"When you go to hide a cache, think of the reason you are bringing people to that spot.
If the only reason is for the cache, then find a better spot."
.... Briansnat


Friday, December 31, 2010

Great Lakes Seaway Trail - Eastern Lake Erie

We finished the first leg of the five-part Great Lakes Seaway Geotrail in November. For a brief moment, we had hoped to make the entire trail part of a week's vacation in the fall. Work plans prevented that from happening, but we were able to finish the leg closest to home. Now we're hoping to complete the second leg sometime before April and then spend that vacation time on the three eastern parts where we've done little or no caching and haven't visited in years.

We enjoyed this section. We only completed the minimum number of caches to qualify for the coin and hope to head back for the balance in the spring. There were a few weak parts to this section. We were disappointed that two of the fifteen caches were located at commercial wineries. Do they think we can't see the grape vines and the winery signs everywhere we drive? We also left an unfound multi in the Chautauqua Gorge which is the nicest hiking cache in this section. In a tourism trail where 10 of 15 finds are required for the coin, it seemed really strange to hide an underrated, 2-star multi with a tough first stage in the woods. When we were there, the woods at stage one were torn up and looked like a lot more cachers had dnf'd the first stage than the twelve who logged a dnf. 12 of 92 logged visits as dnf's does not equal a 2-star difficulty. This same section also has a cache in a park that is closed from November through March. Isn't the purpose of these geotrails to attract happy visitors and let them see the sights?

Still, from what we have seen, it is a well done trail and worth a visit. The coins also look great. Coin redemption for this section of the trail is done at the Tom Ridge Environmental Center at the western edge of the trail. Besides being a nice place to visit, the center has the best hours of any geotrail coin redemption we have experienced and the staff is super-friendly.

Near Lake Erie Bluffs

Erie Land Light is the site of the first lighthouse on the Great Lakes.

Chautauqua Gorge

Barcelona Lighthouse was the first gas-powered lighthouse in the world.

While we were hunting this cache, we saw three beautiful trout landed.

View From One of the Wineries

The Tom Ridge Environmental Center (TREC) is the coin redemption site for this section of the trail.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Nice Enhancement to Geocaching.com's Favorites

For those of you who use Greasemonkey Scripts, Lil Devil has a super Script to add on which will calculate the percentage of finders who have marked a cache as favorite. The image above is for a nice multi we found yesterday in Lake Metroparks. Note, it has "only" two favorite votes. Since it has only been found thirteen times that means 15.4% of the finders have checked this one as a favorite. It's a second way to look at the new favorites votes.

Friday, December 24, 2010

New Poll - Ten Questions About Geocaching.com

I think we as cachers have much to be thankful for this holiday season. As our wonderful game celebrated 10 Years of finding Tupperware in the Woods, Groundspeak did many, many things this year to freshen the site and add new features. I have been really pleased with the changes, but was most happy to have pocket queries grow to 1,000 with the chance to save time in my day by downloading them rather than opening single e-mails and by being given the chance to show other cachers which caches we have visited and think are special with the favorites option. I was a little surprised on a local forum to see someone characterize these changes with the words "makes the game feel cheap & juvenile". It made me pause and wonder, is this person right? I don't believe so, but I'd like to know what you think. Please take a few moments and answer the poll questions below. Constructive, even critical, comments are always welcome, but hey this is my blog and I am a Wizard so I know how to say "avada kedavra" if anyone gets nasty.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Cameron County Geotrail

We got confirmation at the prior day's conference that the Cameron County Coin was not trackable. Still, we looked on the Cameron County Trail as a chance to cache in a couple state parks, cache in Elk State Forest, and cache in Quehanna Wildlife Area which previously had no caches. Our weather mix for the day was really variable. We started the day at the DCNR offices with low clouds rolling through the mountains. By the time we were in higher elevation, we saw our first real snow of the season followed shortly by blue skies which stayed with us for the afternoon. We spent a good part of the day with Liz and Wes of kcepenn. Eventually, they needed to get back to Emporium to meet with Geobeerer and we needed to finish the trail so we could head west before nightfall.

We had fun. We missed some of the published trail caches and ended up using the listed coordinates from the brochure to find some of the unpublished caches and qualify for our coin. After we retrieved the coin, we enjoyed milk shakes at the Sinnemahoning Sportsman Club and hit the road for home. We'll have to return for another visit with the Elk and to find more of the DCNR Legacy of Conservation Series.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Cashing in on Geocaching

The weekend was three parts interesting and two parts surreal. As a Groundspeak Volunteer Reviewer I had been asked to be a speaker at this Pennsylvania Wilds Conference in Emporium. Cameron's a beautiful county, and we haven't cached there too often plus I have a pile of vacation time still to use. Top it off with about twenty new caches placed (and published) as part of the new Cameron County Geotrail and it seemed a no-brainer. The only slight hitch was I had a conference in Texas the following week where I was a speaker.

We debated a bit where to stay. I really like Coudersport and it has two good hotels with solid WiFi. The only drawback is the town is about 30 miles from Emporium. 30 miles between the two towns during a time of year when snow could happen at any time made the prospect of staying in Coudersport a bit of a stretch. I remembered Emporium as a nice, but smaller, town so we decided to stay at the Buttonwood Motel in Emporium. The Buttonwood was a nice place. It was clean, quiet and had a small restaurant attached that seemed a favorite of the locals (they have a good breakfast).

The surreal part started when we checked in. I asked at the desk if there was a password for the wifi. My question was met with a frown and an explanation that Windstream and had some grid failure and the motel wifi had no internet access. Since most of the town was on Windstream, there seemed to be very few other options (it's amazing how quickly something like numerous wifi locations becomes part of our everyday expectations). Since I needed to be on a plane Monday for Texas (and had some reviewing to do), I thought this was a little concerning, but figured Windstream would be sorted out soon and all would be well. Uh.... very bad assumption.

Those look like snow clouds in the mountains.

Next morning the Buttonwood said they were still down. :-( No problem, one of the conference organizers called the local country club where the conference was being held. The country club said yes they had a high-speed line with another carrier and were up and running. This was great until we got to the country club and I couldn't see their wireless connection. I believe it was set up so that outside users would not detect. Oops! None of the country club staffers had any idea of how the wifi worked except theirs was working. After trying... and trying... and trying, the staff set me up with a hard wire connection through their closed-for-the-season proshop. I spent about the first two hours of the conference taking care of travel arrangements,work issues, and finalizing my presentation for Texas the following week.

RedBat shares his geocaching knowledge with the conference attendees.

I was a little uncertain of what to expect at the conference. The name Cashing-In on Geocaching concerned me. In the end, it was a very good gathering. I was asked to give the attendees a solid understanding of the cache listing guidelines and some tips for placing a geotrail from a reviewer's perspective. I was also asked to spend about half my talk discussing geotrails from a cacher's perspective. Other speakers included two of the three public employees who were responsible for making the Allegheny GeoTrail a reality; one of the organizers of the West Bend Cache Ba$h; the organizer of the Great Lakes Seaway Trail GeoTrail; the organizer of the DCNR Legacy of Conservation Geocaching Trail; and the owner of the unpublished Allegheny River Wilderness Island Geo Trail. Wes of kcepenn gave a review of the work we put into the bid for GeoWoodstock and an update of the status of next year's event. In the end, the conference gave potential geotrail organizers and people just looking to attract geocachers to the area some solid, real-life information and shared experiences.

Many conference attendees got to hunt their first geocaches on the grounds of the Emporium Country Club. I'm not sure I would use yellow Etrex's in 2010 if I wanted to give a great memory of the hunt to a first time geocacher. Yellow Etrex's can be pretty flaky with signals. The participants looked a bit like a gathering of chickens moving back and forth searching for the temporary hides. They were pretty game for being outdoors on a really cold fall day.

There were some strange things at the conference. Cameron's tourism bureau is always a little interesting since they insist on calling the county the "Geocaching Capital of the World". For some reason, Cameron is convinced there are over "3000 caches" in the county when the real number is somewhere around 70. It must be something in the air which makes the locals near here miscount the number of active caches nearby. A few years ago we were on vacation in the area and met up with the local geocaching event organizer in a nearby county. For some reason, he was convinced we were geocaching newbies and wanted to share all his geo-knowledge with us. He also wanted to show us the "700 active caches" in his county. We already knew there were about 70 active caches about 50 of which we hadn't found.

They are probably still wondering why geocachers find this so much fun.

We had fun at the conference. It was great to say hello to a group of supportive friendly people. The conference organizers did a super job with the planning and execution. Back at the Buttonwood, there was still no internet in our room so we had to cut our weekend short. We later found out there was internet service at the Buttonwood. The place just has a weak wireless network and lots of blind spots. Take a tip, if you want to spend a few wonderful days in beautiful Cameron and Potter Counties and you need an internet connection, stay in Coudersport. You'll have a great time in both counties, you will see some super countryside while finding some nice caches, and your body will enjoy the reduced stress level of great internet service in Coudersport. Oh, and while you are there, please make certain your trip includes a stop in Benezette to see the elk. They are truly majestic animals. It is an amazing and peaceful site to see them wander into the fields in the viewing areas as sunset arrives.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

A Chance to be Heard

Here's a chance to show your support for geocaching on public lands. Follow the link to read more at the usda site. You will need to sign-up to vote.

America's Great Outdoors

Shenandoah National Park

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Knowing Your Limits I

I really enjoy Thompson Ledges. It's a hidden gem in Northeast Ohio. Whenever a new cache is placed there, it's great to go back for a visit. There were two new caches in the park so we drove over to hunt them both. The first was at the top of a rock formation. We climbed different ends of the rock formation and met at near the cache. The second cache inspired this post and the title. I used to be fearless. For some reason, today seemed a turning point. The cache is at the top of a rock ledge about 40 feet up. I got about halfway up and realized the safety zone was less and less. For some reason I had visions of falling and getting smashed on the rocks. I tried approaching from three other points and couldn't get closer. In the end, that was it for this cache. The funny thing is when I was trying to reach the top I was more interested in getting there with my camera so I could take a few shots from the top. Maybe we'll go back in the spring. Maybe next time I'll wear my biking helmet.

Anyone else have a cache where you knew you reached your limit?

Monday, November 15, 2010

AGT-Venango-5th annual Oil Region Cachers Event

The Oil Region Cachers are a small group of cachers based primarily in Venango County. Their informal leader is bpratt. Bruce usually hosts his annual event on Sunday which is an almost impossible event day for us. This year was perfect. The event was on Saturday. It was at Oil Creek State Park, and it was an old-time pot luck event.

Bruce decided to place an event cache in the middle of Oil Creek. It was a sunny warm day so I had no problem getting wet to make this find.

One of the Oil Regions reps stopped by to discuss the status of the Allegheny GeoTrail and Mike Henderson was at the event to award coins to any cachers who had completed any new counties. The AGT is in a unique position. The world's most successful geotrail is slated to end June 30, 2011 and GeoWoodstock will be held on July 2. It presents a quandry to the organizers. Do they shut it down at the June 30th date? Do they keep it open for a few weeks and absorb the hit of about 5000 coins being awarded? Do they re-work the trail so it can live on well past the June 30th date and GeoWoodstock? It seemed pretty clear the last choice is the one the organizers want, but if you are coming to GeoWoodstock and want to do the AGT trail, I would plan to arrive a week early in the Warren area.

What would a geomeet be without prizes? There were some nice give aways, but the grand "prize" was a ready to hide cache container stuffed with none other than a replica Hawaiian shirt just like the one worn by Oil Region's very own bpratt when he is out caching. The proud owner joined Bruce for a moment of fashion solidarity. ;-)

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Ohio State Parks Finale

For the last five years, the Northeast Ohio section of Ohio State Parks has been placing an annual, summer series of caches. In 2009, they added a second series with more parks and a trackable coin for completing the series! In the fall, there's always an event for everyone with coins for people who have completed the challenge. This year's event was held at the newest Ohio State Park, Wingfoot Lake State Park. The park used to be Goodyear's park for employees and families. OSP took ownership of the park and has converted it to a state park. The event was a fun way to say hi to friends and get to see a new park.

This fun series only happens because of the dedication of Amber, her great boss Todd at Ohio State Parks, and a group of dedicated volunteers.

No coins for the cormorants (no food either).

Geocaching and miniature golf are a great mix.

Chris K climbs through a big tire.

The Goodyear Blimp hanger

Me with half of the Muddy Dawgs.

Catie of Team RAGAR with a really cool geocaching shirt.

The coin is really nice. The design is the same as last year's but the metal color changed to silver.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

#7000 - Oil Creek State Park

We always do a memorable cache for one of the thousands. We try to do the same for the 500's and the 100's. Sometimes it even works with my travel schedule. ;-) Today everything worked. The weather was perfect for a visit to the amazing Oil Creek State Park. We had always counted the old Benninghoff Cache as a favorite so it seemed logical to return to the area and hunt the newly placed Benninghoff Ridge View. The cache is located on part of the 36-mile Gerard Hiking Trail. Near the cache site, there is a nice view of the valley below. This stretch includes a walk through a portion of the old oil field area that has been restored with wooden derricks. As you walk the hill there is still some faint evidence of the hundreds of oil wells that used to cover the landscape here. As an added treat to a special day, we found one of the Oil Creek-Kennerdell coins in the cache. The Oil Region is placing 1,000 of these coins in random caches in the area. It is a nice coin, and it's trackable. :-) It is a super memento for us.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

New Cameron County Geotrail

Cameron County just released their Cameron County Sesquicentennial Geotrail. The trail is supposed to have 33 caches with 15 finds required for a coin, but so far only 24 caches are out there. No word on whether the coins are trackable. I hope so. It is a nice looking coin.

One of our favorite caches, Dobby's Home, is located in Elk State Forest in Cameron County. The county is also home to a large elk herd. It's a fun place to cache. We look forward to hunting this geotrail (despite the trackable question about the coin).

On the way to Dobby's Home

Looking out from near Dobby's Home

An elk we spotted along the way

If you visit this geotrail and haven't gotten an AGT coin for this county, there's some nice caching and a coin available. It is also a great place to get started on the Pennsylvania DCNR Legacy of Conservation Geotrail. There are 30 caches in the series.

There's more images of Cameron County posted on my AGT blog and my regular blog.