October 26, 2008

Challenge Caches

The web site Cacheopedia defines a challenge cache as a puzzle cache that requires geocachers to complete certain tasks (e.g., to find other geocaches meeting certain requirements) before they can log it. Typically, geocachers must send an email to the challenge cache owner providing evidence that they have completed the challenge requirements, and the cache owner replies with the coordinates of the cache.

Chances are, if you've been geocaching for a while, you've probably already met some of the requirements for a number of the various challenge caches that are out there. For example, most states have a "Counties Challenge" cache, requiring cachers to find one cache in every county in the state before the cache owner provides them with the coordinates to the final cache. In California, this cache is known as, "Discovering and Logging California's 58 Counties".

Similarly, many states or regions also have Quad Challenge Caches and DeLorme Challenge Caches. The former requires you to find at least one cache in each USGS Quadrangle Map section in a given area (see, for example, the Bay Area Quadrangle Challenge), while the latter requires you to find one cache within the boundaries of each page of a state's DeLorme Atlas & Gazetteer (see, the Colorado DeLorme Challenge cache).

Here's a screen shot showing the 70-Quad grid from the Bay Area Quadrangle Challenge listed above:

To log this cache, the successful cacher must first find one cache in each of the map grids shown above, before the cache owner will provide him/her with the coordinates to the final cache. Other interesting challenge caches include:
Obviously, these types of caches are not likely to be found in a single day, even by the most determined of geocachers. Instead, these tend to be long-term endeavors. Thus, it's always fun to continue to monitor your finds in relation to the different challenge caches in your state and area to see how close you are to being able to request the final coordinates from the cache owner.

Cache On!

October 19, 2008

iPhone Geocaching

If you're lucky enough to own one of the new iPhone G3's (I wish), then you might be interested in some of the geocaching applications that are cropping up in the iTunes App. Store. Since the new iPhone uses a combination of GPS, Wi-Fi positioning and cell towers to determine your approximate location, it makes for an ideal Geocaching device.

Here's a brief run-down of some of the iPhone Geocaching Apps. currently available:

  • Groundspeak's Geocaching iPhone Application. Cost: $9.99. Just released this week. Boasts direct access to Geocaching.com's database of worldwide geocaches; searches by current location, address or look-up code; allows you to save geocache listings for quick retrieval; navigates to geocaches with a simulated compass arrow; and provides trackable item details. Some of the early reviews are mixed, with the majority of complaints being that the application does not allow you to log in to your account, filter your found caches, or let you log your finds and trackables. Supposedly, however, some of these features will be available in future versions of the application.
  • iGeoCacher. Cost: $14.99. Stores cache information "off-line" in an SQL database on your device, allowing for true paperless caching. Also provides seamless integration with the on-board GPS. This received many positive reviews from users, although there were some complaints about apparent set up difficulties.
  • Geofinder. Cost: $0.99. Allows you to list the geocaches closest to your current location. Reviews were not very positive. Many felt you are better off just using the Safari browser on your iPhone to access the geocaching.com web site directly, or spending an extra $1.00 for Geopher Lite.
  • Geopher Lite. Cost: $1.99. This was one of the first iPhone geocaching applications that came out and has received positive reviews. It allows you to check your current location via geocaching.com for geocaches in your area, then use the built-in directional arrow to lead you to your destination. Note that there are some on-going issues concerning the Groundspeak terms of use, which you can read more about in the Geopher blog in the link above.
  • Geocaching Toolkit iGCT. Cost: Free. Helps you solve multi-caches and puzzle caches out in the field by providing numerous waypoint calculation, text calculation, and hint decryption tools. Received very high review ratings.
  • Seek Cache. Cost: $0.99. Similar to Geofinder above. Sends your location (based on your iPhone's GPS/Wi-Fi derived location) to geocaching.com and returns a list of nearby caches. Reviews were mixed.
You can search the iTunes App Store using the key word, "Navigation" or "Geocaching" to look for updates to and reviews of the applications listed here, as well as any new geocaching tools that become available.

Enjoy, and happy iCaching!

October 11, 2008

Geocaching and Mapping (not in that order)

My humble apologies for this late post. I try never to let more than one week go by between posts, but I recently changed internet service providers and have been dealing with all sorts of issues related to the switch; including lost internet access through my gateway, network file and printer sharing problems, and a host of issues created by the anti-virus/firewall software that comes "free" with my new ISP.

Anyhow, enough about that. Let's get on with the good stuff:

  • If you own a Garmin GPS device, then you are no doubt familiar with the Garmin Communicator Plugin that allows you to transfer any cache waypoint directly from the Geocaching.com web site to your GPS unit. But did you know you can also transfer the location of the results of a Google Maps search to your device as well? In this example, I used Google Maps to locate REI stores in the East Bay area. After clicking on the marker of the one I wanted (in Berkeley), and then clicking the send option, I get the following pop-up screen prompting me to send the coordinates to my GPS (or email, phone, or even car): Pretty nifty. Read more about it on the Garmin site here.
  • Services like Picasa and Panoramio allow you to post digital images on a web-map to indicate the location where your picture was taken. Now there's a service called Woices that let's you record and post locationally-accurate audio data. So the next time you're out caching and you want to share your thoughts out loud about a particular geocache right from the cache site, you can do it here.
  • And finally, after a rough day of Geocaching (or reconfiguring your home network), you may want to treat yourself to one of your favorite India Pale Ales, or a nice glass of Sangiovese. Of course, that means trying to find the perfect place to imbibe. Well, now you can let any one of these Google Maps mash-ups take all the guess work out of that task for you.
Enjoy, and happy caching!