Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Not Geocaching

I haven't been geocaching lately. I haven't read my email. I haven't posted to my blog. I haven't even gone to work the last two days. Can you tell that we are remodeling the house?


We're not knocking out walls or anything like that, but we're painting and the like. We stripped 40-year old wallpaper from the kitchen and bathroom, and painted the walls. Do you know hard it is to get old, old wallpaper off? Brutal!

Wayfarer thought it would be nice to replace the tile on the bathroom floor. The tiles are really old and the ones right through the middle of the floor are cracking. Maybe someone laid the tile on a little ridge there. You know, the slightest bump in the floor will show right through tile. So let's pop those babies up and put some peel-and-stick down. No problem.  After all, our bathroom is only about the size of the interior of a Volkswagen. What could go wrong?



It appears that when the house was built, they poured separate concrete slabs for the foundation, then built the bathroom right on the joint. And now, one slab has raised a quarter inch. (Or one slab has lowered a quarter inch.) And I was stupid enough to start pulling tile up.

So today is the day that we move the washer & dryer out, yank the vanity out, pull the toilet off, and dump 55 pounds of self-leveling Laticrete. What was I thinking?

Let's see. First the primer has to dry for 2-3 hours, then the Laticrete has to cure for 4 hours. That's six hours without a toilet - not including the time it takes to pull the old tile after the toilet is removed. What was I thinking? I'll be geocaching again... about next October. 

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Boat Parking Meters on Lake Minnetonka

This may be a bit off topic, but we found this while geocaching - so I say it qualifies. Click on this picture to enlarge, and you will see new parking meters at the public docks in Excelsior, MN.

Parking meters for boats. . . That's a gag!

Boat Parking Meters

Monday, May 12, 2008

Perfect Place for a Geocache

You may remember my evil plan (well, it's not really evil - that's just a cool way to start a post). Anyway, my plan was to get more geocaches out on the Luce Line trail. You can read this post to see the evil masterplan. The photo below is a screenshot taken of Google Earth, where I have all our Luce Line hides mapped out. This section shows a pin stuck in a perfect place for a geocache - a nice wooded area right along the trail.The yellow pins are our hides.

Perfect Place for a Geocache (click to enlarge)

Possible New Hide

We've been pretty successful in placing caches on the Luce Line: Milk & Cookies

Sugar and Spice

Good Time on the Luce Line

Luce Line Crossing

and the Stubbs Bay Travel Bug Hotel Wannabe.

Although it seems like a lot of geocaches along one trail, it would require a 10-mile hike to get them all in one day. For the hide shown above, I've been waiting for the perfect cache container to pop up at a yard sale. (I'll keep that idea a secret for the time being.)

So imagine my surprise when I woke up this morning, and read the email announcing a new geocache on the Luce Line. Local geocacher, jREST placed a geocache right where I was planning to hide one!

New Geocache on the Luce Line

One Last Row

My only explanation is, great minds think alike.

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Sunday, May 4, 2008

GPS-Less Geocaching II

In a previous post, I speculated that geocaching without a GPS unit could be possible using the mapping technologies of Google Earth and Windows Live Maps. And rather than just pontificating from mNo GPS Signy armchair (although my view of the world is pretty clear from here) I decided to give my theories a try. It was a beautiful spring day here Saturday, although still a bit cool. Sustained winds of 20 to 30 miles per hour blew in from the north, whipping whitecaps across the lake. We chose the nearby town of Excelsior to try out my theories.

Excelsior is a tiny town on the banks of Lake Minnetonka, just west of the Twin Cities metro. Its touristy feel is accentuated by the many shops and boutiques along Water Street, streetcar rides in the summer, and cruise ships parked at the city docks.

In spite of the small town feel, it's still urban geocaching. And Wayfarer hates urban geocaching. Just too many muggles. I had to coax her along for this experiment. After a hearty lunch at Haskells (mmmmmm, forbidden hamburgers) the first cache we tried for was Commons - GC179YN

Here's a screen shot from Geocaching.com. (Click any photo to enlarge.)


And a screen shot from Windows Live.

Commons Arial Photo

From the pictures, it looks like this could be a pretty easy grab. The top photo, is oriented correctly, with north being straight up. But just about exactly where I thought GZ should be, a muggle cyclist was sitting at the base of a tree eating her lunch. As mention before, the wind was howling out of the north. My eyes were watering so badly from the cold breeze, waiting around was out of the question.

We poked around a little, but Wayfarer theorized that the muggle was sitting against the exact tree where the micro was hidden. We moved on.

Lyman Park - GC1B3KD is barely a postage stamp on Water Street. The park wasn't hard to find, but the cache proved to be more difficult. We didn't find it. The park is edged with thick shrubbery and accented by a huge fur tree. While Wayfarer kept her eye on the tourists, I crawled around the tree and peeked into the bushes. Nothing. The cache was found just a week ago, but I couldn't find it. A GPSr might have helped get me to the right corner of the park, but I doubt it. With 20-foot accuracy, it still could have put me out in the middle of the street. DNF! We were batting 0 for 2.

Photo of Lyman Park

Lyman Park Cache

Windows Live screen shot of Lyman Park.

Lyman Park Arial Photo

The next one we attempted was a gimme - The Lake Minnetonka Earth Cache - GC1AW1F is right across the street from Haskells where we ate lunch. We've been here a million times, but somehow missed the publication of this cache last month. When I saw the page on geocaching.com, I knew exactly where this was, so claiming this one as a GPS-less find would be cheating. But I still posed for the photo with the GPSr in hand - just to let the cache owner know that we were there geocaching and not going on a cruise.

Me at GZ.

Minnetonka Earth Cache

The last one we tried was The Lone Goose - GC127TW. I had a pretty good idea where this one was, as I drive past it on my way to work every day. We've just been waiting for the snow to melt to go claim it. Again, Wayfarer was not happy geocaching in full view of the highway traffic, but not so much that she couldn't make the find. I told here that the cache was over in that corner stand of trees. So she walked right over and picked it up. Just like that. There was really no place for the cache to hide from us.

Screen shot from geocaching.com.

Lone Goose

Screen shot from Windows Live Maps.

Lone Goose Arial

Lessons we learned about GPS-less geocaching:

It's not as fun. Following that little arrow to the cache is, in itself, very entertaining. High tech toys really are fun to use.

Finding micros can be far more difficult. Even though our Garmin GPS unit is an oldie, it can still put us directly on top of a hide. That's impossible with an aerial photo.

Paperless is nearly impossible. Unless you have a fancy mobile device that can download the aerial photos, you're forced to print the pictures and carry them along.

You still need a compass. Landmarks used for orienting an aerial photo may not be visible to you on the ground. A compass is a must.

Aerial photos don't show elevation very well. That little grove of trees where Commons is located is on a pretty decent size hill. And the north side is a very steep, 50-foot dropoff to the lake. Ground features look very different from the ground.

While my experiment was pretty inconclusive, I can say positively that we'll stick with the GPSr.

Friday, May 2, 2008

A Liar's Geocache - Part II

Caution: This post may reveal secrets about certain geocaches. If you prefer not to know these secrets, do not continue reading. If you have not read Part I of this post, you may want to do that before proceeding.

From the logs on the liar's geocache, it looked as if it had been very successful. I recognized the names of some very prominent Minnesota geocachers that had made the 5-hour drive to the Wisconsin Dells, found the cache, and logged their finds. Their posts only seemed to legitimize the cache and add to the fun. But it seems that there were a few Twin Cities geocachers that took the descriptions very seriously and wanted to do a challenging find.

The date was set for November 12 2006, and on that date, the Minnesota cachers were to run the gauntlet. An event cache was organized for the night before over in Wisconsin named, The MN Purple Invasion of "The Gauntlet. Here's an excerpt of the description...

Okay everyone it's time to invade WI and show them Cheezeheads how "The Gauntlet" GCHZKB is done by a group of MN Purple People Eaters!

The actual caching portion will take place on the 12th of Nov. but to get us started off right we will start with a night in WI. Please feel free to join in whether you are from MN or WI. The more the merrier!

Unknown to the cache owner, this group of Minnesotans had spent quite of bit of time and money making preparations for their assault on the Gauntlet. Later posts on Groundspeak put the monetary figure at over $900 in gear purchases. Another poster claimed that the weekend cost him $400 in travel, motel, and food expenses. They had taken a line in the cache description bring equipment to help you solve this quest, very literally.

When the secret was revealed the next day, there were some very angry people. The cache was to be outed so no one would be fooled in the future. Angry emails went back and forth, then posts on the forums.

One post claimed, [the cache owner] is a twisted, self centered, person. She enjoys setting others up for a great experience and then laughing at them when they discover they have been fooled. I will never go after another cache she has placed, and I will not attend an event that she will be attending.

Another, I won't ever do a cache by this placer because of the BAD taste it left in our mouth. Not sinister but wrong, might have been a good joke if all the money that was put into doing this cache and the excitement of the group to take on a challenge esp since the owner was contacted, knew we were coming and actually made an event out of the cache which turned out to be a lie.

So there you have it.

We won't be placing a liar's cache in Minnesota.

I recommend that you read the original logs entries on the Gauntlet cache page. They are very entertaining!

Thursday, May 1, 2008

A Liar's Geocache

Caution: This post may reveal secrets about certain geocaches. If you prefer not to know these secrets, do not continue reading.

This past week I've been thinking of ideas for a new geocache hide. We've placed several this past winter - traditional containers with common SWAG. Our Sugar and Spice was devious & cool, but most of them were just your basic geocaches. I wanted to do something a bit different. So how about a liar's geocache?

The idea is to hide an easy cache, give it a four or five star rating, and make the description on geocaching.com sound very difficult. Usually, the cache is listed as a multi or puzzle, and is named something like Ultimate Challenge, or Gauntlet. One was brazenly named, Prevaricator. When the finder gets to the first stage, instead of coordinates to the second, more difficult stage, a note is discovered with something like...

The cache you have just found is known as a "liars" cache. The only rule is that you must fabricate a story in order to log it online. I'm looking for Tall Tales, tangled webs and outright lies. Don't be shy. Let your imagination go wild, but do not disclose the nature of this cache.*

A promise to delete any revealing posts is added, so the logs contain fabulous stories and harrowing adventures about finding this legendary, 5-star geocache. Each tale grows taller with each find. Lot's of fun huh? Now to see if there are any liar's caches nearby.

I ran the idea past our local reviewer. His reply was short and business like. Although he could not dictate what kind of cache I could hide, he referred me to a now archived, liar's cache near the Wisconsin Dells - appropriately named, The Gauntlet.. Let the Games Begin. Here's the description...

Perhaps the toughest challenge you'll ever have to face

Preplanning is a must.. bring equipment to help you solve this quest.
*There are no trails
*You will have to bushwhack the entire way
*Water is involved
*Elevation changes could be a factor
*Rocks/boulders/cliffs/caves may be involved
*Wear proper footwear
*Bring water to drink

Once you reach the location seek out the container that holds the clues to finishing this adventure.

Cool, I thought. Just what I'm looking for. The cache had been voted Cache of the Year by the Wisconsin Geocaching Association. Excellent! It was now archived because someone had "outed" the cache, and the owner didn't want any more publicity. That's fine.

The logs were just what was to be expected - lots of great stories and favorable comments, even after the cache had been archived. What fun!

The logs, along with photographs, began on March 23, 2004. A "high road" leading to the cache is mentioned that required technical climbing, specialized gear, and ropework. A second "low road" is also mentioned, but it led through swamps, rivers, and mud. A gear list seems to materialize - flashlight, first aid kit, hip waders, ropes, headlamps, food, water, even sleeping bags and tents. If one was attempting the find in the winter the list got longer - Cliff snowshoes, gortex thermal wear, ropes, carabineers, waders, knee boots, calculator with trig functions sealed in a vacuum bag, 2-way radios sealed in plastic bags, camera sealed in bag, spare compass, topo maps, hand warmers, spare batteries, extra Ziploc bags, pens, pencils, cell phone, leather gloves, spare leather gloves, thick hunting coat with liner (exterior like a Carhart), back pack for all the stuff, a medical trauma bag with splints. One post even claimed they took a .22 pistol!

Then the Injuries started - a sprained knee, a cut requiring 6 stitches (caused by dropping a machete - brought along to cut through the Cave entrance underbrush) cut and bleeding fingers from climbing the rocks, a twisted ankle, a bump on the head, insect stings that landed one cacher in the hospital, bruises and scrapes, and a head laceration with concussion that required a medi-vac helicopter.

With each post, the story grew. Each one playing off the previous. The final stage was now to be found in a cave - with bats! The cache owner had to reassure searchers that the bats were merely  Myotis lucifugus (Little Brown Bats) not Petroglyfs vampires! Then the cave had strange, and mysterious markings. It went on and one like that for over two years!

If my new liar's cache could only be half this successful, wow!

But I wondered why our reviewer was less than enthusiastic about creating a new liar's cache here, just west of the Twin Cities. So I decided to do a little research, and after reading some posts and associated threads on the Groundspeak forums, I realized that a new liar's geocache in Minnesota would be about as welcomed as a Baby Ruth in a swimming pool. Why?

Tomorrow, Part II

*Excerpt borrowed from Today's Cacher

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