Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Geocaching Vermont, Canada and Northern Virginia

Geocaching, particularly with the aim of generating particular statistics, is a bit of a strategy game, and like any game, it's best when you can make moves that fulfill more than one goal at the same time.

One stat that always jumps out at me is the "maximum distance in a day." I enjoy seeing this because it reminds me of a day on my most-recent cross-country road trip. And yet, it seems silly that with all the flying I've done, I haven't managed to get more miles than that in one day.

It's actually hard to coordinate with flying, because if you have an early flight, or a late flight, it's hard to cache on both ends. Overnight flights kill this, and time zone changes can leave you with a short day. But I had a trip to Ottawa planned for late afternoon, so I figured I could bump this up (flight miles from Dulles to Ottawa: 451).

I first found a cache in Reston before my flight. That cache gave me my first November 2015 cache, filling another month in that grid -- Month 122. Unfortunately, when I got to the airport, my flight had been canceled. It was rescheduled for too early the next morning for me to cache both ends, and my return flight was a late flight, dashing my hopes of updating this statistic.

I still had plans for finding Canadian caches, and the next day gave me an unexpected opportunity to set a different personal record. My flight circled the Ottawa airport before diverting to Burlington, Vermont. The airline gave us a choice of returning to Dulles or renting a car and driving to Ottawa.

On to Ottawa! My colleague and travel companion "Bill" indulged me by stopping for a cache before we left Vermont. He was underwhelmed by the cache's location (in a guard rail near a highway underpass), but my statistics were updated. That gave me my 12th state, and my 30th county (Franklin County). The cache was also the first one I found placed in July of this year -- Month 123.
An underpass in Vermont
Additional payoff came on the other end. It was a cold, wet Ottawa night, but there was a park down the block from my hotel with a cache. That was my first Ontario cache, and allowed me to break my record of most countries in a day (previously, it listed the day I started geocaching as my record day).
I had another cache in my sights for Ottawa, though. Fortunately, I did not have to walk all the way out to it that night in the cold, but I headed there the next night. It was a virtual cache, the first I had found in Canada. It was too cold to walk across the bridge to find my first Quebec cache, however.
At the virtual cache, with the lights of Quebec in the distance.

What did that do for me? Well, upon return to the US, I was now allowed to claim a find for a challenge cache that requires the finder to have found virtual caches in six countries.
Took a while to make it from five to six, didn't it?
That was also my first find in Falls Church (County 31), my first find from June 2014 (Month 124), and my first Difficulty 5, Terrain 3.5 cache (Combo 26) -- the D/T ratings for challenge caches are somewhat subjectively based on the difficulty of completing the challenge. While I was in the area, I found another challenge cache that required me to find caches 25 degrees of longitude apart. Estonia to California is 144, so I am way overqualified. That was my first Arlington cache (County 32), and my first D/T 2.5/2.5 cache (Combo 27). There was another challenge cache nearby that would give me a 3/3 combo, but my phone was not getting data from the network, so I had to head back.

I looked up a D/T 1.5/3 cache in Reston that would give me Combo 28, but when I got there, the cache turned out to be about 12 feet up a tree -- and I'm not a climber. But with all the challenge progress I had made lately, I didn't feel too bad.

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