December 31, 2011

Happy New Year

Hope everyone had a great twenty-eleven. Here's a quick recap from Groundspeak:



Wishing you all many wonderful caching adventures in 2012!

Cache On!

December 24, 2011

The New Google Map Maker

Who better to update hiking and biking trails in Google Maps than geocachers?!



Cache On!

December 15, 2011

Jeremy Irish at TEDx

Jeremy Irish, President and CEO of Groundspeak, explains how geocaching.com got started, and why he loves it, at this TEDx talk. Find out why it's called a "R.A.S.H."



Cache On!

December 9, 2011

Done and Done... Almost

On Friday, I found a cache on a day I had not previously found a cache before; December 9th. This marked the 365th calendar day of finding at least one cache, and means I have filled in my "days with a find" calendar, sort of:

The only day I'm missing now is February 29th, leap day. Luckily, the next leap day is only 81 days away. But if I don't find a cache on 02/29/2012, then it's a long, 1,461 days until my next opportunity to completely fill in the calendar.

Cache On!

December 4, 2011

Geoaching On An Android Device

If you've read this blog long enough, you know I use a combination of a Garmin GPSmap60CSx, and an iPodTouch, for geocaching. You also may recall that I used to use the Groundspeak iOS geocaching app, but recently migrated to Geosphere, as I think it has much better features, is significantly faster at loading pocket queries, and is better at searching lists of downloaded caches.

Having no experience caching with an Android device, I purposefully avoided discussing that topic in this blog. However, I've recently found myself in the market for my first smartphone (yeah, I know, welcome to the real world, Mr. GeoJoe). I'm pretty set on getting an Android device, so naturally, I am curious about what my caching options would be on such a unit. I know that Groundspeak also makes an Android version of it's geocaching app., but I was hoping there might be other options.

Apparently, there are, as during a casual search, I ran across this great blog site, called Android Caching, that discusses nothing but, you guessed it, Android Caching. So if you find yourself with a new Android phone and need to figure out the perfect geocaching app, this site has your back.

Cache On!

November 27, 2011

Shopping or Caching? - It's A No-Brainer

On the Friday after Thanksgiving, my daughter and I joined many of my college buddies and their friends and family for our annual Post-Thanksgiving-Day hike in Las Trampas Regional Wilderness in the hills west of Danville, California. Being somewhat of a shop-a-phobe, there really is no where I'd rather be on Black Friday than surrounded by nature and a few friends. While the weather was a little on the cool side by California standards (65 degrees F), it was still a perfect day for hiking and picking up a few new geocaches along the way. Here are the details of the hike from EveryTrail.com:

Las Trampas Post Turkey Hike at EveryTrail


Hope everyone had a nice Thanksgiving. Cache On!

November 20, 2011

Fall Caching

While anytime of year is great for geocaching, there's something extra nice about caching during the fall. The temperature is perfect as it is never so hot or so cold that you're miserable. And the disappearing foliage makes it much easier to find that cache that's eluded you all summer. Here are a few shots from my outing yesterday to get you in the mood:






So get out there, and Cache On!

November 13, 2011

GSAK Version 8 Released

A major upgrade of GSAK was released this past week, and includes many new features as it now takes advantage of the geocaching.com API. This allows the user to load cache data into their GSAK databases directly from geocaching.com. No more dowloading pocket queries to you hard-drive and then loading them into GSAK. Other new features in the version 8 release include support for custom data (virtually unlimited number of fields) and a newer, more modern look and feel. The full list of new features can be found here.


Since this is a significant upgrade, it does come with a cost:

  • Brand new users (those that have never owned a previous version of GSAK) - $30
  • If purchased V7 after 10/01/11 - Free
  • If purchased V7 between July 1st and September 30th - $5 for the upgrade
  • If purchased V7  between February 1st and June 30th  - $10 for the upgrade
  • If purchased V7  between 10/01/09 and 01/31/11  - $15 for the upgrade
  • If purchased V7 before 10/01/09 - $20 for the upgrade
  • Version 6 users can get a token discount of $5, so $25 for the upgrade to V8

On a completely unrelated note, I hope everyone had an enjoyable 11/11/11 and was able to attend a cache event somewhere honoring our veterans. I attended a flash mob event in the tiny town of American Canyon (appropriately named), where a good, but brief, time was had by all.


Cache On!

November 5, 2011

Cloudy Skies Ahead?

A year ago, I was somehow lucky enough to convince Google that I was a good candidate to test their prototype Chromebook, an all-web laptop:



Since then, the device has become my primary computing tool. In fact, I rarely use my old, slow, virus-prone, Windows XP desktop PC anymore. Since almost everything I do is on the web, from Google Docs for word processing and spreadsheets to mint.com for monitoring finances to Picasa for photo storing and sharing to listening to music on internet radio stations like Pandora. In addition to a heavy reliance on web-based applications, most of my files (documents, spreadsheets, images, mp3's) are stored in the cloud as well; meaning I have access to them at anytime from anywhere.

There is barely an application I use now that requires a Windows PC. The only reason I even still have it: geocaching. In fact, that's all I use it for. Since my Chromebook does not recognize my Garmin GPSmap 60CSx device, I cannot load waypoints on to it, nor extract GPS tracks from it. And until some genius creates an HTML 5 version of GSAK, I'll continue to be wedded to my XP behemoth. As I cannot live without my GSAK.

Cache On!

October 30, 2011

Geosphere Is The One

I've been using the Groundspeak geocaching app on my iTouch since its inception, but over time as newer versions have been released, it has become more and more frustrating to use. I'm not sure if it's become more bloated and therefore less stable on my 4th generation iPodTouch, or if it is really just geared for use on an iPhone and not so much for off-line use.

Whatever the reason, it has gotten to the point where the app crashes every-time I wake my iTouch from sleep mode, requiring me to relaunch the app each time (which, incidentally, seems to take forever). My other complaint about this app is that it takes too long to scroll through a list of 1,000 caches to pull up a specific cache listing; especially if the cache name happens to begin with a letter near the end of the alphabet.

These ongoing frustrations finally prompted me to look for another solution. And I think I have found it in Geosphere. This app. overcomes all the problems with the gc.com app listed above as it starts up instantly, it never crashes, and it has a great search and scroll function so I can pull up any cache that I want, instantly.


Not only that, but it is incredibly feature-rich, sporting much more functionality than the gc.com iOS app. For example, you can load caches onto your device from a variety of sources including your own pocket queries as well as from email messages containing gpx files and from your dropbox account, to name a few. It also has an impressive search, filter and sort tool that allows you to pull up any cache or caches that you could want.


This powerful little app. has so many features and so much functionality, it's impossible to list them all here. So instead, here's the Geosphere quick start video that'll give you a taste of the power of this $7.99 app:



I've been using it for a few days now, and am completely sold. Unless something completely unexpected happens, I don't see myself ever going back to the gc.com app.


Cache On!

October 22, 2011

Time To Plan Your Free 2012 Park Visits

Get out your calendars, because the National Parks Service has just announced their 17 "fee-free" days for 2012. And yes, I know most National Parks do not allow any geocaches, other than virtual caches, within the park boundaries. But that's no reason not to visit these wonderful places; especially when they are free. Besides, who doesn't love picking up a virtual cache now and then?


Cache On!

October 15, 2011

Park District Announces Geocaching Guidelines

My favorite park district, the East Bay Regional Park District, developed their own set of geocaching guidelines and posted them on their website this week. The Park District spans Alameda and Contra Costa counties east of San Francisco with 108,000+ acres in 65 parks including over 1,200 miles of trails for hiking, biking, horseback riding and nature study. 




The Park District has always been friendly to the geocaching community, and it's no coincidence that a good chunk of my overall cache finds have been on EBRPD land. It was nice to see them come out with their own set of geocaching guidelines, to not only acknowledge that they support caching on EBRPD land, but to ensure that geocaching is conducted in a responsible and sustainable manner within their jurisdiction.


For the most part, the EBRPD guidelines are based on the standard Groundspeak guidelines, but they've also included a few of their own, such as:

  • Caches shall be clearly labeled with “Geocache” on the exterior;
  • Cache containers shall be of a “neutral” nature so as not to cause alarm or concern;
  • Caches that have been abandoned or not maintained will be considered as litter and removed by the District;
  • Caches shall not be placed in a way that causes the development of new “unofficial” trails;
  • Caches are not allowed within 100’ of streams, lakes, marshes, or wetlands.

Kudos to the Park District for developing these guidelines, which could serve as a model for other park agencies. Are you listening National Park Service?


Cache On!

October 2, 2011

Tid Bits

Some geocaching and semi-geocaching-related items from this past week:


1. Google Earth Version 6.1 Released
Includes improved line labeling functionality and a better Street View experience in Tours.


2. Google Maps Adds 3D Driving Directions
Let Google Maps take you on a virtual tour from point A to point B. Just click on the new, 3D button:


3. Geocachers NYC
A nicely done website and YouTube Channel that chronicles the caching adventures of our hosts and their special guests through relatively unknown sections of New York City.

4. Geocaching iPhone App. Update
Version 4.5.6 adds features that allow premium users to add/remove Favorite points, and fixes bugs related to travel bug dropping and favorites lists.

Until next time,
Cache On!

September 25, 2011

My Geocaching Profile Continues To Expand

If you haven't checked out mygeocachingprofile.com lately, you owe it to yourself to do so. As you may recall, this caching statistics website was acquired by groundspeak last year, which geocaching.com uses to display your cache finds statistics on their site. But mygeocachingprofile continues to add new statistic reporting features on their site, before they are transferred to geocaching.com, including things like GeoAchievement badges, and a US county map showing counties where you've found caches:

My favorite part of this site is that it reports your progress on various challenge caches like the Jasmer Challenge, the AlphaNumeric Challenge, and most DeLorme Challenges.

The latest additions to the site include the following:

  • find rate per day geocaching that calculates your find rate over the days you were actively geocaching.  This find rate is now part of the Caching Chronology section.
  • DeLorme GeoAchievement badge that rewards cachers for completing DeLorme challenge caches.
  • Fizzy Well-Rounded GeoAchievement badge that rewards cachers for completing Fizzy challenge caches.
  • And finally, a Jasmer GeoAchievement badge that rewards cachers for completing Jasmer challenge caches.
As with all new profile sections, you'll need to (1) upload your "My Finds" pocket query to generate the profile images and (2) re-export your HTML code and re-paste it into your geocaching.com profile if you'd like to show off your stats.


Cache On!

September 17, 2011

Historical Topographic Maps

Many of us old-timey cachers, who have been caching since the pre-smartphone era, latched on to this hobby as a result of a pre-existing love of the outdoors. Most of us already had recreational GPS receiver devices that we used for navigating through remote hiking, biking and/or 4x4 trails. When geocaching came along, it just gave us just one more excuse to break out the ol' GPSr.

Of course, most GPSr's back then did not have built-in background maps, so we still had to rely more heavily on the beloved USGS TOPO map to keep ourselves from getting lost. As such, many of us have acquired quite a collection of TOPO maps over the year, myself included.

If you grew up with a, some might call it sick, fondness for TOPO maps, then you might be interested to know that the USGS is converting all of their historical printed topographic quadrangles to an electronic format and making them available for download. This will be a great way to see how much has changed in your area of interest over the years, if at all, as these maps include such wonderful detail. I know I'm looking forward to seeing the railroad alignment that used to run through my neck of the woods long before I arrived here. There is no longer any physical evidence that it ever existed. The only clue I've had up until now, ironically, is from a geocache: Eastport.


Cache On!

September 10, 2011

Pocket Query Wish List

For me, pocket queries are the greatest thing since sliced bread, and the main reason I cough up my hard-earned $30 each year to maintain my Groundspeak premium membership. Whether it's a pocket query along a route, of my bookmarks, within a 10-mile radius of my home or any location I plan to visit; the ability to create a list of up to 1,000 caches meeting any search criteria and instantly load them into my GPS receiver is one of my favorite aspects of geocaching (besides the actual outdoor part).

As great as PQ's are, there are a couple of nagging issues that drive me crazy, some of which may only pertain to a small percentage of people that geocache the way I do - using a non-wireless Garmin GPS device (GPSmap 60CSx), and an iPodTouch running the geocaching app.:

(1) The Search Radius
This is primarily an iPodTouch end user complaint. It's great that you can generate pocket queries containing up to 1,000 caches, which is the most I can load onto my Garmin device. But having a list of 1,000 caches in one pocket query set up for off-line use on my iPodTouch is a bit unwieldy. It takes forever to scroll through the whole list to pull up the info. for one specific cache.

That's why I like to break up my pocket queries into manageable amounts; say 500 caches each, or less. This is easy enough to do for caches along a route or bookmark PQ's. But it is impossible to do for a list of caches I haven't found within a 10 mile radius of my home - my most frequently used PQ.  Coincidentally, there are typically right around 1,000 caches that I haven't found within that radius of my home.

What I would love to do is to be able to set up one PQ that lists all my not-found caches within a 5 mile radius (which I can do), and then a 2nd PQ that lists all of the not-found caches within a distance covering between 5 and 10 miles from my home. The current PQ search options do not allow for this:


(2) Why no United States?
The other thing that has always bothered me is why there isn't a United States option in the list of countries to search within?


This would come in very handy, for example, for those of us working on one of the many Jasmer Challenge caches, which requires that you log at least one cache that was placed in every month back to the start of Geocaching (May, 2000). I would love to generate a PQ showing me all the active caches in the United States that were placed in the year 2000, of which there are very few. The only way I can do that now is to create a separate PQ for each state, rather than one PQ for the entire US. Quite annoying.

Other than that, I can find very little to complain about when it comes to pocket queries, especially considering the alternative: loading caches into a GPSr one at a time.

Cache On!

September 5, 2011

Win A Barely Coveted Prize

Every so often, Groundspeak runs a caption creation contest on its blog site, Latitude 47. The current installment asks brave souls to create a caption for this image captured at the recent Groundspeak Block Party:


Think you might have a winning caption for this image? Go to this week's blog post to submit your entry. Or, if you want to see what other people have submitted so far, you can do so at the same site. You can also vote for your favorite caption.

And the barely coveted prize for the best entry? A trackable from the Geocaching Block Party.

Good luck, and Cache On!

August 27, 2011

Benchmark Hunting Tool

A lot of geocachers also enjoy trying to locate benchmarks, in addition to "regular" geocaching. Like geocaches, there are probably several benchmarks, or survey markers, near you. You can search the National Geodetic Survey database for local benchmarks here.

I recently came across this nice little survey marker searching tool that uses the Google Earth plug-in to map benchmarks for any given query. First, center the map in your desired location. Then, Under the NGS Control Station heading, select the "Query Setup" radio button. Filter your search if you like in the dialog box that pops up, and/or just click "OK". The search will return a display of all the different types of control points within a fixed radius of your search location. A useful tool to add to your geocaching/benchmarking arsenal.

Cache On!

August 20, 2011

Challenge Caches Off To A Challenging Start

The build up to the launch of Challenge Caches ended this week as Geocaching.com modified the website on Thursday to include a new section called, Geocaching Challenges. These are the long-awaited cache types meant to replace Virtual Caches. There is no container to find or log to sign. A cacher simply creates a Challenge Cache by "daring" other cachers to either take a picture of themselves with something, or perform a specific task. More information is available on the FAQ page.

Apparently the reception has been less than stellar, which prompted this blog post from Bryan Roth, Groundspeak co-founder, asking people to, "give Challenges a chance". It seems that not only have people not swarmed to Challenge Caches, but significant numbers of long-time cachers are complaining about them as they don't seem to represent the spirit of geocaching. This is consistent with a lot of comments I saw on Twitter, summed up by a tweet from one cacher that said, "if there's no box to find and I don't need a GPSr, it's not a geocache."

I checked the Challenges near me, and most of them have already received more poor ratings than positive ones. Too many poor ratings, and the Challenges are automatically removed by Groundspeak.


We'll have to wait and see if Challenge Caches eventually take off, or die a quick death. I can see how this might appeal to the new, smartphone-wielding geocaching crowd, which makes this a wise business move on Groundspeak's part as a means to attract new cachers. But me personally, I fall in to the old-timey cacher category who likes using his non-wireless Garmin GPSmap 60CSx device out in the woods to locate Tupperware and ammo cans.

Cache (and Challenge) On!

August 14, 2011

A Busy Week

Lots of happenings in the geosphere this week, including:

1. Geocaching.com Introduces "Challenge Caches"

On their Latitude 47 blog site this week, Groundspeak announced that "Challenge Caches" are coming soon, and provided us with this interesting, but not completely informative, video:



Like most who have seen this, I'm not quite sure what it means. Is this the long-awaited replacement for Virtual Caches? Possibly. But why call them "Challenge Caches" when an informal category of challenge caches has existed for years, including the likes of all the Quad, DeLorme, County and Fizzy Challenges? I guess we'll find out soon enough.

2. GSAK Version 8.0 Beta Release

The good people at GSAK (aka, Clyde) released version 8 in beta form this week. This is/will be a significant upgrade from the current version and includes many new features, the biggest being:
  • Increased functionality by leveraging the new Groundspeak api
  • Support for custom data (virtually unlimited number of fields)
  • A newer, more modern look and feel 

The first bullet item above is significant in that the GSAK program will now be able to interact directly with geocaching.com, giving you the ability to pull down cache data directly and instantly from the website into your GSAK database. The final release of version 8 will be a paid upgrade, but prices have not been announced yet.

If you are interested in running the beta program without losing your current version, you can install the v8 beta in a separate directory. There is no charge for downloading the beta product. Learn more at gsak.net.

3. Geocaching App for iOS 4.5.2 Released

A free update to the Geocaching iOS App is now available in the App Store. This release fixes a number of bugs including (1) the time/date bug which caused some logs to be posted "tomorrow" (a particular annoyance that I've discussed before), (2) searches returning incorrect cache sizes, and (3) a User Notes display problem.

4. Goodbye MapSource

GPS Tracklog reported this week that Garmin will no longer support its MapSource program, as they focus development efforts on Base Camp instead. Like a lot of long-time Garmin GPS users, this news is tough to swallow. I've tried Base Camp a few times, but it runs so slowly that I always end up coming back to MapSource. I guess it's time to make the permanent switch to Base Camp and hope that Garmin addresses the performance issues.

Cache On!

August 6, 2011

Pluggin' Away

As life continues to get in the way of geocaching this year, my find rate has dropped below 1 per day. As depressing as that is, I've managed to keep my caching spirits up by focusing on filling in my caching calendar. So far, I've been doing well with that goal, and now have every month filled in since the start of this year, with the exception of February, thanks to leap day.



If I stay on task, I should have 365 out of 366 days filled in by December 9th of this year. Then it's just a matter of making sure I don't let February 29, 2012 go by without finding a cache; or it'll be a long wait until the next opportunity.

Well, gotta go. Today is another cache day to fill in.

Cache On!

July 30, 2011

Just What I Don't Need

Another social network. Although I have to admit, after using Google Plus (a.k.a. Google +, or G+) for the past few weeks, I'm really enjoying it. Maybe it's because it hasn't become overrun with celebrities, political hacks, and marketers yet. As such, there's been some high quality content being shared by people in my "Circles" (similar concept to "friends" on Facebook, or people you "follow" on Twitter).



What I also like about G+ is that you can add people to your circles, and people can add you, without having to return the favor (unlike Facebook). That way, you can get anyone's posts included in your content feed, or "Stream." And unlike Twitter, your posts are not limited to 140 characters, which allows for some quality  exchanges. It's also easy to control who receives your posts by selecting just certain circles, or all of your followers if you choose.

Another nice feature is what Google calls, "Hangouts"; which allows you to participate in a live video chat with 10 of your friends. I understand this will become more tightly integrated with YouTube, allowing you to record your hangout sessions for others to view afterward. I can envision some of the geo-podcachers out there migrating to this type of forum.

Most of the people using Google + so far are what might be described as uber-geeky. While I expect this will change over time as more people get on board, I have been enjoying a lot of the technical items that have come through my stream. I've also noticed that many of the geocachers that I've been following on Twitter and/or Facebook are now also on Google +, and I've already added 15 of them to my "Geocachers" Circle (my largest circle at the moment).

Google + is currently in "field trial", and access is available by invitation only. Although I understand that it will be opening publicly soon. If you can't wait, and you'd like to check it out for yourself, drop me a line in the comments section and I will send you an invite.

Cache On!

July 24, 2011

Having a Blast. Wish You Were Here.

I spent last week in and around Seattle on a family vacation. We did all the touristy things, including visiting the top of the Space Needle, shopping at Pike Place Market, grabbing a latte at the original Starbucks, browsing through the gigantic REI flagship store, and hopping a ferry to British Columbia (where I scored my first cache find outside the U.S.). We also did one other thing that most tourists do not do, but I highly recommend all geocachers try at some point; pay a visit to Groundspeak Headquarters and claim the cache they have hidden there. The only requirement is that you have to make an appointment ahead of time, and they will send you the actual coordinates (along with their address).

At GZ, you'll find one of the biggest cache containers, stocked full of goodies, that you've ever seen. But don't be fooled by some of the decoys on display. We got to meet some of the Groundspeak staff, who were incredibly gracious hosts, along with several other cachers from different parts of the globe. There are plenty of trade items, trackables, pathtags and geocoins available for trade and purchase in all shapes and sizes. You can get your picture taken in the photo booth, which spits out two copies: one for you and one that Groundspeak posts on their photo wall. They also have a cool big screen Google Earth display that zooms into each new cache find that gets logged across the globe, in real time.

Getting Closer 

Geocaching Timeline Display 

Jackpot! 

All Smiles

Check out more photos from other cachers here.

Cache On!

July 17, 2011

A New Type of Geocaching

I ran across this tweet this week which suggested that Munzee is going to give Geocaching a run for its money. I hadn't heard of Munzee before this, and decided to check it out. According to the website

"Munzee is a real world scavenger hunt game where items are found in the real world and captured using your smartphone. You then level up and gain rank based on your score. Points are obtained by capturing other people's munzees or when your deployed munzees are captured by someone else. Munzee is based off of the fundamentals of geocaching and adds another layer of fun to the hunt. Badges can be earned by unlocking specific achievements."

It sounds interesting, but being one of the 66% of the population that does not have a smartphone, I'm unable to try it out. According to the Munzee website, there are currently 715 total players signed up (as of this writing), and 371 Munzees deployed world wide. I couldn't tell how long Munzee has been around, but 371 deployed Munzees isn't a heck of a lot. You can check the Munzee Map to see how many are in your area. In the San Francisco Bay Area, there are only three so far, which is pretty limited.

Call me cynical, but I don't see this activity posing any real threat to geocaching. People with smartphones may like to partake in both activities, but what I, and I think others, really like about geocaching is getting out into remote areas (often out of cell service range) either by bike, jeep or hiking boots, and looking for caches along trails and out in the wilderness.  Munzee sounds like a fun, urban activity, but I don't think we're going to see very many 5-star terrain Munzees. Also, it will be a long, long time before I trade in my Garmin GPS60CSx for a smartphone.

Cache and Munzee On!

July 9, 2011

I Like What You've Done With The Place

You may have heard that a new version of the Geocaching iPhone/iPodTouch application was released this week, and it included many nice enhancements, including:

  • New Advanced Search to filter by location, cache type, difficulty/terrain, keyword, exclude your finds, exclude finds for up to 4 friends, and Premium caches;
  • Sync Personal Cache Notes between the website and your iPhone;
  • Create multiple offline cache lists to plan outings; useful when you may be travelling outside network coverage;
  • Download Pocket Queries to the iPhone to view cache details, images, and map tiles offline;
  • Numerous bug fixes to address performance and reliability.

The new, advanced search feature is particularly nice. Here are some screen shots:


Filter your search by cache type if you like. Include or exclude your previous finds.



Filter by difficulty and/or terrain rating and cache size.



You can also exclude cache finds by other cachers - great for cache outings with your friends.

After you've selected all of your desired filters, hit the search button, and you'll be presented with a list of all the caches that meet your criteria near your current location. You can then save that listing to your device for later use. You can also click on the icon in the upper-right corner to see a map of your selected caches:



You can also download pocket queries to your device just as before, but now you have the option of including map tiles with your pocket query:


However, unless you have a lot of memory on your iPhone/iPodTouch, I'd advise against using this option. I downloaded a pocket query with 1,000 caches to my 8GB iPodTouch and chose to include the Topo Map tiles, which ultimately crashed my unit. This feature worked fine, though, with a much smaller pocket query.

All in all, these are great enhancements. And the ability to save searches to your device for later, off-line use is especially appreciated by us iPodTouch users.

Cache On!

July 1, 2011

Geowoodstock IX

If you can't be there in person, then follow the action on Twitter:



And here's a link to the official Blog site: Geowoodstock IX Blog.

Cache On!

June 25, 2011

What Day Is It?

Field Notes packageImage by - luz - via Flickr
I'm not sure if other people are having similar issues with their Field Notes on the iPhone/iTouch geocaching application, but I recently noticed that the date and time stamps have been significantly off. I posted some Field Notes after finding some caches on different days this week, and when I finally got to a computer where I could compose my logs, I noticed that the day my Field Notes said I found the caches was different than the day I actually found the caches. It seemed that the Field Note date was a day earlier than the day I actually posted it.

I checked my iPodTouch to see if it was set to the wrong time zone, but it was not. So for whatever reason, the Field Notes feature is not recording the date and time from the device, but instead coming up with something different. So if you use Field Notes, just make sure you double check that the date is correct when you go to compose your logs.

Cache On!
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June 18, 2011

Father's Day Is Caching Day

Like most Dads, I certainly relish the extra attention thrown my way every Father's Day. And while it's nice to get breakfast in bed and that TaylorMade hybrid golf club you always wanted, I typically request a family geocaching outing when asked what I want for Father's Day.

So, to inspire you to either take your kids caching, or your Dad, or both this Sunday, the following link will take you to a list of 119 different Father's Day themed caches. Hopefully you can find one or two near you.

Cache On, Pops!

June 11, 2011

Push Back Begins

Cell tower disguised as a palm tree in Tucson,...Image via Wikipedia
A while ago, we mentioned the concern about potential GPS receiver signal interference from LightSquared  cellular transmission signals, should the FCC approve their proposal to provide service within a similar bandwidth. Turns out others besides the geocaching community are not only concerned, but have conducted tests showing some disturbing results. According to this article in GPS World Magazine, that included testing of John Deere high-precision GPS equipment, "the tests, which simulated various cellular base station transmission schemes proposed by LightSquared in L-band frequencies between 1525-1559 MHz, without exception demonstrated severe interference to Deere’s high-precision GPS receivers." Deere went on to advise the FCC that, "no potentially effective mitigation solution, alone or in combination, has been examined such that it can be deemed to protect other precision GPS users in the construction sector or GPS in other applications."


Whether or not LightSquared's proposed cellular service will result in similar interference problems with our beloved consumer grade GPS receivers is yet to be seen. But let's hope we never have to find out.


Cache On! And do it soon...
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June 3, 2011

National Trails Day - 06/04/11

On of the dozens of trails in the Spring Mount...Image via Wikipedia
Need an excuse to get out and do some geocaching this weekend? No, I didn't think so. But by the off-chance that you need a little more enticement, here it is: The American Hiking Society has designated this Saturday, June 4th, as National Trails Day (NTD). They've even provided a map on their website of the all the scheduled NTD events around the country.

Most of the events that I've seen listed consist of organized trail maintenance activities; but what better way to give back to the trails that have given us so much? So get out there, repair a trail, and then hide/find a cache!

Cache On!
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May 28, 2011

Further Improvents

There wasn't a lot of fanfare nor any web service shutdowns, but Groundspeak made some nice improvements to the geocaching.com website this week. A couple that I noticed, and really appreciate are:

  • The addition of pocket queries to the Maps Beta page:



Now your pocket queries are accessible in the left side panel. If you click on one, the map zooms you to a view of all the caches in your query, and distinguishes them from other caches in the same area with a special icon. Click on the query again, and it disappears from view. Nice.

  • Quicker access to more features from Your Profile drop down menu:




Previously, you had to navigate your way through the website to get to features such as your Pocket Queries, Field Notes, List of Finds, etc. Now, all of these pages are quickly available with one click from the, "Your Profile" drop down.

Enjoy the changes, and the extra caching time available on this long holiday weekend (even if the weather calls for more rain and a foot-and-a-half of snow in the Sierras).

Cache On!

May 21, 2011

Geocaching Bucket List

It was nice to wake up on this judgement day morning and find myself still here. And as far as I can tell, most people I know are still around, as is planet Earth. Although I understand that doom's day is supposed to begin in New Zealand and work it's way west, so theoretically, there's still a chance that the end is near.

All this rapture talk got me thinking about what caches I'd really like to find if I knew I only had a few hours left on the planet (assuming I'd even want to spend my last day on Earth caching - which I'm pretty sure I would). Given the limited time frame, I wouldn't, unfortunately, be able to complete those long-term challenge cache projects I've been working on; like, The 555 Club, the Fizzy Challenge, or the California County and DeLorme Challenges.

What I would do, however, to figure out the best caches within the shortest distance would be as follows:
(1) Fire up geocaching.com on my web browser;
(2) Go to "Hide and Seek a Cache" under the "Play" menu;
(3) Scroll down to and click on the link to "Advanced Search Options";
(4) Search for all caches, by postal code, and check the "Exclude your owned or found items from results" box:


(5) When the list pops up, click on the blue ribbon icon to sort the list by the highest ranked caches:


And now you have a quick and dirty bucket list to focus on before it all disappears.

Happy Armageddon, and Cache On!

May 14, 2011

Ask And Ye Shall Receive

Jeremy Irish, president and CEO of Groundspeak, posted the following tweet yesterday:  
We did some map changes before the weekend, including the biggest request: smilies on by default.
That's right. If you haven't noticed yet, the Geocaching Maps Beta service now shows all of your finds on the map page without you having to tell it to do so, as before. And if that's enough, coming soon to the Geocaching Maps:

  • Pocket Query integration
  • Caches along a route
  • Trackables support
  • Real-time chat

It just gets better and better. If you'd like to follow Jeremy on Twitter, you can do so here: http://twitter.com/#!/locuslingua



Cache On!

May 7, 2011

Extreme Makeover

I'm sure by now you've noticed quite a few changes to the geocaching.com website since it was shut down for retooling last Wednesday. The response to the newly designed site has been pretty positive for the most part, at least from what I've seen in the forums and in the Twitterverse.

I'm pretty impressed as well. In general, the site seems faster and more responsive. And I really like how the menus have been moved from the left side of the screen to the top, allowing more room for the all important caching information:



My biggest complaint: the site does not seem to be entirely Chrome-compatible. Google Chrome is my default browser, and I've had some issues. The biggest problem so far is that I cannot "log my visit" from a cache page. If I click on the link, the site takes me to a blank page with an ad on it, like this:


So for now, I have to switch browsers anytime I want to post a log. I've also noticed some strange text placements in Chrome that I don't see in Firefox. Hopefully, these issues will be corrected soon. Other than that, the improvements are much welcomed.

Cache On!

April 30, 2011

Cache (Site) Maintenance

In case you haven't heard, geocaching.com will be off-line for about 4 - 6 hours on Wednesday, May 4th, starting at 9:00 AM (PDT). So make sure you get all your pocket queries downloaded, and anything else you might need, before then.

Groundspeak promises the website will have an updated look, and site performance will be improved, after the maintenance has been completed. Hopefully this work will also resolve some of the issues we've all had to deal with recently.

If you find yourself a nervous wreck during the downtime, you can at least follow the progress of the upgrade on Groundspeak's Facebook and/or Twitter sites.

Cache On!

April 24, 2011

Is It Just Me?

I've been noticing some oddities with the geocaching.com mapping feature recently. I've been seeing a message in the upper right-hand corner letting me know that, "Personalization of the map is currently unavailable", which means I can't display the caches I've found or hidden. And often times the tool just hangs up with a message saying, "parsing geocaches", but it never completes the operation.


I'm not sure if this means that the beta maps tool is finally about to come out of beta and permanently replace the standard mapping tool, or if it's just an anomaly that needs fixin'. I guess we'll find out soon enough.

In other news, I hope you all had a nice Earth Day weekend, and had an opportunity to either participate in a geocaching earth day event, or at minimum, practiced a little CITO.

Cache On!

April 17, 2011

FindStatGen Beta

For those of you with GSAK who love the FindStatGen macro, there's a beta version release available. You can get a copy, and read a good discussion, here.

Cache On!

April 9, 2011

A Couple O' Nuggets

I ran across a couple of nice nuggets of geocaching information goodness on Twitter this week. First was an April 7th tweet from @dudleygrunt, who provided a link to this little gem called, geocaching.com quick links. This site provides links to all your favorite geocaching.com sections in one place; plus it lets you add your own links. Definitely bookmark worthy.


Then, earlier this month, @GeocacheNews pointed out this nifty little Chrome extension that really cleans up the geocaching.com interface. It's called, appropriately enough, GC Tidy. If you use Google Chrome as your default web browser like I do, then you'll love this extension. Look how it cleans up the links at the top of the gc.com profile page:



It also does a nice job cleaning up some of the other pages, especially the maps page. If you use Chrome, give it a whirl.

Cache On!

April 3, 2011

More Road Trip Cache Planning

I've offered some suggestions in the past about how to go about setting up for a trip that involves geocaching; either as the focus of the trip, or as a diversion from the real purpose of your trip. Now if you are one of those cachers that uses one of those newfangled wireless devices like an iPhone or an Oregon or anything that doesn't require uploading pocket queries onto your GPS receiver, then stop reading right now because this post doesn't apply to you. For you old school cachers like me that will never part with your Garmin GPSmap 60Csx or eTrex, then read on.

What happens when your trip is so long that you find it difficult to load all the possible caches along your route on to your GPSr device, whether that limit is 500 or 1,000 waypoints? I had that experience recently when planning for a college road trip with my daughter, which took us over 600 miles one-way from the San Francisco Bay Area to the northern reaches of the state of Oregon. My GPSr holds 1,000 waypoints, so I needed to set up my "caches along a route" pocket query with a small enough search radius to accommodate as many caches as I could fit. I split the trip into two halves of about 500 caches each, and it turned out I needed to limit the search radius (distance from the route (Interstate-5)) to a quarter-mile along each side of the highway:

That's much smaller than I generally like to use, but that's the best I could do. I also needed to add a limited number of caches from the college towns we were visiting as well. After loading all my trip pocket queries into GSAK, I had well over 1,000 caches; about 1,300 in fact. So now what? I couldn't just start deleting caches indiscriminately to get down to the magic number of 1,000 caches.

The trick I like to use in this situation is to employ the "Last found date" filter in GSAK. I set it up to show me all the caches in my Oregon trip database that have not been found for the last 60 days, figuring these caches have either already gone missing, or were too difficult to spend a tremendous amount of time messing with on this trip:


You can set the number of days to whatever suits you, but it turned out that 60 days was perfect in this case, as after deleting all of the caches in this filter, I got my list down to 994. Perfect!

Something to keep in mind when you find yourself bumping up against your GPSr's waypoint limit.

Cache On!

March 26, 2011

Geocaching At The Movies

I finally got around to seeing "Splinterheads" last night (better late than never).



I actually watched it online, as it's limited theater run came and went nearly two years ago. It was an enjoyable, funny movie, worth watching if you get the chance. The lead characters play their roles very well. Rachell Taylor plays Galaxy, a strong, independent carnie and geocacher, and Thomas Middleditch plays Justin, a cowardly but lovable dufus (who looks and sounds a lot like Seth Meyers of Saturday Night Live). I loved the irony of Justin accusing Galaxy of being a nerd after she explained to him what geocaching is. But I was equally impressed by the strength of the comedic talent of the supporting actors/actresses, including:

  • Christopher McDonald (from Happy Gilmore)
  • Lea Thompson (who doesn't remember her from Back to the Future?)
  • Dean Winters (from 30 Rock and currently in all those All State commercials)
  • John Lutz (Also from 30 Rock)

My favorite line was when Reggie (Dean Winters), Galaxy's mean-spirited, jealous boyfriend, refers to caches as "cashews" when telling Galaxy how much he hates that hobby of hers.

While most of the movie takes place at the carnival site, quite a bit of the film is devoted to geoaching as well. The movie does a fair and accurate job of explaining and showing what geocaching is (the writers did their research). The only problem I had with their portrayal of geocaching was the apparent terrible accuracy of Galaxy's GPS receiver (which appears to be a Garmin eTrex). Either there was a serious mechanical problem with her device or she forgot to turn it on, because in the two main geocaching scenes, she was no where near ground zero when she stopped looking at her receiver and started relying on her geo-senses.

Other than that, it was a decent movie for both the comic relief and for being able to see our beloved hobby portrayed on the big screen.

Cache On!

March 20, 2011

Oldies But Goodies

I admit it. I'm obsessed with challenge caches. A buddy and I recently took a day off work to finish up two challenge caches we had been working on over the last year or so:

  1. The Bushwood Memorial Cache; a wonderfully fun, Caddyshack-themed cache which took us to 18 different  golf courses scattered about the east Bay Area.
  2. The Monterey Bay USGS 15-Minute Quadrangles Challenge; a typical USGS quadrangle challenge cache in one of the most beautiful areas in California.

We also took some time to get a couple of caches that were placed back in the year 2000. That's because we are working on the California's Oldies But Goodies Challenge, which requires the determined cacher to find 10 of the 16 active, oldest caches hidden in the state of California - all 16 were hidden in the year 2000. So far, only two people have completed this challenge.

With the two caches we found on this trip, we are now up to a total of six. Lucky for us, eleven of the sixteen caches are located within a reasonable distance of the San Francisco Bay Area. The green points on the map below represent caches we've found, and the blue show those that we have not yet found. Click on a point to get more detailed information about each cache:


View CA Oldies in a larger map

With any luck, we should be able to finish up this challenge cache sometime this year.

Cache On!

March 12, 2011

Is This The Beginning of The End of Geocaching?

It's barely been 10 years since the US Government discontinued Selective Availability of the Global Positioning System, making GPS signals available to us non-military types. Since then, the use of GPS-based tools, applications, and a little hobby known as geocaching, has taken off like crazy. But recently, some issues have begun to emerge that threaten our ability to use this wonderful multi-billion dollar satellite system that we've come to know and love.

FCC Approves LightSquared's 4G LTE Proposal
A little company known as LightSquared wants to build a a high-speed wireless broadband network using satellite frequencies rather than the traditional terrestrial frequency space that the larger cellular companies (Verizon, Cingular, etc.) typically use. The FCC is responsible for auctioning off, and regulating, the use of the radio frequency spectrum. The problem with the LightSquared proposal is, that they plan to operate at a frequency directly adjacent to the frequency band designated for GPS. If implemented as planned, all current GPS receivers will no longer operate correctly in areas covered by their system, which includes the overwhelming majority of the US population. There's a nicely written post on the Free Geography Tools site that describes the technical aspects of the potential GPS interference issue in layman's terms.

The threat is so real that representatives of a wide variety of industries and companies have started and joined the Coalition to Save Our GPS

So let's say the FCC comes to their senses, and revokes LightSquared's conditional approval. Then we can all continue geocaching as blissfully as ever, right? Well, not so fast. There's another looming, growing element that threatens to turn FTF's into DNF's:


GPS Jamming
It turns out that GPS signals are very weak, and therefore susceptible to interference. But why would anyone want to block a GPS signal, you might ask? Well, believe it or not, GPS jamming devices, while illegal, can be had for a mere $30 on the internet, and have become very popular with truck drivers that don't want their vehicles' movement tracked. These jamming devices can also block GPS-based road tolls that are levied via an on-board receiver (such as FasTrak here in the Bay Area). As our reliance on GPS-based devices and information (plane/ship/car navigation, ATM machines, Cell Phones, etc.) grows, so does the desire by a certain element to block GPS signals. There's a great article in New Scientist that discusses this phenomenon in detail, including a recount of 2007 GPS jamming incident in San Diego that disrupted the airport's air-traffic control system, the Naval Medical Center's emergency pagers, the harbor's traffic-management system, as well as cellphones and ATM machines.

Let's hope this isn't the start of bad things to come for geocaching, not to mention all the other important things that we've come to rely on the Global Positioning System for. My DNF percentages are too high already, as far as I'm concerned...

Cache On (while you still can)!