Sunday, December 21, 2008

Google Reader for Geocaching

With snow up to the window sill, all those well laid plans of geocaching will lie as dormant as everything else around here. (And our faithful readers in Southern California will continue to push their numbers up without us.)

You may recall this post from about this same time last year.

There's nothing to do here but practice geocaching by on-line proxy. That includes reading everyone else's geo-adventures posted on their blogs.

I was using My Yahoo home page for keeping track of all the blogs I follow, but it became too difficult to find the new posts. I'm reading up to 50 different blogs, and it's become totally unmanageable with My Yahoo. Then the lovely and talented Wayfarer suggested that I use Google Reader.

Vive la difference!

Google Reader makes managing blog subscriptions a snap.

The reader makes it easy to subscribe to blogs - just copy & paste the URL in the subscription box. It uses an expandable menu structure to manage categories - simple. The un-read posts show up in the body of the reader, and I can choose to read the posts right there or jump to the blog itself.

(I prefer to read people's posts on their blogs. It's more personal that way, plus I find links to lots of related stuff.)

I am way happy with my Google Reader!

So, how do you manage your blog subscriptions?

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Sunday, December 14, 2008

Geocaching - It's Not About the Numbers

Saturday was an unusually warm winter day. (It seems that we are in for a real chiller this year.) It's dropped 25 degrees so far today and is supposed to go down another 20 by tonight.

Anyway, we decided to head back to the area that we tried two weeks ago when we got frozen out. Although there was four inches of fresh snow on the ground, some of the caches were labeled as "winter friendly". We figured that we'd get a few.

But we had to pass on the first one. A bunch of kids were sledding way too close by for my comfort. I never want to be the reason that a cache gets muggled.

The next one was somewhere around this old limestone kiln.


But where?


So on down the trail we went. In the center of this next photo you can just see the bridge under which the next cache was hidden.

Geocaching Trail

Did I mention that there was fresh snow on the ground?

Did I also mention that it was an unusually warm winter day?

Did I mention that I don't like bridge caches even on a good day?

It was all drippy and slippery under there.

Another DNF!

But we found this gi-normous old cottonwood tree next to the bridge. And it had this huge hole near the bottom. Now most of us have seen holes near the bottom of large trees. Great places to hide geocaches.

Geocache Tree

But this hole was so big that the cache container could have been a Mini Cooper.

Tree With legs


Here's a shot I took up into the tree. Spooky!

Inside Tree

So we did get one find that day. It was camoed as a bat hibernation box. There was a full sized ammo can inside!

BAt Geocache

Looks real, doesn't it?

We walked 3 1/2 miles (uphill, in the snow) and got one more smiley. But it's not about the numbers. Is it?

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Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Giant Smiley in the Woods

The other day I was planning some geocaching adventures for next spring.

Yeah, I said next spring.

It's minus 12 degrees wind chill here today. No geocaching for a while.

Anyway, I came across a giant geocaching smiley out in the woods near Black River Falls, Wisconsin. I thought that was way cool, so I contacted the owner, Snyder Bear and asked if he would guest author a post on our blog.

Here's Snyder Bear's post.

Our first cache we ever did as a family, is actually the "left eye" of the smiley (Oak Ridge Tower Cache), and we wanted to place something in the area in honor of this. What better way to honor such a cache, than with a huge smiley right around it?Giant Geocaching Smiley

Our original thought was, to raise the age old question, "is it about the smiley or about the experience," and then we'd let the cachers decide in their comments.

The Jackson County Forest (JCF) caches are independent of each other, yet placed in the forest so they resemble a smiley when geocachers look at the series on their GPS units. That way people can get as few or as many singular smileys as they please. We thought about creating a multi, but the uniqueness of actually seeing the smiley on the map afterwards, was a real incentive to make this work.

We wanted to put a group of caches together so that fellow cachers could park in a central area, and cache a fair number of smileys if they so desired. We had placed some caches along a recreational trail to the southeast earlier and the most enjoyable comments we received alluded to them liking the ability to park and grab a series of caches

 Fire Tower To place all of these caches, I contacted the land manager (county supervisor who oversees the area) to ask for permission - and the incentive was, this would add another facet to what our county public lands now have to offer. There's a permit process we established together. The supervisor actually took this request to the county board for approval, so that was nice. He was really receptive to the 'Cash in Trash Out' aspect of this type of recreation as well.

We grew up in the area, so we know it well. But for those that may be passing by, this could prove somewhat daunting if they plan on caching the entire series. You can't really get lost in the area with all the access roads running about, but you do have to contend with a terrain that involves a small bluff or two.

Originally we wanted to name them all the same with a theme of a smiley being the main focus, but in discussing this with one of the reviewers, they suggested totally avoiding the 'power trail' aspects, and make them stand alone caches, since they are out in the country and not actually on any established trails.

Before hiding the caches, I assured myself there was enough room to do a smiley shape around the noted cache first, then I played around with Google Earth by pinning the caches to their locations. After that, I transferred those coords to my hand held. After making up 20 some caches it was just a matter of getting the permit in place and taking the hike. Well, it actually took three hikes - but the placements were pretty easy, being in the wilderness and all. Most of the caches ended up being pretty easy to find geobeakons for the area.

Of course on Google Earth, the terrain looked a bit less intimidating sitting near the computer, but I knew the area quite well. I knew I'd be scaling a ridge area several times in placing the caches

What I wanted to do was incorporate a variety of placement techniques that we picked up throughout this past year from other caches that we went to. Being new to the sport, I wanted to also mimic the ones that seemed to be a bit more enjoyable to find, as well as more durable for being out in the middle of the boondocks. Maintaining them was a big before thought as well, so we were fortunate to have a few trails that run through and about the area for us to access, in case someone has a maintenance request.

Most of the caches are also winter friendly - but not knowing which ones are per say, will make for some interesting comments during the winter, I am sure. I placed the majority of the micros, in larger containers for easier GZ's, but still called them micros just for the 'micro in the middle of the wilderness' effect.

After looking at several of the caches and how we worded the writeups - we're likely going back out and visiting them soon, to up the anti on some of them - but that's part of the fun of having caches to maintain. You gotta make them interesting, I think - it adds to the adventure and enjoyment for those who venture out into our little neck of the woods that way, as well it giving us something to do.

Knowing they were being published several weeks before our Deer Rifle Season, was somewhat frustrating, but that was my fault in putting the placements off until the bugs and heat subsided. You'll notice several of the area caches tend to mention the thought of wearing blaze orange if your out-and-about during the hunting season around here.

We thought of offering tee-shirts or key chains that stated they had completed the "Smiley" as mementos - especially for younger cachers. And we may still do this, if we find cachers that happen to complete them all in one running. It'd be a nice change of pace for a cacher to receive such an item, other than your normal swag. It's still a thought at least.

The wife and I have the whole winter now to reflect on this past summers' learning experiences. We plan on working with the county and state forest people to create some unique caches in our region.


tonka_boy's note: The terrain of these hides range from one to four stars. Definitely a challenge to finish this series! Sounds like a road trip to Black River falls next spring.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

ReefPilot Interviewed on Geocaching Podcast

I just got done listening to a geocaching podcast on which the Cache-A-ReefPilot Maniacs interviewed ReefPilot.

Who's ReefPilot you ask?

He's a Minnesota geocacher that has carried our Lucky Penny Travel Bug with him for the past year. His profession as a commercial pilot allows him to travel all over North America. As he stops in different cities, he "dips" our bug in local geocaches. He's now logged over 60,000 miles for us.

I learned that, besides geocaching, he is also into SCUBA diving and salt water aquariums. It's a pretty cool interview. You can listen to the entire thing on the Cache-A-Maniacs podcast.

Oh BTW, here's a Google Earth shot of that travel bug's travels. Too cool.

Google Earth

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Slow Loading Blog Page

As many of our loyal readers may have experienced, we've hadSlow Loading Page some slow loading pages on our blog.

You can see one of our pages loading, to the right here.
If you stare at it long enough, it does absolutely nothing.

Kinda like our blog.

So I decided to do something about it.

The lovely and talented, wayfarer, is very much into search engine optimization (SEO). Visit her blog to see lots of tips and tricks to make Google rank your pages higher.

She pointed out to me that web pages load in a browser from left, to right. And I had a bunch of slow-loading widgets in our left side bar. That caused the whole blog to load about like that photo up there.

So I moved all the testudine-like widgets over to the right side bar. The page should load much faster. Still having server errors with our sign-in log, but that's not this page.

Let us know what you think.

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