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Usually logging a DNF (did not find) for a geocache is disappointing to say the least. But on a beautiful spring day in March of 2008 one of the geocaches that I didn’t find turned out to be one of the most memorable.
Most of the time I enjoy geocaching with my 2 sons but on this particular day the weatherman had forecasted a beautiful day and I got the bug to go alone. It was a weekday and the boys were in school anyway, so I decided to get out early and try to find a list of 8 caches that I had loaded into my GPS.
I figured I would start out by hunting for the geocaches that were the furthest away and work my way back home. My first target was a 2 part multi-cache that was about 10 miles away and ended up being my first DNF for the day. I found the first part but at the second part I was getting a lot of GPS “bounce” and just couldn’t zero in on the cache. I wanted to get in a good number of finds for the day so instead of searching anymore I just headed off to the next geocache.
I found the second geocache and then headed off to Allamuchy State Park where I would be hunting for 6 more caches. Being from Northwest NJ, we are fortunate in the fact that there are tons of rural geocaches that we can hunt for and still be close to home. My sons and I had geocached in the park before and I wanted to find some of the geocaches that I thought might be too difficult for the 3 of us to do together. There was also a cache that we did not find on a previous outing and since it was in the area I thought I would give it another go. (I did locate it this time)
The caches that I was looking for formed a big circle so I headed off and worked my way up the mountain and found the next 2 caches. The second geocache was in pretty bad shape and the logbook was very damp. By this time it was lunch time and I decided to empty the cache container and dry everything out while I had a bite to eat. I found a nice sunny spot and laid the logbook out so it could dry out a bit. After lunch I signed the logbook and put all of the contents back in the geocache container and then continued on my trek.
During the afternoon I found 3 more caches. By now it was getting late and I head of for my final search for the day. Arriving at ground zero I discovered the area contained a lot of places that someone could hide a cache. The fact that there were a lot of leaves on the ground didn’t help any. At one point I was down on my hands and knees searching a pile of rocks and I heard some russling in the brush a short way off. Always on the alert for muggles I stood up and looked around to see who was in the area.
To my surprise it wasn’t who, but what was making the noise. About a hundred feet away I spotted a big black bear. He was following his nose and didn’t seem to be aware of me (yet) so I snapped a few pictures and made my way back to the trail. Since there were no leaves on the trees yet I was able to keep my eye on him and made my way down the trail and over a footbridge that crossed a large stream. Soon I was on a gravel road and now the bear and I were separated by a large stream. So I headed up the road to get a better look at him. He was a big bear and had a pretty bad limp in one of his front legs, so I hoped that if he decided to cross over the stream I’d have plenty of time to get back to my car.
The bear came down to the stream for a drink and was paying any attention to me so I just stood there watching him. A few hikers came by and I pointed the bear out to them so we all had a great time watching him. Soon another hiker came by and told me that this bear had lived in the area for a long time and he had seen him on many occasions. Apparently the bear was pretty old and his limp was due to arthritis. Nonetheless he was a magnificent fellow and spotting him made for the perfect ending to a great day of geocaching.
So I headed back to my car and went back home. Of course the first thing I did when I got home was jump onto the Geocaching.com website and log my finds and did not finds. It was a lot of fun explaining to everyone why I did not find the cache.
Here’s the funny thing, the geocache that I’d been looking for was appropriately named “You’ve Been Found”!
Incoming search terms:
Searching for geocaches is a treasure hunt, so geocachers, just like pirates, will try to protect their treasure with clever disguises and camouflage.
Geocachers are a clever bunch and are always inventing new ways to camouflage their caches, so geocaches can be quite ingenious. This all adds to the fun and adventure of geocaching and helps to protect the cache from muggles. (see the article on Geocaching Terminology)
When you’re researching geocache descriptions you’ll see that they are listed with 3 ratings. Cache descriptions will list: Difficulty – from 1-5 stars, Terrain – from 1-5 stars, and Size – Micro (includes nano caches), Small, Regular, and Large
Here are the descriptions of the 4 cache sizes:
A Nano Cache is the smallest type of geocache. Big enough to hold only a log sheet these definitely require that you bring your own pencil/pen. It’s a good idea to have a pair of tweezers with you because due to their tiny size, it can be hard to get out the log sheet. Many times these will be magnetic and can be disguised as bolts or bolts heads and placed on guard rails and light posts.
A Micro cache is a bit bigger than a Nano cache. 35mm film canisters and pill bottles are often used for homemade Micro Cache containers and there are a large variety of commercial containers available. Another popular container for micro caches is a magnetic key-holder.These can attached under or behind any thing magnetic, like guardrails and metal park benches. The disadvantage of the magnetic key-holders is the fact that they are not waterproof. Remember you will still need to bring your own pen/pencil and you might need your tweezers.
Normal sized geocache containers include, tupperware, lock and locks (like tupperware but have flip down locks to keep the cover on), coffee cans, .30 and .50cal ammo cans. (these are very popular because they are both durable and waterproof and can be painted to help camouflage them) Normal caches have plenty of room for a logbook, pen, and swag.
Due to their size you won’t see as many of these because their size makes them harder to lug around and they’re harder to disguise. They include 5 gallon buckets, 30mm ammo cans, and decon containers.
In addition to the size of the cache here are 2 types of geocaches you will see listed:
A Multi Cache in a multiple part cache. These require you to find one or more clues before you actually reach the final destination of the geocache itself. Some multi cache clues will be within walking distance while others may require you to drive from one location to another. The clues usually include a set of gps coordinates that will either lead you to the next clue or to the cache location.
A Virtual Cache does not include a cache container. Virtual caches will lead you to someplace that might be a historical location or a spot with a spectacular view. To log a virtual cache you might have to take a picture of the area or write a description to prove that you were actually there.
As you can see, there are many types of geocaches available for you to hunt for on your own geocaching adventures. Personally I prefer normal caches because they are easier to find and usually include trading items.
Incoming search terms:
What is Geocaching? Geocaching is a fun and rewarding treasure hunting adventure where participants worldwide hide and find “caches” using hand held GPSr (Global Positioning System Receiver) units. Ask any geocacher and they’ll tell you that there is nothing like the excitement of your first successful find.
The word “geocache” was derived from “Geo”, meaning Earth, and “Cache” (pronounced cash), a French word for a place where supplies are hidden. So geocaches are like supplies (or in our case, goodies) that are hidden all over the world and geocaching is the hobby of finding them.
Before the word “geocaching” was invented it was called “stash hunting”. On May 3, 2000, Dave Ulmer, a computer consultant, became the “father” of geocaching when he hid the very first “stash” in a wooded area near Beaver Creek, Oregon. The stash contained a logbook, a can of beans, mapping software, five dollars in cash, and a slingshot. Previous to May 2000 the GPSr’s that were available to the public didn’t have the accuracy needed to hunt small things like a stash. Ulmer hid his stash and posted the coordinates on a USENET group and called it the “GPS Stash Hunt”.
One of the first people to find the “stash” was Mike Teague. After finding Ulmer’s “stash” he wrote about it on his website and started a mailing list where members could receive locations of new stashes. One of the members of the mailing list was a guy by the name of Mike Stum. Stum is credited with inventing the word “geocaching” which soon became the universal term for the hobby.
Not only is geocaching fun, but it’s a great family activity that provides excitement, exercise, and fresh air. Kids love it and with over 1 million caches hidden around the world there are probably many close to your home. On our own geocaching adventures we found things close to home that we never knew existed. Geocaching is not just for people who live close to the great outdoors. You can find caches in small town and large cities as well. Many geocachers also include geocaching on their vacations, giving them an opportunity to search for caches that would be too far away during their regular outings.
Geocachers are an inventive bunch of people and have placed caches just about any place you could think of, even underwater. That’s part of the fun for cache hiders and seekers alike, making them challenging for both the mind and the body. Some geocaches even require you to have a boat or climbing gear to get to their location. One geocache that my sons and I found was sealed with a chain and a combination lock so we had to search the area for the lock combination. Another one we found was located in a swamp inside of a huge frog lawn ornament. The cache owner had appropriately named his cache as “Frog Bog”.
If you decide to try geocaching you’ll most likely come across fellow geocachers during some of your hunts. You won’t find a nicer bunch of people, members of the geocaching community are always happy to share tips and advice and you’ll learn a lot from them. Just about every geocacher or family that geocaches together has a nickname. My two sons and I are “Da3Amigos”. In case you’re wondering why it’s “Da” instead of “The” it’s because at the time my sons where fond of saying “duh” when they were making fun of each other.
When looking for caches you’ll need to learn to think outside of the box. When you reach the general location of a new geocache, also know as ground zero, start by looking for things that just don’t seem right. Some caches will be easy to spot while others will require some additional hunting, don’t be too disappointed if your first geocaching adventure ends in a “DNF” (did not find). It’s happened to all of us.(and still does..lol) On the other hand maybe you’ll be one of the lucky “FTF” (first to find) geocachers and you’ll get a change to grab a special gift that a lot of cache owners leave for the first person to find their “hidden treasure”.
Finally, I suggest you make your first geocaching adventure an easy one if you have kids. After they’ve successfully found their first geocache they’ll be anxious to go again and you can start searching for more difficult caches.
I wish you happy hunting and many successful finds on your geocaching adventures, have fun and respect the environment!
Now you’ll be able to answer your friends when they ask you “what is geocaching?”
My sons and I started geocaching in February 2008. Of course being from New Jersey this was probably not the best time to start.
I first heard about geocaching from my brother. He and his kids had tried it and he told me how much they all enjoyed it. It sounded like fun and since I was looking for a way my sons and I could spend more quality time together, I started doing more research on it.
I spent quite awhile researching geocaching gps units and finally decided on the Garmin GPSMAP 60CSx. At the time (and still is) it was rated one of the best gps units for geocaching and I liked the fact that it could keep track of cache locations and finds and could also be used in my car and boat.
So after talking it over with my sons, I ordered our new geocaching gps and when it arrived I played with it and thought I knew everything I needed to know about it. (boy way I wrong…LOL)
I joined as a premium member at Geocaching.com and found some caches that were close to home and entered them into the gps. I printed out the descriptions and hints just in case we needed them and we decided we would head out the next morning and try it out.
Well, as luck would have it we got about 6 inches of snow that night. Undaunted, and excited about finding our first geocache treasure, we decided that since it was close to home we would give it a try. I drove to the park where the geocache was hidden and we got out and turned on the gps.
For anyone not familiar with the Garmin GPSMAP 60CSx, it comes with an electronic compass and you have to calibrate the compass before you use it. Which leads us to the next part of our first geocaching adventure. I looked at the map on the gps and then put it in compass mode. The compass is very nice, it has a nice big display and an arrow that points you in the right direction.
So off went blindly following the compass to the far side of the parking lot. Eager to try all the functions on our new gps, I switched back to map view and noticed we were actually getting farther away from the geocache! What the heck was wrong with this thing, the compass is saying go this way and the map was saying go the other way! Looking at the compass something didn’t seem right. It said we were going North but looking at the sun it seemed like we were headed East. Right about that time I remembered reading something about calibrating the compass.
Luckily I had brought the manual along (hey Dad isn’t a total dummy) and found the page about calibrating the compass. All I had to do was hold the gps level and spin slowly in a circle 2 times which wasn’t a big deal, but you should have seen the strange looks I was getting from people wondering why this big dummy was turning around in circles in the parking lot!
Finally the compass and the gps map were agreeing and off we trekked across the field which was covered in 6″ of new snow. So far, so good until we came to the brook that we needed to cross. It was fairly deep and hadn’t frozen over so we needed to find a shallow spot where we could cross. At this point I should probably note that we drove across the bridge that goes over this brook on our way into the park.
We continued on with our geocaching quest and soon came upon a nice little parking area. The same one we had passed on the way into the park…lol and finally ended up in the woods, the compass and gps still agreeing we were headed the right way. A little more walking and we were at ground zero. (finally) I told the boys to start looking for hiding areas and things that might give us a clue to the location of our awaiting treasure.
There we were in was heavily wooded and with the trees still covered in fresh snow we were getting some gps bounce. So I tried walking back and forth from different directions to get a good average reading. Of course by now my youngest son was getting tired and cold and wanted to give up.
So in a last ditch effort to find the cache I pulled out the cache description and we decrypted the hint. It said the cache was located at the base of a fallen tree. So we went to the nearest one and started brushing the snow away. My oldest son found a small hole and reached inside and had his hand on our bounty! Just one problem, it was frozen in place. Luckily I had brought a knife along so we were able to free the geocache from it’s location.
We signed the log, exchanged some swag and re-hid the cache. Of course if anyone else was looking for it that weekend that would have an easier time finding than we did, thanks to our tracks leading right to it.
We headed back to the parking lot, which was 1/2 mile away from the nice parking lot where we should have parked and headed home to log our first find.
I’m happy to report that we haven’t had any similar problems with the compass, because now Dad always makes sure it’s calibrated before we head out
If you would like to share your first geocaching adventure please feel welcome!
What Do I Need To Go Geocaching?
Of course the first thing you’ll need for Geocaching a geocaching GPS device.
Prices for a geocaching GPS start from around $50.00 for a basic model and can run up to over $500.00 for more high end GPS models. There are also geocaching apps available for most smart phones that are available for free or for low cost that you can obtain (see details below) that will give you a feel for whether or not you really want to get into the geocaching hobby. If you have a car gps that will work on batteries and allows you to enter GPS coordinates you can go that route as well.
Just keep in mind that cellphones and car gps units aren’t durable like a handheld geocaching gps, so you risk damaging them.
The Apisphere Geomate jr. is the easiest and quickest way to get in on the geocaching fun; just switch it on and be directed to your closest geocache! With over 250,000 pre-loaded cache locations covering all 50 U.S. states, you and your family could be out enjoying your own adventure before the packaging even hits the floor.
Apisphere Geomate jr. Features
- Cache Hints – get hints like the size,how well it’s hidden, and the terrain
- Get Lost Proof – after charging off into the woods, Geomate.jr will get you home
- Found Log – want to review the caches you have found? No worries…
- Back to Basics – and if you wanted the basic stuff like compass, latitude, longitude,and elevation, then you’ve got it!
The Garmin GPSMAP 62s is probably the best geocaching gps unit on the market and is backed by a 1 Year warranty.
Garmin GPSMAP 62s Features
- Rugged handheld navigator 2.6-inch, sunlight-readable TFT display with 160 x 240 pixel resolution
- Built-in worldwide basemap with shaded relief; download Garmin Connect photos for picture navigation
- Built-in 3-axis tilt-compensated electronic compass and barometric altimeter for bearing and altitude
- Share your waypoints, tracks, routes and geocaches wirelessly with other compatible Garmin device users
- 1.7G of onboard memory and microSD card slot for adding a wide array of topographic, marine and road maps
The gps that we use is the Garmin GPSMAP 60CSx, when I bought mine in 2008 it was the best rated handheld gps available. It is waterproof, has a ton of features including dedicated geocaching function. I also use it in my car and my boat. I replaced the 64MB Micro SD card with a 1GB card and have more storage than I’ll ever need. I love the electronic compass which points in the direction of my next cache and makes it easier to stay on track. When we get close to ground zero it switches over to display how close we are to the cache.
Garmin GPSMAP 60CSx Features
- High-sensitivity GPS receiver gives you improved satellite reception even in heavy tree cover or deep canyons
- Barometric altimeter provides extremely accurate elevation data
- Electronic compass can determine your heading and direction, even when you’re standing still
- IPX7 waterproof case can withstand an accidental dunk in the water and still perform
- Large, color TFT display makes viewing the screen easy, day or nightBuilt-in Americas autoroute basemap, including highways, exits and automatic, turn-by-turn directions
If you have an iPhone or iPod Touch you can buy a kit from Magellan that turns it into a waterproof GPS unit. ToughCase is waterproof to IPX-7 standards allowing your device to be submersed in water (up to one meter for thirty minutes) and shock resistant. The unique case design allows you to interact with your device while it remains protected from the elements, including the touch screen, hard buttons, and audio headphone jack access. The integrated high sensitivity GPS chip set enhances the accuracy of most GPS, location based, or navigation apps. Extend your iPhone or iPod touch’s versatility by transforming it into a handheld GPS receiverToughCase has an integrated battery that transfers power to your iPhone or iPod touch. Enjoy twice as much power in the outdoors!
Here are some geocaching apps you can find for free, or low cost for Windows Mobile devices, iPhone, and Android phones
- GCzII – available at Nicque.com
- Groundspeak’s Geocaching iPhone Application – available at iTunes
- GeoBeagle – available at Appbrain.com
The next thing you’ll want to do is join Geocaching.com they are the original and still the best site for geocaching information and finding cache locations. Basic membership is free and premium memberships are only $10/3 mths or $30/year. I have, and highly recommend the premium membership. It’s well worth the small investment.
You’ll want to make sure that you have good, sturdy hiking shoes. I prefer waterproof hiking boots as they support my ankles and allow you to get through wet areas without getting your feet wet.
Finally you need a few other things, depending on how advanced you are. A few of the items in the list are just my personal choices and as you’ll notice there are a few you should take on every geocaching outing.
I have a backpack that I keep ready just for geocaching and here what I keep in it:
- Pen with waterproof ink for signing logs
- Tweezers – for pulling out splinters and getting log sheets out of nano and micro caches
- Spare GPS batteries
- Print outs of cache descriptions and coordinates
- Bug spray
- Camera – you’ll want to document your geocaching adventures and you’ll never know what wildlife you’ll come across and want to capture a picture
- Hand wipes – yes you will get dirty, and if the kids are along and snacking you wish you had them
- First aid kit
- Water – the most important thing to bring along
- Snacks – especially if you bring kids along
- Trash bags for CITO – Good geocachers practice CITO (cache in – trash out) it helps both the environment and the community
- Duct tape – great for temporary repairs of damaged caches you find
- Assorted Zip Lock bags – if you come across a damaged cache you can help protect the cache owner’s log
- Disposable rain ponchos – worth their weight in gold. You know the weatherman always lies
- Bear repellant – if you are caching in an area known to have bears it’s good insurance
- Last but not least you need some SWAG (stuff we all get) if you want to trade, if you take something – leave something. Some ideas for SWAG included, small toys like matchbox cars or happy meal toys, pencils, pens, batteries (put them in a ziplock bag in case they leak), coins (coins from other countries make great SWAG), waterproof match containers,empty film canisters, and playing cards. I keep some 1 dollar bills in case i run out. Later if you really get into geocaching you may want to think about, geocoins, travel bugs, and cache buddies (I’ll discuss this more when I write about caches)
One final note: Never leave anything hazardous or sharp in a geocache and never leave any kind of food as it can attract critters that will destroy a cache.
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