500 finds, finally

As I mentioned earlier this year, we’d set ourselves a goal of reaching 500 geocache finds, ideally by our 10th anniversary of starting geocaching (our cache-a-versary). Well, I’m pleased to announce that we have finally cracked the 500 find milestone, and we managed to do it the day before our cache-a-versary.

The weather forecast wasn’t the best, so we’d decided to knock off the last 10 caches that we needed along a roadside powertrail close to home. It wasn’t the most scenic or memorable location, but it was going to be a quick and easy way to reach the milestone.

The view along the powertrail

As happens so often with us, we changed our minds. Our new plan was to finish the powertrail on 499 finds, and then re-visit a cache that we’d tried to find multiple times in order to make it our 500th find. Armed with a couple of clues, but also having noticed that the cache hadn’t been found since September, we arrived at the cache location with fairly low hopes of finding it. However, the geo-gods were on our side, as we managed to find the cache within a minute of starting the search. It was easy to see why a couple of other cachers had failed to find it, because the container blended in nicely with the surrounding environment. We replaced (and signed) the log, because the one in the cache was too damp and mouldy to unroll, took a few photos, and logged the find through the geocaching app.

Our 500th find

500!

We then headed off for a celebratory lunch, and decided to try and find another couple of our nemesis caches. Like our 500th find, these other two ended up being quick finds. It was a nice way to finish the day. It’s taken us 10 years to get to 500 finds, but I think the next 500 won’t take as long.

Sensible Shoes’ 10 years of Geocaching – a Retrospective

Ten years ago today we found our first geocache at Little Beach on the Central Coast (GCTZ15 – now archived, unfortunately). We were a new couple and geocaching was a great activity to hang out together and have a few adventures along the way. Back when we started it took a bit more preparation and planning before setting out than it does now. We had to sit around the kitchen table of the house we hadn’t moved into yet with the laptop plugged into the dial-up modem and download the cache pages, and then transfer the coordinates onto our GPSr. If you wanted to refer to the cache pages while you were out caching you had to print them out before you left, and manually decode the hint if needed. There were no smartphones, so you couldn’t simply open an app and see if there were any caches nearby. Today, no forward planning is required as everything we need to check for, find, and log nearby caches – internet access, GPS, real-time logging of caches, and cache information – is available on our smartphones. For those cachers who love being the First To Find (FTF), this has meant that they can head straight off to a new cache as soon as they receive the notification email on their phone and log it as soon as they find it in order to claim their glory. This improved technology also means that when we get home there’s no need to try and remember all the details about our caching trip because everything’s already been logged. We found our first few caches using an HP ipaq PDA (which looked something like this – it worked OK, but definitely was not designed with caching in mind).

At our first find

The first cache we found

We were introduced to geocaching by a work colleague whose husband had done some caching, and they generously lent us a handheld GPS receiver (GPSr) (probably a Garmin etrex) for a couple of weeks. Our first experience with this “proper” GPSr was in Canberra and Melbourne a week after our first find. It was during this trip that we had two major revelations:

  1. We needed to get a GPSr
  2. We needed to change our geocaching.com account name.

We signed up as Fairy Spice (which made sense at the time, for a number of reasons) but after having to introduce ourselves to another cacher in Canberra, we knew this had to be changed. At the time there was no way to change our username; we had to create a new account and re-log all our first few finds. As librarian geocachers, we felt that Sensible Shoes was an appropriate name to use, and since then we’ve been comfortable introducing ourselves as this. We cache together as Sensible Shoes, and our logs identify each of us as Mr S or Ms S. We ended up purchasing a Garmin GPS 60 in those first few months of caching, and still use that (in conjunction with our smart phones) today.

That name didn’t last long

From these humble beginnings, the Shoes family has grown. Our sons are known as Shoes Junior and Little Shoes, and both of them had their accounts created and were taken our geocaching about a month after they were born. We also got one of our sisters involved in caching. Eight years later, Sensible Sis is now closing in on 900 finds. We’ve taken a few friends and family members geocaching, and have been successful in recruiting two families from our Mothers’ Group. It’s good to have some local friends who “get it”. However, our biggest success story converting a muggle to an obsessed geocacher is a fellow librarian who heard about caching at a conference presentation given by Mr S. She’s been caching now for 3 years and has over 3,500 finds and 72 hides to her name. As Mr S was presenting at the conference and describing how geocaching can be used as an educational and promotional tool, Ms S was live-tweeting her finding of our cache (GC3K05C) (she hadn’t been involved in the placing of it). The cache involved is a “Mystery or Puzzle” cache, and it has been very positively received by the local geocaching community. Mr S has written a journal article describing how and why the cache was placed. We’ve placed four other caches, however they’ve all been archived for various reasons and are no longer active.

Shoes Junior and Little Shoes out caching

We’ve managed to find 504 caches over the last ten years, and 15 of these have been Event caches. Several of these events have been great fun to attend. These include the three Geotreks that we’ve completed, and the three Worldwide Flash Mobs (WWFM) that we’ve flashed at. The WWFM was the brainchild of Sonny and Sandy from the Podcacher podcast, and is still going strong after ten years. Another geocaching podcast we enjoyed listening to was the Geotalk podcast, hosted by Darren Osborne, a.k.a. Spindoc Bob. Darren was the driving force behind the formation of the Geocaching NSW association, and we met him and his wife Renee at the initial planning meeting for the group. Darren also organised the first couple of WWFM events in Sydney, which we attended. Mr S attended the first Sydney WWFM event alone, because Ms S was resting in hospital prior to the arrival of our first son. All three of us attended the next WWFM event at Luna Park. Mr S had the opportunity to go on a geocaching day trip with Darren and a couple of other cachers in September 2013. Sadly, Darren passed away from brain cancer in January 2015. Although we didn’t know him very well, his passing was deeply felt by us since we identified so closely with him and his young family. Vale Spindoc Bob.

WWFM at Luna Park

In the same way that we related to the Osbornes, Sonny and Sandy from sunny San Diego have also found a place in our hearts. We had been regular listeners to their weekly podcast, Podcacher, when we learned of the arrival of their son Sean while we were pregnant with our first son. Ever since, we have been amused by the similarities between Sean and our 8 year old as they grow up. Mr S has kept up with listening to Podcacher ever since we discovered the podcast almost 10 years ago, and has contributed various news items from time to time. One of these was our most significant geocaching moments from the last ten years. It was the time when Mr S proposed to Ms S at our first FTF. It was nice that he was able to do this at a spot close to our home, and no, we didn’t go on to have a geocaching-themed wedding.

We’ve found that geocaching is a great activity to do while we’re on holidays. We’ve cached as far north as Moreton Island, south to Melbourne, east to San Francisco, but only as far west as Canberra. Port Stephens and Canberra have been a couple of good destinations which combine sightseeing and geocaching. We found our 100th cache at Port Macquarie and our 200th at Port Stephens. On our first couple of trips to Canberra we stopped at several rest area caches on the way. The next time we did the trip without stopping, and we were pleasantly surprised at how quick the trip was. Having said that, we’ve recently discovered that the rest area caches have been replaced, so we have the opportunity to find them all over again. It’s been fun introducing our two boys to geocaching. Our eldest (Shoes Junior) had a Travel Bug on his stroller which we took to several geocaching events. He has recently enjoyed finding some local Harry Potter-themed caches and helping to solve some puzzle caches which have a Minecraft theme. Lately, Little Shoes (our youngest) has taken an increased interest in going out caching, perhaps influenced by the fact that we’ve taken to having ice creams to celebrate milestones. It is ironic that when we cached alone, before the geokids came along, we were finding many caches holding travel bugs and kid-friendly swaps. It seems these are becoming a rarity these days, even though there are many more geocaches to find these days. As for the geokids, despite many years of geocaching experience, they are yet to master the art of stealth. “DID YOU FIND IT?!?!”

Shoes Junior’s Travel Bug

Most geocachers, who have been caching consistently for 10 years, would expect to have found far more than the 500 finds we have achieved … but as the saying goes “it’s not about the numbers”. Although geocaching has held our interest steadily for the past decade it has not been a major focus for our family. We enjoy having it as an activity to fall back on when convenient, but we’ve never felt the need to chase the numbers or achieve long running streaks as other have (even though we’ve been impressed by their ability to do so). Likewise, almost all of our finds have been within the 3.5/3.5 difficulty/terrain matrix, with only a very few outliers. We prefer to be challenged by tricky puzzles rather than extreme terrain. Now that the kids are older, and technology has made geocaching more convenient than ever before, we expect to enjoy many years of geocaching adventures ahead. As Sonny and Sandy would say, “Keeep onn cachin’!”.

On the powertrail towards 500 finds

At our 500th find

Our geocaching resolutions for 2017

Well, it’s a new year which means it’s time to make some resolutions for the next 12 months. On the geocaching front, there are a couple of things that we’d like to achieve this year. The main one is to finally reach 500 finds. We made it to 400 in January last year and are currently on 431. Ideally we would like to get there by 20th May, which is our 10 year cache-a-versary.

To help with reaching this milestone, we’ve set ourselves the goal of averaging at least one find a day for the month of January. That will get us to at least 449. We’ve done well so far (13 finds after eight days), so hopefully we’ll stay on track.

It should be a year for family geocaching milestones for us. Our youngest son should reach 100 finds (he’s currently on 95), and our eldest should get to 200 (he’s on 186 at the moment). I don’t think we’ll be able to synchronise our finds for the same cache, but it will be nice to celebrate three milestones this year.

Oldest cache type in each state

As a follow-up to my previous post on the oldest currently active caches of each type in Australia, I’d thought I put together a list of the oldest caches of each type in each state and territory. I took the advice of Sandy from the Podcacher podcast, and simply used the search function on geocaching.com, rather than setting up Pocket Queries. This certainly made the process a lot easier. The states and territories are listed in alphabetical order, and each cache is listed in chronological order. Those caches marked with * are the oldest of their type in Australia, and dates are in dd/mm/yyyy format.

Australian Capital Territory

Traditional: Canberra Nature Park (GC6CF) – 15/4/2001

Multicache: A Stroll Around the Lake (GC3C22) – 21/2/2002

Virtual: Animal Antics (GC9534) – 30/9/2002

Mystery: Botanic Boggle (GCH0XY) – 6/10/2003

Earthcache: Earthcache II – the geology of WoolShed Creek, ACT (GCHKCK) – 29/1/2004

Letterbox Hybrid: Isaacs Post Office (GCXT3K) – 18/8/2006

Whereigo: Athllon Adventure (GC1D01M) – 6/6/2008

Webcam: none currently active

New South Wales

Virtual: Lane Cove (GC3E) – 18/5/2000*

Traditional: Sydney Geocache Relocated (GC1F11) – 11/11/2000

Multicache: #1 Frog Hollow (GC596) – 29/3/2001

Mystery: #38 Under Pressure (GC39EC) – 15/2/2002*

Earthcache: Earthcache I – a simple geology tour of Wasp Head (GCHFT2) – 10/1/2004*

Letterbox Hybrid: Postman Rat (GC18AZA) – 6/1/2008

Whereigo: The Search for Ned Kelly and the Stolen Treasure (GC1KK89) – 8/1/2009

Webcam: none currently active

Northern Territory

Traditional: Sungroper 4 (GC3399) – 22/11/2001

Multicache: Geocentrical (GC7CED) – 27/6/2002

Mystery: SUE DOUGH COO #1 (GC16CRF) – 5/10/2007

Earthcache: Ellery Creek Big Hole (GC1TA92) – 5/6/2009

Whereigo: The Great Escape (GC4BV4E) – 12/5/2013

Letterbox Hybrid: Snail Mail (GC4DFY7) – 3/6/2013

Virtual: none currently active

Webcam: none currently active

Queensland

Traditional: Queens land (GC8E) – 17/10/2000

Multicache: Simon’s in the Orchard (GC7150) – 14/7/2002

Virtual: Ku-Ta Views (GC86B3) – 30/8/2002

Mystery: Look No More (GCGT19) – 29/8/2003

Earthcache: Whitehaven Beach (GC11A5E) – 7/3/2007

Whereigo: (Virtually) A Common Problem (GC1ETED) – 13/8/2008

Letterbox Hybrid: Free Camp!!!! (GC2045F) – 21/10/2009

Webcam: none currently active

South Australia

Traditional: Riverland Geocache (GC114) – 1/1/2001

Multicache: Scott Creek Multiple (GC1E2) – 3/2/2001*

Virtual: Victoria Squircle (GC40E2) – 10/3/2002

Mystery: 007 (GC83A8) – 24/8/2002

Webcam: Penguins (GCC1EC) – 10/1/2003*

Earthcache: The Sugarloaf Earthcache (GCM4WR) – 24/11/2004

Whereigo: Where We Used To Go (GC1XH4W) – 25/8/2009

Letterbox Hybrid: Frog Mail Box (GC2NQAG) – 11/2/2011

Tasmania

Traditional: North Tassie (GC388) – 25/2/2001

Virtual: South Tasmania 1 (GC408) – 4/3/2001

Multicache: Clinker and Carvel (Multi) (GCD476) – 14/2/2003

Mystery: Codeword+029: Happy Mothers Day (GCNWYY) – 10/5/2005

Letterbox Hybrid: The Apprentice (GCRF2Z) – 11/12/2005*

Earthcache: Fossil Bluff (GC1CH39) – 23/5/2008

Whereigo: Sneaky Monkeys! (GC5BYYE) – 30/8/2014

Webcam: none currently active

Victoria

Traditional: Melbourne’s 1st (GC7A) – 8/10/2000*

Multicache: Rainbow’s End (GC14E9) – 6/8/2001

Mystery: BBB (GCD420) – 13/2/2003 (there are a couple of movable caches currently in Victoria which are older)

Virtual: More Melbourne Television Trivia (GCE258) – 10/3/2003

Webcam: Spirit of the Skier (GCMJ2J) – 19/1/2005

Earthcache: Colqhuon Quarry (GC10PCM) – 1/2/2007

Letterbox Hybrid: A Penny for Your Thoughts (GC10T6T)  25/2/2007

Whereigo: Flight of Fancy (GC1BCA3) – 20/4/2008*

Western Australia

Traditional: Albany Quarantine (GC576) – 27/3/2001

Multicache: Crystal Brook Multi-Cache (GC3397) – 20/1/2002

Virtual: Boat yard bliss (GC733B) – 20/7/2002

Mystery: King Arthur (GCCD53) – 1/2/2003

Earthcache: Living Rocks Earthcache (GCKZB4) – 31/10/2004

Letterbox Hybrid: The Green Angel (GC26YA2) – 17/4/2010

Whereigo: Lucy in Woodvale (GC306CA) – 14/7/2011

Webcam: none currently active

Original Aussie geocaches

Inspired by the discussion on show 566 of the Podcacher podcast about when and where the first of each type of geocache was placed, I decided to try and find this information out for Australian caches. The following list (from oldest to newest) shows the earliest currently active cache of each type i.e. it does not include archived caches, some of which may have been placed before the ones listed here.

Virtual: Lane Cove (GC3E) – 18/5/2000 (NSW). This is actually the first cache placed in Australia. It was originally a traditional cache, but was changed to a virtual when the container had to be removed because it was inadvertently placed in the habitat of an endangered plant.

Traditional: Melbourne’s 1st (GC7A) – 8/10/2000 (Vic). This wasn’t the first traditional cache placed in Australia, but it’s now the oldest traditional due to Lane Cove changing to a virtual.

Multi: Scott Creek Multiple (GC1E2) – 3/2/2001 (SA)

Mystery: On The Run (GC3720) – 3/2/2002. This is one of very few movable caches still active in Australia.

Mystery: #38 Under Pressure (GC39EC) – 15/2/2002 (NSW). The oldest non-movable mystery cache in Australia.

Webcam: Penguins (GCC1EC) – 10/1/2003 (SA)

Earthcache: Earthcache I – a simple geology tour of Wasp Head (GCHFT2) – 10/1/2004 (NSW). This is also the first earthcache placed anywhere in the world.

Letterbox Hybrid: – The Apprentice (GCRF2Z) – 11/12/2005 (Tas)

Whereigo: – Flight of Fancy (GC1BCA3) – 20/4/2008 (Vic)

So if anyone wants to find the oldest active cache of each type in Australia, you know where to go.

Note: I’ve only included caches from geocaching.com; I might prepare a separate list of caches from geocaching.com.au.

Finally at 400!

Today was the day that we (the geocachers known as Sensible Shoes) finally reached 400 finds. It’s taken us 8 1/2 years to get there, but get there we did. We’ve been saying for the last couple of years that “this is the year we get to 400”, but it hasn’t happened until today.

We were at 395 this morning, and found three more before lunch to get us to 398. All the caches we found were either in or very close to playgrounds, so the boys had a good time too, riding their scooters and playing on the play equipment. We even got to climb “Bluluru”!

Seeing that today was my last day of holidays before returning to work, I thought it would be nice to reach our 400 milestone today. So after lunch we headed out and got the remaining two to get us to 400. The 400th find was near a park that the boys love going to, but unfortunately their favourite piece of play equipment has been fenced off (presumably for repairs), so we had to make do with the flying fox. After a couple of turns each we headed off to celebrate our achievements, and as we were walking to the car the rain began and only got heavier once we were in the car. Perfect timing!

Now that we’ve finally made it to 400, our next goal is to reach 450 by our nine-year cacheversary in May.

A geocaching roadtrip

Well, it’s not actually a real roadtrip. The company which runs the geocaching.com website have come up with the idea of a “Geocaching Roadtrip“, which will run for the next few months. The idea is to find a cache in the various categories that they’ve nominated to earn a “souvenir“. There are six different quests that they’ve created, and I think I’m going to try to complete them all. The trickiest one will be the quest to find a cache with either a difficulty rating of 5 or a terrain rating of 5. Difficulty 5 geocaches are usually very hard puzzle caches, which can take quite a bit of time to solve. I’m working on one at the moment, and I think I’ve nearly cracked it. The terrain 5 geocaches usually require special equipment e.g. scuba diving, abseiling, and seeing that I don’t have any of that sort of equipment I don’t think I’ll be tackling one of those. However there are some caches with this rating that don’t actually need any special equipment (such as this one, which I’ve found which more like a 3), so if I don’t solve the difficulty 5 puzzle I might try and find one of these mis-categorised caches.

We managed to complete the “7 Souvenirs of August” challenge last year, so hopefully we can add to our souvenir collection by finishing the roadtrip.

Geocaching with the boys

This morning I went out with the boys for a spot of geocaching. A notification came through for a new geocache which was published not far from home. It was a puzzle cache, and I managed to solve it fairly quickly. It had been available for about half an hour, so there was a chance that no-one had found it yet. We headed off in the car, and as we arrived at the cache location I could see that there were people standing in the area that the GPS arrow was pointing to. We ended up second to find, which was still pretty good.

There were another couple of caches nearby which we hadn’t found, so we went for a walk to find them. The first one we went for proved to be a bit tricky to access with two children in tow (if I was by myself I would have given it a go). Initially we were on the wrong side of the creek with no easy way to cross. Even when we ended up on the other side after finding another cache, the bush seemed too overgrown to be able to easily get to the cache. The cache that we did find was a nice big one, and the boys had fun finding it.

It was a very nice morning to be out for a walk, and the boys had a good time. We might need to do this more often now that the weather has cooled down and the snakes have retired for the winter.

Heading to the cache

Heading to the cache

Found it!

Found it!

What do Sir Donald Bradman and I have in common?

The number 334. Sir Donald Bradman set the record for the highest Test score by a batsman of 334 against England in 1930. The record stood as an Australian record (but not world record) until the 2003-04 season, when it was broken by Matthew Hayden, who scored 380 against Zimbabwe.

So what’s my connection to 334? It just so happens that my wife and I have found 334 geocaches so far. It’s a tenuous (and temporary) link to The Don, but I’ll take it. The next Bradman-related milestone we’ll reach will be 452 – his highest first-class score, which was made for NSW against Queensland in 1930. Hopefully we’ll get there this year.

We got a First To Find!

After missing out on a First To Find (FTF) on a local geocache last Monday, we managed to get one today. We had a list of four caches that we wanted to find today in order to have found the 20 closest caches to home. We found the first one easily enough, but the second one ended up as a Did Not Find (DNF). As we were getting into the car, I checked the email notifications of some new caches which had been published, and there was one close by. We decided to abandon our mission, and head for the FTF.

The cache turned out to be in a newly-opened park, and based on the cache name we had a rough idea where it would be. Sure enough, the geocaching app was pointing us straight towards a picnic table which was occupied a family enjoying their lunch. We debated whether to just go up to them and explain what we were doing, but in the end we went to the play equipment with the boys, keeping an eye on the family to see if they moved. After waiting for a while, my wife decided that it wad time to be bold, so she headed to the table to explain what we wanted to do. As luck would have it, the family packed up their supplies and left, so we all headed over and began searching.

There was another cacher there too, who had also been waiting for the muggle family to leave, so it became a race to see who would find the cache first. Luckily I was able to feel the cache container and grab it. Woohoo, our fourth FTF! We then headed off for a picnic lunch near the cache which we looked for last week, hoping that we could find it today. However the rain started to fall, so we packed up and headed home. We’ll be back for that one another day.