Sunday, December 30, 2007

Technology and nature on the road

A footnote to my posting about last week's trip to Grandma's house...
When we ran into bad driving conditions along Hwy 20 in eastern Iowa, I checked my GPS for nearest lodging and found a couple of them seven miles ahead. I punched the button for more details and got the phone number for the Super 8. We called ahead to see if they had any rooms available and we reserved two of them, telling the manager we would be there in a few minutes. We were also able to check the road conditions and the current weather radar while driving because my wife has a Verizon broadband card and account (for her work) on her laptop computer. Once at the hotel, I used her computer to go online and review geocaches. It's all pretty heady stuff when you consider how far connectivity has come in just the past few years.

Just so you don't think I'm a total geek, I "unplugged" for awhile this afternoon to take some photos of the winter scenes brought to us by the recent sticky snowfall. Here are a few selected pictures from today.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Over the river and through the woods...

...to Grandmother's house we go. Or at least we tried to go today. We're on our way to Grandma's for Christmas but because of the blowing snow and icy roads, we're spending the night in a hotel in Dysersville, Ia. Not what we had in mind when we left home this morning, but all in all, not a bad place to be considering what it was like out there on the highways today. We'll continue our travels during the daylight hours tomorrow and, hopefully, make it the rest of the way to western Iowa. And yes, I did check to see if there are any geocaches around here. It turns out there is one less than .1 mile from our hotel. But it's kinda chilly out there right now -- something like 5 degrees with a wind chill well below zero, so I think I'll stay right where I am and watch Sunday Night Football with my family. Merry Christmas to you and yours. I hope everyone you care about is safe and warm tonight.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Wrist camera - GoProCamera

A couple of months ago I saw an ad in Sea Kayaker magazine for a small waterproof camera call the GoPro Digital Hero 3. It looked like it would be great for all sorts of outdoor activities, so I did some online research including checking out the company's Web site. I ended up purchasing the Digital Hero 3 and so far I have used it for kayaking, scuba diving and yesterday for geocaching in the snow (see video below). It's a great little camera that shoots both still photos and digital video. Recently I sent some video footage that I shot on our latest scuba dive trip to GoProCamera. This morning I discovered that they are featuring my footage on their home page. How cool is that?

Edit: Jan. 4: It looks like GoProCamera has replaced my video with someone else's, but you can still view mine here.

video

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The best geocache creator? Here's my nomination


I don't know of any other geocacher who creates more ingenious and fun geocaches. Quite simply, he is the best geocache creator I know of. So this is a challenge to all my readers: Look at Iowa Tom's geocaches and see if you can nominate another geocacher who has a better portfolio of caches.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Winter is here

Sometimes I think I can tell what the weather is like without venturing outside, looking out the window or looking at a radar image. All I have to do is check the review queue to see how many new geocaches have been submitted. So far today, for example, there were only four new caches submitted (only one of which could be approved so far, pending a couple of issues that need to be fixed for the others). The reason for this relatively low number is most likely the snow storm that's sweeping the upper Midwest. Pretty easy to understand that people don't want to place caches during inclement weather. Most people, anyway. I think we all know at least a couple of geocachers who don't let a little thing like Mother Nature slow them down.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Away for the week

I'll be away from computers and cell phones for the next week, so that means no work (which I won't miss) and no geocache reviewing (which I will miss). Filling in with reviewing responsibilities for Iowa will be Electric Mouse, who is one of the volunteer reviewers for Illinois. Some of you may remember that Electric Mouse used to be the reviewer for the Dakotas and Nebraska. Have a great Thanksgiving week everyone!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

51 caches approved -- TODAY

This is probably my record for number of cache approvals in a a day -- 51 -- and it's not yet 1 p.m. But I knew there were going to be a ton of them today because of several event caches that were held yesterday. Organizers of those events (WWFM - Ice Cream Style, November Des Moines Geo Breakfast, and WWFM @ Green Square Park) had submitted lots of geocaches over the past couple of weeks for me to pre-review and then disable until after their event. While this does require me to, in effect, review each one of them twice, it seems to be a good way for event organizers to put out a bunch of caches for an event and give me time to review them ahead of time to make sure they are likely to be approvable at their selected locations.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Nike+ My newest outdoor gadget

This doesn't have much to do with geocaching other than the fact that it's another cool outdoor gadget (which I know all you geocachers can appreciate). Have you heard of Nike+? It's a system that consists of a sensor/transmitter that fits into the sole of your running shoe, a receiver that connects with your iPod Nanno, and the software that runs the system. Then when you run, a voice gives you feedback about how fast you're going, how far and for how long you've gone. The iPod records your running data, which then uploads to the Nike+ web site when you plug it into your computer and the web site plots a graph of your run. And all this while you listen to your favorite running songs! After trying it today for the first time, I have to say it's pretty darn cool! Here's my graph from today's run. (By the way, my wife is laughing at my extreme geekiness as I write this.)

Monday, October 15, 2007

Geocache series in the Upper Mississippi River Refuge

For some time now, geocaches have not been permitted to be placed in the Upper Mississippi River Wildlife Refuge (at the request of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service). This weekend as I was checking the location of two recently submitted geocaches to see if they were inside boundaries of the Refuge, I went to the UMR Wildlife Refuge web site to check the maps that show the boundaries, and I discovered that Fish & Wildlife staff have create their own series of virtural geocaches there. You can check out this fun and informative series here. To make this series available to geocachers who may not be aware of it, I wrote to the F&WL staff today to see if they're interested in having their series listed as a multicache, with the final physical cache located at their office in Winona. I received a reply from Cindy Samples this evening, so we'll be discussing how she can set up the series as a multicache. Meanwhile, you can get a head start on this series by checking out the Upper Mississippi web site.

Friday, October 05, 2007

fire hydrants

Over the past couple of days I reviewed three different caches (submitted by two different geocachers) that were magnetic key holders stuck to fire hydrants. My initial thought was that this is not a good idea because hydrants are part of the local fire departments' emergency equipment. To see if Groundspeak has an official position on this, I posted a note in the reviewers' forum and asked, and the response from Groundspeak confirmed my suspicion that fire hydrant caches are not allowed. This is not to say that you won't find some out there. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if I have approved some myself without knowing they were on fire hydrants. But, as the guidelines clearly state:
There is no precedent for placing caches. This means that the past listing of a similar cache in and of itself is not a valid justification for the listing of a new cache.

Other reviewers cited examples of geocachers who tried to unscrew caps from hydrants in their zeal to find a hidden cache. And it is, of course, illegal to tamper with fire hydrants, just as it is to tamper with U.S. Postal Service mail boxes.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Sundown


One of the nice things about having a blog is that I get to share experiences and opinions with fellow geocachers -- and anyone else who happens to stumble into this site. It also means I get to post whatever I want even though I said this blog would be about geoache reviewing. Well, I can digress once in awhile, right? In that vein, here's a photo taken last evening as I prepared for a little moonlight kayaking on Lake Michigan out of Kenosha harbor. There were thunderstorms earlier in the evening but they were moving to the east over Michigan by the time we launched from the beach and watched the moon rise over the lake. Evenings like this one make you appreciate being outdoors while most people are inside in front of the TV.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

WGA picnic event


On Saturday I attended the annual Wisconsin Geocaching Association picnic -- carpooling with fellow reviewer WGA2, who also goes by great ID of Should've_Bought_Him_The_Tie. (If you don't know the story behind that ID, he'd be happy to tell you.) These WGA events are always well-organized -- ever since I helped organize the first one in 2001. :) The 2007 picnic was held at Wildcat Mountain State Park in western Wisconsin, which is not far from the famous Elroy-Sparta bicycle trail. The rolling hills in this park provided some very steep up and down trails for the 90 or so geocachers who attended. "Tie" and I brought our mountain bikes along and got quite the workouts on those hills.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Interview on Podcacher.com is posted

I didn't realize it until I read Bumanfam's comment here on yesterday's blog post, but Podcacher.com has posted its latest weekly podcast and it includes the interview I recorded with them earlier this summer at the Midwest Geobash. Thanks, Sonny & Sandy, for including me in your show!

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

The holiday is over

I received an e-mail today from a geocacher writing to make sure it was the recent Labor Day weekend and not a health problem on my part that prevented his geocaches from getting reviewed. So, before I dive back into the review queue, here's a quick note to Iowa geocachers to let you know I'm back on the job after being away from the Internet for a couple of days. No illness or injuries here. Thanks for your concern!

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Kayakers' paradise

We returned on Sunday from our week-long vacation in the Apostle Islands. As it turned out, two of the places where we stayed had wifi so I was able to keep up with the cache reviews until last week Thursday. The final place, DePerry's on Lake Superior, which is about 4 miles north of Bayfield, Wis., did not have wifi, but we agreed it was our favorite place to stay during the trip. The weather was ideal and it was a great experience. Some stats:
  • 7 days of paddling
  • 88 miles
  • 9 islands landed on
  • 3 lighthouses toured
  • 1 bear encounter (nothing serious; he/she ran away after we stared each other down)
  • Many bald eagles, loons, mergansers, pelicans
  • Many sea caves entered
I had our GPSr with us to record each day's track, then imported the tracks into Google Earth. Here's the satellite view:And here are a few shots from water level:

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Greetings from an island in Lake Superior

I found a wifi hotspot here in the northlands of Wisconsin, so I was able to review about 20 caches yesterdya and another 10 caches this evening. But the real story is the beauty of this place -- the Apostle Islands. If you've never been, get yourself up here to this beautiful area. More later, including photos.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

A week in the Apostle Islands


Mary and I are looking forward to our upcoming vacation in the Apostle Islands next week. We leave Saturday morning and will spend the week kayaking in this beautiful area of northern Wisconsin on Lake Superior. I'll take my notebook computer along to review geocaches whenever I can get to a wifi hotspot. So far, the only hotspot I know of is at the Ashland library. However, there may be one or more in Bayfield that I don't yet know about. So please be forewarned that it might take a little longer than normal for your cache to be reviewed next week.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Not sure if your hiding place is too close to existing geocaches?

Today I received email from a geocacher who sent me a set of coordinates and asked me to check to make sure this proposed location for a geocache was not too close to existing geoaches and waypoints of multicaches. I'm not sure how other reviewers prefer to handle these requests, but here's how I handle it. I asked that he go ahead and
"Create a geocache listing to submit a cache at these coordinates. Include a reviewer note on the page that the cache is not yet placed, and that you just want me to check the coordinates. That way your coordinates are entered into the geocaching.com database and I can easily check the maps to tell if there are any others nearby. I'll let you know and will then disable the listing so you can reactivate it after you place the cache and the page is ready for final review."

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Midwest Geobash 2007



After work this past Friday (OK, maybe before work officially ended) I left for Kendalville, Indiana to attend the 2007 version of the Midwest Geobash, or MWGB. This was a fun time because I got to see some geocaching friends from Iowa and Wisconsin and meet many geocachers.

It was held on the Noble Country fairgrounds, and there was plenty of room for all the hundreds of campers -- everything from huge RVs down to my small tent. I arrived after dark on Friday night, so after getting some directions from the helpful volunteers at the gate, I drove in to look for a campsite. I ended up at the very far fringe of the campers, which was fine with me because I figured it would be a quiet spot. Well, that would have been the case if it wasn't for the trains. After setting up my tent, I walked the campground looking for familiar faces. I found a group of geocachers from Wisconsin that I knew -- well, I knew one of them: zuma! -- so I sat at their campfire and enjoyed a beer with them before heading back to my tent and calling it a night. Indiana calls itself the Crossroads of America, so Kendalville must be the railroad crossing of Indiana. I swear that trains must have passed by at least every 10 minutes. Finally, sometime after 2 a.m. the trains decided to give the camping geocachers a break for awhile. Saturday morning I awakened at 6:30 and decided to walk around and check out the fairgrounds in the daylight. There wasn't another soul stirring. Everyone must have stayed up a lot later than I did. I ate breakfast at my campsite, then fired up my notebook computer because I heard there was a wifi network at the fairgrounds. Sure enough, I got a strong signal at my campsite so I logged in and reviewed 21 Iowa caches that morning. Later, when I saw the tasty looking pancakes being served by the Noble County Farm Bureau in one of the barns, I decided a second breakfast wouldn't hurt me.

The rest of the day included a presentation by Sonny & Sandy, hosts of the weekly podcacher.com podcast. They emailed me a few weeks earlier and asked if I'd be willing to sit for an interview for an upcoming show, so we found a quiet spot to do the interview. Listen for it on an upcoming show. After the interview, I went geocaching with 7 other friends I met at the event and enjoyed seeing more of Kendalville and the surrounding countryside. We got back just in time for a panel discussion featuring a panel of geocaching.com reviewers. Trippy1976, who organized the panel, said he needed another body willing to sit on the panel, so I found myself volunteered. I'm glad I did. It was fun to help out with the event, and it was a good way for me to meet even more geocachers as quite a few of them who now recognized me as a reviewer stopped by to chat after the panel discussion. By late Saturday afternoon it was time for me to head home. I would have enjoyed staying a second night, but Mary is going to be gone on business most of the coming week so I wanted to get home and spend Sunday with her.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Heading to MWGB

Later today I'm heading out to attend the Midwest GeoBash in northern Indiana. Looks like it will be a fun event. They're expecting somewhere around 1,000 geocachers. I'm especially interested because they have not hidden a bunch of temporary caches to occupy the time. Instead, it will be a time to get acquainted with and learn from fellow geocachers. I'll file a report here after the weekend.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Add those attributes



For some time now the attributes feature has been available to cache owners after they create a cache listing on geocaching.com. Owners can use it to let other geocachers know if, among other things, the cache can be hunted at night, whether or not dogs are allowed in the area, whether special equipment is required to find the cache, and so on. One of the most important attributes is whether the cache is wheelchair accessible. Many of my fellow reviewers have long posted reviewer notes to cache owners whenever the owner submits a new cache but has not selected any attributes. Well, I think that's a good idea so I've started to do so too. When you submit a new cache without attributes, here's the note you may see from me to encourage you to use the "edit attributes" feature:

Please go to the edit page for your cache (and any other caches of yours that don't have attributes) and use the "edit attributes" feature to add them -- especially the one that indicates whether this geocache is wheelchair accessible. Thanks.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

More about power trails

There certainly are a few passionate people who don't want to let go of power trail caches. Some of them seem to think this is all about MY decision. I don't see it that way. It's a Groudspeak thing. [Please see the guidelines.] It would be pointless for me to weigh in officially on the arguments that a few geocachers have voiced, because I'm not the one making the rules. Groundspeak has voiced its displeasure and preference about having power trails approved. As a volunteer reviewer, I am required to abide by Groundspeak's guidelines. And when you click the "agree" button on their web site, so are you.

However, I will say that personally [emphasis on PERSONALLY], I don't see why requiring a series of power trail caches to be set up as a multicache takes anything away from the sport. That way, geocachers still have a bunch of new caches to find and new and interesting locations to view. Plus, there's the added benefit that if it's a multicache, the trail isn't "locked up" by one geocacher's power trail because of the 528-ft. spacing guideline. Therefore, the trail is open to cache placement by future geocachers. That leaves room for the growth of our sport instead of an entire stretch of trail being monopolized by one geocacher.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Okoboji 2007


We spent Memorial Day weekend at our annual family reunion on West Lake Okoboji. The weather was good overall. Most of our outdoor time was spent in kayaks, but we also took time to walk over to a nearby geocache called Venice, Iowa by Davy Duck, which we found fairly quickly.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Arggggh! Not another power trail, please

The phenomenon of so-called "power trail" caches began within the past year, and now this invasive cache type has found it's way to Iowa. Power trails are when a geocacher hides caches every 528 feet or slightly more along a trail -- just far enough to meet the .1 mile cache separation requirement. The guidelines don't prohibit power trails, but they do comment on them:

The reviewers use a rule of thumb that caches placed within .10 miles (528 feet or 161 metres) of another cache may not be published on the site. This is an arbitrary distance and is just a guideline, but the ultimate goal is to reduce the number of caches hidden in a particular area and to reduce confusion that might otherwise result when one cache is found while looking for another. On the same note, don't go cache crazy and hide a cache every 600 feet just because you can. If you want to create a series of caches (sometimes called a “Power Trail”), the reviewer may require you to create a multi-cache, if the waypoints are close together. A series of caches that are generally intended to be found as a group are good candidates for submission as a single multicache.


We didn't have any power trails in Iowa until a few weeks ago when I approved the LOBRI Trails in Muscatine, after geocachers LOBRI wrote to me to request that their series be approved so they could "draw attention to geocaching" in Muscatine in advance of an upcoming geocaching event and so they could take a local newspaper reporter on a cache hunt. Even though Grounspeak discourages power trails (see the guideline excerpt above) I decided to approve this series. Evidently that power trail or others outside of Iowa inspired other geocachers to create their own power trails. Now several more have been submitted.

Because of what's written in the guidelines, I'm going to begin questioning geocachers who submit power trails -- asking why they can't be set up as multi-caches instead. If there is no good reason, they can expect that their power trail cache will not be approved.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Less-than-helpful hints

I always look at the hints written by cache owners when they submit a new cache. For the most part, geocachers seem to understand the purpose of the hint. However, I do see an occasional less-than-useful hint. For example:
"This is one of my favorite parks."
"Be sure to bring along a piece of metal tied to a string at least 2 feet long."
"Your best approach is from the north."

If I see that a hint doesn't fulfill the intended purpose -- giving geocachers a last resort clue that they can decrypt at ground zero -- before I publish the cache, I think it's due primarily to inexperience. I send them a note with my recommendation for changing their hint and why. In most cases, they seem happy to oblige. They simply haven't thought things through and put themselves in the shoes of people who will be hunting for their cache.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Getting a second opinion

One thing that I stress when writing to or talking with geocachers is that I, as a reviewer, don't make the rules. My role as a volunteer reviewer is to enforce the guidelines that have been put in place by Groundspeak. However, because of the ever-evolving creativity of geocachers, situations often arise that require interpretation to see if they comply with the guidelines or may pose problems or dangers that the guideline writers had not previously thought of. In situations like those, I like to ask my fellow reviewers for their opinions about the cache. Groundspeak has a special online forum for reviewers with a topic called "What do you think of this cache?" There we can post a link to these speical situations and ask if anyone else has encountered this type of cache before. It's a great resource that helps keep all of the reviewers worldwide in touch with each other and consistent in how we review new geocache submissions.

Monday, April 30, 2007

213 new caches in April

I just did a rough count (I could be off by a few) and I reviewed and approved about 213 new caches in Iowa during the month of April. That's a lot! Oh yeah, there were also a ton of notes and emails exchanged about caches, some caches to archive, a CITO event attended, and even a few geocaches that I found myself. While the pace has been fast and furious, it's been fun working with you. I know from reading posts from fellow reviewers who review other regions that Iowa geocachers are, overall, more polite and understanding than some of the geocachers I hear about from other parts of the country and world. So if you're an Iowa geocacher... thanks. Keep up the good attitude and the great caches.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

It's spring and the geocaches are in bloom

It was a busy day for geocache hiders in Iowa! Today I reviewed 25 cache listings -- and I'm guessing more may be submitted yet this evening. The warmer weather must be giving people the urge to get out into the great outdoors. Some of the new ones that I approved this evening look especially interesting, including one outside of Ames called Simon & Garfunkel. I graduated from Iowa State but I never knew about this area. It looks like a great place to take a hike.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Cedar Rapids CITO



This past Friday evening I started thinking about how I was going to spend my Saturday. Mary was going to be gone all day to attend a bridal shower for a neice, so that left me to fend for myself. Since there were a number of Cache In, Trash Out (CITO) events listed on the geocaching.com calendar all over the country in honor of Earth Day, I decided that I'd take part in one of them. Then I remembered that I had been invited by AB-n-AP to attend their event in Cedar Rapids -- so I knew my destination. I always like visiting Cedar Rapids because I lived there for seven years back in the '80s and it's where my son was born. It was also great to meet a number of geocachers from that area and discuss geocaching, geocache reviewing, and other topics as we picked up trash. After more than two hours of bending over to pick up bottles, papers, cardboard, fast food containers and even a hub cap, I can still feel the muscles in the backs of my legs. But it was worth it. We got that stretch of parkway along the freeway looking a lot better than it did before. My thanks to AB-n-AP for organizing this, and especially to everyone who came out to help.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Greetings from down south


Mary and I are on Cozumel, but I've been keeping in touch with the geocaching.com review queue, thanks to wifi in the hotel lobby. Technology is pretty damn amazing these days.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Acceptance of additional waypoints feature

Since early 2006, I've been encouraging geocachers to use the "add/edit waypoints" feature found on the edit pages for their caches to enter coordinates for multicaches and mystery/puzzle caches. At first I posted a lot of "reviewer notes" to inform or remind geocachers about this. Recently I don't seem to need to remind geocachers as much because most are already aware of this and doing it on their own. Of course, I can't take all the credit for this (or even most of the credit) because geocaching.com has now made it part of the latest version of the geocaching.com guidelines for hiding a multicache.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

The Blizzard


Geocaching activity came to a virtual standstill in many parts of Iowa during the first weekend of March and for days afterward, and understandably so because of the blizzard that hit much of the state. Some amazing stories are being told about week-long power outages in town such as Beaman in the north-central part of the state. Check out more blizzard photos at this Iowa DOT site.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

How long to approve a cache?

I just read a couple of posts in the geocaching.com forums. The relatively new geocacher (a "newbie" in geocaching parlance) asked how long it should take to have his new multi-cache approved. He was answered by several posters, but the most complete and accurate answer that I saw so far comes from a geocacher who goes by the handle of WebChimp. Here's what WebChimp wrote:
As far as listing process goes, I know the reviewers want to see each stage (even if there's no container there) listed as a waypoint, with a description of what goes on at that stage. Leave a nice, clear note for the reviewer in the logs, explaining anything that's even slightly unusual. Pretend you didn't write the listing, read over the note for the reviewer, and make sure it makes complete sense.

As far as the reviewing process goes, the previous answers have good advice. Patience is a virtue, especially when waiting for a cache to be reviewed. GC guideleines say to drop your reviewer an email if nothing's happened after 72 hours. That's an okay idea, but just remember that the 72 hour thing is a guideline. Some reviewers have ample free time to get multi or complicated caches reviewed and make a reply to the hider inside 72 hours. Other reviewers have full work loads or family obligations, and assessing a multi or complicated cache may just take longer. In any case, remember that the reviewer is not going to reach an opinion about the cache and not share it with you. Just be patient. The answer will come...

I would suggest if the listing involves code, or some complex method of deriving coordinates, give all that info to your reviewer.

I think the biggest time-consumer in reviewing these caches is trying to decipher what the hider has actually done, and ANYTHING you can tell the reviewer (via a note in the logs) to make it easier to understand and visualize on a map will help them process the listing more quickly.

Also remember that your reviewer is probably reviewing numerous other caches at the same time, and that makes things difficult on his or her end, as well.

Again, just be patient. One really polite email after four or five days is probably all it takes to get a reading on what's going on.

Good luck on your hide, it's a lot of fun to see that FTF log on a new cache.

Happy trails............

WebChimp


That's sage advice, coming from a geocacher who's only been in the game for 14 months, according to his profile.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Cedar Rapids cave

Yesterday I reviewed and listed a new cache in Cedar Rapids that really has me thinking because of what the owner wrote about the location in his description. The cache is called Mosquito Cave and in his description, AB-n-AP says:
After the Civil War, a gang of horse thieves used to run their stolen horses through what is now known as Horsethief Cave. The thieves would enter the cave, located a few miles north of Mosquito Cave, and not emerge until they reached Anamosa - 23 miles away!
I lived in Cedar Rapids for seven years and I never heard about this cave. I wish I would have because I would have loved to explore this. It's hard for me to imagine that horse thieves could fit horses through a labrinth of caves that extended for 23 miles, and it's right there under the Cedar River all the way to Anamosa. If it's true -- and I don't have any reason to doubt AB-n-AP -- that's pretty amazing.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Podcast geocaches

This morning I reviewed a newly submitted geocache that wasn't really a geocache. There was a downloadable wav file which users could listen to on their MP3 players to hear turn-by-turn directions to the final location of the cache container. However, Groundspeak has notified reviewers not to accept podcast geocaches.

Quoting from the guidelines: "GPS usage is an essential element of geocaching. Therefore, although it is possible to find a cache without a GPS, the option of using accurate GPS coordinates as an integral part of the cache hunt must be demonstrated for all physical cache submissions."

If you would still like to provide geocachers the option of using your home-made podcast for turn-by-turn directions to get to a cache, you must:

1. Provide the coordinates of the final location on the cache page, or in the case of a puzzle or multi, provide a method to obtain the final coordinates.

AND...

2. Provide a warning on the cache page that says "Downloading files from the internet is not always safe and you download the files at your own risk."

AND...

3. Provide an alternate way such as a printout of the podcast text that you can print from the web page and read along as you go.

I realize that these rules are not posted in the guidelines, but I have been assured they will be posted in the next iteration. Meanwhile, Groundspeak has suggested that we refer geocachers to this clause in the guidelines: "Groundspeak may change, suspend, or discontinue any portion of the Site, or any service offered on the Site, at any time, including but not limited to any feature, database, application, or content. Groundspeak may also impose limits on certain features offered on the Site with or without notice."

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

A list of Iowa's land policies

I happened to run across the following posting that I sent to geocaching.com some time ago when they asked for a region-by-region response from each of their reviewers. I realize the IGO web site has a more detailed, and probably more up-to-date list by county, but here's a bunch of info on one page. If you see errors here, please let me know.
-----------
Iowa

STATEWIDE

For all Iowa State Parks and other land administered by The Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR), permission from the local land manager is required. No permit system is in place (that I know of) so geocachers need to state in their submission that they have received permission.

The Nature Conservancy in Iowa protects over thirty parcels of land throughout the state. Many of these sites are also classified as preserves. Requests for placing caches may be directed to Mr. Neal Humke, Land Steward for The Nature Conservancy in Iowa, at PO Box 1411, Muscatine, IA 52761. Please provide a detailed description of the proposed cache location (what trail, distance from trailhead, distance from trail, etc.), a description of the proposed container, and the distance from any features that might be considered threatened were a cache placed too close by. This information is dated 11 January 2004.


CEDAR RAPIDS

The Indian Creek Nature Center wants geocaches okayed by the Land Steward, Jean Wiedenheft. Ms Weidenheft may be reached via the information on this page. The Center is concerned about "... keeping caches away from high erosion areas (steep hills, gullies), and ... wild flower patches...". This information is dated 11 January 2004.

The City of Cedar Rapids Parks Department wants geocaches okayed by the City Parks Director, Dave Kramer. Mr. Kramer may be reached at the City Parks Department office. This information is dated 11 January 2004.

CORALVILLE

At a meeting 23 February 2004, the Coralville Parks and Recreation Commission unanimously approved a motion to permit Geocaching within city parks with approved locations and guidelines generally following those of the Story County Conservation Board (see below). The minutes of the meeting incorporating the approval may be found at this link. The guidelines and permit application PDF file will be found on the Coralville website.

DES MOINES

This Groundspeak forum posting dated 13 June 2004, advises that permission must be received from park management before hiding any caches in Jester Park.

JOHNSON COUNTY

The Johnson County Conservation Board has issued their Geocache Placement Permit application. This document is in MS Word format, undated.

We have received correspondence dated 11 September 2004 with the following information:
The Macbride Nature Center (located along the Coralville Reservoir near Lake Macbride State Park) is owned by the Army Corps of Engineers but is leased to, and managed by the University of Iowa Division of Recreational Services.
The University does not have an official, written policy regarding geocaching but asks that they be contacted prior to placing any caches. The nature center does have some sensitive areas to protect, and they say that their lease could be jepordized by unauthorized activities.
The contact is:
Wayne Fett
Assoc. Director, Outdoor Trip Programs
Macbride Nature Recreation Area Coord.
Ph. 319-335-9290
wayne-fett a t uiowa d o t edu


STORY COUNTY

The Story County Conservation Board has issued Geocache Placement Site Guidelines and a Geocache Placement Permit application. Both documents are undated and in Microsoft Word format.

VINTON

The City of Vinton Parks and Recreation Department wants a letter or telephone call requesting permission to place caches within Vinton parks. Requests may be sent to Duane Randall, Head of the Parks and Recreation Department, at 7014 East A Street, Vinton, IA 52349, or telephone (319) 472-4164. This information is dated 11 January 2004.

WASHINGTON COUNTY

A geocacher submitted the following excerpt from a letter written to him by Steve Anderson, Director of the Washington County Conservation Board (WCCB) dated 11 July 2003. The excerpt follows:

The Board decided to allow geocaches in our properties provided that our director first approves the site, that they cannot be placed in environmentally sensitive areas, and that they are not allowed in Brinton Timber or Hayes Timber.

Geocachers applying for permission to place a cache on WCCB land may reach Mr. Anderson at the Conservation Education Center. Contact information for the Education Center may be found on the WCCB web page at the above link.

WINNEBAGO COUNTY

The Winnebago County Conservation Board has developed a set of Geocache Placement Site Guidelines and a Geocache Placement Permit application. Our understanding as of the date of submission (29 April 2004) is that no areas have yet been classified as "Category 1" (virtual caches only). The documents are in Microsoft Word format, undated.

WORTH COUNTY

The Worth County Conservation Board has developed a Geocache Registration Form that should be submitted after a cache is physically hidden, but BEFORE it is submitted to geocaching.com. The form may be mailed to Worth County Conservation Board, 503 1st Avenue N, Northwood, Iowa 50459, but it appears the Board will also accept this information over the telephone at (641) 324-1524 (ask for Shane or Dan). Please read the cache placement guidelines on the registration form before placing your cache. Once approved by the Board, make certain your online cache description contains the required information described in the registration form as well. The form is in Microsoft Word format, undated.

UPPER MISSISSIPPI RIVER NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE

The Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife Refuge is off limits to geocaching, as per rules of the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Boundaries can be viewed here.