Tuesday, December 29, 2009

To Grandma's house we go

We were hoping to make the drive to Grandma's house in Cherokee for Christmas but the snowstorm forced us to change our plans. The new plan is to go to Cherokee this weekend. Maybe we'll be able to find some Tonedog52 or Wonder Boy caches if we have time between family activities.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

A nice Christmas thank-you

Here's an e-mail I received a few minutes ago. It's the nice notes and comments from geocachers I meet in person that make it all worthwhile.
We just wanted to thank you for all the time and effort you give so that we can put out and hunt caches. It is amazing how many you have approved this past year. We just started geocaching in June and are having such fun as a family. We appreciate all you do and we know we couldn't do it with out you. THANK YOU!
Merry Christmas to you and your family!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Who's not getting my vote for cachers of the month

File this one under the category of "Ya Think?"
Here's the cache they were going for: New Phila Ballfields in Ohio.
And here's the result, a story in their local newspaper:
Headline: Shortcut may cost geocachers

Saturday, December 05, 2009

The DARPA balloon project

In case you haven't been following what's going on at Groundspeak today: http://www.10balloonies.com/  Looks like they're closing in on all 10 balloons, thanks to the nationwide network of geocachers.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Peak placement season seems to be over

It was a busy summer for new geocache placements in Iowa. Now that the leaves are nearly all down and the temperatures have dipped, the pace has definitely slowed, which it does every year about this time. Instead of opening my browser and seeing a queue of 20 to 40 new caches on weekend mornings, this morning there were only four... so far. However, if this year follows form, there will be a mini-spike of new caches just after the holidays when new GPSRs are doled out as Christmas gifts. By the way, my wife was at Garmin headquarters near Kansas City this past week (on business) and mentioned to them that her husband is a geocacher. They told her I should stop in sometime and meet with their geocaching team. Evidently Garmin has a designated team assigned to the geocaching market, which only makes sense considering how many GPS units must get purchased every year primarily for geocaching.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

"Team" finds or "ghost" logs? What do you think?

This week two different cache owners wrote to me to ask my advice/opinion about how to respond when a geocacher posts a "find" on their cache page but did not sign the log. The first situation (messages are posted below with permission from the cache owner; names changed to protect identities) involves members of a geocaching "team" who all log a find even though only one of them is present at the cache. Here's the message I received:

Hello Ken,
You have been a wealth of information to me lately and because of that, I have a semi-hypothetical question for a real-life situation and how our geocaching guidelines apply to it....

Let's say you and I are good geocaching friends and we call ourselves "GeoPair". So maybe I go out and make a find today (by myself) and sign the log as "GeoPair". I let you know I found it, and BOTH OF US log a find. But since GeoPair is just a pseudonym for our partnership, we have to log our find individually using our separate usernames on geocaching.com. The owner of the cache does a log check and finds GeoPair signed the log, but you and I both posted finds. Perhaps it is well known that you and I together are "GeoPair", perhaps not. The general guideline is once you've signed the physical log, you can post the find on the internet. In this situation is it allowable for both of us to log a find? Is it acceptable (without repercussion) for the owner to delete both of our logs (due to the "bogus" nature of the logs)?

I ask these questions because I am aware of a situation that exactly mirrors my description of this hypothetical situation. What are the exact "rules" that apply here? If I had made this "find" today I could have just as easily signed my name and "forged" your name and the owner probably wouldn't/couldn't know the difference. I assure you, I am NOT doing this. I am aware of another geocacher that IS doing this (signing a pseudonym and/or signing for others). I am just looking for clarification of our geocaching guidelines and options/remedies for a situation such as this. I am relatively new to geocaching, but I believe in and insist on maintaining the integrity of this sport.

I would appreciate your insight and opinion regarding this matter. Thank you!

And here's my response...

I appreciate your efforts to protect the integrity of geocaching, but the geocaching logs are sometimes a mysterious place where one person's viewpoint conflicts with the next person's. As a volunteer reviewer, I have been instructed time and time again that reviewers are not the log police, so we shouldn't be editing or deleting logs on caches (other than those we own) unless a log violates terms of agreement that all geocachers "signed" when they created their account on geocaching.com.

Note: The rest of this email is my personal opinion and not necessarily that of geocaching.com. My personal opinion -- and I believe the widespread opinion of many long-time geocachers -- is that if you are not physically present for a find, you shouldn't claim it as a find.

In additon to my IowaAdmin account (which I rarely use to log finds), I have an account that I use when I cache hunt on my own and a third account that my wife and I use when we geocache together. Having said that, I know of many couples (usually husband and wife) who have just one account and log all their finds there regardless of whether they were both present. If a single account is shared by a nuclear family, there's seems to be widespread agreement among geocachers that it's OK for family members to log a find even if a spouse or kids were not present. To each his/her own.

Regarding the situation you describe, the cache owner IS the cache police for his/her own cache. I believe the cache owner is justified in deleting any logs he/she truly feels are not legitimate. Like any situation where there may be a difference of opinion, all actions by the cache owner should be done with tactful courtesy and not out of spite or nastiness. The cache owner should clearly explain why he or she is taking the action, such as deleting a log, and give the geocacher a chance to respond or revise the log. If the geocacher doesn't like the outcome, he/she can choose not to search for any more caches owned by that particular cache owner. But there's no need for public shouting matches about it. Just accept it and move on.

I hope this helps.
So what do you think?

Friday, October 02, 2009

Stats a lot of caches!

It's time once again for some stats about geocaches.
  • I reviewed 3,053 new geocaches during the past year -- roughly from September 2008 through August 2009. All of these were in Iowa. That comes to an average of 8.36 caches reviewed per day.
  • Worldwide, 391,742 new geocaches were reviewed during the past year.
  • In the United States, 193,054 new geocaches were reviewed during the past year.
  • Iowa now has 7,949 active geocaches (including event caches but not including EarthCaches) listed on geocaching.com.
  • Worldwide, there are now 912,967 active geocaches.
What's your guess for the exact date that we'll hit 1 million?

Friday, August 28, 2009

Cemetery caches - what's the policy?

If you're a regular reader of the forums at geocaching.com, you may have noticed discussion about an update to the guidelines that mentions caches hidden in cemeteries. The discussion from Groundspeak is summarized in this posting from MissJenn. In a nutshell, the guidelines now include cemeteries as areas where geocaches might not be allowed. Quoting from the guidelines: "Caches placed in areas which are highly sensitive to the extra traffic that would be caused by vehicles and humans (examples may include archaeological or historic sites or cemeteries)." (Boldface added by me.) MissJenn's posting says, in part, "This is why we have local experts (your reviewers) who know the deal in their respective territories. They know the right thing to do. They have been doing that and they’ll continue to do the same."

My standard operating procedure for cemetery caches remains what it has been for several years. When a cache is submitted that is inside a cemetery in Iowa, I temporarily disable the cache and send this note to the cache owner:
"This cache appears to be in a cemetery. Because of complaints about geocachers
playing 'games' in cemeteries across the country, I need to make sure you
received permission from the cemetery owners or caretaker before this is listed.
Also, the cache needs to be placed away from graves so it doesn't upset mourners
who may accidentally find it or see geocachers in the cemetary. Please reply by
posting in a reviewer note the name and contact information of the person who
granted permission for this cache and then re-enable the cache so it reappears
in my review queue. If you don't plan to seek permission, please archive
the listing and remove the cache. Thanks for your understanding."

Therefore, if you are planning to place a cache in a cemetery in Iowa, you'll need to seek permission. Once you receive permission, please be sure to include that information somewhere on the cache page, either in a reviewer note or in the short or long description.

Occasionally, a cache owner will submit a new geocache and state that it is just outside of the cemetery. It happened just this morning. In those cases, I have not been asking the cache owner to seek permission. However, if the cache is hidden on the gate, fence or wall that surrounds a cemetery, I have been asking them to seek permission, because gates, fences and walls are part of the cemetery and owned/maintained by the cemetery owner/groundskeeper.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Submitting caches in advance for an event

Here's a recent question that has been asked of me at different times by different geocachers.
Just a question regarding our upcoming event. For last years event,
you allowed us to submit caches "pre-approval" before the event and then
published them a few days after the event. We are already scoping out
places for this year's event and were hoping to do the same thing. A few
of the containers we make for a specific spot. How much extra work
is it for you to pre-approve these caches and then sit on them? Do you have a separate database of caches that have been approved
but are not yet published? As always, thanks for your time.

So that more geocachers can understand how I like to handle these situations, here's my answer. In general it's fine to submit caches for pre-approval that you don't want published until a specific date. I'll look them over and let you know if they appear to comply with all the guidelines, including the 528ft. proximity guideline. Rather than me setting some type of timer on them for publication on a specific date (a feature which is not available to me but which would be nice to have), I'll disable them and wait for you to re-enable them when you're ready for publication. That way they will to reappear in my review queue.

It's fine to submit caches several weeks in advance. Even a couple of months is OK if you're planning to submit a large number of them. However, it wouldn't be fair to other geocachers to let you submit geocaches more than a few months in advance, because that would be abusing the privilege of "reserving" geocaching locations.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Get out there and get 'em

I was at Okoboji at a family gathering this past weekend, so even though I logged on to approve a few caches a couple of times overe the weekend, I didn't want to spend much time reviewing caches while I was with the family. So, I just finished publishing about 50 new geocaches this evening -- catching up on those that were submitted over the weekend.Those are in addition to the 90 or so I published after last weekend. If you don't have a new geocache near you... well, maybe you haven't checked geocaching.com lately. :-) Here's a little video of fun on the water while at Okoboji...

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Cherokee's Welcome Spring event

I had a great time in Cherokee last weekend attending the "Welcome Spring" geocaching event hosted by Tonedog52 and Wonderboy. The caches placed for the event that I found were worthy of standing on their own. By that I mean the organizers did a very nice job of hiding quality caches. Some of the parks where the geocaches were placed did not exist when I lived in Cherokee back in the late 1960s to mid 1970s. It was great to meet so many geocachers that I have corresponded with, and to renew a few aquaintences as well. Lots of people came up to me with questions about specific types of cache hides or specific caches that they were thinking about hiding, so it was enjoyable for me to offer guidance and encouragement. I especially enjoyed the Sunday morning paddle trip down the Little Sioux River as we found geocaches along the way that Tonedog52 and Wonderboy had placed for the river event. I wish every event included a paddling-while-caching aspect to it. Lots of fun, despite the fact that a few paddlers managed to dunk themselves that morning.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Power Trails back in the discussion

Two years ago I wrote about power trails and explained the reasons behind Groundspeak's guidelines and restrictions against placing lots of caches in a row along a trail. That posting led to a number of excellent comments on this site. This spring some additional geocaches were submitted that I felt crossed the sometimes grey line into what constitutes a power trail -- a series of caches along the new Old Creamery Trail near Vinton and a series (not yet published) along the Little Sioux River near Cherokee. In both cases I have corresponded with the cache owners and we have had polite and constructive dialog to get as many as the caches approved as possible while complying with the intent of the power trail guideline. As I said two years ago, power trails are a difficult area of the guidelines for me as a reviewer to interpret and enforce. But if you read what I wrote back in June 2007 about them, and what I wrote in the subsequent comment discussion, it gives you a pretty good insight into what the guidelines are asking -- at least my interpretation of those guidelines.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

No more ALR caches

In case you haven't heard the news, the geocaching.com guidelines have been updated and ALR (Additional Listing Requirement) caches have been banned/stricken/outlawed/disallowed... whatever word you prefer. Here's the new guideline text:

Logging of All Physical Caches

Geocaches can be logged online as Found once the physical log has been signed.

If it is appropriate for your cache location or theme, you may ask the cache seeker to accomplish an optional and simple task, either close to the cache site (normally within 0.1 miles or 161 meters) or when writing their online log. For example, wear the goofy hat inside the cache container and upload a photograph. Cache finders can choose whether or not to attempt or accomplish optional tasks. Cache owners may not delete the cache seeker's log based solely on optional tasks.

This guideline change applies immediately to all logs written from April 4, 2009 and going forward. Older caches with "additional logging requirements" (ALRs) are not grandfathered under the older guideline. If you own an existing cache with mandatory additional logging requirements, we request that you:

  • Cease deleting logs based on additional logging requirements.
  • Review your own cache listing to see if the ALR can be made into an optional and simple task, or whether it must be removed altogether.
  • Adjust your geocache listing by editing the text then contact a reviewer to change the cache type, if appropriate.
Compared to some parts of the U.S. and the world, I think this change won't affect Iowa geocachers that much because I've seen very few ALR caches submitted in Iowa. Many ALRs had nothing to do with geocaching, such as the requirement to draw a picture, stand on your head, step under a waterfall, sing a silly song, etc.

What do you think? Do you (did you) love ALRs and think this is a terrible idea? Or did you hate them and think it's about time they were written out of the guidelines?

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Yesterday's blog post

For those of you who may still be scratching their heads about my blog post yesterday describing changes to the guidelines... think about the date on which it was posted. Yes, it was an April Fool's joke. No, there are no such plans in the works.

But wouldn't it be nice?

My thanks to General Disarray, who reviews caches for Oklahoma, for letting me borrow the idea. I understand Heartland Cacher, who reviews for Nebraska, also played this prank in the Cornhusker state.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

New guidelines take effect today

As some of you may have heard, there are modifications in the works for Geocaching. I would like to take this opportunity to inform you of some of the changes to take effect starting today. These changes are being implemented in order to take geocaching back to its roots.

Cache Size: Cache containers must now be of the one quart size or larger. No “nanos”, matchstick containers, or film canisters will be published.

Cache Content: All caches must contain a logbook (not log sheet) and items for trade. Fast food toys will be added to the list of items disallowed inside caches.

Permissions: As all land is owned by someone, all cache owners must obtain permission from the landowner in writing and fax or email this to me. This will be kept on file for the duration of the caches existence. *fax number to be added to my profile*

New Saturation Guidelines: The .1 mile rule still applies to caches placed within public parks. There is a new guideline for “linear” trails (sometimes referred to as “power” trails). This guideline states that caches must be placed no closer than 3-4 miles apart and must be in a location that will “wow” your fellow cachers.

Logging Guidelines: 1. Physical logbook: your physical log must contain more than just a signature. 2. Online Log: Acronyms are no longer an acceptable way to log online. You must write a minimum of three sentences detailing your experience. Logs containing “TFTC”, “TFTH”, “SL”, etc will be deleted.

As more information becomes available to me I will make it available to you via this site and my profile. Let’s continue to make Iowa the best state to geocache in.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Cherokee's "Welcome Spring" Event

When I saw that Tonedog52 and Wonderboy are hosting an event in Cherokee the weekend of May 16, I put it on my calendar but I seriously didn't think I would be able to make it there because we'll traveling to Okoboji the following weekend. Well, after thinking about it for awhile I decided what the heck, it's going to be right in my old 'hood (I went to high school in Cherokee) and my mom lives there. So... I have made plans to be there. It should be fun to explore some of the newer parks that were not yet public areas when I lived there. If you're planning to attend this event, I'll see you there.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Today is my anniversary

Eight years ago today I embarked on a pathway of joyful bliss and began a new journey that would lead to greater discovery, understanding and happiness than I ever imagined would be possible and a deeper appreciation about what is really important in life. No, I'm not talking about getting married, although that's been terrific too. I'm talking about geocaching. Eight years ago today I found my first geocache. Her name was Beverly. She was just a little plastic container under a bush, but for me it was love at first sight. I don't keep in touch like I should, but it was good to virtually check in on her today just to see how she is doing. Although she is getting up there in years, it looks like Beverly continues to be active and is still entertaining and enlightening her visitors.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Why do people cheat on virtuals?

Just a heads up -- if you own a virtual cache and you care whether anyone is placing bogus finds on it, you may want to check for a find by a geocacher named The-Sledge. He/she posted a find on my American Gothic virtual cache today and dated it Dec. 31, 2007 -- so it wouldn't appear at the top of the list, I guess. I deleted it. I see he posted many other finds in many states, supposedly on that same day. I don't understand why anyone would go to these lengths.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

La première dérive

My daughter is undertaking an interesting GPS-based project today for one of her art school classes. She calls it Dérive, which is French for drift. Jacey has been geocaching with me a few times over the years, so it's interesting to me to see how she is applying her experience with GPS to create this project. You can read the blog she created for this here. I'm not sure I completely understand what's she's doing, but I'm looking forward to reading about it and viewing her photos.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Heading home

If you submitted a new geocache in Iowa that was published this past week, you may be interested to know that I clicked the "publish" button from Grand Cayman. We were there this past week on a scuba diving vacation. In fact, we still there... er, here... waiting at the Grand Cayman airport right now for our flight home. I just discovered there's free wifi here, so I'm online killing time for the next hour and a half. Mary is on her computer too, and she's telling me the temps back home are supposed to reach the 50s today. Looks like we won't be hit with the frigid temps that Midwesterners experienced this past week. Woo hoo! Here are a couple of photos from the past week. These were taken by Matt Leverson, a professional video shooter from Albert Lea, Minn., whom we met down here. You can see more of Matt's photos and videos at his web site. When we weren't diving, we had time to look for a few geocaches. We did manage to find two that were within walking distance of our hotel.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

The day the music died

I'm two days late posting this, but it has now been 50 years since the music died.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Total caches published

This morning I noticed an announcement for an event hosted by Minnesota geocachers to commemorate Surfer Joe's 10,000th published geocache. This is a well-deserved honor for my fellow reviewer to the north, especially when you consider that he's been reviewing for just three years.
This got me to thinking about how many geocaches I have published. In a post last September, I wrote that I had published close to 6,000 geocaches in my 5+ years of reviewing. I don't recall how I arrived at that figure, but upon checking this morning, IowaAdmin has officially published 6,491 caches since the summer of 2005, which is as early as the "published" log type goes back. I probably published an additional 1,000 in the 12 months before that. And for a year prior to creating my "IowaAdmin" I.D., I reviewed geocaches in Iowa and Wisconsin using the I.D. "WGA2". Because WGA2 is now owned by a different reviewer, I don't have an accurate way to know exactly what my total is. My best estimate is that it's now around 8,000 caches.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Happy New Year's 2009!

On this first day of 2009, I know that some of my friends celebrated by going geocaching. However, I participated in a different outdoor activity to mark this first day of the year. My daughter and I went kayaking. The weather wasn't great -- 23 degrees, wind gusts up to 30 mph and snow falling -- but the challenging conditions seemed to make it that much more fun. And before you start thinking that we are completely nuts, I should tell you that the lake -- Columbia Lake near Portage, Wis. -- is a cooling lake for a coal-fired power plant so the water temperature is in the 70- to 80-degree range year round. That doesn't make the wind any less bitter when you're putting your kayaks back on top of the car, but it does make the paddling a little more bearable. How ever you celebrated today, I hope you had a good one. Here's to a great 2009! (It's got to be better than 2008, right?)