Sunday, April 26, 2009

Geocaching Stats Update

It's been since last June since I posted a full-fledged geocaching stats update. At the time, I had found 61 caches; now I have found...78. Since last June (after the update), I have only found one physical cache. That was...yesterday. There's one on the bike trail mentioned in a previous post, so I decided to grab it. It wasn't too urban or too woodsy to touch on any of the things that had bothered me about physical geocaches. Today, I did an earthcache here in Cologne, Germany.

Sadly, some of the requirements lead to some pretty stupid pictures. Anyway, that brings my total "cache-to-cache" distance to 86743.95 miles. That means, on average, I've traveled over 1,100 miles between each cache. I'll bring that average down later in this week with a virtual cache a stone's throw from the cathedral. (I misunderstood the instructions today and have to take a new picture).

I'm now up to caches in 9 countries, having added Australia and Germany since last June.

I'm still enjoying waymarking more, but the ability to generate stats in geocaching is way more advanced.


Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Waymarking Santa Barbara

Last year, I spent my free afternoon at this conference in Santa Barbara geocaching. This year, it was time for some waymarking. I was particularly interested in increasing my category count. Yesterday, I told you I was at 73; now it's 95. Here is an assortment of pictures from an afternoon of waymarking. Some are interesting; some are mundane -- like the waymarking categories. Annoyingly, some require me to put my GPS receiver in the picture in order to get credit. Enjoy.
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Monday, August 18, 2008

Waymarking Bingo

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I've been doing more waymarking than geocaching lately. I have a couple of main motivations for this -- one, if I'm in an urban/suburban area, waymarking doesn't require me to dig around suspiciously. Two, if I have a choice of areas, I lean towards the area without ticks.

A secondary motivation, however, is waymarking bingo. For each category of waymarks (e.g., pyramids, sushi restaurants, "you are here" signs) that I log, I get an icon on my user page. Above, you can see rows 19-37 of my user page (the current page is here). As of this morning, I have 73 out of a possible 752 categories.

Some waymarkers have introduced the concept of "waymarking bingo", which they defined as 20 icons in a row, column or diagonal. Very few waymarkers have achieved this. I feel like I've been doing a lot of waymarking, and the best I have done is 4 in a row (row 33). It'll probably be a long time before I get a bingo. You might think row 33 is my most promising row, since I already have 4 in a row. But row 33 contains such tricky categories as Abandoned Air Force Radar Sites, Martello Towers and Holy Wells. There are 13 existing waymarks worldwide in the first category, 14 in the second, and 29 in the third. I don't expect to be in the neighborhood of them any time soon.

I can always wait for someone to create a more convenient waymark in one of these categories or even - gasp - do the research and create one myself. For categories like KFC and 7-11, that's easy...and then I get to put them on my "ignore" list, since I'm not really interested in seeing more than one. For the above categories, that could be a little trickier.

Truthfully, I'm more interested right now in filling out the grid as much as possible than in getting "bingo". It's interesting to hunt down the rarer icons. When I was at LAX last night, I noticed I was near an example of Googie architecture. Since there aren't any examples near home, I decided to find that one. It turned out to be the most expensive waymark find yet, but that's a tale for another post...

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Monday, August 11, 2008

Round and Round


On my break from a conference in DC today, I walked to a virtual geocache that required me to walk a labyrinth carved into the ground and follow a very specific set of instructions.
Right as you enter the labyrinth, you'll notice the only place where the lines of the labyrinth cross. As you round the labyrinth, keep track of how many times you go past that point on the way to the center. (In other words, if there was a line drawn on the ground from that point to the southwest edge of the labyrinth, how many times would you cross that line on your journey to the center.)
I wasn't sure I followed the instructions correctly, so I took a picture, came home and re-traced my steps. (I had.)

Then I noticed that the cache "owner" -- who is the only one who could prevent me from logging the cache due to a wrong answer -- hasn't logged on in a year. So I didn't really need to do this. So it doesn't go to waste, I share it with you here.
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Thursday, July 24, 2008

2 California Virtuals


After I got off work today, we went down into La Jolla and visited two virtual geocaches. The first centered on this strange monument. The key to it is apparently here; it is a way of circumventing a ban on explicit memorials, I guess.

The second one involved reading an inscription off a bench. We beat a hasty retreat when the guy on the bench started talking to us of aliens and other such things.
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In my goal of getting all virtuals (and similar) within 70 miles of home, I briefly got the number down to 121 with a visit to "Jug Bridge" in Frederick earlier this month, but someone posted a new earthcache in Calvert County, so I'm back up to 122.


Monday, June 30, 2008

Bronze Earthcache Master

I first mentioned earthcaches in the context of my trip to Banff last month. Run by the Geological Society of America, the earthcache program encourages people to visit sites of geological significance and learn something about them. I visited three in the Banff area.

Soon afterwards, I learned about the Earthcache Masters program. By visiting three earthcaches in two states or countries, I could qualify as a "Bronze Earthcache Master". Since all of my finds were in Canada, I needed to visit one some place else. So after Christina and I visited one near Laurel a week or two ago, I sent my information in. Today in the mail I received my very own bronze earthcache master pin.

To reach silver, I need to visit a couple more and involve at least one more state/country. That's the easy part. The hard part is that I would have to place an earthcache myself. That would involve finding an interesting geological feature, writing it up, and perhaps most challengingly, getting permission from the park or wherever it ends up. I haven't decided whether I'm up for that; I guess I'll try visiting the next two first and see how that goes.


Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Geocaching: Maryland County Map

Well, the It's Not About the Numbers site is improving, so I can post this new Maryland county map. I'm up to 8 counties with the addition of Charles. Also, I've bumped my PG County total into the double digits, and I now have at least two finds in each of the surrounding counties.

I suspect the far reaches of the state -- the Western Panhandle, the parts of the Eastern Shore not right across the bridge -- will require coordination with special trips. In particular, the western counties might be do-able on the way to ski at Wisp next winter.


Saturday, June 21, 2008

Geocaching Update: Virtuals and Charles County

Yesterday and today I made progress on two of my geocaching goals. First, I knocked the number of remaining caches in my self-imposed "virtual challenge" down from 125 to 122. Second, I increased my number of Maryland counties with cache finds by 1, to 8 (out of 24*).
Friday evening, Christina and I went to the Fairland Regional Park, near Laurel, where a display on stormwater management served as an earthcache. It was fun to walk around. We made an abortive attempt to find a physical cache as well, but found 4 deer instead.
Today, I went driving around to do some caching while Christina hung out with my Aunt Sally. My main goal was Charles County, but along the way I decided to visit a virtual cache in Prince George's County. Along the way to that, I found myself driving through DC near another virtual -- a giant chair.

After the giant chair, it was time to visit National Harbor, PG County's new billion-dollar waterfront development. A statue of a giant buried in sand had recently been moved from DC. Since the statue was a virtual cache, the cache moved, too.

After that, I drove down to Charles County. Pictured is the first cache I found, cleverly disguised as a birdhouse. I found a second for good measure before returning home.
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Unfortunately, the site I use to generate all those neat stats is having technical problems, so it may be a while before I post them again. I donated $5 and sent some words of encouragement. I also posted in the geocaching forums inviting others to do the same, so hopefully that will do some good.

*Including Baltimore City as a county, for these purposes.


Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Geocaching: Virtual Challenge

As previously mentioned, I've been enjoying doing virtual caches lately. As also previously mentioned, no new virtual caches have been allowed since 2005. I decided to combine these observations by trying to do all virtual caches within 70 miles of home. Since nobody can create virtual caches any more, I don't have to worry about new ones popping up faster than I find them.

To throw a wrinkle into the plan, I am also allowing two types of virtual-like caches: earthcaches and webcame caches. Webcam caches are ones where you go to the coordinates and then get somebody in front of a compute to find you on a particular Internet-connected camera. They save that picture, which is your proof of having visited that "cache". I have never tried one of these, but I figure they fall into the spirit of virtual caches.

I did three earthcaches in Canada last month. Unlike virtual caches or webcam caches, people are allowed to create new ones. On the other hand, there are only 26 on my list, so I don't feel like I'm in much danger that they'll be created too quickly for me to handle.

Why 70 miles? Two reasons. One is that I'm about 62 miles from Gettysburg, so that distance is far enough to include a trip up there to get the virtual caches there. The other reason is that right now there are 125 left to do within 70 miles, so it makes a nice number from which to begin my countdown.

I thought I'd post about this goal, so I could give updates in the future. I'll probably get started this weekend. 27 of the 28 closest caches on my list are in DC, so that makes a good way to get a bunch at a time. I've plotted a walk around the western section of the Mall that should get 12. On the other hand, some of the other caches are fairly remote....I'd be surprised if I finished within a year.


Sunday, June 08, 2008


I dropped off my Free State Mover #3 geocoin in Banff last month with the mission "to return to the United States, specifically Maryland, specifically inside the Capital Beltway."

I included with the coin a note explaining the mission. I figured it would be easier to get this one back than the ones I had dropped off in England and Austria. So you can imagine my surprise this morning when I discovered the coin had ended up in Sweden. Sigh.
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Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Cache Stats Fever

Since I last posted about my geocaching activities, I've been on somewhat of a tear, by my standards, finding 9 caches in a span of 4 days. I enjoyed finding 2 virtual caches in DC over Memorial Day weekend, so took the Metro into town again and found 7 more last weekend.
One of them involved posing with a statue of John Pershing.

Then, on Monday, I got an alert about a cache placed 0.2 miles from my "home coordinates". It was a very small cache (a "nano"), which I don't find too interesting, but I stopped by on the way home on the chance that I might be "first to find". I was a couple of minutes too late, but I watched someone else find it (which was actually preferable, as I didn't have to find the silly thing hidden in a stop sign).

Yesterday, I was at a conference in Gaithersburg, so between the conference and a reception, I headed out to another virtual cache. This one was based on Coffin Rock, from the Blair Witch Project movie. I dunno, never saw it, but it was an interesting 1/4-mile hike to the rock.

All this is by way of saying I've been pumping up my statistics and am eager to update them. One motivation for finding 7 in a day over the weekend is that it replaced a day last August as my "best day"; I only found 3 then, and it didn't seem particularly great.


Instead of maps, this time you're getting a much more compact representation of where I've been caching. Note the additions of Canada and DC with multiple finds each. The number of counties in Maryland is off by 1 because it lists the stop-sign cache as "uncalculated", rather than Prince George's County. I'll have to send an e-mail about that...hmm, it's since cleared up on the site.


Looking at the chart of terrain and difficulty ratings made me realize how many of the ones I've been doing have been clustered in the upper left. One reason for doing the stop-sign nano was to get a difficulty higher than 2.5. I may select caches to get specific terrain/difficulty combos in the future.
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Thursday, May 29, 2008

Caching After Work

I decided to take advantage of the nice weather and long day to do some geocaching after work. I had been holding on to a travel bug for three months, which is about two-and-half months longer than is polite. So I decided to head out to a cache I had my eye on near Lake Artemesia, an artificial lake a couple of miles from home. I walked partway around the lake, then veered off on a trail towards the cache. Unfortunately, it was the wrong trail, and I soon found myself about 300 feet away from the cache, on the wrong side of a river. You can see my false start on this screen capture from Google Earth -- I now figured out how to put my GPS tracks in that, which I think is much cooler than the mapping program I had been using.

I backtracked (it would have been helpful to use Google Earth before caching) and headed up the correct trail, but it was getting dark. I realize the following details (and accompanying picture) represent a geocaching spoiler, but I don't think any of my reader will actually be looking for this cache. I wanted to give people an idea of what's involved in hunting these things. The clue said "hollow tree", and sure enough, I found a hollow tree about 30 or so feet from where the cache was supposed to be. Between the inaccuracy in my GPS readings and the inaccuracy in the readings of whoever placed the cache, the tree seemed a likely candidate. But I looked inside the hollow and saw nothing cache-like, so I went on. My GPS receiver, however, told me I was getting farther away. So I went back to the tree. This time I used the light on the keychain Christina gave me. Sure enough, there was a stick-like thing in the hollow that looked un-natural. I poked it first to make sure it wasn't something weird. When it didn't respond, I pulled out the camouflaged tube (pictured) that represented the cache. I thought this was a fairly tricky find...and this only rated '2' out of '5' on the difficulty scale. I can see why I may have missed some caches in the past. This did not look like the Tupperware container I was expecting to find. I suppose now I'll have a better idea of what to look for in future cache finds. I was barely able to get the travel bug (a shell with an tag attached) inside the tube, and I made it back to my car about a minute after sundown. According to the GPS receiver, almost exactly and hour and 2.4 miles of walking. Not bad.

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Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Earthcaching Banff

Since Christina and I had previously visited Banff, I figured I was under no pressure to "see the sights" yesterday on my free afternoon. So I decided to do some geocaching, which led me to sights I would not have ordinarily seen.

I actually found one geocache on Sunday -- about 50 feet from the conference site. After failing to release Free State Mover #3 in Puerto Rico, Malaysia, Singapore, England and Turkey, I finally set it free. It should have an easier task of getting back to Maryland than its European predecessors.
In a previous post, I claimed that "virtual" caches had been eliminated. That's not entirely true -- there is a special type remaining: the Earthcache. Unlike the old virtual caches, which could be of anything the submitter found interesting, Earthcaches have to teach something about geoscience, and it has to be approved by the Geological Society of America. This approach seems like a good compromise -- it allows caches in sensitive areas where you can't put a physical cache, but it limits their proliferation to educational sites.

The first cache I visited yesterday was, in fact, an Earthcache. It was the Banff Upper Hot Springs. Christina and I had visited there, so I didn't feel a need to bathe in the springs this time. Good thing -- paramedics were treating a woman, and the line of people waiting to get in the pool was backing up.
My second cache was another Earthcache and another set of hot springs. As it turns out, this set of hot springs is no longer open for bathing, but it is an important place in Canadian history. When trying to figure out what to do with the springs, the Canadian government decided that they should be publicly owned. This decision eventual led to the establishment of Canada's first national park.
Looking for another cache, I was led to my third Earthcache of the day, Limestone Hoodoos in Banff. A hoodoo is a particular geological formation (pictured) created by uneven erosion of sediment. After taking some pictures, I headed out down the Hoodoo Trail. A sign said that walk was 1 km and about half an hour. I turned around when I reached 1.55 km (as the crow flies) -- I'm not sure what the 1 km represented.
I decided the day of geocaching wouldn't be complete without finding a physical cache, so I headed to Jumpin' Johnson Lake. The cache was about one-quarter of the way around the lake, but I continued to walk the whole way around. While walking, I was listening to a geocaching podcast where they had a call from a listener who had reached 500 caches about two months of caching. Given that yesterday's haul of 4 matched my all-time high, I am clearly in a different category from people like that. (I'm at 49 total after 14 months.) But I'd rather use geocaching as a jumping off point -- I wouldn't have come to Johnson Lake without it. As a result, I got some nice scenery and some much-needed exercise.

I almost got more exercise than I bargained for. As I had almost completed my circumnavigation of the lake, the trail dead-ended at the lake. I was afraid I was going to have to go all the way back around. First, however, I tried doubling back and seeing if I had taken the wrong fork. As I got on a more promising path, I noticed a rushing steam that would block a walk around the lake. Fortunately, a few minutes later, I saw the bridge that would allow me to complete my hike.

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Sunday, May 11, 2008

Free State Mover #1: Back to England

Despite my fears, the Free State Mover #1 geocoin I dropped off in Bristol last September was not lost in Wales. After a three month stay in a cache there, it moved across the border to a cache in England. Still no progress towards Maryland, but it's better than being lost.

By coincidence, Christina and I were about 10 miles away in 2006, so I have some idea what the area's like.


Sunday, May 04, 2008

Shanghai and Barcelona

Shanghai and Barcelona -- places I went in December 2006 and May 2007, respectively. Places my geocoin Free State Generic #2 went last month. When I last updated you, it had headed from Virginia to Beijing. From Beijing, it went to Shanghai. From there, it took an unexpected trip to Barcelona. It looks like the person who transported it logged it into a cache there just to record its travel, since he immediately logged it out again. It'll be interesting to see where this one ends up next.


Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Istanbul Virtual

When I was in Istanbul a couple of weeks ago, I didn't expect to do any geocaching. First, there aren't any "normal" caches within 10 miles of the city center. Second, Turkey wasn't a country where I felt super-comfortable rummaging around for hidden containers.

The only two caches near where I was staying were virtual caches, which as I've mentioned before is a now-obsolete form of a cache that contains no physical container. I had no expectation of finding either one -- one was on the Asian side of Istanbul, and the other was at a bridge connecting the two sides. Since I had no plans to go to Asia, how could I find them?

As it turns out, our conference excursion included a cruise on the Bosphorous. I turned on my GPS, and was wondering how close we'd get to the cache at the bridge. After all, it was a one-hour cruise, and I knew we had to turn around at some point.

As you can see from the tracking, I got pretty darn close! In fact, by the standards of virtual caches, that counts as a find! It's kind of neat that the cache essentially was our turn-around point.

I snapped this picture of myself at the cache location.

This find does nice things for my countries-cached-in map. (Click for the full-size version, where you can see I get credit for Singapore and Puerto Rico.)

Unfortunately, finding a virtual cache means I don't have a chance to drop off any geocoins. I plan to take care of that next month in Canada.

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Friday, April 11, 2008

Off to China

No, not me. It's another one of my geocoins. I released Free State Generic #1 and #2 just to have something to release. Free State Generic #1 is, appropriately, trekking around Maryland. Free State Generic #2, for some reason, I released in Virginia. Then, for some reason, someone grabbed it and took it to just outside of Beijing. Oh, well. I hope they love Maryland over in China.