Thursday, February 3, 2011

Reflections on Time and Geocaching

With each day of freedom that passes, I often get definite feelings on whether I spent the day well or not.  I'm applying for jobs, and finally was contacted for that volunteer position, so my free time will begin shrinking soon.  I want to thank everyone for offering their opinions on which photographs were best in my last post.  It helps me decide which photos to use in my photography portfolio and what kind of changes to make.  I knew after looking at most of the photos that I should have ignored the freezing temperatures and taken the time to use the tripod with the levels instead of the monopod.  Anyway, I did stop and try to find a couple of geocaches during my photography expedition. 

But, again, I got that feeling that I was wasting my time.  I abandoned both searches and continued driving around looking for old barns.  Later that night I was reviewing the geocache website and smiling over evidence that a handful of geocachers in my area have been competing against each other to be the FTF (first to find) a new geocache. 

Apparently, these people are diehards who have the website set up to send them emails when new geocaches are planted, and then they drop everything and race out to find it before anyone else.  I suspect they receive the emails on their smart phones and use the GPS on their smart phones too.  Anyway, it was kind of humorous reading their comments about trying to beat the others.  Now they are all busy planting multiple new geocaches on the same day just to drive the others crazy, and probably to distract them from going after other new geocaches that are being planted at the same time, thus increasing their own chances of becoming the FTF. 

I thought, "This could be fun, if I could just figure out how the game works."  I've said it before.  I suck at geocaching.  I couldn't understand how my GPS could take me right to the exact spot where the geocache was planted, and I could look high and low, dig through bushes, turn over every stone, feel up fence posts, and still not find them.  I'd assume that someone muggled the geocache.  Then two days later someone else would record that they found it, and (burn) "it was an easy find."

So, I started searching the Internet for pictures of geocaches and quickly discovered my problem.  I was searching for sandwich boxes and ammo cases while geocachers love to plant items that blend into the landscape, such as fake stones with secret openings, fake branches with corks or screw off tops, fake garbage with corks or screw off tops, all kinds of magnetic metal canisters or boxes that can be stuck underneath common man-made landmarks, etc.  They hide them inside fence posts and hang them from trees.  They bury pipes underground.  They really make you work for it.

Some even put a scrolled up log to sign in fake dog poo.  This new knowledge doesn't mean I'm planning on going around picking up dog poo to see if it is real or fake.  I only pick up my own dogs' poo because I know where it came from... which is probably good reason to not pick it up, but I am a responsible pet owner and I care about the environment.

I noticed the difficulty ratings on the geocaching website and saw that I had been searching for some of the most difficult finds.  I also saw that the planter indicates what size their geocache is.  I don't know why I didn't notice those indicators before.  Most people don't post spoilers after they've found a cache, so it's safe to review all the comments before you go hunt, because they may just save you some time.  I saw one geocache in my old neighborhood and based on the description, I knew exactly where it was.  I was planning on looking for it today, but then read in the comments that the last six people to search for it couldn't find it, and one person brought in another person who had previously found it, and that person said it is not longer there.  It had been muggled. 

Also, just because a geocache is listed in the database one week doesn't mean it will be listed in the next week, so I have to check the database within a few hours before I leave on a hunt.  Muggles are all around.

I started thinking about this one inherent difference between letterboxes and geocaches.  (I found out that there are letterbox/geocache hybrids too.)  Letterboxing involves following clues to reach the general location where the box is hidden.  Once you reach that location, it's usually pretty obvious where the box is hidden.  For instance, I followed a series of paces in different directions and was told that X marks the spot.  I looked around me and saw nothing but trees and boulders.  I studied the boulders, expecting to find graffiti, but didn't.  I moved around until I realized that from one angle, the trunks of two trees crossed each other, forming an X.  The letterbox was hidden between their two trunks.

Geocaching isn't so much about finding the location, because they give you the exact GPS coordinates.  It's all about knowing the tricks that people use to hide the treasure.  Because I wasn't aware of these tricks, I failed to find the majority of caches and felt like my time was wasted.  However, now that I've educated myself, I'll give it another try and hopefully find some new locations to do photo shoots along the way.


Rebecca said...

There is a cache near my work, supposedly hidden in a park. I have gone over there at least 5 times and looked for it, I think it has been muggled as well. The website says it is blatantly obvious to find, but I can't find it. So instead of admitting outloud it may be a side effect from being blonde, I will just tell myself it has been removed. :)

lytha said...

wonderful post, i had to laugh, when i first heard about geocaching i said "i'll never do that, it's totally stupid, the coordinates that tell you where the thing is!!! how can that be a challenge?" (i was very into orienteering at the time which uses maps and compasses only, (and horses) which i considered worthwhile!)

then i started geocaching and dang it, it's hard. the coordinates bounce around if you have trees or buildings nearby, or even if you don't, and sometimes the owner doesn't give the best coordinates so you're basically all out there guessing.

i LOVE those camouflaged caches, they are the very best! when you are looking right at it and don't even know it's the cache. i hid a pipe underground, but it got muggled. (the top was showing, it's not legal to completely bury a cache.) recently i found a "hide-a-key sprinkler head" (fake sprinkler head) and i can't wait to hide next to my street. hide-a-key rocks are rough, we've got some of those upstairs waiting to be hidden. the hide-a-poo, no thanks!

my man just bought a large metallic strip that he is gonna attach to a bus stop shelter if he can match the paint color. that should be a tricky one.

but i have to ask, do you know about multi caches and puzzle caches? they don't give you the coordinates, you have to solve a puzzle or follow clues. i like multis because it's a great way to see many historical places in one outing. my husband loves puzzles because he's a math teacher and loves a good mind bender (solving the puzzle gives you the coords.)

and to be honest, we bring along the prior log entries (in an ipod) so that if we cannot find it, we can read what others say. sometimes they give it away with their wording (or if they say "wow that was tricky!" it helps). i start to get really annoyed if we spend forever searching, and then we look at the ipod and it has several Did Not Finds, agh, what are we doing here then!?

here in germany there are so many geocachers, i think that soon there will be no such thing as a muggle.

Rising Rainbow said...

Sounds like you have more information now to help you be successful. I hope that works for you since it sounds like this is something you would like to pursue.

Nuzzling Muzzles said...

Lytha - I haven't looked into any multi-caches or puzzle caches yet, but they sound interesting. At first I was just trying to find the ones closest to home, and now I'm trying to find ones that will take me out in the boonies away from people, but still close to home.

achieve1dream said...

Don't give up! Now that you know what to look for you should have better luck. :)

Janie said...

Good luck with all of that! That's a great way to get out of the house, and I hope you find some great places to take pictures.

I can never find them. It doesn't help that it isn't very popular around here, but it seems people like to say they listed them but they really didn't, because I keep seeing people complaining that it isn't there.