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Leave it to Beaver: Smithsonian NMNH GeoTour Mystery Cache

This cache has been archived.

Smithsonian NMNH: This cache is archived. Thanks to all who did this cache over the course of the last 3 1/2 years.

Hidden : 04/02/2013
3.5 out of 5
1.5 out of 5

Size: Size:   small (small)

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Geocache Description:


Natural History logo


Passports must be received, and the required photo (for the geocoin) must be posted, on or before January 31, 2018. There is no guarantee that passports received after January 31, 2018 will be processed.
The NMNH GeoTour was launched April 2, 2013; and we’ve appreciated the support and positive feedback on the NMNH GeoTour from the Geocaching community. We have enjoyed reading your logs. We hope; and I believe we did, through the cache pages and puzzles, provided a different look into the National Museum of Natural History. We wish it could continue but that will not be possible. We wanted to let you know, at this time, so that if you wish to do the tour it should not be put off. As of Dec. 1, 2017; 80 geocoins remain to be awarded.

The National Museum of Natural History GeoTour, launched on April 2, 2013, consists of nine caches in the District of Columbia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. Caches need not be accomplished in any particular order; each can be treated and logged as a stand-alone cache. Geocachers must download passport, in which the code word(s) from each cache must be recorded. Each cache will take a greater time commitment than most caches due to the nature of the puzzles being a combination of web research and field puzzles. Some caches are in high traffic area and will be extremely difficult to retrieve without drawing attention. Be prepared to explain what you are doing to lots or passersby. If you intend to do all the caches in one time, it will serve you well to read each cache page and determine the various locations that information for each of the final cache locations must be gathered. Information may have to be gathered from the web (cache-specific sites are listed on the appropriate cache page), in the museum, on the individual cache pages, and in state parks or forests. Each of the nine caches will feature a department but it will be seen that in nature, the subjects of these caches are not so easily pigeon-holed. This cache features the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History’s Department of Vertebrate Zoology and Huntley Meadows Park.

This is a Puzzle cache composed of two parts. The Posted coordinates below will take you to the vicinity of National Museum of Natural History where you will have to gather information at two exhibits to obtain the latitudinal coordinates of the cache. The second part, the information to obtain the longitudinal coordinates of the cache will be found in Huntley Meadows, Alexandria, VA. We recommend that you start at the National Museum of Natural History and proceed to the stages in Huntley Meadows where the final is located.

Beavers belong to the Order Rodentia the same group of animals as mice, rats, chipmunks, and prairie dogs; all are rodents though in a different families. The beavers are in the family Castoridae. Not because they are seen as pests, but because rodents are mainly characterized by their front teeth (incisors) which continuously grow throughout their lives. Why do mice, rats, squirrels, and other rodents chew everything around them? To keep those incisors to a usable size, because if they grew too big, the beaver wouldn’t be able to eat. Imagine your own front teeth being 5 inches long…how much more difficult would it be to eat?

So what do beavers do..? They gnaw on trees. This helps keep their incisors down to size using a natural resource. The trees and branches they gnaw on are used to engineer dams in rivers and streams, which provide them with a home as well as creating a pond or lake which attracts other wildlife. [Image of snapping turtle and Canada goose] There are several beaver dams in Huntley Meadows, and the largest is approximately 75 feet across. However, the widest beaver dam in the world is 850 meters long, in Northern Alberta, Canada.

At the National Museum of Natural History you will visit an exhibit that deals with the pre-history or fossil record of the beavers that goes back about 35 million years. The beavers in this exhibit are not the direct ancestors to any recent beaver and it is not know if any fossil beaver had a tail similar to what we think of as a beaver tail. Clearly, some lived in very different “lodges”, if that word even applies, than they do now. In fact, some of them may have even lived in quite different habitats; the beavers that lived in the devil’s corkscrews, as seen in one of the exhibits in the museum, could not have lived in ponds as the living chamber would have been full of water. Unfortunately, beaver populations in North America plummeted due to European settlers trapping and hunting them extensively for their furs. However, after Huntley Meadows was transferred over to county control, beavers returned in 1977 and started building dams that created what is now referred to as the central wetland – the area which contains the boardwalk and observation tower.

It is uncertain how many beavers currently reside in Huntley Meadows, but it is estimated that there are 12-24 in the area. Plan on visiting the park during the months of November-December, and March-June to see the beavers, though they can be seen all year round. The best time to see them during the day is around dawn and dusk, otherwise they may be in their lodge.

Today, beaver populations are doing very well and constantly expanding into suburban and even urban areas. Some live in urban water areas and are now threatened by new hazards including people, pollution, & dogs.

In colonial times, the land that know comprises Huntley meadows was part of the extensive plantation holdings of George Mason IV. Thomson Mason, a grandson of George Mason, built a home on the property in 1825. The house, now known as Historic Huntley, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Virginia Landmarks Register, and the Fairfax County Historic House Inventory. An exhibit of Historic Huntley is available online. Mason family ownership lasted into the early 1900s, with sections of the land being sold for family farms. In the late 1920s, entrepreneur Henry Woodhouse reassembled the parcels, purchasing 1500 acres from 10 landowners. He dreamed of transforming Hybla Valley's dairy farms into a dirigible base. After he lost nearly all of the property, the federal government acquired the land. During the 1940s, the Bureau of Public Roads tested asphalt road surfaces. The Virginia National Guard's Battery D, 125th Gun Battalion provided antiaircraft protection for the nation's capital during the 1950s. Last, the Navy conducted highly classified radio communication research before declaring the land surplus around 1970.

When in Huntley meadows look closely at the trees on both sides of the walkway at N 38° 45.311 W 077° 06.204. One tree, to your right, is still standing though the beavers have chewed a lot of the trunk away. Now look to your left, a smaller tree has fallen over. Can you guess what animals worked at making this tree fall over? Look closely!! But why do beavers create dams? There are three main reasons: 1) To raise and push water into the surrounding forest so that beavers can swim right up to their food source – trees – without having to walk on land and risk predation. 2) To raise water high enough to surround their lodges and provide an underwater entrance so as to provide a living space safe from predators. 3) And to create pools of water deep enough to prevent freezing down to the bottom, so that beavers can swim under the ice in the winter

One biologist (Richard, 1983) conducted a study where he played a recording for beavers of running water in a dry habitat. What did the beavers do? They covered it with mud and sticks. So maybe they just don’t like the sound of running water…

This is a puzzle cache with multiple stages. 1st) Visit the Natural History Museum beaver exhibit to obtain the latitude of the final cache. 2nd) Visit four waypoints in Huntley Meadows Park to see the beaver’s natural habitat and obtain the longitude of the final cache which is located in Huntley Meadows Park.

Latitude: 38 AB.CDE
Beaver: Mammals Hall
A = number of letters in the missing word “…beavers store _____ of…”
B = The number of finger on the left front foot.
C = number of lumps of beaver dung minus 1. (look carefully)
D = number of letters in the last word in the scientific name of the American beaver minus 1 Castor _______________?
E = Beavers have four feet - How many of these are webbed?
AB.CDE checksum = 5

Longitude: 077 VW.XYZ Information to be found at the waypoints in Huntley Meadows
V = Waypoint 4; Number of beaver lodges clearly visible from lower viewing level V= N*0
W = Waypoint 4; (3,5,1) (2,4,1) (1,1,4) (2,6,3) On the Wetland engineer sign the paragraph that starts “Beavers bring mud…” use the number string (line, word, letter) to spell the number.
X = Waypoint 3; Number of letters in Ed’s name (first and last) on sign.
Y = Waypoint 3; Number of letters in Ken’s name (first and last) on sign.
Z = number of beaver lodges between stages 1 and 2; Z = n+1.
VW.XYZ checksum = 7.

Richard P.B. (1983). "Mechanisms and adaptation in the constructive behavior of the beaver (C. fiber L.)". Acta Zoologica Fennica 174: 105–108.

Critical requirements and rules for the award of the geocoin are here. 1) The Original 9 caches of the NMNH GeoTour must be completed.

2) Two (2) photographs are required. Posted with your found log. (This is not an ALR as you may log a find on these two caches without posting a picture. It is a requirement to be awarded a geocoin. In other words – no photos no coin but your found log will stand).
a. Photo of an adult at GC3RRWA "CINMAR" with the log book clearly next to the face. Do not expose the code word in the photo.
b. Photo of an adult at GC3T24J “Leave it to Beaver” with the log book clearly next to the face. Do not expose the code word in the photo.

3) A completed Passport with the required code words sent to the address listed on the NMNH GeoTour Passport.

4) One (1) coin per household or mailing address. If there are multiple geocachers in a household who have completed the tour, only one (1) coin will be awarded to that address.

5) The passports that have been received prior to January 1, 2016 will be awarded one coin without having to meet item 1 above, as these rules were not in effect for the NMNH GeoTour at that time.

6) January 1 will be the date of publication of these requirements to earn the geocoin.


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Additional Hints (Decrypt)

Freenobh unf fhttrfgrq nqqvat 0.009 gb gur J. Fb fbyir gur chmmyr naq hfr gur purpx fhz naq gura naq bayl gura nqq 0.009. Ynaqfpncvat.

Decryption Key


(letter above equals below, and vice versa)