Saturday, June 18, 2016

Battle Ship Wherigo (Geocaching)

This was by far the most unique, and probably the most frustrating, wherigo that I have ever done.  We spent a good hour or more walking around an empty grass field playing virtual battleship.  

From the cache description:
"You must sink all battleships before your ammo runs out. To start the game, stand in the middle of the field and select the "Start Game" item.

The ships will be hidden from view until you damage one. To shoot where you are standing, select the caliber shell from your inventory and click the "Fire!" button. All ships within the shell's area of effect will be damaged.

To win the game, you must sink all five ships before your ammunition runs out."

The location takes you to an empty field, bordered by trees, across from a very popular lake with busy walking trails.  Even though this is a VERY popular area, we had the patch of grass to ourselves.

You cannot save this game.  And when you restart the game, the locations will not be exactly the same - so just because you sunk a ship from one spot, does not mean you will sink the same ship in a new game, from the same spot.

You start by firing ammo, blindly.  When you hit something, you will then be shown how close the ships in that group are, so you can sink all of them.

You have a limited amount of ammo.  My strategy, after the first practice game, was to shoot fairly large ammo in any direction to locate the ships, then use smaller ammo to sink them.

Dan and I were both playing simultaneously on two different phones - two separate games.  We'd mark the areas we found ships with our shoes, camera, key fob...  because even though the locations were not the same, the general area would often get us close to something.  It took me two games to actually get the hang of it, and it was on the 3rd game that I finally won.

Then in an extra frustrating ending - the actual final for the geocache is pretty far away!  As if we hadn't already spent the entire day walking... 

But all in all we really loved this.  So much so that Dan is hoping the owner will share the cartridge so we can recreate it here in PA.

We both played on Android Phones   - Me on a Note 5, Dan on a Turbo II.  We both use the Where You Go App for Wherigos -

Visiting Geocaching HQ, & The Fremont Geocaches

We were able to visit Geocaching Headquarters, and complete the HQ geotour, while in Washington this year. Each of these geocaches is well thought out, and well done.  This is all urban caching, but geocaching is so common and familiar in this area that muggles are not really a problem.  The first cache we did was so obvious, it was near impossible to show any true stealth.  But like the WVTim caches in West Virginia, it just wasn't really necessary to hide what we were doing.

The passport for the caches can be found here:
We did not have the passport with us, and we didn't have access to a printer.  Neither did another group we ran into several times that day.  That was no problem, we both used paper we had with us and groundspeak had no trouble accepting that from us.
The caches are all pretty close together.  But the hills are pretty steep in this area - and it's a pretty good hike from Under Aurora to Troll Droppings.  The biggest issue in Fremont is parking.  We found a parking garage right down the road from headquarters.  It is not what we think of as a parking garage - it's just one floor, and only had about 20 spots.  The really awesome thing was that it was not only cheap, but we could monitor the time left, and add time, from our phones.
"In 1991, Fremont Scientists, after a careful, considered study of these affect, while at a local alehouse, with barely a slur or stumble, determined the Center of the Universe to be at the intersection of N Fremont Ave and 35th St N – with the reasoning that this local can neither be proven, nor disproven!" -

This is a REALLY well done, variety of caches.  Nothing as fancy as the WVTim caches in West Virginia, but there's a puzzle cache, a gadget cache, a multi stage, creative containers, and they take you to some interesting sights.  You'll see the fremont troll, the statue of lenin (I REALLY recommend the gyros at the shop behind the statue!  They were fabulous!) the rocket, the sign stating that Fremont is the center of the universe, a nice view of the waterfront, hedges trimmed into dinosaur shapes, 

I've uploaded all of our photos from the Fremont area of Seattle here.  There may be some cache spoilers.



Many of the caches are multi staged, and there's a LOT to see.  Add in the heat, and the hills, and it took us over 3 hours to log them all.  We attempted the wherigo while finding them, but it was too confusing to do both at the same time.  We ended up feeling a bit rushed as it was.

Originally we had a tour scheduled, but our travel plans changed, so we did the drop in hours at headquarters instead.  We arrived at 4:20, giving us 40 minutes to explore headquarters.  Again, I felt rushed.  I'd recommend arriving right at 4 and giving yourself the full hour there.   Everything you need to know about visiting HQ can be found here:

There's a travel but you can pose in, a photo booth with props, the geocache which is full of containers of travel bugs.  There's a project ape cache box, and all sorts of other memorabilia, in addition to the shopping area.  There's a LOT packed into that little lobby.

The "Been there, logged that" t-shirt can only be purchased at headquarters.  We also purchased the trackable coin for completing the HQ tour.

After visiting headquarters, we went back to the lenin statue to have gyros  - they were amazing!  Spicier than any I've had here in PA.  Our hotel was in the Southern part of Seattle, and Fremont is northern seattle.  I wanted to see the sunset and Kerry park was recommended as a good place to do so, so we wanted to stay in the area.

After dinner we headed over to the lake (where there is plenty of parking) and did the Seattle You Sank My Battleship Wherigo.  This took us a couple of hours.  It's the most unique wherigo I've ever done, and I've written about it separately here:

Before going to Kerry Park for the sunset, we made a quick stop to do one of the totally tubular caches,  


Then on to Kerry Park, where there is an easy virtual.  This is really not a great place to see the sunset, but it's a terrific view of the skyline, and the sunset reflects off of the buildings, which is what makes it so popular.

This was my facebook status at days end:
Yesterday we were in the Fremont area of Seattle. Artsy, dogs in every store, more bike racks than parking spaces, home to Google & geocaching headquarters. It's really a fun area. The statues are all decorated. If its your friends birthday, its perfectly acceptable, even expected, to dress up a staue & add a happy birthday sign. (Google "fremont interurban") Driving is interesting though... parking on both sides of the street (rarely a space to be found open) leaves ONE narrow lane for driving. But the streets are not one way. Intersections, and there are MANY, do not have stop signs. Many narrow streets have huge circular flower beds in the center of the intersection, sort of like an artsy traffic circle that no one appears to know how to navigate around. The parking "garage" (one level - about 20 spaces total) was awesome - you pay with your phone, & get a countdown on your phone of how much time is left with the option to add more. There's a huge lake on the outskirts where I think every person living here goes after work to run, Rollerblade, kayak.... and almost everyone had a dog along. Even with that many people, there was no trash. Everything was in good shape, and I never felt crowded or uncomfortable along the path. There was even a blue heron within feet of me - also unbothered by the crowds running, walking, biking, and rollerblading past. (Bikes & pedestrians have designated lanes, and people appeared to really follow the rules). It was a really fun day, and completely not what I expected from Seattle. I suspect today will be slightly more typical big city, we're down in the "heart" of the city today.

Totals for the day:
4 geocaches on our way to Seattle (2 regulars, 1 earth cache, 1 puzzle cache)
9 HQ Geotour Caches (1 letterbox, 2 multis, 2 puzzles, 4 regulars)
1 HQ geocache - the HQ geocache is a special icon, it's own type of cache
1 wherigo (battleship)
1 gadget (regular) near the zoo

17 really diverse and awesome geocaches.  Amazing views, fun puzzles, fun games, great sights.  It was an amazing day!

Monday, June 6, 2016

Finding a Chirp Geocache On Android

The chirp cache we found is called Birdy, in Spokane WA.

We had never found a chirp cache before, so while my husband got the gps ready, I did a quick search for a phone app. I found this :

All I had to do was open the app & choose "turn chip searching on".

Walk to the coords, and a screen popped up with the final coords.

Very fast.  Very easy.  Super simple.

Our gps didn't pick it up.  It might have if we hung around - but we didn't since my phone did it so quickly.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

How to Solve a Cemetery Puzzle Geocache Without Actually Visiting The Cemetery


Two of my biggest hobbies are geocaching, and genealogy.

So when a cemetery puzzle cache comes up, it's always one of my favorites.  And yet, as much as I love searching for both geocaches, and for find a grave entries, driving around a cemetery to look at another cachers families stones, and then doing math and entering new figures into the geocaching app is just not my favorite thing.  In general, I prefer to solve puzzles at home and use geochecker before heading out.  Unless they are really fun field puzzles, like actual PUZZLES (Mr Data Goes Caching) at the stages, not just math problems. :-)

Most cemetery geocaches can be solved without stepping out my door.  

Step One:

This applies to most puzzle caches.  If you know the basic location (in this case, exact cemetery) and the puzzle is completely letters, it's pretty quick to solve the first few.



AB & HIJ are easy solves.  They are probably the same as the fake coords listed in the puzzle cache.  In our area, that means they are probably 41 & 076.  Often, in smaller cemeteries, you can even sole CD & KL really quickly.

So we know already A4 B1 H0 I7 J6.  And possibly C, D, K, & L.

Step Two:
In almost all puzzles, although not ALL, you won't find the straightforward A-O scenario in my example.  In most cases the letters will repeat, as there are only 9 one digit numbers and there are 15 numbers in most coordinates.

So if the coords look like this:

Having, using the step 1 method, already solved for C, F, B & H, there are only 5 one digit numbers left. 

Step Three:

Find A Grave. 

Often you won't have a full name given in the puzzle hint.  Sometimes you will.  Even in a REALLY large cemetery you can search by whatever name is given, and often find not only all of the information from the stone, but quite often a photo of the actual stone.

A clue in a recent nearby cemetery cache is "How old was Louise when she passed away 10F"

So I know her first name is Louise, and that she was over 100 years old.  I know, from the "fake" coordinates, which cemetery she is buried in. (use google maps if you need help figuring out the cemetery name. Just type the fake coords into the google maps search bar and see what cemetery is really close by.)

  Even in a VERY large cemetery, I could narrow that down really quick by searching for all the Louise's in the cemetery and skimming down through the list to find one over 100 years old.  Even if there is more than one Louise over 100 years old, if I find one with the same surname as someone else in this puzzle, I usually try that one first.  I can also go to my list of 5 remaining one digit numbers, and make an educated guess from there.

When we are looking for geocaches in cemeteries, I almost always attempt to fill any find a grave photo requests while we are there.  These are such a huge help for genealogists!

Step Four
If there is a full name given, and no find a grave listing, I will check and google.  Often birth and marriage dates and even obits with further information can be found that way.  It's basic genealogy research at that point.

Usually those steps give me all the information I need.  In some cases I may have one digit I'm not sure of, but in caches that use geochecker, that just means plugging the options in one at a time until I see the "success".

Sunday, April 24, 2016

We spend WAY too much time digging through piles of rocks.

Lately, it feels like all of our date nights are on the rocks.  Or on the rock piles at least.

We've been spending a lot of time geocaching lately.  And it's pretty amazing how many ways there are to turn a rock into a geocache.

Dan has made a few of the real rock caches - rocks he drilled holes into to insert bison tubes into them.  He bought two drill bits  - a pricey diamond encrusted one ($20) and a regular mason bit ($3.50). The diamond one did not work well. The $3.50 one has been great.  Go figure.  A 5/8 bit works well for a half inch bison tube.

My least favorites are the "needle in a haystack" caches.  A rock, in a pile of rocks.  These are a couple of my logs from one needle in a haystack rock cache near us:

Didn't find it 04/02/2016
Day #683. Spent another evening skulking behind a convenience store sorting through trash strewn rocks. The container continues to elude us. Our children believe we've gone mad. We may have. Gave up the search at dusk, but am certain we'll be drawn back by a force we cannot withstand.

Didn't find it 04/15/2016
Day #710. Some basic research & mathematical calculations confirmed that at our age, having us committed to a psychiatric facility would cost more than our children will benefit from their inheritance.

With that fact settled, we set out to dig through more rocks, determined today would be the day to get this off our list!

But we forgot to calculate in my attention span. About 40 rocks later, I got bored. That might actually be progress for me.

I'm now contemplating a rock flipping citgo event.

We will return....


We probably visited this cache 6 or 7 times.  We used three different apps on two different cell phones, AND a handheld gps unit.  All put us in the same basic location every single time.

Finally another cacher, after reading my logs, sent me a hint.  We stopped by and found the cache "in minutes" just as others had posted, leading me to believe that the others had the same type of hint we received. I don't think we would have ever found it without basically being told where it was - it was too far away from where our gps units were directing us.

But not all rock geocaches are a needle in a haystack type.  Some are just rock containers.  You can buy a fake rock cache - a hide a key shaped like a rock. Or make one out of cement.  Or use a drill bit to put a bison tube in a real rock.   You can even make a fake rock out of expand a foam, with a little bit of paint to make it blend in. 

 Below are some of the different rock cache hides we have found.  Some were a lot of fun.  Some, like the one above,  I had more fun logging DNF's for than I did looking for.  




It's hard to explain to friends why we sort through piles of rocks, or search guard rails, or look under lamp post skirts..  it's like the dirty secret of geocaching.  We'd rather tell them about the caches that take us to cool overlooks, historic sites, or caches that are puzzles or gadgets.  But we still search through piles of rocks, guardrails, and lamp post skirts.  Why?  I really don't know.  We always think it's not about the numbers for us, but we keep going to find these, rather than ignoring this type of cache.  While we prefer the unique, the scenic, the historical.. the fact is,when we head out to cache, we usually go after every cache in the area, no matter what it is.  It's all part of the game I guess.  :-)