As if this blog wasn’t enough of a testament to my addiction, I have made some very crucial moves to solidify my existence in this game for the long term. Some can be seen as necessities, but most should be viewed as a firm decision to continue playing and becoming more visible to our peers in the geocaching community.
The first step towards this was to purchase a real GPSr. While the iPhones have been a great asset in our first 400+ finds, the nervousness of them getting destroyed has kept us from venturing off the beaten path (or should I say concrete path), not to mention its abysmal performance under any sort of canopy, be it trees or overcast skies. While there are still a ton of caches in and around Indianapolis that are phone-friendly, it’s those caches hidden in the forests and marshlands outside of town and other states that has me excited and the phone just won’t cut it for these, if not for the fear of destruction, then definitely for the lack of data service, as was evidenced during the Geo Bash last year. So after some feature comparisons, consulting several geocachers for opinions on the competing receivers, and some price shopping, I settled on the DeLorme Earthmate PN-60
This device, while smaller than most receivers on the market, is feature-packed and very accurate. I have used it on several runs, a couple that have actually taken me into some wooded areas I have previous avoided, and I must say that it has performed admirably. The learning curve on this one is pretty steep, even for the tech-savvy, and I am still trying to get my bearings on the mapping software, but so far I have managed to download maps and satellite imagery to it as well as load about 4,000 caches into it for the surrounding states. Why? Well, why not? I still have a lot to learn and I’m sure it’ll be months before I feel confident enough to completely cut the iPhone umbilical cord, but I am absolutely enjoying this game a whole lot more now.
With the confidence of my new GPSr, I am now actively pursuing harder terrain caches. And as a result, I have signed up to go on my first group cache outing. We’re heading to eastern Kentucky to attempt a day of nothing but Earthcaches. For those who don’t know, these are caches where the object is to go to the GZ while learning about the geology/history/scientific nature of the area and answer a set of questions where the answers are obtained through a mixture of the cache description and the area surrounding the GZ itself. Most of the Earthcaches also require photographic evidence of you being there, especially those where the answers are easily obtained through the cache description or a quick Google search. As you can imagine, a lot of Earthcaches are going to take you to locations that are considerably more difficult in terrain than your standard traditional hide. I couldn’t resist the opportunity to test out the ruggedness and accuracy of my new toy so I jumped on it. The outing is on 3/17 and it looks like I might be joined by my brother as well as several other members of the Indy Area Geocachers Facebook group. So this will be my opportunity to prove my dedication and worth to the group. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t excited.
Remember that post I made where I suggested items to have for geocaching? Yeah, I have a confession to make…I didn’t have most of any of that. While everything I said holds true, the fact is that, of all the things listed, I only had 6, and even then those were just laying around in the Minion Mobile and not easy to get to. With the idea of going on cache runs that would take us further from the van than ever before, we definitely needed to make sure we had our supplies with us at all times. To that end, I purchased a canvas messenger bag to carry the vast assortment of items needed for our cache runs and am now happy to report that every single item I listed in the post is now in my possession. I need to take a picture of the bag fully packed and update that post…better get on that.
The next thing I’ve been up to is prepping our first event as hosts. While I am still failing at getting our first hide, I’ve decided to give back to the geocachers of Indianapolis by hosting a “Meet-n-Eat” event at a local restaurant. Hoosiers, by their very nature, are a very friendly people, and the geocachers are doubly so. I have never met a finer group of people in my life, and I wanted to try to do something to show my appreciation for them. So I decided to host an event on the one day that a lot of them have yet to log a find on….Leap Day. In the history of Geocaching, there has only been 2 Leap Days that have been available for cachers to log a find on. For a growing portion of cachers, this is the last day they have to log to complete their caching calendar. Groundspeak is marking the day by giving a virtual souvenir to anyone who logs a find/attended on any cache/event that day. Since Leap Day falls on a Wednesday this time around, a lot of the working cachers will be hard pressed to go out and grab a find for the day, so I figured I would give the gift of an easy Smiley to anyone who needs it. Leapin’ Lizards!!! It’s Leap Day is our event and I am totally excited to host this. It should be an evening filled with good food, good stories, and good friends. If you’re reading this, in the Indianapolis area, and haven’t committed to finding a cache, you should seriously stop by, if for nothing else than getting the Smiley and saying hello.
And lastly, Cyndi and I have been going back and forth for a while about a signature item. Early in our adventures we used to have some Girl Scout SWAPS the wife and kids made to drop in caches, but those ran out very quickly and they didn’t really have anything to distinguish us or tell anyone who we were. I had been looking at wooden nickels for some time and while we may still go that route, we decided we wanted to do a Pathtag. A piece of rounded metal no larger than a nickel, a Pathtag is a customized signature item that can be left in caches or traded at events with other Pathtaggers. Starter kits begin at $110 plus shipping for 50 tags and a 3-year mold that can be used to make more tags at roughly $1/tag afterwards. All you do is create your desired artwork using the template they provide, upload it to their site and pay for the work, customizing what you want on the tag’s back, the material it is plated with, and so on, and they create a blueprint for you to sign-off on and then produce the tags. The total process takes about 6 weeks but the end results are awesome. We have a small collection of tags we’ve received from various caches and a couple events and felt it was high time we had some of our own. So after several months of working and re-working a design that fit both our personalities as well as our team name, we ended up with what you see below.
So there you have it. It’s been a pretty busy winter for our little troop. While the actual caching hasn’t been as steady as I would like, there is a lot of behind-the-scenes type stuff being worked on to help us further along. And this is just scratching the surface. We are planning on making a return trip to the Midwest Geo Bash this summer, as well as attending GeoWoodstock X in southern Indiana this May. There’s also the Indiana Spring Picnic the week before GWX that we are attending and will be camping for that. I could continue for hours on this, but I’ve already made you sit through 1,400 words on this, no need to punish you more. Thanks for reading, and we’ll see you on the trails.