Welcome to CACHE-ON! By res2100
Welcome to the March, 2006 edition of CACHE-ON! I have taken on the responsibility with great enthusiasm of putting together this 3rd instalment of the OGA newsletter. Thank you to all of you who have contributed to this newsletter and helped in making it a success. With that in mind, I am already accepting contributions for the next instalment of the CACHE-ON! newsletter, which I hope to have ready in July. Now for a bit of OGA trivia to get you started and thinking while reading the newsletter. Who was the official first member of the Ontario Geocaching Association? Answer at the end of the newsletter.
OGA Cache Rescue By logger
GC8046 - Tea Lake Cache, Algonquin Park
Let us flashback to warmer times. It’s August 2005, Nozzletime has just bought himself a canoe. What better way to christen it than cachin’ and campin’ in Algonquin Park. Now, I spend a lot of time in Algonquin, as it has always been one of my favourite getaways. I have been coming up here for almost 20 years. You can’t beat the sights and sound of Algonquin whether it’s along the Highway 60 corridor or off the beaten path of the interior of the park. When I started caching, one of the things I have wanted to tackle is the water only caches in Algonquin. One cache in particular always interested me. Tea Lake Cache was placed in August 2002 but had been missing since August 2003. You can practically see the cache from the highway, but you can only access it by boat. This is such a great spot, and a chance to paddle on Tea Lake shouldn’t go to waste. So replacing the cache became a goal. We had discussed the possibility of OGA adopting some of these long abandoned gems and Tea Lake Cache was the perfect candidate for adoption.
So when Nozzletime called to invite me to a little caching R & R in Algonquin, I knew this was a great opportunity. After tackling some of the other great caches along the corridor we set out to find and replace the Tea Lake Cache. We launched from the Tea Lake dam where there is plenty of parking and a nice picnic area. The trip was probably one of the nicest paddles of the weekend. The lake was as still as glass and as we paddled out we passed the remnants of large stumps from logging days gone by. While passing the backside of the island we were greeted by a friendly loon, who paced the canoe for a short while. Apparently, he was not worried by our presence, but Smudge seemed to take an interest in him. After about 20 minutes of paddling we reached the cache site. After thoroughly searching the area, we came up empty on finding the original Tea Lake Cache so we placed a new cache as close to the original coordinates as possible.
Photo provided by logger
The return trip was just as nice as we paddled along the shallows on the east side of the island. We drifted past more of the logging stumps, and the remnants of an old cottage. All told, the trip was just over an hour. I would highly recommend this as a must do cache if you visit the Algonquin area. The cache has since been adopted and maintained by OGA, preventing it from being lost. By adopting the cache we hope to promote a sense of stewardship among cachers and show that we can take care of our own. It also gives a point of contact instead of an otherwise absentee owner. If you have an ideal cache that you would like to adopt on behalf of OGA contact your local rep. so it can be discussed as a possible candidate for adoption.
A Winter Caching Break at 51°N By Hard Oiler
When you live at 42°N and its still winter why would you ever go 9° further north for a February caching break? Well, as I just did, you can go to the UK and get in some early spring caching in what, by Ontario winter standards, is excellent caching weather. So how does caching in the UK compare to Ontario? There are lots to choose from. At the last count there were over 9000 caches in an area a quarter the size of Ontario and they are generally
good ones in spots that the typical tourist would never otherwise discover. The Walmart parking lot micro phenomena has yet to come to the UK – at least I haven’t run across any – perhaps because Walmart has only recently appeared in the UK. Lock&Locks are commonly used, often in camo bags which make them hard to find as the UK is predominately green and brown year-round. Try finding a camo’d cache when your GPSr points to the centre of a 30ft diameter holly bush and you’ll see what I mean - and I still have the scars to prove it.
Photo provided by Hard Oiler
One of the challenges of caching in the UK (other than remembering to drive on the left) is finding the right spot to park and approach the cache. As the saying goes, the “rolling English drunkard made the rolling English road” and if you’re used to the Ontario grid layout you’ll get quickly lost in the UK without a good map. Not hard to be within 1km of a cache, drive 3km towards it and never get any closer. Sounds impossible I know but I’ve done it! BTW GPSr’s work fine in the UK and EGNOS, the European version of WAAS, is now active – on occasion I was getting a 1m accuracy readout – something I have never seen in Ontario (not that it made finding the caches any easier!) I haven’t bothered getting the appropriate maps for my GPSr but prefer instead to get the excellent Ordnance Survey topo maps for the area I’m caching in – they’re readily available everywhere. Learn how to switch your GPSr to the OS Grid System and you can spot the cache directly on the map. The UK has an extensive network of public right-of-ways, footpaths for walkers, bridleways for horses and byways for anything else if you’re prepared to risk burying your vehicle in a mud hole. These meander their way through farms and otherwise private properties and often are the only way to legally approach caches. Take a look at the Streetmap.co.uk map link for a UK cache (like this) and you’ll see the detail available in the OS topo maps – they’re so good that a lot of caches get found by people without using a GPSr.
Photo provided by Hard Oiler
One of the interesting aspects of my recent trip was a visit to Dartmoor – a wild spot and the place where geocaching could be said to have its roots over 150 years ago. Back in 1854, James Perrott a local tour guide, hid a glass jar in a rock cairn at Cranmere Pool, a remote spot on the moors, and encouraged visitors to find it, drop off their visiting cards and sign a visitors book. Later it became a tin box that people could use as an unofficial mail box – drop off a letter and have it taken by subsequent visitors to an official mail box. Someone Photo provided by Hard Oiler added a stamp so the letter could be postmarked with the Dartmoor location and thus the sport of letterboxing began. 150 years later the Cranmere Pool letterbox is still there, now as a concrete cairn maintained by a local newspaper and is even
marked on the OS topo map for the area. There are now letterboxes all over Dartmoor (I found several while geocaching) although it still has some of the aspects of a secret society – you won’t find letterbox clues listed on the internet and, at least officially, you need to find 100 by looking in likely places before you qualify to buy a copy of the catalogue that lists all them all. So, after 40 finds in 10 days (I did need to take time out for visiting friends and relatives some of whom are now geocachers), it’s back home to Canada, ready for a new season of Ontario geocaching and with a few more ideas for hiding caches.
Have you thanked your Geo-Mobile lately? By Swifteroo
“Exit light… Enter Night… Taaake my hand...” I sang as I was bombing up the highway late last week. I was making my way up the 400 northbound just about Cookstown singing away to some Metallica in a not so unfamiliar way. I have traveled this highway literally hundreds of times but none that would be similar to what I was about to experience. Looking down at my temperature gauge, I noticed that the little red needle was way up into the “H” zone and that I could see a huge ball of steam being emitted from the reverse of my car. “OH ” I cursed as I pulled over to the side of the highway. 2 days and $170 later I have a new Radiator and a new thermostat and my “Geomobile” is back on the road! Now I wasn’t Geocaching on this morning. Nope. I was heading to work, but I could very well have been on the hunt! Such a disaster would not be so foreign to a Geocacher in their Geomobile. Geo-Car incidents are just a fact when it comes to our sport. Bruised bumpers, broken axles, ditched in snow banks, cracked transmission fluid pans, dents, dings and so many more things are experienced when out and about. Some of my more favourite experiences with “geomobiling” have been quite the adventures. My thoughts are drawn back to a time during my first major Geocaching event at “Cache-In” in Mattawa, Ontario. Earthquake, GeoWife and myself were fortunate enough to tag along with the Buttons N’ Beaux clan for a night of gang-Geocaching in the great white North winding our way through unexplained and undocumented back roads, fighting around dirt, trees, animals and other nature, trying to keep up with Amazon Annie in her monstrous off-road Honda. More recently, I am drawn to the memory of TOMTEC’s “Amazing Race” style Geocaching event in which there was some driving on snowy and icy roads required to get from destination to destination. In Earthquake’s Geo-Stratus, we learned what it was like to be in the “Dukes of Hazzard” TV series when we vaulted ourselves over a seemingly unexpected train track somewhere south of Highway 9 near Tottenham. After gaining considerable air and much shock from Team Lethargy within, the descent would prove to crack a transmission fluid pan and require considerable repairs. In the words of the repair facility: “I am surprised you made it home”
So what would it take then for a plain and simple car or truck to be considered a true GeoMobile? Well I guess that is completely subject. Basically speaking, any vehicle which carries with it the memories of a successful (or unsuccessful) Geocaching outing will likely qualify. Apart from these experiences however, there can be so much more. A sticker, a feature or flaw can all work together to formulate the perfect Geo-Mobile. I can think of a few Geo-vehicles which stand out to me throughout my Geocaching career including but not limited to Amazon Annie’s 4WD Honda, which otherwise would resemble any other Honda 4WD except for the unmistakable dent in the rear. Or Isquba&Nawty’s Banana yellow Nissan Xterra. Although there are a few of these color of Xterras in the Central Ontario area, I always find myself straining to see the obvious license plate (ISQUBA) which gives away it’s owners. What about those of us cachers who enjoy heading out to find that elusive cache in our Porsche? Fizbot, I don’t know how you do it, but I think you should consider jacking that baby up on some off-road rubber! Speaking of Offroad Rubber, How can I forget Team Woods and their late Chevy S-10, "Bear"? It was this truck that so humbly got us into “Victoria Bridge” (GCJF4K) after much trekking through the Kahshe barrens. I fancy myself an off road vehicle fan. To some extent I even find myself trying to pretend that my very durable Hyundai Photo provided by Swifteroo Elantra can perform the duties of a Jeep. With that in mind, I think that my award for favourite Geo-Mobile to date is a tie, and would have to go to the “TNC” crew that proudly displayed their geo-mobiles at GHAGAFAP IV. Both off road vehicles in their team were second to none that I have seen in quite a long time. While I am envious, I hope to have my own geo-rubicon some day! In the end, your very own Geo-Mobile deserves some consideration. Only you will know exactly what it has been through. Apart from the weather, the roads, the dirt, the dents, scratches and dings, don’t forget the food and coffee stains that you have endured from watching your GPS for too long and running a tire off the road. Don’t ignore that little crack in your bumper that you sustained from driving just a little too far into the ditch on that snowy back road trying to find that cache in February, or that crack in your windshield from following your caching buddies down the dirt road and taking a rock square on.
So even with all of this in mind, whether you drive a 1999 Hyundai Elantra, or a brand new 2006 Jeep Rubicon, take some time today to think about your poor Geo-Mobile and what you put it through. Today, maybe it’s time that you gave your chariot a wash, or an oil change. Either way, its time to go out and give that Geo-Mobile a hug, or a tank of Premium for enduring you and all that you put it through.
Logging more than your Find By The Blue Quasar
Recently Groundspeak added a new log type for Geocaches, called Needs Maintenance. This was done after months of requests from Geocachers across the world. With it also came a new Attribute Icon. With this new addition, comes new ways to keep informed but only if previous finders are willing to make their experiences known. After a rather interesting discussion in the Canada Forums, which won’t be gone into here, I thought it might be a good topic to bring forward for the Newsletter. So, as of the time of writing this article there are many different types of logs you can post on a Geocache. The purpose of these various log types can cause some controversy so apply them as you feel is suitable, but I hope to present a methodology so we can all get assistance from the experiences of each other. Throughout this article I will attempt to point out the benefits of posting logs of each type. FOUND IT: This one is pretty obvious to me, but to be complete in my article it should be included. The ‘found it’ log gives the owner instant feedback that their cache is still there. It also tells other cachers the same, in that seeking it is not a waste of time. But reviewing ‘found it’ logs can give some insight about the cache conditions. More on that later. DID NOT FIND IT: This is a great tool for everyone. I use this log type to track the caches that I want to go back to because I was unsuccessful for whatever reason. This can include not having enough time, not prepared properly or even just had a hard time. For the owner, it can raise a flag that makes them aware that there might be a problem. That is really important. Without feedback, owners are not often aware of a possible problem with a cache. For others that might seek it, the log could tell them that it is a challenging hide, or might be missing. It could be incentive for someone that has found it before to go out and double-check the cache. Posting a DNF is not a failure on your part, it is a commitment to the community and can be a source of fun for others to help locate a missing cache, maybe even join up with you. I’ve had that experience more than once that another cacher wrote to me offering to join me for the return hunt. WRITE NOTE: Believe it or not, there are dozens of reason to use this… mostly for yourself. While I don’t use these as a long term option, many people do. You can drop travel bugs, or track activities performed during Events by noting your participation, you can make offers for people to join you when you plan to seek a cache... the list could go on for a while.
NEEDS MAINTENANCE: This is the new one, and the more people use it, the better. Of course, only when it applies. This log type automatically adds the NM Icon in the attributes, which is searchable via Pocket Query for Premium Members but also viewable by anyone looking at the cache page. This informs owners of an issue related directly to their cache. Cracked container, damp logbook, rusted trade items… The list of options can be big. The other great thing is that others will know about the problem, and might take the items needed to repair the cache. If a NM request stays on a cache, there is the chance that the cache might end up being adopted or unfortunately disabled. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, since awareness can help identify problems. NEEDS ARCHIVED: This is a serious note, and should not be placed without careful consideration. Reasons to post this include clear violation of Groundspeak guidelines (like being on school property or beside railway tracks), or if a land owner has posted NO TRESPASSING signs. Sometimes when a cache has repeated DNF logs spread over the course of several separate dates, this log gets posted especially if an owner is not responding to the problems. Posting this type of log also sends an email to the Groundspeak Reviewers and they will determine what action, if any, is needed. Consider using the other log types besides ‘Found it’ when you’ve returned from caching. The DNF and NM logs are very useful to others, and you may find them useful too the next time you go out caching. If no one posts DNF logs, the cache could be missing and everyone is wasting their time. If no one posts NM, that cracked container remains and gets in worse shape until it becomes garbage. We are all happy to share our great stories of caching, and this may help increase the chances that more caches get the attention they might need.
Paperless Geocaching with a PocketPC Device Part 1 – GPX Files By northernpenguin
My family took me on my first geocache hunt in a cemetery near my home. This consisted of a large number of people, each referring to their own printed copy of the cache web pages. We all had a blast, and everyone was marking up the pages as we proceeded to solve the puzzles, one stage at a time. After that cache, the typical family gathering involved a large number of people showing up with several copies of the geocache printouts - often ones that we never even had time to find. This was not the most efficient use of our trees.
A PDA is a great method for keeping track of geocaches without the need to waste all that paper. My preference, in these handy geocaching tools, is to bring along a PDA with the PocketPC platform. Most of the units have enough memory to handle the typical GPX file from a pocket
query. PDA’s typically have nice colour screens that can be read in the daylight or at night. In a pinch, I have had to use my Axim as a flashlight at night. It should be noted however, that older Windows CE devices like the Cassiopeia E-11, are not as well suited for paperless geocaching. Most geocaching software written for the PocketPC platform will require PocketPC 2002 or better. There are two methods for keeping track of geocaches on your PocketPC. This first would be to store ‘static’ listings in e-book or in HTML format on the device. Otherwise, the second is to use a piece of software for managing the data. The static method can be quite easy to use and it may work better on lower end devices. If you choose to use this method, then an easy way to proceed would be to install MobiPocket Reader and select the option “Also e-Book Format” for your pocket queries. When your e-mail arrives, you need only drop the e-book file on your device or memory card. All the cache listings will then be at your fingertips. To run pocket queries, you must be a premium member of geocaching.com. Recently, geocaching.com started to add Adobe Acrobat format downloads to the individual cache pages. Unfortunately it is not yet an option for pocket queries. Adobe may be set up and used in a manner very similar to MobiPocket Reader. If you have installed the Geocaching Swiss Army Knife software on your desktop computer, you can also use the ‘export’ feature to create html web pages and copy them to your device. This will allow you to view them later in the PDA’s browser, Pocket Internet Explorer. I am not a huge fan of using the ‘static’ methods that I just mentioned above. True, they give you all the cache details, but that is all you get. There is so much more you can do with your PocketPC when you are out geocaching with it. GPX View is a small application that will read a GPX or LOC file directly. There is no need to convert the GPX file to another file format - just drop it on your device and open it in GPX View. This application is pretty basic and it is free to download off the internet. With this tool, you can not only view the geocache listings, but you can also sort the listings based on distance, waypoint description, date placed, and date logged. Now you just saved yourself a whole lot of paging back and forth, trying to find the next geocache you would like to visit. This is great for when you are under time constraints and are trying to cram in as many geocache visits in one night as possible. Another nifty feature is this application’s ability to export waypoints. GPX View will let you send the locations of the geocaches to another popular program often found on PocketPC’s Microsoft Pocket Streets. This will let you tell at a glance which geocaches may be nearby and what streets are close to a geocache in an area where you have never been before. GPX Sonar is another free download that enjoys quite a bit of popularity among geocachers. This program has a lot of functionality and it stays under the 1MB mark in size which is good
because internal device memory is precious on PocketPCs. GPX Sonar can also be run from a memory card, if you have one installed on your PDA. Like GPX View, GPX Sonar reads GPX or LOC files directly with no conversion required. The program adds a wealth of features that allow you to keep track of a lot of information. At the geocache site, you can use it to enter your logs while you still remember what happened on your adventure. If you drop off or pick up a travel bug, it makes it easy to note that. You can quickly mark the corrected co-ordinates for a puzzle or multi. Since geocaching expeditions can often involve visiting several geocaches and sometimes a considerable hike back to the car to take notes, this can be a considerable help. You no longer have to remember what was left and where it was left at. It can even be used to calculate projections, if your GPSr does not have this feature. GPX Sonar has the ability to sort based on any number of criteria, just like GPX View. You can also ‘bookmark’ common locations like “home” or “office”, if you want to sort from those locations. In addition, GPX Sonar has the ability to filter caches based on a set of criteria. For example, you can tell it you only want to see multi-caches that are east or south of a given position. This program also expands upon the “export” feature and will happily send your field notes to GSAK, and your waypoints to a Magellan SD file. Spoiler Sync is an interesting add-on package. This program will read your GPX file on a desktop computer and grab all the images in the logs for you. If you place these images on your PocketPC, GPX Sonar will attach them to the geocache listings and make them available for viewing in the field. Ask any geocacher about Cachemate and you’ll be asked which Palm Pilot you use. Well, that changed a couple weeks ago with the release of Cachemate for the Pocket PC. There are two major differences between Cachemate and GPX View/GPX Sonar. The first difference is the price. Cachemate will cost you $8 US to purchase, while the other two programs are freely available on the internet. A demo version is available that is limited to viewing 10 geocaches. That should give you an idea of whether or not you want to purchase it for their small fee. The second difference is in the design of the program. While GPX View and GPX Sonar read GPX files directly, this can be time consuming. Every time you run a sort, those programs parse through the entire GPX file again. This procedure can take up to two minutes for a big file – time that you will probably spend watching the other geocachers in your group head down the trail. Instead of parsing the files every time you look at them, Cachemate uses an internal database to manage the geocache information. When you get a GPX (or LOC) file, you put it on your device and instruct Cachemate to read the file into its database. This will typically take around two to five minutes for a 500 waypoint file. I call this ‘the pay now, instead of pay later’ approach, as you can run this while you are still at home. Once the waypoint data is inside the database, everything runs very quick – and removes the delay at the trailhead.
Cachemate does not talk directly to GSAK, however it does export GPX files which can then be read by GSAK. It can also talk directly to an iQue, Garmin, or Magellan serial GPS unit. When your geocaching buddy forgets to load his unit, you can send the waypoints to him using this program. Location information can be retrieved from your GPS, which can be handy for sorts based on distance and bearing. Cachemate supports most of the same features as GPX Sonar, and in addition has an extensible architecture that may lead to some interesting add-ons later on. Do note however, that Cachemate does not support SpoilerSync. Additionally, Cachemate PocketPC cannot share information with Cachemate Palm versions. With Cachemate you have the ability to customize the program for more types of caches and logs. It is possible to track the difference between a cache that is “Not Found” - as in you did not look for it, versus “Did not find” - which denotes that you made the attempt but failed to find it. Some of its flexibility may be seen by my database that stores waypoints for amateur radio repeaters. I have tested Cachemate with a 5500 waypoint database and not had any problems in spite of its size. GPX Sonar and Cachemate can be used without any desktop computer. These programs can be installed over a wireless internet connection. You can retrieve the GPX files with this same method. Unless you have purchased a rugged PocketPC, you should be careful when handling your PDA in the field. • • • •
PocketPC’s are solid state. This means they can handle bumps and vibrations – however if it is dropped on the trail, the screen may shatter. It is wise to stand still when you are entering data or looking up geocache information. Besides, you might walk over a cliff. Do not use your PDA when it is raining. If you must, at least shield it from the water. A ziplock bag works well for this function. A Pelican case is a clear plastic container that costs about $20. It is available at most hiking stores and in the electronic and hunting sections at some superstores. It will protect your PDA from water and most tumbles. Rapid temperature changes can cause moisture to build up inside a PDA, and most do not work well below 0C. For winter caching, I recommend carrying it inside an inner pocket, where it will have some insulation from the layers of your coat. If you can not keep it reasonably warm, wait 15 minutes before powering it up indoors.
Your PocketPC will save you time, as well as the expense of printing a collection of pages you will only ever use once. You do not have to worry about litter from cache pages that blow out of your hands on the trail. If you change your mind about caching in a certain area, you do not have to return to your computer to pull up information about other caches. For a seasoned geocacher, the contact and appointment features of a PocketPC soon become secondary uses. Mapping software can extend these capabilities even further -but this is a topic for another article.
Internet links for the applications mentioned above: • • • • • •
GPX Sonar: http://gpxsonar.homeip.net/default.aspx GPX View: http://strandberg.org/gpxview Spoiler Sync: http://www.anode.plus.com/spoilersync/ Cachemate for PocketPC: http://www.smittyware.com/ppc/cachemate/ Adobe Acrobat Reader for PocketPC: http://www.adobe.com/products/acrobat/readerforppc.html Mobipocket Reader for PocketPC: http://www.pocketgear.com/software_detail.asp?id=2124
Mapping Made Easy By Keith Watson
With the introduction of so many mapping technologies it can become difficult to decide which one to use. As each has its own advantages, there is one site that provides a gateway to experience quite a few choices with a relatively easy experience. I will attempt to guide you through some of the key features, and point you in some interesting and hopefully enjoyable directions. After investing in a new GPS with mapping, I was very quickly introduced to the mapping software that came with it. As impressive as it was to be able to zoom in and out, and pan around the country, it seemed lacking in its detail of what was between the roads. GPS Visualizer filled in these gaps by giving people easy access to topographical, and satellite imagery by simply uploading a file containing waypoint data. Although satellite maps were interesting for a while, their static nature did not allow for much interaction. A user would have to generate multiple maps for different zoom levels to be able to see a large area, and more detailed views. Then came along Google Maps. Unlike other in-line mapping services, Google Maps came with some advanced rich features. In its first release, the only ones who were utilizing this new tool were mostly hackers who took apart this undocumented new toy to see how it ticks. Even after the official release of the documentation, it was still a bit of a mystery to get it to work. Once again, GPS Visualizer to the rescue. Alright class, let’s have some fun and get our hands dirty making some maps. First thing we are going to need is a file containing some waypoints. Head on over to http://www.geocaching.com and click on “My Account”. On your account page, click on “Search for the nearest caches from your home coordinates”. Scroll down to the bottom of the page and click on “Check All” and then “Download Waypoints”. Save the file as geocaching.loc. Geocaching.com sometimes puts strange characters inside the file. If any of the following directions fail to produce waypoints, open the loc file with notepad, or other text editor and look for funky looking characters. If you find any, just delete them for this example. Save the file and then continue on. Now head on over
to http://www.gpsvisualizer.com/ and follow the instructions on the main page to make sure you have the latest version of the SVG Viewer installed. Once your are done with that click on “Draw A Map”. Try not to be too intimidated by all the controls. You will notice a “?” beside each control. Those will give you help on what they do. For now we will just use the default configuration. Look for “File #1” and click the “Browse” button beside it, select the geocaching.loc you downloaded previously, and click on “Draw the map”. In a few moments, you will have a map with cache locations on it giving you an informative view of where they are. You can go back and play with different background maps and other settings to fine tune the map to what you like. As I said before, these static maps aren’t very interactive. Clink on “Draw A Map” again and select “Google Maps” as the “Output Format”. Once again, click “Browse” and select the geocaching.loc file you downloaded earlier. Click on “Draw The Map” and you now have a map you can pan and zoom. Notice the “Map”, “Satellite”, and “Hybrid” buttons. Map will display street level maps, Satellite will display satellite images, and Hybrid will give you a combination of both. If you want to know more information about a geocache, click on the push pin for it, and it will display the name, waypoint id and give you a link to view the cache listing. All this is done without the need to download any client software onto your computer. Every advantage has its drawbacks however. Loading too many waypoints into a Google Map can cause the map to take longer to load, and make it a little sluggish. If you want some real horsepower, you can download Google Earth, http://earth.google.com/. This is software that you load onto your computer that gives you more control such as zooming, panning, tilting, and rotation. It also handles larger files without the sluggishness that Google Maps has. To generate a Google Earth file with GPS Visualizer, just select the “Google Earth KML” output format and select your geocaching.loc again. Google Earth also reads LOC and GPX files directly. Just click on “File”, “Open”, and change the file type to “GPS” and select your file. GPS Visualizer is pretty clever at detecting what kind of file is being uploaded, but not all file types from all GPS manufacturers are supported. To convert your file into one GPS Visualizer can read, click on “GPS Babel Gateway”. Select the type of file you want to convert. This can be a waypoint, track, or route file. In the “Input file format”, select the file format you have. For the “Output file format”, select the file type you want to convert to. If you are going to be uploading this file to GPS Visualizer, I would suggest using “GPX XML”. This seems to provide the best compatibility. Click on “Browse” to select the file you want to convert, and select “Yes” to “zip archive” if you would like the converted file zipped up for you. To convert the file click on “Convert the file”. The resulting page will give you a link. Right click on the link, and select “Save File As” and save the file to your computer. As well as displaying waypoints, GPS Visualizer can display track lines downloaded from your GPS. Just select your track into “File #2” when you select your waypoint file. This will display your track lines on the map as well as your waypoints. As mentioned above, you may need to convert your track file into a file that GPS Visualizer can understand. Now you can have a map showing the caches you visited, and the route you took.
You will find instructions on the GPS Visualizer that will help you create maps and files you can display on your web site for others to see. They can be a nice touch to any web site, but be aware of any end user agreements, and make sure anything you post on a web site does not violate them. Anything you display on a web site can be easily reversed, so be careful you don’t share something you are not supposed to. Other than that, play around with all the controls, do some experimentation, and have fun.
“Ben there, done that, got the kilt to prove it!” Geocaching in the Land of Haggis, Highland Pipes and Ben Nevis By Couparangus
Ben: n : a mountain or tall hill; "they were climbing the ben" Nevis: a : orig Gaelic; venomous It was on a trip to Scotland in the summer of 2004 that I learned of Ben Nevis, the biggest mountain in the UK. It is located in the scenic Glencoe district near the popular-with-tourists town of Fort William. After my in-laws, who live in Scotland, told me there was a hiking trail up it I became intrigued. I did my research and discovered some statistics about “The Ben”: Summit 4400ft ASL, trailhead 100ft ASL, difficulty of climb, 4 out of 5, typical return trip time up & down, 7-8 hours. To put things into perspective, 4400ft is more than twice the height of the CN tower in Toronto. Now I’d hiked Mount Garabaldi in western Canada so I figured that this Ben Nevis would be pretty easy. I then learned that there were some grumblings in the Ft William town council because of the expense of keeping their helicopter flying year round to pluck injured hikers from the Ben. I then read that one can experience all four seasons during a climb and also that every year more people die on Ben Nevis than Mt Everest! Clearly this was a hike that should not be taken lightly - and not one I should try to do solo. Attempts to recruit family members for the hike met with loud laughter, sideways glances or worse, flat refusal. It wasn’t until we got back home to Canada that I decided to see if there was a Geocache atop Ben Nevis. As luck would have it, there were two of them. One for the summer and another for the winter. Heck, if people hike this mountain in the winter then I’m all of a sudden back to thinking a summer climb should be a piece of cake. I learned with some disappointment that there had already been a group caching event to conquer the Ben that I’d missed. Many of those participants had been putting off this cache until there was a group outing so I wondered if I’d be able to find anyone left who’d be interested in the ascent. After some discussions in the forums I determined there was some interest so I created another event cache for when I would be on my holidays. I figured that even if just one other person showed up we’d both have a hiking buddy for the climb. I think the likelihood of success is greater when there are more people as you can encourage one another. That old team spirit thing is great for lifting the spirits when legs get tired! While I was in the UK on vacation the greater family all stayed overnight in Fort William. After a breakfast-of-champions consisting of the standard UK fried heart attack on a plate, I headed out
and met up with four other intrepid cachers from various parts of Britain. They were: G-Force & son, Remote Part, and Simply Paul. Simply Paul is well known in Britain as an unofficial, and good humoured, ambassador of UK Geocaching. He has appeared on numerous television, newspaper and radio spots promoting our sport/hobby. The group of us all had one thing in common - we’d wanted to climb the Ben for quite some time. One had failed in his previous attempt two years prior, but that was largely due to not being prepared. The next cacher had just always wanted to do it but never found himself in the area. The last wanted to complete the triumvirate of British hill climbing and this was the last conquest. (I should mention the two other peaks are Photo provided by Couparangus Mount Snowdon & Scafell Pike). Believe it or not, every year a large group of people hike all 3 of these mountains in 24 hours. It just so happened they were climbing Ben Nevis when we were there too. It was 9AM when we hit the trail and actually met some people on the way back down. I’m not sure what the benefit is of starting a climb at midnight but in the summer in Ft William the sun never really does go down all the way so there’s actually residual daylight past midnight. Starting out the weather was excellent for our climb. Nice and sunny with a light wind and 22C. This would change on the way up. The initial incline on the trail up “the ben” was relatively mild compared to my other climbs. However it wasn’t long before the trail took on the broken-stone-steps that would be most of the way up. The condition of the trail was roughly akin to a staircase you might find in a condemned building. I think the thing that surprised me the most was just how many people were hiking this day – many of which were foreign visitors. Every country in the EEC was represented as were several from the south Asia and the Middle East. This is a popular hill! The first 1,000ft passed by relatively smoothly with steadily improving views. The next 1,000ft offered some super views of the hidden loch, waterfall and valley. This is also where I saw some lunatic running down the hill and taking all Photo provided by Couparangus sorts of short cuts to get down faster. Apparently he was a “hill-runner” and this sport appears to be a combination of hiking and cross-
country running with the added adrenaline rush of possible death or serious injury. We only saw one of these guys this day so clearly this isn’t a popular sport. Crazy! The next 1,000ft were a little steep and rugged and we met a hiker on his way down after falling, smashing up his face and probably breaking his arm too - ouch. Any more damage and I think they would’ve had to call out that helicopter. This is also where I was thinking I really should’ve worn some hiking boots and not the tennis shoes I had on. The small pebbles really start to wear down the tootsies after a while. The last 1,400ft were brutal. This is where the trail is the steepest & most awkward, the weather the coldest & wettest and number of hikers giving up and turning back the greatest. Our rest stops became more frequent and longer as we got near the top – and we weren’t alone. As we were resting I was just about to suggest to the team that we give up when a group of seniors passed by on the way up, followed a minute later by a blind hiker. To say we rallied to the summit would be a lie. That last 1,400ft took us over an hour! Then we crested the snowcovered top and walked along the ankle-breaking rubble to the summit. Woohoo!! Now on to the cache which G-Force’s son quickly located (GCG6XD aka Britain’s Highest Geocache) in a cairn a few hundred feet away from the bulk of the resting hikers. The top of the mountain is quite large and flat. However the drop-offs are deadly and just a week before our attempt a hiker had fallen to his death. As we sat up top eating our lunch, signing the cache log and trading swag & travelbugs, the thick fog rolled in. We all agreed that it wouldn’t be too difficult to get confused in the fog and wander over the edge. Simply Paul noted that you’d probably run out of breath screaming before you hit bottom. I flipped open my cellphone and called my family to let them know I’d made it to the top. There was no answer - I couldn’t gloat in my accomplishment! I did find out later my mother-in-law had forgotten her phone back at the house. Not to worry, I’d let them know when I got back down and of course I had the pictures to prove I was there. The very peak of Ben Nevis is the survey Photo provided by Couparangus monument near the old observatory (which is now just a few piles of boulders). It was the presence of the observatory that caused the hiking trail to be built about 100 years ago. The Brits seem to love these survey cairns as most every high hilltop in Scotland has one on it. I suspect this is why their maps are so accurate! To make it official we all had to climb to the top and touch the benchmark. Just as quickly as the fog came in it cleared and we got some great pictures. After a
few more minutes of regaling in our achievement we started the long trek down – after a snowball fight of course. Descending was easier but it is also where the pain in your calves and feet is overshadowed by the new pain in both of your knees. It’s also where you have to pay extra attention to all that loose gravel on the trail so you don’t slide onto your backside – or worse. I think we all slid at least once but thankfully there were only very minor injuries. The spring fed waterfall is well placed as my Camelbak was empty at this point and I had to refill. Ah, fresh spring water – can’t beat that! As we got closer to the ground the temperature was up much higher than it had been when we first started out. I never thought one could sweat walking down a hill, but I assure you it happens. There were a lot of people starting out when we were coming back down. I have a feeling that many of them had no idea just how long it takes to get to the top. That said, there’s a direct relationship between round-trip time and body mass Photo provided by Couparangus that is undeniable. I don’t think I saw anyone heavier than me with the exception of one fellow coming up at about the 1,000ft level whom looked like he was about to have a coronary. If he made it to the summit I’d be very surprised. If he was the one on the helicopter I heard two hours later I wouldn’t be at all surprised. Back at the trailhead we took our “after” picture and bid our adieus. It was now late in the day and food and rest were required. My legs were so stiff I had trouble working the pedals in my rental car and I was so tired I was having difficulty concentrating on driving on the wrong side of the road. When we left Fort William the next day I took a last look at Ben Nevis. I then wondered if I should attempt Mount Snowdon and Scafell Pike on another trip. Hmm, well, they do both have Geocaches on their summits…
What’s in a Name? The following geocachers have provided some insight on how they chose their geocaching.com user name. Ellesche - A couple of geocachers (or maybe not as many as that) have asked me the origins of my geocaching username. I wanted a name for my yahoo email account and thought of spelling out my initials, L.S. as Elless. I analyzed the name a bit and figured that “elle” is she in French. I added a "c" into "she" since the first three letters of my last name are sch. Hence, Ellesche. I decided it would also work as a geocaching handle. It’s not pronounced ell-esh, unless you had too many geo-beers. ;-) It’s about as exciting a story as res2100 and his initials plus random round number!
Photo provided by Ellesche
Scratch-n-Win - Bob and Mary met each other on-line in August 2005. On one of their dates they were hiking in Rockway and stumbled across a cache. They both knew a bit about Geocaching so they decided to create a team together. They thought hard about what would be a unique $1 item to trade. They didn't want to leave plastic toys as a token. They decided a "scratch and win" ticket would be an awesome item to find in a cache. Officially starting out October 1, 2005 they called themselves "Team Lotto". After thinking about it for a while, they decided they would change the name to "Scratch-n-Win" as they were giving out scratch tickets, not lottery tickets. Mary wanted to change the name to Scratch-n-Win on www.geocaching.com but it was already in use, but the person who had applied for that name had not completed the activation process and it was over a year and a half old. She inquired about taking over that name and www.geocaching.com had no problem doing this for her. "SCRATCH-n-WIN" was born! They switched over all the Photo provided by Scratch-n-Win computer accounts for the beginning of 2006. Bob became "Scratch" and Mary became "Win" and they both refuse to cache without each other trading $1 tickets hoping they will pay off for their fellow geocachers. In a little over 4 months of handing out tickets, fellow cachers have won $42. (The Ham-sters won $25 on one $1 ticket!!!). They completed their 250th cache on February 4, 2006. geoSquid - Back in the Canadian Military College system in the mid-80's, "squid" was the slang term for "nerd", particularly computer-nerds. I was then a computer nerd. In fact, many people might argue that I was pretty much the king of computer nerds at the time :) So I became Squid. The nickname stuck and carried on long after I graduated. My wife is sometimes called Squidette. When I started geocaching, I originally registered as dcowan38, but a friend of mine (Keeper of Maps on gc.com) suggested
Photo provided by geoSquid
"geoSquid" would be a better call, so I changed it to that and have been that ever since. In 2004, I plated my car with GEOSQUID, so there's a genuine GEOSQUID-mobile zipping about.
Geocoins – Not Your Ordinary Traveller By res2100
Although the idea of commemorative coins is nothing new, the first geocoin was created in the fall of 2001. Similar to a Travel Bug, its intent is to travel from cache to cache on its way to achieving its goal, if it has one. Several different geocoins have been made over the years, with some even being trackable on various web sites, but only two were originally trackable on geocaching.com. Over the past year, the popularity of geocoins has skyrocketed as there are now hundreds of different geocoins in existence, with new ones being created each week. Even Ontario has joined the geocaching craze, adding several different coins to the mix. JWID, a geocacher in Welland, Ontario, has created his very own personalized geocoin (300 total made – 50 Shiny Gold, 100 Antique Bronze, 150 Antique Silver), which depicts “bridge #13 over the Welland Canal in its glory days”. Photo provided by JWID
Photo provided by res2100
Photo provided by res2100
I was involved in creating the first provincial geocoin for Ontario known as the 2005 Ontario Geocoin (501 total made – 100 18kt Gold, 101 Antique Silver, 300 Antique Bronze), depicting Niagara Falls on one side and Ontario’s provincial bird, the loon, on the reverse side. The 2005 Ontario Geocoin is trackable on http://ontario.geocoin.net. Finally, a group situated in Georgia, USA with connections to Ontario also created a colourful Ontario Geocoin (1000 total made – 100 24kt Gold, 200 Nickel Silver, 700 Antique Bronze), depicting Ontario’s shield of arms within a trillium on one side and a wilderness scene on the reverse. This coin is trackable on geocaching.com.
Look for several more coins from various Ontario geocachers available in the very near future. I have seen the artwork for a number of them and they are very nice. The popularity of geocoins among Ontario geocachers is certainly starting to grow at an increasing rate. Other geocachers in other parts of Canada are also making some very nice geocoins too. The Atlantic Canada Geocaching Association is making a “Canada’s First Geocache” geocoin. They plan on using the money they make from the sale of this coin to fund a plaque to commemorate the first geocache in Canada, which is GCBBA (formerly GC41) located in Nova Scotia. Geocoins aren’t just for travelling from geocache to geocache anymore. People collect these shiny metal discs! For some it’s even turned into an obsession. Geocoins have become so popular that geocachers now buy, sell and trade them amongst each other on a regular basis. It is rare to actually find a geocoin in a geocache. Many geocachers also make their own geocoins too that they can trade for other coins that they want for their collection. What makes geocoins so popular? Perhaps it is that they are each their own unique work of art or just a way of geocachers to express who they are with their personal geocoins. Some geocoins are of individual geocachers, while others may represent a group, province or even an entire country. Someone by the name of Camp Explorer even made an “I Love Geocoins” geocoin, which I am lucky enough to own one of them. For those of you that are keen on collecting geocoins, you can find a detailed list of geocoins at http://ca.geocities.com/geocachingcanada/geocoins.html. Additionally, the geocaching.com web site also has an entire forum dedicated to geocoins. It is estimated that at present there are well over 900 different (including different platings) geocoins in existence. Probably the largest collection of geocoin photos can be found here: http://thecachingplace.com/Cachunuts/CoinTrade/coinlist.asp. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if by the end of the year the amount of geocoins in existence doubles. You’ll also see that although most geocoins are round, there are an increasingly number of geocoins that have their own unique shape Just like a travel bug, it is fun to watch and help move a geocoin along on its mission. Some of these coins are trackable on the geocaching.com web site and also on other web sites, while others are simply very nice trade or signature items. If you are fortunate enough, you might just find a geocoin in a geocache during your adventures. Please move it along to another cache so others may enjoy the coin too.
Growth of Geocaches in Ontario By logger
Now that we have had a few years of caches in Ontario we can begin to analyze the growth of Geocaching in Ontario. This is just a simple analysis. If space and time were permitting we could do a much deeper analysis.
Month by month growth of caches The following table shows the number of new caches placed on a month-by-month basis from January 1, 2001 until December 31, 2005. Other than the initial growth spurt in 2002 of 385% we can see that the percentage in growth of new caches has been between 125% and 164%. If we take into account all five years to calculate the average increase in new caches we find that the average per year growth is 160% Month January February March April May June July August September October November December Totals % Change (year to year) Average growth per year
2001 0 3 3 14 14 32 27 27 16 8 7 19 170 0.00%
2002 45 38 45 56 54 59 52 61 71 77 58 39 655 385.29%
2003 2004 2005 49 57 68 41 62 88 39 93 128 69 160 221 62 141 203 99 125 205 95 151 147 96 154 150 86 145 112 84 118 210 76 102 101 38 60 85 834 1368 1718 127.33% 164.03% 125.58% 160.45%
Cacher of the Month Update By logger
Photo provided by logger
Wow it’s hard to believe that we are now going into the ninth round of our Cacher of the Month contest. What is Cacher of the Month? If you’re like me when you visit a cache, you take a seat and read through the logbook to read the entries of those who have gone before you. Wouldn’t it be great if you could find out more about these people? A Cacher of the Month nominee is an OGA member who you feel deserves special recognition for his or her contributions to Geocaching, or has reached a milestone that everyone should know about. It can be as simple as someone that you would just like to know more about. The nominees don’t have to be an uber-cacher with 10,000 finds. They can be a new cacher who has peaked your curiosity.
Our list of cachers so far has been pretty impressive. Here’s a review of our COTM Alumni so far. July 2005 August 2005 September 2005 October 2005 November 2005 December 2005 January 2006 February 2006
Geodog Hard Oiler Hamgran Murfster Buttons and Beaux IsqubaAndNawty Flick Bent & Twisted
How can you get involved in Cacher of the Month? It’s really simple; just drop a quick email to [email protected] each month. All you need to include is a short list of which cacher(s) you would like to see nominated for Cacher of the Month (up to four nominees). The votes are tallied up each month and the cacher with the most nominations will be awarded their 15 minutes of fame and a spot on our wall of fame. So submit your vote now for your Cacher of the Month.
Where is OGA going? By The Blue Quasar
OGA has been around for just over two years. Some things have gone well and some things are still in development. While we have achieved quite a few things, this article starts with some of the ideas we are moving towards or considering for future growth. Our library, which at the time of this article, is being renovated to be more specialized. This will also allow us the option to add even more content. When this revision is complete there will be quick links to information in a more specialized format. If it isn't quite completed yet, check back often. Part of this change may allow us to make a new game available to OGA members. This game is based upon one like is seen in other states and provinces. Providing a method to ensure that Archived Geocache listings have actually been removed, can be fun, while showing that Geocachers are responsible hobbyists. This game is under development and hopefully ready for the second annual "OGA May-tenance". Another interesting facet of OGA will be working with Parks Canada with the creation of a policy that will allow physical Geocaches back into our National Parks and Historical Sites. This could lead to a similar result with Ontario Parks. We've already heard from Parks Canada that provincial groups are very interested in how this policy develops.
Did you know that OGA has an online store? How about an area dedicated to milestones achieved by our members, to upcoming events and contests? They are all found in the Members Area, which is linkable from every page on our site. Another item to check is the main page. Every month there is a new topic, and in the top right is a short list of recent updates. There is even a quick link to the current Cacher of the Month. This feature gives you a look inside an OGA member from a 20 questions perspective. You can even vote for a member you would like to know more about. Lastly, OGA is a labour of love, and with that comes a request. We are always looking for people to help out with providing information and files. Do you have something to contribute? We have room for 'how-to' files, or other documents like those. Could you be a regional rep for your area? It's easier than you might think. Do you have an idea that you want to develop and bring to OGA? If any of these apply, then drop me an email at [email protected]
Upcoming Events March 25 April 1 April 22 April 22 May 13
Clarington Winter Thaw Meet & Greet Pub Event (GCTC2J) by Luc & Sweety Geofellas' April Fool 2006 Pub Night (GCT9WB) by Geofellas Windsor CITO Event 2006 (GCR2K9) by Riverside and Young Riverside CITO – Brampton 2006 (GCT8RA) by Keith Watson 2nd Annual COG Spring Fling (GCT9J5) by Central Ontario Geocachers
Geocaching events are always popular among many geocachers. Whether you are a veteran geocacher or just got your GPS, everyone is always made to feel very welcome at any geocaching event. With the Clarington Winter Thaw Meet & Greet Pub Event, it is the first event in the Golden Horseshoe area that is east of Toronto. It is good to finally see an event hosted in this area. The Geofellas' April Fool 2006 Pub Night should be a fun one especially with GeoFellas’ third annual April Fools joke cache planned. The first two were very fun caches to find. And what better way to start the spring picnicking season than with the 2nd Annual COG Spring Fling, which will no doubt once again be a popular success. CITO (Cache-In, Trash-Out) events are a good way for all of us geocachers to give back to the community by cleaning up a certain area and making it nice again for all to use and enjoy. Perhaps some friendly competition to see which CITO event will have the most trash cleaned out is in order. Hope to see you all at an upcoming event.
Final Words At the start of this newsletter you were asked who the official first member of the Ontario Geocaching Association was. Do you know? Did you guess The Daniel Boone Gang? If you did, then you are correct and can give yourself a pat on the back. Be sure to take the time to check out the OGA Store. There’s a variety goodies, including some very nice shirts and also a cool toque available to purchase. Check back often for new items being offered. Now that you have been sitting here for quite awhile reading this newsletter, perhaps it is time to get up and get active by going out on a geocaching adventure to some new unexplored place to find that elusive cache or even hide a cache in a spot that perhaps only you know about, but know that others would really enjoy it too. Contributions A big thank you to the following for their contributions to this edition of CACHE-ON! Couparangus, Ellesche, geoSquid, Hard Oiler, JWID, Keith Watson, logger, northernpenguin, res2100, Scratch-n-Win, Swifteroo, The Blue Quasar Ontario Geocaching Association (OGA) Website: http://www.ontgeocaching.com OGA Store: http://www.ontgeocaching.com/oga-store.htm Administrator: The Blue Quasar Information Manager: Amazon Annie Financial Manager: TrimblesTrek Regional Manager: logger&trail Assistant Regional Manager: Vacant. Are you interested? Newsletter Editor: res2100