Sunday, December 02, 2012

What Google’s new game “Ingress” is really about

Have you heard about Ingress? Wondering what it's all about? Here's one blogger's inside information about this new augmented reality game from Google. Looks like it will have great appeal to geocachers. Personally I'd be a little concerned about having my movements tracked by Google.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Signal Gothic

I was looking at my American Gothic virtual cache page just now and doing some cleanup of logs posted without the required photo, when I came across this photo that I hadn't previously noticed. Thanks, bumanfam, for the great photo! And thanks, Signal, for stopping by after MOGA.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Iowa DNR's geocaching rules

In past blog posts I have linked to the geocaching page on Iowa's Department of Natural Resources (DNR) website. But because they change their website every once in awhile, now is a good time to update everyone. As you may know, the DNR requires permits for geocaches placed on DNR-managed properties. If you have submitted a geocache to in the past you have probably received this reviewer note from me:

The Iowa DNR has requested that all geocaches placed on DNR-managed land first be approved by the local DNR manager. See:  Once you have been granted a permit, please edit your cache page to state that you have the required permit and then re-enable the cache listing so it reappears in my review queue. If you choose not to seek the permit, please archive this listing and remove the container. Thanks.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Are you receiving your emails from

When I review newly submitted geocaches (which is an every day occurrence), I sometimes have to temporarily disable the cache page so I can gather more information or request a change from the cache owner. For example, the cache may be too close (less than 528 feet) from an existing geocache or it may be on property where a geocaching permit is required (such as land managed by the DNR). In those cases I post a reviewer note on the cache page before I disable it. This automatically sends an email to the cache owner. At least it's supposed to. It seems like more and more cache owners -- especially relatively new geocachers -- are either not receiving these emails or they are ignoring them. Over the past few months I have repeatedly posted notes to several different cache owners and then temporarily disabled their cache pages, only to have them reactivate the cache page without responding to my request or questions and without making any change to the coordinates. I'm not sure what the reason is for this. Could it be that more people have tighter spam filters and they don't realize that their cache owner emails from are being blocked or sent to a junk mail folder? My advice: Check the settings in your email program and make sure you are accepting emails from the domain name

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The hazards of making maps

There was a very interesting report on the PBS Newshour this evening about digital mapmaking, crowdsourcing and how Apple stubbed its toe creating its own maps. View it here:

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Reviewing night

I reviewed about 90 geocaches tonight. It's time for a beer.

Friday, September 07, 2012

A Look Back to the Early Days

The following article was recently reposted in the Wisconsin Geocaching Association website forums. I thought it would be fun to share with you here. It was written by a Wisconsin geocacher, rpaske, after he interviewed me and other geocaching oldtimers. 

Back in February 2001, there was only one geocache around Milwaukee and a total of three in the entire state. After Ken Braband found his first cache, in the Chicago area, he wanted to place his own. He had skied and hiked the trails at Pike Lake State Park for many years and always enjoyed the view from the top of Powder Hill. Pike Powder Hike cache was placed.Ken started to feel guilty that he did not ask for permission from the park manager. He found the manager’s email address and advised him about the geocache. A few days later Ken went to check on the cache and discovered that the park manager had been there and signed the log book. The park manager had hunted and found the cache using only a topographic map. He wrote a message in the cache’s journal. “He didn't write anything bad about the cache and did not confiscate it, so I took that as tacet approval." Even at this time, dialogue between the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and the Wisconsin Geocaching association continues. Additional information can be found on the Wisconsin Geocaching Association forums.

Everything was going smoothly until one day Ken learned from other geocachers that the plastic container had been chewed open and remnants of a candy bar and a beef stick had been found in the debris field. “It made me realize that this sport was going to attract a broad spectrum of people -- some with outdoor experience and some without.”

Another frustrating experience concerned an email confrontation with an out-of-state geocacher who had logged the cache as a find on even though it was not found. Because the cache was stolen at the time, and had not yet been replaced, “The guy got pretty indignant when I deleted his post. His argument was that he suffered a bad scratch on his face while searching for the cache, so he felt he deserved to log it as a find. He accused me of being some kind of geocaching Nazi. Despite his name-calling, I stuck to my guns.”

Nowadays Ken recommends new geocachers find at least 10 geocaches before a cache is placed. “A geocacher has to have a chance to learn what works and what does not. I didn't have that option because there were no other caches in the area. After you hunt a few dozen caches, you start to build a list in your mind of what you like and don't like to see in a cache hunt. Overall I would say create the kind of geocache that you would enjoy hunting,” reveals Ken. His web page offers tips for finding caches as well as his preferences.

Ken adds “If all caches were like mine, it might get old for people because I tend to favor long hikes in scenic locations. Some people like caches that are very hard to find. Others like to bushwhack or solve puzzles. We have some VERY creative geocachers in Wisconsin. In terms of quality, creativity, and diversity, I would put Wisconsin caches up against any other state or region.”

“Geocaching is a wonderful, relatively inexpensive sport which gets individuals and families outdoors. Geocachers can participate alone, with a loved one, with the family, or even with a group of strangers. It has introduced many people to the outdoors who otherwise would never have purchased a county or state park sticker. It has also resulted in lots of trash getting picked up and properly disposed of as we practice 'Cache In, Trash Out'".

There are two big challenges that Ken sees in the future. “As the sport becomes more popular, there will come a time when geocaching is no longer ‘under the radar.’ That time is already here in many parks. Secondly, to keep our sport from being severely curtailed or outright banned, we need to help develop rules and then make sure we follow them.” Lastly, Ken offers this advice: "As GPS receivers become more common more caches are going to be plundered by vandals. Don't give up in frustration. Replace your cache or create a new one somewhere else."

More than 80 Geocachers have found Pike Powder Hike. A few of the finders expressed their views about geocaching. One of the later geocachers to have located this cache is sullyb007. “Geocaching gave me another reason to turn off the TV and go get some exercise. I thought I knew about most of the parks and nature areas. I couldn’t have been more wrong! Geocaching takes me to new places that, otherwise, I would never have seen.”

JeremyV agrees. “The number one reason I keep geocaching is that it gets me to parts of the state of Wisconsin that I otherwise wouldn't visit. I do a lot of back road driving. So often, when I go looking for a cache, I realize that I've driven by the cache site before. Geocaching gets me to stop the car or motorcycle and go explore some pretty interesting areas on foot. If there wasn't a cache sitting out there to be found, I would simply pass by these places and miss the great experiences that they have to offer.” JeremyV adds, “I would like to thank Ken Braband for hiding the two geocaches ‘Pike Powder Hike’ and ‘New Prospect’ back in March 2001. Unofficially, though I strongly believe this is the case, these two caches have attracted more Wisconsin residents to the sport of geocaching than any other pair of caches in the state. They have also served as good examples of how to create quality caches. This was very important back in the ‘early days’, when people were still trying to get a handle on what exactly this crazy geocaching thing was supposed to be.

Sullyb007 is not the only geocacher to share this view. One of the first ten geocachers to have found Pike Powder Hike cache was Kevin Winter. “Geocaching is a great way to get outside, either by oneself or with friends. I still support it but not in the same manner as others. I usually don’t bother logging my finds. I felt it was developing into a contest of numbers and bragging rights between cachers.” On a recent trip to Oregon, Kevin found three sites and left nothing but footprints. “Nothing wrong with folks that log every find, I just don't want too. I worry about the impact on areas if the caches don't get moved every so often. I tend to avoid some of the more delicate ecosystems or very popular sites.” Kevin adds, “most of the Geocachers that I have met are usually very eco-conscious.”

GrouseTales, also one of the first teams to have found Pike Powder Hike replies, “I love outdoor activities and embrace any chance I can get to be in the woods. Geocaching lures me back into the forest after the hunting seasons are over. I find Geocaching is an activity that brings my family together and gives us a chance to spend quality time together. I don't hear many complaints when I say that we are all going Geocaching. “ Reflecting on finding Pike Powder Hike, GrouseTales continued, “In the winter of 2001, I was considering the purchase of a new GPS and had been surfing the web looking for information. One website I stumbled upon was: Joe Mehaffey & Jack Yeazel's GPS information site (”

“Right around April 1st I discovered a link to on Joe and Jacks' website. I immediately became very excited and couldn't wait to give Geocaching a try. I did a search of Wisconsin and found approximately 8 Geocaches in WI. The nearest caches were ‘Pike Powder Hike’ and ‘New Prospect.’ Both of these caches were placed by Kbraband.”

“So on my next off day, I picked up the kids from school and told them we were going to find some treasure. We drove up to Pike Lake and started hiking. Once we reached the area of the cache, it only took a few minutes for one of my sons to find it. We took our pictures, exchanged items and signed the log.”

“My Son's and I had a really great time. I finally had a use for my GPS besides hunting and fishing. I was now hooked on the sport.”

In the winter of 2001, several other cachers and I formed the Wisconsin Geocaching Association. Being actively involved in the WGA keeps me motivated to keep on caching. Even when the weather isn't conducive to caching, I can still keep involved by participating on the WGA website.

One of the last geocachers to have found Pike Powder Hike is the PharmTeam. “It is a good way to get exercise without it seeming like a chore. We have also met quite a few nice and interesting geocachers either on the trails, at WGA events, or through the online discussion boards, or geocaching email.” When the PharmTeam began to geocache with their son, Geocaching served as a way for the family to get together for a picnic, or a nice view. “One geocache would be found per day. Now, geocaching has turned into trips for the purpose of seeking out as many caches as can be found in one day.

LindaFawn thought that this would be a good way to get out of the house and get some exercise. “I was minding my own business, when my nephew asked if I wanted to go for a walk with him.” Together, they found her first cache. “After that I was hooked.” LindaFawn adds, “the world is full of things to do, this happens to put all the little things I love into one hobby: Going for a walk; puzzles; looking for treasures; relaxing; looking at nature; being with friends or being alone if you so desire. Geocaching takes my mind off the hustle and bustle of day-to-day life.”

Lance Newton of team BOOBoys enjoys the opportunity to get outside and discover what Mother Nature has placed there. “Geocaching helps to take one’s mind off the normal grind of life. It sure beats sitting inside watching television or playing videos. Imagine yourself going back in time trudging through the woods with a treasure map looking for that lost fortune. Yes, you could actually be a modern day Indiana Jones looking for that lost cache of small trinkets for trading.”

Like Ken, these geocachers have also shared a few geocaching challenges. Lance continues, “I personally like the challenging caches. We have found quite a few that are just put out for the purpose of getting people outside. There is nothing wrong with that. Certain areas may become over saturated with caches which are less challenging. I also worry about non-geocachers treating the caches properly.”

“I do have some concerns regarding the future of Geocaching,” says Brian Sullivan of team sullyb007. Among them are “People who steal caches for their own kicks. They have been around a long time and have come to be known as Geo-terrorists. It always seems to be someone out there who only finds joy in ruining the fun for others. My second concern is the destruction of parks and nature areas. The more people walking through the woods means more people who might be throwing garbage on the ground or trampling endangered plants and disturbing natural habitats. My third concern is the over abundance of caches in a general area. Eventually, every local and state park will contain multiple caches. This may make it frustrating for new Geocachers to create their own cache and hide it someplace original. One solution might be to set time limits on caches to remain in the same place, one year for example.

“My fear,” says LindaFawn, “is that, the government will step in and require that geocachers have to pay to do this. I also fear that someone will say just how many geocaches can be in one area. My hope for the future is a carefree, fun loving hobby without a lot of rules and regulations, which will ruin the hunt of this hobby.”

The PharmTeam, is amazed that is able to process all of the messages that it does and hopes that it will continue doing so. “There should also be a way to handle caches that seem to be abandoned. Perhaps some more general guidelines or uniformity of restrictions about cache placement need to be developed. It varies quite a bit from state to state.”

JeremyV adds, “Most of the challenges we'll face in the future will have to do with the exponential growth of the sport. We've got the whole issue of regulation of geocaching by government agencies, which is a direct result of the growth of the sport. Back when I found "Pike Powder Hike", the DNR certainly didn't care about the three or four plastic containers sitting on "their" land or the dozen or so people looking for them. The WGA is trying to be proactive in this area and is working with the DNR to come up with a geocaching policy that both parties can live with. Hopefully Wisconsin county and local parks will also adopt this policy if they decide to get into the geocaching regulation business. There are other problems that are caused by the sheer number of caches that are now being placed. When are there too many caches in an area? How close together can two caches be placed? Should caches be forced into retirement after being out in the field for a certain number of years? How to deal with "low quality" caches, etc.”

Continuing with this thought, GrouseTales adds, “I think that as the number of caches increases, the rules are going to become more restrictive. We have already seen many rule changes on the website. These changes have made it more restrictive to place virtual caches and put limits on how close a cache can be to an existing cache. I think these changes have been made because of the high volume of caches being placed in urban areas. Sooner or later the metro areas are going to run out of parks to place a cache”.

“I think that will be forced to set limits on the amount of caches placed. There may be limits on how often a cacher can actually place a cache, or the total number of caches they can place. I think the biggest challenge is going to be working with municipalities to allow caching to continue. I think most cites or counties are still unaware of caches in their parks, or choose to ignore them. Sooner or later these parks will have some problem with a cache and will probably set up some rules to govern them. If a community doesn't have a Geocaching organization in their area to represent their interests, it is likely that some parks may outlaw caches in their systems. As Geocaching continues to grow, I think it will be vital for cachers to form local organizations and be prepared to work with Governments to address problems and fight for the 'rights' of Geocachers.”

Brian Sullivan of team sullyb007 believes that preparation and equipment should be considered when beginning geocaching. “Geocaching sounds pretty easy in theory, but it can get frustrating when you just take a GPS into the woods and find out you should have brought some waders along because you started out on the wrong side of a river. You’ll also learn pretty quickly to carry a can of bug spray with you in the summer; for some reason, people like to hide their caches in mosquito hatcheries! “

“Start out by reading about the possible caches. Decide if the difficulty and terrain match your desires and ability.” advises the PharmTeam. “I would start with nearby ones that are moderate or easy before trying the very difficult ones which people are logging as difficult to find. Difficulty and terrain may also make a difference if you are doing geocaching as a family with young children. Our other son has children under 3. He usually picks the easy ones so that the children can have fun helping with the search.”

“Geocaching is not a competition. The number of finds you have does not matter. You don't have to go geocaching every day, or every week, or even every month and, you certainly don't have to go out at 2am in a blizzard to be the first to find a new cache. The important thing is that you have fun.” JeremyV says.

Finally, the GrouseTales have this to add, “Pick a few caches near your house and take your families along. Geocaching is great family sport. If you have younger children, keep the walks short, and let them find the cache if possible. Young children will quickly become irritable if the walks are too long. If they have a bad experience they will most likely not want to go Geocaching in the future. If I am the one to find the cache, I like to keep quiet and try to steer the kids in the direction of the cache so they can find it.”

The GrouseTales continue, “Try to pace your self. Set a goal to find X amount of caches per week or month. Sit back and enjoy the views. I personally don't exchange cache trinkets very often. My reward for finding the cache is usually to see a new park or to enjoy some beautiful views. It's real easy to get in the mode of going straight to the cache and then hurrying back. It's nice to walk around and take in the surroundings.”

“Don't feel that you need to keep pace with other cachers in the area. A lot of people get competitive when viewing other people's ‘finds number.’”

Still another geocacher says, “My advice to people who are just starting out, is to get off their little butts and get some exercise, the world is full of things to do.”

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

REAL hidden treasure

Here's a story that should fascinate geocachers. Newsweek 8/20/12
Forrest Fenn has hidden a million dollars of his treasure—and he wants you to find it. (Brent Humphreys for Newsweek)

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Nine years of reviewing for Groundspeak

Yesterday I received this nice card in the mail from the volunteer coordinators at Groundspeak in Seattle. It's been a terrific nine years of reviewing! So many fun times and I'm still loving my daily contact with geocachers across Iowa and around the world.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

A nice video from Groundspeak that explains the role of the volunteer. Makes me even more proud to be one!

Monday, June 04, 2012

MOGA Update

It's been a few weeks since I attended MOGA so I want to do some catching up and post some photos. This was an incredible geocaching event and very well organized. My hat is off to all the directors and their team members. And Richard (Bumanfam) at the awards ceremony was one of the funniest MC's I have seen. He should go into show business. My thanks to all the long-time geocachers who I saw again, and to all the geocachers who I met at this event. By my count I reviewed and published over 400 new caches in preparation for MOGA. It took a lot of time over the past few months, but it wasn't as much work for me as it was for those who went out and actually hid the MOGA caches. Now be sure to maintain them! :-)

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Making my way to MOGA. Stopping to review and publish new geocaches at highway rest stop just now.

Let's Call Them "Issues". A Blog in INATN.

The New Zealand-based geocaching blog "It's Not About the Numbers" recently asked me to write a guest post on the topic of the most common mistakes that geocache owners make that prevent me from publishing their caches on the first go-round. You can read my post on their blog. I'm also posting it below to improve the  search engine optimization for my blog. :)
It’s Not About the Numbers was kind enough to ask me to write a guest blog on the topic of “the biggest/most common mistakes you see as a reviewer when players submit a new cache listing.” But since geocachers are Groundspeak’s customers, I prefer not to call them “mistakes.” How about referring to them as “issues”?

It’s pretty easy for me to say what the most common issue is that I see: placing a cache too close to an existing geocache. This is sometimes called the proximity issue. As all seasoned geocachers know, guidelines call for spacing of at least 528 ft. (0.1 mile or 161 m) between geocaches and between physical waypoints of different multicaches. If there’s one issue that red-flags a new geocache and causes a delay in publishing, it’s mostly likely the proximity issue, and it’s often the result of the cache owner neglecting to check the location of nearby geocaches before placing his or her new cache. In those cases, I try to work with the geocacher to let them find a new location so they don’t have to resubmit an entirely new cache page. 

My second most common issue is when a multicache or puzzle cache doesn’t have the final coordinates listed as an additional waypoint. Sometimes geocachers will post the final coordinates in a reviewer note, but that doesn’t really help me much because I would then have to enter those coordinates myself as an additional waypoint before I could determine if it’s too close to another geocache. That’s why it’s important that cache owners use the “add/edit waypoints” feature to enter the coordinates for all the waypoints that are physical caches, including the final location. This not only makes it easier for reviewers to review the new geocache, it also helps ensure that future geocaches don't encroach on the caches we publish. 

Third on my list of most common “issues” are caches that appear to have commercial overtones, which is a violation of’s guidelines regarding commercial caches. Many times the cache owners are just big fans of the business or organization and have no direct financial connections. They simply want other geocachers to know about the great sandwiches, the delicious ice cream, or the helpful service they receive inside the store. However, such an endorsement of a business still crosses the line beyond what Groundspeak wants to publish on its website. In these situations, it’s usually easy to correct the issue. Usually all it takes is the cache owner removing the name of the business from the geocache title and/or removing the endorsement from the description. 

In addition to those, I also see lots of others issues; ones readers of this blog are likely familiar with such as: too close to railroad tracks, on school property or near a government building without permission, and for Iowa, on land managed by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources without permission.  
One of the oddest issues that I encounter is seeing a newly submitted cache with the same coordinates and the same name as an existing geocache, but submitted by a different geocacher. The first time I saw it, I scratched my head as I tried to figure out what was going on. Eventually I was able to determine that the new listing was not actually a new geocache hide. It was meant to be a “found it” log but the newbie geocacher was mistakenly using the “submit a cache” form to log his find. Believe it not, I’ve seen this happen a number of times so when I see it again it’s easier to recognize the reason. 

So there you have it. My list of the most common “issues” may be different than it is for other reviewers around the world. But all the volunteer reviewers will assure you that we don’t seek ways to deny new geocaches. Our goal is to help cache owners get their caches listed within the guidelines Groundspeak has established for its listing service. Sometimes that requires a few details to be resolved before publication. My thanks to cache owners for their patience and cooperation as I work with them to keep this activity fun for everyone.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

New "Submit a Listing" Form

Groundspeak has been working on an update and refinement of the "Submit a Cache Listing" form. They've just released a new wizard that is intended to improve the process and help prevent mistakes. Have you tried it yet? If so, what do you think?

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Featured guest

In case you missed the Late Show with David Letterman this past Friday night, here's the highlight: my appearance on the show along with an appearance by the top of my wife's head.

Sunday, April 01, 2012

I just can't take it any more.

If you submitted an Iowa geocache for publication on this weekend, you may have noticed that it was published today by a reviewer other than me. This is because I have lost the ability to push the "publish" button on my computer. I have tried to fix this problem. At first I thought it was a computer problem but Computer Geeks told me my computer was fine. They suggested I contact a physician. My physician told me there was nothing wrong with my index finger -- which is the one I use to press the "publish" button. He suggested I contact a psychiatrist. My psychiatrist told me I need to overcome my fear of publishing new caches by attending his month-long reviewer rehabilitation camp, which I did... to no avail. Therefore, the only option left for me is to enlist reviewers from around the world to help me overcome my cache publishing phobia. As I continue to cope with this terrible disability, I hope you enjoy seeing the name of a reviewer other than IowaAdmin at the bottom of your cache page.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Challenge caches - Guideline has been updated

Groundspeak has updated the Challenge Cache guideline as shown below.

New guideline
A challenge cache is a variation of a mystery cache that enhances the geocaching experience. It will typically require the cacher to meet a reasonable and positive Geocaching-, Waymarking- or Wherigo-related qualification. If you are thinking of creating such a cache, please review the additional specifications in our Knowledge Book article.

Previous guideline
A challenge cache is a variation of a puzzle cache. This will typically require the cacher to meet a reasonable Geocaching-, Waymarking- or Wherigo-related qualification. An example is finding a cache in each county of your state. If you are thinking of creating such a cache, be sure to do your research first.

And here's the update to the Knowledge Book article, which contains more information. (Maybe it's just me, but I had to chuckle when I saw this in the text: "A lengthy list of 'rules' would be sufficient reason for a challenge cache to not be published," which is immediately followed by a lengthy list of rules.)

Updated Knowledge Book Article

What is a Challenge cache?
A challenge cache requires that geocachers meet a geocaching-related qualification or series of tasks before the challenge cache can be logged. Waymarking, Benchmarking, Challenges and Wherigo-related tasks also qualify. The additional qualification or geocaching-related tasks are considered the basis of a challenge cache, rather than Additional Logging Requirements (ALRs).

Challenge caches vary in scope and format. All challenge caches must be in the affirmative and require that something be accomplished. Challenge cache owners must demonstrate that there are sufficient available caches to meet the challenge at the time of publication. Reviewers may ask the cache owner to demonstrate that they have previously met the challenge and/or that a substantial number of other geocachers would be able to do so.

How will you know when the challenge cache requirements have been met?
Importantly, cache owners must consider how they will substantiate claims that the cache requirements have been met. The challenge criteria on the cache page must reflect this consideration, and must be verifiable through information on the website. Challenge caches relying solely on third-party software for verification will not be published. Cache owners will need to ensure that geocachers can verify that they have completed the cache requirements without compromising their privacy. Challenge cache owners may also be asked to outline a long-term cache maintenance plan.

What makes an acceptable challenge cache?
A challenge cache needs to be appeal to, and be attainable by, a reasonable number of geocachers. A challenge cache may not specifically exclude any segment of geocachers. If a geocacher is required to alter their caching style or habits, such as avoiding a particular cache type to attain a specific percentage or average, the cache will not be published.

The requirements for meeting the challenge should be succinct and easy to explain, follow, and document. A lengthy list of “rules” would be sufficient reason for a challenge cache to not be published.

Additional points to consider when creating a challenge cache:

1. Challenge caches must contain the word "challenge" in the cache name.
2. Challenge caches are listed as the Mystery/Unknown cache type.
3. A Challenge cache must avoid undue restrictions. Specifically:
a. Challenge caches based on a specific list of caches, such as caches placed by a specific person or group, will generally not be published
b. Challenge caches cannot include restrictions based on ‘date found’; caches found before the challenge cache publication date can count towards the achievement of the challenge.
4. Challenge caches need to be attainable at any time while the cache is active. A cache that requires “100 multi-caches found in 2011” would not be publishable, as would not be attainable by someone new to the game.
5. A Challenge cache based on non-accomplishments, such as DNFs, will not be published.
6. One should not have to ‘give up’ finding other caches to achieve a challenge cache’s requirements. To state that "10% of your find count needs to be Attended Logs" would require the geocacher to stop finding other types of caches and could affect their overall enjoyment of the game.
7. Challenge caches may not require the publication of a new cache or Waymark as a challenge criteria; challenge caches must be achievable by those who do not own caches or Waymarks.
8. Challenge caches must not require geocachers to log caches that are disabled or archived.
9. A challenge cache should recognize the completion of a personal achievement, rather than the winner of a competition. For example, a challenge cache based on "First to Finds" is a competition between geocachers, and is therefore not publishable.
10. A challenge cache must be attainable without the need to email the owner. The cache page must include the true coordinates or the means to calculate them, if a puzzle.
11. If a challenge cache is submitted within an area where a similar challenge cache already exists, then it will need to have a unique list of qualifying criteria (geocaches, waymarks, etc.).

Friday, March 09, 2012

Too tired to start a fire

Here's a fun song by paddling singer/songwriter Jerry Vandiver, who will be performing at Canoecopia in Madison, Wis., this weekend. I'll be there too.

Monday, March 05, 2012 coming to Iowa

Did you catch the announcement that Sonny and Sandy, creators of, are going to attend MOGA in April at Rathbun Lake? It will be good to see them there. It's been nearly five years since I met them at the 2007 Midwest Geobash in Indiana when Sonny interviewed me for their show (Podcacher show #120). In case you weren't into geocaching back then, here's a link to that show with the interview. The interview starts around the halfway point in the program.

Friday, March 02, 2012

Phases of a Geocacher

This past week I read a nice blog written by a nice geocacher about the nice phases of geocaching. This has prompted me to finally post my own "phases of a geocacher" essay that I've been working on for some time. My "phases" essay may be not as nice but it is more realistic, IMHO. Here goes...

Phases of a Geocacher

In my interaction with hundreds of geocachers over the years, I have come to recognize that attitudes, opinions and comments of geocachers are often influenced by what phase they are in during their geocaching timeline progression. Therefore, to better understand a geocacher’s attitudes and motivations, it’s helpful to understand what phase he or she is in. Keep in mind that there is no standard duration for any of these phases. Some geocachers move through the entire continuum in a matter of weeks or months, while others may dwell in a single phase for several years before transitioning to the next.

With no offense intended to anyone in particular, here’s my description of these phases of a geocacher. My thanks to a few geocaching friends who have contributed their ideas to this list.

Pre-geocaching phase, also known as “muggle”
You may own a GPS. You may be a hiker. You may even be a letterboxer. But until you first become aware that there is an organized activity called geocaching with thousands of people taking part, you are quite simply… a muggle. (The term is borrowed from the Harry Potter books. The word “muggle” has spread beyond its Harry Potter origins and is used by many groups to indicate those who are not aware or are lacking in some skill. In 2003, “muggle” entered the Oxford English Dictionary with that definition.)

The Curious Excitement phase
You found the web site or found a geocache by accident, or you were introduced to the sport by a family member, co-worker, neighbor, someone you met on a trail, or by a story in the news media. Your interest level is moderately high because you wonder what it would be like to look for a hidden container and what others will think of your strange behavior. After searching on and printing out a cache listing, you’re ready to go on your first cache hunt.

The Irrational Exuberance phase
The phase begins with your first geocache find. In this phase, unless you were introduced to geocaching by a friend or family member, you have not yet met another geocacher.
            After your first find, the “irrational exuberance” phase either continues or it is squelched. The first find can make or break you. If it was a hum-drum location, you may end your geocaching after that first experience. If it was a great location, a clever hide, an ingenious container, or a memorable geocache for other positive reasons, you’re probably hooked, at least for the short term, and the irrational exuberance phase continues, although it is now somewhat more rational because you now have experienced that geocaching is as fun as you hoped it would be.

The Quest For Recognition (QFR) phase
For many geocachers, the next phase involves a desire to be recognized by the local and/or worldwide geocaching “community.” This phase manifests itself in different ways to different people:

You may become a FTF hound/hog.

You may fall to the dark side and realize It’s All About the Numbers. (Note: These first two behaviors indicate signs of geocaching-obsessive behavior. More about that in a moment.)

You may post long, humorous found-it logs on cache pages to demonstrate how brilliant you are.

You may write multiple, frequent forum postings in the Groundspeak forums and/or on your local geocaching organization website. In these postings, you seek to carve out a niche for yourself by adopting and promoting an idiosyncratic stance on a certain issue. For example you may spread the word about non-Groundspeak geocaching sites such as Terra… Open something... whozit… something (sorry, I never can remember the names of those other sites.)

You may create signature items (including geocoins) that you leave in caches and/or trade with or sell to other geocachers.

You may organize geocaching events.

You may create only mystery/puzzle caches and begin building a mystique surrounding your puzzlemaster geocaching I.D. (which is actually a sock puppet account) by never publicly acknowledging that TonyVargossy77’s alter identity is The Enigma.

You may get a local newspaper or TV reporter to do a story about geocaching that features – who else? – you!

The Flame-out phase. Also known as “My life-changing situation”
At some point, obsessed geocachers arrive at a stark realization: “There are other geocachers who are even more obsessed than I am and therefore I will never be able to reach the pinnacle in my Quest For Recognition (QFR)” For many geocachers, this is a bitter pill to swallow. Of course, while this scenario is the cause of many flame-outs, it is NEVER admitted to be the cause. Instead, the stated cause of the flame-out is one of the following: a) My workload has changed; b) My family situation has changed; c) My knee/back/hip/ankle/shoulder/GPS/car/wife/husband/family gave out/up on me.

In its most severe form, a flame-out is punctuated by a “geocide.” This term refers to a geocacher who publicly disavows geocaches, geocachers and all things geocaching. In effect, he or she commits virtual suicide of his identity and vows in the forums to never return to the forums/logs/events/game again. Although the term “geocide” may imply permanence, the opposite is usually true. Many geocides have been known to last no longer than one day, and many geocachers have been known to commit geocide as many as five or six times… and counting. In these multi-geocide situations, the official forum posting to mark the end of a geocide phase usually begins with “OK, I tried to stay away but there’s just one more thing I want to say.”

The “It’s not about the numbers – No really, I mean it this time” phase
After pursuing the Quest For Recognition phase followed either by a graceful Flame-out or a not-so-graceful Geocide, geocachers generally enter the “It’s not about the numbers – No really, I mean it this time” phase.

The “Rodney King (Can’t we all just get along?)” phase
This phase is evidenced when a geocacher posts a forum message with the central theme of: “Everyone should be allowed to play the game the way he or she wants to.” While this is truly a noble and harmonious sentiment, few geocachers actually believe it. The unspoken truth is that if a geocacher does not play the game exactly the way I do, he or she is either a “newbie” a “FTF hound” a “numbers whore” a “coin maniac” or qualifies for one of a number of other derogatory classifications designed to imply superiority.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Eleven years of geocaching

Today is the 11th anniversary of my first geocache find. I have previously written about that day so I won't go into details here again. However, it is interesting to note how much geocaching continues to change from year to year. This past weekend I made a last-minute decision to attend a geocaching event because I saw the names of a few old timers who posted their "will attend" logs. It was fun to catch up and talk about the good old days of geocaching. I'm not one of those people who think that just because something is different than how it used to be, it has necessarily changed for the worse. On the contrary, I think it's pretty amazing to see how far geocaching has come since I hid what is now the oldest geocache in Wisconsin (Pike Powder Hike) and one of the first geocaches in Iowa: Grandpa Kettleson's Farm, an archived cache that I placed on land where my grandfather grew up. Groundspeak continues to lead the way and introduce new aspects to the game every year. Many of those innovations are inspired and requested by geocachers. New people come into the hobby every day. Some play for only a few months. Others, like me, seem to hang in there year after year. I used to think that for me it was all about the hike and getting out into nature. But over the years I've come to realize it's also about the long-lasting friendships I've made along the way. Geocaching attracts quite a melting pot of people who enjoy this activity, from old to young, from couch potatoes to marathoners, and from thrill seekers to nature lovers. It's fascinating getting to know all the different types and hearing about why they geocache.

Thursday, February 02, 2012

What about requesting a specific date and time to publish a cache?

I wrote about this topic back in November, but I want to revisit it because it came up again in a request from a geocacher this week. While it is possible for reviewers to set a large group of caches for publishing on a certain date in conjunction with an upcoming geocaching event, it requires the reviewer to take a number of steps using the online tools that Groundspeak makes available to reviewers, so here's what I have decided to do. I will set up specific dates and times to publish, but only for "mass" publishing of a number of caches, that is, when event organizers have requested a large number of geocaches to be published on the same date. Additionally, I've found that requesting a specific time is often a hit-or-miss proposition because the system doesn't always publish them exactly when I specify. For those reasons, I can't honor requests for specified publication dates and times for individual geocaches because -- given the online system available to me right now -- it would take up a lot more of my time and it would likely frustrate some geocachers if their caches didn't get published at a specific time after they were led to believe that it would. I hope this helps clarify the situation.

Sunday, January 01, 2012

Geocaching presents the year in review

If you've already seen this video, did you notice Iowa's own Busterbabes signing a poster at the 2011 Lost & Found event at Groundspeak headquarters? It's at the 2:23 into the video.