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Celebrating 10 Years in Germany

Mega-Event Cache Das Ulmer Fort GC20002

In an area next to Ulm University, a short drive away from Stuttgart, Germany, is a 130 year old abandoned fort occupied by a few sheep, some goats and a donkey named Paul.

Paul the Donkey

It was here on June 19th that local geocachers hosted Das Ulmer FORT – the Mega Event in Germany for 2010 (GC20002).

Six months ago the local geocaching community started preparations for the event. The fort had been neglected for 30 years, so an army of volunteers had to dig out the, err, deposits left by the local residents. The electricity had to be rewired, sharp protrusions had to be cut down and sanded, repairs had to be made, rooms had to be swept out, and trash had to be removed. This was necessary to make the location capable of holding over 300 campers who resided in the walls of the fort for the weekend.

Elias, Bryan and I, the three founders of Geocaching.com, had the privilege of attending the event this year.

The founders of Geocaching.com posing with geocaching attendees. Jeremy Irish (second from left), Bryan Roth (second from right) and Elias Alvord (far right)
Bryan Roth and Elias Alvord with the Queen of Fort Ulm

In the course of four hours we were able to mingle with the local geocachers, visit the various rooms and corridors in the Fort, meet the lovely Queen of Fort Ulm and celebrate a successful day with the organizers by eating a delicious Signal cake.

Signal was not harmed and
Signal was not harmed and was, in fact, also in attendance

It’s not often that we can visit geocachers in Europe, so we used this opportunity to listen to feedback about the web site. High on the list was having better ways to rate and search for geocaches by their ratings, which has been a common theme in the US. As geocaches increase in numbers it gets harder and harder to find the best ones.

Although geocachers in the world have far more similarities than differences, there were also some notable observations in how Germans play the game.

Signal waves to a fan

1. Many German geocachers enjoy finding terrain level 5 caches, or what are locally called “T5” caches. Many of these caches are located in trees, requiring special climbing gear. The event even had FORTgeschrittene, a T5 event for finding these extreme geocaches. In addition to a ropes course, you could dive into a freezing pool to find a cache. Fortunately you could enter a portable sauna to warm up afterward. Sadly I didn’t pack a bathing suit.

Bryan Roth (almost) diving into pool to retrieve a geocache.

2. According to the “Flashlight Pope” at the event, there are quite a few caches that require a black light. This is so you can see writing that takes you to the next location. As a gift he gave each of us a black light to use on our next geocaching adventure.

3. Multi-Caches are far more popular in Germany (and in Europe) than in the United States. Many more geocachers seem to be willing to spend days on one puzzle cache there. There may be a lot of multi-cache fans in the U.S. but the ratios of multis in Germany to U.S. caches are significantly higher.

Aside from the event we were able to locate unique geocaches in Germany, such as a cache in the center of Berlin with over 3,000 finds (GCTA4W), and a cache in the spire of the world’s tallest church (GCJ7E0), located in the city of Ulm.

If the locals plan on having a FORTsetzung (sequel) next year you don’t want to miss it. Thanks to everyone who planned one of the best geocaching events that we have ever attended. I hope to see you again next year!

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That’s a Geocache?!? The Unending Evolution of Geocaches

Traditional geocache

For most, the evolution of the geocache container begins with a sturdy great-great-great-grandfather geocache.  It’s the iconic metal ammo can. But in one decade of geocaching, the geocache family tree branched off into dozens of directions.

Each branch embodies the spirit of evolution.  Geocaches now blend more and more into their natural environment.  Say you place a cache on the outskirts of an estuary?  There’s a bird geocache for that.  You’re considering an urban cache on a park bench?  We’ve heard of magnetic microcaches that resemble gum for that.

Take a quick look at the picture below on the left.  Guess how many geocaches are in that picture?  Ok, I know there are a few caveats. There can only be one geocache every tenth of a mile and none of these are activated, but how many possible geocaches do you see? The answer is… six. The bird, those pinecones, that rock, even two of the sticks are actually geocaches.

How many geocaches are hidden in this picture
Just enough room for a log

Geocaches are not the only part of the geocaching equation to evolve.  Geocachers developed a keener “geo-sense” over the past decade.  Say that you placed a corn cob shaped cache in field of corn… the cache will be found.

A cache like this one pictured at the bottom of the page is all in a days work for an average cacher.

I’d love to hear your most difficult find.  How many DNF’s did you log before uncovering the cache?  Let us know, just post a comment to this blog.

Thermometer reveals a geocache
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Geocaching.com’s Lost & Found Video Trailer

Lost & Found celebrates ten amazing years of geocaching and it stars YOU!

We’ve spent months uncovering the heartwarming, jaw-dropping and wondrous stories that define the worldwide phenomenon. Here’s a trailer of what’s in store in our Lost & Found series. You’ll see new videos released each week starting this May. Coming soon you’re invited to explore a new Geocaching.com destination dedicated to “discovering the lost stories of geocaching.” You’ll also be able to add your own favorite Lost & Found stories. Let us know what you think!

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A Travel Bug Dream 29,157 Miles in the Making

"Riding with Judi" Travel Bug

You don’t know Judi Nordgren, but at the same time she’s probably as familiar as a favorite aunt. She’s described as a loving second mother to many, a woman with a heart as big as all outdoors and an avid motorcyclist. While you may know someone who fits Judi’s description, you’ll never have the pleasant opportunity to meet Judi. She passed away unexpectedly in 2005. She was 42.

Even though you can never meet her, Judi’s family wanted you to know her. They created a Travel Bug, “Riding with Judi.”

Netherlands- Team Friedeljan

Its mission is to do what Judi had only dreamed. The Travel Bug wished to go around the world. The directions were simple, the message powerful and the act of those who helped “Riding with Judi” travel 29,157 miles can only be described as beautiful.

It took more than four years and 60 stops. But riding with Judi is now in the same state where the Travel Bug started its journey. All those who touched “Riding with Judi” with their hands, they also felt it in their hearts. Judi’s family felt it too.

They tell me they’re excited Judi has returned home and her wish to see the world honored by those who never meet her, but now know her.

Australia -
Australia - RottenWood