Geocache

Your Large is Smaller Than My Small

Many times, Geocaching is a challenging seek-and-find game. You are given GPS coordinates that are near the cache, but often don’t mark the true location.

Still being green in the sport, I often miss cleverly hidden caches because I’m looking for the wrong type of container.

In the last excursion, my family went searching high and low and found several caches, but three of them eluded us to the point that we gave up and labeled it a DNF, or “Did Not Find”.

It turns out that they were all smaller than I felt they should have been based on the descriptions.

The first was labeled “Small” instead of “Micro”. It was a compact 3″ hide-a-key size-ish container that was only large enough for the logbook.

The second was marked a “Normal” size cache but was the size of a 28oz peanut-butter jar, which I consider “Small”.

The third cache was marked as “Large” but was only a regular sized coffee can.

I’ve hunted for geocaches from the west coast to the east coast and have seen a relatively consistent trend that differs from what I experienced in the last hunt. The ones we did find in the area were more consistent with the national definitions of cache sizes.

Here’s what I’ve seen, but remember that I’m still under 100 finds, which means I’ve still got much to learn.

Nano

Currently considered as a subset of the “Micro” category.

Size:
From the size of a large pea to the size of your thumb.
Shape:
Nearly always cylindrical, though on occasion they appear flat like the magnetized outlet cover.
Markings:
They rarely have any markings that identify them as a geocache. Some containers sold by the geocaching community are an exception, with groundspeak’s “lackey” logo painted on them.
Log Type:
A sheet of paper rolled into a tight scroll.
Swag:
None. The scroll is so tight you sometimes have to pull it out with tweezers.
Trackables:
None.
Geography:
Urban areas where there’s high traffic and their miniscule nature becomes vital to existance. Think about the movies you’ve seen of New York city.
Cloak:
Some have magentic ends that stick to metal. Some have chains from which they can dangle. Magnetic ones are often stuck to the back of signs or under lamppost skirts. Dangling ones are often attached to a larger item that covers the cache-hole; occasionally they are dangled from a branch in a tree. These can be cleverly disguised in or as writing pens, cigarette butts, chewed gum wads, at the end of rebarb, under lamppost skirts or within/as magnetized nuts/bolts.

Micro

Size:
From the size of your thumb to the size of a wallet/mint tin.
Shape:
Popular cases are 35mm film canisters, match tubes, Altoids tins (round or rectangular) and magnetic hide-a-key cases.
Markings:
Because of the popularity of this size for film and candy canisters and the popular hide-a-key varieties, few Some containers sold by the geocaching community are an exception, with groundspeak’s “lackey” logo painted on them. Clear 35mm film canisters might have a geocaching logo that appears from the inside.
Log Type:
Flat types, such as the popular magnetic slide-door hide-a-key box have folded pieces of paper or small notebooks laying flat. Cylindrical types have sheets of paper rolled up.
Swag:
A few times I have seen tiny trinkets such as pathtags, rings or plastic coins but they can’t hold more than that.
Trackables:
Because of the size and shape, I’ve only seen geocoins in the larger variety of these.
Geography:
As with the Nano size, the Micro size caches are popular in moderate to high-traffic urban areas. Sometimes they’re used in rural areas to increase the challenge.
Cloak:
Micro caches are usually not magnetized, with the hide-a-key cases being an exception. The non-magnetic canisters are usually attached to trees with a wire, stashed inside another item, hidden in fenceposts, or disguised in the open, such as the hide-a-key rock. They are also often stuck under metal signs or other low metalic fixtures (like drains), in small tubes, in a tree or a bush.

Small

Size:
Small caches are around the size of a 12oz coffee mug to a 30oz jar.
Shape:
They are usually small tupperware-type containers with watertight lids. As such, they can be square, rectangular or cylindrical, with the “Jar” variety being quite popular. Of all the containers, these can get the most creative. For example, holiday decorations or toys can be hollowed out to build containers.
Markings:
Most of the time they’re covered with camouflage duck tape. Sometimes they’re painted comouflage. They can often be uncameo’d at all, just hidden away from where people usually look. About half the time I see an “Official Geocache” label stuck or painted on the container.
Log Type:
Small spirals are popular, but I’ve also seen them contain folded sheets of paper.
Swag:
Path tags, small toys, party favors. Popular swag are bracelets, rings, hot-wheels, and most toys that comes with a “happy meal”.
Trackables:
Travel bugs and geocoins.
Geography:
Brushy areas in parks near neighborhoods. Rarely in urban foot-trafic areas, but sometimes in bushes near moderately busy streets.
Cloak:
They can be cleverly hidden inside tree holes, large pipes, birdhouses or boxes that appear to be part of the landscape. They are also be hidden under piles of rocks, leaves, branches or within bushes. A popular hide is within junpier bushes. I have found a few that are in plain sight where you just need to look up or under something to find it.

Regular

Size:
Sizes range from a regular sized coffee can (about 100 ounces) to a large 50-caliber ammo can (about 235 ounces).
Shape:
Cylindrical to rectangular-box shaped with ammo cans being quite popular.
Markings:
Cans might be covered with duck tape for both protection from rust and hideability. They are sometimes camouflage painted. Ammo cans are usually already painted in a forest-green color but are sometimes repainted. You nearly always find these with an “Official Geocache” label stuck or painted on the container since the sheer size invokes fear in muggles who happen to glance by when a cacher rehides it.
Log Type:
Small to medium spiral-bound or glue-bound notebooks are popular.
Swag:
Small to reasonable sized toys are often placed in these. I’ve seen hand-dolls, action figures and larger “happy meal” toys as well as bigger selection of the smaller swag (mentioned in the “Small” type cache) stuffed in these.
Trackables:
Travel bugs and geocoins.
Geography:
These containers are out in the folliage or rocks away from civilization, though they are occaisonally found in parks or off jogging trails. Either in the rural areas or in rural spaces in suburban areas.
Cloak:
They are often found under piles of rocks or stacks of branches.

Large

Size:
Sizes range from around 1 cubic foot up to 160 cubic feet or more.
Shape:
Usually box-shaped, like the large rubbermaids.
Markings:
I haven’t seen (pictures of) any without a marking of some kind – usually painted on. Due to the size, the larger they are, the less likely they are cameo painted.
Log Type:
Medium to large notebooks.
Swag:
Only having found one of these before, I can say the swag is pretty much the same as a normal size. There are a few additions such as reading books, coloring books and larger toys, but that’s it.
Trackables:
Travel bugs and geocoins.
Geography:
These containers are out in the woods or off the beaten path, so to speak.
Cloak:
I’ve only seen or heard of them being hidden in plain sight or under large brush.
Geocache

Virtual Geocaches for Education

My first day of geocaching was while I was on a business trip in Washington D.C.. Paranoia is marked with secret service men and armed guards nearly everywhere you go. Other than the Spy Museum’s caches (which get muggled pretty often), there’s only room for two types of caches in the monument endowed city: microcaches and virtual caches. I had not known of virtual caches before, just that there were little ghosty things on the map that made the DC area look more like a mortuary than a cacher’s paradise.

Had it not been for the good nature of two other cachers, WizardOfMD69 and Suzanne, who took me under their wing that day I might have missed out on a good thing. They introduced me to the world of virtual geocaching. We went to statues and monuments and plaques across the city that I hadn’t been to before. The questions took us down paths of politics, history, architecture, art, science and biographies that I hadn’t delved into before, or if I had, it wasn’t with that detail. Then the thought came to me that virtual caching is really a big outdoor field-trip. You go to places. You learn things. You experience things. Then you take a pop-quiz and get credit.

The main deterrent for virtual caches is that it’s a chore to go through the geocaching.com or geocaching app interface to send that person a message with the answers. Some answers require you email them directly with a picture attachment, which geocaching.com doesn’t allow from their messaging interface. Some cache owners are so strict that if you post your “find” before emailing them they’ll erase it. After finding the virtual cache, the experience goes downhill… so much that I gave up on posting my half-dozen virtual caches discovered that day.

There are ways Groundspeak could improve this experience and make it just as enjoyable as treasure caches. I already know one way which would be simple to implement and make a world of a difference… I won’t go into right now. That’s not the purpose of this post. But I will say it’s a shame that because of their kludgy interface and lack of forethought, virtual caches are being thought of as a lesser cache when in reality they’re often better. In the movie Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, the final treasure was knowledge. Virtual caches are that knowledge… only with freaky ghosts to mark them instead of freakier alien skulls.

Whether you home-school or public school, virtual caches and earth caches are a fantastic way to get children excited about learning. Two weeks ago my family went to an event happening in a park downtown. That park happened to contain a virtual cache so I got to introduce virtual caching to my family. The children ran around the monument to take it in where they might of otherwise ignored it. It didn’t take long for my wife, who has an education degree, to come to the same conclusion I did. Virtual caches rock!

Geocache

Geocacher Spotlight : My Geek Odyssey

Looking at all the wonderful people out there who geocache, something has to be done. Some are celebrities. Some are only celebrities in their own mind.

Regardless of fame or infamy I’d like to introduce them to you… or if you’ve already met them then perhaps you’ll learn a little something new. If they have a blog, it’s obviously encouraged that you go visit. Without further adieu, it’s my pleasure to introduce you to …

Cecil-EGCM

Meet Cecil, the Evil GeoCaching Monkey and alter-ego of a talented comic artist, teacher and humorist, Bruce Nelson.

Bruce maintains the blog My Geek Odyssey, covering the “continuing adventures of a man, a monkey and a mini”. And no adventure is complete without geocaching. Bruce draws delightful comics that record some of his geocaching experiences, and that’s what first caught my eye. It didn’t take long before I discovered he even used his art as a puzzle cache clue!

Paurian: You mentioned that the proudest moment in your geek life was finding “Get a Life” (GCZJZ5) all by yourself. That’s about as nerdy as they come. However, your log on Geocaching.com shows a sad “ook.” Is that your way of saying the cache at the final coordinates was highly illogical?

Cecil: ook… Actually this cache was originally found by Bruce when he shared the caching name “ProfessorZoom” with his wife, Sue, so it was considered a B.C. (Before Cecil) find. Cecil believes in transparency in caching so, while assisted by Bruce, he only logs caches that he has actually visited and signed the log… don’t you wish every cacher was that noble? Cecil went out to find “Get a Life” and discovered the cache was missing, hence the sad “ook.” He has spoken with CyBret and will return when the weather is better and hopefully return the cache to its former glory. Qapla’

Paurian: What was your first geocaching experience?

Cecil: Cecil’s first caching experience was GC44F2 “Rest in Peace” while plaguing Indiana cachers for a few years he finally decided to log a cache upon ProfessorZoom’s 1000th find. Cecil’s first actual appearance was at GC100CE “Indy’s Lamest Cache” this was where Cecil’s legend began.

Paurian: What are your experiences or thoughts on caching with the smaller services, such as Garmin’s new opencaching.com, terracaching.com or navicache.com?

Cecil: With world domination, being the inspiration for a webcomic, and controlling a network of minions, Cecil has not had time to explore the smaller services, but as the weather turns (being a fair weather cacher) he is bound to branch out a bit… anything to gain a better foothold in his constant struggle to make the world a better place with more bananas.

Paurian: What is the most helpful non GPSr geocaching tool that you take into the field?

Cecil: Lots of Minions so Cecil doesn’t have to walk to caches… he believes it’s better to be carried, especially when ProfessorZoom just had to get GC776E “Ten Mile Cache” when the road was closed he thought it was nice to be along for the hike.

Paurian: What is the coolest swag you’ve retrieved from a cache?

Cecil: ook… The silly thing is when minions find monkey related swag they tend to drop it off to Cecil… like paying tribute. Some of the really cool pathtags Cecil has found in the wild (shiny things) are great. He actually likes finding them better than trading, it really does show what a small world it is and how we cross paths all the time. Then again bananas aren’t allowed in caches.

Paurian: What geocache do you consider the coolest hide?

Cecil: So many people have put effort into some wonderful hides (& so many archived), the ones requiring monkey skills (climbing) are fun, but View Carre (GCE02C) in New Orleans is one of Cecil’s favorites.

Paurian: I noticed your blog has several comic strips based on geocaching. Are these generally based on your personal experiences, or mostly imagined?

Cecil: ook… I’ll let Bruce answer this one.
Bruce: While My Geek Odyssey is a comic, a great deal is based on my experiences. The ones dealing with “the Caching Curmudgeon” actually stem from things I have experienced while caching, either logs, or emails, or just varied caching personalities. As always cartoons tend to exaggerate, although some are pretty close to reality.

Paurian: What general advice would you like to give to newbie geocachers?

Cecil: Have fun! explore, be patient, send Cecil-EGCM any shiny things you find… If you want to hide a cache find a wide variety first (hit that 100 found milestone) so you have some idea of what makes a great hide.

Paurian: What excellent feature / element / idea … thing would you like added to the geocaching experience?

Cecil: ook… Cecil likes some of the changes going on to GC.com buy really would like to see more information in the statistics page. milestones, state county map (at least for your home state)… there were a number of things available at mygeocachingprofile.com that haven’t been brought over yet. Since Cecil uses a Mac (he’s that kind of monkey) GSAK hasn’t been a option. Then again he’s been playing around with a Chirp and is curious how that is going to work out once he removes it from his sock.

Paurian: I noticed that you showed some interest in creating a Dr. Who series. The tardis idea is awesome. Have you seen the Dr. Who. geocache (GCW6EM: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=19hCTky6S8w)?

Cecil: ook… Don’t remind me, due to social obligations while getting the triad last summer Cecil did not get a chance to visit Dr. Who or Voodoo Donuts. He will return and ring up goblindust along with few minions he has in the area. The cache containers for that series are in development and should be ready to release in the Spring.

A big “ook!” thanks to the ubercool Cecil and Bruce for taking time out for this interview!

You can reach Cecil and Bruce at their website: My Geek Odyssey and at Cecil’s Geocaching.com profile. You can support Cecil’s insatiable hunger for bananas through the modest purchase of exceptionally cool stuff! Oop!