A Fun Geocaching Travel Bug

Here's a fun travel bug that I got for DH for Christmas.  This is no ordinary travel bug - this one comes with a blank spot to write your own name, and there are magnets on the back so you can wear this travel bug on your shirt to geocaching events so YOU can be discovered!  Now, if only we had an event to go to... :-D
(Oh btw, if you'd like to pick one of these up, I got this one at the Geocoin Store - I've ordered from them before and I have always been happy with them - here's a link to the above travel bug - Red Name Tag Geocoin.)

Benchmark Hunting

Have you ever seen one of these?  They're all over the place - most likely there are some right in your town, in plain view.  It's a benchmark. 
From Geocaching.com:

What is a benchmark?

A benchmark is a point whose position is known to a high degree of accuracy and is normally marked in some way. The marker is often a metal disk made for this purpose, but it can also be a church spire, a radio tower, a mark chiseled into stone, or a metal rod driven into the ground. Over two centuries or so, many other objects of greater or lesser permanence have been used. Benchmarks can be found at various locations all over the United States. They are used by land surveyors, builders and engineers, map makers, and other professionals who need an accurate answer to the question, "Where?" Many of these markers are part of the geodetic control network (technically known as the National Spatial Reference System, or NSRS) created and maintained by NOAA's National Geodetic Survey (NGS).
Some Geocachers enjoy hunting for benchmarks as sort of a side hobby, since often times in our treasure hunting we bump into them anyway.  You don't actually even need a GPS in order to find benchmarks.  You can go to the Geocaching.com page on benchmarks HERE and on the right hand side at the top, plug in your zip code to find benchmarks close to you.  You can click on a particular one and read the datasheet for it, which gives coordinates, as well as written directions for finding the benchmark.  The datasheets themselves are very interesting - they document attempts over the years to check on the benchmark.  Some benchmarks are very old and the written directions might consist of something like, "10ft east from large oak tree, 100 yards south from Mr. John Smith's stable, and 18 paces north of a large rock outcropping" (but there should be more modern directions documented as well).  Even if you don't hunt for any, the datasheets can be fun to read!  Go take a look and see where there are benchmarks that you never noticed!
There is much more interesting info about benchmarks - if you want to learn more, be sure to check out Geocaching.com's page on Benchmark Hunting.  If you can find any benchmarks, Geocaching.com will even let you log them.
Yes, we've found lots of benchmarks. :-D

Yet Another "Boardwalk" Trail

Wow, we came across yet another one of these.  This one is in Kettletown State Park in CT.
Now that we're expecting a winter storm to arrive tomorrow and dump a bunch of snow on us, we're suddenly going to be limited to those "Available in Winter" geocaches only - geocaches that are at least a few few off the ground....like for example, this one:
Snow doesn't stop serious geocachers!  Stay tuned...

What Happens When You Don't Use a Waterproof Container - "Needs Maintenance" Attribute

This is a log that we took out of a micro geocache that had gotten waterlogged.
Here it is unfurled.  
Film containers and hide-a-keys are commonly used for micro geocaches, but depending where they are hidden, they aren't always very watertight.  Probably the best thing to do if you're going to use this type of container is to put the log in a tiny ziploc-type bag (I don't know where to buy them, but we often come across them included with other things we purchase containing small pieces or parts and we save them for geocaching).
When a geocacher discovers that a log is wet they can add an attribute to the geocaching page indicating that the geocache "needs maintenance" - it looks like this:

A responsible geocacher owner should then go out and retrieve the old log and replace it with a new one.  However, for whatever reason, sometimes the geocache owner doesn't replace it, and sometimes another geocacher will take it upon themselves to replace the log after giving the geocache owner a chance to do so.  (Ususally a geocache owner enjoys having the log to look over, so it's polite to give the owner a chance to come get his own log and replace it.)
On our recent trip to the Yankee Candle flagship store we came across this geocache that had "needed maintenance" for quite some time and being the benevolent geocachers that we are, we happened to have some new logs with us.
So we replaced the old waterlogged log and put in a nice, new, dry one.
DH was very nice and after we got home and dried the log out, he photographed it and emailed it to the geocache owner.
Moral of the story: try to use a small ziploc bag to hold the log if you're using a geocache container you know isn't watertight, and, it never hurts to carry some spare logs with you!

Second Time's the Charm!

Can you blame DH for DNF-ing this the first time?  The geocache owner did a great job with this geocache - see how he hollowed out a hole in this log and fit the geocache in it?  (That's the inside of the lid laying next to it in the leaves with the green "Official Geocache" sticker in it.)  When "hidden" this log would be turned over, so it would look like any one of the other, oh, HUNDRED other sticks and logs that were around.  We were relieved and happy when DH discovered it, this was a tough one, but fun!

"Available In Winter"

Have you ever seen this icon on a geocache page on the right under "Attributes"?  This icon signifies that this geocache is "available in winter".  A lot of geocachers would call a geocache with this attirbute "winter friendly".  This is to me one of the most helpful attributes for a couple of reasons.

First of all, the obvious - this icon indicates if the geocache can be found easily even if there is snow on the ground.  If you live in a climate where you have snowy winters (like here in NY), a geocache that, for example, is hidden at the base of a tree might be very difficult, if not near impossible to find if there's a foot of snow on the ground.  On the other hand, a small geocache that is hanging from a tree branch would still be easily findable even in deep snow or ice.  Cold and snowy weather does not stop serious geocachers, so this icon is incredibly helpful for planning winter jaunts.

There's another really handy thing about this icon though that is helpful all year round.  You see, it gives you a big hint - if a geocache has the snowflake icon, then you automatically KNOW the geocache is NOT hidden on the ground - it's got to be at least a couple of feet off the ground in order to have this attribute!  Cool, eh?

Sometimes if we're having trouble finding a geocache first I'll read through the logs to see if anyone gives away any hints as to where it might be. Then I look at the attributes and see if I see that snowflake.  Sometimes all you need is just one little hint for the lightbulb to go off in your head and score a find.

Of course you can always resort to decoding the hint, but sometimes even with the hint that find is elusive.  Gotta use every clue you can get! :-)

Speaking of that, we're heading out today to try again for a geocache that DH DNF'd last week.  Despite all his tricks to extract hints from the geocache page, he still couldn't find it.  He was out by himself (well, the dog was with him) and he called me from the trail to look at the page on Geocaching.com to see if I could come up with any ideas - we call that "phone a friend".  We'll see if we can find it as a team today...

Holiday Use for Your GPS

If you like to go chop down your Christmas tree each year like we do, you probably know how difficult in a field of Christmas trees it can be to find just the right tree.  Especially if you go as a family, one person might find one good tree over here that he/she wants everyone to look at, and someone else might find a tree over there for everyone to consider...but then how in the world will you find that first tree again, after you go look at the second tree and you decide you want the first tree after all?  I mean, after 5 minutes at the Christmas tree farm, all the trees start to look the same.
In years past we've tried a few different methods - we've used the "find-a-stick-and-stick-it-in-the-top-of-the-tree" to mark it way, we've also used the "you-stand-here-and-wait-while-I-go-look-at-the-other-tree" method as well.  But THIS year, I think you can guess from the photo what we did!
DH had the brilliant idea to waymark the trees we liked using his GPS.  (Waymarking is basically just using the GPS to "mark" and save the coordinates of a location.)  I believe in this photo he is marking "Tree 2".  We eventually ended up getting "Tree 1".  (In case you're wondering, we only ended up waymarking two trees - don't be thinking I dragged DH all over the farm making him waymark every other tree - I didn't!)
Easy peasy lemon squeezy!
(If you're interested in reading more about getting our tree at the Christmas Tree Farm, I blogged about it in way more detail with more pics at my other blog: Carole's Thoughtful Spot.)