VfAk48LJJrNcB1QnPEmU1bJ7a18 Geocache on: February 2012


Friday, 24 February 2012

Sunny Sunday geocaching

We got the jump on Family Day and spent our Sunday together geocaching in local neighbourhoods last weekend. The littlest goat decided she only wanted to do 3 caches, but after each one she said, "Well, just one more!" until we had done 6 caches and run out of steam. When we could not find the seventh cache we decided that was a good time to return home and relax!
We planned the searches to start with a large ammo can that had been found recently and was listed as a 1 in difficulty and 1 in terrain (5 being the hardest, 1 the easiest) so that our daughter would not get frustrated early. It turned out to be easy enough that she spotted the container first and was able to retrieve it herself. It had been placed by a Pathfinders group and had been well maintained.
On the way to what was going to be our second search I noticed a listing for a micro cache on the way. A micro is usually quite small (not as small as a nano!) and difficult to find although this one was listed as a 1 for terrain and 1 for difficulty. Turns out the terrain was definitely easy, even in the snow, but the difficult was more of a 2 since it was green and hidden in a tree. The old goat and I jumped out and took about 10 minutes to find this one while the littlest goat stayed in the warm car reading a book.
Our third search offered a walk in the aspen woods of an off-leash park. It was rated a 1.5 and 1.5 and we found the terrain a bit tricky due to ice but the cache relatively simple to locate. 

We decided to drive to a neighbourhood where we had never geocached before for our last three caches and found ourselves in MacEwen near Nosehill Park. This area has beautiful views of Calgary and is worth a visit. Only four geocaches hidden here and we found three out of the four. Not a bad day for winter caching in a cold climate!
In my next post I'll talk about cache containers a bit more. There are some really clever hides out there and I'm always curious to see what people will think of next. If you are a geocacher, post a photo of your favourite cache container!

Friday, 17 February 2012

Geocaching 101

If you are in Calgary and want to learn more about geocaching, there is a group gathering next weekend to teach the basics. It will be family-friendly, done in teams and you will get your first smiley for sure just for attending. See the geocaching website or click here and join the fun! Be sure to dress for the weather!

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Travel Bugs and tracking codes

There is another fun element to geocaching that add to the educational angle as well. Travel bugs are small trinkets or pre-made tags that travel from cache to cache via the cachers who find them. They each have their own mission, whether it is to arrive at a destination cache or to travel around the world or even to race other travel bugs to a certain city, and they are aided in their travels by us geocachers. In order to keep track of the bugs, they are given unique codes that must be registered on-line before beginning their treks. Then, when a geocacher finds a bug in a cache, he/she enters the tag code on www.geocaching.com which will show where the bug has travelled from and what its destination or mission is.

Our family has three plastic goat figurines that we have attached travel bug tags to (because our team name is 3billygoats) and these have all travelled in different directions, one down to New York city after a stop in Hawaii, one has become lost in the Czech Republic, and one is currently wintering in North Dakota after a long stay in Manitoba. This adds an opportunity for a geography lesson for interested kids.

If you do decide to pick up a travel bug, it is a courtesy to make sure you move it on fairly quickly instead of keeping it at home for an extended period. We have lost a few that we have to assume have been either kept by an uncharitable person, or have been lost when a cache has been muggled (destroyed by vandals). We are always sad to lose one of our bugs but we hope that the majority of cachers understand that the fun is in keeping the bugs moving.
Have you found any unusual bugs? Tell me about the most interesting bug you have helped along.

Thursday, 9 February 2012

What's in Your Swag Bag?

Whenever we head out for a day of geocaching we carry along a small bag that contains a few essentials. Besides our GPS receiver we carry
  • extra batteries (in case our GPS is low or a cache requires batteries)
  • a couple of small sharpened pencils (to sign logs or replace missing pencils in caches)
  • a pen
  • extra note paper (for full or missing log books or to solve puzzles or write down clues)
  • a whistle (in case our daughter, who carries the bag, gets lost)
  • swag to trade (more on that below)
  • muggle cards (non-geocachers are called muggles, and these cards explain what we are doing)
  • any travel bugs we need to move on (more on travel bugs in a later post)
The swag is usually a collection of things my daughter would like to find in a cache such as special pencils, erasers, bouncy balls, hacky sacks, key chains, Canadian souvenirs, cool fridge magnets, compact mirrors, and tattoos.

When we find a cache, my daughter (littlest goat) and husband (old goat) look through the trades in the cache while I sign our team name and date in the log book. If there is something the little goat would like to take from the cache, she then chooses something equally good or better to place in the cache. We have found some caches containing garbage, broken toys, spoiled stickers and unpolished rocks and these containers get cleaned out and a few pieces of our swag left inside. Food is never left in a cache as animals can smell it and will destroy a container trying to get at the food. All swag should be child-safe as much as possible as this is a family friendly game. After trading, we place the log book back in the cache and put the cache back exactly where we picked it up so the next person can find it. And make note of which cache we found so we can record it later.

As with any outdoor activity, dress for the weather, bring water and snacks, respect private property, and if you go alone, tell someone where you are going. And have fun!!

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Names and Logging finds

When you join geocaching.com (either the free option or the premium membership) you need a name for yourself or your team. This name will not only be the one you use to log into the site but it will be the name you sign in the log books at each cache.
My family goes by the name 3billygoats which is a play on our last name. When I am logging our finds on geocaching.com, I refer to my husband as the 'old' goat and my daughter as the littlest goat. We also released three plastic model goats as travel bugs so if you see one of them in a cache, let me know! (more on travel bugs later)

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Quick cache find

Yesterday my daughter and I went out to find a geocache in our own neighbourhood. I had seen the listing on geocaching.com but, knowing it wasn't a difficult one, I wanted to wait for a day when we could do it together. Alana took the lead with the GPS receiver with a reminder to let it orient itself after she was out of the truck. Then she led us to the right tree and I spotted the container. It was a winter friendly hide (not buried under snow) and a good size container holding lots of swag for trading. We signed the log book, replaced the treasure with swag of our own and replaced the container where we found it. Then I remembered I had planned to photograph the container for my blog so we took it back out, moved to a spot that would not offer spoilers and took the photographs. You must remember when caching, that you don't want to give away the location of the cache to the next cacher or anyone checking the logs on-line, so don't put the actual hiding place in your photographs and be careful what you say when you enter your comments on-line. These unwanted hints are called 'spoilers' for a reason! If you want to make a comment that may give away hints there is a feature on the website that will encript your log so that only someone who wants hints can read it.