April 30, 2012
exploring, GPS, outdoors
exploring, geocaching, geodashing, GPS, outdoors
A geodash point near the Coronado National Memorial in Arizona. Our fellow geocaching snowbirds are standing at ground zero, about a half mile off the dirt Forest Service road that we were on.
If you want some variety in your GPS quests, give geodashing a try.
Geodashing is sponsored by GPS Games and is a competition of sorts that starts over every month. We’re permanently signed up as the Cachemanian Devils.
Every month, a computer randomly generates coordinates from all over the planet, gives them an alpha-numeric designator and plots them on a map. These are called “dash points”. You then go the web site, search a target area, find a dash point and go for it. The dash point in effect becomes a “stash” or hide. Points are awarded for getting to the dash point and submitting a detailed report on it describing the hunt and the location. We always submit photos too. The rule says you have to get within 100 meters of the point to claim credit. The team with the most points at the end of the month gets bragging rights and a mention on the GPS Games website.
The catch is some of the points simply can’t be approached that closely or gotten to at all. They may be in the middle of a lake or on private property or otherwise inaccessible. For instance, one of the dash points in a recent game was on the runway at Minneapolis Airport.
Some of them you can drive right up to. Some require some hiking or bushwhacking. You can be as laid back or ambitious as you want to be. Geodashing is great for bad weather, impromptu outings or back country quests. You can literally end up in the middle of nowhere only to find out you can’t get to it. That’s why recons with maps, Gazetteers and Google Maps / Earth are essential. It helps to know what you’re looking for and how to get there before you set out.
Dash points are great for exploring or just getting out of the house for a while. Whenever we go somewhere, I check out the geodash situation for possibilities. It changes every month so you never know what will show up.
We picked up a quick dash point this weekend. The weather was lousy but we wanted to get out. The point turned out to be in the front yard of a house about 12 miles from our place. We navigated there with our trusty TomTom, got to within 59 feet of the coordinates, took the picture and headed home.
They’re not all that simple and even the simple ones have got surprises. You can do all the background work you want but you never know what you’ll find until you get there.
Dash away … The Dashmanian Devils
April 29, 2012
exploring, Hawaii, travel
exploring, Hawaii, photography, travel
In the years that we’ve been geocaching, we’ve seen some awesome places and sights. The real prize is getting that special view that only presents itself for a very short time. Clouds, color, wind, sun, light, shadows, fog, precipitation and ground cover can combine in infinite ways to present a unique natural canvas that is gone in seconds. We’ve been lucky enough to see a number of those and catch them on camera. Unfortunately, cameras have not been our strong suit or a priority. So we’ve lost or missed some really good stuff that we’ll most likely never see again. We always vowed, “We’re getting a better camera.” I’d check cameras, choke on the price tag (over $1000) and that would be the end of the new camera vow. That changed when we cruised to Hawaii.
My first picture with the new Nikon D3100 SLR – Ninini Point Lighthouse. Taken at daybreak from the balcony of our cruise ship as we entered Nawiliwili Bay in Kauai.
We left port with our trusty old picture-losing Sony point’n'shoot. As we got close to the islands, I started having second thoughts about this camera business. We took the old Sony up to Volcanoes National Park on the Big Island. There were some great shots that we simply couldn’t get. So here we are, spending thousands of dollars on this Hawaiian cruise and taking pictures with a four year old $200 camera.
I always said I would never buy anything on a cruise ship. They’re like a bunch of grifters always hawking something at exorbitant prices. We got back to the ship, dropped our stuff and went straight to the camera store. A very knowledgeable (and patient) young lady spent over an hour with us as we looked at everything they had. In the end, they made us an offer we couldn’t refuse on a Nikon D3100 SLR package.
The next morning, I was up at the crack of dawn taking pictures from our stateroom balcony. My first keeper was the shot in this post. Taken right at sun up, you can almost see the clouds moving, feel the wind blowing and hear the waves crashing. We’ve got an 8×10 framed on our wall.
The rest of our Hawaiian photos, including the ones in our previous posts, were taken with the new Nikon. The picture quality, even with the basic settings I’m using, is light years ahead of what we’ve been doing. This one was the first keeper.
Say cheese….The Cachemanian Devils
April 21, 2012
All activities have a jargon that goes with them and geocaching is no exception. Here is a list of common acronyms and abbreviations that will help you decipher log entries and make your own easier to write in the cold and rain. ( )
#10. TNLN – Took Nothing Left Nothing. Used to sign a log.
#9. DNF – Did Not Find. Used to sign a log.
#8. TFTC – Thanks For The Cache. Used to sign a log.
#7. SL – Signed Log. Used to (all together now)…….???
#6. CITO – Cache In Trash Out. Our bit for the environment.
#5. PNG – Park And Grab. A quick, easy cache or so they say.
#4. GZ – Ground Zero. The actual location of the cache.
#3. GPSr – Global Positioning System receiver.
#2. FTF – First To Find. The Holy Grail of geocaching. Get to a new cache first.
#1. FUBAR – Fouled Up Beyond All Repair. Or you can use your own f word.
Write on…The Cachemanian Devils
April 21, 2012
benchmarks, exploring, geocaching, outdoors
benchmark_hunting, exploring, geocaches, GPS, outdoors
Spring is around the corner and soon the geo-hunts will be in full swing. Here is an alternative to geocaching that offers some variety and fun to your quests.
A metal benchmark disk. This one is at Battery Cooper near Fort Pickens at the entrance to the harbor of Pensacola, FL.
Geocaching gets all the press these days but there are other stashing games and some of them have been around longer than geocaches. This little disk is a benchmark. Basically it is a survey point that was used in the days before GPS. Surveyors and map makers established these as verified accurate positions using both a physical description and latitude/longitude. Benchmarks come in various forms and have been around for over 200 years. Church steeples and water tanks are often used as benchmarks. Every benchmark has a detailed written description somewhere in the halls of government. These descriptions tell exactly where to find the benchmark, how to get there, what it looks like and what’s nearby. Then along came GPS, which altered the whole structure of benchmarks and gave us something else to hunt.
Geocaching dot com has compiled thousands of benchmarks along with their descriptions and GPS coordinates. You can hunt for them just like a geocache. Keep these things in mind. 1) You may find yourself looking for a BM that’s no longer there 2) It may be on private property, in the middle of terrible terrain or otherwise inaccessible. 3) If you are running up the numbers for your geocache count, benchmarks don’t count towards the total. 4) GPS positions can be off, so you have to also rely on the detailed physical description. Nevertheless, benchmark hunting is challenging and fun. We do it as a diversion and an add on. It also has the advantage of giving you things to hunt where geocaches are not allowed, such as the national parks. Most bridges have benchmarks. So do lookouts, tunnels, peaks, monuments and other assorted structures and features. To log a benchmark, take a picture of it and log it in your geocaching dot com account.
Good hunting… Boris and Natasha
April 20, 2012
exploring, geocaching, Hawaii, outdoors, travel
geocaching, Hawaii, outdoors, travel, vacation
Wai'Ale'Ale Gorge on the north coast of Kauai. If we had not gone for the FTF, we would have missed this view. Not a whole lot of people come here or know about the place. That's the lure of geocaching. It takes us places we would have never seen otherwise. The altitude at this vantage point is 5,148 feet. Sea level down at the breakers, of course, is zero. You can do the math in your head. This gorge is almost as deep as the Grand Canyon.
The Holy Grail of geocaching is getting an FTF (First to Find) on a newly hidden cache. Some people are really hung up on them. Others just kind of take them if and when they happen along. That’s the way we are. So imagine our surprise when we picked up our rental car on Kauai, called up caches on our Droids and there is a two day old FTF sitting up near Waimea Canyon. The cache is named “End of the Road.” As it turns out, they weren’t lying. Where we live, an FTF is gone in minutes. We figured we’ll check it out. Maybe there’s something to this “island time” business and nobody’s bagged it yet. Off we went. The GPS took us right to the cache and its empty log book. A couple of geocachers from Minnesota just passing through grabbed a Hawaiian FTF.
Mahalo…The Cachemanian Devils