Posted on October 15th, 2010 by Around The River
If you have spent any time in the Tri-State Area where the Arizona, California and Nevada borders meet, you are familiar with The Valencia Lady
. This “Lady” is actually a scarecrow, situated along Highway 95, sporting a different outfit for each holiday, event and season.
As many times as I had passed the Lady, I hadn’t realized the secret she held. She is a geocache
destination. Geocaching is an outdoor activity which requires a Global Positioning System (GPS), or other navigational device, to hide and seek containers.
Did we find her treasure? You’ll have to wait for that answer.
Jim Spetz, LMP
When I think of geocaching, I think of my friend, Jim Spetz
of Tacoma, Washington. Jim is a Licensed Massage Practitioner (LMP), and owner of Massage Matters
. Jim was kind enough to share his knowledge of the hobby he is passionate about, geocaching. Jim, how did you get started in geocaching?
I got started in geocaching back in September 2007. Well, let me backtrack a bit first. I actually heard about geocaching about 6 months before that, and it had my interest slightly piqued, but I knew it required a GPSr
(Global Positioning Satellite receiver – a handheld GPS (not the TomTom type), and I didn’t have the money for one. Once I found a great sale on them, I bought my first one, but was too intimidated to use it. I was afraid I spent money on something I would only use once. It was nearly 2 months later that I took it out of the box, read basic instructions, and ended up calling a friend who cached to teach me how to do it. He let me find my first one, and I was hooked from there! What advice can you give the novice who would like to try geocaching?
Advice to give to novices….hmm….there is so much, yet a lot of it is self explanatory. I would say first thing is to get an inexpensive GPSr. Garmin has an eTrex that is less that $100. It does the exact same thing as my $400 GPSr, except that mine can tell you when the sun/moon will rise, has games and alarms to wake me up, and a few other things you really don’t need for geocaching. I never use them either, but I just like having them just in case. If you have an Android phone, or an iPhone, then you can download the Geocaching App (for around $10 I think), and you are ready to start looking for them. Geocaching – The Official Global GPS Cache Hunt Site Groundspeak’s Geocaching iPhone Application Groundspeak’s Geocaching for Android Application
Once you have looked up the information for a particular cache that you want to find, all the information you need will be there on the page. It will tell you the difficulty of the hide, the terrain, and the size of the cache you are looking for.
Another piece of advice is…don’t give up so easily! Caches are designed to be hidden from the public’s eye. I’ve read quite a few logs for moderately difficult caches from new cachers telling the CO
‘s (cache owners) to check on it because they think it’s missing. If it’s a higher difficulty, even some of us experienced cachers aren’t going to find it the first, second, or even third time trying. Start with the obvious hiding spots. Look under lamp post skirts, under rocks, behind logs. From there, that’s when I start to look even closer.
Some are so well camouflaged that they are hidden in plain site. I love those. Fake sprinkler heads are a good example of that type. The GPSr will get you to within 10-15 feet of the cache. From there, use what we call your “geo-sense”
(your common sense), and start to look for things out of the ordinary (for example a pile of sticks all facing the same direction, or a small pile of rocks next to a wall). THAT is the real fun of geocaching! Looking for the cache is actually a lot more exciting than actually finding it most of the time. I like to see how well the cache owner hid it, the creativity they used, the time and effort they put in picking the right area to place it in. But I have found my fair share of caches that are poorly hidden, exposed even. Muggles
(everyone who doesn’t geocache) like to be nosey, and destroy, or throw away caches that they find, not knowing what they are. We cachers are quick to assume that when a cache is missing or destroyed, we say that a muggle did it. The cache has been “muggled”! I try to use stealth (pretending to talk on the phone, having a friend along to help look, bending down to tie my shoelace to look under something, etc…) so that I don’t raise suspicion to a muggle that I am trying to look for something. Try not to draw too much attention to yourself when searching. Occasionally it happens, and someone may ask if you lost something.
Sometimes I lie, and say I lost my keys (while looking in the middle of a bush), or I tell them the truth that I am treasure hunting using billion dollar satellites!
Another piece of advice I would like to give is that you may encounter a geocache with Geocoins
or Travel Bugs
in them. • Geocoins:
Fancy, well designed coins that have no monetary value, but have a trackable code on them. • Travel Bugs:
Essentially a military type dog tag that has a logo of a 4 legged bug on it with a trackable code as well.
The TB’s (travel bugs) can be attached to anything using a simple key ring. I have seen TB tags attached to stuffed animals, kitchen utensils, bronzed baby shoes, a bowling ball, etc. The list is endless, as is the imagination. If/when you find a geocoin or a Travel Bug, and you decide to take it from the cache, please DO NOT keep this forever. Get onto www.geocaching.com/trackables
, and enter the trackable code. This removes it from inventory of the cache. Take that coin or TB and place it another cache (within a reasonable time frame).
I like to hold onto the ones I find for no more than a couple of weeks at most. When I drop it off at another geocache, I enter online the tracking code. It will show the cache you placed it in for the next person to retrieve. What is cool about this is that you literally get to watch something you placed in a cache go somewhere else in the world. I once had a Travel Bug that I attached to a beer bottle opener in the shape of a fish. I watched online (each time someone logged it) as it went from Washington to Florida to the Netherlands to Estonia to Connecticut, before it was reported missing. That means someone kept it, and never logged it. Even though I’ll never see it again, it was very exciting to watch it move from country to country in the span of a couple of months.
Once you have found a cache, please replace it exactly (if not better) than when you found it, so that the next person has to actually search for it. If you found a geocache under a pile of sticks at the base of a tree, then replace the sticks exactly as you have found them.
Caches are literally hidden everywhere!! There may be one within a block or two from wherever you are actually reading this! A geocache has to be a weatherproof container. The elements will destroy a cache faster than anything if it’s not weatherproof. Someone once used a Pringles can as a cache container. The cache was only a week old when I found it, and it was almost a soggy lump of cardboard. Yuck! Typically, what can we find at a cache?
Anything can be found in a cache, as long as it’s family friendly. It’s called “Swag”
, or trade items
. The rule of thumb is if you take something, then you have to leave something of equal or greater value, usually valued at no more than a $1 or $2. McDonald’s kid toys are very popular, so are boxes of crayons, marbles, personal creations from people, or ??. I have found cheap flashlights, compasses, baseball cards, and glow sticks in caches. Most “Micro” sized caches are too small to put things in, but any other size will usually contain something. All caches will contain a piece or paper, or a logbook. Sign your “Geo-name”
and date to the logbook and put back for the next person. I love looking at people’s creativity for geo-names. A local family around where I live has a last name of Douglas, so they call themselves the “Douglas_Clan”. My geo-name is “Geo-LMP” (I’m a Licensed Massage Practitioner). I have a close friend I occasionally cache with too. She works for the state designing maps, so she calls herself “Cartagirl”. Be creative with a name! What is the most surprising thing about geocaching?
The most surprising thing about geocaching is the places it takes you. I would have never in a million years seen most of the city I live in if it weren’t for this. Some people purposely hide a cache at a location to bring you there, and share it. Some caches are placed to bring someone there and share a great view of the water, or city. I never would have discovered my favorite park if there wasn’t a cache hidden in there. What has been your most rewarding experience with geocaching?
I don’t really have just one rewarding experience. There have been a few caches that I have been to at LEAST 8-10 times, not being able to find it. It’s that one more trip out, and suddenly finding it that brings a great sensation! A relief, a sense of accomplishment. It’s working on a mystery cache (some caches require that you solve a puzzle first before getting the coordinates to where the actual cache is) that I finally solve! I think it’s also the friends I have made by doing this too. I never would have thought that when I started, so many people geocache already. We’re all here to help each other and have a great time. I’ll rely on some of my friends for a clue if they have found one, and I haven’t yet. I sometimes will call up one of my friends and coordinate a ½ day to go with them somewhere to go caching. I personally have also turned a couple of my caching friends into clients of mine for massages. I can’t think of any one single rewarding experience, instead I think of it all as rewarding.
And lastly, I’d like to add that we have a language all our own too. We use a lot of synonyms, abbreviations, and geo-speak. One of my logs that I wrote online once was: “Woohoo! FTF
at 9:03p!! What an exciting cache! As I bushwhacked
my way to GZ
, my coords
started getting jumpy. I knew reception was spotty with the big trees nearby, but they did hide me from the muggles
. My GPSr finally settled down and pointed me to the right direction only 15′ away. I let my geo-sense kick in from there. Nice camo! I replaced cache as found just as I got notification of a new one only .18 mile away (which I STF
. I missed FTF
by only 3 minutes!). I discovered the little geo-trail on the way out, and saved myself a few minutes back to my geotruck. Is that garlic I smell nearby? I’m going to have to come back and check out the new Italian joint soon! TNLNSL TFTC!”
And remember…The most important thing is to HAVE FUN! So get out there, put new batteries in your GPSr, look up the nearest cache, and then go find it! Don’t forget to log your experience online at www.geocaching.com
, and share it with others. I hope to run into you caching someday! J
Jim, thank you for your time, and for sharing your wealth of knowledge with us.
I’m happy to report the kids and I DID
discover the Valencia Lady’s cache, and we are anxious to explore the Tri-State Area for more caches. • Have you tried geocaching?
• Do you have tips for desert geocaching?
• Does your hometown have an unusual local landmark?
Tags: advice, arizona, az, Bullhead, CA, cache, California, find, Fort Mohave, geocaching, hints, hobby, Lady, laughlin, LMP, Needles, nevada, nv, scarecrow, tips, treasure, tri-state, Valencia