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.”


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).”


“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.


“The Geocaching Triad” Geocaching.com’s Lost & Found Video

The Original Stash plaque

This video follows Ohio, USA geocachers Keith Lemons (keithlemons) and Nancy Steyer (27jack) as they visit the three caches required to complete the Triad.  Beware, the video containers spoilers.

The Triad is one of the crowning achievements of geocaching. Geocachers must log three specific geocaches: the APE Cache Mission 9: Tunnel of Light, Groundspeak Headquarters and the Original Stash Cache. Each find is rich in geocaching tradition. The geocaches do not need to be logged in any particular order.

The Original Stash Tribute Plaque hides outside of Portland, Oregon.  The plaque there commemorates the placement of the first geocache in 2000.

Project APE cache

Geocachers  must also log The Mission 9: Tunnel of Light Project APE Cache, hidden outside of Seattle, WA. Twelve APE caches were originally placed around the world in 2001 to generate publicity for the remake of the movie Planet of the Apes. Mission 9: Tunnel of Light is one of only two APE caches still active in the world.  The other, Mission 4: Southern Bowl is in Brazil.

The geocache at Groundspeak HQ

Geocachers need to also visit the geocache at Groundspeak Headquarters.  Groundspeak HQ is also known as the Lily Pad.  It is home to the offices of Geocaching.com.

Geocachers who complete The Triad says the accomplishment not only earns them  personal satisfaction and but also bragging rights.

Have you ever completed The Triad?  Do you have plans to do so?


Geocaching Caption Contest 11 – Win a Barely Coveted Prize

Winning Caption: “More shocking than the size of the newly found geocache was the number of DNFs asking for hints on the cache page.” – bekah.manda

This is the eleventh installment of our Geocaching Caption Contest.  This picture was posted to Geocaching.com’s Facebook page.  It was too good not to share here on the Latitude 47 blog.

A coveted prize

What caption would you write? “Really big geocache… or really small geocacher?” You can do better.

The winner receives what’s actually a fairly coveted prize this time.  The Trackable celebrates 100 years of scouting and 10 years of geocaching.

Good luck!  Please include your geocaching username in all entries.

The winner of Geocaching Caption Contest 11 will be chosen by an ad hoc committee of Lackeys.

Geocaching Caption Contest 10. Click the picture to see the winning caption.

17 Lackeys voted to award the winner of the tenth Geocaching Caption Contest a barely coveted prize.

Click on the picture to the right to see who won.

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