Category Archives: Geocaching

Geo-Slump

I just used this family blog as a reference for someone, only to see that it hasn’t been updated in almost two years! I have a handful more geocaching stories (though maybe none as exciting as almost stranding my family in Governor Dodge!) to tell, like the Whereigo through the USS Arizona memorial, that I led my Epic team-lead through through only to finally discover a thorny stump with no cache. When I parted the company after 12 years, one of his friendly send-offs was “thanks for teaching me that geocaching can be frustrating and unfulfilling!” Or another coworker with whom I actually found a neat bridge-hidden cache in a warehouse district…before being chased away by the local rent-a-cop.

In 2017, I was caching constantly. I almost made > 1 cache-per-day that year (decent for someone who does have a life, family, and full-time job apart from caching). Then in December, disaster struck, and I was out of the game (and most of life) for a few months. I never quite recovered – sure I did a bit of caching in 2018, but my heart wasn’t into it. It took some friends from work and a healthcare conference in Canada to rekindle the interest.

I claim major geo-fu rustiness, but when a coworker asked me to show him some some geocaches in downtown Montreal, he was the one who ultimately ended up finding most of the ones we attempted (though I did surprise him by finding a couple ingeniously hidden ones, including one I had found several years prior the last time I was in Canada). On the last day of the trip, I took a hike with an old friend up Mont Royal; we both thought we might die, but we were rewarded with spectacular views, 3 new smiley faces (again, he found a cache that I could not!), and a reminder that geocaching always takes me to new places I might never have discovered otherwise.

I’ve now been excitedly planning a 5-day road trip surrounding our team week to Denver, CO in July. I started by finding many of the missing squares on my Fizzy and Jasmer grids, but then when I started researching high-favorite caches, I discovered a world of roadside wonders right along my route. And who knew you could drive to the top of Pike’s peak now?! Perhaps I still have more geo-stories to tell yet…provided I don’t fall off a cliff or get bitten by a snake first!

Geocaching Pies

People geocache for many reasons. Some to challenge themselves. Some to validate themselves by being better than others. Some just to explore. I still don’t understand cachers with tens of thousands of finds, and I can’t stand challenge caches of the “find 200 caches in a day” variety. Perhaps if I had been caching full-time at my current rate since the game started I’d have close to a 5-digit find count, but it’s never been about the numbers for me. I cache to get outside when I’d prefer to stay inside. And I cache to explore the vast beauty of creation (hence my recent Instagram account). Sure, I’m working on the Fizzy and Jasmer grids, but I won’t be heartbroken if I never find them all.

But I learned about an interesting challenge last year which is well in line with my exploration motivation: find a cache whose bearing is each of the 360 degrees around a certain location. Usually this is the site of the challenge cache, but you can always make personal challenges. So I set out to find caches every degree away from home! As a bonus, I got to play around with HTML5 canvas drawing and can now generate a neat pie chart (I love visual representations). Green wedges are degrees I’ve found, and yellow wedges represent an unfound cache that is within 30 miles of home. Red means I must expand my search a little farther out!

Pie chart showing caches around Dodgeville
Dodgeville, WI

Pie chart showing caches around Cedar Falls
Cedar Falls, IA

We knew that moving to Cedar Falls would open a much wider opportunity for geocaching, as Dodgeville is somewhat of a sinkhole on the geocaching map – not a whole lot of activity. As you can see, I have many fewer “found degrees” (oriented towards Wisconsin where I’ve done the majority of my caching), but on the flipside, I’ll be able to mostly complete this challenge locally!

After this, it’s onto the “distance” bands! (Find a cache within every 5-mile band up to … whatever distance, usually 500miles). Probably not. It’ll be more exploratory to continue to check-off counties. I had almost given up on Wisconsin, but a future planned work retreat to the northwoods makes collecting all the Wisconsin counties an attainable goal.

Cache on!

Learning to say NOPE!

When you’re out hunting for geocaches, you’re going to fail from time to time. Sometimes the cache is just missing. Sometimes it gets too dark on you. And sometimes, as I experienced thrice today, you just decide to say NOPE!Nope[1]

After receiving an alert for 5 brand new nearby caches during an afternoon meeting, I headed out to pick up just one. I wasn’t feeling super as it was, but these all looked like easy grabs. I picked up one (leaving the others for other cachers to find first), and parked in a nearby cemetery to compose my log. Also… hey cemetery! I’ll bet there’s a cache here. Indeed there was. Emphasis was. This one seemed to be a typical abandoned / muggled cache that was no longer there. The previous two seekers reported not finding the cache. Well, that was a little disappointing, so I looked for a couple others I might pick up on my way back to the highway.

The first was a T4 due to “proximity to water and barbed wire.” Sounded interesting, so I went to check it out. Considering it was on the other side of a ditch with at least a 4-foot width of standing water, this was a quick and easy “nope!”.

The next was also a T4 with a “little hike and some steep hill scrambling.” I actually parked and approached this one. I took a few steps off the path and considered my circumstances. Failing light – though now I’m well-equipped with a rugged flashlight. Fading cell phone battery – I do have an external pack but of course, it wasn’t with me today. Finally, after I took a few steps off the path and was immediately blocked by thick thorns, I reminded myself that I’ve been fighting a cold or sinus infection for over a week. Tackling something like this would definitely be a bad idea. This looks like a fun location to try another sunny day when I’m feeling better.

After three disappointments in a row, I figured a couple of easy cemetery caches were in order. The first one was a quick find on a steep incline. The other was a “nope!” of a different kind. As I approached the cemetery, I saw a truck parked by it and someone with an easel set up right next to GZ. While this might’ve been a great opportunity to meet a random stranger, perhaps introducing them to geocaching as a unique way to find new beautiful vistas to paint, my introversion kicked into high-gear, and I drove on by.

Geocaching is a great, fun hobby. It remains fun only as long as you don’t get too disappointed by a few “Did Not Find”s or at the decision to skip a cache you’d rather not approach. Since I’m not in this for the numbers, I was perfectly fine with all of my “nope!”s today.

Cache on!

Almost Stranded in Governor Dodge

Starting out on the journeyAfter a week of rainy weather, the sun was finally out, so Amanda and I thought we’d take the family out on a caching adventure in nearby Governor Dodge State Park. Just one trail (Mill Creek Trail aka MCT) with several easy-to-obtain caches. We’d been on the particular target trail before (or so I thought), so I didn’t figure it would be too difficult of a trek.

Samantha's FrogL. was loving her backpack ride, and S. found a pet frog for awhile. Things were off to a great start. Little did I know this day-after-DST-ended trip was going to take a quick turn to terror.
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