FTF !

These days, I normally don’t react to the new cache alerts and one I received today was no exception. This is because our local FTF champions are usually on QRA and are hard to compete against.

However…

This evening Bob contacted me suggesting that a nearby cache was still unfound, so it was that a short while later we were in his car and heading towards Berkhamstead. This was a Bus Stop nano and at 21.30 we had the place to ourselves. After a short search I found the cache, something of a rarity when I’m out with Bob. A clean logbook – Yay!

That followed on nicely from yesterday, when I’d been out with Skye for a country walk. (we are both out of practice and need to build our walking up once again). We combined the walk (We? Who am I kidding, Skye doesn’t know anything about route planning) with a few local caches. 6 found and a nice walk to boot. So I’m hoping this is the start of me getting out caching a lot more this year.

Today I actually went caching

Well, actually, I started to go caching yesterday. It was a lovely sunny day so Skye and I headed off to the park for our walk. While there, I remembered that a new cache had been published at the nearby church. There used to be a multi there but that has now been replaced by a new Church Micro (GC65YV7 – Church Micro 8651).

So off we went, Skye hunting the pesky squirrels whilst I sought out the required info.

Skye - 1

Once I had all the info, it was on to the final. However, when we got there we decided there was too much muggle activity for a proper, stealthy search. So this evening, under cover of darkness,  I went back to GZ. At first I confess to being a bit misled by the clue (Hmm. I know the CO is tall but the T rating is low, so…) when I realised my mistake. After that a quick search was all it took. I think it’s all connected with my somewhat sporadic geocaching outings of late. Well that’s what I’m blaming it on anyway.

And when I went to log it I found that it filled in another day on my grid. Excellent!

 

Devon caches

So, back in early September we had a glorious week in Devon. We stayed in a fantastic house and saw the most amazing sunsets from our roof terrace. Here’s one.

Sunset

I managed a bit of geocaching. The most interesting was above Woolacombe beach.

There’s a geocache in them there hills:woolacombe beach view

Hang glider Heaven (GCVB8T), as the name implied, involved a bit of a walk up that hill you can see in the distance. Luckily I had parked near the start of the trail but as Skye and I made our way up the track it was obvious that the going was getting steeper. I soon realised I was seriously out of condition.

footpath sign

By the time I reached this sign and the incline levelled out I was knackered. Skye, on the other hand, was still raring to go so, after a brief pause, we continued onwards and upwards.

a view of the cache site

After a while, we arrived at the rough location of  GZ. The cache appeared to be in the middle of an impenetrable swathe of small trees, gorse bushes and bracken. While Skye tried unsuccessfully to hoover up some nearby rabbit droppings (I wouldn’t let her!), I boxed around the area with one eye on the arrow. Finding a way in, I began to burrow until the narrow, brambly opening developed into a hidden path which was surprisingly easy to negotiate.

Once “inside” and completely hidden from view, we hunted around until I spotted a small outcrop of naturally occurring slate. Moving a couple of likely rocks aside revealed the cache! Once I’d done the biz, I extricated myself (and Skye). Before walking away I checked out the interesting geocoin I had liberated; only to discover that the coin had to stay in the cache! Grr! Back in I go! At least I had checked this out while I was still at GZ, I would have been less than happy to find that out when I was back at the bottom of the hill!

IMG_5041

At least our return journey was downhill!

 

 

Chiltern Hundred – Bonus

When the good Doctor first published the series there was a bit of competition to see who could do the lot in the shortest time. I believe 12 hours is the record. I made my first Chiltern Hundred find on 13 November 2012, so it has taken me just over two years to make my way round the three rings, in a somewhat sporadic fashion.

When I reached 93 finds I was missing bonus codes for 20 of them and the web form apparently required 90 to generate the coordinates for the Bonus. By chance I read the Bonus cache page again and spotted that Dr Solly had altered his algorithm. This meant that some numbers could be missing and it would still be possible to get the coords. So I plugged my numbers into the form and hey presto!

So I decided to look for the bonus cache today and go back to my DNFs at a later date to see if I can get the total numbers up.

skye
Skye belted up and ready to go caching

 

I parked in a now-familiar location (not telling where) and made my way with Skye towards the cache. Given that it wasn’t raining I was very surprised that during the entire sortie I didn’t see another human. Skye and I enjoyed the walk in and we soon found ourselves in a very pretty, secluded wood. Then the serious business began. We searched for quite a long time without success but hey, this was “The Bonus” after all so I wasn’t expecting it to be easy. The hint on the cache page was pretty specific but (without giving too much away) it was also misleading and a couple of recent cachers had logged a DNF. After searching for a while, Skye and I decided to stop for a drink and some biscuits. Then I thought, I’ve looked in all the obvious places so let’s look in the places that are not. So I did. Eventually I spotted something which looked a bit more promising. Getting up close, I carefully parted a couple of prickly bramble stems and I could see the cache nestling in its hiding place! Fantastic!

Then it was a question of getting to it with a Westie who had suddenly lost interest in the search. Once I had the container out in the open she realised what was happening and sat down patiently while I examined the cache.

The bonus cache

Then it was time to replace the cache, restore the camouflage and set off back to the Freelander; me with a silly grin on my face and Skye just happy to be snuffling in the fallen leaves.

A very big “thank you” to Dr Solly for an excellent and entertaining series. All that remains is to go back to find as many of those 16 DNFs as I can; I’d like to get my Chiltern Hundred tally up to 100.

Sorry, 101.

If you haven’t yet attempted this series then my recommendation is have a go. The variety of terrain, contour changes, lovely countryside views and Dr Solly’s penchant for tree climbing and cheeky hides make it well worth a go. Maybe you’ll do it quicker than me. 🙂

The Washknight Tapes

Ha ha, well not tapes exactly but an interrogation nonetheless.

This chap I know, who caches under the pseudonym Washknight, has been pestering inviting the blogging cachers (or should that be caching bloggers?) he knows to post a response to a set of 20 questions. So I have, finally, managed to sit down in front of my Mac, roll my sleeves up in a purely figurative way, open a bottle of my favourite “thinking mixture” and, cracking my finger joints in the manner of the best piano virtuoso, peck out this missive on my keyboard.

1. When and how did you first get into geocaching?

A few years ago at work, the topic of geocaching came up a couple of times; finally one of my geocaching friends (you know who you are!) pulled up the map and it turned out there was a cache very close to my house. I went and had a look but didn’t do anything about it. Some weeks later another friend (The Bongtwashes) arranged an off-roading day in Berkshire. We stopped for lunch on our way to the off-road site and it “just so happened” that there was a cache nearby, so we set off to look for it. What I didn’t realise at the time (but  subsequently discovered) was that it is standard practice to arrange routes, lunch stops etc. so that they pass near to geocaches! Anyway after that I went back to find that local one near my home and that, as they say, was that.

So, David and Bob, I blame you for infecting me with this bug for which there appears to be no cure. 😀

2. Do you remember your first find?

Certainly do! It was the one I found with The Bongtwashes. It was “A Different Approach to Recycling” . What was extra special was that when Bob read out the hint I immediately knew where to look and I found the cache before he did! I think that is the last time that has happened (LOL)

3. What device(s) do you use for locating caches?

When I started out I used my iPhone running the Groundspeak App but, being a clumsy sort of fellow, I quickly became concerned that I would drop it into a puddle (or worse). At this point I bought a Garmin Dakota which is still my main device. This is backed up by my iPhone which I use mainly for mapping (more screen real estate so I can see the map and caches in a wider context) and for interrogating the web while I’m out and about. The GPS on the newer models of iPhone is generally excellent and I sometimes use it solo for urban caching, the ocassional ad hoc cache or the increasingly rare FTF attempt. Oh, and I always put my iPhone in an “All Terrain” case.

4. Where do you live and what is your local area like for geocaching? (density / quality / setting etc)

I live in Hertfordshire, and the borders with Bedfordshire and Buckinghamshire are only a few miles away; there are thousands of geocaches as far as the eye can see. The nearest (my second find) was less that 0.1 mile from my house. There’s a good mixture of easy trads, naughty nanos and tricky puzzles plus some really good rings.

5. What has been your most memorable geocache to date, and why?

This has to be the Virtual cache “The Empire Strikes Back”. A cache in New York. What’s not to like? It also scores as my “Farthest from Home” and “Farthest West”.

We visited the ESB on the night of September 11th, 2012. To say the views were spectacular would be putting it midly. To top an amazing evening we were able to see the memorial twin towers of light which were beamed up from the site of the World Trade Centre towers on every anniversary night. Stunning and moving. Just wish we didn’t have to see it.

6. List 3 essential things you take on a geocaching adventure excluding GPS, pen and swaps.

Just 3? Hmmm. Leatherman. Torch(es). Hat.

7. Other than geocaches and their contents, What is the weirdest thing you have discovered whilst out caching?

Other geocachers. 😛

Seriously, and perhaps a little disappointingly,  I haven’t found anything really weird. I have however found some unexpected things, some beautiful countryside and spectacular views. The strangest thing I can recall finding was an old-fashioned “Tanoy” loudspeaker high up in a tree, in a wood miles from any building of any sort. Very puzzling.

8. On a scale of 1 to 10 where 1 is I am obsessed by numbers and 10 is I am all about the experience and the quality of each individual cache. Where do you put yourself?

“I’m not a number, I’m a free man!” 🙂

If you look at my yearly stats you’d realise it isn’t all about the numbers for me. I have always enjoyed walking and so being out in the countryside, (preferrably with Skye our West Highland Terrier) is something I really do enjoy, so I guess it’s about the journey as well as the geocaching.

9. Describe one incident that best demonstrates the level of your geocaching obsession.

That’s difficult to answer because I’m not obsessed. There was a time when I would dash out for a FTF and I did get extremely wet completing a series of FTFs with The Bongtwashes in the pouring rain once. Note emphasis on the “once”.

10. Have you picked up any caching injuries along the way?

Only the usual scratches and dents from thorns, brambles and barbed wire. Usually on my head, which is why nowadays I always put my hat on when I have to burrow into anywhere and I always carry a simple first aid kit.

11. What annoys you most about other geocachers?

Hmmm. I don’t want to offend anyone. Some of them seem to take it a bit too seriously.

12. What is the dumbest thing you have done whilst out caching?

Trying to walk on something slippery such as sheet ice. That always ends badly in my experience.

13. What do your non caching family and friends think of your hobby?

In my house it’s called “Nerding”. They think I’m slightly mad. I’m not sure I have any non-caching friends…

14. What is your default excuse you give to muggles who ask what you are up to or if you need help?

My favourite is “I lost my dog” or variations of that. This excuse works even when I don’t actually have Skye with me.

15. What is your current geocaching goal, if you have one?

To complete the Chiltern Hundreds. Because it is there.

16. Do you have a nemesis cache that despite multiple attempts you have been unable to find?

There’s a micro in Pinner which I’ve never been able to find, mainly because of the muggle traffic. It has recently had a spate of found logs so maybe I’ll go back for another go soon.

17. What 3 words or phrases best sum up what geocaching means to you.

Challenging. Outdoor fun. Mud!

18. What prompted you to start blogging about geocaching?

I started my first blog in October 2005 as an evolution from MySpace (remember that one?). On my blog I write about whatever interests or (sometimes) annoys me, not just about geocaching.

After I found my first cache I posted a short item about it, it’s only recently that I have been writing about my geocaching adventures on a more frequent basis.

19. Which of your own blog entries are you most proud of.

I’m not sure I’m proud of any of my writing but I quite like this one  because it describes my best caching day (for numbers) and combines geocaching with another of my favourite pastimes – Green Laning.

20. Which other geocaching blogs do you enjoy reading?

To be honest I’m only just discovering the geocaching blogs, with two exceptions.

Washknight’s Geocaching Blind  which I’ve been following for a while now. His posts are entertaining and I like the fact that he is happy to take the p*ss out of the fact that he can’t see jack. Yes, I know he triggered this post but no, that’s not why I’ve singled him out for a mention in dispatches.

The other blog of note has to be Dr Solly’s.  It’s not just about caching, his technical tales appeal to my techie side. I’m not going to elaborate here, as he says; you either know him or you don’t.

Well, that’s the 20 questions answered, Paul. That was an interesting challenge which gave me pause to think, and travel back in time in order to research a response to some of the questions. I hope you (and anyone else daft enough to read to the end) enjoys reading my answers. 😀

(Oh I do like to be) beside the seaside

beach

Until Wednesday, when I went to a local caching event, I hadn’t given much thought to Groundspeak’s “The  7 Souvenirs of August”. During the event, Bob and I popped out to bag a Letterbox cache thereby earning me both the “Socializer” and “Collector” souvenirs in the same evening (Bob already had the full set).

Hmm. Suddenly all I needed was to find two caches of specific types and I would be able to collect the full set, plus the extra “Achiever” award for getting all six. Completing this challenge had unexpectedly become feasible.

So yesterday I took Skye for a walk at Little Heath, not far from home, where there was a Multi and a new Earth cache. Now I hadn’t known this before but thanks to the Earth cache, I now know that the area of Little Heath used to be the coastline of what is now England. Don’t worry, you haven’t missed anything connected with global warming, this was a long time ago! During the Pleistocene Period (2.6 million to 11,700 years ago) the North Sea extended westwards across south east England. Little Heath used to be a beach! Now located within the National Trust’s Ashridge Estate, this area is designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest.

To claim the Earth cache as a find, Skye and I had to collect some information and answer some questions posed by the Cache Owner. Actually, I did the hard work while Skye just rummaged about sniffing things. She does this a lot when we go caching, I’m beginning to think she’s not all that interested in geocaching. Having done that ( I would email the info to the CO later) we moved on to the Multi cache. This was supposedly a simple offset multi where you find the first stage which contains the coordinates for the final. Simples.

Well no, actually. It was anything but. To start with my GPS was behaving strangely. This was partly due to me having buggered up its software the day before. Anyway, I managed to work around that and I got a reasonable reading, followed the arrow, etc.  Except that the blasted thing kept changing its mind about the location of the first stage. I’d looked at some of the previous logs so had some ideas as to where to look, however this didn’t make any difference as I still spent ages looking high and low to no avail.

Now, any cacher reading this will know how it goes. You look in all the possible places, Then you go back and look again. You read the logs on your GPS or phone App again. You search all the places once more, maybe extending the search because who can be sure of the GPS accuracy anyway? You decide to give up. Just before you walk away you decide not to give up just yet, after all it was found two days ago so it must be here somewhere, right? This time, something I hadn’t noticed before caught my eye and a closer look revealed…  The micro! In my defence it was a very small micro and no wonder I hadn’t spotted it.

microdot

After that it it was pretty easy; using the newly discovered coordinates Skye and I were soon at the final location and signing the log. Alright, I admit it was just me signing the log. Now that she knows they aren’t edible, Skye really isn’t that bothered about the log-signing bit.

Oh, by the way, I got my 7 souvenirs. Here’s the 7th:

Groundspeak souvenir

If you’ve already got yours, congratulations! If not then there are still 8* days left 🙂

 

* At the time of posting

Jacob’s Moving Cache

Lots of local excitement about this moving cache. Groundspeak don’t allow moving caches any more so this one is a bit of a rarity. To explain the concept: the cache when found is re-hidden by the finder in a new location and they then publish those new coordinates in their found-it log. It’s a bit like a recurring FTF. 🙂

So, about a week ago this one was orbiting our area and a determined cacher decided to make a 60 mile round trip to get it. Since then it’s been bouncing around locally as one cacher after another attempts to find it and move it on.

There has been a fair bit of “who you know” going on as various cachers stalk the latest finder in the vain hope of being able to bag it next.

So with all this going on, to be honest I was not too bothered about finding it; however at the weekend my caching buddy managed to find it and was kind enough to re-hide it very close to where I live. I whizzed out as soon as I saw his log, recognising the location as being the site of the second cache I ever found (so I knew just where I needed to look) and felt sure I would be the first to get there. Which I was. Yay! 🙂

The amusing part was the next day when I set off to re-hide it, I had a place in mind which was along a nice footpath near a water mill which had a convenient car parking area (I was thinking of the next finder).

So I’d just left the car by the mill and was walking along the path towards my planned, convenient, QEF-style hiding place, when I met a pair of cachers coming in the opposite direction. I stopped for a brief chat and discovered they weren’t “local”. Now, this isn’t Royston Vasey but I had promised some of our local cachers that I’d hide it in a way that would give them the best chance of a find. There was no way I was going to let these two “foreigners”  know what I was up to! But I had Jacob’s cache in my hand! One of the cachers pointed at it, saying in an inquisitive way “Ooh, cammo bag!”. Thinking fast, I told them I often walked along here (which I do – I had Skye with me) and that I sometimes check the caches for interesting TBs (which I don’t). That seemed to satisfy their curiosity and they went on their way and were soon out of sight.

Of course, now I was a bit paranoid, so I walked a lot farther on than I’d planned to, to make sure they weren’t coming back to stalk me, after that I doubled back to hide the cache. I made sure it was well hidden so that, if they did happen to return that way, it wasn’t likely to be found by accident.  I was subsequently amused to read the log written by the next finder who seemed a bit surprised I’d hidden it so well. If she reads this hopefully she’ll understand!

Publishing my series

Green Lane sign

For a while now I’ve had my eye on a this empty space on the geocaching map and planning to place a geocache series there. Last week I had a free day and a choice. Either go caching or set out some more caches of my own. Altruism won the day and so, equipped with a bag of various containers, I was soon out in the fields. I had reconnoitred the route previously and had some hidey holes in mind. Skye and I had a nice walk and once the containers had been hidden it was back to base for tea and medals, and the time-consuming but important admin.

After a small hiccup, the caches were published yesterday evening and several of the local FTF hounds were soon out – congratulations to The Bongtwashes on FTF-ing them all! 🙂

If you’re interested, there is a list of my caches here.

As an aside, it’s amazing what you see whilst out in the countryside. As I was walking around a bend at the edge of a wheat field, a fox jumped out of the trees to our left and pounced on an unsuspecting pheasant hiding in the wheat. Within seconds the fox had picked up the pheasant and dashed back to the safety of the trees. Skye went absolutely bonkers and would have shot after the fox if I hadn’t had her on the lead. All this happened so fast I had no chance to go for my camera. 🙂

 

 

 

Back to Chesham

I’ve been aiming to get back to the Chiltern Hundreds but on the rare days when I’ve been able to go, the weather has conspired against me. It’s not just the rain (I don’t mind getting a bit wet) but more the recurringly-soggy ground making walking along the footpaths an unpleasant undertaking.

So, today the weather stayed fine (or at least fine enough to go geocaching). Me and Skye piled into the Freelander and headed off to the outskirts of Chesham. I had worked out a small loop of CH caches and a few Captain Jack caches. We had a good trip, the only con being a slog up a very steep hill. Phew, I must be so out of condition.

Found 10 with just one DNF. I’m pretty sure I know where the cache is but I’m nowhere near tall enough. I’ll have to come back to that one with suitable equipment to see if I’m correct. 😉