Saturday, December 22, 2007

Political Geocaching and Pretty Snow Pictures

Pondering that title? On my last geocache today I took the U.S. Army recruitment card I found in a geocache and replaced it with an AM 950 button (The Air America station here in the Twin Cities). It wasn't exactly about a difference in politics - mostly I took the card because it looks too much like using geocaching to do advertising and it annoyed me, and I happened to have some small buttons Pooteewheet owned in my pocket and one fit perfectly. If you get to the last picture below - you'll see why I needed something small.

I've had a geocaching frenzy in the last two days. Eryn and I went yesterday to find a cache in Eagan, which was a really good time. It took us more effort to locate a place to park then it did to find the cache, and when we finally did tromp through some snow to get there, it was to the amusement of a woman spreading bird seed in her back yard. I think she found the sight of 6'2" me and my 4 year old stomping through almost untouched snow to root around in a tree highly entertaining. The cache was called Fort Carver, and the owner notes: "About 100 feet straight south of cache, where there are now a bunch of tall bushes uesed to be a large fort made lincoln log style. As kids we spent long hours playing on and around this fort. There even used to be a tall pyramid with a slide on the top and a swing area." But the best part was the bug (a trackable geocaching item) we found there. It was attached to a pig nose. The owner wants it to visit as many states as possible and to have photos taken with it on. We haven't done a picture with it on yet, although based on the fact that a dog has worn it, I may sterilize it first. But we are going to try to take it to Wisconsin to get it a new state.

Then today. Today I went crazy. I knew I was going to be down in Apple Valley at Blue Max buying beer and fondue alcohol and all the things needed for the Christmas and New Year's celebrations, so I grabbed a list of sites from Alimagnet Park and the nearby area. If you're from Minnesota, you know it snowed this morning - thick, heavy, wet snow. And I don't own boots - so I was tromping around miles and miles of park land in untrammeled snow in my tennis shoes. At one point, I found myself panting from exertion. I don't think I've panted from walking since I messed up the cartiledge in my toe and gave up running five years ago. It was beautiful out in the woods. I think it's one of the things I like about geocaching, is that you go places you wouldn't normally go, and then see them when there's no one else around, or end up there on days when it seems like you're the only person around (except for the cross country skiiers I ran into early in the trip, and that was fun).

So here's a tour of several caches and some pretty snow pictures. If you've ever thought about geocaching, maybe it'll give you an idea of what sorts of things you're looking for. This one, "Walk in the Park" was in a community park nearby. I brought along a pencil, paper and plastic bag to restock it. This is some serious camo. If it weren't for the fact that it was a different color than the tree, it would have been harder to find. I'm not sure if you can see it, but there's even a pinecone attached. The evergreen part held the things to find, the pinecone held the logging bits. I swapped a Big Pickle pin for the Captain Quakers geobug. be Captain Quackers. We'll be placing him when we place the pig nose.

Next up - a puzzle cache called "Pieces of Eight". The original coordinates were in octal. I figured that part out...with a calculator, I'm not a sadist. But I didn't find the next part of this one - I just grabbed the clue so I can think about it at home and go back. Puzzle caches are all fine - but you can really grind to a halt if you sit there for an hour thinking about how a weird scrap of paper you picked up relates to the number eight (notice the colored paper). Next thing you know, you're in the novel "To Build a Fire". A very creative use of a magic eight ball.

This one, called "Alimagnet Dog Park", though not in the dog park, but nearby, pissed me off. Why? Because I couldn't find it. It's a microcache, meaning it's about the size of a roll of film, which is all well and good if it's the middle of summer and you don't mind ticks, but with several inches of pristine snow, it was impossible to triangulate in on it. All those footprints in the background are mine. By the time I was done, there was trampled snow everywhere, and the area under that fallen log had been brushed clear of snow to see if the cache was squashed in there somewhere. Nope, nope, nope. And I am damn persistent. So now I have two failures - this one, and one in Chicago that ended up being in the middle of several dozen square feet of melt off.

But I took some nice pictures from the area, which is between two ponds, with all the snow: 1, 2, 3, 4.

There was an interim cache next to a tree looming over a pond "La sentinelle d'etang", where I picked up the Firebug, also destined for Wisconsin, and then...

...the next one was .26 miles away. A long way in all that new snow. This was when I was panting. Pretty, eh?

Except I got here. Not here like the vantage point of the picture, but here like way up on the left, where the land juts out. The cache was .1 miles east - directly across the lake on the right. Do you see the fishing shacks? No? Neither did I - which means no matter how much you want to walk .1 miles across the lake, you better now, unless you want them to find you face up against the ice in the spring (truly a fear of mine - my Dad took me to an evil version of Call of the Wild when I was younger). So I stuck to the shore (but on the lake) where it was shallow and walked all the way around, adding an extra half mile or so.

Here's where Jebus carried me.

When I finally got to the area where "Wild Side" was supposed to be, the biggest issue wasn't finding the cache, it was finding the stump the cache was in. It was almost buried under the new snow. This is post snow-scraping. Where's the container? It's a foot long, and right in the middle of that stump, under a layer of leaves, sticks, and snow.

Huge! I left a Nowthen Threshing Show button behind for someone to find. I left one in the previous cache as well, but a different year. As long as you can find a large enough container, those seem like perfect artifacts for geocaching, particularly as I get three to four each year because the whole family goes. To give you an idea of how many people geocache, this one had a hand-sized notebook that was completely full of signatures - one per line, both sides of each pages, probably 80+ pages. I signed my name on the inside back cover, and then left a notebook I had in my pocket I'd brought along for another cache that wouldn't support the size (so I left a few sheets of paper). The cache has been there since October 2003.

And finally, the last cache. The one I put the AM 950 button in and removed the U.S. Army recruiting card. It was across a baseball diamond, which made for a pretty good picture with the new snow.

Another inventive cache. You had to sign a piece of paper in a spider's butt. I'm not even sure how you go about routing out a rubber spider so that you can screw in a film cannister. I think it just turned out to be a natural fit. He looks very cold against the snow.


BiggTree said...

How does a radio station button not smack of advertising in a geocache?

Scooter said...

I didn't go out with the intention to leave an AM950 button. I generally have a whole pile of things people have left at other caches that I've traded for. I didn't put it there to drum up business for AM950, I put it there so the next time the Army comes down there, they'll find the button instead of their card. Although AM950 has soldiers on for Christmas, so it's not even really a political difference. Truth is, I'm going to put the recruiter card back in a cache (I don't throw things away unless they smell bad), I'm just going to do it in a different state. That removes the advertising aspect just a little and makes it a cache-tradable object.

I wonder, do you really get a lot of recruits leaving cards behind in geocaching? I would suspect an above average number of 40-year-old bearded fellows. I know geocachers come in all shapes, sizes and sexes - it just seems like that would be the stereotype.