Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Geocaching: First Letterbox and Miscellany

Last month, I found my eighth geocache type when I found my first webcam cache. This month, I went for number nine, and the last of the main cache types: the Letterbox.

Letterboxing is similar to geocaching, but its origins date back to the 19th century. Instead of GPS coordinates, finders use maps or directions to locate the hidden containers. It grew in popularity with the advent of the Internet, and Geocaching's parent company made a failed bid to become the official home for letterboxing. The aftermath of that, however, left us with letterbox hybrid caches, which combine elements of both types of location games.

I was driving around one morning and decided to hunt for a letterbox that had been on my "To Do List" for a while. The description contained a map:
I parked at the parking location, and guessed which direction to head off in. Reading a note the cache owner had posted led me to the fact that the flower and pumpkin at the top of the map represented certain streets, so I felt good when I realized I was near those streets. I guessed which trail would lead to the creek, and seeing that the hider had put coordinates for the doughnut (Hint: "Map is not to scale; if you walk past the doughnut you went too far") further convinced me I was on the right track. That was confirmed when I found a creek to cross, and two things that looked like quarries, with a big tree at the back of one of them. I was amazed, but I had finally found a letterbox.

I am not as enamored with the "puzzle" aspect of geocaching as others are, so I don't think I'll be doing many more letterboxes, unless I find some that are relatively straightforward.


There are some milestones I passed which didn't seem to merit their own posts, but I thought I'd capture here.

  • The letterbox cache was my first cache in Fairfax City. In Virginia, cities are entities independent of any county, so they count as counties in the overall total. That's County 29.

  • I got my fourth FTF ("First to Find") on a cache published this month.

  • I have now found caches placed in 121 different months, leaving 78. Last month I had 90 left to go, so I'm chipping away at that challenge. 2015 now joins 2006 and 2007 as years where I'm only missing two months.

  • The progress in months has included knocking out two months from 2001, January and November. The January cache is the oldest I've found yet.

  • I have now found caches in 18 minutes of West 77 degrees (I hit 10 in September). I also found one in Minute 51 of West 76, bringing that up to 31. (I am at 16 minutes in both the North 38 and North 39 latitude challenges.)

  • I added three more difficulty/terrain combinations. Podcache was a tricky one, so I really felt like I was expanding my geocaching skills. The next one was a "challenge cache" that you could only log if you had found caches 25 degrees of latitude apart (Estonia to Puerto Rico is 41). Some challenge cache hiders make the rating based on the challenge itself, so I will probably find more combos that way soon. Carderock was a nice virtual cache that involved clambering up a rock overlooking the Potomac. 

  • My ranking in difficulty/terrain averages among those with at least 100 finds is 7471/7544. At least 73 from the bottom is better than 16 from the bottom, where I was in September.

  • I had my busiest week ever last week, when I found 10 caches. Previously my busiest week included the day I went into DC and found 7 virtual caches (still my busiest day), but with the help of a 6-cache day last Monday, I set a new weekly record. Given that I have seen stats where people find over 1000 caches in a day, that's not much, but it's a record for me.
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