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Time to Phone-a-Friend: Sometimes hiding a geocache takes two

FTFers in action
RandolphAgarn and I camped out to (sneakily) watch the FTF in action.

2 x 2 Makers and Hiders Unite

It takes all kinds to make geocaching the quirky, wonderful, interesting hobby/game/community that it is right now. Some like to solve puzzles, others like to trek across mountains; some are serial geocache finders, and others are serial geocache hiders. Altogether, these different types make for a healthy (and fun!) geocaching ecosystem.

Within this geocaching ecosystem, I’ve always considered myself your everyday, traditional finder—like moss (a little bit boring), but surely important for some unknown, ecological reason. That is, I used to think of myself like moss. Then, a few months ago, I attended a Maker Madness event hosted by Geocaching HQ. I walked out of the event knowing that I too wanted to create great geocaching experiences for others to enjoy… But I didn’t want to hide just any old geocache. I wanted to hide the Mona Lisa of geocaches.

There was, however, one small problem. When it comes to any and all geocache making skills…well, I don’t have any. I never took woodshop. I don’t know anything about Arduino computers. And (much to my puzzle-loving grandfather’s disappointment), I cannot solve the Monday crossword puzzle, let alone design a worthwhile puzzle of my own.

Hiding without Making

So how does one hide a masterpiece geocache without having any relevant Maker skills?

Luckily, I discovered that geocache hiding, like Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, has a built-in Phone-a-Friend option. You see, like the broader geocaching community, geocache hiders come in all shapes and sizes. There are the Makers, who imagine (and implement) the future of geocaching containers; then you have the location hiders, who have a knack for finding breathtaking hiding spots; and finally, there are folks like me.  I am nothing if not reliable, which as it turns out, is a key ingredient to a great geocache. (Ahem, you’ve heard of a little thing called geocache maintenance? No one likes a soggy log.)

RandolphAgarn
RandolphAgarn makes final adjustments to our geocache.

So, I used my Phone-a-Friend card to call up my friend and Geocaching HQ mobile developer Arne Moen (Username: RandolphAgarn). He is everything that a Maker should be: creative and innovative with more than a few DIY tricks up his sleeve. And fortunately for me, he enjoys making geocaches more than maintaining them, so we formed a geocache hiding partnership. He built the container and I will be in charge of maintaining his creation going forward.

RandolphAgarn and I were so excited/nervous about putting our geocache out in the wild that we decided to sneakily camp out on a nearby bench to watch the FTF (first-to-find) in action. Given our geocache’s proximity to Geocaching HQ (home to 70 plus geocachers with instant notifications set up), we weren’t shocked to see the FTF go to a couple of HQ staffers within 20 minutes of publication. ScatterMyCaches and ReidSomething were pumped to earn their first FTF (but less excited to FTF the giant spider that had been quick to make the geocache its home).  A big congrats also to MedicineManOfSeattle and TrailGourmet for the STF (second-to-find).

Okay, so our geocache may not be the Mona Lisa of geocaches, but it sure feels good to have played a part in creating a quality experience that many will be able to enjoy.  And, unlike moss, it’s nice to know that we all have the ability to choose what role we’d like to play in our geocaching ecosystem.

3 reasons to hide a geocache with a friend

  1. It’s more fun. ‘Nuff said.

  2. You can share the workload. From building a container to maintaining it, hiding a geocache can be a lot of work! Splitting up or sharing responsibilities makes it a whole lot easier.

  3. Collaboration inspires creativity. The brain is a wonderful thing. Two brains are even better.
FTFers
The FTF team!
FTFsandCOs
RandolphAgarn and I talked the FTF’ers into taking a celebratory selfie with us!
Earlyfinders
Early finders Jwlatona and COOP.

 What’s the story behind your first geocache hide?

 

 

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Geowoodstock XII Mega-Event: The Quest for Lewis and Clark

geowoodstock
Can you spot the Geocaching HQ’er? (This photo was taken from the ladder of a fire truck!)

Editor’s note: Geocaching HQ staff are  attending dozens of Mega-Events around the world, shaking hands, sharing stories of adventure, and of course, geocaching. Each person at Geocaching HQ brings their own unique talent to advancing the adventure. Some write code for the website, others design images for the apps, and some shoot videos explaining it all. Mario Bellemare (|\/|ario) is developer at Geocaching HQ specializing in Lab Caches and other innovations. He recently traveled to St. Charles, Missouri, the final embarkation point of the Lewis and Clark expedition, to join more than a thousand people in a celebration of what Lewis and Clark’s journey represents and what geocaching is all about: exploration. 

Geowoodstock1
The log book. Can you guess who these characters are? (Hint: The Quest for Lewis and Clark.)

Location: N 38° 46.500 W 090° 28.983  –  St. Charles, MO

GC Code: GC4BGXM

Number of attendees: 1,396 Attended Logs

I had the opportunity to attend one of the biggest Geocaching events of the year in the United States: Geowoodstock XII. This year’s Geowoodstock was located in St. Charles, Missouri, a charming location with a really rich history.  Main street is a cobblestone road surrounded by beautifully preserved, restored, and century-old buildings containing a variety of enticing little shops and restaurants. I made my way from the airport straight to the Pre-Geowoodstock Meet-N-Greet event, where I picked up my registration packet and got to meet a lot of the volunteers and attendees. The place was very busy as the Missouri River Irish Festival was rockin’ right next door.  At the end of the evening, I went out to a local pub to grab a bite and share some stories with a few reviewers and some geocachers.

Saturday, the day of the event, was a very busy – and exciting – day.  The mayor, the Leprechaun (representing the Irish festival), Signal the Frog, the organizers and I were led onto the main stage by a bagpipe player.  I stayed on the ground of the main event the entire day only going out for a quick lunch across the street from the event.  I had many opportunities to practice my autograph because one of the squares on the event’s bingo sheet asked the attendees to “Find a Lackey”. The event was very well attended (even surpassing the attendance from last year’s Geowoodstock!) by geocachers from all over the States, as well as some international attendees from Germany and as far as Thailand.

I ran into a lot of interesting and unique trackables, including a nice wooden carved version of Signal the Frog… and a tooth (yeah, a tooth trackable!).

Geowoodstock was followed in the evening, by the Midnight Madness – Geocoin Event – GWXII where I got to hand out some trackables and was given a few trackables including this mysterious geocoin. (I’m still trying to work it out. Hints welcome!)

The following day, I went to the Biking and Caching on the Katy Trail event to see geocachers head out on their bikes for some exploring.  The logbook was well suited for the occasion – a large deflated bike tube.  I wanted to make sure I could complete the Geocaching Adventure (Lab Caches) set out for the event.  So, before I had to head home I set out to do some exploring and also enjoy and take photos of the stunning Main street.

toothtrackable
Yeah, a tooth trackable!

 

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Geocaching HQ’er Mario on the big stage!

 

geowoodstock2
Kicking off the exploration Lewis and Clark style.

 

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A Texas Sized Mega-Event (and Squirrel)… in Texas

Editor’s Note: Staff from Geocaching HQ in Seattle are visiting more than 30 Mega-Events around the globe this year to shake hands, share stories and hear what you think is next for geocaching.

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Geocacher “Dark Star” and Katie meet a new friend at the Mega-Event (okay, it’s a squirrel)

By: Katie Barker

It was my first time traveling to Texas and it definitely lived up to my expectations! Known as the “friendship state”, Texans showed me that geocaching friendship we all know and love the moment I arrived at the Friday Night Meet & Greet in the small town of Bastrop. Geocachers from near and far traveled many miles to attend the weekend’s festivities and I was feeling lucky to spend my time with such a great group of people. Here’s a little re-cap about my weekend in Texas. If you’ve never attended a Mega-Event, here’s what you can expect.

I was up bright and early on Saturday on a mission to complete the Lab Caches. Jana Fite, (cybercat) a long time geocacher and event organizer, created a series of 7 Lab Cache locations from the historic district of Bastrop to Smithville highlighting the most interesting businesses in the area. Each location had a unique experience like exploring the largest bronze foundry in the state of Texas or sampling bottled Texas rainwater at Texas Rain. I couldn’t help but giggle when we ended up at Berdoll Pecan Farms where we found a giant squirrel! A big special thanks to TxDiva and Dark Star for showing me around.  

Halfway through the Lab Caches I made a quick stop at the Bridge Spittin’ Ceremony! Who knew that spitting over a bridge was a long time tradition in Bastrop? I do now! The kayakers in the river below had to stay back a little ways as the 200+ geocachers leaned over to spit all at the same time. It was an experience I will never forget to say the least.

PPanther and grumpoldtexan at the CITO
PPanther and grumpoldtexan at the CITO

 

I headed back to the 12th Annual Texas Challenge after lunch to watch the challengers come racing in with their completed score cards. The competition was fierce and I must congratulate North Texas on taking home the win! I also got to meet Jenny Mills, the host of the Birthplace of Texas GeoTour. (Unfortunately, I didn’t get to try any Blue Bell ice-cream, next time!) I was overwhelmed with joy from all the compliments and positive feedback geocachers gave about the GeoTour. Keep up the good work in Washington County.

The weekend was packed with fun activities, but it wouldn’t be complete without a quick Texas Challenge CITO on Sunday along the Colorado River before heading to the airport (with a stop at Buc-ee’s, of course). Thanks to all the organizers for hosting a great fun-filled geocaching experience.

My favorite part of the weekend was hearing everyone’s stories, from PPanther’s prank (check out her profile page, it’s quite impressive) to the 254 county challenge. Thanks for making me feel at home Texas geocachers!

12th Annual Texas Challenge
12th Annual Texas Challenge

 

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Climbing for a Smiley

tree1

Looking down, there is nothing for 30 feet and then the leafy floor of the Potsdam forest in Germany. My head is red from exhaustion. When I look at my hands, they are shaking. I try to write my geocaching username in the small logbook, but the letters are scrawly. “At least I did not forget the pen down there,” I think to myself.

Do not forget a pen, before going up!
Do not forget a pen, before going up!

“Now you have to come down” Ralf (Geocaching username: DeepdiverBerlin) calls from below. Ralf’s specialty are T5 caches. Geocaches with a terrain 5 rating require specialized equipment. That can be a boat, a vehicle with 4 wheel drive, or in this case, climbing equipment. Ralf brought his experienced friends Karsten (Karsten & Co), Gisela (water&sun) and Michael (Vista-Freund) to show me the ropes (pun intended) when it comes to finding geocaches hidden high up in trees.

“Pull!”, they yell and laugh and I carefully remove my hand ascender from the rope and pull the trigger of my descender to slowly let the rope slip through. And I come down, a lot quicker than it took me to climb up.

A little shaky I land back on the soft forest floor. I feel thrilled, excited, and very accomplished, but before too long, we pack up our climbing gear and go to the next geocache that is placed high up in a tree.

tree2We tackle 5 trees that day. Each with a different shape, height and technique. At one geocache location, we have to build a so called “ropeway” between two trees to get to a far out branch too thin to support anyone’s weight. Another time we have to pull the climber to the geocache from the ground. Tree climbing seems to be a great combination of physical and cerebral strength, as we often ponder over the best technique before getting the ropes in the trees and making our ways up to the geocaches.

I am glad to be able to learn from experienced climbers. Gisela is close to her 1000th geocache, she got while climbing a tree. “We thought, these kind of geocaches are for other people. That we will never get them,” says Michael, “But then a friend of ours took us and taught us how to do it and now we are hooked!” I can understand why. The physical exertion, making it way high into the crown of a tree is so adventurous, but being guided with experience and secured with good climbing gear, I feel very safe.

Gisela and Michael also took tree climbing classes to further their knowledge about tree climbing and also about tree types. It can be dangerous for inexperienced geocachers to climb a tree, because they don’t know enough about the sturdiness of different tree types, or cannot distinguish sick or dead trees from sturdy, healthy ones.

“This is my kind of adventure,” I think in the evening at a local geocaching event in Berlin. My legs are hurting, I can barely keep my eyes open, but I am happy and proud to have added five T5s to my geocaching statistics today. And I am looking forward to the next tree, and to my next geocaching adventure!

What geocaching experience made you feel proud and accomplished? Let us know in the comments below!

 

A S*W*A*G Filled Mega-Event

Seattle vs Yuma
Seattle vs Yuma

Editor’s Note: Staff from Geocaching HQ in Seattle are visiting more than 30 Mega-Events around the globe this year, to shake hands, share stories and hear what you think is next for geocaching. 

In February, the Southwest Arizona Geocachers hosted their signature event, S*W*A*G’s Yuma Mega #11, in sunny Yuma. Above is what it looked like at home in Seattle, where Geocaching HQ is located, that same weekend.

Christy and Signal
Christy and Signal

After arriving in Yuma and thanking the Southwest Sunshine Gods (they must exist), I found my first-ever Arizona geocaches and got started on the Mega Event’s Lab Caches.

Jeff Nicholson, you+me_makes3, with S*W*A*G created an elaborate series of 10 Lab Cache locations to show visitors a diverse range of attractions all around Yuma. Fortunately, he had suggested that I get a rental car for the trip. The Lab Caches were an excellent way to see the city’s well-known and hidden gems, ranging from the historical Sanguinetti House Museum to the Yuma Territorial Prison Cemetery. I even got to see some cute animals at the Wild World Zoo and Camel Farm, thanks to the Lab Caches.

The Yuma Warm-Up Mega Event #11 at a local restaurant was a great opportunity to meet the friendly Geocaching community and to get to thank our amazing volunteers in person. There was a nice handful of Geocachers who also had ties to the Seattle-area, and it was fun to catch-up with them. The event also featured a special screening of the Geocaching International Film Festival (GIFF), as shown at the 2013 HQ Geocaching Block Party.

Making friends at the Yuma Warm-Up Mega-Event #11
Making friends at the Yuma Warm-Up Mega-Event #11

The next morning, the Mega Event was set up and ready for crowds. The West Wetlands Park was an incredible location, not too cramped and very pretty. There was a large array of fun activities to choose from; check out the impressive Activities Schedule on the cache page! I met with even more geocachers, vendors, Signal the Frog, and checked out the cool vehicles on display before completing the Lab Cache series later that afternoon.

Before heading back to the airport, I hosted a very-early-morning event cache of my own: I choo-choo-choose you! at the historic steam train near Gateway Park. I arrived early and there was already a welcoming crowd of friendly faces waiting for me as the sun came up. What an incredible group of geocachers! A great way to end an outstanding weekend of geocaching. Thanks, S*W*A*G!

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A Show of Support Local Sheriff’s Department
Yuma 10
All are welcome
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I choo-choo-choose you Logbook