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Geocaching Along El Camino de Santiago, Spain

By Jenn Seva

Geocaching Along El Camino de Santiago, Spain

Have you ever wanted to go on a pilgrimage?

Just as summer turned into autumn, I was fortunate enough to walk across Spain. Literally. Those 1,043 km took me over 3 mountains, flat through 7 days of the exquisite meseta (plateau), and across more than a thousand years of Spanish Catholic history. Those kilometers also brought me conveniently near several remarkable geocaches. And bonus: two new country souvenirs! This pilgrimage is called El Camino de Santiago.

I began my 38-day walk in the misty French town of Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, nestled in the foothills of the Pyrenees. Although I had gotten a late start that morning, I still walked against the pilgrim traffic towards the cache at La citadelle to earn my France souvenir: magnifique! Later that day, I walked from France into Spain, over the Pyrenees.

Clockwise from left: Karin and Milene find a cache together, Amber finds her 1st geocache.
Clockwise from left: Karin and Milene find a cache together. Amber finds her 1st geocache.

On the second day, my new friend Amber asked me what this game is all about. The best way to explain geocaching is to show it, of course! At first, we DNF’d at Caminante No Hay Camino… which is ironic given what that cache title means. We found success at Brujeria – Sorginkeriamaravilloso! – and only because this Dutch woman also speaks Spanish and helped me understand that the hint (pío, pío) is about birds: something not immediately obvious to a non-native Spanish speaker like me. Amber’s first find had a very creative container, and we secured that additional country souvenir.

Walking farther west, we stumbled upon a German-style T5 experience at Casa Paderborn, Pamplona: märchenhaft! I estimated the cache height to be some 21 feet or so off the ground, well beyond the 14-foot ladder I borrowed (a ’14-foot ladder’ is probably called something different in a place where they don’t measure things in feet.) My pilgrim friends and 10 cyclists who happened to be resting below the tree did not understand what was happening. Even I was pretty amazed that WAY UP THERE is where my day went, in a dress, no less. They asked me from the ground: ¿Qué encontraste en el contenidor? What did I find in that container? Adventure and a great story to tell, that’s what.

The Casa Paderborn, Pamplona cache brought me additional joy because I had helped to develop the Paderborner Land GeoTour in Germany. This pilgrim hostel and this geocache both represent a sisterhood between the city where I was and a city that hosts a GeoTour! My worlds were coming together in delightful, mathematically unlikely ways.

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German-style T5 experience at Casa Paderborn, Pamplona.

By the time I got to La Cruz de Hierro, I was in my 4th week of walking. One of the most significant and powerful moments along the pilgrimage route, I had every intention of finding this geocache as a personal milestone. As it turned out, the significance and power of the moment itself caused me to forget about all about geocaching; instead my thoughts went to so many other far-off places. I recorded that as a memorable DNF since I had intended to find it and once within a few meters of the cache, I simply forgot to look. Has that ever happened to you?

Right outside the cathedral at Santiago de Compostela is a shadowy geocache called A sombra da Quintana de Mortos. Finding it at night when the lights are on makes for the best experience: architectural factors at the location combine, creating the magical illusion of a pilgrim forever tethered to the cathedral walls. It’s quite an improbable combination: the bumps on the cathedral walls were built independently of the simple pillar that creates the shadow. Further, the electric lights were added hundreds of years later. This is not something included in a typical guidebook. This is something I found only because of geocaching.

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Clockwise from left: Sombra with Hans photo by Suzanne, MissJenn walking to the Cruz de Ferro, Walking the Camino, At the finish.

Signing each of those geocache logs reminded me how geocachers have more than just geocaching in common. My stories intertwined with other pilgrims’ narratives as they each made their way one step at a time towards the city of Santiago de Compostela just like I did, but differently than I did. For example, the logs show that Dauby had started in Prague while I started walking just over Spain’s border with France. I read that the Canadian 3 Bearss were pawing through caches, always just a few days ahead of me. I actually met Maltese superprizz in person in Burgos (at a cache owned by my friend and Community Volunteer Stitch81) and we must have had very different paces since we didn’t run into one another again. Stitch81 himself had walked his own Camino many years ago, and he gave me sound advice and helped me with critical provisions.

It will take me ages to process all my many stories about this awe-inspiring, multi-faceted experience called El Camino de Santiago. At least I have now told you about some of the caches that helped make it an even better adventure.

What is the longest distance you have walked while geocaching?

Geocaching Bucket List: Dreamy Beaches Edition

Beaches Numbered

Ocean, n. A body of water occupying about two-thirds of a world made for man — who has no gills.”
Ambrose Bierce, The Unabridged Devil’s Dictionary

Any serious geocacher probably has a list of geocaches they wish to find before they “kick the bucket”, so to speak. We’ll be doing an intermittent series dedicated to bucket list geocaches, and today’s theme is, “Beaches.” We hope this blog post inspires you to pack a swimsuit and head to the nearest sunny destination!

1. GC1ZBE2 – Elafonisi
Traditional cache in Crete, Greece
D1.5 / T2.5
Turquoise water, white sand beach, snorkeling, and sand dunes—what more could you ever want? A geocache, perhaps? Well, it has that too! Find this geocache after a pleasant swim (or wade) from the Greek island of Crete. Yes, it’s a t
ough job, but someone’s gotta do it. 😉 

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Logbook
Beautiful
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Cache logged, now it’s time to soak up some rays
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Do you like long walks on the beach at sunset?

2. GC5BPN5 – Nai Harn Beach
Traditional cache in Thailand
D1 / T2
According to the cache page, “Nai Harn is one of the island’s most popular places with in-the-know locals. This relatively tranquil place has only a few hotels and is a popular anchorage for boats during the high season… At sunset, it is a amazing place to watch it go down and take long walks on the beach.”

Wooden Slovakian GeoCoin
Wooden Slovakian GeoCoin
Barefoot on the beach cachin'...
Barefoot on the beach cachin’…
<3 from Thailand

3. GC11A5E – Whitehaven Beach
EarthCache in Queensland, Australia
D2.5 / T3.5
Often ranked as one of the top beaches in the world, Whitehaven Beach offers, “…crystal clear aqua waters and pristine silica sand of Whitehaven stretch over seven kilometres along Whitsunday Island , the largest of the 74 islands in the Whitsundays. It defines nature at its best and provides the greatest sense of relaxation and escape.” Just look at the color of the water in these photos!

That color is 100% un-Photoshopped natural beauty
That color is 100% un-Photoshopped natural beauty
Multitasking at its best
Geocaching + tanning = multitasking
TOTT
Best TOTT ever: beach towel
Idyllic
Idyllic

4. GCZ6JW – Divi Tree cache
Traditional in Aruba
D1.5 / T1.5
This geocache is located about 130 meters north of a Divi tree used for many photo ops in the area. The twisted Divi tree is, “Aruba’s natural compass, always pointing in a southwesterly direction due to the trade winds that blow across the island from the north-east.” Another interesting fact that despite repeated attempts, the Divi tree will not grow anywhere else in the world. The beach ain’t to shabby, either.

Divi tree
Divi tree
Found it!
Found it!
Travel Bugs "Surf's Up" Dude and "Crazy" Girl after getting hitched.
Travel Bugs “Surf’s Up” Dude and “Crazy” Girl after getting hitched.
Stunning
Stunning

5. GC2E8AM – Flamenco Beach Cache
Traditional in Puerto Rico
D1.5 / T1.5
According to the cache page, “This is one of the signature beaches of the Island. To get to Culebra you can take the Ferry from the town of Fajardo or you can fly-in from the Ceiba or Isla Grande airports. Then take a taxi, rent a jeep or scooter and drive to Flamenco Beach. There are food stands in the beach where you can get some local food. The beach has a campground area if you want to stay overnight.” Remember to BYOP – Bring Your Own Pen for this one. 

Beautiful bay
Beautiful bay
Log that find!
Log that find!
Beaches, geocaches, and tanks...?!
Beaches, geocaches, and of course tanks…?!
Ahh... romance
Ahh… romance

 

Time to grab that swimsuit, some flip-flop slippers, and go geocaching! Don’t forget your pen and some sunscreen. 😉

Are there any dreamy beaches you’ve visited while geocaching that you would add to this list? What about other “Bucket List” themes or geocaches you’d like to see featured? Tell us in the comments below!

 

 

 

Geocaching atop Mt. Fuji

Written by Annie Love, a Geocaching HQ Employee

This article was originally published in the Portuguese “GeoMagazine.”

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Group shot at the beginning of the trek

I had heard August is the worst time of year to travel to Japan. So what did I do? I scheduled my two week holiday in Japan at the end of August. Naturally, the only reason I’d do something so silly is because of geocaching. I also wanted to climb Mt. Fuji and the window for doing so safely falls right around this time.

After cashing in airline miles for a free ticket to Tokyo, I started planning my big adventure. I knew I’d need help from locals over there, so I reached out to every contact I knew in Japan. After some months of planning, I decided to join a group of local geocachers at GC5VHCG — A CITO event that would take place on Mt. Fuji. Every year a group of Japanese geocachers makes the trek with the goal of giving back by cleaning up trash on the mountain.

While you can climb to the top and back in a day trip, the group wanted to catch the sunrise on top of the mountain, so it would be an overnight adventure for us. We left Tokyo by 8am and were at the trailhead at 11am. There were 11 of us total. Even though only three of us spoke English and I only knew four words of Japanese, we had little trouble understanding each other along the way.

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Taxi drive up to 5th station, the trail head

We started off on the trail and were welcomed by the greeting of “Konichiwa” from every climber we passed along the way. Since the climbing season is very short on Mt. Fuji, there were plenty of climbers heading up and down the mountain. The clouds were low and a mist was falling, so we weren’t treated to great views in the first few hours of our trek.

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Approaching one of the many stations on the trail

The Fuji climb is broken up into stations, which provide naturally good rest points every 45 minutes. We started at the 5th station (2400 meters) on the Fujinomiya Trail and had booked a hut at station 9.5 for spending the night. The goal was to reach this station around 5pm, have dinner and head to bed early. We’d get up before dawn and finish the last half hour of the hike to the summit to see the sunrise on top.

I’ve done a lot of hiking over my lifetime and I must say, it’s very rare to run into places that will sell you snacks, water, or even beer mid-hike! Each station on Mt. Fuji did just that, along with providing other climbing gear, souvenirs, or just a warm, dry place to rest. For 200 yen (€1.50), you could even use a vault toilet.

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Group dinner/break at station 9.5

Most of the climb feels like you’re walking on a Martian landscape. Everywhere you look, there’s beautiful red and black volcanic rocks and soil. We took the shortest, steepest route up the mountain. Some consider this the easiest route as I learned other routes tend to be filled with so much loose rock or scree that every step you take, you slide down the hill.

At around the 8th station, the higher clouds lifted and revealed a spectacular view of the side of Mt. Fuji and a never-ending sea of clouds. These are the types of views that make it all worth it.

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When the dense fog cleared, this was the incredible view

We reached station 9.5 (elevation 3250 meters) on schedule around 5pm. From here, we could see the Torii (traditional Japanese gate) at the top. I could almost reach out and touch it, we were so close! After getting settled into our hut and having a nice warm meal with beer, we settled in for the night.

In the middle of the night, I woke up to sounds of the wind and rain outside our hut. I worried that this storm wasn’t going to go away by the time we were to make our summit attempt.

My worries became reality when the heavy gusting winds and rain were still there at 5am. The workers at the hut warned us that conditions were only worse on top and that it would not be safe for us to summit. My heart sank. We had worked so hard and were so close. With all the planning and effort that went into making the trip and climb possible, getting turned around by bad weather was very hard to take. But safety must come first.

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Sunset outside our hut on the mountain

Sometimes on an adventure you don’t win the “prize” you originally set out for, and that’s okay. The journey you take, the friends you’ve made, and the memories you keep make it all worth it. Now I just need to figure out when I can go back and try for the summit again. I told my new geocaching friends that I would be back someday. After all, the geocaches on the summit are still up there waiting for me!

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9th station… almost at the top!

From the Mailroom…

Original post written by Andrea Hofer

We recently had the pleasure of receiving the following letter from Bannack of Cave Creek, Arizona. Here’s an excerpt:

Hello, my name is Bannack and I am a geocacher from Cave Creek, Arizona. I would like to say thank you for everything about Groundspeak and the geocaching because if it wasn’t for this, I wouldn’t be seeing amazing places, going on treasure hunts, and meeting great people. You have made my life change in a good way. I would like to ask some questions about geocaching to help me with my geocaching career. 

A few of us here at Groundspeak/Geocaching HQ answered with some of our thoughts:

Hi Bannack,

My name is Andrea and I have worked at Geocaching HQ for 2 years. Through geocaching, I have met many wonderful people, yourself included! I’ll do my best to answer your questions with the help of a few friends at Geocaching HQ…

If I had to pick only one geocache to go to in the U.S. where do you think I should go?

From Andrea:
I personally am excited for my upcoming trip to find the very first geocache. It’s near Portland, and it’s called GCGV0P Original Stash Tribute Plaque. One day I’d like to hike the Zion Narrows in Utah to find Earthcache GCZ5YD Zion Narrows.

GCGV0P - Original Stash Tribute Plaque
GCGV0P – Original Stash Tribute Plaque
GCZ5YD Zion Narrows
GCZ5YD Zion Narrows

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

From Cathy:
There are too many amazing geocaches in amazing places to pick just one, so I’d say go to visit GCK25B, Geocaching HQ. It is a unique experience to visit HQ and there are many, many excellent geocaches nearby to experience as well. The cache I am looking forward to finding one day is GC2B034 Necropolis of Britannia Manor III in Texas. I will get there someday!

GCK25B Geocaching Headquarters
GCK25B Geocaching Headquarters
GC2B034 Necropolis of Britannia Manor III
GC2B034 Necropolis of Britannia Manor III

 

 

 

 

 
From Derek:
My favorites are EarthCaches, but it’s hard for me to pick just one. I’m looking forward to finding GC1F7W3 A Dynamic Earth, on the summit of Mt. St. Helens, this summer!

GC1F7W3 A Dynamic Earth
GC1F7W3 A Dynamic Earth

Which mega geocaching events have the best trackables and geocoins to trade and keep?

From Annie:
At just about any event I’ve attended, I’ve found at least one geocacher showing off their personal trackable collections or offering up their personal trackables for trade. However, if trackables are your passion, you won’t find a better place to embrace that passion than at a Geocoinfest event. These events typically happen twice a year – once in the United States and once in Europe and they draw diehard trackable enthusiasts from all over the world. You’ll have the opportunity to browse the latest and greatest in Geocoin designs from vendors or find new friends willing to trade. Just make sure you set a budget before leaving the house when attending Geocoinfest – all the beautiful new coins or rare collector coins may be hard to resist.

Geocoins!
Geocoins!

From Cathy:
Geocoinfest – there are lots of trackables traded at every event, but nothing comes close to this.

From Derek:
Every Mega I’ve been to has had tons of trackable trading. Although, I bet the Giga events in Germany have even more since so many people attend.

 

Should I go to the Geocaching Block Party this year?

From Andrea:
Absolutely. The 2015 Block Party on Saturday, August 15, will be our 6th and last, to give us more opportunities to focus on other ideas and projects. You’ll get to see the HQ cache and get/trade some great trackables. I also recommend signing up for one of the HQ tours. Then on Sunday, don’t miss the Going APE Mega-Event up north.

From Cathy:
YES!

GC5G4X5 2015 Geocaching Block Party
GC5G4X5 2015 Geocaching Block Party

__________________________________________________________________________

I’m posting this to our blog to give the geocaching community a chance to share their answers to your questions, too. These will be included in my letter back to you. Happy caching!

Best,
Andrea

 

Now it’s your turn, geocachers! Who, what, where, when, how, and why do you geocache? What would answers would you suggest to Bannack?

 

20 Comments

Dear Geocaching Diary: Orange Headbands for the Win

 

Dear Geocaching Diary,

Whew! What a crazy, wonderful, mixed-up month we have had here at Geocaching HQ. In the last few weeks, we hosted a party that brought geocachers from all over the world together (Geocaching Block Party – maybe you’ve heard of it?), celebrated International Geocaching Day, and unveiled the first ever International Geocaching Film Festival (GIFF)….all while keeping the 31 Days of Geocaching streak alive. Okay, we didn’t all go #31in31. There were some frustrating 13-hour DNFs and some waking up at 12:08 am only to realize what was forgotten the day before. But we all learned a bit more about what it means to be a geocacher and what it means to work and to play at Geocaching HQ. So overall, not too shabby. And as if that wasn’t enough, rumor on the street is that we’ve made  “orange headbands” the hottest fashion trend of 2013 (you ‘ll want to keep reading to learn more).

 

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GIFF

Day 17: International Geocaching Day, Geocaching Block Party, GIFF, a flash mob (the dancing kind that is), and a few thousand balloons all in one action-packed day. Take a minute, breathe, laugh, cry, celebrate… ’nuff said. For a closer look and recap of the day, check out our Geocaching Block Party Video and GIFF Winners.

 

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Day 18: What is the best way to recover from an 18-hour day of non-stop geocaching mania? More geocaching. Community Volunteer Support Coordinators Kerb Lydick (Username: KerbL), Bethany Buer (Bethany_B), and a delegation from Geocaching HQ braved a ghost town on their way to the Going APE 2013 Mega Event.  That’s Kerb sharing a little  HQ love with the geocaching ape log.

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turtles

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Day 19-23: After having such an epic weekend, we decided to keep our geocaching a little closer to home. This week was all about celebrating Fremont, the home of Geocaching HQ and the scientifically corroborated center of the known universe. Coincidence? We think not.  We had a ton of fun exploring the new HQ Geotour – a huge thanks to our wonderful co-workers who designed this awesome  “Geocacher’s Guide to the Center of Our Universe.”

download

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Day 24: The beginning of the last full weekend of 31 Days of Geocaching…no time for sleep! (Okay, well maybe a little time for sleep.) Director of Legal and Business Affairs Jennifer Arterburn (Username: Jennifer A) and her daughter Willow hit the Centennial Trail in Snohomish, WA for a day of biking and geocaching.  Partner Programs Manager Annie Love (Username: Love) celebrates her 1100 find while geocaching in Switzerland!

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Day 25: Community-Engineering Liaison Jon Stanley (Username: Moun10Bike),  Community Manager Paige Edmiston (Username: ThePaigeTurner), and Kerb check out the Tull Canyon plane crash site on a not-so-casual Sunday stroll. Kerb says, “What a peaceful location with such history, beauty and conversation starting views. Our morning started at 5:00am and ended at 8:00pm with caching and chatting all the way. This was an unforgettable trip and with some of the best people I know.”

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Day 26-30: Everybody was on board when it came to tackling the last week of the 31 Days of Geocaching challenge. It was time to get nautical and enjoy the water-based geocaching that summer in Seattle has to offer. (And yes, we know we have funny jokes.)

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Day 31: Donso, finito, we made it – hurray! Everyone at Geocaching HQ gathered at the Fremont Troll to celebrate the end of 31 Days of Geocaching. And see! The orange headbands really are catching on. Did everyone make it all 31 days? Well, there were weddings, kids and grown-ups got sick, a random bad-luck streak of DNFs and of course: the dog ate the geocache! But we all gave our best and discovered new places, got dirty, wet, bitten by mosquitoes, and perfected our “found-the-geocache” dance. Are we really done now? Of course not! This is just the beginning of our geocaching journey and we are looking forward to our many adventures still to come.

What were your top highlights from 31 Days of Geocaching? Tell us about them in the comments below.