Wednesday, December 31, 2008

We just can't stop!

Welcome to the Rainbow Bug Motel!

We had some things to get at a bigger store than what Bellaire provided, so we, meaning me, Karyn, Tiffany, Hunter, K'ryn and Kyler, climbed back into Karyn's van (she has a better DVD player and heated seats) and headed to Gaylord. Tiffany and I were looking at the caches in this city, just in case, and found a travel bug (TB) motel! We knew it was very possible to find in the snow because it had been logged as a find the previous day!

One thing though. This cache was not the usual cache. It wasn't created to trade the small items Hunter carries in his soft purple sack, it was for trackable items (bugs and coins) only. Well, it just so happens that Santa had given me three TB's for Christmas, and Karyn, as kcgraham fellow geocacher, had given me one more! While in Wal-Mart I picked up a couple key chains to attach to my new TB's. Hunter chose a small globe that floats around like a compass for this cache.

It wasn't snowing, but it was COLD! The children were smart and said they would stay in the warm van, although their attitude may have changed had the cache been their kind of treasure. Karyn calls her TomTom GPS unit Max. So Max took us past I-75 and out toward K-Mart, the other side of Gaylord we rarely visit. As we came closer to the finish line on Max's screen, we realized that the cache was probably at a business. I had read back on that the location was someone's property, but if we had a GPS in hand, it was a free pass thru.

We didn't see the name of the business until the end. Had we not been staring at Max's screen and been looking up and around, we would have saved some time and our cold fingers! A sign out front said Rainbow Plaques and the cache name was The Rainbow Bug Motel.

We ended up pulling into the business next door and it took us a bit to orient ourselves with our GPS's, finally realizing where we wanted to go was behind the business next door. The cache creator had said if a flag was up, a TB was there, flag down, no TB. As we left the van Kyler changed his mind at the last second and followed us out into the packed snow. We didn't know what the cache owner might be referring to until we saw a mailbox in a place where no mail would ever be delivered, facing the back of a building. There were the abbreviations GC on it with a few numbers. We interpreted the first two as meaning geocache and the numbers after as the numbers the geocache is listed as the database.

Tiffany and I rushed over there. Karyn had taken Kyler back to the van after he had fallen and gotten all snowy. On the flag were the words, Flag up, TB here. Flag down, no TB. I was bummed the flag was down, but I added my first travel bug I called A Small World to the cache.

On my TB's home page I wrote for its mission the following:

I would like my Small World TB to travel the big world. More specifically, go somewhere out of the United States...somewhere warm...with no snow...and easy access to tropical drinks.

Karyn came around the side of the building long enough to sign the log and snap the photograph you saw at the top. Another cache found!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Getting the nieces involved!

Hunter (with his brothers) and I visited my sister Amanda at her home in Charlevoix. It was the third day of overcast skies but no snow and not so cold temperatures. It was coming back though, predicted to that day actually, but I invited my neices Rayne, 8, and Randi, 7, to go geocaching with Hunter, sister Tiffany, Kit and I. They had no clue what I was talking about, but after explaining it, they decided to give it a try. They ran to their rooms and choose a couple small toys they wouldn't mind passing on. Randi is going to make someone happy with the Beanie Baby she chose! We climbed into my van and entered the coordinates of a cache I had researched before heading their way into my GPS.

The first one was called Sunset Ridge and was located along the shores of Lake Michigan. We didn't have to worry about being sneaky because nobody was on the shores that windy and getting colder by the minute day! As we parked the van over a dilapidated snow bank, it began to snow. I had explained the function of a GPS and we headed down a path, looking for the answer to our hint, Watch Your Steps.

As we followed the numbers in the display, we arrived at the top of steps going down toward the beach. A few steps later and we were just about in line. We just needed to go a bit more to the left....

I climbed to the top of a steep hill and spotted right away what I thought was the hiding place. The girls followed by Hunter climbed joined me and Rayne was the first one to spot what I thought was the hiding place; a pile of sticks underneath a tree who's roots had lifted its base at least six inches above the ground.

Rayne reached under and pulled out what looked like a paint can with a plastic lid. Tiffany opened it up and passed me the log book and handed the bag of goodies to the girls. They made their switches as did Hunter, Tiffany signed the book and we placed it back just the way we found it and ran back to the van to warm ourselves up!
I told the girls I had the coordinates to one more if
they were up to it. They said they were so we
entered them into Richard and repeated the process. He led us to a dead end road next to the cement plant on the lake. We followed a path along the fenced property line and after locating the right spot with the GPS, we fanned out from there and looked around. The hint was, In the Shadow of a Saint. I didn't realize the cement plant had Saint in the name, so we were looking for trees or logs/sticks in the shape of a cross, something like that, but we found nothing. The only thing unnatural we discovered was a large pile of bread.

The girls agreed we could try again and do some others when Hunter and I return in the spring.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Geocaching in Northern Michigan!

Here we are, home for the holiday!

Hunter and I haven't been able to do any caching over the past couple weekends. I made a quick trip up here two weeks ago for a funeral and then we both traveled up here for the holidays and have been busy and enjoying our time with family. But yesterday we teamed up with my sisters Karyn and Tiffany(kcgraham and tifranta) and did one together!

What we chose was unique and one I think I'll create back in Ohio. It's called Shopping and Caching and inolves two steps and only a log book; no trades, so no treasures for Hunter to find. The first set of coordinates took us to a grocery store where I had split the list provided by the cache creator before hand and divided it up amongst Hunter and his two younger cousins, K'ryn and Kyler. Our dad tagged along with us, his first geocaching experience!

Geocaching invloves a bit of stealth, which is very possible inside a grocercy store. However, not so much so when the adults bought groceries the previous day and the only thing intended to take away from the store this trip was the aisle numbers of certain products! To help us fit in a bit more with the shoppers, grandpa grabbed a cart.

On the list were items such as Wheat Thins, Lean Cuisine and Bailey's. Since the children would be doing the looking, I changed the wording around to something they were more likely to understand. Wheat Thins became crackers, Lean Cuisine turned into the kid version and Bailey's, at $21.00 a bottle in this small northern Michigan town, became cheaper botteled water.

Armed with their lists, we went up and down the aisles, calling off products to help them cross of their selections, jotting down each aisle number we found them in. I snapped a few pictures along the way and I'm sure I got more odd looks in my wake!

We left the grocery store in a bubbly rush and
climbed into Karyn's van. Tiffany called off the
items from the list and when the children read from their papers what aisle it was in, Karyn entered the number into the GPS. Then we were off to find the actual cache!

The GPS led us not far from the parent's house.
It looked like the cache was off the walking path.
We decided to go back to the house and get in cold weather gear and pull the younger children in a sled to the end.

We had a couple warm days that packed down the snow and the snowmobiles on the walking trail packed it down even more, making for an easy walk and a great ride for the kids in the sled. My ten pound rat terrier, Kit, came with us as well.

We got to where one half of the coordinates matched our grocery list puzzle and decided to leave grandma with baby Bryce. The rest of us entered the woods in the direction of the other coordinates with hopes of finding the hidden cache.

The snow in the woods wasn't so easy to walk in as the path we left. Devin and Kyler, three and five, kept up with us pretty good with just a little help now and again.

When we got to the river, we didn't know what to do. Our GPS's were saying our destination on the other side of the waterway. Even if it were in the middle of the summer heat, I doubt the cache creator would be sending us across a river...but maybe he would!

We headed back to grandma and Bryce who were lounging in the sleds. We returned pulling the exhausted children back to the house. Karyn sent an inquiry to the cache owner and we're hoping to hear back from them before our return to the U.P., Georgia and Ohio.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Our first multi-cache!

Instead of in one looong blog, I thought I'd post our second find of the day in a seperate entry.

The next one was also a cemetery. I chose the cemeteries because my MIL had showed interest in the old cemetery that was our first cache hunt I told her about. Unfortunately, she was out shooting pheasants with her dog Cody. Maybe I can get her out in the AM tomorrow before her and FIL leave, but I doubt it.

Hunter entered the coordinates into Richard and we were off on our first multi-cache!!

I neglected to mention that during the above both Devin and Bryce were out cold.

Richard took us to an area that is familiar to my hubby. As we approached the old cemetery we saw it was about 200 yards off the main road and on one much bumpier and horribly patched one, we passed two hunters wearing blazing orange coats and carrying rifles bent into V’s over their shoulders. We practiced some stealth by driving by our cache like this was our road and hoping the bumps and shakes wouldn’t wake my sleeping princes. After about a mile I turned around in an open space where two pick up trucks were parked, probably the property of some more hunters in orange, and headed back to the cemetery. Those men had stayed in my rear view mirror for awhile because of their colors, but we didn’t see them anywhere at all as we approached and parked in the grass just before the open gateway in the fence around the place.

There were no hints for this first stage of our first multi-cache. The cache owner said it would most likely be a “cache and dash”, meaning it would be easily found and we’d be on our way. We hoped so!

Since my conversation with my sister yesterday, I now knew how to work Richard more efficiently, so I brought up the screen with the L&L coordinates and placing him on our journal page underneath the printed directions, we watched ourselves get closer to the right spot. We actually ended up back tracking toward the gate. We had walked in a bit once past the entryway but found us going back. Once we were at the coordinates we looked up and found we had two trees, the fence and the gate post before our eyes. We read back through our cache info page in the journal and found the sentence where the cache owner jokes you might need a tool to open this one, but maybe not. Hunter and I agreed you wouldn’t normally use a tool on a tree, so we walked away from them and approached the fence and the gate post. I looked at the base of the post and saw what looked like a cover on it with small screws at the top and bottom. I pushed at it with my finger…and it moved. It was a magnet!

I showed Hunter and he pulled it from the post. It was a solid plate, like one you’d put over an electrical outlet you no longer wanted to use. It was painted black to match the post and on the other side were the coordinates to the second and final stage of this two step trek!

I wrote it down in the notebook and once back in the van Hunter entered it into Richard. Bryce was awake and smiling at us, Dev still asleep with his head hanging down. The next leg was two and a half miles away. Hunter watched for the green arrow and when he saw it, he told me where to turn before Richard. The cache owner didn’t give us much help as to what to expect at this second cache. He said two things. One – Stage two was a non-typical small container and two, Hunter deciphered the hint and it said, Final counter-clock wise.

We found ourselves at another cemetery, this one still in use and looking like it was being expanded at the far side. I parked the van well onto the grounds and left the door open as both Dev and B were awake now. The clue wasn’t very helpful in telling us where to go, but the title of this cache, The Pyre, was. I didn’t know what a pyre was so I had to Google it before we had left. Once I read the definition I recognized what it was, a structure, usually made of wood, for burning a body as part of a funeral rite. Well, there weren’t any crematoriums on the burial grounds and there wasn’t anything in sight where someone might lay a body to burn, but there was a small wooden building at the back near the woods. While walking toward it I kept an eye on Richard, and his W reading was already in agreement with my written coordinates from the cache info page and the N degrees were climbing in the right direction as we approached the building. Once there Hunter and I looked around and on the fence behind the building was what looked like a large bleached candy cane with a screw top on the side. It wasn’t natural to the environment and it was indeed a “non-typical small container”. Hunter grabbed the front square, not unlike the one at the previous cache we checked off our list. I told him by turning it to the left he’d be going counter-clock wise like the hint said. It opened and he pulled out another plastic bag! We had found two in one day. Hooray! Hunter claimed a gold coin and a guitar pick and left an Indian figure and a sea shell from our time at the beach in N.C. in exchange. We folded up the bag, pushed it back into the hole and replaced the top. We walked back to the van and found the boys still warm and safe in their car seats and went home, satisfied with our caching adventure!

Thanks for reading our adventures!

A great hide!

We didn’t know it, but our first cache for today was named appropriately in a couple ways.

Hunter’s grandma couldn’t join us in this adventure. We had gotten off to a late start and after breakfast at the local Amish bakery and restaurant, we parted ways. I took all three boys with me for a caching escapade while Tim, father and mother-in-law boxed up two dogs and climbed into my hubby’s truck in hopes of bringing home a wild game dinner (which I can now say, as I edit this long thing, that they did!).

My MIL thinks I’m Supermom for taking three kids with me, but it’s not really different than any other day! The timing and location was right for a nap. Both Devin and Bryce had full tummies and it was coming up on 12:30 by the time Hunter and I arrived at our first cache coordinates. Both locations would have parking nearby so I wouldn’t have to wander far from my van with the boys inside.

I used Google Earth again and it looked like we would be visiting another cemetery. The Latitude and Longitude showed me a spot in front of what might have been a group of trees or a small building. Google Earth put an X on the sport where there was and intersection of one road that crosses three roads in the memorial park, so I didn’t think I’d need Richard much and I was right. Phew! LOL

Hunter entered the coordinates and we were off. Before Richard told us to turn, we could see where we were going. It was a long cemetery right off the main road of a small town with a bridge further down. I entered using the middle roadway and slowly drove past the markers on either side, some honored with flowers, some wreaths and some plants. We could see in the distance that where we needed to go was actually a group of four well groomed evergreen shrubs in the shape of the top half of an octagon with a flag pole in the center. The flag on top was limp and unmoving on this 38 degree, sunny day.

Placed at an angle in front of the foremost bush were two stone benches with tops polished so fine we could see the reflection of the clouds in the sky above. The flat, horizontal surface of the bench face was engraved with For God and Country. The other bench held a smaller print but lengthier message. It told us both benches were donated by a family. At the base of the flag pole was a plaque flush with the ground that said it was dedicated to a certain soldier, same name as family who donated the benches, lost in battle and other soldiers who didn’t come home as well. It was a very nice tribute and somewhere around there was a cache we needed to check!

Hunter read the hint, How low can you go? How low indeed. We found out by squatting down in front of the benches and could see under them and the nearest bushes. Hunter got up first and said he was going to check the back. I went to the side and was getting down again to see under the second set of bushes when Hunter said, I think I found something. He was turned sideways between the two back bushes, reaching toward the ground. It was a close fit; each bush on his front and back were pressing their firm but soft dark green finger width branches into his coat, making a light scratching sound against it.

I asked him what he saw and he said it was white and in the ground and that he couldn’t pick it up. Did it have a twist lid? I asked. Yes, he said, but I can’t get it open. Hunter has pretty weak hands, so I let him back out and I reached in there and saw a white square molded onto a white circle underneath a dusting of branches from the bushes around us. I brushed them aside and knew this was our geocache, although it lacked the sticker we saw back at the fire department. I told Hunter he found it, that all but the top is underground. I began twisting the top off and than backed away to let my son finish.

He eagerly bent back into the embrace of the sweet scented evergreens and finished removing the top and then backed blindly out again with another wrinkled plastic bag in his hand. He opened it and handed me the log book which was cold and damp with a pencil that was too wet to give me enough of a tip to write with. I pulled the pen from our journal and signed our name, The Cache Checkers with today’s date. Hunter took two items, a mini Rubic’s Cube and a bouncy ball and left a small gorilla and elephant figures from his purple sack.

While we were bent over our hoards we heard a rumbling sound getting louder and louder. I poked my head up thinking the tank we passed inside the fence at the nearby Army Reserve was coming down the paved path. Then the growl became a roar as a train appeared between the trees at the edge of the cemetery. We bent back down to our work and then Hunter sealed the bag, put it back into the cache and I screwed on the top and scattered the branches back over it. What a great hide!

Friday, November 28, 2008

An after Thanksgiving Day Cache

I hope you all had a terrific Thanksgiving! My in-laws came down to spend the holiday with us. Before their arrival I had spoken with my mother-in-law about going geocaching. She has witnessed people searching for these hidden treasures in our hometown and knows someone there who hides and seeks herself. So yesterday after we re-cooperated from stuffed tummies with a good night’s sleep, Hunter, Linda and I set off for two cache’s I had chose and Hunter deciphered.

It was a chilly 34 degrees when we headed out late in the morning. Richard was on and directing us from his suction cupped windshield mount. Linda rode shotgun while Hunter was behind me with the journal and his soft purple sack. At this cache we would see a big water tower sandwiched between a small park and some houses. A parking lot was mentioned in the cache description, but Richard brought us to a dead end residential street. We could see the water tower, but it wasn’t until we parked my van and walked down a black topped path to the park did we see the parking lot described.

This cache was categorized as small and we read it would be a small coffee container that would be hidden on the ground. While we approached the water tower from the narrow dirt road leading away from the parking lot, I asked Hunter to read the coded hint he deciphered the night before. He said,

“Water, water every where, nor any drop to drink. Look for where the water tower gets its energy.”

OK. Obviously the water tower gets its energy from the small burnt orange colored shed sized building at the face of the tower, just in front of the first leg supports. A barbed wire fence began at the sides of the shed and outlined the water tower in a long rectangle. I put Richard in my pocket, thinking I wouldn’t need him anymore. We were here, now we just had to use our eyes….

We had 3 pairs of eyes looking for this one. We were a little leery though because there were warning signs on the door of the shed and no trespassing signs on the property lines of the houses next to the tower. We probably guessed correctly when we talked of past geocachers crossing into someone’s back yard while looking for the cache hidden among the trees and fallen logs between the tower and the houses. We looked for probably twenty five minutes, but didn’t find it. Thinking back we probably should have dug through the leaves more next to that building than we did, but our fingers were cold. I forgot to bring a garbage bag, but Hunter collected some empty potato chip bags and other wrappers and put them in the trash cans inside the park.

We returned to the van disappointed, but we still had one to go!

Hunter entered the Latitude and Longitude into Richard. From reading the cache entry we just attempted, I learned there was another cache less than a mile from our current location. If it had been a bit warmer and I had a better handle on what my GPS was capable of, we probably could have walked. Instead we warmed ourselves back up inside the van and obeyed Richard’s commands.

Richard is a helpful and effective machine, however, his knowledge is roads. The destination of our second cache was described as Regular size and hidden at the end of a dead end street called Heather Lane. We were told to drive to the end and the cache wouldn’t be far from the road, not far off a dirt path next to a park the path passes by. Well, Richard brought us to the end of a Cul-de-sac, Cricket Lane, and told us where we wanted to go was through the yard and past two houses and just beyond a weathered split rail fence. You can’t really tell a machine that walking across someone’s yard without permission was a no-no! LOL We could see the woods and the park beyond the fence, so we back tracked a bit and found Heather Lane and smiled at the dead end before us with a path to the left.

The original cache, placed in early February of this year, was all golf oriented. In the beginning it contained golf balls, tee’s, divet fixer and a Grand River Academy coaster. We weren’t expecting to find any of those items left, if we found the cache at all. Don’t count us out yet!

As we walked down the beaten path we came up to a small wooden bridge that arched across a shallow ravine with a bit of ice amongst all the frozen mud below us. I wanted to catch this moment digitally. My MIL was eager to pose with Hunter, but Hunter, as you can see in this picture, wasn’t thrilled with the idea of stopping. He wanted to find that cache!

Just like before, he read us the hint he deciphered, the longest one so far:

“Two paths diverged in the wood and I took the one less traveled by and that made all the difference. From the park turn left, from the street turn right. The ground is a little bumpy around this one.”

We came up to where there was a fork in the road but they both appeared the same, one didn’t look less traveled by than the other. Since we came from the street we turned right and started walking slowly, looking for anything unnatural like a pile of stones or branches crisscrossed. After about ten minutes, when we had walked around the small wooded area and approached the park, I determined that I would need Richard and I headed back to the van. We came up to the park and saw that the path we had begun to walk on was paved and the one that went into the woods, the one we had been on, was dirt packed and littered with leaves, stones and broken, “…the one less traveled by…”. So after I got the GPS from the van, we met at the split and took the path back into the woods.

During this time a tall woman had appeared on the path. She crossed the bridge with her arm held out and at first I thought she was the Hider or even a Seeker pointing out the way to us, but then I saw the chubby dachshund who was leading her, decked out in a Christmas sweater with a pocket on his back. I wanted to ask her what her dog kept in his pocket, but instead I answered her question honestly and said, We’re geocaching. I knew from her dumbfounded look she was a Muggle, a term used after a non geocacher looks puzzled when befriending a geocacher searching for a cache. I explained it was a scavenger hunt with GPS systems. She smiled and nodded, saying she had heard of that. She also said she and Rufus (I don’t think that’s the dog’s real name…) come to that park twice a day, six days a week and she hadn’t seen anything and he hdsn’t sniffed anything out. I think if she had heard of geocaching she’d know that it wouldn’t be where just anyone would see and no dog would be interested in it because no food items are allowed. Play-Doh is even on the Do Not Use list because apparently raccoons think it’s a treat. She and her warm and cozy dog carried on and the three of us put our eyes back to the ground.

My plan was to watch the coordinates on Richard’s screen (what I should have done at the first cache) and get us close to the L&L given for this one. Unfortunately, I hadn’t finished my homework. I still didn’t know how to use the walking directions yet and gosh darn it, my L&L were presented in the wrong format! I played with it a little bit while Hunter and his grandma continued a slow trek through the woods, looking for anything that would be an X for a geocacher. I was impatient and called my sister Karyn in Georgia. She was actually just about to head out in search of her own cache. She was very helpful and did all the work for me. When I said goodbye, I knew I was going to get an A+ because Richard was now talking on the screen in a language I could understand!

I called out to Hunter and my MIL. I got it now! I told them. I showed Hunter what I was watching for, comparing what Richard had displayed to what we had printed in our journal of where the cache was hidden. GPS’s can be up to 10 feet or so off, so when we got close to the correct coordinates, I stopped looking at Richard and told my fellow finders to now start looking for something “not right” or holes, something that you would consider hiding something in. My MIL was already looking, intent of making the best out of her first day of geocaching. Hunter had returned his attention to the small items he carried with him, but when I told him we were close, he began to look as well.

Linda spotted a large pile of snow covered fallen logs and had gone around to the other side. Then she called out that she found it and Hunter and I ran and stood next to her. I let Hunter look for himself, although he was trying to look in-between logs packed on top of each other. MIL suggested he look more to the left and he put his face level with a hole the size of a basketball and he said, I think I see something! He pulled out a large plastic coffee can covered in silver duct
tape. This one didn’t have a Geocache sticker on it, but how it looked, where we found it, and the discovery after Hunter pried off the gold lid and pulled out a wrinkled plastic bag, told us it was the hidden cache! There wasn’t all that many tradable items in there, but as Hunter took a red barrel monkey and left a glow in the dark dinosaur, I wrote our geocacher username and the date in the small log book. I checked that the lid was on water tight and Hunter put it back in as he had found it. Our second successful find and we were so glad to have grandma with us!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Success in the cold!

We did it! We have finally found our first hidden geocache!

Before I tell you about our triumph, we first went to one of the two we couldn't find last weekend. Since last time, I've perused the's forums and re-discovered a handy little free computer program I already have on my computer called Google Earth. With this I can literally fly anywhere I want, with either a physical address or using the laditude and longitude for geocaching!

So I copied and pasted the coordinates from this elusive cache and Hunter pressed the Enter button on the keyboard. We zoomed acrossed our computer screen north east of our house and a little box ressembing the target on an arcade shooting game soon focused on a spot closer to the road and to the right of where Hunter and I were looking the first time. We wrote that in our traveling journal and then entered the coordinates of our second hope to find of the day and saw an overhead view of an intersection and some buildings, two with good sized parking lots. Google Earth doesn't know what the buildings are, but that small box gave us the general area and what side of the road it would be on.

When I told my hubby about using Google Earth, he chortled that it was cheating, but I disagree. Maybe if I pick up a more geocaching friendly GPS device I'll say it's deceiving to use Google Earth because that type of GPS will lead you to within just a few feet of the hidden cache. My particular system is meant for driving, not walking. I'm still trying to figure out the features so until I get used to it, Google Earth is my friend and Hunter was impressed with how quick we could zip from one place to another like a super hero.

My hubby's four wheel drive truck was the last parked in the driveway, blocking our one car garage where my van stays dry and snow free. He agreed we could take his pride and wet dog smelling joy after promising we'd fill his tank before he quickly closed the door behind us. (Was he so fast to keep out the cold or was he grinning like a cat about to pounce because I was taking with me the one remaining child that was awake?? :) )

We went to the cache we failed to get last weekend first. Since that attempt we've gotten a foot of snow but we were dressed for the change of weather. The only thing in the area Google Earth showed us was a telephone pole with a small electrical box on the side. We trudged through the snow and avoided riding on our backsides into the ditch between us and the road. Once again we assaulted the area with our eyes and brushed at the snow with our gloved hands, but we didn't find anything. I asked Hunter if he though maybe the cache owner removed this one when the weather got cold. I've read that many cache's are simple Rubbermaid or Glad containers that are inexpensive and easy to use, but although they do a great job in the warmer months, they crack and leak when the snow flies. So I've sent an email to the owner and asked if he could check that the cache is still there.

There is a way to plan a route with Richard, our GPS, but I haven't figured that out yet, so Hunter typed in the coordinates and Richard took us a to the next cache in a completely different way than I would have gone had I not had an electronic map in my possession. Even though the snow had stopped earlier this morning and the main roads were wet but snow free, the route we set off on was mostly back roads made narrower by snowplows who passed through once, never to return. With a flick of my wrist I was able to initiate the four wheel drive. We passed quite a few Amish buggies and I commented on the branches of the trees above us dropping clumps of snow as we drove by underneath. Hunter spends a lot of time focused on what's in his hands and not what is out the window.

Before we set off we read up on this second attempt of the day. What attracted me to this one was what I read in the online log by previous finders. This cache was put together by some firemen and was within walking distance of their building. It seemed unlikey to be buried by snow and was described as "creative", "cool" and that finding this particular one made someone's day.

After driving eleven miles in about 20 minutes, Richard announced we had arrived. Hunter and I looked around and saw the fire department on our left. We didn't want to park nearby because, as noted in the cache details, it was a high muggle area. Across the street was a library. Perfect! We parked the truck and put our hats and gloves back on. In my pocket my camera was ready and Hunter clenched in his hand our purple sack full of trade items.

The clue was, If you were a dalmation, this would be a pit stop. Well, a dalmation is a dog and a "pit stop" could be a tree, post, mailbox, just about anything a dog could pee on. However, since this was created by firemen, Hunter came to the correct conclusion that it was probably a fire hydrant. We immediately saw one to the right of the fire hall, in front of a split rail fence. We crossed the street and casually walked by, studying it. Geocaching involves a bit of stealth because you don't want anyone to see what you're doing. We were in a small town about 2:30 on a Saturday. There were a few cars going by, but no people in sight. I gave Hunter the all clear and he started brushing off snow on the top while I cleared away some at the bottom.

When I first looked at this fire hydrant, I did notice it's shiny red paint job, like it had just received a fresh coat and thought it curious that it was more symmetrical than your typical fire hydrant. It also had four protrusions on the main body; two on the sides and one each on the front and back. The top was round but flat with a lip around it with a thin small linked chain attatched to the middle top that hung down the back where it was joined there as well. We stepped back and I made Hunter continue walking with me so we wouldn't attract attention. We looked for other hydrants as we walked to the end of the block, crossed the street and headed back the way we came. We didn't see any other dog, more specifically, dalmation, friendly items, so we crossed the street again and back to the hydrant.

I was still five feet or so from it when I saw a small spot of yellow on the front piece. I looked closer and it said "geocache". This was it! It suddenly hit me that this wasn't a real, working, fire hydrant, but actually a clever copy made to be a cache! I pulled and I twisted at the piece with the sticker and Hunter did the same to the sides. I looked back at the top and the chain seemed to make perfect sense then! I positioned my fingers under that lip and with a bit of force I popped the top off with a soft hissing sound and the chain caught and held the lid from hitting the ground.

Since this was our first find, my intention was to let Hunter discover and open the cache, but in my excitement to find it myself, I opened it. Hunter was the first to see inside though and his face just lit up like a child first laying eyes on the treasure under the Christmas tree. This cache was as deep as a fire hydrant is wide and it had quite a few small objects which Hunter immediately started sorting through. On top of it all was a small log book zipped securely in a plastic bag. While Hunter pushed around a truck wheel, a fireman figurine and a map of an Ohio park, I pulled out the pen, notated the date and wrote what a great cache this was and how creative and fun it was to find. I signed it The Cache Checkers and as I fumbled to get the notebook back into the cold baggie I told Hunter to make his choice because we didn't want to stay much longer in the cold in front of a fire hydrant with the top off next to a main road! Hunter grabbed some Silly Putty in a red egg and left behind a ball that looks like an eye.

Excited and satisfied with such a resourceful and imaginative cache, we returned to the truck and back to the house. Oh, and we didn't forget to get gasoline so hubby wouldn't be left out in the cold!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Darn! Still no luck!

Even though it's finally feeling like November here, Hunter and I attempted a different cache today. It was another Micro, (thumping myself on the head), but I had already put it in our journal and it just seemed so simple....

Now I've learned my lesson. Before I did, Hunter entered a new set of coordinates into Richard and off we went. Before he even said we had arrived I knew we were in the right place. The cache owner warned of a washed out area by the driveway of a racetrack he frequents. This particular one was called Sign O' the Times. Once again Hunter worked out our clue. It said, "It's in the name."

The first thing we saw was a big sign with the name of the race track. Behind it was a weathered split rail fence and further on a tight corner of a dirt race track banded tightly by a long even mound of truck tires. To the right were two mobile homes. The cache owner also noted that the people living nearby, referred to as muggles, knew of the existince of this cache.

I reminded Hunter we were looking for something no bigger than a film canister He took the right, I took the left and then we switched. Together we looked up, behind and on the ground. We also looked in the holes of the split rail fence behind the sign.

After no results we stood back and analized the sign. We asked ourselves, If we were the hiders, where would WE put it? I looked again at the back of the sign, in the area between the flaking, unpainted plywood flipside and the wooden supports. Hunter looked under the rocks by the leg braces. Still nothing.

I didn't take any pictures this time. I admit I was disappointed we didn't find it, but I said for my and Hunter's benifit, This is only our second one on our second day. Don't give up!

Hopefully before next weekend I will have heard from the two cache creators we can't check off in our journal. I'm also going to send out inquiring emails to find out which caches are possible to find once the snow sticks to the ground.

Have a great week!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

We struck out on our first one!

I made a newbie mistake (which I didn't realize it was until later), when I chose which caches Hunter and I would seek out first. The website my sister shared with me listed hidden caches in increasing order; nearest one to my zip code and out. I printed the information for the first four and put them in our journal. Hunter deciphered the hints and we packed the journal, GPS, digital camera, some water and a garbage bag into a back pack.

At the top of each infomation page about a cache you want to seek out are some images. There are pictures of the type of caches you'll be hunting. This one was a Regular, but there are also Multi, Earth and Unknowns. The other symbols are the size of the cache. They can be micro, small, regulare and large. The last symbols are ratings for difficulty and terrain. These are measured by stars and the more stars filled out in orange out of five, the harder the cache is to find.

The first cache I chose for Hunter and I was the first one listed on my search page. There is room for a description and other information on the search page. The creator said it was inside an old historic cemetary and at the top, or so I thought, of a park with cliffs and waterfalls.

When we woke this morning, well, it wasn't exactly the best weather to be outdoors! The weatherman had predicted 100% chance of rain and it was already raining when I looked out the windows about 8:00 AM. We waited and we waited. Finally about 2:00 it was only a sprinkle so Hunter and I grabbed our bag and got in the van.

Hunter entered the coordinates into Richard. We had to disobey at first because this darn detour is still going by our house! Richard finally caught on that we weren't turning around, so he recalculated and stopped repeating himself.

When we reached the road I beleived we'd be turning on, Richard hadn't given me a heads up yet. I was confused and dialed my hubby as I complained to Hunter that I should have written down the alternate GPS coordinates that were on the website. Even with the new ones I got from that conversation, Richard still told us we should keep going. Oooookkkkk.

So we continued on another mile and a half and then he told us to turn right. We did and he almost immediatley said we had reached our destination. I saw a house a little bit further on the right, but on the left we spotted grave markers. Have faith in Richard!

We pulled into the small area next to the cemetary. I grabbed my camera and Hunter put Kit on her leash. I thought we'd be going to a different area that dogs were allowed and didn't think about keeping Kit in the van while we walked through a cemetary. I realize now we were being disrespectful, but at the time we were eager to find our first cache.

It had stopped raining on the drive, but once inside the cemetary and its outline of thick trees, the wind blew rain down on our heads. The ground was wet and sticky with limp leaves, but we started our search. Many of the grave markers were unreadable. The last date we found was the late 1800's. Some headstones were so low to the ground and faded, they appeared as small boulders. Only the worn corners and their symmetrical placement hinted of their story.

The clue Hunter and deciphered earlier in the week said, "Centrally located oak". There were two clusters of six trees, three in each grouping, in the middle of the graveyard. I can't recognize a tree by its bark and with all the leaves gone from these particular ones, I could only guess they were what we saught. Being the only trees in the middle we focused on them. Hunter and I hunkered down and picked through the leaves. We looked for holes covered by loose wood, stones in a pile, and for anything hanging on the bare branches. We saw nothing. We looked at some of the trees along the outline of the grounds, but after just a few minutes we agreed they weren't centrally located.

Last weekend I had sent an email to the cache owner and said his cache, Ledgetop on the Spirit Trail, was going to be our first. I asked him for any helpful info on caching in general. He shared a lot of information with me and even passed on his cell phone number to call if we needed any help. So I went back to the van and took him up on his adventure. I know it was cheating but I didn't want to go home empty handed and the wind was picking up. With it being our first one, we weren't sure what we were looking for.

He didn't answer his phone so Hunter and I looked a little longer, spreading out from the central trees, a total search time of about 30 minutes. In the end we didn't go home empty handed! We headed back to the van in a head on wind with a couple beer bottles in our garbage bag!

I have since searched through the forums about geocaching and have found that Micro (the size of a film canister), which this cache is described to be, aren't easy for newbies to find, especially when they are concealed with camoflauged tape! I also read that some cache hiders position sticks in a teepee foundation to mark their hiding spot. After reading that I remembered the right group of trees did have four or five thin, broken limb, leaning against each other in the center of the cluster. Hmmm. Maybe Hunter and I will return this week. It won't matter that Dev and B are with us. They can stay in the van while we walk the twenty feet or so to that potential marker.

Hunter and I discussed how geocaching is like learning a new game. There are new rules to remember and new skills to learn before we can earn the congratulations and check off a cache find in our journal. As with everything Hunter does, he needs a bit of coaxing. I have faith that once he finds his first cache and discovers the small treasures inside he can leave or exchange, I think this just might be something he and I can do together over the years.


Friday, November 7, 2008

Geocaching as a new hobby.

Hello all.

I've created this seperate blog as a way to share with you our geocaching adventures. Before leaving for our weekend in Hocking Hills, my wonderful hubby gave me a TomTom GPS system. My sister Karyn later picked up her own GPS, same make and model as mine, and told me about her discovering of geocaching while online researching her unit.

I started looking into this interesting version of hide and seek and decided that not only would it be fun for me because I love scavenger hunts, but I think it might be something for Hunter and I to do together. We both enjoy watching movies, reading and computer games, but I've been striking out in getting him to do more active and outdoor activities.

When I approached him about it, I described it as treasure hunting with Richard (what we call our GPS unit). I also said that once a cache is found, we can pick and choose any one of a few to many small items to trade for another small item we bring with us. Hunter has a TON of small things scattered throughout his bedroom. We took the small soft, deep purple draw string bag that his father's Crown Royale whiskey came in and deposited marbles, a dice, a Chuck E. Cheese token, an army and an indian man, lizard, spider, glow in the dark dinosaur and other similar items, into it.

We also made a journal, seperate from the cache logbooks we'd be adding our names to, to track our progress and log memories. Not only is it our own personal record of our adventures, but it's a way for Hunter to practice his printing. Inside this yellow notebook we pasted cache information of our choice from the website. In our own hand we'd pen in the hints, if any, that we had to decipher and after our search was complete, we'd write in our observations one there and our geocaching experience.

Before we did all this though, we had to come up with a name. I wrote down a list of synonyms and we picked through the list, listening for what sounded good. We both agreed on The Cache Checkers.

So, here's something more for you all to read, like I don't already overwhelm you! We're going to attempt our first find next weekend and hope to do two each on Saturday and Sunday.

Until then!

Yolanda and Hunter