the log, and replaced it, all of this in full view of them. As I was getting into the car I saw one of the kids run over and grab the cache. They actually logged it online before I did, which is how I figured out that they just started. I'm going to email them, I feel bad for being so unfriendly.

I'm excited to announce that I'm working on a paper/article about the legal consequences of the geocacher reputation. It's something I've wanted to write about for a while and I just finally got around to doing the research. Stay tuned.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Sniffing Out Caches

I had this half-hearted goal of finding 250 caches by the end of the year. Unfortunately I only made it to 230, but I ended the year with a string of inadvertantly dog-themed caches. I didn't plan it this way - I looked up the first one while I was in the waiting room at my doctor's office, and then one lead to another, and another...and it wasn't until I was looking at the pictures today that I realized several of them had a common theme (despite being hidden by different people).

The first was a magentic hide-a-key tucked under the dog bowl on this drinking fountain. It's interesting how you learn to hone in on the things that are most likely caches. As I was walking up to GZ I saw the cache poking out, but it certainly wasn't so obvious that an unsuspecting muggle would notice. Look at the picture, see if you can find it. Two-hundred caches ago I would not have zeroed in so quickly.

When I arrived at the location of the next cache a police car was parked in the immediate area. I parked the geoSaab and watched the cop for a minute, waiting for him to drive away. He stayed put, and I almost drove away out-muggled. But then I considered the area - a public park in a nice neighborhood, where I have every right to geocache. I decided that if he asked, I would explain, simple as that. Worst he could do was ask me to leave. So I walked over to the area and started wandering as nonchalantly as possible. I don't know if he watched me or not, but after about 15 minutes he drove away. At that point I dropped the stealth routine and started yanking and twisting everything I could get my hands on. Soon after I stumbled upon the cache.

Technically you could classify this as a micro bison tube. The stick would be construed as camo. This is important because I've seen other hides similar to this where they did call it a micro and/or bison tube, and it took forever to find it because I was looking for a naked bison tube. For this reason I don't study the descriptions and hints as much as I used to. At many a-cache I have developed tunnel-vision and passed right on by an otherwise easy find.

PS. This fits with the dog theme because it was hidden just outside a dog park, and, well, it's a stick. Have you ever met a dog that doesn't love sticks?

The final dog-themed cache only fits in this category because the container was decorated with dog footprints. I'm not going to post a picture of that part because it's really not that interesting.

When I arrived at the location, it didn't appear possible to hide a regular size cache heere. And then I saw the stenciled geocaching logo (love it!)

I've seen a few caches hidden this way, and I always wonder how they don't get muggled by landscapers. Really. Those irrigation control valves have a purpose. Is it likely that a landscaper would remove the cache, do his job, and then kindly replace the cache unscathed? Or maybe those things don't serve as much of a purpose as I think and no one but geocachers ever gets into them.

I grabbed a few other caches that day, but they were all pretty mundane. I wish I'd brought Savannah. She might take an interest in geocaching if she knew dogs were involved. Oh, who am I kidding? Until the FTF prizes include Milk Bones or pig ears, Savannah will not be a fan.