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Geocaching Evolution – The Themed Multi-Cache

FBZ A.P.E. 51; Stone of the Lost Valley
Near a FBZ cache

The geocaching spectrum runs from the ease of drive-up light pole caches all the way into the dark world of mind-bending themed Multi-Caches.  The geocaches like the “Forbidden Zone Geocaches” (FBZ) around San Diego, California push geocachers to their mental and physical extremes.

It took two years for Jim Epler (SGTF) to create the complex and conspiracy-laden series of seven geocaches.

Jim says FBZ draws inspiration from the Project A.P.E. caches.

Seven caches are hidden in and around San Diego.  The story line for the FBZ geocaches has players assume the role of an agent investigating a link between extraterrestrials and primates, and possibly uncovering plans for an alien invasion.

FBZ Clue/Prop (No animals were harmed in the making of this cache)

Clues and passwords at each cache advance players through the game.  The players must register through the Forbidden Zone Geocache website. The registration is only to keep score.  All the geocaches are available through Geocaching.com.  The first six geocaches do not have to be found in any particular order to uncover coordinates for the final cache.

When asked why he created such an involved geocache, Jim jokingly says, “because I didn’t know any better!”

But he says creating the Multi-Cache was two years well spent: “For me, the fun was in the creative process, not necessarily the end result. I looked at it as an enjoyable hobby which comprises a number of things I like to do including web site development, photography and graphics design, research, prop building, science fiction, storytelling, urban exploration, and hiking.”

The caches were hidden in 2008. More than a dozen geocachers have attempted the series and many completed all seven caches.

FBZ Clue

Jim hopes that people finish the cache without absorbing too much of the conspiracy.  He says, “I hope visitors are able to appreciate the ‘tongue and cheek’ humor which was my foundation for the entire project. I wrote the ‘top secret’ documents from the perspective of a paranoid conspiracy theorist, and all the stuff used to support this ridiculous storyline is just one long outrageous spoof.”

What do you think, would you ever attempt a themed Multi-Cache? Have you encountered other caches like this?

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“4×4 Geocaching” A Geocaching.com Lost & Found Video

The adventure of geocaching goes four-wheeling.  Geocachers with four-wheel drive vehicles seem resolved not to let little things like mountains and deserts and large expanses of razor-sharp shrubs deter them from finding caches.

Off-roading and geocaching

The roots of 4×4 geocaching run deep into the decade long history of geocaching. Thousands of geocaches with “off-road” attributes now span the globe from Albania to Zambia and almost everywhere in between.

Watch geocachers from Team Red Rubicon explore the wilds of Colorado, USA in search of geocaches.

Explore all the Lost & Found videos, including a geocache in space, here.

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Geocachers Save Two Women Stranded in Desert

Geocachers Roy Joseph (Rojo464) and Paul Fox (Pauleefox) drove through the rugged desert of Eastern Utah searching for five geocaches on Tuesday the 17th of August.  But they never made it past their second find.  What they encountered instead led to grateful tears and news headlines.

Roy and Paul had finished finding their second geocache and were looping around for a third – called “Bugy Softwear” (GCGMJT). The area of the desert that they searched is referred to as the Dolores Triangle.  It’s one of the most barren regions of the United States. The average temperature in August bakes the cracked ground at nearly 100 degrees F (38 C).    Bumping along in Roy’s jeep the two men stopped.  Just head of them, a mini-van sat wedged into the sandy soil.

Desert rescue

Paul says, “We saw the van in the gully from the road above it. Out here a vehicle in that position is either abandoned or there is somebody in need of help. Either way we needed to check it out.”

Roy adds, “When we first saw the car we could tell it was stuck. But it looked odd with the towels over the sun visors.  We were concerned with who might be in the van.  With it being in such a remote area we knew we had to make sure the occupants could get back to town.”

They drove the jeep next to the stranded vehicle.  Two women looked out. Roy says, “When we stopped beside the van the daughter said ‘Thank God’ and then started crying.”  A mother and daughter had been stranded in the van for two days.

Roy Jospesh (Rojo464) and his wife Linda

Roy says he’s prepared for geocaching in the desert and they were able to offer immediate help: “I have a backpack I carry with water, snacks, SWAG, a first aid kit, a short rope, and batteries.  In the Jeep I carry tools, spare parts, a tow strap, a first aid kit,  a fire extinguisher, extra water and some blankets.”

This wasn’t his first encounter with someone needing help, but never before has the situation been this dire. “We have helped strangers get unstuck, hauled a bicyclist to the hospital, given water to hikers, but this was different – both these two women could have died.” After the rescue, the mother and daughter will be okay.

Paul says the situation is a first for him: “In my 64 years I don’t believe I have ever been in a position to rescue damsels in distress before.”

Paul Fox (Pauleefox)

Both Paul and Roy have been geocaching for at least three years.  As the news broke, the reaction from the geocaching community flooded their email in-boxes. They say comments like Nancy Nagel’s post on the Geocaching.com Facebook page hit home. She said, “I always say that geocachers are the nicest, kindest people! I am so proud!”

Roy says, “We, too, have met some really nice people while geocaching but I am really surprised at the number of e-mails I have received from them.”

Paul explains geocachers this way: “The geocachers I know and have met are not the type of people that I would be afraid to meet in a dark alley. It is always good to have  story to tell that puts geocaching in such a good light. Lots of people just don’t know what it is.”

Both say they’re  ready for more geocaching.  Roy says, “I like being in the great outdoors, the exercise and the places geocaching takes me.”

And no matter who or what they encounter, they’ll be prepared. Roy says he’s glad this unexpected encounter ended with hugs and heartfelt thanks: “We are just thankful that we were able to help the women before it became a more serious situation for them.”

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Lessons from a $40,000 G.P.S. Device

Sunshot99 and ATMA with the $40,000 GPS device

Geocacher Jib Ahmad, Sunshot99, makes his living as a land surveyor.  His GPS device is literally his livelihood.  A land surveying website lists the occupation as the world’s second oldest job.  But it now has some of the world’s most modern, technical and costly equipment.

A $20,000 dollar home in Pennsylvania, USA (not GPS-enabled)

Jib says that the GPS device displayed above costs about $40,000.

Let’s add a little perspective to the price tag.

With the slumping housing market, $40,000 will not just buy you one house, but in some parts of the world it’ll buy you two houses (or more).

Jib was kind enough to answer a few questions about the five-figure device. He says the Global Positioning System is one of his favorite subjects.

Jib says, “I am a land surveyor here in Texas and this is not my personal unit. I use it for work.  I have never looked for a geocache with the unit – only verified coordinates with it.”

He says that the device’s accuracy is certified at two to three centimeters on a horizontal surface.

Two centimeters is about the width of a nickel.    Jib says he’s found the unit is generally even more accurate.

A nickel is about 2 centimeters across

He says, “This is a ‘survey grade’ system that would not be necessary or practical for most geocachers.”

But in case you’re interested, he has details. A lot of details. Jib says the device is made up of a base unit and a rover unit: “The receiver I was using is a Trimble R8 GNSS with a Ranger TSC2 Bluetooth data collector.  The receiver has an integrated antenna that is capable of tracking 44 satellites.”

At this point you may say, ‘Well there aren’t 44 U.S. GPS satellites out there.’   You’d be right.  This GPS device can also track signals from Russian and European Union global positioning satellites.

Up close with a $40,000 GPS device

He says, $40,000 doesn’t buy you any more of a geocaching joy. “To search for a geocache that was placed by a handheld GPS would not be much fun with a ‘survey grade’ GPS device.  The coordinates would have the standard handheld error of about 3 meters or 10 feet.  So really it would not give the ‘survey grade’ geocachers an advantage over other handheld cachers.  But for those that would place a cache with ‘survey grade’ equipment, the normal geocachers should have better luck depending on the accuracy of their own handheld unit.”

And Jib has advice for you to get the most out of your GPS device: “Geocachers may find that they can get a better signal and accuracy range by simply moving their body around.  In North America, the best direction for the GPS system is to have a clear southern horizon.  So, if you are having trouble, move around so that the southern sky is more visible.”

Sunshot99 helping ATMA establish coordinates for E - HABIT - Without Bed Bath & Beyond

He says his best advice is to know your own GPS device inside and out.  If you want to test its accuracy, you may have some luck in the Houston, Texas area soon.

Jib says, “I am in the process of getting permission from the U.S. Army Corp. of Engineers to set a benchmark/geocache in a Houston area park. The geocache will be a Mystery cache designed to show any cacher how to get different coordinates for the same point. Hopefully this will show them the standard error for their PND (personal navigation device).”

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“Totem Pole Rock” CGGY8P GEOCACHE OF THE WEEK – 8/30/2010

"Totem Pole Rock" GCGY8P

Sometimes what you see isn’t what you get.  According to the cache owner, the geocache “Totem Pole Rock” (GCGY8P) is really Gooney Bird Rock. Whether you call it Totem Pole or Gooney Bird, hcameron‘s hide has still been logged nearly 200 times.

Gooney Bird Rock
Gooney Bird Rock

The difficulty 1, terrain 1.5 geocache was placed in September of 2003.  It has been found by geocachers from around the world.  Adventurers simply drive outside of Moab, Utah to find the geocache.  They should exercise some caution. As indicated by the vehicle in the picture above, four-wheel drive is recommended.

"No Bull -- Great Canyon" (GC12R1Z)

The desert in the Moab area is rich with scenic geocaches.  A short drive away from “Totem Pole Rock” is “No Bull — Great Canyon” (GC12R1z).  See the picture on the right.

As with any geocache in an extreme environment, take precautions.  Make sure you pack plenty of water, a first aid kit and food. Geocachers, prepared with supplies, recently rescued two women who were stranded in the desert not far from these geocaches.

You can see all the Geocaches of the Week by clicking here.