Friday, May 31, 2013

GeoWoodstock XI: Group Photo

I present to you the official GeoWoodstock XI group photo.  If you are looking for Yours Truly I am the one that is dressed like a geocacher.

Actually, I am about 3 rows of cachers back (behind the middle white banner), in line with the second 'o' in 'wood'.  I am wearing a red shirt with a brown hat.

GeoWoodstock XI: Friends and Colleagues

One of the best things about GeoWoodstock XI this year was meeting for the first time many people I have talked to online over the course of the last few years.  Also getting re-acquainted with geocaching friends I have met at previous events.

To give a little taste, one of the people I met was BigAl437, who is a regular contributer to, a fun blog about geocaching that covers a wide range of subjects and stories.  I have contributed original posts, and had some of my stuff syndicated there, so it was nice to put a face to a name of one of the folks I've been writing with all this time.

I also met Sonny and Sandy from the Podcacher Podcast, a weekly podcast about our favourite subject.  I have been listening to them for a couple years, and "called in" a few times.  They recognized me before I could introduce myself, which was kind of cool.  They are awesome folks, and if you meet em at an event,  be sure to say hi.

I met up with several cachers from the G+ community +Geocachers Unlimited.  These are cachers that enjoy all aspects of caching, regardless of whether its listed on or somewhere else (there is more to caching that just Groundspeak).  It was great to put some faces to those names as well.

I signed my first autograph at GeoWoodstock XI. Thanks to SpotlightBK for letting me scratch my name on his Geosnippits Reboot t-shirt.  It was good to meet you in person!

I also met some other fans of the show, and even got recognized at a noisy event by the sound of my voice - kinda cool.

I also ran into some old friends of mine.  First off is leftyfb and deviousdragen, who are a married caching couple from Boston MA(ish) (and makers of some of the best beef jerky ever - and I've had Google Chef jerky).  I have been chatting with them on IRC for years now, and met them at previous GeoWoodstocks.  We got together after the event to do our first Chirp cache, and to get some other caching in.  They were there with jwubrownie and her friend and father.

I also ran into some local cachers, NavyChief89, and HoosierSunshine, both of which I've cached and been to events with in and around North Carolina.

Finally I ran into Robert Lipe, a fellow Googler, and software geek.  He has been to every single GeoWoodstock, and has helped out with registrations and IT stuff for many of them.  It was good to get re-acquainted with him, and talk shop for a while.

It just goes to show that, even for an anti-social curmudgeon like me, GeoWoodstocks can be a very social experience.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

GeoWoodstock XI: Florida Wildlife

Last weekend while I was in Florida for +GeoWoodstock, I arrived at the event early so I could hike the trails before the crowds arrived.

I did this for two reasons: to find some caches on my own, and to get some shots of some of the wildlife.

Gators seem to be old-hat to the native Floridians, but I have never seen a gator outside of a zoo, so I was anxious to get a wild one in the viewfinder of my camera. I was not disappointed.

What did disapoint me was that  I only have a simple point-and-shoot camera with 5x zoom, so this is the best of many shots I took.  Most animals were too far away to get decent shots.  This does remind me that I need to talk my wife into letting me get a better camera with bigger glass - oh sweetie!... :)

For now, this is the best shots of the Florida wildlife that I saw around Lake Parker Park, and Circle B Bar Reserve in Lakeland FL.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

GeoWoodstock XI: Lakeland FL

On Saturday I had the pleasure of attending one of the classic geocaching events out there: GeoWoodstock.

GeoWoodstock is an annual event that brings thousands of geocachers from around the world to one location for some peace, love, and geocaching.  This is the 11th GeoWoodstock, and the third one I have attended.

The location for this years event could not have been more perfect.  It was held at Circle B Bar Reserve in Lakeland, Florida.  The reserve has a wide range of interesting terrain (swamps, oak hammocks, marsh), plants and wildlife, including lots of birds and alligators.

I arrived extra early for the event so I could hike the trails before the event started so I could be sure to see some gators, and find some caches before the crowds arrived (at events like this there are so many cachers that there is almost always someone already at GZ when you arrive, so caching becomes the much easier, but much less fun, "pass the cache" instead of having to hunt for it yourself).  I was not dissapointed, but I will share the details of the wildlife I saw in another post, as this one is about the event itself.

The event was held under the oak hammocks (the large oak trees with the hanging mossy bits), which provided a lot of shade for all concerned (tho I was disappointed to discover that the word "hammock" in the name seems to be more honorary as I didn't see a single decent place to take a nap on those trees).  The bugs were light, the weather warm but not melty, and the breeze welcome.  It was a perfect day for hanging out with a group (herd? bunch? conspiracy?) of geocachers.

GeoWoodstocks are chock full of activities, and one should never find themselves bored if they are paying attention to the schedule.  If all else fails one could fill the day by finding the large number of caches hidden on the reserve. There were too many things for me to check out, but I filled my day with geocaching and getting re-aquainted with friends.

Since this is my 3rd geowoodstock, and I have done some extensive travelling, and various other things with geocaching (blogging, podcasting etc.) I knew a surprisingly large number of people at the event. Some were cachers I've met at events in the Carolinas, some were friends I've met before at previous Woodstocks, some were fans, some were fellow bloggers and podcasters, and some were folks I've only chatted with online.  This is the (brotherly) love part of geocaching.

There was a side event held this year for the +Geocachers Unlimited group on Google Plus.  These are folks that enjoy caching on alternate listing services, including +OpenCaching North America.  It was great to put faces to these folks as I had previously only known them online.  It was nice to be able to log an event inside an event (an event sandwich, if you will).

Another aspect of GeoWoodstock is collecting trackables and travel bugs.  It still amazes me how many things have trackable numbers on them.  Geocachers love to track things (cars, t-shirts, toys, insane clowns... you name it, it can be made to be trackable). I logged over one hundred trackable objects, and I wasn't even trying that hard. Some trackables, like this jester, are very large.  Others are small and portable.

One of the traditions of GeoWoodstock is the group photo.  It is one of the few places at the event where you get a real sense of how many people are in attendance.  It was taking a bit longer than expected to gather everyone around for the photo, so I took a shot of my own.

This years event was spread out under the trees (which was done on purpose to allow folks to enjoy "more of Florida" - true statement from an organizer :) .  In a way this was a tad annoying as it took extra time to travel from location to location.

On the other hand it was rather awesome as the place did not feel crowded, despite having a couple thousand(ish) cachers in the park, and I got to see more of the place than I otherwise would have.  So mission accomplished.  Also goes to show its the little things that make an event rock or not.

People from literally all around the world attend this event. I found one cache with a lovely couple from Dusseldorf Germany, and traded pathtags with a gentleman (TickleBrick) from the UK. A map board is provided so everyone can mark where they come from using a straight pin.

I was so busy this year I almost forgot to sign the log.  It was one of the last things I did before leaving for the day.  Every year they use something different for the log sheet (one year it was an actual log).  This year it was a giant canvas.  I grabbed a shot of MissJenn, a Groundspeak Lackey, singing her name on the log (which seems to show I wasn't the only one who was late in this important task).

I had an awesome time at this event, and I am already scheming and plotting ways to convince my wife to get me to go to next years event, which will be held in St. Charles Missouri.

I highly recommend you consider attending one of these events.  If the next one is anything like this one, it will be one of the highlights of anyones geocaching career.  Until next time...

Peace. Love. Geocaching.

Off to Florida

On Friday I started an epic road trip with my buddy +Andrew Smith to head down to Lakeland Florida to attend Geowoodstock XI.

We left Andy's house at 4:30 am, and drove the 643 miles in just over 12 hours.  We, of course, did some geocaching along the way.  Some interesting caches included:

- Stopping at South Of The Border (a cheesy mexican themed tourist trap just south of the NC/SC border).  I have been passed here many times as a kid, but never stopped by.  Today was my chance so I forced Andy (and by "Force" I mean I asked if he wanted to stop for a cache, and he said "sure!").

- The smallest chapel in America, which holds an whopping 12 people. I assume they are not worried too much about growing  "the flock".

- We stopped for a cache at the Florida Welcome Center.  We also grabbed the traditional free glass of
orange juice.  Very tasty.

Due to some nasty traffic around Orlando (I blame the mouse), we were a bit delayed in getting to Lakeland, so we decided to head straight to the first of many events we planned on attending this weekend:  The Friday Night Meet and Greet.

This event was held in a park along Parker Lake.  I got to meet up with many caching friends from all over the US who descended on Florida for Geowoodstock.  Some folks I have only known online, and some I had met previously.

I also grabbed 9 caches in the park, many with new caching friends I had met at the event.

After the event was over we headed to the hotel to crash and get some sleep in preparation for the main event the next day: Geowoodstock XI. Stay tuned for coverage of that event coming soon to a blog near you.

Friday, May 24, 2013

There Be Dragons Here

There Be Dragons Here is a new series of caches recently placed by HeadHardHat.  The series is remarkable in two important ways.

First off the containers are well done.  Each container is decorated with a dragon figurine that is epoxied on to a plastic ammo can.  Second, the series is published on multiple listing services, which is unique, at least in my experience.

The series is made up of 4 dragon caches that are each listed on separate listing services (,,, and

Each of these dragon caches contain clues that lead to a 5th dragon, which is a puzzle cache listed on,, and (Groundspeak doesn't play well with others, and didn't want the final cross-posted on

As of this writing the dragon is not yet published.  However I did get the coordinates from HeadHardHat so I could beta test the puzzle for him (turns out there were some bugs, now fixed).

All of the dragons are 50-200ft off of a well maintained greenway system, and the small amount of bushwhacking is light and very kid friendly - my toddler, Tonka Tyke, found 2 of the dragons without any issues.

If you are in the Cary, NC area, I highly recommend checking out this series.  Here are a few more pics of some of the dragons, starting with a shot of one of the dragons on the ammo can:

Another plucky dragon.

Tonka Tyke almost squealed when he saw his first dragon cache. He then proceeded to try and feed it leaves. Cause: toddler.

You can get more information on this series at:

Monday, May 20, 2013

The Chrysta Rae Photography Scavenger Hunt: March 2013 Edition

During the month of March I jumped once more unto the breach - and participated in the +Chrysta Rae's Photography Scavenger Hunt  on Google Plus.

The hunt works like this: we are given a list of 10 categories to shoot, and a set time to shoot them (normally 30 days, but this hunt was 60 days). One photo per category is submitted, and then they are judged by a panel of four expert photographers. The submissions are kept a secret until the judging takes place, then they are all released in what is known as the "reveal".  The reveal is where everyone seems each others work for the first time.  I got a fair number of fantastic comments on some of my photos, so I am really happy with that.

This hunt brings out some of the best photographers on Google Plus, and well, me, together for a jolly good time and some stiff camera competition.  I just shoot with a simple point and shoot camera (Canon S100), so sometimes I am simply out-classed by those with better hardware, but I think I manage to hold my own all things considered. It is always a growth experience, and this round was no exception.

 The following are my submissions for the March 2013 edition of the +Chrysta Rae's Photography Scavenger Hunt :

Category: Strawberry

I wracked my brain to get ideas for this shot, and one morning around 4am, while I was in a sleep induced haze the idea popped into my head.  After sending out my wife to the store for strawberries (twice!) I managed to grab this shot.

This is one of the shots that generated a lot of great comments from fellow scavengers.  Which, to me, is a reward in and of itself.

See the rest of the submissions for this category here.

Category: Regret

Another hard category to come up with ideas for.  I could think of lots of ways to show an unfortunate thing, but not regret.  This is what I came up with - a drinking and driving thing.  The blood is fake (corn syrup, water, flour, and chocolate syrup), but the rest is real.

Note: It is amazingly hard to purposefully break a champagne flute. I whacked at that thing a good half dozen times with a hammer and screwdriver before it finally broke.

See the rest of the submissions for this category here.

Category: Mouth 

My least favourite shot of this hunt.  Abigail decided she wanted to sit and cry at me one day, so I took a couple shots of her mouth.  By the end of the hunt I didn't have any other ideas for this category, so I added some blurring to emphasize the mouth and submitted it.

See the rest of the submissions for this category here.

Category: Texture

These are fuzzy dice that hang from the rear view mirror of my companies shuttle bus.  It was taken just before the radiator of the bus melted.  I captured the story here.  It ended up being a rather unique texture in the hunt, which was nice to see.

See the rest of the submissions for this category here.

Category: Freeze Motion 

I have recently become a Doctor Who fan, so the subject for this category immediately became obvious.  This is a Weeping Angel.  They look like stone statues.  They feed off their victims by removing them from space and time, and feeding on the energy the victims would have used.  They move only when not being seen. Don't blink!

See the rest of the submissions for this category here.

Category: Landscape 

This is a shot of the Blue Ridge Mountains at sunrise.  I went up the mountains to wait for the sun to come up. It was below freezing up there.  The cold was playing havoc with my batteries and they were dying much quicker than I expected.  This shot was the last shot I took before my last battery died.  I was lucky to get it.  I also learned that sometimes the best sunrise shots are not right at sunrise, but just a few moments later when the light is more diffused.

See the rest of the submissions for this category here.

Category: Brown

Maple Syrup is the theme.  I tossed in some lego mini-figs for character.

See the rest of the submissions for this category here.

Category: Bubbles 

Champagne and bubbles go hand in hand.

See the rest of the submissions for this category here.

Category: Ants Eye View 

This is actually the reflection from a curved glass from a radar sensor on an F14 Tomcat that is on display at the airport in Hickory NC.  I was not planning on making this a hunt shot, but the reflection seemed to work out perfectly.  I had to clean up a *lot* of dirt (cause the plane was dirty), and I added some effects to emphasize the camera.  I think what I ended up with is kinda funky and unique.

See the rest of the submissions for this category here.

Category: Spill 

Someone learned to "go" outside.

See the rest of the submissions for this category here.

Sunday, May 19, 2013


I received this note from the cache owner after posting my online log for the cache I did today:

"I am glad you found it.... 

 I am also glad that you didn't get swept away on your way back! 

 I was out with the family shopping while the skies opened up. Little did I know that some poor cacher was out in the middle of the woods (on the wrong side of a creek) at that very moment! 

 I guess you earned your 4.5/4.5! 


This is the story of what lead to the above note.  I call it "The soggiest geocache adventure ever".

It went down like this: I was out in Idlewild Park near Charlotte NC.  The cache is roughly a third of a mile from the closest parking spot, and requires crossing a small creek.  Normally not a major concern for an experienced cacher such as myself, so with confidence I headed off down the path to claim the prize.

As instructed in the cache description, I crossed the creek at the provided waypoint, which was relatively uneventful (any river crossing in which my toes stay dry is a good one in my books). Climbing the bank on the other side proved a litte tricky as it has been raining and things were slick.

On my first attempt up the embankment I lost my footing and banged up my knee.  After a quick look around it was clear that this was the only way up, so I brushed myself off, and with more determination and care climbed up the embankment. Once at the top, a mere 500ft of bushwhack was all that stood between me and my quest.

I began picking my way through the dense woods.  The going was relatively easy until Mother Nature decided to add an interesting twist to the adventure.  About 200ft from ground zero  the skies opened up, and torrential rains fell from the sky. It went from dry to Noahs Flood in seconds, and I was immediately drenched to the skin.

Since I was so close to my goal, and wasn't going to get any wetter than I was now, I pressed on. Mercifully I quickly spotted the container and sign the log.

All that remained now was getting back to the van without further incidents.  The first obstacle being that slippery creek embankment that was now even more treacherous with fresh falling rain.

I grabbed some tree branches for support, and slid (un)gracefully on my backside down the embankment until my boots were securely implanted on solid ground at the bottom. I then waded directly across the creek (already soaked,  getting creek water in my boots was a minor inconvenience, and the water level had risen a bit so the dry rocks I crossed on were now under water anyway).

All that was left was a lonely soggy trudge back to the van. Or so I thought.

About mid-trudge I noticed a creek I didn't see on the way in.  I soon realized that the "creek" was a torrent of water flowing down the very same path I had walked down just 15 minutes earlier. I had never seen rain do that to a path before. It was rather intense and a shocking sight.  (I would have taken a photo of it, but when I tried I discovered my camera had become water logged and no longer functioned as a camera). The flooded paths forced me to bushwhack the entire way back to the parking area.

Once I made it back to the Geo-van of Destiny, and did my best to dry off (luckily I had some towels and a fresh t-shirt in the van),  I drove home.  I was still soggy when I walked into the house 1.5 hours later.

I only found two caches today, despite having six on my target list.  However I did have an adventure I won't soon forget, and really, isn't that the point of geocaching?

Friday, May 17, 2013

REAMDE: Geocaching Meets Literature

Seeing your favourite semi-obscure hobby mentioned nonchalantly in media is kind of awesome.  Here is my favourite mention by one of my favourite authors.  The story has absolutely nothing to do with geocaching in the slightest, but it came up anyway, seemingly at random.

The scene opens with one of the main characters rushing up the mountain to a ski lodge he owns deep in the mountains of British Columbia...

“So it was inevitable that he would close in on the tail of a gigantic RV no more than thirty seconds after he’d reached the part of the road where passing was completely out of the question.  It was not quite the size of a semi.  It had Utah plates. It needed a trip through an RV carwash.  Its back end was freckled with the usual bumper-stickers about spending the grandchildrens inheritance.  And it was going all of about thirty miles an hour.  Richard slammed on the brakes, turned on his headlights just to make it obvious he was there, and backed off to the point where he could see the rearview mirrors.  Then he cursed the Internet.  This sort of thing never used to happen, because the road didn’t really lead anywhere; beyond the Schloss, it reverted to gravel and struggled around a few more bends to an abandoned mining camp a couple of miles beyond, where the only thing motorists could do was turn around in a wide spot and come back out again.  But geocachers had been at work planting Tupperware containers and ammo boxes of random knick-knacks in tree forks and under rocks in the vicinity of that turnaround, and people keep visiting these sites and leaving their droppings on the Internet, making cheerful remarks about the nice view, the lack of crowds, and the availability of huckleberries.  Normally Richard and the Schloss’s other habitue’s would have at least another month of clear driving before those people began to show up, but these RVers had apparently decided to get a jump on the tourist season and be the first geocachers of the year to make it to the sites in question.”  - Neal Stephenson, REAMDE

The first time I read the above passage I was reading in bed late at night.  I laughed out loud, and forced my wife to listen to me read it to her.  I was giddy for days afterwards (cause, yes, I am an obsessive geek).

Have you seen geocaching mentioned in books or other writings that were not specifically about geocaching? If so hit me with the info by dropping a comment. Inquiring minds want to know.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Tonka Tykes Century Cache

Today I got to help a toddler celebrate a geocaching milestone.  His 100th cache find.

My son, Tonka Tyke,  has been begging me to take him caching all weekend, but we had a fairly full schedule, so today, right after nap time, we finally had a bit of free time so we headed out to our downtown to hunt down some caches.

He has actually been a fairly active and well rounded cacher over his short career.  He has finds in 10 states and 1 province.  He has a mega, two flash mobs, a CITO, and many regular events under his belt.  He also has an International Geocaching Day, and a 12-12-12 event.  Not to shabby for someone who fits in some caches as swag.

The following is the story of Zekes 100th find in pictures.

He needed just two caches to get to his milestone, so we hit up one of my caches I hid at the church we attend.  He wasn't there when I hid the cache so its fair game for him to find it.  It didn't take him long to locate the cache and I helped him sign the log.

He insisted we take the Gatorade.  Last night I took him shopping to get some flowers for his mother for Mothers Day, and while I was out I bought a few cases of water and Gatorade.  I mentioned how important it was to carry some water or Gatorade while caching, so he was absolutely insistent on bringing a bottle with us.  He learns quick, this boy does.

We then walked over to J.E. Broyhill park. It is a cute little park built in a valley, so there are lots of hills, raised pathways, and various levels of play grounds and picnic shelters.  The cache in question was near this bridge:

He quickly found the cache, and opened it like a boss, looking at the swag.

He decided to trade for three swag items (luckily I had enough trade items in my pack!).  A car for him, and a puzzle each for Daddy and his sister.

He then opened up the ziploc baggie containing the log, and I helped him sign it.  He is officially a century cacher.

Afterwards we hit up the playground for some much needed play time.

Once we finished on the playground we walked around downtown Lenoir and found a couple more caches before heading home. Another great day of geocaching in the bag.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Empirical Two Wheeling

Last weekend I found myself in possession of the following things:

1) One life-size Stormtrooper helmet from Star Wars (The Original Trilogy).
2) One camera.
3) One bike.

When faced with such a collection of objects, what is one to do?  

I mean, what would you do?

Go for a ride of course!  Then capture it for all to see.  So I give you: a bicycling Stormtrooper. Cause why not?

Making the world a little more surreal... one ride at a time.

You are welcome.