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 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. 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, 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

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!