A blog about the adventures I have whilst finding geocaches. Don't worry, there are no spoilers as I wouldn't want to ruin the fun for anyone else. I go by the cacher name Miss Chief and I've been geocaching since 18th May 2014.
GCKZ29 Your Mission.......... is a geocache whose reputation precedes it. Ask any cacher that has found this one about their experience and you will invariably get the same response...
"Best cache ever!"
I can't disagree. It took Nige and I about a year to complete, with actual blood, sweat and tears shed. A well constructed story was laid out before us as we were taken to a multitude of locations. We laughed, we cried, we argued. We got muddy, we got injured and the dog got covered in fox poo!
She looks so happy with herself right now...
One bath later... not so smug now are ya!
This cache is not to be undertaken lightly.
When it came to logging this cache, I felt it deserved something a little creative, so I wrote a series of 'Write Note' logs as our adventure unfolded. They have become lost amongst the logs of other mugs... I mean cachers... that have found this cache so I thought I would put mine altogether in a blog post.
I would like to say a massive thank you to the cache owner, Pharisee, for creating and maintaining this ingenious geocache, a mammoth task in itself and one that very few cachers would contemplate . The single favourite point I have given this cache seems not enough to convey how awesome this hide truly is.
Enough of my rambling; here are the links to my logs:
I was coming up to my 400th find and wanted a cache that would be memorable. On numerous occasions, various cachers have told me about a night cache called Zombie (GC2A3MP) and they all say the same... it is a must do. I have to agree; the puzzle element is very well put together and is difficult without being unsolvable. The physical part, although in need of a little maintenance - up to 30 fire tacks? We came across about ten - was still an enjoyable adventure.
As this was a milestone cache for me, I wanted to be a little creative with the log which - unsurprisingly - was a little too long for the Geocaching website and so I have made it into a blog post. Enjoy ;D
"Legend has it that lurking in the woods in a place called Croxley, is a man guarding a terrible secret. At least, he used to be a man until others greed and hunger for profit and power forced him to make a tremendous sacrifice. Tales of geocachers going missing in search of this tortured, soulless being are whispered in country pubs all over the Home Counties at Geocaching events. It was at one such get-together that I first encountered utterings of the tale of Dr. Elgin and discovered the existence of his journal. My curiosity piqued; I took it upon myself to investigate this story further.
Progress was slow at first; there is such secrecy surrounding what happened five years ago at Croxley Biomedical Research Facilities that distinguishing fact from fiction was proving to be a challenge. One thing I knew for certain though was that Elgin's Journal held the key to everything; I just had to gain access to it.
For many nights, I worked on the diaries, unlocking it piece by piece. I had mixed feelings as the story unfolded in front of me ranging from anger to empathy and then to doubt. Harbinger's zealous pursuit for riches led all those connected to the project down a devastating path of destruction. Was I being arrogant too? Was my thirst for the truth leading me down an equally dangerous path?
It was late one night when I uncovered the final piece of the puzzle. This was of little comfort however as I sat in a dark room with nothing but the glow of the laptop for light. What started out as a mere need to satisfy my curiosity had become an obligation, a duty, to protect all that Dr. Elgin has sacrificed himself for. I'm just a geocacher though, with only 399 finds to my name, what were my chances of survival against the undead?
Going alone to find Elgin would have been suicide so at a recent geocaching event I recruited a few other cachers to join me on my mission. They needed some guidance with the journal which I was happy to provide. After all, it was essential that they read it so as to understand the gravity of the task at hand. Nobody could go into this blind; too many lives were at stake.
Today was the day. Today I would help keep humanity a little safer for a little longer. All the necessary preparations had been done, a rendezvous time was set, we would reach the coordinates stated in the journal just after sunset. I tried to carry on as normal during the day and not think about the horrors that awaited us this evening but it was futile. The prospect that I may end up as Elgin's next meal was unsettling to say the least. The relentless rain hammering on the windows that day intensified the inauspicious feelings growing in my gut.
The rain had stopped by the time we got to Croxley. Whether or not this would turn out to be a good omen or not was yet to be seen. The woods were dark and unwelcoming; the mud thick beneath our feet. The fingers of tree branches dripped water like blood that spattered on our heads and for a moment I questioned the sanity of what we were about to do. Then I remembered that the future of mankind was at stake, secrecy about the project must remain intact. We were here to ensure that nobody had discovered Elgin or any of his work, just as other geocachers had done before us and many would do after us.
Negotiating our way through the woods proved to be problematic because there was no clear path for us to follow as promised. According to the stories, there should have been a "breadcrumb" trail left by Elgin to show the way but it appears that time has devoured them. Fearing that we were going round in circles, we retraced our steps to where we started. I called a friend, codename Smokeypugs, as I knew that they had undertaken this task before. Though his words were cryptic, his message was clear, we had to persevere in our search for Elgin, we were close, so very close. With a feeling of foreboding, we continued on our quest, still unsure about what we would find so deep in to the woods. And then we got separated.
The journey home was pensive, each of us lost in our own thoughts. I know now that nothing could have prepared us for what we saw that night. The smell, the sound, the sight of a man that once was. It will haunt my nightmares forever more. My encounter with Dr. Elgin invokes feelings of empathy as well as disgust and horror. It is imperative that the world does not learn of his whereabouts; if the virus ever got out it would mean the end of the world as we know it.
I am getting a little concerned now as Nigel's health doesn't seem to be improving…"
One year ago today, I found my very first geocache called Woodland Walk and so started the slippery slope towards - a healthy(?) - addiction! I am still far from being an expert cacher, however I no longer consider myself a newby. So, here are my top five highlights from the past year...
I started this blog and I was featured in GAGB's online Seeker magazine. This is a big deal for me as I am in no way a literary genius; that's Nigel's talent, just take a look at the log he wrote for this cache! People do read this blog though and I receive some wonderful comments about it for which I am hugely grateful for.
A Respectable Record
I have found 355 caches so far; not a huge number but not too shabby either. It's not all about the numbers for Nigel and I though, we have as much fun going out for a day to find one or two caches than we do on a day where we find twenty or so. Ultimately, we have found a way to get outside, find new interesting places and spend more time together. I do like to look at my stats though so here are a few of my favourites:
As well as numerous local events - mainly BBH (Beds, Bucks & Herts Geocachers) events - Nige and I attended our first Mega event, The Halloween Mega 2014. You can read about the fun we had at this event in one of my previous posts, Mega Mud, Mega Monsters and a Mega Event. We also attended a CITO (Cache In Trash Out) event with a bit of a difference called Cache In, Tree In - Escapade 2014/15. We joined many cachers, as well as locals, in planting some trees in the Forest of Marston Vale. I'm not talking a few trees here and there; a few hundred trees were planted altogether. When we were done that day, it struck me that I would probably not live long enough to see all these trees develop into a thriving forest. It truly was a humbling moment.
Becoming a Cache Owner
When I first started caching, I never realised how frustrating/disappointing/unhelpful those four simple letters can be until I became a CO. I always make the time and effort to write interesting logs for my finds now. This past year, I have hidden four caches now; two traditionals, one mystery and one multi cache. Oh yes, I also hosted my first event on Pi Day this year which seemed to be a success (although, I think the lure of a souvenir helped with that). It was well attended and it was much easier to organise than I thought it would be.
My aim going forward is to own different types of hides; I am currently working on a Letterbox Hybrid and am hoping to submit it for publishing soon.
This time last year, I never imagined that I would meet so many new people, let alone actually make some new friends! This would never have happened if it were not for the Facebook group called Beds, Bucks & Herts Geocachers. They are such a friendly bunch; a little cake obsessed... but I love cake!
My first year of geocaching was memorable in many ways and I hope to make many new memories over the years to come. Until next time...
When a new cache gets published on Geocaching.com, I don't go rushing out to find it. If you have premium membership to Geocaching.com, you can set it so you receive email notifications when a new cache is published. I have set it up for a radius of only 5 miles from my home location. Even so, I don't tend to go out to claim FTF (First to Find) unless the cache is less than half a mile from my current location... I'm just not that motivated to make the effort. I have been caching for nearly a year now and my FTF count is a grand total of two caches; one found by chance and the other found practically on my doorstep!
Having said that, I do sometimes like to run a search on Project GC- a nifty little site that can perform all sorts of wonderful geocaching tasks for you including profile stats and challenge checkers amongst others - for unfound caches. This last week, I found one such cache that was published on March 10th and had yet to be found. It is a Mystery (aka Puzzle) cache called In the Footsteps of Sgt Palmerby cachers bill&ben. As I perused the cache page, I felt I had a good chance of getting FTF on this one even though it was 20 miles away from home so started work on solving over the coming week.
I failed to get FTF, I was so very close but was beaten to it at the last minute. For a brief moment, I was a little gutted when I got the notification that someone else had found it... who wouldn't be? The epic adventure I had finding this cache totally made up for it though.
The log that I wanted to post for this cache was too long so have decided to post it here instead and is as follows:
Mission debrief by Agent K
Monday Access to PGC is possible again after Pi Day fiasco. Have performed a search for incomplete missions. Will start work on following Sgt Palmer's footsteps soon. No other agents have found it yet and it's been out for a while, so haste is needed.
Thursday It took a lot of patience but after identifying the cypher in the video, I painstakingly wrote it down and decrypted it. Now awaiting confirmation that I have the correct coords. Still, no other agents have completed this mission. Am monitoring the situation carefully.
Friday Morning - Received email confirming I have coordinates correct. Today is the day. A quick check of my field kit and I can set off.
Midday - Arrived in WGC, I am unfamiliar with the area however my GPSr has adequate maps and the mobile network coverage is good enough that I didn't need to find a wifi hotspot. It's a bright sunny day, wishing I had left my big coat in the car now as I am starting to get hot. The coords have led me to a beautiful area of WGC but there are civilians everywhere out enjoying the warm weather. Fortunately, there's nobody at the coords so I make contact with Commander Ross and await further instruction.
Early afternoon - I have arrived at the next location but had an encounter with a man in a wheelchair on the way here that delayed me slightly. At first I thought it may have been an enemy agent when he stopped me in the street, however he just wanted to tell me how beautiful I was and that my smile had made his day. After a few minutes, he let me on my way and I continued on to gather the information needed to find the next location.
Mid afternoon - I'm feeling pretty hopeless now. I may not complete my FTF mission. I went wrong with the numbers; the location I derived from them was clearly incorrect, they took me to a stable yard. I have returned to the bus station and am sitting on a bench awaiting back up. I sent a message to HQ on my way back here to double-check my numbers; the reply confirmed my suspicions... I only had two correct numbers.
Late afternoon - Agent N has arrived which has given me renewed optimism. We make a great team so hopefully we can solve this. We are going to visit a couple of nearby locations to go over the numbers and will then go for dinner at a nearby Indian restaurant where we can reassess the information.
Evening - By the time dinner had finished we had some likely coords put together. We messaged HQ for confirmation however, time was of the essence so we headed out without it. We had yet to receive a reply when we got to the coords, although as we scouted the area, it soon became clear that this was not the correct place either. Have decided to head home and try again tomorrow.
Morning - No notification yet that any agents have intercepted the cache. I have received a message from HQ confirming all but two of our numbers are correct. More frustrating however, is that I have to go to my day job today. It is important to maintain my cover. I will rendezvous with Agent N at 18:00hrs when we will head back out to WGC. Agent N has worked on the numbers today, we are feeling confident.
Evening - Rendezvous aborted for now. I received notification half an hour before I finished work that the cache had been located by other agents. Fortunately they are friendlies so the cache is still safe. They have left a TB to be moved on. Our mission is still active though but there is less urgency now.
Morning - We were feeling "Chirpy" this morning. The coords that Agent N had derived yesterday looked good on the satellite images so we headed out to search for our next instructions. It was another beautiful day with the sun shining and few clouds in the sky. We found parking near the coords and also found many civilians in the area, these were mainly dog walkers, cyclists and horse riders. Stealth would definitely be needed if we weren't to compromise the cache location. The GPSr picked up the info needed for the final location; a surge of excitement and relief went through me. When we got to GZ, we had to wait for a few dog walkers and a jogger to pass before we started our search. Coast clear, we soon found the location of the cache. We took it away from GZ to open as more civilians were coming into sight; could not risk this falling into enemy hands. We left our mark and took the TB left by Ed2Ed.
This was most definitely a challenging mission and is not one to be undertaken lightly. It requires patience, tenacity and stealth. Enemies may lurk at every corner. Thank you bill&ben at HQ for your assistance whilst I was in the field, it was greatly appreciated. I will mark this cache with a FP and urge all friendly agents to accept this mission if they can.
Two caches is what I needed to find today to reach my milestone 300 finds. Two. That's easy. At least, that's what I thought when I woke up that morning lunchtime.
Today we were headed to Aston Clinton to find a simple traditional cache that would take me to 299 finds and a Wherigo called Rothschild Footprint that would be my 300th find.
Having been to a house party the night before meant Nige and I didn't set out until gone lunchtime. Parking at the suggested spot for the Wherigo, we headed off for a nearby traditional cache before starting my milestone cache. We decided to take the long way round as it was such a nice day - if a lot cold - and walked along the river rather than the roads. As we walked along the footpath, admiring the houses and their gardens that backed onto the picturesque little river, it started to dawn on me that having a cup of tea before heading out was not a clever idea. Tea goes straight through me.
The first cache of the day was Alley-way treasure; a seemingly straightforward traditional located in - you guessed it - an alleyway. We got to the alleyway and followed the GPSr to where GZ should be. It took us about halfway through the alley. Looking around this spot, there was no possible place to hide a cache. We figured that the coords must be out so looked at previous logs for a clue. They were all saying what we thought, that the cache was anything up to 70ft away for some people.
I took a look at the hint. It was quite cryptic. I have a talent for cryptic crosswords though so figured out the meaning of that easily. We started our search but felt a little awkward as it was right next to someone's home; in fact, I was framed by their window at one point as I looked around.
We looked all over and still couldn't find the cache. I needed this find though so tried one last thing; I put a message out on the BBH group saying 'I was at GZ, couldn't find the cache, had anyone in the group found it before?' Thankfully, Smokeypugs came to our rescue. Unfortunately, they only confirmed what we already suspected. We had the right location and were looking in the right spot; the cache just wasn't there. With no other caches for this area loaded on my GPSr - yes, I've learnt my lesson, be prepared - I had to resort to my phone. A quick search on c:geo and some suggestions from Smokeypugs, we were soon on our way to one of the Aylesbury Ring caches.
AR11 Mandarin - Stablebridge Road is one of many caches that make up the Aylesbury Ring series. A circuit that is split into seven sections; each one named after a species of duck. I was a bit reluctant to go for this one as I really want to do this series and would have preferred to do each section all together. However, time was getting away from us, we still had the Wherigo to do and this was the nearest cache to us.
We found our way to GZ easily and before we could get to searching, we had to wait for a few muggles to pass. After a glance up and down the way to make sure the coast was clear, we got stuck in. Searching all the obvious spots revealed nothing but then I spotted something a bit odd. I took a closer look but it still appeared to be a dead end. I thought I would have a fiddle anyway and to my delight, the log book was revealed.
Whilst I was disappointed that we DNFd the last cache resulting in us doing this one, I was pleased that we got to find this one. It has given us a taster of the rest of the series and I am itching to tackle it now (hopefully when the days get longer).
We had lost a lot of time on the previous two caches so it was late afternoon by the time we reached the starting point of Rothschild Footprint. Having successfully completed a Wherigo before at the Halloween Mega, I thought that this would be easy. Quite clearly, one done does not make one an expert!
I sometimes like to sing when I am out caching, on the walk between hides. This time however, as we made our way to the start of my 300th cache, I had the sudden urge to shout "This is Sparta!" much to Nige's chagrin.
I opened the Wherigo app on my phone and started the cartridge for this cache. I started moving about, trying to find the spot where the next stage would pop up but couldn't get it to work. Nige thought it may be my (not so) smart phone so suggested using his Mensa grade Galaxy Note complete with bells and whistles and super duper 4G. That didn't work either. It was getting colder and darker as we walked around in circles. As my mind started wandering to a place where there were luxury toilets with heated seats, I started idly pressing things on my phone only to find the next stage pop up! Hooray!
Finally, we headed off to find each stage of this Wherigo. As the time was getting on, Nige wanted to pick up the pace a bit. I have short legs though that look like Droopy Dog's when I try to walk fast, plus I wanted to read the bits of history that were coming up on my phone as we passed through each stage. By some miracle - read Nige keeping an eye on me and getting frustrated with me - I managed to walk and read at the same time without meandering into the road.
A couple of the stages required us to collect a couple of dates as we went along. We had to use a little ingenuity for one of these as it was so dark we couldn't make it out. We used a bit of paper and a pencil to take a rubbing, which worked really well. It wasn't until we neared the end of the Wherigo that I remembered reading on the cache page that we didn't need those numbers any more to find the cache.
After visiting various cool places around Aston Clinton, we found ourselves walking (in the dark) through a park and a field. I couldn't quite keep up with Nige and managed to lose sight of him for a few moments when, looking up from the phone, my glasses steamed up. I called out that I couldn't see and ran blindly towards his voice as he replied "Keep up you donut!"
We eventually arrived at GZ and found the final location. I am not going to say anything more, so as not to spoil it for future finders. All I will say is that even though I don't like spiders, I went there and I did it!
This was an awesome cache to find for number 300. I loved the Wherigo - once we figured out how to work it - and I loved the final location. I urge everyone to give this one a go... or any Wherigo for that matter. Thank you to happy hunter hp20 for adopting this awesome cache and keeping it from being archived.
I don't like walking without a purpose, I get bored of that quickly. That's one of the reasons I love geocaching. I could quite happily walk for miles to find a geocache. Everyone has their own reasons for getting outside and finding hides; it might be to find as many as possible, to complete the Alphanumeric Challenge, to claim the coveted title of FTF or one of many other personal goals. For me it is all about the adventure.
The majority of caches out there are relatively easy to find and are run of the mill. Don't get me wrong though, I appreciate every single one of those hides and fully understand the time and effort that goes into them. My own two caches are of the 'run of the mill' type. Each one has its own merits and each one is special in some way.
There are cache owners out there however that go completely above and beyond, some would say insanely so, but they do it in spectacular fashion.
Our mission last weekend was to find one of these "extreme" caches. These types of caches have cropped up in conversation many times when we talk to fellow cachers at events so our 'to do' list is steadily growing. Are You Afraid Of The Dark? is the cache that we had heard most about, so this is the one we decided to undertake. Seeing as it would be quite a drive to get there, we spent the night before looking for caches in the same area.
Sunday came round and we set off for Hoddesdon where today's adventure would start. We began with a small circuit of caches set in the woods consisting of eight traditionals and a multi bonus called HPW. Then we went into Hoddesdon itself to pick up a few in that area. The were all easy finds and served as a warm up for the more difficult ones later on.
So far so good. We had found eleven traditionals, a multi, a Travel Bug and a Geocoin. We were on a roll.
"So what's the next one?" asked Nige as we got to the car.
"A small series called 'Off Yer Trolley'. Seems simple enough, the first is a cache and dash in a supermarket car park. How hard can that be?" I replied.
As we arrived at GZ, we realised that this would be challenging to say the least, but I thought I'd give it a go anyway. Nige parked up, I jumped out of the car and headed to where my GPSr said the cache was just as a car parked up in the space next to it. I looked back at Nige, he just sat in the car laughing at me. I tried my best to have a look around but my attempt at being stealthy just made it look like I was checking cars out to boost! So before security was called on my suspicious behaviour, I ran back to the car. This was our first DNF of the day. We decided against the other two caches in that series, figuring we would encounter the same problem. Not to worry though as, we still had a church micro, a traditional and the main event to go for.
The traditional and the church micro were found without a fuss so we headed for our final cache of the day. Before continuing, I should tell you a little about the things that scare me. The list is quite short as I am not phased by an awful lot. My biggest fears are planes, dentists and spiders. So on with the cache, Are you afraid of the Dark.
We found a parking spot across the road from where we were told to start this cache. Crossing the road we found a gap in the bushes and ducked through. We had high expectations of this cache and as we climbed down to the tunnel entrance we were not disappointed. I shone my torch inside and the beam was swallowed by the darkness. As I stood in front of this pitch black tunnel, it suddenly occurred to me that this is exactly the sort of place that spiders like to call 'Home, Sweet Home'. I was here now so I just had to suck it up.
In we went. I led the way. We had heard from others that the tunnel has water running through it sometimes, but not today, it was just very slippery. Being a shorty, I had the advantage over Nigel and could walk through without stooping. On the downside, I was practically doing the splits trying to straddle the uneven brickwork on the ground. I shone my torch above me and that's when I saw Them. So many different types of spiders. On the walls, in the pipes, potentially on me! From that point on, I concentrated the beam of the torch at my feet. With logic that only makes sense to me, I figured that if I couldn't see Them then they weren't really there.
Sunlight had disappeared behind us and there was no sign of it ahead. I had no concept of how far we had travelled through the tunnel, it seemed never ending though. We stopped for a brief second and turned the torches off. The darkness was absolute. I don't have a problem with the dark and for a moment I forgot what was living in this tunnel.
We continued making steady progress and it wasn't long before we saw the end of the tunnel ahead. We emerged into the sunshine and I gave myself a mental high five for not freaking out about the spiders.
'I used to be a kickboxer. One of you hairy little suckers touches me and I'll slam you into next week!' I thought as I headed back into the tunnel. I lead the way again but this time I actually had to look for the cache which meant shining my torch on the walls and ceiling. This seemed to highlight every single spider in the tunnel. Every nook and cranny I looked in seemed to house a spider and they seemed to be getting bigger and uglier the further we went in. After a few sweeps of the torch, something caught my eye.
"It's here!" I shouted trying to contain the urge to jump up and down, thus cracking my head on the ceiling "you can retrieve it though cos I ain't touching it!".
I took a few steps back in case removing the cache from it's home unleashed an arachnid avalanche on my head. We signed the log and took the time to replace the container exactly as we had found it. It was time to head back up the tunnel. Nigel turned to me and asked
"What would you do if a velociraptor came up the tunnel right now?"
Yes, we have some strange conversations sometimes, but it's wise to have a plan for all types of eventualities. Before I could answer, however, we heard the cry of an animal. Now, I'm pretty sure it was a horse, but I wasn't leaving anything to chance and started back up the tunnel post haste... With Nigel behind me of course!
We finally emerged from the tunnel, triumphant and elated. We had done it! This cache took us to a new level of geocaching that we had yet to experience and straight away we started discussing the next one to go after.
A big thank you has to go to the cache owners, Noztradamus and JackNano, for taking the time and effort to hide this amazing cache. This is certainly one that we will not be forgetting any time soon and will definitely be recommending it to everyone.
As the nights are drawing in and Autumn is snapping at the heels of Summer, a whole new world of Geocaching is being opened up to me. Night caches!
Halloween is fast approaching and with it an event that I am very much looking forward to. The Halloween Mega 2014 will be the first Mega Event Nige and I have attended. I think Nigel is more excited at the prospect of dressing up though than the actual caching! More on this in a future blog post though.
Last week I treated myself to a new torch in preparation for caching in the dark. What better way to test it out than by going out to find my first night cache. Hunting around on Geocaching.com threw up a few likely candidates. There is one in Ashridge that I have had my eye on for a while, but I still haven't solved the puzzle yet. There are a couple in Ampthill that look interesting and a few more further afield that sound quite challenging but I am saving those for another day.
Linford Wood in Milton Keynes and has a short puzzle to solve to locate the starting point of the trail. I had solved the puzzle part back in the summer and was waiting for the right time to venture out to find the cache. My new torch provided the perfect excuse.
Another reason I chose this cache is because I have always had an interest in the paranormal. Whilst I have not had any supernatural experiences of my own, I am very fortunate that Dunstable and Houghton Regis has a rich history and an abundance of ghostly tales.
It wasn't quite the witching hour when we headed out to Linford Wood on Saturday evening, it was closer to eight o'clock. We parked up and "look[ed] for the Hunter of the Fox where the day begins" to find the start of the trail. The sky was an eerie red but it was still dark enough that when we shone our torches into the woods we found the shining markers that would lead the way. As we walked along we had a debate over whose torch was the brightest, Nige had a tiny little thing compared to mine so I was winning until he pulled a Maglite out of his bag. At that point I shone my torch in his eyes, completely by accident... Honest!
The walk along the path was easy enough; I kept a look out ahead for the markers, whilst Nige had our back looking out for zombies. After a while the marker trail seemed to go dead. We knew the trail was going to lead us off the path eventually so it was just a matter of shining our torches through the trees until we found the next marker. Nige was the first to spot it and disappeared into the tree line. I hastily followed as I knew we were getting closer to ground zero. Trying to find a way through this part was tricky and I nearly tripped up a couple of times in my haste. Nigel was ahead of me and found the three markers to indicate our goal.
We were expecting a regular sized cache, but on retrieval were pleasantly surprised to find a large container filled with an array of goodies. As I was fishing the log out, Nige decided it would be funny to point out all of the spiders that were crawling around me with his torch. I was not amused! I quickly signed the log and replaced the cache. It was time to find the car.
Not quite the Blair Witch!
One of the features I love on my GPSr is the 'track' feature; as I walk the GPSr shows the path I have taken with a blue line. As I have a poor sense of direction, this means that if I get lost I can easily find my way back to where I started. With this in mind, we decided to follow a different path round the woods to get back to the car. It was such a mild night that we were in no rush to leave.
When we usually go out caching, Nige always asks me how many hides I have planned for us to find. I always say "just a few caches" to which he always replies "it's never just a few caches with you Kel!". He was quite astonished this time to find that it really was just the one cache this evening. What I didn't tell him though was that there were more caches in the area but the cache files had disappeared from my GPSr!
The downside of visiting Linford Wood when it is dark is that we missed out on the things to see and do around the woods. There is a series of sculptures hidden in the undergrowth according to this website and it is home to an assortment of wildlife. However, now that I know this place exists I shall definitely head back there some day.
'Tis the season when many a fair-weather geocacher packs away their GPSr for the winter, the inboxes of cache owners get a well deserved break as logs on hides begin to dwindle and everyone begins to get ready for the onslaught of Christmas. Only the hardiest of cachers will venture out at this time of year and, as I have discovered myself, this can be a magical time for geocaching adventurers.
I haven't blogged for a while as I have been busy as of late; demand for my time has been divided amongst family and friends, work, the forthcoming festivities and an ageing dog. However, I have made time for a little caching where I can, whether it be solving puzzle caches, finding caches or attending events. I won't bore you with all the details though, instead I shall tell you about a few of the highlights.
Before I do though, if I don't get the chance to blog between now and next year I hope you all have a...
Zreel Puevfgznf naq n Unccl Arj Lrne! *
All For a Good Clause
The most recent event Nige and I attended was BBH#84 ~In spitting distance of all 3 counties, held at the Red Lion pub in Dagnall, Hertfordshire. We had a great time at the event catching up with some (now) familiar faces and meeting some new ones. We have been to a few BBH events now but this was - so far- the most fun one we have been to. Alibags did an amazing job of organising this event and it was, as is usual for any BBH event, very well attended.
Of course, there was plenty of talk of geocaching but also the event organiser had put together a few games of pass-the-parcel, something that many of us have not played since we were children. Prizes included boxes of chocolates and the coordinates of a yet-to-be-published geocache, the winner of which would be able to claim the coveted title of FTF.
This event was not only special because it was the last BBH event before Christmas and New Year, but also because a fellow cacher called IB Searching - who is the first geocaching friend I made - was there with a mission to raise some money for charity. Before I tell you how he was going to achieve this let me show you a picture of him...
That's a mighty impressive crumb catcher he has there.
"Following numerous queries about when I'm going to have a shave, I have decided that it is time that my 'Santa's Whiskers', as someone dubbed them, come off" said IB Searching and he would be doing it "in aid of The Brainstrust Charity."
The pub wouldn't allow the beard to come off inside the premises - which is understandable as it is a food establishment - so we all bundled outside to strip Santa of his beard.
The transformation was remarkable and fortunately not a drop of blood was spilt as nearly everyone had a go at chopping bits off.
With the face fur gone, we retreated back to the warmth and our drinks to continue the party. Everyone dug deep that evening and a lot of money was raised for charity, so congratulations to IB Searching, I'm guessing a scarf is high on his Christmas wish list now though.
If you would like to know more about Brainstrust then please follow this link. If you are feeling generous and would like to help IB Searching's fundraising attempt then please click here.
If you would like to see how we mutilated Santa, then there is video evidence!
Santa gets a shave! - YouTube
Like I said earlier, I haven't been out caching as much as I would have liked to over the past few months. With the shorter days, I have found it better to go out and find single caches here and there rather than the trails that we were doing in the summer months. Although the cold weather can easily dissuade me from going outside, I have found that the different sights and colours that Mother Nature can paint at this time of year make it all worth it.
It was late afternoon when Nige and I arrived in Woburn, Bedfordshire to find a multi cache called "Dear Abi" located on the stately grounds of Woburn Abbey. We parked in the free car park as suggested and started our walk up towards the Abbey and Gardens. We have visited the Abbey before but have only ever driven through the surrounding parts until that day.
We got to the ticket booth and as we were unsure whether the hunt for the cache would take us away from the "free" footpaths, we paid a small fee to gain entry. It was only later that we realised that you only need to pay to gain access to the Abbey gardens and the tea shop, neither of which we had the time to visit after finding the cache.
As we walked around, the sun was beginning to go down. It didn't take us long to find the first stage of this multi. The going was very muddy in places but the views were amazing and I got some great photos of the deer. We couldn't believe how many of them there were.
When we approached GZ of the final stage, there was a moment when we thought we weren't going to be able to get to it as there was a huge herd of deer right where we wanted to look. We waited for a while and eventually they moved on.
At this point my GPSr began to play up (turns out the batteries were beginning to die) so we had a little difficulty finding the cache. There were only a few possible locations to hide a cache though so we spread out and, using the hint, found the cache in the end. We had a wonderful time finding this cache, it is such a beautiful area and it was great to see all the deer up close. We even saw some reindeer which only served to remind how fast the festive season had crept up on us!
It wouldn't be Christmas for us without a trip to London. This year had the added bonus that I was now a geocacher! Despite my best intentions though - pocket query of a thousand caches downloaded, a few puzzles solved and a couple of select caches as recommended by some fellow cachers - I managed to find a grand total of two! And not even very good ones at that! Ah well, there is always next year. I managed to snap some good photos though and it's always fun to visit Hyde Park at Christmas.
I received a Facebook message the other day from fellow blogger and geocacher Paul (aka Washknight). He writes a wonderful blog about his geocaching exploits and I have been following it for a little while now. I urge anyone reading this to pop over to his site and take a look. You can find Paul's blog here.
I am new to blogging and not all that confident in my writing abilities so I was chuffed to hear that he has been following my blog and actually enjoying it!
Recently he has been doing this "thing" (his words) on his blog whereby he is asking fellow geocaching bloggers a series of questions about their own geocaching experiences. I think it is a fantastic idea and was thrilled to be asked to join in. So please read on to find out how I fared under interrogation.
If you would like to see how other bloggers answered these questions then please click here.
1. When and how did you first get into geocaching?
"Why oh why have I only just decided to Google what Geocaching is? There's loads nearby me too!"
That was a status update from one of my friends on Facebook that appeared on my timeline back in May of this year. She lived near me at the time so I was intrigued to know what there were loads of in our town. A quick search on Google led me to Geocaching.com. A cursory glance at the map showed a few caches in my area.
'Huh, this is pretty cool' I thought, and then I zoomed out further and further on the map.
An immense number of caches started popping up on my screen and my initial bewilderment transformed into a sense of awe and wonderment. How on Earth can a sport that has millions of participators all around the globe not be more widely known about? But then discretion and stealth are the nature of the game.
2. Do you remember your first find?
My first attempt at geocaching was pretty abysmal. I didn't fully read up on the process of finding a cache and in my haste decided it was a bright idea to use the only GPS device I had to hand... A sat nav! Sure, I had a smart phone, a bottom of the range smart phone, but quite clearly it had a higher IQ than I did right then. Needless to say, the sat nav was useless and being told to "perform a u-turn" when standing in the middle of a field was a little frustrating.
Back home I went back to the website and actually took the time learn more about geocaching. I downloaded an app called c:geo onto my phone and headed out again. This time I dragged my youngest brother along with me. Our target was a small cache called WoodlandWalk situated in woodland at the edge of my town. We found it quite easily and I signed my very first log. I replaced the cache and feeling quite chuffed with myself stood back and trod in a very different kind of log!
3. What device(s) do you use for locating caches?
I started out using an app on my phone called c:geo but it used a lot of battery power and I it can be a little inaccurate at times. After I had been geocaching for a while and decided that this was probably not going to be a fad for me, Nigel and I purchased a Garmin eTrex 30. I now use a combination of my phone and the GPSr as both have their own features that suit different situations. I also find it helpful to use print outs of caches too, especially when I am doing a series of caches or a multi cache.
4. Where do you live and what is your local area like for geocaching? (density / quality / setting etc)
I live in a small town called Houghton Regis in Bedfordshire. It is bordered by the Chiltern Hills so we are a stones throw from some beautiful countryside spots like Dunstable Downs. It is also a short drive or train ride from some big cities like Milton Keynes (is that a city yet?), Cambridge, oh and what is that other big city it is close to? Oh yeah... London.
So with regards to setting, we've pretty much got that covered for both urban and rural caches. There seem to be a large number of active geocachers in the Three Counties too so we are never short of caches to find. When it comes to quality, there are many caches around this area that have gathered quite a few favourite points over time. And let's not forget, we have the Oldest cache in the England in this region too. We are very fortunate to live where we do.
5. What has been your most memorable geocache to date, and why?
For me it has to be the first event cache that I attended, BBH#80 - Bordering on a Giga!. I was already a member of the Facebook group Beds, Bucks and HertsGeocachers and had started to get to know a few of the members there. I wanted to attend the event so I could put some faces to names. However, I am not a sociable person, I just can't do small talk, so I was a little apprehensive about attending the event. I was glad when Nige said he would come with me as this meant that he would drive and that meant that I could have a pint or three. A little lager loosens the tongue! The event was very well attended that night and at first I felt a like a bit of an outsider, this didn't last long though as the event organiser welcomed us with a huge smile and thanked us for coming. As I talked to people my nerves started to ease and conversations began to flow with ease. In the end, I really enjoyed myself and, best of all, I made some new friends that night.
6. List 3 essential things you take on a geocaching adventure excluding GPS, pen and swaps.
#1 Gardening gloves - I discovered the need for these very soon after finding my first few caches!
#2 Camera - I always have one of these with me whether it be my phone camera or my bridge camera.
#3 A notebook - I have a terrible short term memory so I like to make notes in the field to help me write my logs when I get home.
7. Other than geocaches and their contents, What is the weirdest thing you have discovered whilst out caching?
I saw this on the side of a building as we walked through a village called Wadesmill. It made me giggle.
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 would like to say 10; I do not go out to find as many caches as possible, I really don't give a monkeys about the numbers. However, when I go out caching, I get caught up in the adventure and I don't want it to end so my initial "...it will only be about five caches, Nige, I promise..." swiftly becomes six, seven, ten, fifteen....! With that in mind, I would put myself at about a 6... And a half.
9. Describe one incident that best demonstrates the level of your geocaching obsession.
There was the time that I was interviewed on national radio station, TeamRock Radio. I am one of the many "founding fathers/ mothers/ brothers/ sisters" who have been listening to the station since it's inception last year. It now has listeners all over the world.
The producers arranged a series of phone interviews with some of us recently in order to get to know it's listeners better. We were supposed to talk about what we liked and disliked about the shows and the music they play but I somehow managed to turn the subject towards geocaching. That's right, I confessed publicly to the whole world about my obsession with geocaching!
10. Have you picked up any caching injuries along the way?
Sadly I am no Hooper or Quinn (sorry, that's a Jawsreference).
I have only suffered the usual caching injuries so far like nettle rashes, thorn pricks and welly boot blisters!
11. What annoys you most about other geocachers?
Geocachers that do not play fair annoy me. To me, geocaching is not only about the adventure, but also about the friendships that you build. For example, I have heard stories of cachers pushing fellow cachers out of the way to claim a FTF. That is just downright rude and not in the spirit of the game.
Another thing that annoys me are logs that contain just 'QEF' or 'TFTC'. I have to confess that I used to be one of those geocachers but once I started placing my own caches I began to appreciate the time and effort it takes to do this. From then on I felt it only right to make an effort in return to compose logs with more detail and helpful information. There's nothing worse than being in the field, searching for a cache for what seems like hours and seeing a QEF log on the cache page. It's like it's mocking me.
12. What is the dumbest thing you have done whilst out caching?
It's not what I do, it's what I say! I think I managed to insult a fellow cacher that I met at an event once. I was trying to strike up a conversation with him and noticed that he was wearing an Iron Maiden t-shirt. Being a fan myself, I figured that this was a perfect way to get talking. It was going well until I said
"I was going to wear my Maiden top tonight but I thought it might make me look like a geek!"
As soon as my brain caught up with my mouth, the implication of what I had just said struck me. I had inadvertently called him a geek!
13. What do your non caching family and friends think of your hobby?
I have determined that most of my friends are allergic to the great outdoors. That is the only excuse I can think of for not wanting to try geocaching. I have a few friends that keep saying that they would like to come out with me one day, but this hasn't happened yet. It doesn't bother me though, it's their loss.
My family think it's great that I have this new hobby and have helped me out a few times. I took my sister and her two children out for a days caching in the summer holidays and they had tremendous fun. They keep bugging me to take them out "treasure hunting" now.
14. What is your default excuse you give to muggles who ask what you are up to or if you need help?
I have only been ever caught out once when I was looking for an urban cache in Dunstable called Priory Gardens. The app on my phone led me to a tree on the wrong side of the road. I didn't have much time as I was on my lunch break. It was also raining so I had my brolly up. The tree was right next to a main road and I was trying so hard to avoid funny looks from passing cars that I didn't notice an elderly man approach me.
"Are you ok?" he asked, "do you need any help?"
I swung round, startled.
"No, thank you...um... I'm ok" I squeaked, "I've, um...lost...erm...a thing?" I wasn't very convincing.
There was an awkward silence before he backed away slowly.
I try to avoid muggle confrontation as much as possible now. Failing that I just fess up and tell the truth.
15. What is your current geocaching goal, if you have one?
My current goal is to find more "extreme" caches. Nige and I heard about these types of caches at a recent BBH event and couldn't resist giving it a go. We have found one so far called Are You Afraid Of TheDark? and we are hoping to add more to the list soon.
I also have a secondary goal; the Alphanumeric Cache Name challenge. I have completed about 60% of this challenge but I am in no rush to find them all.
Ultimately, my goal is to keep having fun, explore new places and learn new skills.
16. Do you have a nemesis cache that despite multiple attempts you have been unable to find?
Not anymore as I finally found it! Village Signs 128 Houghton Regis* is hidden literally right at the end of my street. Night after night I visited GZ and night after night I could not find it. I went out to our local curry house one evening that week with my parents and my youngest brother. On our walk back, fuelled by vindaloo and Cobra beer, I made them join me in the search for this cache and still couldn't find it. My mum started having dreams about it and she is not even a geocacher! I'm pretty sure my dog, Sadie, had nightmares about it too! I would get home from work to find my mum and Sadie waiting for me at the door so we could head out to search again, they were becoming as determined as I was about this one. Kudos to my mum though as she was the one to eventually find it even though she had never seen a geocache before.
*This is a premium member only cache so some of you may not be able to follow this link.
17. What 3 words or phrases best sum up what geocaching means to you.
18. What prompted you to start blogging about geocaching?
It was the instigator of this interrogation, Washknight, that prompted me initially to start blogging. I found his blog through the BBH group on Facebook and found it truly inspiring. I have been following with interest ever since.
This blog is basically my diary and my extended logs. Like I said in a previous answer, I have a diabolical short term memory (seriously, I cannot even remember what I did yesterday) so this helps me remember some of the significant and noteworthy adventures I have whilst out caching. There is a limit to how much you can put in a log on a cache page so this blog gives me free rein to waffle on as much as I like.
19. Which of your own blog entries are you most proud of.
At the time of writing this, I have only published four entries so far. Out of those, I am most proud of Ilaugh in the face of spiders (and then run away!). I have never been very good at creative writing so I am proud of this entry because of its story like quality.
20. Which other geocaching blogs do you enjoy reading?
I am a newbie when it comes to blogging so I have only come across two blogs to follow so far, The Official Geocaching.com Blog and Washknight's blog. I know that the latter has been interrogating other bloggers with these questions. I haven't visited their blogs yet so as not to be influenced by their own answers and style of writing but I fully intend to see what they had to say after publishing this.
So, there are my answers. I hope you have enjoyed reading this and maybe it will inspire you to start blogging yourself. I wonder what my answers will be in a years time. If I remember and am still blogging, I may have to revisit these questions next year.
A couple of weekends ago, Nigel and I attended our first Mega-Event Cache and with it came a few more firsts for us that weekend. The 25th October saw us heading off to Wakerley Great Wood near Corby for the annual Halloween Mega 2014. A Mega-Event Cache is an Event Cache that is attended by 500+ people. This year, 1,339 adults and children descended on Wakerley Great Woods for a day of "Creepy Caches & Halloween Hides" and with over four and a half thousand favourite points given to the various caches by attendees, I think it is safe to say that everyone had a mega time that weekend.
With a potential 64 caches to find during the event, Nige and I were set to break our record for "most finds in a day". Okay, so this wasn't going to be a difficult record to break - our previous total was only seventeen - and the caches themselves were not going to be difficult hides, but we still found it a challenge. Not including the event itself, we found and logged 61 caches that day including 10 lab caches, a letterbox cache, an earthcache, a mystery cache and a multi cache!
It took us twelve hours and about fifteen miles of walking. I got covered in mud, I busted my knee, and I managed to smack my head pretty hard on a branch in the dark, mainly because of my stupid decision to wear this during the evening:
At first it seemed like the Best Costume in the World Ever until we ventured out into the dark forest; I found that I couldn't see a damned thing and kept standing on my beard when ducking under branches. Despite all that we had an amazing weekend.
I nicknamed this little chap Bones
Attending an event of this magnitude shows just how diverse the geocaching population is. Young or old, two-legged humans or four-legged canines, alive or undead... we met them all. As we walked around from cache to cache, we kept bumping into people we had only just met that day and by the evening our brief "Howdies" to these strangers evolved into friendly banter and conversations of shared experiences. There was a sense of camaraderie that you rarely get at large events outside the geocaching world.
Everyone was so friendly; we had help from and gave help to many people throughout the day. We joined up with a group of zombies to help them solve the mystery cache, they were the slow moving George A. Romero kind though and we were on a mission so left them behind after a while. We had help from another group of cachers to find the multi cache and we worked together with others on the lab caches.
Heroic moment of the whole day though goes to Nigel and another man (whose name I didn't get). We were blessed with fantastic weather that day, being October I was expecting it to be either raining and/or cold, but within the woods the temperature was moderate enough that we didn't really need our jackets. However, the preceding week had been a bit of a wet one which transformed the area into swamp-like conditions that even Shrek would refuse to inhabit.
"You've got to be kidding!"
We had met a few people at the event that day that were in wheelchairs and mobility scooters and, all credit to them, they were getting about the woods remarkably well considering. However, conditions were anything but improving as darkness descended. We were walking along a particularly sloppy footpath when we heard a bit of a commotion behind us. We looked back to see a group of cachers that we had met earlier in the day. One of them was a lady in a mobility scooter, except it wasn't so mobile at the moment, it was wheel spinning in the mud and leaning precariously to one side. Just as the woman was about to receive a complementary Wakerley Wood face pack, Nigel and the unnamed man leapt into action through shin high mud and guided scooter and rider to sturdier ground!
Now onto the caches. Every single one of the unique cache containers were an amazing find and the organisers of the event, The Halloween Crew, deserve every single favourite point and then some for the effort they put into them all. There are too many to write about here so I shall just tell you about my favourite day and night caches from the event.
Spitting Sid - day cache. It was approaching dinner time for me when we came across this cache so I didn't pay much attention to the name of it. Ground Zero was slightly of the beaten track, as were most of the caches throughout the day.
In my excitement at finding the container to be an ammo can - it's always a bit special to find one of these in the field - I rushed to open it up only for Spitting Sid to live up to his name! There was a mechanism inside the box that when opened caused Sid to squirt water right at his unsuspecting victim. Much to Nigel's amusement, I not only got wet retrieving the log but stupidly got another soaking putting it back!
This was the last of the day caches that we found. Whoever created this beautifully gruesome piece of brilliance has a twisted mind! I loved it! It's probably a good thing that all the caches were replaced with Tupperware containers at midnight; can you imagine coming across this whilst in the woods out on your own? You wouldn't want to stick around for long that's for sure. The log book accompanying this creepy little dude was concealed in his cup. Fortunately, this one had no nasty surprises when you opened it up.
This was my second favourite cache of the whole day. A cache with a shocking twist! - I'm sorry, that was a terrible joke. This genius piece of engineering was far from terrible though. There was a box on the side of the chair that contained the log book. When opened, the chair started to 'charge up' and everyone nearby took a nervous step backwards. As the sound reached it's crescendo the poor soul in the chair began shaking violently and lit up like a lantern!
Even though this cache has made an appearance at previous Halloween Megas, it still remains a firm favourite amongst event goers.
As with most of the caches we seeked out during the day, there was a small crowd of cachers surrounding this one as we approached. Being small, I could not see what was up ahead, I didn't need to see it though to know that this find was going to be special.
As I wound my way through the gathering of people to get a look at the cache, a chilling sound arose from the darkness ahead. There were gasps and nervous laughter from all around me. I emerged from the crowd, looked up and stood in awe at what I could see above me. About 20 feet up in the trees was a giant spider hanging from it's web. The log book was inside the skull that you can see at the bottom of the photo.
We couldn't see how the sound and movement was activated, we guessed that it was when someone attempted to retrieve the log book. I kind of wish that there had been no other cachers there when we found this one as I bet this would have been super creepy to find on your own.
This was by far the most impressive cache for me at the event, not just for the fact that it was the most monstrously nightmarish hide there, but also because of the time, effort and skill to put something like this together. I have heard that it took about 3 hours just to put it in place!
That is definitely not something you would like to come across in the woods at the dead of night on your own! Except if you're a horror fan like me and think that, although scary, it would be awesome!
The above videos were filmed by Adam of caching trio the3maslankas. Please take a little time to visit his youtube channel by clicking here.
Overall, Nige and I had an amazing weekend, even though we couldn't move the next morning because we ached so much! If you have never been to the Halloween Mega Event before then I urge you to go next year... we definitely will be.