Insofar as today was my first geocaching session of 2017. Just had time to find 4, plus 1 DNF.
The last two years have been pretty slim pickings, albeit for very good reasons. This year I am determined to do much better.
Insofar as today was my first geocaching session of 2017. Just had time to find 4, plus 1 DNF.
The last two years have been pretty slim pickings, albeit for very good reasons. This year I am determined to do much better.
In part two of our Cambridgeshire geocaching road trip our main targets were the Digital Electronics caches (set by the same geocacher as The Cambridge Positioning System which I wrote about earlier). These caches come as a pair, firstly the Theory part and then the Practical. You need to solve the Theory puzzle first, then visit the cache to collect some equipment you will need to find the Practical one.
So, Bob solved the theory puzzle easily but I found it much harder. Actually, I only solved it once Bob had given me a lesson in digital circuit design. Did I mention his electronics engineering background? Anyway, after a long session with paper circuit diagrams and coloured pens I finally obtained the coordinates.
“My Brane hurts!”
Last Wednesday we drove up to the location of the first cache. Once off the main roads, we found ourselves driving down narrower and narrower lanes until we finally found ourselves on a quiet, dead straight, lane.
Eventually the tarmac petered out and we found ourselves on a byway which, as it turned out, was the only drivable one we found all day, but I digress.
At GZ we soon located the cache. The cache was originally set up with 4 electronics kits for geocachers to borrow and we knew of one cacher who had a kit in his possession; we were relieved to find there was still one in there, I think we’d have been a bit upset if the box had been empty! Back into the Freelander and park in a nice quiet spot to conduct the circuit construction. I say ‘quiet spot’ but it was anything but. We were passed by a steady stream of dog walkers and horse riders. One of the horses was reluctant to pass us; her rider told us her horse was a bit spooked by our vehicle as “there isn’t usually a car parked there”.
We assembled the circuit (well Bob did, I just passed him bits of wire and generally acted as electronics engineer’s mate). We powered it up and…
Bugger! Not the display we expected! Was the kit a “dud”? There had been some logs suggesting one of the kits didn’t work. Of course we’re made of sterner stuff and we weren’t giving up just yet! There then followed a session of pin straightening, wire wiggling and similar activities. Still nothing. We had a brew. Rechecked our wiring. Ah Ha! Made a small change. Bingo! Once we had it working we were able to obtain a set of coordinates. That wasn’t quite the end of it of course, we had to visit that location, obtain some more info and input that into our circuit-a-ma-bob to obtain the final coords.
While we were looking for the intermediate location a couple of farming types drove up in a muddy 4×4 to enquire what we were doing. When we said “geocaching” they didn’t seem surprised and became more friendly; “I’ve seen lots of things in the vees of trees round here” said one. Friendly muggles! Anyway, back in the car and off to the final and an excellent find of an ammo can. Of course, we then had to return to the Theory cache and put the electronics kit back for the next cacher, which we did.
These have been two of the best geocaches I’ve done to date, partly because of the work involved in solving the puzzles and partly in recognition of the amount of effort which has gone in to designing and constructing the caches. One of those occasions where awarding a favourite point doesn’t seem enough.
After our success, we found a further couple of caches along what used to be a Roman road. One end of this was apparently a byway, so we had a gander to see whether we could drive it. Unfortunately the County Council had slapped a bunch of TROs along most of it and the only part we could drive had a 2 metre width restriction. It looked a bit narrow, so I edged the nose of the Freelander into the gap while Bob spotted for me. It looked very tight and after a short discussion we abandoned the idea, parked up and walked along the byway to the nearby cache. I’ve since checked the Freelander’s spec sheet. Turns out the width with mirrors retracted is 2005mm. No wonder it wouldn’t fit!
After that it was off to the next major location on our hit list, near Saffron Walden: the Harry Potter series. This comprises 7 caches and, although I’d found 3 of them back in July 2013 whilst staying at Audley End, I still had 4 to find and Bob needed all of them. After a break for lunch we set off, starting with the ones I hadn’t yet found. This is a series of puzzles with a Harry Potter theme. I had no problem with the puzzles (ours being a family of Potter fans), also the caches themselves follow the HP theme, which is a nice touch; hence we found (amongst others), a rat from the prison at Azkaban, a dragon from the Tri-Wizard Tournament, a horcrux locket:
and Tom Riddle’s diary – which doubled as one of the log books:
It was good to see my moniker there from 2013.
Eventually, a lovely sunset reminded us it was time to head for home…
Plus, after logging our finds, we had a nice “H for Harry” shape on the map, made from smileys.
So ended another brilliant day’s geocaching in Cambridgeshire! Just 10 finds, currently that’s a good day’s tally for me but this day was most definitely not about the numbers.
You may recall back in 2012 I wrote about running Windoze on my Mac, mainly in order to try running GSAK without the pain of a Windoze PC. I tried Crossover. I tried a VM (Oracle’s VirtualBox). I was unimpressed. The idea of using GSAK died, as I was really, really, not prepared to use Windoze.
Recent conversations with my geocaching buddy, Bob, made me want to give GSAK another try, but how?
Turns out there has been some progress with Wine. Via the GSAK forum I found a very good guide on the subject, so I decided it was worth a try. Some of the detail (around versions) have changed but the basic steps are still the same. To begin with, I installed the beta version of Wine 1.8 (works with El Cap) but when I tried creating the GSAK App it crashed repeatedly, so I installed the latest “stable” release (1.6.1) instead. That worked perfectly.
So here’s proof (if you need it) of GSAK working on my MacBook Air:
The key issue last time I tried running GSAK was that it wouldn’t connect to my Geocaching account. This time, a key step in the process involved installing GSAK on a Windows machine first, exporting a backup of the GSAK database and settings, and restoring these to the Wine version. That done (and my ancient Dell laptop returned to its rightful place in my tech museum), GSAK worked! I am able to connect to my geocaching data on GC.com, retrieve cache details, run PQs, etc.
The only function which seems to be missing from my Wine-bottled GSAK so far, seems to be the cache page in split view. I think this issue is linked to GSAK’s historical reliance on IE but I need to do some research on this. Nevertheless, clicking on a cache’s row launches the cache details in a new browser window (in Safari, my default). GSAK “sees” my Garmin GPS when I connect it to my MacBook via USB, so I can download GPX files to the device.
Early days, then, but from what I’ve seen so far it does look promising.
Last Wednesday Bob and I finally managed our long-awaited caching trip to the Quizzical Smile series. This is a series of 18 easy puzzle caches (plus a bonus) which, once logged as found, look like this on the map:
The weather had been good in the days leading up to the Wednesday, at which point the whole of England was covered with rain. We delayed our start for about an hour, so by the time we left the car most of the rain had cleared eastwards in the general direction of Cambridge. For the first hour it was a bit drizzly but by the time it cleared up we were well into our stride. All the caches were fairly easy finds although some required a bit of searching, jumping ditches, etc. At each cache we collected a value for the bonus. Well, at the first one we forgot, and had to retrieve the container again. We didn’t forget the others.
En route, we found this object:
I have no idea what it is.
After we’d found about half the caches, we got to the point where we had to head along another path roughly in the direction from whence we came, so it seemed an ideal time to pause for a brew and to collect a couple of other nearby caches belonging to the Hatley Heart Attack series. It was then that we met a lady walking her dog – she turned out to be the only person we encountered all day! I think the weather may have had something to do with it. Once we’d found all 18 puzzle caches, we worked out the coords for the bonus and made our way there. As we approached, we knew exactly where the cache would be, but it was a bit of a struggle to reach the container. Maybe the CO had very long arms.
After that we headed back towards our parking spot, with a detour to pick up a bunch of Hatley Heart Attacks.
After lunch, we relocated towards Cambridge. While planning our trip, Bob had drawn my attention to The Cambridge Positioning System. A puzzle based loosely on the mathematics behind the GPS, it is also near the One Mile Radio Telescope which we drove past, sometime later, on our way home.
The Cambridge Positioning System was a D3.5 puzzle but after nearly tearing my hair out solving it, I think it should have been more like a D5. Have a look at the cache page and see what you think. It’s maths. I hate maths. I used to hate maths back when I was doing A-Level Maths. In the intervening <cough!> <hrmph!> years I have forgotten all the difficult stuff.
So, I had a go at working out the puzzle. I knew it involved Pythagorus but to be honest that didn’t really help me much. Luckily Bob had already solved it so he gave me some help (well, basically a maths lesson) to the point where I was actually able to solve the various equations myself. It took me a while! At GZ, we found the cache and then had to open it in order to sign the log. Of course, we’d done the necessary maths beforehand. Rarely have I been so pleased to log a find!
The Cambridge Positioning System was, incidentally, my 1,323rd. find.
We stopped later on for a cuppa before heading home, where we happened to find a nice Cache ‘n Dash. That last one made the total for the trip: 28 finds. Marvellous!
Recently, I have been mainly solving puzzles. And finding some of them.
I first looked at 1321 many moons ago but didn’t get anywhere with the puzzle. However, a recent conversation with the Cache Owner gave me a hint as to how it might be solved. So, here’s a hint from me, gratis. Try googling RFC1321. There you go. 😉
As is often the case with me and puzzles, all did not go smoothly to begin with, as I spent a long time trying to do the wrong thing. Eventually (with more hints from the CO and a lot of perseverance) I was rewarded with a ‘Yes’ from geochecker.
Having offered my daughters a lift to their equine activities I was ideally placed to visit this cache. No coincidence. Skye and I were soon enjoying a longish walk through parkland to the cache location. At GZ I had a good GPS signal and soon narrowed the search area down, and I was working my way through the likely places when, unexpectedly, I got a phone call from Daughter.2 requesting a pickup. “Darn”, I thought, “I haven’t found the cache yet”. Just then I looked down and spotted the cache peeking out from its hiding place! Result!
Then, this Wednesday, I decided to collect a puzzle cache I’d solved the coords for in 2014. I really enjoyed solving 6 Degrees, this was a film-based puzzle featuring the well known premise that every Hollywood actor can be linked to Kevin Bacon within 6 steps. Once again I learnt some (probably useless) information as a direct result of geocaching.
The reason I’d not gone for the find after solving the puzzle was due to the long running saga of my eye problems (documented elsewhere) but, with my eyesight now back to normal, I’d started to work through my list of solved but unfound puzzles, so here we are.
I’m not going to give the game away re. location, etc., but I took the precaution of running my coords through geochecker once again just in case the cache had been relocated in the intervening years. Thus reassured, I found a good parking spot for me and Skye to head off for an enjoyable walk in the autumn sunshine. No spoilers, but this was an ingeniously created hiding place and well worth the trip.
Then, later on the same Wednesday (2nd Nov) the estimable Dr. Solly published a new cache. Now, his puzzle caches are always worth a look and I find them especially interesting as the puzzles are often technology-based. This was no exception. If you look at the cache page for GC6WBNZ you’ll see he hasn’t given you a lot to go on. As I said, it’s a “techie” cache and, while I had an idea, I did do a bit of research to check I was on the right track. So, I knew what I had to do, so I employed that method and…
This was not what I expected. I checked with my mate Bob, who also being very techie, had arrived at the same method as me.He couldn’t get it to work either. The same day, another cacher FTF’d it. Hmm. By now I was somewhat puzzled. Maybe I had got it wrong. I decided to leave it for a while and yesterday evening, in a random moment, I gave it another go. Imagine my surprise when the coords appeared on my screen. The very thing which didn’t work before, worked this time, and I had the coords! The only explanation I’ve got for this anomaly is that either some sort of technical issue befell Dr. Solly’s servers, or The Elders of the Internet were having an extended tea break.
I contacted Bob who confirmed that he too had obtained the coords. Itchy geocaching feet or not, we weren’t able to go for it that same evening. This afternoon we both had a free slot in our diaries so we made the trip over to GZ, where we were rewarded with a typically enormous container crammed with loads of Dr Solly loot. Second to Find. Happy with that! 🙂
As part of this summer’s Geolympix event, the team set some caches in the gorgeous ‘Golden Valley’ on the Ashridge Estate. Landscaped by ‘Capability’ Brown, the Golden Valley is a lovely place to walk with magnificent views of Ashridge House.
Well, I missed the Geolympix due to eye ops, and today was the first chance I’ve had to start the huge, hopefully enjoyable, task of seeking out all the geocaches set for the Geolympix. I thought I’d start small with this mini series of 5 caches. Having said that, I started with a cache which had nothing to do with the Geolympix, a cache placed recently by my mate Bob – GC6P5ZD A Fine Pair #652 – Little Gaddesden. The national ‘Fine Pair’ series is all about combining a red telephone box with a red post box (more info on the cache page). That was an easy find so then Skye and I set off the the Golden Valley.
Aiming for the first cache, GC6K9ZE – VoG1: The Valley of Green, I arrived at the waypoint to find I hadn’t. What I was expecting wasn’t there, which was a bit puzzling until I realised I was at the second stage of a different cache. I must have selected the wrong WP! Knowing I would eventually need it later, I made a note of the information before plugging the correct WP for VoG1 into my GPSR and off we went again! VoG1 was itself a multi-stage and so first we had to get to its first stage. Once there I spotted an AAND which to be honest, based on the hint, was not what I was expecting. So I duly worked out the coords for the final and off we went again!
Finding the final was easy enough and I then thought, well I have part of the info I need for VoG5 so I may as well pick up the rest. I had planned to do the caches in numerical order but what the heck! The second stage of VoG5 required me to find a plaque but arriving at the general location, a substantial brick-built bridge, there wasn’t anything which ‘leapt out’ at me. Skye and I spent a while scouting all around the bridge before I finally spotted the plaque. That gave me the info I needed so it was then time to ‘do the arithmetic’ and obtain the final coords.
Off we go again! From the map it was clear that this cache was not in the general direction of the remaining caches. I didn’t have time to do all of them on this trip so I decided to complete VoG5 and return for the others another day. And so it was that I arrived at GZ for GC6KA4R – The Hill of Pain. I have to say that yes, it was a steep hill but no, it wasn’t painful to climb. Maybe because I hadn’t walked the entire route. Whatever, the wet grass did make for a sometimes interesting ascent but, once we were on the flat once more, it was an easy walk to GZ. Now you know that I don’t include spoilers in my caching tales. Following the hint I homed in on the location. Low down in what I can only describe as a very bushy tree, there was the hint item and a convenient dark hollow. Which was empty! Casting my eyes around and about I spotted another likely hiding place and was rewarded with a tupperware box. Yay!
So that was it for today. It’s a great location and I now have to come back to get the other three caches.
I had to take my Freelander into my Land Rover dealer today. I needed them to fix the passenger side exterior mirror. They’d replaced the glass and motor a while back but the adjustment controls were all muddled up: moving the joystick down made the mirror go up instead of down, and vice versa. It was driving me nuts but this was the first chance I’d had to go back.
It took two of the dealer’s excellent Americanos before they’d finished but it was worth the wait, as I had time to check out the local geocaches on my iPhone App. There was one cache very close by which I had been meaning to do on previous occasions (it had been temped last time I was here) so once my Land Rover visit was complete I made the short journey to GZ for a very easy find.
Funny thing was, the cache had been renewed within the last few weeks and only had one find between then and me finding it today. That last cacher had signed the cache page with a ‘no pen’ log, which I found puzzling as there was a perfectly serviceable pencil in the cache container. Then I noticed that their last find – just the day before that- had been a geocache in Zanzibar. Armchair cacher? Owner of a teleport device? Or maybe they got their dates mixed up.
Ho hum. I was just pleased to get a cache, something of a rarity for me these days.
It’s been a long time since I did any geocaching (because of my eye surgery). So I thought I’d start things off by doing a bit of maintenance on some of my own caches. I figured that it would be a good test, e.g. to see if I could find some of my own caches before hunting for someone else’s!
I knew from a recent log that one of my Green Lane caches needed some TLC, so I started with that one. The container for GC5454Y (a small screw top container) was broken so I replaced that (plus a new log). The second one I wanted to look at (GC54558) was my “mystery” cache in the series, this hadn’t been found since December ’15 so I was a bit concerned. I began by checking the final. Well, I couldn’t find it. After a lengthy search I decided that it really was missing so I replaced the container (etc.). This cache is a sort of multi, except that the values you need to collect in order to calculate the final coords are “hidden” on a couple of AANDs*. If you happen to have copies of these in your possession you can work out the final without visiting the stages. This makes the geocache slightly different to a standard multi. Anyway, I digress.
I made my way to the other two stages and checked that the ANNDs were still there (they were), so job done.
Funny thing was, this AAND cache replaced the original one I set back in 2013. That one had 3 stages, using red, green and blue AANDs. I had to archive it when the green one went missing back in May ’14. Anyway, as I was walking to the final of the current cache, I spotted a footpath signpost poking out from a large bramble thicket – the very post to which I had affixed the green AAND in 2013! I assume someone had found it and propped it upright (sort of) roughly where it used to be. I had a look around the post and – surprise – there was my green AAND! I thought, maybe I can remove it and keep it for reuse elsewhere. Out came my trusty Leatherman and a brief tussle with the rusty nail I had used to fix the AAND in place ensued. I was just thinking, this could be tricky, I need to be careful that it doesn’t ping free unexpectedly and shoot off into the brambles, when… oh bugger. There was no way I would be able to find it now! Ah, well, I had already lost it previously so I’m no worse off.
Anyway, the cache is now repaired, enabled and ready to be found. I think it’s quite a good one (it has quite a few FPs) but if it goes AWOL again I will probably archive it.
* Aluminium Alpha Numeric Disks, originally an invention of the 2012 Geolympix.
In our local geocaching circles, the Geolympix 2016 has been a long time coming and has been something I have been looking forward to. As it turned out, something better has taken priority in the form of the NHS. They gave me a date of Thursday 28th July for my second cataract operation which, for me, was fantastic and not something I would postpone for anything. It’s so good to get my “proper” sight back but it’s a pity that I can’t sensibly attend the Geolympix. The hospital’s do’s & don’ts mean it’s unadvisable to risk damage or infection by going geocaching, plus there’s the issue of regular application of eye drops, etc…
So I’m reluctantly going to be missing out on this Mega Event. Once I’m “allowed out” again I fully intend to mop up all the new geocaches the Geolympix team have placed specifically for the Mega. It will be fantastic to be able to search for caches using the unbeatable “Human Eyeball Mk I” once again!
By the way, there was another special moment this evening: an excellent overhead pass by the International Space Station which I was able to see with my newly restored vision. Haven’t seen one of those for a long while. Fan-bloody-tastic!
Anyway, in case this is the first you’ve heard, here’s a last minute plug for my dear friends’ Mega Event:
If you haven’t heard and fancy going, see these links:
And if you know nothing about the Geolympix or Geocaching, there’s this on the BBC.
Oh, and if you are interested in reading more about the saga of my retinal surgery, etc., you are welcome to visit my eye surgery blog, see the link towards the bottom of the sidebar under “Quite Interesting”.
So this evening the oven element went U/S. Luckily we had just turned it on and hadn’t put any food in. I’ve ordered one for next day delivery so at least we will be able to cook stuff but what about the long term future of this piece of kitchen crap?
I’m not happy, TBH. The original element failed and was replaced under warranty, then that one blew last December.Now its replacement has gone. So this latest replacement will be the 4th element. Time to junk the oven for something more reliable? Or just wait for the 5th element?