Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Geocaching: California Cachin'

I had a business trip to California last week, and it seemed like a good opportunity to get in some geocaching. I thought it would be fun to see some of my statistics change, so I did some thing that would update the numbers. In particular, my previous longest streak of days caching was three (set on an August 2008 trip to another part of California), so I tried to find a cache every day.
Chewed-up log

On my walk back to the hotel from work, I detoured to find a cache called The Musical "Rocks", which led me to one of those only-in-Southern-California things, a Muzak speaker in the middle of a garden. I grabbed the cache and took it to a less conspicuous place. I looked inside -- and it was empty! (Except for a spider!) No log to sign means I hadn't really "found" the cache, so I went back and, sure enough, the log was sitting on the ground. I was afraid I had dropped it, but the condition it was in meant that it had clearly been sitting out for some time. I signed it and replaced it, and I got my week off to a good start. Nothing too exciting statistically, except that my overall find count increased by one, as did several sub-counts (United States, California, San Diego County, etc.) I guess it was my 100th cache in the United States.

Smashed cache, as I found it.
These are some letters.
The next day, after dropping a friend off after lunch, I realized I was near one of the caches I had planned to find. I parked, walked through a park, went to the coordinates and found...a smashed-up cache, just sitting out on the ground. I signed the log, replaced it as well as I could, and logged a note that it needed maintenance. (None has yet been performed.) Why was this cache on my list? Well, it's the Kidz Cache: Nobel Athletic Area. I had never found a cache beginning with the letter "K". Finding a cache beginning with each letter of the alphabet -- and each number -- is a silly challenge, but one of the stats sites I use keeps track, so I figured I might as well try to fill it out. Now I'm only missing X and Z. And 0, 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9. Really, who gives caches names that start with numbers?

Sam & Me
To make sure my trip to California didn't consist entirely of damaged caches, on Wednesday evening I went to see one of my favorite kind of caches, a virtual cache. No new virtual caches have been accepted for over a decade, so it's kind of fun to track down the remaining ones. This one led me to a sculpture of Mark Twain sitting on a bench in a shopping center. The geocache asked people not to post a clear picture, so as not to ruin the "surprise", so I saved my clear picture for the blog.

Another relatively rare cache type is the "Whereigo" cache. Here's my interpretation of what happened with them. Geocaching is, by design, a technology game. The technology required (specifically, general availability of accurate GPS signals) dates back to the birth of geocaching in 2000. The fundamental aspects of geocaching (find a container using latitude and longitude, sign a log) haven't really changed since then. In an attempt to modernize things, Groundspeak, the parent company of geocaching, came up with a type of geocache that would require you to solve a puzzle on your phone. Unfortunately, they did this in 2008, so the phone of choice was the Pocket PC.

Here I went.
For whatever reason, Groundspeak never pushed Whereigo on more modern smartphones, but there is an unofficial app for Android, and there was a cache within walking distance of my hotel, so I gave it a go. The "puzzle" was very basic...start here, walk here, show me a picture and answer a really easy question (which my phone did not enforce answering), then walk to another spot with the geocache. (Though I did appreciate the picture of the geocache, so I knew what I was looking for.) It was just a demonstration of the Whereigo system, so I appreciated that it wasn't too complicated. And it did what I appreciate from geocaching -- took me to a quiet, natural spot hidden right near the busy world around it. And it was my seventh type of cache, the first new one in almost eight years.
Seven types of caches!

Path near UTC
As far as I can tell, I'm unusual in the geocaching hobby for mostly finding one cache per day, but on Thursday I decided to break that habit, and on the way back to my hotel I found a second one. It was on a nice, quiet path near the busy UTC mall that I never would have come across without geocaching. Another success! (Sadly, I did not snap a picture quickly enough to show the hummingbird I saw.)

So at four days, I had a new record streak, and I decided to push it to five. I found a virtual cache near Poway. It was a nice railroad-themed park, what can I say?
Poway.   
So what did the week do to my totals? My caches found went up to 121.

Yay.
I did, in fact, achieve my longest "GeoStreak."

I have now found 105 caches in the U.S., 23 caches in California and 15 in San Diego County.

My "total cache-to-cache distance" is up to 103,469 miles, which is pretty good for only having found 121 caches. (It used to be over 1,000 miles/cache, but finds 92 through 115 were in Maryland, which brought things down.)

So nothing too terribly exciting, but it got me some extra exercise on my trip.



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