Puzzling geocaches

I attended the Coffee and Puzzles event hosted by Geocaching NSW this morning, and had a good time. As is usual at geocaching events, it was nice to put faces to names that you read in logs. The name of the event says it all really – it was designed as a forum for discussing solutions to puzzle caches in a relaxed atmosphere. The discussion covered a range of topics, and luckily I was able to solve one puzzle cache which had been bugging me for a while. Don’t know how I missed the solution before – it’s obvious once you know it! Hopefully there’ll be some more of these events soon, and I’ll certainly be attending.

Geocaching goals for 2013

There are a few geocaching-related goals that I’d like to achieve this year. The first of these is to reach a total of 300 finds. We’re currently at 267, so we’ve got a little way to go. If we can plan a few “cache-a-thons” throughout the year, then we should be able to get there. Our current record for most caches found in a day is 12, which we achieved back in August 2010. I think we’ll need to break this record in order to get to our goal of 300.

The other goals don’t relate to numbers, but are more about the caching experience. One of them is to complete our Difficulty/Terrain grid up to 3/3. What this means is finding at least cache in each of the 25 combinations of Difficulty and Terrain from 1/1 up to 3/3 i.e. 1/1, 1/1.5, 1/2, 1/2.5, etc. If this sounds confusing, click on the Geocaching Stats box on the top right-hand side of the blog page, which will take you to our profile on geocaching.com. Click on the Statistics tab and you’ll be taken to our our Statistics page, where you can see the grid. Currently we’re only missing the combination of Difficulty 1/Terrain 2.5 and there are a few caches around with that combination, so hopefully this goal will be met this year.

Finally, there have been a couple of “challenge caches” published recently which I like the sound of. A challenge cache is a cache with geocaching-related criteria that you need to meet before you are allowed to log the cache. The first is the Old School Challenge – New South Wales. In order to log this cache you need to find 10 of the 44 caches in NSW which were placed in either 2000 or 2001. Currently we’ve found two of these old caches, and we’ll see if we can find another eight during the year. The other challenge cache that’s on my to-do list is the Variety is the Spice of Life Challenge Cache. For this cache you need to find five different cache types within a 24 hour period. We’ve found six different cache types altogether, but not on the same day. For an extra challenge, I might see if we can do the challenge without finding a Traditional cache, as there are a lot of those around. There are two cache types that we haven’t found which are in our local area (Letterbox Hybrid and Wherigo), so it would be nice to include these as part of the challenge.

It would be nice to achieve all of these goals this year, but I’d be happy to get any of them done.

First geocaches for 2013

Today I went out and found our first caches for the year. My siste came too, as she is a cacher too. Because I didn’t have the boys with me, we could tackle some of the harder terrain caches in the area. It was a successful day, with three out of three caches found.

Our first cache was One in a Hundred-EcoTeam #6, which is considered a must-do cache in the Sydney area. It was placed in 2002, and illustrates what I think caching was all about in the early days. It was in a local area of bushland, and was a multi-cache, so there were a couple of waypoints that had to be found before we could find the final container. My sister had found this cache previously, and was willing to give me some hints when I asked for them. If she hadn’t been there I think I’d still be looking for the first waypoint! There’s a picture in the gallery for the cache which led me on a wild-goose chase, and it was only after consulting my resident expert on the cache that I was looking in the right spot. The second waypoint was easier to find than the first. From reading the logs of previous finders, there’s an easy way and a hard way to the final location. My sister knew the hard way, but I wanted to see if we could find the easy way. After retracing our steps to the walking track we’d come down, we took a turn to the left and followed a track to the general area where the cache was hidden. After a bit of a search I found the container, and it was to find a nice large bucket, which was well-stocked with books.

After a stop for lunch, we headed off for a cache which neither of us had found. It’s been rated with 5 stars for terrain (the highest rating possible, which usually means that you need special equipment to find the cache e.g. abseiling gear, boat). However this cache should really be rated at about 3.5 stars for terrain. It does involve a bit of a scramble down some rocks, but it can be done without any equipment. This was the first 5 star terrain cache for both of us – it’s nice to have it listed in our statistics but I suppose it’s not a real 5 star hide. On our way to the cache we heard movement in the bush down below us, which turned out to be wallabies or kangaroos – we didn’t see them in any great detail but my sister did spot a tail to confirm that they weren’t muggles (or fellow geocachers).

On our way back to the car we walked past another cache which we were able to find. This one was a bit more straighforward and was a fairly easy find (my sister found it).

Today seemed to be our day for encountering “interesting” people during our searches. At the first cache, a gentlemen came down the track and chatted to us about the graffiti that is on the very large structure that the first waypoint is located in. He was harmless enough, but we felt better when he moved on. Our second encounter was on our way back from the 5 star cache. While we were searching for it we could hear a noise nearby, but couldn’t think of what it was. Turns out it was a group of three teenagers letting off their potato cannon. They left not long after we passed them.

So my first day of caching for 2013 was a success. Hopefully there’ll be many more to come, and this will be the year that we crack 300 finds (only 33 to go!)

See you in Brisbane

I’ll be heading to Brisbane in February to present at Information Online 2013. My presentation is titled “Hide and seek in the library: Geocaching as an educational and outreach tool”. At this stage it’s on the program on Wednesday morning, so if you’re free come along! You’ll learn about what geocaching is, and how we used it as an outreach tool to encourage people to visit the library. There’s some information that I’d like to include in my presentation that I don’t think will fit within the time limit, so I’ll probably post it here before the conference.

Lunchtime geocaching

A new cache was recently placed on the campus, and I kept meaning to go and look for it. It’s located near a carpark, so it’s hard to search for the cache without being seen. Well, now that it’s the mid-year break, there are a lot less students around, so today I took the opportunity to find it.

I’d done a bit of reconnaisance of the area, and had a pretty good idea of what I was looking for and where the cache was hidden. I had tried to find it this morning before work, but there were some workmen close to the cache location, so I had to give it a miss. At lunchtime, however, the coast was clear, and I was able to make the find. That takes us to 240 finds, which only leaves us 10 short of 250. Hopefully we can get to this milestone during our trip to Canberra this weekend.

Puzzling geocaches

There are several types of geocaches, including traditional, multi, virtual, and puzzle. As the name suggests, puzzle caches involve solving a puzzle of some sort in order to find them. Some of them give you a set of starting coordinates and then you need to gather clues in the area e.g. counting words on a sign, or getting numbers from a plaque, in order to calculate the final coordinates where the cache container is hidden.

Others require you to do some research beforehand to come up with the coordinates. These can range from brain-bendingly difficult (for me, anyway) to those which can be solved with a bit of brainpower. We’re heading down to Canberra in a couple of weeks, and there are quite a lot of puzzle caches down there. I downloaded all the puzzle caches in NSW and the ACT a few weeks ago, and have slowly worked my way through them, starting with the easy ones.

I’ve managed to solve a few, and there’s a wide variety of puzzle types. Some require decoding QR codes or nautical signal flags, or solving a Sudoku puzzle, or identifying Shakespeare’s sonnets. There’s a puzzle for everyone’s interests and abilities. Hopefully I’ll have time to find some during our Canberra trip.

Happy New Year!

Yes, I know it’s closer to the end of January than the beginning, but this is my first post for 2011 so it’s the first chance I’ve had to wish you all a happy new year. I hope that you had a relaxing and restful break, and that you haven’t broken any of your new year’s resolutions yet.

This will be a bit of a mixed post, and I’ll be talking about both library- and geocaching-related stuff. Firstly, the main library-related news, of course, is that we are now in 2011, which means that the new library will open this year. This will be a challenging, busy and perhaps nostalgic time for all library staff at Macquarie. I was lucky enough to visit the new library in December as part of the ASRS training, and it was interesting to see how the plans look in “real life”. The ASRS vault is a very impressive space and I was able to see the cranes in operation.

The other major news recently has been the flooding in Queensland/northern New South Wales, and now Victoria. We’ve all seen the news footage and photos of what has happened, and ALIA has set up pages on its website detailing the libraries that have been affected in Queensland and Victoria.

Now, on to the other subject of this blog – geocaching. I found out last week that there is another member of library staff who geocaches, so it’s good to know that the hobby is gaining a following. I don’t have any geocaching resolutions for the year, although it would be nice to reach 250 finds by the end of the year (currently our total stands at 216). I’m also slowly working my way through solving some of the puzzle caches around Sydney. It would be nice to complete some more of this type of cache.

That’s all for now. I’ll try and keep the blog a bit more up-to-date this year than I did last year, but I can’t promise anything. I think I’ll be pretty busy once our baby arrives next month!

Geocaching update

I thought it was about time that I gave an update on my geocaching activities. During a trip to Port Stephens in August, we reached our 200 finds milestone. It’s taken us just over three years, which is quite slow compared to some, but we’ve enjoyed the experience. Next stop, 500!!

With daylight saving starting again, we’ve had the chance to do some geocaching after work. We were on a bit of a streak recently, where we went caching for three days in a row. Normally we can only do that on holidays, but daylight saving combined with some new caches in our area meant we had the chance for a bit of weekday afternoon caching. We also managed to find our third ever First To Find – very exciting!

Libraries and geocaching

Well, I guess it would make sense for me to post some projects and ideas I’ve come across (mainly in the US) that combine libraries and geocaching.

  • The University of Notre Dame in Indiana came up with “Caching in at the Library” for their orientation programme for first year students.

There are a copule of caches I’ve come across (but not found) that involve visiting a library or using Dewey Decimal Classification to solve a puzzle.