Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Geocache Launch Party Video

Followers of my blog will remember that last Saturday I attended an event where cacher e6c with the help of several others, launched a geocache 100,000ft into the air via a weather balloon, and recovered it from its landing spot. (the post covering my experience is here).

The following is a video of the flight, which was recorded by HeadHardHat.  So without further ado, I present to you - a geocache in space:

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Geocaching Launch Party

 Today I had one of the most interesting and unique experiences in my geocaching career, for today  I witnessed a geocache get launched into space. (Ok, ok ok, so technically not actual space, but it did go pretty high up - it is just cooler to say "in space" than "low earth inner-orbital flight")

I attended an event called Geocaching In Space "L.E.I.F." MMXII Launch Party ( GC3M45Z) at a local airport in Carthage NC, about 3 hours from my house.  The basic idea is that a group of cachers attached a geocache (and a bunch of cameras) to a weather balloon and release it.  When the balloon reaches approx, 100,000ft it pops (by design), and the geocache floats down to earth on a parachute, and lands... somewhere.  The cache can then be hunted down and signed.

The geocache's flight was tracked via a GPS tracking device, so its location is broadcast to the cache owners during flight, and when it lands.  During the flight the current location of the cache would be relayed to the cachers via text messages, so we could all track it to the landing zone, locate the cache, and sign the log.

At 3:30pm they released the balloon, and in just a couple minutes it ascended into the great blue yonder and disappeared from sight.  The entire flight was expected to take about 2 hours (one hour up, one down), and it would take an hour before the first tracking data would be distributed, so most of the cachers headed off to do what cachers do best: eat.  Specifically we headed to the airports local restaurant, the Pik'n'Pig, for some food, cheer, and trail stories.

Where the cache lands depends entirely on the wind patterns in the area.  This is actually the second time they launched a geocache, and the last time the cache travelled over 100 miles and ended up in the north east corner of the state.  Because I was already 3 hours away from home, and the winds would carry the cache farther away, I was not sure if I could go on the 'chase' to retrieve the cache.  If it went as far as it did the last time, I couldn't go on the chase.

So it was with bated breath that I waited the hour to get the first location data, and an idea of how far the cache may be travelling (luckily I had chicken wings to distract me).  When the first coords came in, it was still in the air, but just 8 miles away.  So I piled into the van and headed off to those coordinates (the logic being that, although the cache wouldn't be there, I'd be 8 miles closer to its eventual landing spot).

For the next hour I received updated coordinates as to the cache's current location, and I drove from coord to coord, chasing down the rapidly falling geocache.  Eventually it landed and we all ended up in a muddy, grassy lot just south of Fayetteville.  The cache travelled about 38 linear miles.

As I was driving to GZ a severe thunderstorm rolled through the area.  And by severe, I mean downed trees, tree litter all over the roads, hail, winds, torrential rains - the works.  So the area was quite soaked by the time we started hunting for the cache.  (Think the movie Twister without the funnel clouds and floating cattle)

So as you can imagine the landing location is not planned, so it could land literally anywhere.  My good fortune of landing close by was traded off by it having landed in the middle of the largest briar patch I have ever seen.

From the closest parking, the cache was 0.28 miles away.  Between us and it was a solid wall of the worst kudzu, sticky vines, blackberry bushes, and ever other sort of evil bush that North Carolina has to offer.  Lucky for us it was also now drenched in water from the storm.

I teamed up with some cachers, and we blazed a trail through the briars, and what seemed like a long death march later (0.28 miles is a short stroll through a park, but when you can't see more than 10ft in front of you for most of the journey, it feels like an eternity) we finally ended up at ground zero.

We were, however,  among the first cachers to show up and sign the log.  They are going to leave the cache where it fell and make it a proper traditional cache, so soon you will be able to sign the log too.

They had cut up the remnants of the balloon and handed out pieces of it as souvenirs for the cachers that made that trek in to find it.  It was, by far, the hardest bushwhacking that I have ever done, by a long shot.  It felt amazing, almost victorious, to finally get my hands on that cache and sign that log book.

We stood around for a few minutes, took some pictures, and talked about our adventure, then we headed back to our cars.  As is typical in these sorts of things, the trek out was easier, as a cacher had located a deer trail that led to the nearby highway, so we took that trail, and walked along the clearcut highway shoulder back to parking.

I then drove the 4 hours back home.  Utterly exhausted and wet to the core I dragged myself into the house.

This was, definitely, hands down, no question, one of the most interesting and amazing geocaching experiences of my life. When I look back on the day, I can honestly say that it felt like science in action. It felt like a reality show.  It felt like a grand adventure.

It felt like geocaching.

Friday, June 22, 2012

An Artist At Work

A few weeks ago we checked out the Blues Festival in downtown Lenoir NC.  While we were checking out a performance, Zeke got his hands on some sidewalk chalk.

While his parents and sister rocked out to some really excellent live blues music, he proceeded to chalk up a large portion of the patio in front of the Lenoir square band stand.

Toddlers tend to not have large attention spans, but when they focus on something, it is intense.

So I give you, snapshots of a toddler artist producing his masterpiece.

As you can see, he really got into his work, and his work all over him.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Fathers Day: Avian Highway Edition

1400th find.
Yesterday I came home to find that my wife and Zeke made me a Fathers Day cake (detailed on her blog here).  It looked unintentionally Seussian, but it was really delicious.

She then asked me what I wanted for Fathers Day.  My first thought was a Porsche 911 Turbo.  She sadly said "nay nay".  My second choice was to go geocaching with the family and getting my 1400th find milestone.  This she agreed too (and got her many extra wifey points)

So after church this morning we piled into the Geocaching Van Of Destiny (it always makes things more adventuresome if you name things this way - try it!) and drove for 90 minutes to to the Cowans Ford Wildlife Refuge in Mecklenburg County North Carolina to tackle the Avian Highway power trail.

A power trail is a series of caches that are placed together just over 528ft away (the minimum distance between physical caches according to the Groundspeak cache placement guidelines).

Normally I don't do a lot of power trails, but this one was short, just 12 caches (barely a power trail at all - more like the 9v battery of power trails), and along a really nice stretch of dirt road, so it seemed like a great way to kill some time and hit a milestone.

1400 looks kinda like this.
My 1400th cache was the 5th cache along the "highway", and was a red bison tube hanging on a tree.  It took us about 45 minutes to do the entire highway, and I had a great time along the way.

At the end of the highway is an observation deck, where we stopped to kill some time, feed Abigail, get Zeke a cache that I had found previously, and give my wife a chance to try out her new camera tripod.

Once we finished there we went over to the Latta Plantation, a nature park a couple miles to the east, to snag a few more caches.  We then headed back home to get some much needed child nap times.

All told I snagged 17 caches today, and spend some quality time with the family.  Not a bad way to spend a Fathers Day.

I'll leave you with some more pictures from the day, including those two little humans that call me dad.

Saturday, June 09, 2012

World Wide Flash Mob IX

Yours Truly heading into action.
Today we participated in a World Wide Flash Mob.

A World Wide Flash Mob is a global geocaching event that was started by Sonny and Sandy from the Podcacher podcast 9 years ago. It was an attempt to create the opposite of a mega event.  Instead of thousands of geocachers getting together in one place for an entire day or weekend, they meet for just 15 minutes at the same time, in small groups, around the world.

Last year almost ten thousand people attended the event in over 200 flash mobs in 25 countries.  This year there are 312 events in 31 countries planned (including events in 48 states, and all 10 Canadian provinces), so the attendance should be higher still.

The idea of a flash mob is that it lasts just 15 minutes.  People suddenly show up, do a specific planned activity, then 15 minutes later they disperse as quickly as they arrived - thats the flash.

Tonka Tyke rushes into the fray.
Our event was called Water Gun Frozen In Time.  The theme was a water gun fight in a small park in the middle of a shopping complex near Asheville NC (think a village green and you'll get a good idea what the park is like).  A whistle blast started the fight.    Every minute or so the organizer blows a whistle and everyone is supposed to freeze where they are - hence Frozen in Time.  A short time later another whistle blast restarts the fight.

Both myself and Tonka Tyke participated in the fight, with my wife and Abigail watching from the sidelines and acting as photographer.  There were 20 of us participating from 3 different states. Tonka Tyke got overwhelmed in the crowed and bowed out early and watched from the sidelines.

My wife told me later that as we were out soaking each other, a security guard came by and said "That looks like a lot of fun!", and indeed it was.

I suspect there will be more flash mobs around this time next year. I encourage you to attend one if you haven't yet.  Keep your eye on this site for more information.

If you did attend a flash mob this year, please let me know about your event in the comments section below.

I'll leave you with a few more photos from the event.
Ozguff, the event organizer, with a well placed head shot.

Everybody freeze!
Group photo

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

The Truth Is Out There

You never know what conspiracies you will uncover when you go geocaching and poke your nose in the dark and less travelled places of the world.

 Ever wonder what really happened to Elvis? Did he really die in 1977? Did he move to Tweed Ontario? Did he change his name to Stan and start selling carpets out of the back of a white panel van in Idaho?  I now know the truth.

 It turns out he was abducted by aliens and morphed into a different creature. I give you this photographic evidence:

Zeke was not impressed.  If you think about it, who is Elvis to a toddler? To him the King of Rock and Roll is daddy (Rock on!).  A badge I wear proudly.

Conveniently the new Elvis comes equipped with a secret compartment that contained a log sheet. Zeke signed his name right below mine.  This was his 50th find, which is pretty good for someone who is not old enough to know what 50 means.

We then fashioned a pair of walking sticks for the long 100ft walk back to the van.

So now you know the horrible full story.  Tell your friends and call your congressman.  The truth must be told.

Have you ever uncovered a conspiracy when caching? Let me know in the comments section below.

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

The Frustration Machine

  Sometimes caches can be frustrating for the most unexpected of reasons.

A multi cache called "R-U-A Cacher or Just A Poser or Wanna'be?" was posted on April 16th 2012. The cache was placed by a local cacher called NeverSeenGene, who has a reputation as a quality cache hider.  The cache promised a 2 mile hike along the Catawba river using old fishermans paths.  

It sounded like a great way to spend an afternoon in the pleasant spring weather of North Carolina.  However the cache was placed just 10 days before Abigail was born, so it took me almost 7 weeks before I could get a chance to go experience this cache (it is bad form to leave your 39 week pregnant wife come c-section recovering 2x mother with a newborn and toddler for an entire afternoon - they didn't even have to teach me that in college. I just knew it).

So eventually everything got settled on the homefront and I felt comfortable spending an entire afternoon out in the world.  

It was a Tuesday.  A Beautiful afternoon, not to hot, bright blue sky. Perfect for a stroll in the woods...

... now may be a good time to remember the golden rule of muggles: If you encounter a muggle anywhere while on a cache hunt, they will be sitting at GZ.  This rule was about to bite me with a vengeance...

... I got into the van and started driving the 14 miles to the parking coordinates - a small 3 car pull-off at the end of a bridge that crosses the Catawba River.  It was a nice drive down a windy country road - the kind of road that you dream off when you want to go for a pleasant Sunday afternoon drive.  About a mile away from the parking coords I saw a sign: "Caution: Road Work".  ug... maybe it is just someone mowing the grass beside the road - no biggie.  Then around the bend I saw the end of my fun: "Flagman present: One lane ahead".  

Sure enough I was forced to wait for a flagman.  There was a chase car to guide the traffic through the construction zone.  All of this was well before the bridge, so as we got close I figured maybe it was just on the one side, and I'd be good... but alas the chase car drove right by the parking (must not have been a cacher) and kept on going for a couple miles beyond that.  With all the private property and road work there was no way I could park somewhere else and hike in either,  It was park there or nothing.

Annoyed I turned tail and headed home.  They were repaving the road, and they looked almost finished so I decided to try again the next day.

If you guessed I ran into construction again, you'd be right.  They kept moving where the flagman was, but each time I was escorted passed the parking lot.  I tried this for 4 days in a row.

On Saturday I finally lucked out.  The road was still not finished, but since it was not a normal work day, the crews were not working, so I could finally get access to that sweet parking spot along the side of the road.

Excited to finally be able to be on the hunt, I headed down the side of the bridge and down the trail to the first stage.

The cache itself was a typical multi-cache.  It took us to three different fishing trails at the edges of 3 bridges (well, technically 2 as the middle stages were along the opposite bank of the same bridge I parked at).  Each stage also took us to opposite sides of the bridges, so I got to spend a lot of time exploring the Catawba river, finding cache containers with coordinates to the next stage as I went along.

As expected it was a well laid out multi with lots of walking, interesting scenery, and some well placed hides. The Catawba river supports some really nice scenery.  I even got to see some wildlife.

It took me about 3 hours to complete the entire cache, and as expected it was 3 hours well spent.  It felt really good when I finally wrote my name on that log sheet.

Also, as it turns out, despite being 7 weeks from cache publication, I got the first to find on the cache, which was an unexpected bonus.

So this cache started out with the ultimate in frustrations, but ended up being well worth the trouble.  Like many things in life, the hardest caches to earn sometimes end up being among the best ones.

I'll leave you with a few more images from my day:

Monday, June 04, 2012

And The Winner Is... Abigail.

Abigail won a Podcacher geocoin at Geowoodstock X and we didn't even know it.


It went down like this...  During registration for Geowoodstock X we were handed red plastic bags containing lanyards, flyers, and some cache containers.  I got 4 bags, because there are 4 of us in our family.  I opened up three of the bags to rescue the lanyards for our GWX name badges, however Abigail, being all of 4 weeks old, couldn't wear a name badge, so I never opened her bag.

As I was packing up our stuff to come home on the Monday I went through her bag to consolidate her stuff into our bags.  I noticed that one of the flyers, from the Podcacher podcast, had a hand written note on the back that said "Congrats!  Sonny and Sandy".

Curious as to what that meant, when I got back home I emailed Sonny and asked.  He confirmed that Abigail had won a contest, and  was supposed to have taken that flyer to their booth at GWX and pick up the prize, which was a Podcacher geocoin.  He was gracious enough to send us the coin in the mail.  The coin arrived today.

So now Abigail has her very first geocoin.  I'd like to thank Sonny and Sandy from the Podcacher Podcast for going the extra mile for my daughter to get her this awesome momento from her very first geocaching experience.  I am going to keep this in my collection until she is old enough to appreciate it.

 If you are interested in geocahing podcasts, I would encourage you to check out Sonny and Sandy's weekly show at   I now know first hand that they are great people, and they do put our an excellent show.

Saturday, June 02, 2012

The Buddy System

I have just completed a 3 stage multi-cache with an interesting twist.  The twist being that stage one and three is in San Diego California, but stage 2 is near Asheville North Carolina.

For those doing the math at home, thats a total distance of almost 4,000 miles as the crow flies to get all the stages.

The idea with this cache (west, east? west: GC1W7RA) is that the cacher in California finds a cacher in North Carolina to find the middle stage for them, and in the process making a new caching buddy on the other side of the country.  The California cacher signs both partners names in the log sheet, and both get credit for the find.

Last weekend a cacher named boysnbarrie put out a request for a partner on a local North Carolina geocaching mailing list.  I responded, and we started swapped coordinates.  Pretty soon we had completed all the stages and had logged our find.

There is a sister cache (I HAVE A FRIEND IN SAN DIEGO: GC1WD48) that goes the opposite way (starts and ends near Asheville NC, middle is near San Diego CA), which we are in the process of completing now.

This is a fun way to make new friends, and a refreshing twist on multi-caches.

Does anyone know of any other that have a similar theme?  Let me know in the comments section below!