The Quizzical Smile

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:

Cache smilies in the shape of a smilie on GC's 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:

a strange metal object in a field

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.

One Mile Radio Telescope

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!

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Un-Common Caching

Last week I finally managed to solve a puzzle cache that had been bugging me, Hope2pigs’ Conjuring Card Cache (GC5CDAZ). Not a subject I was at all familiar with (I’m still not!) but once more I’ve learned about something hitherto unknown thanks to Geocaching. Actually, it turned out I’d been on the right track with my solving method and it was a simple error with my maths that had prevented geochecker from giving me the green light. Hope2pigs had set a small series around Bricket Wood Common and I had visited there once on a FTF attempt (we got STF) but I had held off going back for the others, until now.

Having done a spot of research, I decided to go for the Multi of the series first for reasons which will become clear. Bricket Wood Common has SSSI classification, so is an interesting location. You can find more information about the Common here.

So Skye and I parked the Freelander in one of the designated parking spots and headed off towards the first cache, Hear or There (GC570QC). I had decided to do this one first as I suspected it might take some time and I wanted to make sure I bagged the “important” ones first in case I ran out of time. The cache page describes quite well what is required without giving the game away completely, so I’m not going to spoil it for you (should you wish to attempt it for yourself). The task is first to locate the first stage (at the published coords) which I did without difficulty. Once I had retrieved the container and opened it, I was then in possession of a “tool” (as the CO describes it). I’m not giving anything way by saying that I had to operate the “tool” and listen for a response. As the CO states, this cache is not suitable for the hard of hearing. Not knowing what to expect, I stood motionless and waited for what passed for silence before operating the tool. Nothing. I moved a few paces away and tried again. At which point the birds started singing. Then a truck trundled along the nearby road. Silence descended once more. I operated the tool. Just as I did so the birds started tweeting again. Damn! I waited for the next quiet period and tried again. As I strained my ears to listen (not actually knowing what I was listening for) Skye decided she was a bit bored of standing around and she started scuffling about in the leaves. “BE QUIET, SKYE!”. Hmm, that didn’t help. Once more I moved my position, thinking, correctly as it turned out, that my range to the “thing” might be critical. Then, faintly, I heard it! For a minute or two I moved around, homing in on the source…

After a bit more to-ing and fro-ing, I identified the location of the final but, before I could move in for the “kill”, a chap appeared along the nearby path with his German Shepherd. What now! Trying to be nonchalant, Skye and I engaged him and his canine companion in a friendly conversation until he decided to move on. Once he was a safe distance away I homed in on where I thought the final cache would be, at which point it was easily spotted behind some camouflage. Result! Once I had signed the log etc. we retraced out steps and replaced the “tool” in its hiding place. That is one novel, well thought out and prepared cache.

Next, it was on to the Conjuring Card Cache, by way of a small detour to pick up First Class?, a more traditional cache. Even this “Trad” was cleverly constructed, so much so that it was really hidden in plain sight. I love those!

Anyway, on to the puzzle cache. The coords were spot on, I think this may have been helped by us attempting these before the trees develop their full foliage and bugger up the GPS signal. As it was, it seemed a short search indeed before I spotted the very well constructed natural camouflaged container.

Once we’d put everything back, it was time to cross the railway line (via a footbridge) for a longer, circular, walk around another part of the common where we picked up three more caches (Will you take offence?, nano sect and Uncommon in the common), all of which had ingenious containers. Then it was back to the car – which we found without drama – a relief as I had failed to waypoint it before we left it.

The Common is a lovely location only minutes from main roads and houses, yet it seems a world away. The woodland, soon to be carpeted in bluebells (I hope) and the birdsong soundtrack make this a great place to find a few caches. The containers and their camouflage are brilliantly designed and constructed and a joy to find. I recommend a visit, just as soon as you’ve solved that Card puzzle!