"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