Playing with planets and getting scorched by the Sun

With Sam being away for 4 nights on a school trip to Devon there was grand plans to do some serious caching this week. However, after checking the weather forecast, it was looking unlikely that we would be picking up hordes of smilies. I expect you think it was the dreaded wet stuff that was causing problems, but in fact it was the opposite. Temperatures in the UK soared into the 30s this week and that was just the air temperature. On Tuesday temperatures in excess of 41 were recorded on centre court at Wimbledon, although to be fair I don’t think there is a cache there, not even a nano on the net. Within reason, I enjoy a nice warm sunny day but it isn’t very conducive to hiking for miles and rummaging around in seas of nettles for too long. Shar, despite originally coming from New Zealand, hates the hot weather. Anything over low 20s and it is all a bit too much.

That being said, Monday still looked like our best bet with it being partially cloudy and temperatures in the mid-20s so we decided to head out and get some in before god turned up the thermostat. I have had my eye on an old series based on the planets of the solar system for some time now and this seemed like as good a time as any to crack on with it. Even though there are only 10 caches in the whole series, in the years since they were place the area around has become peppered with other cache hides so I was able to plan for two days out with 20 caches on the first day and 15 on the second. Tring, close to the border of Hertfordshire and Buckinghamshire is the setting for the caches and it is just the sort of terrain we enjoy. Small villages connected by well-maintained footpaths through fields and woodland. Everything looked good for an enjoyable days caching.

We parked at The Full Moon pub, visions of werewolves and locals advising us to “stay on the paths” running through my head, and set off, and immediately got disorientated by the myriad of footpaths running this way and that. Enjoying being under the cover of trees and bushes we meandered along the paths until we arrived at the GZ of our first hide, Commons Big Picnic – The Middleway (GC5VXET). Far from being an old cache, this one had only been out a couple of weeks and aside from the triplet of FTFers who all met at the GZ to claimed a shared first to find, no one else had been out to find the cache yet. We fought our way into the undergrowth and quickly ruled out all the likely places matching the clue. After reading the logs of the FTFers we discovered that the tree cover gave some varying coordinates of GZ and so we punched in a set of coords provided by one of the cachers as a possibly more accurate alternative. These new coordinates turned out to be right on the money and as soon as the arrow had led us to GZ, we spotted a likely hiding place and soon had the cache in hand. It was a letterbox hybrid cache, although we have not yet acquired an ink stamp for ourselves so were happy just to log it as a geocache.

Shar stands on a woodland path.

Cool in the woods


As we made our way to the next cache, the cover of the trees thinned and eventually we found ourselves on a quiet lane at a gate which was the GZ of Cholesbury – Green Gates (GC3349K). We made a quick find of the super strong magnetic cache and headed off up the paved lane / foot path towards our next two caches. Both of these were straightforward CaptainJack caches, Cholesbury – Pole (GC3349C) in a tree next to a telegraph pole, and Cholesbury – Stoned (GC32Z2P) underneath a large stone just a short way off the path. We were out in the open now and the sun was more often out than behind the clouds and so it was getting quite warm as we trekked along. One of these caches introduced me to the other problem at this time of year which is nettles. Around May time in the UK when the weather starts to get warm but we still have quite a few rain showers, the vegetation starts to go nuts. During the months of May, June and July England goes green an prickly. Nettles, bracken, and other assorted thorny plants explode out of the ground to cover the GZ of every cache in rural areas. The problem is made worse by the fact that it is now to warm to wear long sleeved tops and so I invariably get stung to buggery on our summer caching adventures.

Our next cache was actually our first in the series that we had primarily come to do. Universally Challenged 2 Pluto (GCNA5R) was placed at the side of the road, hidden in the hedgerow… allegedly. As you can probably guess, we didn’t find it. The hedgerow was protected by a verge of ferns and stingers about 3 feet deep and 4 feet high. Once beyond those, the hedgerow was laced with thorns and stingers. Despite this we spent over 30 minutes trying to find the cache. After this time and with my arms burning with nettles stings we reluctantly decided to give up. My approach with nettles is to worry about them later. With my lack of sight there is little or no chance of me picking my way carefully through them, so I just wade in as normal and get on with it. I get stung a lot but this generally doesn’t bother me, until later when we get home and I take a shower and it all starts hurting. Oh well, what’s the alternative, sit on the side of the road and whine about it? Not my style.

We moved on, now rather dejected at not being able to find one of the series caches, as this would make it difficult for us to eventually find the bonus. Add to this nettle stings for both of us and an ever increasing temperature and we weren’t the happiest of cachers as we walked further along the lane to look for our next cache, Summer Grazing (GC51PCN). Thankfully this one we did find and seeing as it was well past 1pm now we elected to find somewhere to plot up for lunch.

I could see that Sharlene wasn’t really enjoying her caching day, mainly because of the heat and so I suggested that we could cut the day short after lunch by taking a slightly different route. This would miss out more than half of the planned 20 caches but there was little point in slogging on if she wasn’t enjoying it. She explained that cutting it short would make her feel guilty. There followed a brief discussion and explanation that if she wasn’t enjoying herself then I’m not enjoying myself. Dear reader, do you think I am a heartless and uncaring man who would force the woman he loves to continue on for a further 10k and 11 caches merely because I wanted to? Oi, who said yes? I would, of course, not do that. I blame her Catholic school upbringing… you just can’t reverse that indoctrinated guilt once it takes hold can you?

A new route was formed and we packed up lunch and headed for the first of the 6 caches that remained on our to do list. Ironically conditions were vastly improved as the next few hides were in the woods and the thick tree cover offered excellent protection from the sun’s rays. We initially struggled to find Gallifrey (GC2W9JV), but again after reading some logs we noted a new set of coords which led us right to an excellent cache that was hidden deep in the roots of an upturned trunked. I like the humour of the cache owner, who stated that he had placed the cache here and named it thus as it fell on the route of the Universally Challenged series and would therefore sit comfortably next to all the other planets.

Paul stands in the woods.

Caching on Gallifrey


A quick find was made of Cholesbury – Log it (GC344MW) after a bit of back tracking in the woods. It was a fairly standard captain jack cache found easily inside half a rotting log. We were enjoying ourselves again, what with the cooler temperatures and the lower levels of nettles in the woods. This was short lived however after we had to DNF our next cache, Cholesbury – Post a Field Note 11 (GC344MH), which was meant to be hiding somewhere around or in a post. We found a number of wooden posts at GZ the site of a stile on the edge of the woods, but no cache despite thorough searching and fights with the holly that grew all around the area.

The woods stretched all the way to a nearby road where we found another super magnetic cache, Cholesbury – Roundhill Gate (GC344M2), before turning and heading in the direction of the car. Thankfully, the road was quiet, shaded by overhanging trees and, for the most part, provided us a nice wide verge to walk along. When we reached the end of the road we picked up one last CaptainJack cache, Cholesbury – Bushy (GC344N8), which I found quite quickly wedged in the crook of a tree surrounded by bushes at the side of the road. It was a good sized regular plastic box which is unusual for CaptainJack as most of his hides are micros or smalls at best. We even found a TB inside attached to a toy car and for a brief moment we thought it was actually one that belonged to Sam. On returning home I discovered it wasn’t Sam’s and had in fact been released at the end of 2014 from Puerto Rico. Unfortunately it hadn’t been logged into the cache by whoever moved it there yet so as yet I can’t really log it. I could of course do a “grab it from somewhere else” log, but this would mean that the mileage from where it was last picked up would be wiped off. I generally wait a couple of weeks or so to see if the person who dropped it off will log it. If I hear nothing, I will go ahead and grab it then.

We were now just a couple of km from the car with just one more cache to try on the way. Universally Challenged 1 – Jupiter (GCNA5Q) proved a nonstarter though as we just couldn’t work out how to get closer than 40 metres to GZ. I suspect we approached the cache from the wrong direction and neither of us fancied backtracking or continuing on to see if we could find a way to the GZ. We cut our losses and headed for the car having racked up 9 smilies and about 30 nettles stings.

Whilst it wasn’t the massive caching adventure that I had envisaged when planning it, it was still an enjoyable day out in the beautiful Hertfordshire countryside with my best girlie by my side and a double sized wedge of ginger cake in my lunchbox. Happy Days.

This caching adventure took place on Monday 29th June 2015 and took our total cache count to 1149.

Posted in Geocaching | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Mystery of the Cornish TravelBugs

Whilst out caching this week in Hemel Hempstead (See On The Trail of a Fox – GeoDate in Hemel) we found a TB. Nothing unusual about that right? Well so we thought but when we got it home we found that it was actually 2 TBs on the same chain. To further confuse us, when I tried to log them I noticed that they were showing as being in an unknown location. Now this was odd. Usually it tells you which cache the TB is in or which geocacher is holding it. It was time to do a little digging.

By looking at the tracking history of each TB, the first thing I noticed was that both TBs had been marked as missing at the end of 2014. If a CO has determined that a TB that is supposed to be logged into one of their caches is physically not in the container then they can mark the TB as missing so it won’t show up in their cache’s inventory. Reviewers can also do this. Looking back a bit further I noticed that both TBs had last been logged into a cache in 2013… the same cache in Bovingdon. OK so that explains why their location was showing as unknown but how could they be in my hand, and what was I meant to do with them?

I turned to my friends on the Beds, Bucks & Herts Facebook group and within seconds I got an answer back from alibags, a cacher with a great deal of experience. The most likely explanation appears to be that someone took the TBs out of the cache in Bovingdon back in 2013 and forgot to log them, and then that they had them at all. Finding them recently and feeling embarrassed that they still had them in their possession they decided to drop them anonymously into a cache so that they could get back into circulation. OK, so that answers how they got there, but what do I do with them?

Well the answer to that one is actually quite simple. In order to put a TB back into circulation you simply log them. Obviously you can’t use the “retrieve from a cache” option, so, instead you select the “Grabbed from somewhere else” option, and bingo, the TBs are live again and in your possession. Then I was advised that if I was feeling nice I could dip them into the cache I found them to indicate where I got them and then drop them off somewhere else like any other TB. So that is what I did.

The only thing all of this didn’t explain was how the two TBs got attached to each other. Well a bit more investigation revealed that they both shared similar goals, to travel around the Cornish coast. I imagine that at some stage a well-meaning cacher had connected them together because of their similar goal. OK question answered. Finally I got to thinking how pleased the owners would be to see their TBs back in circulation. So I took a look at the profiles of the owners and one of them still seemed fairly active on the site but the other one hadn’t logged on since 2010. I read their profile information and determined that this was the account of a son or daughter who used to cache with their family but had finally broken out and created their own account. I noted that they had quickly acquired the TB after doing this and then a couple of months later given up on caching all together. Shame. But wait, I noticed in the profile details they had listed the caching name of their family and so I looked up their profile, aware that this could now be classed as GeoStalking, and they were indeed still caching. So I dropped them a note to let them know that the TB of their son or daughter had surfaced again and would soon be back in the wild and hopefully heading for Cornwall. No reply yet but no matter, I feel good about doing my bit to set things straight.

I guess the lesson to take away from this is to always log the TBs you find in caches within a reasonable amount of time of finding them.

Thus endeth the lesson for today.

Posted in Geocaching | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

On The Trail of a Fox – GeoDate in Hemel

For our GeoDate this week Shar and I headed back to Hemel to tackle a semi-urban series called Trail of a Fox. What do I mean by semi-urban? Well if caching in built up towns and cities where the hides tend to be magnetic micro or nanos is classed as urban, and tromping through woodland, along footpaths and bridleways and across fields is countryside caching, then semi-urban is somewhere in between. You might find the caches in small parks or in bushy or tree lined alleyways but you should expect to have to walk along a few residential streets to get you from one cache to the next In addition, it is likely that a sizeable portion of the hides will still be micros or nanos simply because this is what the environment is capable of sustaining. With care and thought, however, it is possible for a semi-urban series to still be interesting and fun, but without this effort by the CO then it can feel like little more than pulling a magnetic film pot off a metal fence while standing next to a bush.

The series consists of 9 caches set out in a circular route in and around the Chaulden area of Hemel, and I had identified a couple of additional caches we could tack on as we went round. Parking up and making our way towards the first cache, #1 Trail of a Fox (GC5KFF5N), we found ourselves strolling through quiet residential streets. On getting closer to GZ a park loomed up on our left and I was pleased when the arrow took us inside to mingle with the morning dog walkers. Pushing our way through the nettles, which have really exploded here in the last month due to a combination of rain showers and warm weather, we located a nice little fake snail cache stuck with a magnet to the boundary fence. A nice container, although the GZ could have easily concealed something bigger, but I appreciate the gastropod receptacle nonetheless.

A pleasant walk through the park took us to #2 Trail of a Fox (GC5KBZD), which was hidden a short way off the path at the base of an impressively large ivy covered stump. Based on the size of the stump I should say that the tree would have been quite a whopper before it was felled. Finding the container was a case of Shar and I starting at opposite sides of the trunk and working our way round, a race that Shar won producing the cache after a few seconds. A decent size pot this time and with the added bonus of a TB in it too. Actually this turned out to be 2 TBs on the same chain and in themselves they presented somewhat of a mystery that you can read about in my next blog entry, a link for which I will now pop into the future and create so that I can include it here… The Mystery of the Cornish TravelBugs…Ta Da! I knew converting the airing cupboard into a time machine would come in handy someday. Now if I could just stop the flux capacitor setting fire to the towels it would be perfect.

Shar is pictured walking away from the camera through the trees

Don’t leave me here!


Leaving the park we walked along some slightly busier roads and then turned into an alleyway between two houses. The alley was line with a high fence on one side and trees on the other. We knew the cache, #3 Trail of a Fox (GC5KBZ1), was hanging somewhere in amongst the trees. Hanging caches are my all-time least favourite type of caches. I find it almost impossible to locate them. As I search mainly through touch I rely on things not moving when I brush against them thus allowing me to feel different surfaces and textures. If the cache moves with the branches of a tree I get very little resistance between me and the cache and therefore almost no feedback from the texture of the item. Shar isn’t a great fan of them either but she is much better at locating them. After about 15 minutes of searching I was starting to get a bit narked. I don’t much like hanging around in alleyways rummaging in the bushes and so it was time to make a PAF. Thankfully Smokeypugs had a day off work today and seeing as he lived in the area and indeed went to Sunday school at the church across the road (awww bless) I knew he would be the man for the job. He instantly remembered the hide and described the location of the cache to within a couple of inches although Shar still took another couple of minutes to find it.

#4 Trail of a Fox (GC5KBYT) was found quite easily along a 20 metre tree lined path between two streets, after I had taken the time to bash my knee on the metal posts that stop demonic pizza delivery drivers using it as a shortcut. After moaning and much rubbing of the damaged area, I pulled the small tube from its hiding place behind the fence and we could hobble on.

We had the opportunity to sit down and rest at the GZ of #5 Trail of a Fox (GC5KBYA)which we reached via a walk alongside a busy road. The bench that provided the hide for the cache also offered a chance for us to catch our breath, although with the road a few metres behind us, the noise was rather distracting. In front of us however lay open playing fields and the promise of a quieter, more amenable walk.

After a couple of minutes walking, the noise of the road had dropped and it was actually pretty pleasant and we could turn our attention to locating#6 Trail of a Fox (GC5M4TZ). There had been a few logs lamenting on being on the wrong side of the fence but I was sure that the playing field side was the correct one. I think quite a few people Cache and Dash these caches and in that is why their GPS devices lead them to the road side of the fence. Despite a couple of obvious cacher’s paths into the tall grass near the tree lined fence it still took Shar a good 10 minutes to locate this one. Once we had signed the log we had to wait patiently while the world’s slowest dog walker slowly approached along the edge of the field. The old man’s slowness was matched if not bettered by the aging lab that shuffled along behind him. Eventually the duo passed us and we could nip back into the bushes to put the cache back.

#7 Trail of a Fox (GC5M4V9) was pretty uninspiring, it was just a 35mm film pot in the crook of a wall opposite some houses. Annoyingly our search, retrieval and replacement was hampered by the muggle home owner across the street who was having a loud boring conversation with his neighbour.

A short walk along residential streets up one of the hills that Hemel is renowned for, took us to one of our additional caches, Chaulden Series 4 (GC4E4AE). GZ was on a tiny green surrounded by houses. The single tree had razor sharp thorns around it and the cache was tucked in amongst them. There was no way of retrieving this one without getting a view nasty wounds and my patience was severely wearing thing at this point. The cache, which I remind you was not part of the trail of a fox series, was crap to be honest. A tube with no lid tucked into a mass of thorns at the base of a tree overlooked by lots of houses. No reason for the CO to bring us here, crap container and a total lack of interest by the CO who has probably given up on caching as they no longer maintain their hides. On top of that, for the last half an hour or so I had really needed to pee… and this didn’t help. We left the cache site feeling totally underwhelmed.

We were happy to see that our next cache took us out of the residential streets and to the entrance to a small wooded area. I was delighted, not least of all because this afforded opportunities for a “wilderness wee”. First we tried to find #8 Trail of a Fox (GC5M4W3), which was a big mistake because I really wasn’t focussed and in my haste, knocked the tiny nano from its hiding place into the leaf litter on the floor. After a short frustrating search, Shar declared that we should go and find a “facility” first and then return and find the cache. A short walk down the path into the dense woods and we located a suitable place and were only slightly put off by a family of squirrels having a “domestic” in the tree on the other side of the path. We did what we had to do and scarpered back to the GZ before the squirrel police turned up to break up the full scale barny that was rocking the tree.

Feeling much more comfortable and able to focus, we managed to find the cache amongst the leaves on the ground and after Shar had dropped it once more, presumably for good measure, we were able to sign the log.

Paul stands at a gate gazing off into the distance

Is that a porta-loo I see in the distance?


The next part of the walk was the most pleasant part of the day’s caching. The path took us through the woods and up a steep hill. It was warm and dry and the air was filled with the sounds of nature which almost drowned out the distant hum of traffic. Our route took us in ever decreasing circles as we tried to find a path through the dense vegetation towards the GZ of Shrubhill Scramble (GC20HV9). Finally we found our way in and then gingerly made our way down the steep bank where the cache was hiding. It was a real gem of a place in my opinion, a deep depression nestled and hidden in dense trees and bushes. I imagine the local kids use it as some sort of secret place and there was a little evidence of this around. The arrow swung around a bit due to the tree cover and we spent some time trotting back and forth trying to get a fix on the location. We descended even lower and that is when I plotted myself on a log and started reading what previous finders had to say. Shar continued searching and by the time I had got enough signal to retrieve the logs, she called out that she had found it. It was a nice sized container with room for swaps and TBs, but it appeared to have seen some action at some point and was without a log. We happily put a new one in with a heavy duty plastic bag to keep it dry and replaced the cache. Without a doubt this was my favourite cache of the day, exactly the sort of thing that I reckon was more the norm 6 years ago when it was placed.

We extracted ourselves from the pit and headed for the last cache of the day, #9 Trail of a Fox (GC5KBXN). Aside from taking the long way round a field and then walking past GZ to leave the field and walk back to it on the road only to find that the description said it was field side, we soon found ourselves wading through the chest high grass to a holly bush where the cache was. With a little careful rearranging with my stick Shar was able to spot the distinctive red of a fake holly berry and our last cache of the day was logged and done.

Shar reaches into a holly bush for a cache.

Careful Extraction

As far as semi-urban caches go these were pretty good. A couple of them were missed opportunities in my opinion where a bigger or better container could have been placed but on the whole the CO has created a nice walking series considering the environment. Add in the fact that we found 11 caches and had no DNFs, and throw in the additional scramble cache which made me smile, all in all it turned out to be a good GeoDate. Happy Days.

This geocaching adventure took place on Tuesday 23rd June and took our total cache count to 1140.

Posted in Finding Geocaches, Geocaching | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

Raindrops on Roses and Whiskers on Kittens!

Well the Groundspeak 2015 Road Trip has begun. What the heck am I talking about? well, in a nutshell, it is a series of challenges between now and September 2nd where you can earn shiny souvenirs. The souvenir I can take or leave, obviously their beauty is a bit lost on me, but I am all for something that makes a challenge out of my already enjoyable hobby.

2015roadtripfavouritesChallenge number 1 was to find a geocache with more than 10 favourite points. I did this one without even trying really. When we went out on Sunday we found two caches that fitted the bill but to be honest neither were really worthy of a favourite point, at least not from me. I was cacher number 56,547 in the entire world to earn my souvenir, apparently!

After reading My Favourite Caches which was posted on Muddy Mum’s blog recently I got to thinking about the caches I have awarded my favourite points to and what my criteria is. It is a very subjective issue… what dictates whether a cache gets an FP or not. But that is fine, you can award your favourite points however you like. Some people give them out for location, or the adventure they had finding them, or the container or maybe just because they were in a good mood that day. I will defend, to the death – well ok maybe not death but close, your right to dish out your favourite points however the hell you like.

If I had to single out one common theme amongst the caches that I award points to, it would be that they all make me smile. For whatever reason, perhaps I had to climb a tree, or laughed when I saw the container, or perhaps it was a nice warm cumulative smile achieved at the end of a nice series. If it makes me smile more than normal then it is worthy of consideration. Muddy Mum, I know it seems like I just stole your reason – but it is so true and even though I can’t prove it, I thought of it first :P

Interestingly my favourite cache of all time, we haven’t even found yet! Last year we started on the epic multi stage cache that is Your Mission and even though we have yet to reach the final stage and sign the log book it has already made me smile so much I would award it 10 favourite points if I could. If you want to read our progress so far check out these Your Mission blog entries. We hope to finish it during the summer this year.

Right groundspeak… bring on the next challenge!

Posted in Geocaching | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

Mapping our walks

I have started trying out a new app on my iPhone. Not specifically for geocaching but to keep track of how far we walk. The app is called Map My Walk and I am sure you may have heard of it already. The principle is simple… you turn it on when you start walking and the app uses the GPS in your phone to keep track of everywhere you go, then at the end it can show you a map and tell you exactly how far you travelled and post it to twitface or whatever social media fix you prefer. I’m not interested in sharing my walks with the rest of the internet but I am interested to see exactly how far we walk.

Quite often when you do a series it might mention that the walk is 3.5 miles long and should take 1-2 hours or something similar. This is fine if you walk at the generally accepted average pace and stay true to the route. The reality, when geocaching, is far from the truth. We walk at all sorts of different speeds depending on tiredness, moods and cache races so the time is only ever a general guide. As for sticking to the route, well we do generally do this but we also spend a lot of time walking in ever decreasing circles around a tree, or zig zagging back and forth across the same piece of field looking for tupperware. My theory is therefore that we actually walk a lot further than we think we do. By using this app we will be able to find out for sure.

a screen shot from the mapmywalk app shows an outline of the route that we walked through the chilterns. At the bottom of the screen it displays the distance walked to be 13.65 kilometres and the time taken to be 5 hours 6 minutes.
Our first test on Sunday when we did a section of the Chiltern hundred which I estimated to be about 7km in distance actually turned out to be around 13.5km! That’s over 8miles in old money! I was utterly astonished by this. It is early days and I have resolved to use the app regularly when we go out to get a more accurate picture of how far we walk.

Watch this space…

Posted in Geocaching, Tech | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Chiltern Hundred Leg 8 – Fathers Day

On Sunday it was father’s day and that meant it was my choice as to what we did and no one was allowed to complain or whinge. I expect you don’t need to be a rocket scientist to work out that I wanted to go geocaching. Being so close to completing the Chiltern Hundred (see my previous Chiltern Hundred blog articles), I was keen to get out there and take another bite out of the 109 caches.

We parked up near number 50, a place we have used as a starting point before, but this time we commenced with the very last cache in the series, not including the bonus. CH109 – Towards The Bell (GC1EwE4) was just a short walk from our parking spot but it appeared that the no whinging rule had been forgotten as Sam couldn’t seem to walk 5 paces without complaining and having to take his boot off to remove the razor blade / broken glass / needle from inside. Eventually we did make it to GZ, but failed entirely to find the cache. To be fair this wasn’t completely unexpected. From my research this one had most likely gone walkies and seeing as we were continuing our maintenance of the series for drsolly, we put out a new lock n’ lock as per his hint and signed the log. The one good thing about doing the maintenance is that if the cache is missing, we get to put a replacement out and be the first to find it.

Sam poses holding his trackable stick in a field. His hood is up despite it being june.

Hobbit or moody pre-teen


It was Sunday morning and there wasn’t a lot of foot traffic around even though the weather was dry and warm, a perfect climate for caching. Despite a little garden waste, grass clippings etc., at the GZ of CH083 – Cogdells Lane (GC1ETVD) we made a quick find in the bushes to the side of the footpath. There was a brief discussion about the definition of what a tree stump was. Sam argued that something that stood taller than he did couldn’t be classified as a stump and therefore couldn’t be the home of the cache as the hint said it was in a stump. He then proceeded to find the cache in the “tall” stump and was confused. I argued that if a tree was cut off below where any branches grow then it is a stump. Perhaps there is a dictionary definition but to be honest, I can’t be arsed to look it up.

We back tracked just a little to the GZ of The Fundamental Theorem of Algebra (GC160W1),a puzzle cache that I had solved and Sam and Shar made a quick find of the interesting cache container which in a previous life would have held a computer hard drive but now was home to a log. The puzzle was one that I found staggeringly difficult, but everyone else in the logs said it was easy. Don’t you just hate that. In the end I found a web do-hicky thing that I just had to feed numbers into and it did all the hard work for me. It is surprising how many of these handy do hickies there are.

Our next cache, CH084 – Cogdells Farm (GC1ETVN), gave me an opportunity to get up a tree. I always enjoy doing this although I know my tree climbing is probably considered pretty pathetic to more seasoned squirrels, but no matter.

Paul stands in the bowl of a tree. He is partially obsured by the branches of the large tree. The perspective of the shot does not give the impression that he is far from the ground although it was about 5 foot up.

This photo doesn’t do it justice but I was actually UP a tree.


We were being treated to more of those glorious Chiltern views as we descended into the woods and Sam spotted the next cache, CH085 – Capps Wood (GC1ETVY). He saw it practically from the path even though it was set back about 15 metres.
A pretty view of the Chiltern Hills through the over hanging branches of a tree

Chiltern View


Our next two finds, CH086 – Bellows Wood (GC1ETVW4) and CH087 – Great Pednor Farm (GC1ETWA), took us further into the woods on a gentle downward slope and then back up out of the woods up a mother of a hill. The hills do seem to be getting a little easier than they were when we first started caching but the steep ones still hit hard, particularly Shar. She has a special method of getting up which is to just ignore everyone and everything and steadily make her way up, stopping every so often. It does mean I am left to fend for myself up the steep hills but so far this hasn’t ended in disaster. Once a the top we broke out of the woods and the wind hit us straight in the face. It wasn’t cold but it was apparent that we were now no longer in a shelter valley. We also found lots of walkers which we inconveniently kept having to pass on a narrow path at the side of a field.

ch088 – Pednor Lake (GC1ETWC) was a mercy mission for us. The cache had been disabled by the local reviewer as it hadn’t been found for almost a year and was most definitely missing. Our job was to get a new container there so that drsolly could enable it again and avoid it getting archived. When we arrived at GZ which was a gate at the end of the field, we found a woman had plotted up and was eating her lunch. After a quick conflab amongst ourselves we decided to pass on to the next cache. because of the route I had planned, we would be backtracking to this point after the next one anyway so that we could pick up a different path to head us back towards the car via another clump of caches.

We found ch089 – Herberts Hole (GC1ETWM) after a short search and another tree climb. I enjoyed it very much although the cache was later found by Shar who was on the ground. The cache had obviously migrated to a new home other than that described in the hint but at least we had found it… and I still got to climb the tree so that was ok.

When we got back to the GZ of CH087 the woman was still there and she had been joined by a group of teenagers. We decided that if you can’t beat them join them, so we laid out the groundsheet and broke out the sandwiches. When I say join them I mean we sat about 30 metres away near another gate, just out of view… this is England after all, we can’t have too much interaction with strangers, no matter how normal they look! After a while the teenagers finished up and then the woman waved them off and we surmised that she was acting as a support stage for their hike, how cute! Eventually the woman herself moved and we were able to get in and locate a suitable hide for the replacement container. Thankfully the hint had been quite specific and we located the original hiding location quickly and stashed a new lock n’ lock which was enough to save the cache from getting archived.

Did you know that caches can actually be unarchived? It doesn’t happen that often but it is an option for reviewers to perform such an action in certain circumstances if requested by the cache owner.

Sam had shaken himself out of his pre-teen moody after a couple of caches and since then we had all been very much enjoying ourselves as we cached through the Chilterns. As we made the slightly longer trek to our next cache we had a lot of fun communicating with the sheep whose field we were walking through. Having trekked up the nasty hill earlier we got to walk back down into the valley now as we went to find Jump (GC3J8BA) which was a stop gap cache to connect our Chiltern hundred clusters. It was actually a nice cache placed in beautiful surroundings and I was pleased that we had made the detour to it.
This picture shows an open field. Sam and Shar are walking through the field away from the camera
From here we joined a country lane where the last 5 of our caches of the day were placed. We expected the first two to be missing as per the multiple DNFs that had been logged and so we went prepared to replace them. The first one, CH108 – Pednor Bottom West (GC1EWDY), was a bit tricky as we didn’t know what an elder tree was so weren’t sure where the cache was supposed to be. In the end I pieced together enough clues from previous logs to identify the tree and we dropped a new lock n;’ lock.

ch107 – Pednor Bottom (GC1EWDK) was much more obviously missing as the hint was very specific and pointed to the rear of a telegraph pole where there most definitely was not a cache anymore. It just took a couple of minutes to put out another new container and we were off again. I got to climb yet another tree at CH106 – Pednor Bottom East (GC1EWDH), this one was a truly lovely example of a multi trunked ivy covered tree and it was riddled with hiding places for the caches. I think there were 5 trunks in all and standing in my perching point in the high bowl I think it was the fifth one I searched where I actually found the cache.

Further along the lane we had a tricky find at CH105 – Pednor Vale Farm (GC1EWDB) which was hidden in the thick trees/ bushes at the side of the road. When we did finally locate it, we found not one, but two containers. Obviously it had been suspected missing in the past and someone else had dropped a replacement container, only for the original to turn up again. We pocketed the extra container, it being a trade-off for the 4 new ones we had put out today and happily trundled on to our last cache of the day.

It was not the first time we had visited ch102 – Wych Elm Farm (GC1EWCT), we had logged a DNF on it on one of our previous visits. We hadn’t put out a new container as other people were finding it and so we just had to admit that it was us that was being dim. We had returned armed with more info about its location, gleaned from the logs and a previous finder and were determined to find it this time. Our optimisation slowly turned to dread as after 10 minutes we still hadn’t located it amongst the many trees at the side of the road. We bemusedly questioned our sanity and then Shar walked over to where I was searching and plucked the cache out of a tree that I had searched a million times already. There was no time to be bitter because we were so happy at finding it and converting a DMF to a smiley. All that remained now was to walk up the bloody hill back to the car.

As far as the Chiltern hundred goes we only have numbers 90 to 98 to do plus a double DNF of number 37 which we are convinced is missing so might be a replacement job. Other than that all the caches we have already found and maintained in the last 5 months seem to still be in good condition with the exception of the very first cache in the series which has gone missing. It was the very first cache we replaced in the series and it looks like we might be replacing it once more before we finally sign off our maintenance / finding duties and head for the golden bonus which promises to be an ammo can.

I do truly think that our geocaching days are some of the most fun times we have as a family and already look back on the ones we have had with fondness. I hope that Sam will look back on them when he is older and remember all the silly fun we had as a family on our days out. Having good weather, Sam Shar and a slab of ginger cake along on Sunday certainly made it a Happy Father’s day, for sure.

This geocaching adventure took place on 21st June 2015 and moved our total cache count to 1114.

Posted in Finding Geocaches, Geocaching | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Zen and the Art of Cache Maintenance

“With great caches comes great responsibility”
This phrase was made famous by Spiderman… or at least it would have been if he had been a geocacher. Hmmm, now I am considering what sort of caches the arachnid super hero would have placed. I expect some serious 5/5 ones. In fact climbing up the outside of a building and swinging on a thread across to the top of a radio mast where the GZ is would probably warrant the creation of a whole new difficulty and terrain rating system. Oh wait, there is no way Spiderman could be a geocacher… where the hell is he going to put his pen? But there is a point here, somewhere. The point is that creating and publishing caches is barely the tip of the ice berg when it comes to being a cache owner. Many are lured by the thrill and excitement of setting hides for others to find but a fantastic cache can soon deteriorate into a mess and sometimes even a blight on the landscape or an embarrassment to the hobby if it isn’t maintained.

Keeping your caches maintained includes everything from monitoring the find logs and taking note of DNFs. Considering and acting on “Needs Maintenance logs and periodically doing a physical check to dry out containers, replace damp or full logs or freshen up on the swag. When you visit you should also pay attention to the impact your caches are having on their surroundings in case their position is causing cachers to unwittingly damage trees or fences etc.

The logs you receive will be the biggest clues you get to the state of your caches. Comments about damp logs, damaged containers, coordinates that are off, difficult or iffy placement and changes at GZ can be very helpful. Most geocachers are not backwards in making their feelings known in their logs, especially if they didn’t actually find the cache, but caution should be exercised when considering the information provided by other cachers. A lot of these issues are very subjective… what one person considers a problem, another might not.

Something else to consider is how many DNFs should you allow before checking on your cache in person? Well unless the DNF log you receive is very specific such as, “There is no way this cache is here as they have now built a Starbucks at GZ where last week there was a field”, then you might do well to hold fire on rushing out. I tend to wait for 3 DNFs before making a point of going and checking on the cache. If you are convinced that the cache is missing or damaged, then mark it as temporarily disabled with a note that you will visit soon. Better this than have cachers needlessly searching for hides that aren’t there.

Don’t be afraid to contact those who note problems or DNF your caches either. This is a good way to get more information about what the problem is, if indeed there is one. Also, it gives you the chance to connect with the people who are searching for your hides. Generally they will appreciate your courtesy and interest if you contact them and it might encourage them to return and try again sometime or even to feel positive about the next set of caches you place, believing you to be a caring and dutiful cache owner. Be courteous and polite though. There is no point in ruffling people’s feathers in an attempt to find out what might be wrong with your cache. If they are willing to give you any additional information then make sure to be appreciative. Likewise if people are kind enough to replace a damp log in one of your caches off their own back, send them a thank you email, it takes a lot less time to send a short note than it would have to actually go out and do it yourself.

So that takes care of reactive maintenance, but what about being proactive? This is sometimes the best sort of maintenance there is. Taking the time to visit your caches every so often armed with fresh log sheets, swag, a couple of replacement containers and a wad of paper towels can ensure that your hides stay in tip top condition, which in time will generate favourable logs and possibly even favourite points. But how often should you visit your caches? As far as our caches are concerned, we try to visit at least 2 or 3 times a year to do proactive maintenance runs. If this seems a lot to you then perhaps you have too many caches. Our caches are relatively close and are placed in locations that we are happy to return to. If the thought of returning to your caches fills you with dread, then why the hell did you put the cache there in the first place?

Weather can often be a big factor in how well your caches fair, so timing your maintenance visits at certain times of the year can be useful. After winter has thawed and the days get milder it might be a good time to get out and see how your hides have held up during the harsher months. As the weather improves you will start to get more visitors to your cache so cleaning them up will make sure that you have lots of happy cachers. By the time you get to the autumn, the heavy foot fall of the summer will start to ease off and it is a good idea to assess how the extra visits have left your caches and the surrounding area. This is also a good chance to prepare them for the winter. Check the seal on lids and ensure you have decent bags for your logs.

Our Wall Hall series has been out for a year now and, during that time, has chalked up around 100 visits. Aside from responding to definite problems in the past year we have made sure that all the caches have had at least a couple of proactive checks. A couple of months ago we walked the whole series checking each cache and were reminded of what a lovely walk it is. But it is important not to rest on your laurels just because you have walked the whole series, problems can arise at any time. One of our caches had received 3 DNFs over the space of a couple of weeks and then a second hide received two in quick succession so at the weekend we went to check them out armed with replacements just in case. It is a good job we did as both caches had indeed gone missing. Thanks to helpful DNF logs we were able to sort this out within a short space of time and this is why it is so important that you log your DNFs. Some cachers don’t bother, and that is fine I guess, it isn’t a rule after all. But as a cache owner, getting DNF logs is extremely important in helping ensure that your caches are still there and available to find. It sucks big time getting them, I can tell you. Not many cache owners would say they liked getting DNF logs but if the cache really has gone, then we need to know about it.

Here’s some handy points to remember for seekers and owners alike.

Geocachers…

  • Be truthful in your logs about the condition of caches.
  • Always log DNFs
  • Carry a couple of spare logs sheets and some tissue.
  • Don’t panic the CO. If you only spent 5 seconds looking or just couldn’t be arsed, say so.
  • Only log a “Needs Maintenance” if it really warrants it, not just because you couldn’t find it or the log is a little bit damp.

    Cache Owners…

  • Read all your found and DNF logs, don’t just delete them.
  • Don’t panic maintain.
  • Wait for 2-3 DNF logs unless definitive problems arise.
  • Temporarily Disable caches that you strongly suspect are missing.
  • Try to get out and fix problems promptly and record your progress in “Write Note” or “Owner Maintenance” logs.
  • Proactively maintain your caches 2-3 times a year.
  • If the maintenance is just too much for you then consider adopting out or archiving some or all of your caches.
  • Posted in Geocaching | Tagged , , , , , | 5 Comments