Go Geocaching and Don’t Forget Your Sheep

Here’s a little geocaching scenario for you. You’re about to embark on your next geocaching adventure. Your mind starts racing through the all-too-familiar checklist: GPS (check), pen (check), extra batteries (check)… wait, you’re forgetting something. What could it be? Extra batteries? Nope. You almost forgot to bring your stuffed-animal sheep. Whew, that was a close call.

That’s the actual geocaching checklist for Ontario’s Cheryl Shaw and her husband Dave Devine. They call themselves “Team Sheep.”

Cheryl and Dave (minus sheep)

Cheryl and Dave started geocaching just over a year ago. Almost all of their 401 finds share something in common— a picture of their stuffed animal sheep with the cache. Cheryl says, “I now own more pictures of that sheep than I do of my family.”

The whole practice of posing a stuffed animal by a cache began innocently enough.

Cheryl says, “It all started with some travel coin I picked up. They wanted a picture with the coin and me. But somehow I didn’t feel like being photographed that day. So I looked around my house for something cutesy to photograph with the coin and found ‘sheep’ sitting on my sewing table. ‘Good enough,’ I thought, and out the door I went to go caching. Since then, I have photographed the sheep at every cache we have found.”

Sheep proposes

The sheep, and his wardrobe, evolved. He now has several outfits, everything from a karate uniform, fatigues and a hockey jersey to seasonal outfits for Easter, Halloween and Christmas. He even has a tux.

Cheryl says that the sheep recently got serious about a relationship: “Last week he even proposed to a fellow cacher ring and all!”

The other cacher had just gotten engaged. Cheryl says the sheep has developed his own personality. The log that accompanies the proposal picture reads: “We told the geo sheep about how Lisa got engaged and he was a little heartbroken, ‘Tell her that if things don’t work out with that nano guy I’m available!’ he said.’Sure thing’ we said, ‘You were definitely her second choice.'”

“It certainly adds to the fun to geocache with an avatar,” Cheryl says. “Cache owners have appreciated the sheep pictures. When people contact me they act like sheep is real, such as ‘say hi to sheep for me, or sheep looked very handsome today or sorry I missed meeting the sheep.'” She has even received fan mail for sheep.

Even if you never see sheep on your geocaching rounds, Cheryl hopes the idea travels. “I would thoroughly recommend that other cachers use an avatar. It’s fun. It’s more than just signing a log and running away. We try very hard to pose the sheep and take several pictures, choosing the best one for the web page.”

She says that there are other benefits to using an avatar as well.  “We tend to remember all our caches better, and best of all sheep always has some smart remark or stupid joke about the cache. (He can get away with saying things I can’t.)”

With more than 400 cache logs in one year, there’s no telling where sheep may show up next. If you’re in the Ottawa, Ontario area, you can now visit Cheryl’s first “sheep-themed” cache, “The Sheeps’ Revenge” (GC25CMF).

Would you ever consider using an avatar? What sort of avatar would you use?

Groundspeak Weekly Newsletter – January 5, 2011

Happy New Year!

2010 was an exciting year for geocaching! On March 8, we hit a huge milestone – over one million active geocaches listed on Geocaching.com. In the 10 months since, more than 260,000 geocaches have been added to the site.

Last year also marked the 10th anniversary of geocaching and the 10th anniversary of Groundspeak. We celebrated these milestones with Groundspeak’s Lost & Found. The celebration launched the weekend of April 20-May 3 – the 10th anniversary of the first cache placement. Geocachers honored the occasion by hosting 10 Years! events around the world.

As part of Lost & Found, we also wanted to discover some of the “lost” stories of geocaching. Our film crew traveled to capture the 33 amazing geocaching stories featured in the Lost & Found video series. Geocachers also submitted their stories on Geocaching.com.

And since Geowoodstock was in our own backyard, Groundspeak hosted the Lost & Found Celebration just outside Groundspeak HQ. We had such a great time meeting thousands of you that we’re going to do it again in 2011 at the Groundspeak Block Party.

We hit another milestone on 10-10-10, when the geocaching community broke a record. 78,313 separate Geocaching.com accounts logged a cache in a 24-hour period, blasting through the previous record of 56,654 accounts.

So, what’s in store for 2011? We plan on continuing to add great features and functionality. Our goals for this year include improving the quality of the game and taking geocaching “beyond the box.” We’re looking forward to what we can accomplish over the next 12 months with your assistance. If you have an idea that might make geocaching even better in 2011, please post it here.

Thank you for a wonderful 2010 and cheers to happy and healthy geocaching in 2011!


Geocaching.com Caption Contest 19 – Win a Barely Coveted Prize

WINNING CAPTION: “Muggles are coming! Quick! Act ‘natural!”‘ – apolloman25

Try your caption writing skills in the nineteenth installment of our Geocaching.com Caption Contest.   You could become the proud winner of a barely coveted prize! What caption would you write? “I think the muggles might be onto you.” You can do better!

Barely coveted prize

Submit your caption by clicking on “Comments” below. Please include your geocaching username in all entries. Then, explore the captions that other geocachers crafted.

You can influence the voting.  “Like” the caption that you think should win.  If you think your caption should win, convince your fellow geocachers to “like” your caption.  Lackeys decide between the top captions to crown the winner of this Geocaching.com Caption Contest.

Click on the photo to see the winner of this caption contest
The winner receives a barely coveted prize from Groundspeak Headquarters — the temporary 10 Years! tattoos pictured at left.

14 Lackeys voted to award the winner of the eighteenth Geocaching.com Caption Contest a barely coveted prize. Click on the image at right to discover the winning caption from the previous Geocaching.com Caption Contest. Apparently Lackeys have a soft spot for Monty Python movie references.

Explore the wit and wisdom of geocachers by checking out all the Geocaching Caption Contests.




“Preikestolen” GCGGHB GEOCACHE OF THE WEEK – January 3, 2011

View from near ground zero of Preikestolen

Out of the 13,000 geocaches in Norway, “Preikestolen” (GCGGHB) has received the most Favorite Points.

The  traditional geocache brings adventurers to one of the most popular natural attractions in Norway—”Preikestolen” or “Pulpit Rock.” Geocachers reach the site after a rugged two hour hike.

The jagged granite ledge is perched 1982 feet (604 meters) above the waterway below.

The geocache “Preikestolen” was hidden in 2003 by Andersen64. The difficulty 1.5, terrain four cache has been found by more than 500 geocachers so far.

A geocacher who recently logged “Preikestolen” wrote this: “A wonderful hike with brilliant views on a perfect Saturday while visiting friends in Norway. Well worth the effort.”

Preikestolen has received 40 Favorite Points to date. Geocaching Favorites is a new feature on Geocaching.com providing a simple way to track and share the caches that you enjoyed the most. Learn more here.

"Preikistolen" or "Pulpit Rock"

Continue your exploration with some of the most engaging geocaches from around the world. Explore all the Geocaches of the Week on our blog or view the Bookmark List on Geocaching.com.


New Year’s Resolution: A Geocaching Diet

Martin Pedersen, pictured here with his family, spent a year on a geocaching diet.


Editor’s Note: Martin Pedersen was the focus of a Geocaching.com video, “Geocaching Diet” in mid-2010. He succeeded in losing more than 30 pounds. But Martin will tell you losing 30 pounds still leaves him with a sense that he hasn’t fully succeeded. His weight loss goal was much loftier. The author of the blog FamilyNavigation.com hoped to lose 100 pounds. We still think his geocaching diet was a success. Martin leads a healthier and more active lifestyle today and he’s kept the weight off. Here is Martin’s story, in his own words.

Geocaching Diet

By: Martin Pedersen

Last year my New Year’s Resolution was to get into shape and lose weight.  On January 1st I had no idea how I would do it.  A fad diet and a gym membership were not going to work for me and two weeks into January I still did not know how I was going to keep my resolution.  There had to be a way I could add enjoyable daily exercise into my busy routine.  I wanted to pick an activity that I would crave to do each day and was more enjoyable than the passive activities I had been wasting my time with.  Still confused I did what I normally do when I have important things to think about; I went for a hike.  The combination of nature, fresh air, and exercise always lifts my spirits and allows me to think clearly.

Martin geocaching in British Columbia, Canada

I quickly threw the essentials into my backpack which includes water, notebook, pen, and a GPS receiver.  The first three items had been part of my hiking pack for as long as I could remember but the GPSr was a new addition.  I had been introduced to geocaching a number of months prior and I was slowly getting obsessed.  Even though I was going on a hike to come up with ideas, there was no reason why I couldn’t find a few geocaches along the way.

My wife was introduced to geocaching from a friend and when she told me about it she knew that it would be something I would really get into.  I love to play outside, I am a true explorer at heart, I enjoy challenges, and I like activities I can quantify.  Imagine if I could build an exercise routine around hiking and geocaching.

On that most enjoyable geocaching hike I did imagine it and as soon as I got back I went to work to figure out if I could possibly fit regular geocaching into my schedule.  After an evening worth of research I explained the concept of a geocaching exercise challenge to my wife.  The plan was to find 1000 geocaches in one year while hiking 2500kms and trying to lose as much weight as possible, hopefully up to 100lbs.  She always amazes me with the enthusiasm she greets my crazy ideas.  Three days later I started the Geocache Diet.

I have gone hiking almost every day for 11 months and in that time I have found nearly 900 geocaches while walking the equivalent distance to get from Canada to Mexico (taking the scenic route of course).  I have hiked through beautiful forests, past waterfalls, alpine lakes and beaches.  I have walked back-country roads, urban streets, bicycle paths, plus a fair bit of bushwhacking.

Many of the caches I have found had parking right next to them but instead of simply driving from location to location I would always link a few together on a circle walk through town.  My family likes caching and they joined me on as many outings as we could manage but a lot of the time I was alone.  I have found caches in all types of weather including pouring rain, wind storms, and in the snow.  I have not lost as much weight as I would have liked but I have been rewarded with the benefits of regular exercise.  This challenge has succeeded in getting me outside to work up a sweat daily where other attempts have failed.  The main reason that this challenge worked was that it was just too much fun.  Geocaching is such an enjoyable, inexpensive, accessible, and inclusive activity which everyone can do and that makes it a perfect complement to regular exercise.

Martin geocaching with his family

The hardest part of doing any exercise challenge is making the time commitment.  Before starting this challenge I looked at my schedule and wrote down everything I needed to do each week (like work, family time, and sleep).

I found that, even though I am a busy person, by cutting out activities like watching TV I had enough time to complete this challenge.  I did not cut out anything that I enjoyed doing more than hiking and geocaching and I definitely have not cut into family time.  My year is almost up but I still have so many trails to hike, so many caches to find, and so many places to discover.  I will just have to continue to include geocaching into a healthy lifestyle and to reach my ideal weight and fitness level.