Life as a Geocacher

Caching and Reviewing

This is made up of stories from my caching and my reviewing.  It is a collection of those along with comments and thoughts.  Photos, and maps of some adventures and lists of some of the oldest caches.

Filtering by Category: Reviewing

Thanks to Prime Reviewer

I have not written in some time. I keep thinking of getting back into it.  I felt this was the time.

A few months ago Prime Reviewer stepped away from reviewing suddenly.  He was a private individual and he did not share a lot of info about his private life with the caching community, and other reviewers.  I had reviewed Earthcacches in Texas for six years, so I had some communication with him.

He ran a number of websites that suddenly went dark (Evince and a few others). Many of us worried, I did not hear from him, and assumed that he was burned out and just wanted to get away.  Then the word came that he had passed away.  I was saddened, as many were, in his passing, then I wanted to take a moment to think of his contributions.

 I don't know who took this photo, but it was being shared around facebook, and I wanted something here for him.

I don't know who took this photo, but it was being shared around facebook, and I wanted something here for him.

Primes Impact

I think most do not realize what this man accomplished. He did not toot his own horn, or stand on a hill and pronounce it to the world.  However, in my opinion, the work that he has done on behalf of caching is more prominent than anyone outside of Geocaching HQ.

Prime published a lot of caches.  A lot, lots, tons, way more than tons.  As far as I understand he published more as a reviewer in Texas than any other reviewer.  I can't give numbers, but 10-12 times the numbers of most reviewers.  He published more in some busy years than most reviewers ever publish.

He was also very active for 13 years in the reviewers forum.  As far as I am aware of no one posted more of his opinions, helps, guides, advice, criticisms, and ideas.  On the same scale as above.  Most lurk and do not voice opinions, yet he was always in the thick of it.

Then were the little programs, helps, macros, and guides he published to help the reviewers (and players) help in the game.  I do not know of more than one or two reviewers that do not use his programs.  When I came on board in 2009 there was a list of a bunch for me to choose from, the reviewer that trained me spent hours helping get them set up and running correctly. 

Conclusion

He worked tirelessly in Texas. His love for the game was seen by many.  However I think few will ever see how much advice and help he gave the caching community.   I will easily state that no one outside of Geocaching HQ did as much for caching as he did, but most will not see that.  Your caches for the last decade or more, in England, Austrailia, Germany, USA, and especially in Texas were touched by this man.

I salute you Prime.  Thank you for all you have given.  See you on the other side.

The Washknight Interrogation

Oh the horror of it all

At the request of Washknight and his blog http://washknight.wordpress.com  I was asked to do a survey and answer a few questions.   So here I go.

1. When and how did you first get into geocaching? 

I wandered around finding the few in my neighborhood. Then i got more and more exited.  I dove in and went nuts.  Every little micro was a new adventure.  In fact i found 130 caches in my first month.  I think I had a dozen hides at that point as well.  Getting the logs from cachers was a bigger thrill than the find.   I still think so.  I hate with a passion the logs that are TFTC, and even more the ones that say "I will log more later".  I have 250 active hides, so I do not go through every cache page to read my logs.  I read every email i get with a log, so if they post something like what I mention above I do not go back and look.

2. Do you remember your first find? 

Yes It was a tenth of a mile from my house.  It is gone now, but I remember hunting two or three times for the cache that was hidden in a guardrail.  yep.  http://coord.info/GC17484 Who would have though that someone could hide something in such an amazing and original place.  At the start everything was cool.  I was using the piece of crap Magellan Triton.  Quite possibly the worst GPS ever made.  Ok, lets be honest.  It was the biggest POS that anyone ever thought of making.  Constantly crashing, it would freeze, and I had to unscrew the back, then pull the batteries, then put them back in.  It froze every hour, at least.  About one in twenty times, it would loose all the data it had when it rebooted.   What garbage.  I just started to like them again as a company until they fired a friend.  The guy that traveled the country and sold them to people at mega events.  So I hate them again.

3. What device(s) do you use for locating caches? 

Android phone and Garmin Oregon 400.  I only drag the Oregon out for bigger trips. I load all the caches in an area on my phone now.  So I do not usually use anything else.  I have used three or four apps.  My first app was c:geo.  Like so many I dove into that.  However I hated when groundspeak updated the site c:geo broke.  Not because of groundspeak, but because the writers of c:geo were to stubborn, and refused the use the API (the quick and easy groundspeak connection).  I found myself out and about and could not load the cache.  They blamed groundspeak, I knew better, and decided that they were crap.  So I jumped to geosphere, cachesense, and eventually found my way back to the official app.  I did not need all the bells and whistles.  Most apps were like jumping in a rental car, there are a thousand buttons, switches, safety features, but in the end i just need something that gets me from point A to point B. The extra stuff was stuff I did not care about.

4. Where do you live and what is your local area like for geocaching? (density / quality / setting etc)

The area is very cache heavy. 18000 caches with 100 miles of my home.  Tons of micros and a number of small power trails.  I love the variety.  There are a ton of Letterboxes, a number of wherigo, many puzzles of all types, challenges for those that want them, and very few multicaches.  Stupid multis, I hate them almost as much as I hate puzzles.  Early on in my reviewing someone accused me of cheating on a puzzle, every since then I have dispised them, it took the fun out of solving them. So I rarely do them anymore.

5. What has been your most memorable geocache to date, and why?

My most memorable is Freedom  Cache Page I took the drive myself and I hunted for the cache by myself and on a great day. The cache was a great surprise, and huge.  I love the work, and I was very impressed that he could drag it clear up the hill.  It had to have weighed a hundred and fifty pounds. 

6. List 3 essential things you take on a geocaching adventure excluding GPS, pen and swaps. 

Camelback backpack, crazy ideas, and the stupidity to get me into some horrible spots (see later description).  Actually I will change that last one, the intelligence to get me out of the horrible spots my stupidity got me into.

7. Other than geocaches and their contents, What is the weirdest thing you have discovered whilst out caching? 

A lady drowning in a river.  Provo Canyon Drive By

This one was an adventure. There was a police officer that just wrote a ticket next to it. I went over anyway and took care of it. Then as he drove off I could hear someone shouting down at the river. It got louder and louder before I realized it was some girl screaming help over and over. I ran off the hill over the tracks and scrambled bushwacking through the mess till i could see her. She had lost her tube and was hanging onto a fallen tree. She was cold, tired and in a panic. I went in and dragged her back to the bank. Just then her friends showed up, and were struggling to get from the other side of the river over to her. They had either been upstream or had walked up from below where they had waited for her. Mostly she was cold, tired and panicked. but it made for a wet day of caching.

or my next one... Slappa da Bass

You suck.. I hate this cache.. It was truly the spawn of some evil multi legged devil spawn and Satan. There were thistles about to poke my delicate skin. Evil little weeds that imbedded themselves in my sweet silky smooth socks, that would poke me and distract me from my search. Wire with rusty barbs to injure me as I performed my assigned task at this location.

Then As I was about to leave I rolled over the clever disguise that was camouflaging the container. The lid was slightly askew. As I removed the cache aaahhhhhhh, a spider fled from the confines of the wee container and ran up my arm. The container flew across the fence and into a nice patch of thistles. After I completed my "anti-spider dance" I began my quest to retrieve the container. In the process I spilled blood, was stabbed by vile sock weeds, and thistles, only to have to return across the devil wire fence that I mentioned above.

When I opened the container again.. Aaaaaaaaahhhh. It was full. Not of stamps and logs, but a spider home. Not just any spider home, but the spider home of momma spider (that obviously had fled). However inside that wee container was a conglomeration of webbing to protect the mass of wee spiders that proceeded to flee in all directions. By all directions I meant all over me. Masses of wee spiders crawling about my shirt, hands and gps.

Once again the anti spider dance was done in earnest. I took the wee container to the back of my truck and grabbed a handy brick to mash the spiders, pull out the log, stretch it out, clean off the webbing of the vile creature, and then clean out the cache that had previously been the home of the demon arachnids.

As I was carrying it back, a couple more spiders apparently had taken to hiding from my brick by going under the container. They now scattered up my arm, and once again the anti-spider dance was performed.

I know now that this was a trap, Cold1 had to have placed the spiders there breeding and multiplying, waiting for my eventual arrival. #*&$ you cold1, I will hunt you down, and gut you like a fish. Only you could have thought up something as devious as this. And all I have ever done is been kind to you.

Other than that, this is was an everyday simple cache.

8. On a scale of 1 to 10 where 1 is I am obsessed by numbers and 10 is I am all about the experience and the quality of each individual cache. Where do you put yourself?

Shouldn't the higher number be obsessed about the numbers?  lol  I average in the middle, right now I am more about places and cool spots.  I found 1000 caches last year, I am guessing a few hundred this year.  I just have no desire to hunt for a bunch of micros .  A lot of it has to do with my vehicle. I have no real desire to drive a truck around and park in front of places, or on little pull outs to grab caches.  It is also just that I do not have as much interest in everyday caches.   I am hunting for stuff that interests me.

9. Describe one incident that best demonstrates the level of your geocaching obsession. 

Hunting for a cache multiple times.  I refused to get a hint because i thought it would me more satisfying if i found it on my own.  New people were finding it, I could not.  I finally caved in and asked another cacher for a hint.  I spent a year going through that.  I still feel foolish for asking.  I should have stayed strong.  I am weak, and a looser. I will be strong next time.

10. Have you picked up any caching injuries along the way? Scrapes and scratches. 

I sprained an ankle so bad, i was sure that I had broken it.  I was alone, and it hurt so bad it brought tears to my eyes on the 500 foot walk to the truck.  It hurt so bad my vision went black for a moment.  Good night that was awful.  I am having phantom pains just thinking of it.  I sometimes get phantom pains thinking of Cold1, I am sure everyone has heard of him.  He is a friend and a local nutter.  If he reads this.... stop following me, and i can see you outside in the bushes, don't make me have my dog attack you again. He is my biggest caching injury.

11. What annoys you most about other geocachers?

  • Micro Logs
  • Cache thieves
  • Liars
  • Fake logs
  • People who complain about a cacher cheating then cheat themselves. 
  • If you have found 5000 caches it does not mean you are better than the cacher with 500.
  • Bad hair
  • Crappy crappy containers.
  • Not fixing caches when i warn them, then being mad when I archive them for not taking care of the cache in a month.
  • Sending vulgarity laced emails.  It does not make me want to publish your cache when you call me a F^&*(*&  A$%&*()
  • Those that cannot follow the rules, and then say, "never mind I will publish it on another caching site."  That is fine if you do not want any visitors, but i place my caches to be found. 
  • Trackable hoarders
  • Coin thieves
  • The freaking moron that took my trackable, hauled it into a wilderness area and placed it in a new cache, got it denied for being well within a wilderness area, then refused to go pick up my trackable because he was mad at the reviewer.  What a douche.  Sorry, I am getting mad again typing this. 
  • Stalkers
  • People that make long lists about what annoys them

12. What is the dumbest thing you have done whilst out caching?

One of two things.  I was with Jac0b and we saw a cache only a half mile away.  We said "how hard could it be"  We had two water bottles.  Two hours later we finally found the cache, an hour after that we were so exhausted from climbing the mountain ridges we separated over a dispute of what would be easier to get back to the jeep, straight over the mountain, or down the draw (the correct answer was my way, it was the longer route through the draw)  we were out of water, and exhausted in the hot summer sun.  I thought my life was over, I saw the ending.  What a miserable walk back.

Second, was saying yes to groundspeak.  Proves i am not smart.  To make it worse I did it three times. See how dumb i am.  ok I do not regret my decision, but It was not the brightest thing.  "Hey would you like to review caches in Utah?  It will take an hour or two a night, not to mention maintenance checks."  Then later, "would you like to review EarthCaches?"  why of course i would, that would be lovely.  "Oh would you like to be a moderator in the forums"  ........How hard could it be.  It has been a great experience but a ton of work. I did get a plastic trackable paperweight/trophy for my five year anniversary of reviewing, ok, well it said it was for my five year anniversary, but they sent it a year early.

13. What do your non caching family and friends think of your hobby? 

They think I am nuts.  My 20 year old kids just think I am stupid.  However that may not have anything to do with caching, just that I am crazy.  I was not so bright and when I took them to their first cache it was a lamp post, and the second, and the third.  I should have stopped when I was ahead.

14. What is your default excuse you give to muggles who ask what you are up to or if you need help? 

I pretend I am taking pictures.  No one cares about that.   I often have my DSLR with me. Give someone a camera, and if it looks like they are doing artsy stuff people leave them alone.  I can also bring Cold1 with me.  He mumbles and twitches.  He is just crazy enough people stay away from him, or he chases them away and I have the area free.

15. What is your current geocaching goal, if you have one? 

  • Stay alive.
  • Don't fall over and pass out from exhaustion
  • Avoid Cold1 more
  • Publish more caches
  • Review for at least 10 years
  • Not make Jeremy or Bryan hate me. (sorry about beating you at bowling soo badly, of course no one noticed because there was food in the back) but I noticed.  I took a picture as proof, but it was fuzzy, honest I did win by a lot.
  • Get a moun10bike version 1 coin, actually any would be good.  If he turns his head i will slip out the back with 001 if he is not looking.
  • visit HQ
  • say hi to all the Volunteer team that I annoy
  • Get Challenges as a cache type.  I keep trying.
  • Did I mention cold1?  Stop him from living under my porch, or in my bushes.
  • Are these caching goals?  close enough
  • Get a few other coins that mean something to me. Dhobby1, a few of the older lackey coins.

16. Do you have a nemesis cache that despite multiple attempts you have been unable to find?

Cold1, oh wait a cache not a cacher.  Yes, one near me.  I hate it, once again i refuse to have hints.  So I will not say what it is, someone will spoil it and give me a hint.

17. What 3 words or phrases best sum up what geocaching means to you. 

Adventure, sightseeing, friends.

18. What prompted you to start blogging about geocaching?

First was to vent, in a constructive way.  I was reviewing, and was frustrated with the cachers that never listened.  Hopefully someone learned someone.  Then to make me happy.  Oh to make fun of Cold1.  To record and share fun experiences.

19. Which of your own blog entries are you most proud of. 

/journal/2011/10/23/how-to-annoy-your-geocache-reviewer.html  is my favorite entry.  It is the common things people do to annoy their reviewer.  Some have no idea that they even do it.

The other is not really a blog page but a list of the oldest active caches, and a map people can use to zoom in on them, and see their location.  /oldest-active-geocaches/  it recieves about half of all the hits on my site.  I am always happy when i hit the forums and someone asks and someone else links to it.  It makes me feel that i am contributing.

20. Which other geocaching blogs do you enjoy reading? 

I followed more at one time. Most stop blogging, and  others drive me nuts.  I feel some are out there to toot their own horn, I guess some may say that of me, but if it is too bad I stop for a while. 

http://geocass.wordpress.com/ geocass is the one I read regularly, and the other is Udink udink.org  he is the single best photographer, cacher, hiker in my area.  I love to read of his adventures.  Less caching than he used to, but still a lot of fun to read and see his awesome pics. oh and groundspeaks blog.

Hopefully that works.

How To Get Your EarthCache Permission.

Sadly this seems to be one of the hardest things that people go though when they are submitting an EarthCache.  The rules of when permission is needed can be different in different countries.  In general you should plan on it, especially if you leave tht paved roads that have a lot of access.

Why?

I hear this a lot.  It comes in a few different forms.  Why do I need permission?  It is public land why should I get permission?  Those seem to be the most prevalent.

First, lands may be public, but they still have a land manager.  They have specific tasks.  Protect the park, create tourism, explain the area to guests, keep the area pristine;  these are all examples of some of the things they have to do.  Usually by law or rules from their bosses. So they review what goes on in their area of responsibility.

Over the four years I have been looking at EarthCaches i have seen a few reasons for denial.

Sensitive ecological area - Plants, animals, areas that may receive damage from people moving on them.  They may be tasked with saving an endangered animal,  dropping an EarthCache that drags visitors into some nesting ground does not help.  A few caves have been declared off limits to protect local bat populations.

Historical Sites - Many sites are protected by obscurity.  They do not publish where native American artifacts are located.  You may not even know they are there, but they do not want people poking around that area.  Of course if they had more money they could do something, but lacking that they just try and keep people away.

Culturally Significant - The one that comes to mind is Rainbow Bridge National Monument.  Every year I get a submission for that monument.  It is sacred to the Native Americans.  As such the park does not advertise or push the monument much.  A discussion with the park management told me that they had no intention to approve anything there because of the sacred nature to the native Americans in the area. 

Protect the local minerals/fossils.  A few sites have been denied for this reason.  Dinosaur bones in the desert are left alone.  Letting people know about the site can cause people to gather them up when they visit.  I have seen this for sites in national parks where obsidian or petrified wood is located.  Rangers do not want these to walk away.  It happens.  A national park  Fossil Cycan National Monument was one.  Everyone pilfered the park, and it was removed.  

 

Here is my step by step process.

Find the topic.

  1. Write up basic information.
  2. Find out about other caches/EarthCaches in the area.
  3. Contact park educational outreach with the information info.
  4. Get Permission.

Know who to ask. 

Many parks and properties have a number of employees, a

nd each one has  their own duties and responsibilities.  Going to the wrong one can cause you unneeded grief, or can just piss someone off.  Some cachers have been very rude.   I have spoken with over two dozen land managers, and with managers of over 15 National Parks.  Most have the same issues, and concerns.

If you walk in and demand to see the park manager you may find success or miserable failure.  Remember these people are working, their jobs have seen a hu

ge increase in workload in the last few years.  Budget cuts and hiring freezes have wrecked havoc on many land managers.   

Some parks are huge.  They manage a large number of employees and contractors that come into the parks.  Interrupting  their important work  of hiring, repairing, dealing with problems, animals and people to deal with permission for an EarthCache and annoy them.  

If you walk in and talk to the National Park Ranger over enforcement you may get a completely different answer and reception that the ranger over education.  One is trying to determine if you are violating any laws, if this is prone to cause problems, or cause damage.  The other will look at this as a way to educate visitors about the park, and about the content.

Do your research to answer questions.  

These are the most common questions that I see:

Where is it?  I am shocked that many do not know how to read coordinates.  The simplest way I have found is to find it on Google maps, drop a pin, then there is a link to your little map.  Give them as much info as you can.

What are you teaching?  Simple, give them a copy.  They may ask for corrections, or you to change some information.

Is it near a road or trail?  Many parks are worried about damage. Take a moment to let them know how far from the trail, and what trail.

How many visitors do you expect?  This is usually pretty simple.  I find the caches nearby, or EarthCaches, and can tell them.   "Cache X is a mile away, it gets about 15 visitors a year"  This usually relieves the worry that you are setting up a site with 1000 new people showing up and tearing the area apart.

The contact

If you are nearby try make an appointment or go in person.  Talking with someone, if you are not interrupting or causing problems,  goes a long ways.  Be ready for a long wait if you are only doing the email thing.  Remember that if you send an email you might be buried.  Questions will be slow to come by.  Sometimes it works well, other times expect something slow.  Consider the phone, but be respectful.

 

Hopefully these help just a little.

Earthcache Guidelines Updated

The Geoaware team has been working for a month or more on updates to the new guidelines.  There are not actually many changes on the surface.  If you are making your first Earthcache, and you are diving into things you will not have much to worry about.

This goes over some of the changes, and just to describe them.

Purpose

Ultimately the purpose was to clarify things.  Dealing with complaints from cachers, community, land managers, and the review team.  We have a lot of people repeating the same process, and the same errors.  Sometimes cache after cache.  I will toss a few of the small changes, and go through them here.  In the past things may have been interpreted more liberally, so you may hit some roadblocks.

1. Earthcaches must provide an earth science lesson.

This is the shortest guideline (now).  Yet it is the one that I see the most problems with.  What is your cache about?  Does it teach?  These are the core parts of an Earthcache.

Earthcaches focus on the solid earth and the processes that shape it.

That means that many of the things that are submitted do not fit.  Biology, Botany, Zoology, Ecology, Atmospheric observations, Oceanographic observations, Geodesy, Archeology, History, and Engineering, are normally not accepted.  They fall outside the solid earth.  Many get upset at the reviewers, or point at other caches, but currently we do not.

2. Earthcaches must be educational

I see many submissions that do not teach a lesson.  Taking someone to a pretty view, or showing them a cool site is not enough.  Education is the second most important part of an Earthcache.

I see two common errors. Many caches I received take people to a hillside and ask people to tell me the number of a sign.   There is not educational material on there.   The second would be one that someone writes a lot of information on the plants and animals in the marsh.  When the reviewer lets them know that they need to do more, they then add to the 2000 word document another 1000 words and diagrams.  We now have a massive document.

Hint.  Teach people, but stay on topic.  Oh, and don't write a book on it.

Also, if you are a geologist, or know a lot about the geology, look at it from the level of a 14 year old.  You may have to describe a few more things for that level.

3. Earthcaches must highlight a unique feature.

We see many listings that are something that is not unique.  If a cache is written about the erosion of an area, you may not be able to do one on the same cache 30 minutes away. You may be able to if you are teaching something different. 

That said, there can be a few Earthcaches at the same location.  A cache on the stones, and another on the erosion could be at the same location (depending on how they are written up).

The feature should also be unique.  A river stone is not necessarily unique.  In fact this is why waterfalls, glacial erratics, springs, etc are no longer accepted. They are not unique.

4. Earthcaches must have approval from the Land Manager prior to submission

Some parks, cites, forest, etc have developed policies about containerless caches. If they have that policy online please point to that in a log.  If you think that you do not need permission explain why.  Just because the location is public does not mean you do not need permission.

Note for a National Park, you will need written permission.  It is part of the agreement with the National Park Service in helping with the program.  The email should be sent directly to the reviewer. 

5. An Earthcache can be a single site or multiple sites.

You have to have visited to location.  Do not toss out a site that you have never been to.  You may have problems in the review if you have not.  You need to get the coordinates there, and make sure the area is open to the public.  

Your cache can be at one location, or ask people to visit  4-5 locations.  I do not think this means that you can pick one of a number of locations to actually answer the question.  But I would have to see on a case by case basis.

6. Logging an Earthcache requires visitors to undertake a site-specific task which provides a learning opportunity related to the topic.

You must use information from the cache page, and the location, to perform a task to help the person learn. Those tasks needs to be about the geology of the site.  A word off a sign, couning fence posts or stairs, pillars, etc does not have anything to do with geology and will not be accepted as an Earthcache logging task.

That task is the proof of a visit. Photos are still not allowed, and you have to be able to send your answers to the cache owner through the Geocaching profile.  That also means that auto-responders are not allowed.  Why?  You are not maintaining your cache.  You are creating something to take care of the work for you.  Also auto-responders do not allow you to have good logging tasks.  You want an answer like 7, or green.  Not a logging task that makes someone think, or educate.

Also when you submit your cache, place your answers in a reviewer note. 

7. The Earthcache text and logging tasks must be submitted in the local language.

I think the is obvious.

8. Respect Trademarks and Copyright and only use text, images or logos if you have permission.

We have seen more and more caches where someone is copying entire web pages, logo or diagrams without permission.  Many state agencies, or other organizations would like a reference to the book or website where you got the information.  Just because it is on the internet, does not mean you can copy it entirely. 

9. Earthcache sites adhere to the principles of geocaching and Leave No Trace outdoor ethics.

Don't dig a hole, tear up the ground, paint something, or leave a cache or other materials at the cache site.  Try and stay near trails/roads.  Stay away from fragile ecosystems.

10. Earthcaches are submitted through geocaching.com and must meet these guidelines and adhere to the Geocache Listing Requirements / Guidelines and geocaching.com Site Terms of Use Agreement.

Yep.  Simple.

Conclusion

We had a number of problems, small and repeated.  So some tweaks were made.  Sorry for those that wanted photos back. 

On that note.  I was one of the most vocal at first that the photos were needed. Taking them away was stupid. I think that was the term I used.  I now disagree.  This is not a virtual cache, it is an educational experience.  A photo means the person does not have to actually answer the questions, and the owner does not have to actually see that they learn.

Earthcaches is education about geology and this earth.  Not photography, not numbers.  Take some time, and enjoy the world around you.

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