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Secret Code Hidden in Leap Day Souvenir Revealed

When someone becomes a geocacher, they begin to see things others do not. Sticks are just a little too straight, every rock suggests a secret compartment and even lamp posts become suspicious. And to think that the majority of people go through life oblivious to the hidden delights all around them!

In the spirit of hidden delights, Geocaching HQ’s Designer Roxxy Goetz decided to encode a secret message in the 2016 Leap Day souvenir. Take a look:

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Did you catch it? Read on for clues and a behind-the-scenes look at the Leap Day souvenirs.

What do you do at Geocaching HQ?

I’m a graphic designer in our Creative Studio. We manage and create most of the art assets you see on our social media, like Facebook and the Geocaching Blog, and in our Shop. I personally handle many of our Geocoin designs, and I was one of the illustrators at the start of the Souvenirs project.

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Roxxy is a big fan of Signal the Frog.

What is your username?

Over the last couple of years I keep being asked if I’m that Roxxy, the one who designed this souvenir or that geocoin, and the rest was a bad joke waiting to happen. My username is Yes, That Roxxy.

Tell me about the Leap Day souvenirs. How did you and your team come up with the theme?

We really wanted to make something special for the community, something that was unique and not like anything else being put out there. We started by designing a Leap Day theme, which we used for the Leap Day Geocoin as well as the two souvenirs.

Our inspiration came from the Roman origins of Leap Day as we record it on our modern calendar. There aren’t many modern traditions for Leap Day that fit naturally with a geocaching theme, so we decided to call out the day itself. We looked at imagery that reflected the passage of time and the unique circumstances that gave us Leap Day to begin with.

The finished Leap Day souvenir has elements of a sundial, to reflect the passage of time over one single day, as well as imagery depicting the orbit of the earth around the sun, representing the passage of a year.

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The 2016 Leap Day Geocoin, designed by That Roxxy.

For the Leap Day Event souvenir we decided to draw imagery not just from our own planet, but from the other planets around us. We wanted to reflect the way our own personal experiences are a part of a much greater system, a sort of celebration of those experiences coming together into something bigger.

The theme even carried over to our Leap Day Geocoin, which featured the Roman god of the sun—Sol Invictus—on one side, with the planets in orbit around his crown. The other side was a functioning sundial, which is not as easy to design in as some might think.

I hear there’s a hidden message encoded in the Leap Day 2016 souvenir for attending an event. How do we decode it?

You caught me! I love trying to hide little messages for our community—I can’t help it! I guess I’m a Puzzler geocacher at heart.

I’ll give you two hints: one for those who just want a starting point, and a second for those who want to get right into decoding the souvenir…

Hint #1:

Nine are the planets

Nine are the rings

Nine are the letters

in the finding of things

Hint #2:

Each orbit has a pattern, a series of dashes, repeating all the way around. These dashes spell out a letter in Morse code. Each orbit represents only one letter.

Have you discovered any secret messages or hidden surprises while geocaching? Tell us about them!

 

SPOILER: And the hidden message is… DISCOVERY!

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Phantom of the Opera — Geocache of the Week

Multi-Cache
GC1BA8Q
by Mostly Moose
Difficulty: 
3.5
Terrain: 
1.5
Location: 
Oslo, Norway
N 59° 54.489 E 010° 45.091
Oslo Opera House from across the harbor

Why this is Geocache of the Week:

This highly-favorited multi-cache is located on the roof of the shiny and relatively new opera house in Oslo’s city center. The building’s distinctive design conveys accessibility—and expense. The Italian marble roof slopes down to the plaza below, allowing an easy transition from the street to the skies. According to the cache page, “Walking up the gentle slopes and across the roof plateau is supposed to emulate a hike in Norwegian hills and mountains.” Unsurprisingly, the view from the top over the harbor is breathtaking.

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The view, at sunset, from the roof of the Opera House

Geocachers searching for this phantom cache will first need to pay a visit to a very regal lady outside the opera house, one who devoted her life to promoting opera in Norway. A few calculations later, geocachers will find GZ and can search for the cache itself.

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The mysterious lady all geocachers will need to visit.

Tips for finding this cache:

  1. Watch your step. Don’t stare at the phone/GPS. You’re on a roof.
  2. Use utmost discretion and stealth. Muggles of the tourist kind are everywhere.
  3. Bring only small geocoins or trackables. The cache is small.
  4. Go at sunset, on a dry day, if you can. The view is phenomenal.

What geocachers have to say about it:

“My geocaching name comes from Phantom of the Opera, so I had to find this one. What an interesting building and an amazing view from the top. Found it with a fantastic group of friends from several countries. Thank you for showing it to me!” –Prying Pandora

“What an amazing building. The weather changed and the sun came out. It was a special light effect and great atmosphere and I took a lots of pictures. We reached stage 1 and got the necessary information. Before we walked to the final location, we made a guided tour in the opera, I enjoyed much. We reached GZ and still knew, where to search. We had to wait muggles passing and switched into stealth mode. After some moments I discovered the hidden cache-container. We signed the logbook satisfied, hided the container again and continued our walk. Thanks for the cache and regards.” –Geo-Link

Photos:

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The cache, with view of the sculpture, “She Lies”, which floats in the middle of the harbor.
"She Lies" sculpture in Oslo Harbor.
“She Lies” sculpture in Oslo Harbor.
Looking down the roof of the opera house.
Looking down the roof of the opera house.
Geocacher/Lackey/Reviewer Prying Pandora finds the cache.
Geocacher/Lackey/Reviewer Prying Pandora finds the cache.
The cache and logbook. Image by nafmo.
The cache and logbook. Image by nafmo.

Continue to explore some of the most amazing geocaches around the world.
Check out all of the Geocaches of the Week on the Geocaching blog. If you would like to nominate a Geocache of the Week, fill out this form.

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The Depot — Geocache of the Week

Letterbox Hybrid
GC31DE
by Chooch
Difficulty: 
1
Terrain: 
2
Location: 
Massachusetts, United States
N 42° 16.245 W 071° 15.006
"Miniature" is all relative.
“Miniature” is all relative.

Why this is Geocache of the Week:

If you’re wondering how many model train sets are hidden in the forests of Massachusetts, we can confidently say: probably just one. At least, this is the only one we’ve heard of that’s worth booking the very next flight to Boston for.

“The Depot” is one of those geocaches that will surprise and delight geocachers and muggles, the young and the less-young, and locals and visitors alike—although according to the creator, the “official” target population of the model railway is 11-year-olds.

We’re not going to spend too much time describing it here—best to simply take in the photos and hear from the creator, username Chooch, himself.

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The main railway line is about 120 feet long.

Chooch says the railway was already in place before the geocache listing was created. In fact, the project started out with just a seed of an idea. “Some twelve years ago I thought it would be neat if I could make my own trail which would connect with woods roads and walking paths into the town forest which abuts our property. In the process of working on the trail I came across a small brook which seemed to cry out for a little dam that would create a small waterfall. Of course there would need to be a bench nearby so that one could sit and listen to the waterfall.”

One thing led to another (and another), until eventually the spot had a whole table and sitting area. Perfect, Chooch says, for hosting “four people for cocktails.”

Rails wind snake-like through the woods.
Rails wind snake-like through the woods.

The inspiration for the model railway came from a train set his daughter placed under her Christmas Tree a few months later. Chooch thought a track of the same proportions would do well outside…and he knew just which outside that would be.

“Because of natural elevation changes at the site the obvious construction technique would be to build a trestle to run between the sitting area and the waterfall, which was about 80 feet.” This he did, and added in a few loops and stations along the way. The site came to be known as “Martini Junction”, and a little while later it was listed as a Letterbox Hybrid geocache.

The secure station where the train cars are kept.
The train cars themselves are safely stored in a locked station.
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Very official signage.

Chooch says the train station has been witness to some special moments over the years.

“One afternoon, when starting out on our regular walk in the forest, my wife and I noticed what appeared to be a pink ribbon hanging on a tree. Not paying much attention to it we turned to follow the path which leads to the railway. Almost immediately we saw, hanging from a tree limb, the letter ‘R’ neatly cut from foam core, about 12” high and covered in pink paper. Somewhat surprised at this discovery I turned back to find that the pink ribbon, from this vantage was now the letter ‘P’. Puzzled, we continued and soon came upon another letter, this time an ‘O’, and still a little further along the letter ‘M’. Finally as we approached the sitting area there’s a “question mark” hanging from a branch and we saw a young man sitting alone with a bouquet of spring flowers with a rose in the center all wrapped up as a gift.”

Chooch and his wife introduced themselves and asked about the tree letters. “He tells us that a young woman is on her way and that he plans to invite her to the prom. Well. I was pretty impressed with all his effort and told him that if things didn’t work out he could take me to the prom.”

Chooch and the trains.
Chooch with the choo-choos.

Luckily, things did work out—at least in the short term that was the Prom. “We ran the train through its paces for them and as they were leaving, I asked the young man what he planned to do with the pink letters. He said he was giving them to the young lady. I noted that he probably didn’t need the ‘question mark’ any more and he was gracious enough to leave it with me. It’s since been added to a growing collection of memorabilia which include thank you notes and numerous drawings of the railroad made by young children who have come on field trips. It was so nice being witness to what seemed to be a little old-fashioned event and to see young people acting like young people.”

Without perspective, the tracks could *almost* be life-size.
Without perspective, the tracks could *almost* be life-size.

The cache has been found 866 times and garnered 361 favorite points. Parts of the site have expanded without Chooch’s help, as people add objects to create vignettes of their own.

Chooch approves of the additions. “Since the railway has reached the limit of its expansion potential the vignettes afford the chance to add to the scene from time to time. A recent addition has been a string of miniature telephone poles sans any wires. This presents as a ‘wireless’ network and even provides a local hot spot.”

Chooch is a retired design engineer and built the railway himself, but he isn’t too effusive about how it was constructed. In a previously published article, he wrote, “I realize as I put these words to paper that this story is pretty light on technical details. In truth there is not very much technology involved here. In fact I guess it’s more of a love story and as such may not even be appropriate for the pages of Garden Railways.”

But geocaching is all about love, so it’s perfect for here.

Photos:

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Martini Junction from the air.
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Mammoth crossing.
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Full steam ahead!
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Chooch, left, demonstrates the railway for a visitor.
JiggitySquibs and mark their 2000th find at The Depot.
JiggitySquibs mark their 2000th find at The Depot.
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A side view of the stations, with the picnic area / cocktail bar in the background.
A young geocacher testing out the waterfall and waterwheel.
A young geocacher testing out the waterfall and waterwheel.
How big is this lookout tower really?
How big is this lookout tower really?
A vignette depicting the railway maker himself.
A vignette depicting the railway maker himself.

Continue to explore some of the most amazing geocaches around the world.
Check out all of the Geocaches of the Week on the Geocaching blog. If you would like to nominate a Geocache of the Week, fill out this form.

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Geocaching and Law Enforcement Agency Partnership

You have the right to remain….geocaching!

Raise your hand if, like me, you’ve met up with a friendly police officer while geocaching. Like the time I returned to my car to find an officer waiting for me after I searched for a cache near a baseball field. You can’t blame the officer for wondering what I was doing at a baseball field…after dark…in winter!

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At Geocaching HQ, we strive to work with law enforcement agencies to enhance the awareness, understanding and enjoyment of geocaching. We offer law enforcement representatives complimentary and ongoing Premium Membership for the purpose of monitoring geocaching activity in their jurisdictions.That’s why we were thrilled to hear about a new geocaching initiative in Portland, Ore. The Portland Police Bureau recently hosted a coin challenge to introduce six new geocaches at Bureau locations throughout the city.

The geocaching program is the latest community outreach brainchild of the PPB’s Sgt. Hank Hays. He worked to place the caches and make his fellow officers aware of them. “The idea for the program came from a desire to connect with the community around common interests,” Sgt. Hays says. “And then as we get to know each other, and the trust level builds, then we’re able to talk about some of the more complex community issues.”

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A young geocacher finds one of the PPB’s caches

The inaugural event offered cachers the opportunity to chat with police officers and learn more about how to make sure geocaching doesn’t cause undue stress for law enforcement. If you see an officer while you’re out caching (say, at a dark baseball field in winter), Sgt. Hays suggests initiating a conversation rather than waiting for the officer to approach you. “That’s gonna make the officer’s suspicion level go down,” Sgt. Hays says. “Because then the officer will think ,’OK they don’t mind talking to me. There’s something (geocaching) going on and maybe I don’t get it. But maybe I’m not as suspicious as I was.” Sgt. Hays also suggests making sure the officer can see your hands. “Officer safety is a big thing. We want to make sure we’re safe. We want to make sure the people we’re interacting with are safe. So being able to see your hands is a big part of that.”

Geocaches can unwittingly cause suspicion due to their appearance and/or location. Sgt. Hays reiterated HQ’s longstanding guidance to label your geocache container. He also stresses that a clear plastic container can go a long way towards reassuring officers who may stumble upon a cache. “I know people like to camouflage their caches, and I’ve seen some very unique caches in the little bit of time I’ve been doing this. Huge points for ingenuity and creativity! But if it’s clear plastic and we can see the contents of it, and it has the geocaching logo on it, then it’s pretty easy for us to know it’s not something we need to be worried about.”

Cachers at one of the bureau caches
Cachers at one of the bureau caches

The Portland Police Bureau hopes to host at least a few geocaching events each year. Do you know of a law enforcement agency that’s gotten involved with geocaching? We’d love to hear about it!

(Note: If you’re a Law Enforcement representative or Parks Personnel we offer a complimentary and ongoing Premium Membership for the purpose of monitoring geocaching activity in your jurisdiction. Learn more here at the Law Enforcement & Parks Professional resource page. Simply create a free basic account on Geocaching.com, choose a username that reflects your organization, and email us at geocaching.com/help for your upgrade.)