Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas to geocachers (and muggles) everywhere! May you be FTF peace, hope and love.

Thursday, November 04, 2010


In case you haven't heard, Garmin has come out with a new geocaching device called Chirp. And tonight I received my first inquiry from a geocacher about it. My response, based on guidance from Groundspeak (the company that operates

Any caches that use a Chirp (or any future similar device) should use the new "beacon" attribute. If you put a Chirp in a traditional cache and geocachers have an alternative method to find it without using the Chirp, then it's OK to be published.  If for some reason you absolutely don't want to provide an alternative means of finding it, it must be listed as a "mystery" cache with the beacon attribute. Your cache description may mention the "Chirp"as long as the text doesn't go on and on with overtones of advertising, marketing, or promotion.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Notifications are not part of my domain

At one of the geocaching events I attended this summer, someone asked me if I intentionally send email and mobile notifications about newly published geocaches to certain people first. The implication was that I keep a "friends" list and those who are on it get first dibs at being FTF for new caches. I assured the questioner that not only do I NOT give first notice to a list of friends, I have no control at all over email and mobile notifications. That's all up to the inner workings of the website, once you set your account to receive notifications. I was glad this person asked the question. It made me think they might have been holding a grudge against me for quite some time. Well, for all I know, maybe they still do. :o)

Sunday, October 03, 2010

The end of new FTF series caches

In the past, a few geocachers have criticized me for being more strict than other reviewers -- at least that's the way they saw it. As evidence to the contrary, let me point out that I have been more liberal than other reviewers regarding FTF (first to find) series caches. These are caches that require or suggest that the person who is FTF such a cache is "strongly urged" to continue the series by hiding a similar one in the same area. I have been approving such caches as long as they made it clear that placing another cache was not a requirement. However, I am no longer going to publish new FTF cache series because of clarification that Groundspeak has issued. Essentially the requirement or suggestion to place another cache has been judged to be an ALR (additional logging requirement) so volunteer reviewers have been instructed to no longer approve them. I just wanted to give Iowa geocachers a heads-up: I will no longer be publishing such caches.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Hike N Seek Shelter

I'm in the Fort Madison/Burlington area for IGO's annual Hike N Seek event, although looking at the forecast for today they may need to rename it Hike N Seek Shelter. The rainy weather that is now moving across the state is expected to arrive down in this corner of Iowa around noon. The main event starts here -- well it started a few minutes ago at 8 a.m. with check-in so I'd better get over to the park. But the competition part of the event kicks off at 10 a.m. I'm not planning to take part in that but it will be interesting to see who does. Last night I attended the IGO Board of Directors get together. About 100 geocachers packed into a small restaurant in West Point for a meal and socialization, followed by an IGO board meeting. It was a nice event with fun conversation.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Are you ready for some new geocaches?

Over the past few weeks several geocachers have been busy preparing for three large geocaching events in Iowa. I know because I have been pre-reviewing the many caches they have submitted for these events. Today is the big day for two of those events: 
Lake Red Rock GC2B26J, for which 90 new caches have been submitted and will soon be published,
and Welcome to Marcus GC2AJW7, for which 76 new caches will soon be published. 
Then next weekend there will be at least 147 new caches published for IGO's annual Hike N Seek event  in the Fort Madison area. I'm planning to attend the Hike N Seek event next weekend, although I don't plan to be one of the competitive types vying to find the most geocaches in 24 hours! If you're going to be there, please say "hi" and introduce yourself. I look forward to seeing familiar faces and meeting new friends.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Mary and I have been counting down the days until vacation time, and now that time is just about here. Tomorrow we leave for a kayaking trip in the Apostle Islands of northern Wisconsin on Lake Superior. If you're a long-time reader of this blog, you may recall we kayaked the Apostles three years ago. On that trip, wifi hot spots were more rare than they are now. Nonetheless, I will be getting some help during the week from a fellow volunteer reviewer, so Iowa geocachers, don't be surprised if you see a new geocache published by someone other than me next week. I'll post some photos of our trip here and let you know if I find any cool geocaches up there.

Thursday, August 19, 2010


If you haven't checked out the brouhaha going on in the Groundspeak forums about a pair of geocaches that I reviewed, you should take a look. Apparently a friend of the cache owner objects to the fact that I wouldn't publish two caches that his friend submitted. The caches were not new. They were simply renamed versions of his existing caches, which he had recently archived so he could resubmit them. When stock brokers buy and sell a client's portfolio simply to inflate their commission, it's called churning. That term can also be applied when cache owners archive and then resubmit their caches when nothing about them has changed -- not the location, not the cache container, or not anything about the hide. Most of those posting in the forum topic seem to agree with me when I requested that they should ask for their previous caches to be reactivated/unarchived rather than published as new caches. What do think?  And for the record, despite the title of his forum topic, I never claimed that publishing these caches would cause a FTF frenzy. I simply implied that this appeared to be the only reason for relisting the exact same cache at the exact same location. So, OK. Maybe I should keep my opinions to myself? ..... nah

Friday, July 23, 2010

Appreciation Event

Mary and I had a great time at the IowaAdmin appreciation event last Saturday. As I told Bucknuts, the event organizer, I'm having a hard time getting my hats to fit my head as a result of all the attention. Geocachers are the ones who make this hobby so much fun. I'm just glad to have a role that lets me be so involved with the activity and which gives me the opportunity to correspond and meet so many fun people. Here's a video from Team Gamsci (I didn't realize how boring a speaker I can be.)
And here are a few photos from the event.
I received the following email this week:

I can't find a contact button on your blog, go figure.
I was wondering if you could post some photos on your blog of what the "reviewer interface" looks like and what all that cache reviewers do from when they get the cache to when they click the publish button. 

And here's my response: 

Thanks for your inquiry. Unfortunately, I can't share the type of information you're asking for. Groundspeak does not want its volunteer reviewers to reveal information about the reviewing web pages. I think it may be out of concern that the system might get hacked or otherwise abused. I can tell you that when a new cache is submitted, I look to make sure it complies with all the guidelines as published at, such as minimum distance from existing geocaches, that the geocacher lives close enough to the cache to maintain the cache or has indicated his/plan for regular maintenance, and has obtained permission when necessary (such as on Iowa DNR-managed land). If there are specific questions you have, let me know and I will answer those that I can.

volunteer reviewer

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Iowa geocacher busterbabes in Groundspeak video

Congratulations to Iowa geocacher busterbabes for her appearance in Groundspeak's Lost & Found Celebration video at Groundspeak headquarters in Seattle. Very nicely done. It looks like it was a great event.
Did any other Iowa geocachers make the trip out there?

Monday, July 12, 2010

Door prizes

To encourage some of you who may be sitting on the fence about attending the geocaching get-together this Saturday in Des Moines, I'll be bringing some geocoins to give away as door prizes.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

A reviewer appreciation meet & greet in Des Moines

Geocacher bucknuts has organized a Reviewer Appreciation Day for July 17 in Des Moines at Boston's pizza place on University. I think this event was inspired by one held in Georgia in May, which was attended by three of my fellow reviewers. I'm very flattered that bucknuts would want to do this, and I'm even more honored that some geocachers have already signed up to attend. I may even convince my wife to attend. It should be a fun event. I hope to see you there!

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Jones County geocaching policy and permit form

Jones County now has a geocaching policy, apparently since the beginning of 2009. So if you are placing a geocache there, you'll first need to obtain the permit from Jones County. Here's a link to the form. I also added this link in my list in the right column of this blog. My thanks to geocacher BlueDuece for drawing this to my attention.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Another Okoboji weekend

It's Memorial Day weekend so that means we're at Okoboji for the 24th consecutive year. While here, my wifi coverage is weak so don't expect at lot of caches to get published this weekend. I'll get caught up as the week progresses.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

A great 10 years of geocaching event

I enjoyed my time at GC22TB1 10 Years! Cedar Rapids Area this past Saturday. I know everyone says this about geocaching events, but it truly is fun to put faces with the names that you see online. The group hike in the woods to find a couple of geocaches that afternoon was also a lot of fun. Thanks for Super Goober for organizing it and inviting me to tag along. Here are a few photos from the day.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Cache permanence: A lesson learned?

An interesting situation arose today that I want to write about because it highlights the section of the guidelines that deals with "cache permanence." I'm not going to name the cache owner because I don't want to embarrass anyone, but a cache was submitted yesterday for the purpose of giving grade schoolers a chance to try geocaching at their school.

First, let me explain that I have reviewed and approved other caches that are placed on school property. (I've found a few, too.) As long as the cache owner states that the cache is placed with the knowledge and permission of school officials, that's normally enough to get the cache approved -- even though it's possible that not every teacher, school administrator or facilities employee will be made aware of the geocache. As a result, geocachers may look suspicious and may be questioned if they're seen lurking around a school building during school hours, so it's up to each geocacher to decide if he or she wants to look for that particular cache.

Now, back to the cache in question. It was placed just outside the doors of an elementary school building by a teacher at the school. But what I did not know was that the teacher intended to leave the cache in place for just one day so his or her students could search for it and, in the process, learn about geocaching and how to use a GPS receiver. An admirable goal, to be sure. Teachers who make the extra effort to make school interesting and fun should be commended, and I do commend this teacher. However, the problem in this case is about cache permanence. Geocaches can't be listed on if the intent is to leave them in place for just one day. Quoting from the guidelines:
Cache Permanence

When you report a cache on the web site, geocachers should (and will) expect the cache to be there for a realistic and extended period of time. Therefore, caches that have the goal to move ("traveling caches"), or temporary caches (caches hidden for less than 3 months or for events) most likely will not be published. If you wish to hide caches for an event, bring printouts to the event and hand them out there.
We realize that it is possible that a planned long-term cache occasionally becomes finite because of concerns with the environment, missing or plundered caches, or the owner’s decision to remove the cache for other valid reasons. Please do your best to research fully, hide wisely, and maintain properly for a long cache life.
So even though I didn't want to put a damper on this fun class project, I archived the cache this morning -- the very day that it was supposed to be in place for the students. I haven't heard for sure, but I assume the teacher was still able to conduct the geocaching demonstration with the kids, only without the element of looking up the coordinates on

Along the way, in addition to learning about navigation satellites and using a GPSR, my hope is that another valuable lesson was also imparted to the students. About reading directions.

Monday, April 05, 2010

Upcoming events

I have two events on my calendar that I'm looking forward to attending this spring and summer. Well, more than two actually, but these two are public events that other geocachers may be interested in as well. The first is

10 Years!: Cedar Rapids area, Iowa

on May 1. In case you haven't heard, geocachers around the world are hosting events to commemorate the 10th anniversary of geocaching. 

The other event happens on August 21 in the Quad Cities: 


Mary and I are planning to paddle the "advanced" route, which will be 9 miles from Ben Butterworth Parkway, Moline, to Rock Island's Lake Potter.

Will we see you at one of these events?

Sunday, March 21, 2010

IGO's system to recommend caches for archiving

Back in the December, bucknuts (Dale), a member of the Iowa Geoachers Organization (IGO) board asked me my thoughts about working with IGO to get caches archived that may have passed their useful lives because the owners are no longer maintaining them. We agreed to give it a try. The IGO system for calling such caches to my attention has been in place for about a month. So far it's been working well, although there has been some questions and discussions about it among Iowa geocachers. To shed more light on the system, I'm posting (with permission) an email I received from Rlowtek (John), who raised valid concerns about the IGO system, followed by my response.

I have exchanged messages with the President of IGO over my concerns with the new IGO cache “Tagging” process.  Below I have provided my thoughts and would like to know your opinion and how in practice you use this process.

I believe this will not enhance geocaching (to the contrary) and that a proper, open method already exists to accomplish the desired result. In effect, this creates two parallel systems. Publicly, you, the administrator or other Groundspeak volunteer, warns the owner and they generally have 30 days.  The open system, governed by, provides if someone publicly abuses the “Needs Maintenance” or “Needs Archived” logging,  the system will be self-correcting.  However, the underground, anonymous system, is not self-correcting and is without benefit of public exposure to the point of not requiring the "tagger" to have personally posted a "Needs Archived" log. Further, it appears that archiving is instantaneous.

While I share everyone’s frustration with caches that are not maintained, I believe this “cure” is worse than the disease. It will result in accusations, retaliations and misunderstandings. If one is concerned about caches needing justified attention – use the “Needs Maintenance” or “Needs Archived” logs. The IGO tagging will be influenced by individual personal bias and opinions of what geocaching is supposed to be – bias that we all carry. Even with the purest of intentions, hard feelings will be the result. 
I believe we have enough squabbles and misunderstandings in the caching community. We simply do not need more fuel for the fire. While at times we all feel the need to be the geo-police, it is ill-advised to give in to the temptation. I further submit there is a better system already in place that is reasonably impartial and is certainly in the open.

My response:

    Thanks for your feedback.
    A few responses...
    First of all, archiving a cache is not a death sentence for a cache.
It's simply another method to take it off the books until the owner decides to do something about the DNFs, Needs Maintenance, or SBA logs. If, after archiving, the owner truly wants to keep the cache going, he or she needs to be prompt about getting it fixed before another cache takes its place. In most cases it can be brought back to life with a simple email to me explaining that it has been maintained and is ready to be unarchived.
    Second, I agree with you that there is already a system in place for dealing with caches that need attention. I don't view the IGO tagging process as a replacement for the system of logs. Rather, it's a useful supplement to that system because it gives the elected organization leaders a way to notify me about caches they feel need to be maintained. I view it as a useful aid to help me monitor caches that may be in need of TLC.
    Regarding whether there was a Needs Archived log on a cache before it is archived, I agreed that there should be.  In fact, I pointed this out to the IGO board -- requesting that they not forward to me requests for archiving unless there has been a SBA log posted on it for a reasonable amount of time -- say two weeks -- without a response from the cache owner.
    I hope this clears up the situation and the current interaction I have with IGO about its tagging system and how I respond to it.

volunteer reviewer

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Remember locationless caches? They're still no longer allowed.

Here's email I received today, followed by my response. (Name withheld)

Is there any way that you would publish a mystery/puzzle cache without there being an actual container? The whole point would be to get pictures of Cachers from around the world without them having to travel to the actual cache. The one that I want to put out would be to get people to take a picture with there favorite rock or rock formation, and post it in there log, and then it would count as a find.  So it would be sort of like a virtual or locationless earth cache, but it would be posted as a mystery cache.
Hope to hear from you soon.

Thanks for your email. Sorry to say that this type of cache cannot be published on There has to be a physical cache for people to find and a log for them to sign, as per the guidelines. I'm not sure how
long you have been geocaching, but a few years ago there was a category of geocaches called "locationless", which the cache you describe would fit into. The cache owner would stipulate what the requirement was to log a find: see a yellow Jeep, find a Kent Feed sign, etc., and then post the coordinates where you saw it. Those cache types are no longer allowed to be listed on

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Time to catch up on SBAs

To those of you who have posted SBA (Should Be Archived) logs lately, help is on the way. (Actually, to be precise, the log type is now called "Needs Archived") Expect to see action within the next few days to address many of those inactive disabled caches across the state. Owners of caches that may be in need of maintenance can expect to receive a note from fellow reviewer Nomex, who has graciously agreed to lend me a hand with this task.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

A cold weekend in Iowa

We made it to Cherokee this past weekend and enjoyed a nice time with many of our relatives. However, we didn't do any geocaching -- it was just too darn cold and there was too much snow on the ground to spend time rooting around for geocaches. Friday night and early Saturday it got down to -24F. As we were driving home Saturday afternoon it was still only -12F. Just after 4 p.m. Saturday as we were driving on Hwy 20, we came upon the scene of a single car accident. A car had left the 4-lane roadway and rolled over several times in the median. It looked like no one could have survived, but I read online that there were three people in the car and they all survived. We had stopped for gas just a mile or two before arriving at the accident scene and I saw a state trooper whiz by while I was stopped at the gas station. It made me think what might have happened to us if we would not have stopped for gas and had been near the other car when it blew a tire. It's disheartening to see the chances some people take when they're driving without ever thinking about the consequences to themselves, their passengers or people in other vehicles.