Sunday, December 31, 2006

Fake bolts in road signs: Is it vandalism?

Geocacher welch has asked another good question for this blog. Citing a discussion thread in the forums, welch asks:

" is vandalism to have seekers take a bolt out of a sign... Like 'if they removed a sign bolt to replace with a fake one then it would be vandalism, but if they filled a hole that was already open it wouldn't be'...
What would be your reply to that thread? How about if the bolt hole theading was stripped out so the bolt could be pulled out (by hand), allowing the sign to swing away, and a cache was hidden underneath?
What about if the bolt was just a hollowed out and magnetized bolt head that onlystuck to a sign so it looked real, but was just 'hanging' there?"

In general, these sections of the guidelines apply to the questions about roadsign bolts:
"Caches that deface public or private property, whether a natural or man-made object, in order to provide a clue or a logging method." and... "For all cache types please be sensible when choosing your location for cache placement. Please be aware of what may be a perceived to a non-geocacher as dangerous or questionable behavior."

If a real bolt is removed to insert a cache disguised as a fake bolt, this would reduce the structural integrity of the sign's attachment to its mounting, so it would not be an approvable cache, IMHO. But even if a hole already exists in the sign and a fake bolt is inserted, I still don't like it. It's not good to have muggles and law enforcement see geocachers messing around with street signs. However, if the geocache owner makes a point of obtaining permission from the local police chief to place such a cache, and then states that permission in a note to the reviewer or on the cache page, this could result in the cache being approved, provided there aren't other circumstances that also need to be addressed.

Friday, December 29, 2006

What a December!

I don't know why it's happening, but this has been a crazy month for new caches. I have already approved more than 130 new cache listings in Iowa during December, in addition to a number that have been archived, plus lots of contact with geocachers about one thing or another. Maybe it's because we haven't had much snow yet combined with the annual Christmas surge of new GPS units in the hands of newbies. Whatevever the reason, there's been no let up during the past few weeks. I hope you're enjoying new cache finds in your area.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Thoughts about sharks

Please excuse another non-geocache-reviewing post. I've corresponded with a few of my fellow geocachers about our recent dive trip to the Bahamas and our shark dives, so here are a few photos. It was a truly amazing experience. What I learned: Sharks are not evil. They are beautiful creatures and unlike what we landlubbers are led to believe by Hollywood, they don't automatically eat humans whenever they encounter them in the water.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Thanks for the help

If you had a cache approved in Iowa last week, did you notice that the reviewer was Electric Mouse instead of IowaAdmin? My thanks to reviewer Electric Mouse for filling in for me while my wife and I took a week-long vacation away from the Internet and email connections.

Reviewers have several options for handling vacation time. I think most of us choose to continue our reviewing duties while on vacation because of the increasing availability of Internet connections. However, in my most recent case, we were out of the country in a hotel that didn't have Internet in the rooms, so I wrote to Electric Mouse ahead of time to ask for her very capable assistance. Things must have gone smoothly because I didn't have anyone write to say "Boy, am I glad that you're back!"

Just kidding. I didn't really expect that.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Anything to make a buck

I was just now viewing some of the ways people try to make a buck off of geocachers by selling all sorts of geocaching stuff on eBay. You can view some of their ideas here. Some of these items are very clever. Some are just plain foolish and even dangerous. Example: magnetic electrical coverplate microcaches. The description states "This cache can be placed on any flat metal surface such as a electrical box, AC unit, metal lightposts, etc." True, it can be attached, but if the reviewer is aware that it's bee placed on electrical equipment, it shouldn't be approved for listing on Before you spend your money on these types of caches, please review the guidelines and think twice about where you may be encouraging geocachers and their family members to look for caches.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Under woodchips. so is it buried?

Yesterday I received the following email from IGO member Welch:
Actually, while I'm emailing you I have a question about the guidelines (and something you can put in your blog if you like). Can caches be buried in 'soft' materials?
When the topic comes up in the, some people point that if a cache were buried in sand then no tools/point objects would be needed to hide or find the cache. Which is what the guidelines say, "Caches that are buried. If a shovel, trowel or other “pointy” object is used to dig, whether in order to hide or to find the cache, then it is not appropriate." So assuming I could get land owner permission to bury a cache, would it be listable? (I doubt any parks would let me bury anything, but the idea has me thinking of parks that have small streams with sandy bottoms/shores that are otherwise well mowed...)

Also a few weeks back I ran across a cache that had been buried in the mulch around one of those big wooden park signs. And no I don't mean they layed it on and top and piled loose mulch/chips over, it was like 5" deep. Though even the bottom was mulch too so I guess maybe it wasn't really had to dig all being mulch. Let me explain... the person got short lenght of 4" pvc and buried it vertical so the end was flush with the ground, then they put a fake drain cover over it. And then down inside the tube they put a small fake valve handle (so it looks kinda like a water shut off valve). The valve was of course not really, and if you pull up it comes up to reveal a pill bottom. I don't have any pictures of this thing, but its sorta similar to this thing on ebay
so since no tools were apperently used to hide the cache, it was ok right?
Before answering welch (which I'm doing here), I did a little "digging" of my own in the files of the reviewers' online forum, where we ask each other questions about whether a certain cache should be approved (and sometimes just shoot the bull). There, I found opinions relevant to the two questions posed by welch, and they matched what I have been assuming.

As welch points out, the guidelines say that a cache should never be buried. The tricky part comes in trying to define "buried." To shed light on this, guidelines further state: "If a shovel, trowel or other 'pointy' object is used to dig, whether in order to hide or to find the cache, then it is not appropriate."

First, regarding the first cache example from welch, I think this would probably be OK. When geocachers search for this cache in a sandy river bottom area, they're going to be pushing sand around to look for it. The litmus test that I would use is, does their moving sand cause harm to the area or look like suspicious activity? I'd say probably not.

Regarding the second example, since this is in a more travelled area, it might cause attention and suspicion -- not to mention damage to the landscaping -- when geocachers start moving wood chips around to find the geocache. However, if the cache page description clearly states that the cache container is in plain view and no moving wood chips is required, then it might be approvable.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Why geocaches are discouraged under bridges

We have a number of geocaches placed under bridges in Iowa. Of the ones I approved, it's because the owner has assured me that the bridge is part of a hiking/biking trail or it is in a rural area that doesn't see much traffic. However, as a general rule, caches under bridges are discouraged because bridges could be possible terrorist targets. If you need more convincing, here's an article that points out what can happen. (Thanks to fellow reviewer Hemlock for bringing this article to my attention.)

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Questions about changing multicache waypoints

Here's an email I received on Sunday, followed by my response.
I was just curious how something works. If someone has a multi cache out there, what are the guideline for changing the coords for stages other than stage one? Does the cacher need to have the cache re-approved? What if they are leaving the first stage the same, but only changing the next stages? Also, Do you see when multi stages are updated or just if they update the waypoints? Just curious!
If you need to change coordinates for a stage of a multicache, you don't necessarily have to it reapproved. You have the ability to enter new coordinates as long as they are not more than a certain distance from the old coordinates. I haven't tested it, but I've been told the maximum distance you can move them yourself is about 100 feet. You use a link on the Edit page for your cache to change coordinates. If you need to move them more than what is allowed through that link, you can email me with the new coordinates and I will review.

As far as I know, I don't get an automatic notice when intermediate waypoints are moved, like I do with the "main" coordinates are moved by the owner.

I hope this answers your questions.

Thanks for your prompt response. That was the answer I needed!!!

Monday, October 09, 2006

Questions from CC8C4

Here's an email I received yesterday...

Thank you so much for your work approving caches! All of the new caches in eastern Iowa must be keeping you busy! The web site advises that it could take 72 hours for a cache to get reviewed. Of my 13 to date, you have had them all published within two! Some questions for your blog,
How many hours a week do you have to spend reviewing caches?
What are the top 10 reasons a cache is disapproved, or requires more work?
How did you get the honor/curse of becoming IowaAdmin?
How long have you been approving caches?
Larry, Cindy, and Becca Darling (CC8C4)
Tipton, IA.

Thanks, Larry. Here are some answers...
How many hours a week do you have to spend reviewing caches?
It varies by season. In the dead of winter, it might be as low as 2 hours per week. In the warm days of summer, it can range from 5 to 12 hours or so.

What are the top 10 reasons a cache is disapproved, or requires more work?
Wow. Do I have really have to come up with 10 reasons? :) Here are some of the reasons, not necessarily in order of "topness." Placed on DNR-managed land without permission. Didn't use the "add/edit waypoints" feature on a multicache to enter all the waypoints. Placed too close (less than 528 feet) to an existing geocache. Placed in a cemetary without permission from the caretaker or owner. Placed on or near electrical equipment. Placed in the Upper Mississippi River Wildlife Refuge (geocaching is not allowed there). Placed in one of several counties or municipalities where a geocaching permit is required. Those are the biggies.

How did you get the honor/curse of becoming IowaAdmin?
I lived in Iowa for the first 32 years of my life. I now live in Wisconsin but I am in Iowa frequently to visit relatives and for business. My reviewing stemmed from my association with the Wisconsin Geocaching Association, which I helped found. Back in the "old days," Jeremy and the rest of the Groundspeak crew decided to designate geographic areas to reviewers. Prior to that, I was helping review caches all over the country. Groundspeak asked two other Wisconsin reviewers to review Wisconsin, and since I have Iowa roots and connections, I was asked to review for Iowa. I started out using the ID WGA2, but now another reviewer is using that for approving caches in Wisconsin so I started a new ID: IowaAdmin. My "regular" IDs are kbraband (for solo geocaching) and active2gether (for caches I find with my wife). While some reviewers believe in hiding their true identities, I don't do that. I believe that by working together with fellow cachers to get caches approved according to the guidelines, there should be no reason to keep my ID. secret.

How long have you been approving caches?
I've been geocaching since Feb. 2001, and reviewing since some time in 2003.

Thanks for the questions, Larry.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Maggie Potts

It's been nice to see geocachers step up and adopt several of Maggie Potts' geocaches, after her unfortunate passing away. The IGO board asked how might be the best way to handle the adoptions, and we agreed to archive her old ones and create new listings with the same names. This give geocachers added incentive to revisit these caches.

Monday, September 04, 2006

"Vacation" caches

It happened again this morning. I had to archive a new cache submitted for approval because the owner who placed it does not live nearby. In this case he lives more than 2,000 miles away!

One of the recurring reasons for someone's new submitted geocache to not receive approval is that the owner does not live in the area of the cache. This circumstance falls under the so-called vacation cache guideline, which frowns on because these caches are often difficult for the owner to maintain. However, exceptions can be made if the owner states -- either in a note to the reviewer or in the description on on their cache page -- how they will be able to maintain this cache. The most common exceptions are when the owner has a relative who lives near the cache who will provide maintenance, or if the owner regularly gets back to the area, say at least once a month or so.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

A note about "notes to the reviewer"

Today I had emails from two different geocachers -- mostly routine stuff about getting their caches ready to list -- and both of them asked me to delete my "note to the reviewer" so that geocachers don't see it once the cache is approved and listed. So, I thought I'd offer here a little insight about how "notes to the reviewer" work. When a cache is published and goes online, notes to the reviewer are automatically erased from view. However, they are still viewable to the reviewers if we click on a link called "view archived logs." This is a handy feature because it allows reviewers to save correspondence from the owner on the cache page, such as notes about how the cache is hidden, or the contact information for the park manager who granted approval, etc.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

More discussion about electric box geocaches

Yesterday I enjoyed an email discussion with a geocacher who
asked me to clarify and discuss further why her geocache that is made out of a former electric utility box (but is no longer hooked up) could not be approved. In my response, I sent her this link to a forum post by a geocacher who works for a power utility. It's expert advice from someone who knows firsthand the dangers of conditioning geocachers to look inside or around electric equipment. Quoting from his post:

I am asking in behalf as a Safety Professional and Geocacher please not to hide caches on or around electrical equipment and not to even look for a cache that may be on or around any electrical equipment. If you believe that it is in a hazardous zone please contact the person who placed the geocache. If that is not a successful route please contact the person who approved it. Most of the time the approver of a geocache is not aware that it is in a dangerous zone. Let’s look out for each other.

For these reasons and others mentioned previously in this blog, these types of caches are not a good idea. I know some have been approved in other states, but I don't know why because it's doubtful that the business or utility company that owns the electrical equipment granted permission for the cache to be there.

Here's the reply from the geocacher with whom I was having the email discussion:

Thanks for the reply. I understand completely. It is good to get an explanation sometimes.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Those Jeep travel bugs

Windchill wrote to me today and suggested that I post an update on what I know about this summer's Jeep travel bug distribution. So, here's what I know. Groundspeak (the company that runs has posted a note in the Reviewer's forum saying that any reviewer who wants to distribute Jeeps to geocachers in their areas should let them know. I didn't see the post until recently so I put in a request for about 60 to 80 Jeeps because that's what I received in past years. Another more recent post says that the first round of shipments have been mailed out, with another round coming soon.

Additionally, this year there was a mail-in request form process to give everyone an equal chance to receive a Jeep Travel Bug directly from Groundspeak. All you had to do was fill out a form and mail it in. Anyone who did so within the first two weeks (approx) of the sign-up period "will definitely get one" according to Groundspeak (despite what the form says). I've heard that some individual geocachers are already receiving theirs directly from Groundspeak.

If I wasn't too late to get me request in and I do get a shipment this year, I'll forward them to IGO board members for distribution to Iowa geocachers.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Another nice note

I received this nice note from an Iowa geocacher. Thanks. Comments like this serve as a reminder that the purpose of reviewing geocaches is a service -- to keep the sport fun for the most people possible.
Good Grief! Ref: Kaboom That was quick!
Thanks a lot. You do such a great job for all of us out here in cache land. We really appreciate you!

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Our Canadian experience

A friend and fellow geocaching "old-timer," jvechinski, wrote that I should blog about my recent trip to Whistler, British Columbia, where I bagged a few geocaches (of course) in addition to doing zip lines, white water rafting, mountain biking, hiking, dancing and dining... (lots of dining). So by popular request, and even though they have nothing to do with reviewing geocaches, here are some photos. (Yikes, this is awful layout design. Oh well.)

Monday, July 17, 2006

A nice trip followed by kind words

This past weekend my wife and I and two other couples rented a houseboat out of McGregor, IA and boated the Mississippi River for 3 days. It was great! I was planning to take my laptop along and find wifi hotspots to review caches a couple of times, but at the last minute I decided to "disconnect" for the weekend. I thought this might cause a few geocachers to wonder if their new caches were EVER going to be reviewed. My apologies to those of you who waited patiently. I guess not everyone is ticked off, because here's a very nice email received today.


Hi! We are relatively new to geocaching & have recently placed 3 caches in the Ames area (all of which were approved quickly).

Just wanted to take a minute & thank you for the time you spend reviewing & publishing caches. I'm sure it's very time consuming & we appreciate your volunteer spirit!

Thanks also for your blog, I just took some time & read through all the past posts & they were very informative. Lots of good information for placing future caches.

Thanks again for your time & dedication!
Angie B
Ames, IA

Monday, June 26, 2006

People are different

The answer to this question may be obvious, but have you ever noticed how different people can be? Case in point: For the past couple of months I've been asking geocachers whose caches I review and who have additional waypoints for multicaches, to use the "add/edit waypoints" feature on the edit page to enter their coordinates. To my way of thinking, it's a fairly straightforward request and not that hard to do. Most geocachers see it that way. Most will say "OK, I didn't know about that feature," and they do it without whining. Then there are other geocachers who say something like "This is the final straw. I've had it!" and they proceed to let me know how this is the worst thing that has ever happened to them. Yup, people are different, all right. Sometimes that difference makes you appreciate the nice guys even more.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Think before creating a useless hint

I just posted this note to the owner of a new geocache:

"The only recommendation I will make is that you delete the text you placed in the hint field, since you're not actually giving a hint. It can be frustrating for some geocachers who spend the time at ground zero to decrypt a hint only to find there is no hint."

I try to post a note to the owner similar to this every time I see a hint like "No hint necessary." If no hint is necessary, why frustrate geocachers by making them decrypt the text you place there? The purpose of the hint is to give geocachers a final resort whenever they decide they have looked long enough and can't find the cache. If you think this through and put yourself in the geocache hunter's situation, it's easy to see why you shouldn't post a hint that says "No hint necessary." I know... there's nothing in the guidelines about this. But to me it's a matter of courtesy.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

A correction/clarification about the 528' rule

In a comment I posted here on May 31 I wrote:
"My understanding of the guidelines (and if you have better info from Groundspeak, please let me know) is that individual waypoints of multis need to be at least 528' from each other and from other caches. Finals for mystery caches also need the proper spacing. So, yes, individual parts of a multicache need to be at least .1 mile apart."

Well, a couple of geocachers DID let me know that they had better information from Groundspeak, so I want to thank them. Turns out that individual waypoints of your own multi don't need to be at least .1 mile from each other. The reference cited from groundspeak was a note posted in the "Getting Started" forum which reads, in part:

This guideline applies to all stages of a multi-stage cache, which must be .1 miles distant from any other cache. Within a multicache, the guideline doesn't apply - you can place stages of your own multi 250 feet apart, for example.

I have to admit, I missed that one. However, there have only been a couple of geocaches submitted where I asked the owners to space their waypoints futher apart. Now that I stand corrected, I won't be making this a requirement from now on. Thanks for the feedback!

Sunday, June 04, 2006

How long can you hold a cache location?

This past week a geocacher (cary1952) posted a couple of "Should be archived" notes for a few geocaches that had been placed by a pair of geocachers from Texas. My thanks to Cary1952, because he called to my attention several caches the Texas tandem had placed in the Iowa Great Lakes area and then disabled last summer. (Originally they explained that they have relatives in the area who would maintain the caches, so that's why I approved them even though they don't live in that area.) However, as I said, they subsequently disabled their caches and said they would relist them "next spring." Well, spring came and is now nearly gone, so rather than keeping these spots reserved with their "temporarily" disabled caches, I archived them. It's not fair to hold these locations, especially when they're along such a nice bike trail in one of the most popular tourist destination areas in Iowa. It would have been OK for them to keep the caches active, provided the relatives who live in the area were willing and able to maintain them. But with creative local geocachers like davyduck hiding caches in the area, it's not like these were the only caches available in the Okoboji area.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Requesting archives

I just checked email and see that I have 11 messages for "Should be archived" notices on caches -- and they're all from the same geocacher. I know this person probably has good intentions, but it's just kind of frustrating to see one person post so many at one time. I'll look at each one, but I also like to wait a few days before taking any action to see if the cache owners take it upon themselves to reply to the request, either by archiving the cache themselves or by posting a note that they will perform maintenance.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

A reminder about adding waypoints

Greetings from sunny (and breezy) Okoboji! I'm logged on to check the cache queue. I was able to approve a couple new ones just now, but for four others I had to post a note to the owners asking them to use the "add/edit waypoint" feature on the edit page to enter the additional waypoints for their multicaches. I know it may take some time for all geocachers to become aware of this new feature, so I'll keep plugging away to get the message out.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Okoboji meet and greet?

We'll be joining my extended family for our annual Okoboji Memorial Day reunion next weekend. If there's any interest in a geocachers' meet-n-greet -- say on Sunday morning for breakfast -- maybe we can organize something. It's too late to list an official event cache on, but let me know if you're interested and we can publicize it on this blog and in the IGO forums.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

A reminder: "add/edit waypoints" feature

For the past few weeks I've been asking cache owners who submit new caches and who have not used the "add/edit waypoints" feature to go back and edit the cache page to add waypoints (if they originally listed additional waypoints in their description). And so far, the system seems to be working well. Everyone has been complying nicely. My thanks to everyone for doing this. It makes reviewing more efficient and it gives us a better way to document where the additional waypoints are for multicaches, which helps maintain the .1 separation.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Cemetary caches: What's the policy?

I received a suggestion today from Iowa geocacher Windchill, who suggested I link to a post in the IGO forums about an e-mail that fellow geocacher Iowa Tom received. It's a very moving story from the parents of a baby who died more than 40 years ago when the parents lived in the Waterloo area. If you're a parent or have ever wanted to be a parent, you should read the post.

Then Windchill went on to say: "With the strong feelings that this topic brings out, I thought I'd mention it and ask if you would share the official Groundspeak position, and your personal position, on cemetery caches."

There is no universal guideline for all areas of the world about cemetary caches. I understand that in Europe, it's no big deal to geocache in a cemetary. However, in some areas of the U.S., it is highly discouraged.

To answer Windchill's question about the official Groundspeak position, the closest that the guidelines come to a position on cemetaries is this:

"For all cache types please be sensible when choosing your location for cache placement. Please be aware of what may be a perceived to a non geocacher as dangerous or questionable behavior. For example, suspicious looking characters wandering about near an elementary school. The land may be public property, but keep in mind what is on the other side of that property line."

The way I interpret this guideline is to ask the geocache owner to obtain permission from the cemetary owner or caretaker. I feel it's important that the cemetary caretakers know ahead of time that geocachers may be visiting the cemetary, and why, and that they approve of the cache placement.

I also request that the cache owner consider including a note in the description to tell hunters not to geocache after dark, don't hunt for the cache if there are mourners in the area, and in general to be respectful at all times, including not posting photos of themselves next to a gravestone, for example.

To sum it up: If you get permission, you can place a geocache in a cemetary. But please don't place it on or around a gravestone.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Polk County permit required

For geocachers in Polk County who may not be aware, the county now requires a permit be obtained before placing a geocache in county parks. I have already approved a couple of geocaches since March, when the Polk County policy went into effect. Those geocache owners stated in their descriptions that they had obtained the proper permit. You can read more about the Polk County policy at this site. Click on Policies>Facility Policies>then click on search by Facility and go to Polk County.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Shining Happy People

If you haven't read the profile for the Texas approver, Prime Approver, it's worth checking out. I love his description of what it takes to be one of the shining happy geocachers. (And I quote from Prime Approver's profile and borrow the image he has posted):

Why are the people above shining and happy? Their cache was approved, because they read and followed the Cache Placement Guidelines before they placed their cache. Thus, they received the golden orb of approval happiness.

The people above would never place a cache that's closer then 1/10 of a mile to another cache. If they're placing a multi-cache, they would check that each stage also follows this rule. Everyone deserves a little space.

The shining happy people would never place a cache within 150 feet of a railroad track, because they know that area belongs to the railroad company, and they get grumpy if things are placed in their right-of-way.

The people above know that they would never receive the golden orb if they submitted a physical cache that didn't have a log book. Trying to submit a "code-word" cache is the path to darkness, and will not be allowed.

The shining happy people know that when they submit a multi-cache, or any cache where the actual location is not the one posted, they should submit a reviewer note informing the approver where the actual locations are, including all the stages of a multi-cache. That way, they know they're following the golden path to quick approval.

[And for Iowa geocaches, I'm asking that all multi waypoint coordinates be listed with the "add waypoints" feature, and not merely in a note to the reviewer.]

The shining happy people know that virtual caches are no longer being published on If you've found something really special, and can't make it part of a physical cache, see if there's a place for it over on

The shining happy people know that sometimes, bad things happen to good caches. But they also know that disabling a cache is meant to be a temporary measure. If you can't get your cache repaired in a timely manner, you should archive it, so that it will stop showing up in search lists. It's also not fair when your disabled cache prevents others from placing a cache in the same area. Remember, geocaching is about finding caches, and they can't be found if they're not there.

If a cache has been disabled for too long, and a reviewer archives it, the shining happy people know not to get upset about it. When your cache has been repaired, it can always be un-archived (as long as it still follows the current guidelines).

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Nice words

I received this email from a geocacher today. He gave me permission to post it here. Thanks, AB!

Hi Ken,

This is AB of AB-n-AP, and I just wanted to say your blog is very informative! I went back and read through all your posts since January, and learned a lot about the way you prefer new caches to be submitted and also how you go through the whole approving process. In addition to being informative, it's also very interesting to read your updates and the Q&A segments you have had. Thanks for giving geocachers a great place for valuable geocaching information.

All Beef

Monday, April 24, 2006

Volunteer geocoins

I'm enjoying reading about the travels of my IowaAdmin Geocoins that are traveling around the state. Most of the coins that are circulating have a goal to move from cache to cache in Iowa. A few of them have been allowed to travel outside the state. You can see a list of them here.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Additional waypoints -- please use this feature

Back on January 21st I posted some tips about how to use the additional waypoint feature at Now that this system has been around for several months, it seems to have most of the bugs worked out. I encourage each of you to use this feature when you submit new geocaches. It will be especially helpful for reviewers as we have more multicaches out there if everyone submits all their multicache waypoints using this feature. That way, I'll be able to see quickly if any of the multicache waypoints intrude on each other's 528 ft. rule for cache separation. From now on, if new caches are submitted without using the additional waypoint coordinates feature, I'm going to ask the owner to edit the cache page to include the additional waypoints for multicaches -- and for parking (for those who choose to include parking coordinates in their description). For those who want to go back to their existing cache pages and use this feature -- well, that would be great, too. If the cache is a simple traditional cache with no parking coordinates or no multiple waypoints, then, of course, you won't need to use the additional waypoints feature.

Monday, April 10, 2006

State parks managed by counties

This weekend there were two new caches submitted for review called A Grove View and A Large Dead One which are both located in Oak Grove State Park. I wrote to the cache owner and requested that permission be obtained from the Iowa DNR. However, the owner, campingfarmer, correctly pointed out that even though this is a state park, it is managed by the county. He also provided a link to other such parks. As the DNR states at this site: "These parks fall under any rules, fees and regulations established by the county. Please contact the county conservation board listed for more information about a specific park." My thanks to campingfarmer for pointing this out.

Monday, April 03, 2006

My GPS? That old thing?

In a comment to yesterday's post, welch asked: Which reminds me, what sort of gps unit do you use IowaAdmin?

Answer: I have a five-year-old Garmin eMap with 8 mb of memory (which I upgraded soon after I bought it to get that much memory). I know, I know, it's practically an antique, but it still does the job for me. I like the large screen and the low-power consumption so batteries last forever. I also like that I have a handlebar mount for my road bike so I can take off for miles without getting lost. Well, not too far lost anyway. I also have an external antenna for it that I can plug in when I'm in wooded areas searching for a cache. It draws a lot more battery power in that mode, but the external antenna sure is effective. My wife has a Garmin eTrex Legend and a Garmin Forerunner (wristband model) that I gave her which she uses for her daily 4:30 a.m. 3-mile runs.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Now, the answers...

Thanks for the questions posted here yesterday. Volunteer geocoins are on their way to welch and bluedeuce. Now, so as not to keep team gamsci in suspense any longer, here are the answers.

Welch asked: Do you ever try to encourage or discourage certain types of caches?

A: It is rare that I do. However I did just that a couple of days ago when a cache was submitted for a micro at the base of a lamp pole in a parking lot. Before I approved the cache, I posted a note to the owner that he might expect some negative feedback from fellow geocachers about this cache, since some geocachers really dislike these types of drive-up urban micros that don't take you to an interesting place. In general, if a cache meets all the guidelines, it will get approved, no matter the "lameness factor," which I don't feel is my place as a reviewer to judge. Of course, if not approving a cache is considered discouraging it, I will "discourage" caches that are no longer approvable, such as locationless, virtuals and web cam caches.

Bluedeuce asked: How do check the location of cache placements? Do you use the internet based mapquest or purchased mapping software?

A: I use MapQuest, Google maps, Topozone and Terraserver. In recent months I also started using Iowa Geographic Map Server, which is a very handy tool for certain caches. I have not been using purchased mapping software. What do you use?

And lastly, team gamsci asked: Will we get to see the answers on here to the questions?

A: Yes.

Thanks for the questions! Please don't wait for the bribe of a geocoin to ask yours.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Geocoins to give away

It's time to prime the pump again. I'll mail my IowaAdmin volunteer reviewer geocoins to each of the next two Iowa geocachers who post a comment on my blog. The comment needs to be a legitimate question about geocache reviewing in Iowa.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Buddy Holly Shrine virtual

After visiting the virtual cache "Holly Shrine" on Aug. 11, 2002, I've kept it on my watch list. I'm always interested in the comments that cachers write about this place. The experience seems to have a significant impact on most of them. It's also very interesting to view the gallery of photos that have been uploaded to the cache page. The time of the year makes a profound difference in how the location looks. When I was there on a hot August day, the place was like a jungle with tall corn all around. Contrast that with the winter photos, where it appears you can see the cache from half a mile away.

If you haven't yet been to this spot, I recommend it, especially on a warm and quiet early morning in July or August.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Are you sure you want to say that?

Over the years, I have seen many cache owners add a statement like this to their cache page descriptions: "Please put the cache back exactly as you found it." However, it's been my experience that that's not the best way to keep a cache hidden the way you originally placed it. Consider what happens when a critter drags a container out of position. (It happens!) Also, it only takes one geocacher to leave a cache out in the open or slightly exposed. If all the subsequent geocachers put the cache back exactly the same way, the container remains out in the open until the owner eventually goes back for a maintenance check.

Here's a better way: prominently place a note inside the cache (such as on a laminated card) that describes exactly how the cache should be hidden. For example, you might write: "Please make sure the cache is concealed entirely inside the hollow tree and completely covered with pieces of bark." That way, each geocacher knows exactly the intent of the cache owner.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Not so much

Well, Windchill and I both overestimated how many new caches might be submitted yesterday. The grand total was
(drumroll, please)
That's right, zero. I guess the weather or at least the threat of weather made people more inclined to activities other than submitting new caches yesterday. I'm not complaining, just observing. I'm sure the pace will pick up again.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

A day for hides?

Looks like snow and rain over the western half of the state today, but there may be geocaching activity in the east because of milder temperatures and (so far) no rain, so it's hard to predict how many new geocaches may show up in the Iowa queue today. Just for fun, I'll predict there will be four new caches submitted today. Check back to see how close my guess is.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Further clarification on the 528-ft rule

Hydee (from Groundspeak) recently posted a clarification for reviewers about applying the 528 ft. spacing rule for waypoints of multicaches and grandfathered virtual caches. I thought I would post it here to share what we reviewers are being told:
I am seeing some confusion and being asked a few questions. Let me see if I can clear it up with a few examples.

If you are reviewing a single stage cache and it is placed 200 feet from a grandfathered virtual cache does the saturation guideline apply? NO, we do not care where grandfathered virts or webcams are.

BUT...If you are reviewing a multi stage cache and stage two is a virtual stage and it is placed 200 feet from an existing cache does it matter? Yes. All new virtual stages and Webcam stages must meet existing requirements, but we ignore those that are grandfathered.

AND... If there is an existing multicache with a virtual stage, and someone hides a new cache 200 feet from that virtual stage, does it matter? Yes. The existing multicache's stages should be respected for the cache saturation guideline.
P.S. We just got back from Arizona about 90 minutes ago. Had a great time finding a few geocaches while there. From the air, I could see there's no snow cover over most of Iowa; just some in the NE corner.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Greetings from Tucson

Greetings from sunny Tucson, where we're spending a few days geocaching and rock climbing. I just spent the past hour reviewing Iowa caches at a local coffee shop here that has free WiFi. Technology is cool.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

2 strikes: cemetary vacation cache

There was a cache submitted for review this week that had two strikes against it -- either one of which was enough to disqualify it from being listed, and either one of which could be resolved if the owners so choose. The cache description says the owners were visiting Iowa for a funeral and decided to place a cache in the cemetary "to bring people there." They didn't state whether they received permission from the cemetary owners or caretakers (required for cemetary caches) or how they would maintain the cache (required for so-called vacation caches). I added a reviewer's note to ask them these questions. So far, no response.

P.S. We're leaving for a brief vacation to Tucson tomorrow. I have the PDA and GPS loaded with Tucson-area geocaches so we're set for a fun weekend. We also plan to do some rock climbing. I'll be checking the Iowa queue at times throughout the weekend, but maybe not as frequently as normal.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Geocaching Event Guidelines

My thanks to a fellow reviewer, WGA (from Wisconsin, aka GrouseTales) for posting this in the WGA forums. The information is timely and helpful, so I thought I'd post it here.
I hate archiving caches or events, so here is a little info to consider when planing any events/classes. It seems like a timely reminder since spring is coming soon, I hope :-).

Main points to consider:
# Geocache events are open to all geocachers AND organized by geocachers.
# Fees charged for events need to be justified and close to actual costs. You can't charge a fee unless it costs money to host the event.
# You can't charge a fee that would be used as a forced donation. If you want to ask for voluntary donations, feel free to pass the hat. In that case, don't list a fee on the cache page.

Event Caches
Event caches are gatherings that are open to all geocachers and which are organized by geocachers. After the event has passed, the event cache should be archived by the organizer within four weeks. While a music concert, a garage sale, a ham radio field day or town’s fireworks display might be of interest to a large percentage of geocachers, such events are not suitable for submission as event caches because the organizers and the primary attendees are not geocachers. In addition, an event cache should not be set up for the sole purpose of drawing together cachers for an organized hunt of another cache or caches. Such group hunts are best organized using the forums or an email distribution list.

For geocaching events that involve several components, such as a day-long group cache hunt that also involves a seminar and dinner, only a single event cache covering all components should be submitted.

Event caches should be submitted no less than two weeks prior to the date of the event, so that potential attendees will have sufficient notice to make their plans. Events are generally listed no more than three months prior to the date of the event, to avoid having the listing appear for a prolonged period of time on the nearest caches page and in the weekly e-mail notification of new caches. Exceptions are sometimes made for events that are designed to attract a regional, national or international group of geocachers. Contact your reviewer if you wish to set up such an event, which may be listed up to six months in advance.

Commercial Caches / Caches that Solicit
Commercial caches attempt to use the web site cache reporting tool directly or indirectly (intentionally or non-intentionally) to solicit customers through a listing. These are NOT permitted. Examples include for-profit locations that require an entrance fee, or locations that sell products or services.

Charging a fee for an event may fall under "caches that solicit", if somone is making profit off of the website. Even if those profiting are not a "commercial" business.

Example A:
Geocacher organizes a pizza social. Fee of $8.00 is charged to cover the actual cost of food. No probem.

Example B: Geocachers organizes a pizza social and charges $20.00 a head. $10.00 for actual cost of food, and $10.00 will be donated to the WGA. This event could not be approved. It's using the to solicit money. The event could still be held, just not published on the internet.

Example C:
GrouseTales hosts a "Printing on Paper geocaching class". He gets a room free at the library, but charges each person $10.00 to attend. All money collected will be donated to the friends of the library foundation. No Dice! This event can't be listed because it uses the to solicit (money for the library).

Example D: (similar to C)
GrouseTales holds the Printing on Paper class at a local restaurant. It costs $50.00 to reserve the meeting room. Printing costs are $20.00. Is it allowed to charge people money to attend? Yes. You would be able to charge enough money to recover the costs of the event. $7.00 a head would cover the cost if 10 people attended. Say 3 people show up, should you charge them $23 each to attend. Probably not. If you cant afford to take the loss, you probably shouldn't be organizing the class to begin with.

Example E:
GrouseTale's Hummer dealership is going to give a class on geocaching. No fee's charged. Can this event be listed? No. Events are open to all geocachers, and ARE ORGANIZED BY GEOCACHERS. Fee or no fee, events are are organized by geocachers.

There seems to be a lot of grey area with the events. No one is trying to discourage having events, but they are mostly designed to be social events. Some classes and other events fall into a grey area. Other times when fees seem excessive, the event will need the OK from the powers at groundspeak.

I see many reviewers around the country are having some questionable events submitted. Hopefully some of the info here might might help event organizers with future planning.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Creativity in Iowa

Last October I had an out-of-state geocacher launch a personal attack against me because I didn't approve a listing for a cache they placed in Iowa (magnetic sign on an electric utility box). I politely wrote why I could not approve it because of safety concerns for geocachers who might grow accustomed to searching around dangerous areas for caches if they were to fin this one. Anyway, the geocacher (from Texas) accused me of being on a power trip and claimed I was the reason there were no creative geocaches in Iowa. Well, I have to say that I would put the creativity of Iowa geocachers up against anyone. The latest example of that is this one by Iowa Tom that just got listed. It's caches like these that make this a great state to go geocaching. Don't believe it when anyone tries to say otherwise.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

How to use the Additional Waypoints feature

One of my fellow reviewers, gpsfun, posted this "cheat sheet" about how to use the new Additional Waypoints feature of the website.
For those who cannot seem to master the entry of additional waypoints, here's a cheat sheet I created. It has been sent to one geocacher so far as a test.

Feel free to use it as-is or modified to meet your personal style. I will appreciate suggestions, clarifications, or corrections.

Recording Additional Waypoints

1. Sign in to your account on Geocaching dot Com
2. Display your cache page
3. There is a Navigation section at the top right of the cache page where a "waypoints" link will be seen; click on that link.

4. First, you may choose a waypoint type - Final Location, Parking Area, Question to Answer, Stages of a Multicache, and Trailhead.
4a. For a complex cache, you could have entries for the parking area, trailhead, questions to answer, stages of a multicache, as well as the final location.
4b. For a traditional cache, you might want to enter the parking area and/or the trailhead.
4c. For a puzzle/mystery cache or a multicache, it will be necessary to make an entry for each stage and for the final cache location.

5. After choosing a waypoint type, you may enter a name for it. This can simply be parking, stage one, stage two, final, or whatever you choose.

6. Next is an entry field for a waypoint lookup code. As it says on the Waypoint Collection page, STAGE1 or FINAL are good names for the lookup code. You may use anything you want, but each entry must be unique - you cannot have two waypoints with STAGE1 as the lookup code.

7. After that there is an entry field for a prefix code. Unless you have something special in mind, you can just use AA for the first waypoint entry, AB for the second one, etc.

8. Next are the entry fields for the waypoint coordinates, which are completed in the same manner as the coordinate entries on the edit cache page.

9. Finally, there are three choices for how the waypoint should be displayed.
9a. Show all information for this waypoint, including coordinates - this should be chosen for parking waypoints, trailheads, and in those cases where the geocacher is being sent to a location to gather information or to answer a question that may be required to determine the final cache location.

9b. Show the details of this waypoint but hide the coordinates - I do not have a good example for this choice.

9c. Hide this waypoint from view except by the owner or administrator - this should be chosen for intermediate stages of a multicache or a mystery/puzzle cache, as well as for the final cache location.

Hope this helps.

Dead week

After a flurry of a geocaching activity last weekend, this has been a slow week for new cache submissions, undoubtedly because of the weather. It's usually pretty easy to predict when there will be a boat load of new caches to review -- whenever the weekend weather takes a turn for the better. Nice (or at least relatively "nicer") days always seem to spur geocachers into placing those caches they've been meaning to hide for awhile.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Busy weekend for February

A look at the activity
There was an unusually high number of caches in Iowa submitted this past weekend. Here's a look at my log of posts:

Saturday, February 11, 2006

A thank-you for a cache denial

IowaAdmin's Geocaching Blog
It's rare that a geocacher will thank a reviewer for turning down a new cache listing, but that's exactly what happened yesterday. When I recently reviewed a cached placed in the Scott Wildlife Management Area, I posted a note to the owner asking if he had received permission from the Iowa DNR. In the meantime, I archived the listing. Yesterday the cache owner emailed this to me:

"Greetings, Ken the IowaAdmin ---
This is to let you know that I did not receive permission to place my geocache in the Scott WMA. I actually had a friendly chat with the local land manager. He patiently explained the reasons for denial of permission to me. We continued talking about geocaching and he suggested a number of possible sites in western Mills County. I'll check these out. So, I withdraw my request for approval of this cache.
Thanks for keeping this geocacher out of trouble."

It's so nice when everyone helps make the process work like it's supposed to, and we all do our part to protect and promote geocaching by being courteous and respectful.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Before you place, make sure where nearby caches are

The 528 ft. rule
This evening I had to post a note to the owner of a cache who placed it too close to an existing cache. The guidelines say that new caches should be at least 528 ft. (0.1 mile) from existing caches. If it's not, the owner should let the reviewer know a pretty darn good reason why it should be allowed. For example, if one cache were on top of a bluff and the other at the bottom of the bluff, it's possible that they could be allowed to be closer than .1 mile apart.

A geocacher once asked me how much leeway I allow on the 528 ft. rule. My answer was, unless there are special circumstances that the cache owner can describe, I stick to 528 ft. Why? First of all, I don't make the rules. Second, if caches were allowed to be closer, there's a chance geocachers could find the wrong one if it's a difficult hide. Besides, if geocaching is about bringing people to new locations, what's the point of bringing them to 3 different spots in the same park that are only 200 feet apart? Also, if you are the owner of the existing cache, wouldn't you like to think that you have some "claim" over that location, as long as you maintain the cache? Otherwise, furture geocachers could hijack your coordinates and, conceivably, place theirs right next to yours.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Not sure? Just ask.

Geocachers ask in advance before placing and submitting.
Recently I received email from a geocacher who was wondering whether caches are allowed at Iowa welcome centers. I replied that I have not heard anywhere that the DOT does not allow them. Today I approved a new geocache (waypoint reference GCTA8P) at the Top of Iowa Welcome Center. This is a good example of how, if you're unsure of the guidelines, a simple email question before you place a cache might save us both time and frustration.

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Out-of-state reviewers

Question raised about Minn. reviewer
In the ' comments to one of my January 27 posts, welch asked if Minnesota has a "local" reviewer. Winchill provided a link to a post that introduces the new reviewer for Minnesota. Previously, reviewing in Minnesota was done by several different reviewers before the responsibility settled into the hands of mtn-man (who I have corresponded with several times and know to be a very conscientious and fair reviewer).

A few weeks ago, saidcache asked, in the IGO forums, if members felt the reviewer should be required to live in the state they review caches for. I was gratified to see the response. Several members responded "no." They understand that state borders don't mean much in today's online global world. There are many examples of reviewers who don't live in the state they review. And -- to put in a plug for my personal situation -- in some of those cases, reviewers don't have the close ties, proximity, or frequent visits to the states they review like I do. Yet, they still do a fine and fair job of reviewing, based on what I hear anyway. Yes, it's true I now live in Wisconsin, but Iowa will always be my "home" state.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Sunday evening reviews

2 for 4
With less than ideal weather today, I didn't expect many caches to review on this Sunday evening. There were four in the queue since the last time I checked earlier this afternoon. Two were approvable while the other two could not be approved. One of them was too close to an existing geocache. The other was placed in a state park and the owner did not indicate that he had obtained permission from the local park manager, as required by the Iowa DNR. For each of those, I posted a note to notify the owner what they need to do to get their cache approved.

Friday, January 27, 2006

One at a time, please

Let's get one approved before another is submitted
Today I reviewed a second cache from a geocacher who still hasn't answered my questions about one he submitted several days ago. What's up with that? So would I approve the second cache while waiting for a response on the first one? Well, I would have, but he had problems with the second one too, so that one is also on hold. It just seems to me that if he had time to log on and fill out the form for a second geocache, he would have noticed that I posted a reviewer's note (which sends an email to his designated geocaching email account) to ask him a question about his previous submission.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Be careful with the state dropdown menu

When submitting a new cache...
Tonight I went to the Iowa review queue and saw a new cache submission. Right away I could see there was a problem when the map indicated it was in McDonough County. Hmm, I thought, last time I checked there was no such county in Iowa. Sure enough, the cache owner had filled out the hide-a-cache online form correctly, except instead of pulling the drop-down menu to Illinois, he missed it by one and accidently selected Iowa. This happens quite frequently. Not a big deal. Reviewers usually simply edit the cache listing so it shows up in the queue of the appropriate state. However, it can slow the approval process for the cache, because it may take at least an additional day for the next reviewer to check his or her state queue and find it.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

How much time?

IowaAdmin's Geocaching Blog

fishpounder said...
Just out of curiosity- How much time do you spend out of your day doing the reviewing process, assuming you have an application in queue?

My time per day probably averages 30 to 45 minutes. Of course some days are more, some are less. Summer is the busiest time. The average per day in summer exceeds an hour. The "review process" includes more than just reviewing new caches submitted. It also includes rechecking pages waiting in the queue to see if the owner has responded to my questions, correspondence with geocachers who are asking questions about their caches, reviewing "should be archived" requests and then reviewing those existing caches, reading the reviewers' forum to keep up with the latest comments from Groundspeak and other reviewers to make sure I'm aware of the latest nuances in the guidelines, such as when a new twist to a cache is submitted somewhere, keeping up with the IGO forums, and yes, even scanning the dreaded public forums every so often to see what's going on there. I also recently volunteered to be on IGO's Land Managers Relations Committee, so I'm reading email from that group and participating in those discussions. And now I’m blogging too!

Thanks for your question. You're the third and final winner in my current promotion. Email me your address and I'll send you an IowaAdmin volunteer geocoin.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Volunteer Reviewer Geocoins

Reviewer Geocoins
I received email today from a geocacher who asked if I needed any help distributing my volunteer reviewer geocoins in Iowa. I replied that I'm planning to attend some events in Iowa this year and hoped to distribute them at those events. I'll also put a couple in the mail to him, since he asked. And to get some responses/questions/etc. going on this blog, I'll mail my IowaAdmin volunteer reviewer geocoins to each of the first three Iowa geocachers who post a comment on my blog. The comment needs to be a legitimate question about geocache reviewing in Iowa.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

New feature working yet?

IowaAdmin's Geocaching Blog
Has anyone tried the new feature where you can add additional waypoints to your cache pages? The reason I ask is because it doesn't work on my computer. All I get is an error page. My plan is to start asking (requiring?) geocachers who submit multis and mystery caches to submit additional waypoints using this feature, but I want to make sure it's working first. Let me know if you've have experimented with it.

On another topic, I'm still waiting to hear back from a geocacher (Jettdude) who submitted a new mystery cache back on Jan. 17. The problem, which I wrote to him about, is that he lists the starting coordinates somewhere in the wilderness of Ontario. guidelines say that mystery coordinates which are not the actual coordinates of the cache should be within a mile or two of the true cache location. This allows the cache to show up on the proper vicinity searches and to keep the mileage of Travel Bugs that find their way into the cache reasonably correct.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

IowaAdmin's Geocaching Blog

New feature at
I just found out about a new feature at that looks pretty cool. It's the ability to add more waypoints to your cache listing when you fill out the form to create a new cache. You can also go back and add waypoints for existing caches that you own. This is also going to be a nice feature for us reviewers because we'll be able to more easily look at all the waypoints for multicache and mystery caches -- making it quicker to approve caches! There's already been some talk among reviewers that they're going to ask anyone submitting a new multi or mystery to use this feature to include the coordinates. I'll probably start doing the same thing -- provided the feature works correctly. I just tried clicking on the link and it seems to be down. :(

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Welcome to IowaAdmin's blog!

This is going to be a place where I write about the geocache approval process, including comments on why some new caches fly through the review process, why some may need additional work before they can be approved, or why some simply cannot be approved. I welcome your questions and comments and hope to make this a fun and polite forum to discuss geocaching issues.