A Triple Monkey at the Geolympix 2016 MEGA

On Sunday we attended the Geolympix Mega event that was being held on the Ashridge estate which sits almost slap bang on the borders of Beds, Bucks and Herts and is just over a half an hour drive away from us. Whilst the event itself started at around 9 in the morning and the FTF frenzy commenced at noon, we rocked up about 3pm with the intention of finding no caches at all.

No, we haven’t lost our minds? Well if we have it didn’t manifest itself in this particular instance. It was a cunning plan on our part to experience a Mega in a different way to our previous two. We went purely to soak up a bit of atmosphere, socialise and log our closest mega to date.

After we had arrived, signed the log, said hi to a few friends and wandered around the few stalls that were there we then found ourselves wondering what to do. I had noticed that our cache count was standing at a rather tantalizing 1496 prior to attending the mega and it was too much of a temptation for us not to try and make the mega itself our 1500. So we decided to go caching. Yeah, I know what I said in the last paragraph, but things change.

Our first target didn’t even need a GPS. As we stood at the table signing the log for the mega, Sam looked across the meadow and pointed out a Hollywood style sign spelling out the word “GEOCACHE” a few hundred metres away and so we headed off over to check out if it was indeed a cache. Before we got there however Sharlene spotted two people wearing orange t-shirts who seemed to be heading towards us across the meadow. There in a middle of a field in the Ashridge estate we were delighted to meet and chat with fellow bloggers Mr and Mrs HG137 proprietors of the excellent Sandhurst geocachers blog.

A group shot of Sharlene & Paul with Mr and Mrs HG137 proprietors of the Sandhurst Geocachers blog

Blogs collide – Washknight meets Sandhurst

Whilst we were fresh and full of energy, they were nearing the end of their day having found a very respectable 20 caches and enjoyed all the mega had to offer already. After a short chat we bid them farewell and a safe journey and we continued on across the meadow to log our first cache of the day.
Sam and Paul stand behind a hollywood style sign spelling the word geocache made up of letters approx 12 inches high. Beyond is a tree where the cache was hidden.

Thankfully we were spared the embarrasment of logging a DNF on this one by the helpful hint.

After this we found the next two closest traditionals and logged those as well,taking our total up to 1499, leaving us just the Mega itself to log to take us to our 1500. Despite only doing 4 caches in total on the day, reaching the 1500 milestone makes it feel as if we achieved more than we did.

After our exhausting day of geocaching it was back for an ice cream and then onto the main meeting point where we met lots of people we already knew and some we didn’t. Our good friend Geoff (a.k.a. Smokeypugs) was there and on good form as well as many others from the local Beds, Bucks, and Herts community. There were lots of people from all over the country and even the world, most notably was an American man who was dressed as a jester for a reason I never discovered.
I even recognised a few people just by their voices. Although I didn’t get to actually meet them, there was no is taking the distinct northern tones of Pete and Tracy, the hosts of the Podcache show podcast.
To round the day off we all gathered together in the small area near the stalls on the edge of the meadow for the inaugural National Geocaching Awards. It was a very entertaining hour or so spent applauding the winners and laughing at the jokes of the hosts Paul and Graham not to mention the odd amusing heckle too. I wasn’t overly disappointed not to win the award that I had been nominated for and was genuinely honoured to be shortlisted at all. I was more upset that fellow blogger Sarah (a.k.a. the geocaching junkie) didn’t win in the social mediast category as I feel her blog is a most excellent and entertaining resource. Sarah had come over from Ireland for the Mega, in fact she was fresh in from the piratemania Mega the day before and after geolympix she was heading to wales for the UK mega too. After the ceremony we managed to talk for a short while and snap a photo too.

Paul and Sarah a.k.a. the geocaching junkie pose at the national geocaching awards event.

International geoblogosphere meet up ūüôā

In conclusion, we all agreed that we thoroughly enjoyed our experience at the mega. The weather was warm but not hot, more importantly it was dry. The Ashridge estate is a beautiful NT property with many great things to see and do aside from all the caches that are there now, which we will be returning for over the coming months. Most notably though the event was a success because of all the great people we got to meet and chat too. But has it changed our general attitude towards mega events? Nah, probably not ūüôā

This MEGA geocaching adventure took place on Sunday 31st July and took our total cache count up to 1500. Yeah baby!

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Geolympix Ashridge 2016 – We’re Going!

geolympixWhat is the Geolympix? In a nutshell… it is a geocaching event held to coincide with the Summer Olympics. It was first held in 2012 and proved to be such a success that the organisers plan to hold it every four years. This year it is being held on Sunday, 31st July in the Ashridge country park which is just a 30 minute drive from us, and this time it is gong MEGA. Oooooo exciting ūüôā

“But Paul,” I hear you cry, “You don’t really like mega events.”

Well, you are right, I have gone on record saying that Mega events just don’t seem to be our thing, but there are a few reasons why we are choosing to attend this one.

Firstly, it is on our doorstep. If we get bored or aren’t enjoying it, we can be at home with feet up sipping wine/vodka/lemonade in 30 minutes.

Secondly, we are not really going intending to cache. We plan to go sometime in the afternoon, sign the mega log, browse around the stalls, take a look at the special attractions laid on, and maybe sniff the odd lab cache or two. So our expectations are much more basic.

Thirdly, we reckon we will know a good handful of people there. As it is on our doorstep and being organised by some people we know through the BBH Facebook group, the likelihood of us bumping into people we know is a lot higher. Plus there is a chance of meeting people who we know through the internet who are going too. Sarah, The Geocaching Junkie, has said she will be there as part of her whirlwind 3 Mega events in a week trip, and also Graham and Helen who write the Sandhurst Geocachers blog are going to and I hope I get the chance to bump into them and put a voice to a blog as it were.

And lastly, the National Geocaching Awards event is being hosted there in the late afternoon and I am very interested to see what sort of a do this is going to turn out to be. Whether in future years I will be proud to say I was at the first ever NGAs or whether I will be laughing at what a total dog’s breakfast it was. Either way, it interests me. Oh, and mumble… mumble… I may have been nominated in one of the award categories mumble… mumble.

So, we will be there, and if you are going too, look out for the man with the trackable white cane, it will probably be me.

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Washknight: Geocaching From A Different Perspective

Many thanks to Sarah for inviting me to appear on her blog.

The Geocaching Junkie

If you Google ‚Äėstarting a blog‚Äô, you are sure to come across the well-cited ‚Äėfact‚Äô that most blogs do not last longer than 3 months. There are, ironically, countlessblogs detailinghow to be a good and successful blogger and I read lots of them before starting my own. Onepiece of advice that appeared repeatedlywas to read other blogson your chosen subject. So I startedreading. There are a plethora of geocaching blogs out there and lots of really good ones too. One that I stumbled uponearly on,and have been followingever since, isPaul Weston‚Äôs great site.

Meet Paul

Paul, a.k.a. Washknight, is based in Watford, England and started caching in May 2013 when he read about it in his 9-year-old son’s geography book:

There was a single paragraph in the book about geocaching being like a scavenger hunt that you use a GPS device to play. Being a very techy person, this…

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As per my post from last week, Pok√©mon Go? iPhone says Pok√©mon No!, it was clear that playing Pok√©mon Go on our current phones was not going to happen. On Thursday we went into town and I came home with a new iPhone SE and totally unexpectedly, Shar also came home with a new phone, a Samsung Galaxy J3. So there we were, in possession of two shiny new top of the range phones… time to catch some Pok√©mon.

I know what you are thinking. This is a geocaching blog. And you would be right, but bear with me for a moment. We hit the town on Saturday and Shar and Sam got straight into catching all manner of weird named creatures and racking up experience points, candy, dust eggs, incense and all other sorts of weird stuff, that I am struggling to understand. Long and short of it is that they both love it, Shar surprisingly more than Sam it appears, a fact that I discovered later that evening when she returned in from having a smoke and casually informed me that she had “popped round the block” to pick up a few Pok√©mon.

I am delighted they enjoy it, and I am happy to tag along for the walk when they go out, especially if we can swing by the odd geocache or two when we go. You see what I am getting at here? When I suggested that perhaps we could walk to the library and look for the cache near there, I was not greeted with groans or grumbling but instead agreement and excitement as there were two Pokéstops over there too. I was mentally rubbing my hands together and planning the hoovering up of many an isolated urban cache around Watford even before we had left the house.

So far, the plan is working. We have been out twice “throwing balls at monsters” and each time we have managed to pick up a cache on the way. So whilst, Pok√©mon itself is not accessible to me and of little more interest than seeing my family enjoy it, I can see a way that the diminutive virtual monsters might be of great use to me after all.

[Cue close up on my face as my eyes sparkle and I laugh manically]

This weird Geo-Poké-cach-mon-ing adventure took both Sam and Shar to level8 and our cache count up to 1495.

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Pok√©mon Go? iPhone says Pok√©mon No!

As a geocacher, the idea of getting out and about with phones in hand is second nature. We were keen to try out what Pok√©mon Go was all about but sadly our household is rather technology retro at the moment. We were dismayed to discover that neither Shar’s android or Sam’s iPhone 4 stood a chance in hell of running the app. Sam could run it on his iPad but what was the use of that seeing as it has no cellular modem or dedicated GPS chip which means as soon as you stray from the comfort zone of Wi-Fi then you are knackered.

I thought perhaps we might be in luck with my iPhone 4s, but it turns out you need IOS 9 minimum to run the app and I was on 7. I gritted my teeth and took the plunge and ran the update to take it up to 9.037456493.3.2 or whatever the hell arbitrary number Apple have come up for the latest update and to my utter horror, all went well and my phone didn’t become a “brick” during the process. So then we could play Pok√©mon? Err, no.

Despite plenty of trying and occasional moments of euphoria when we thought it would work, it continued to crash all the time. We spent a frustrating hour in the park constantly loading the app and going strange listening to the annoying music.

Long and short of it is, the app only supports iPhone 5 and above, even if you do manage to get IOS 9 on your 4S, it still ain’t’ gonna work.

So, it looks like I am getting a new phone. Don’t get me wrong, I am NOT upgrading my phone just to play Pok√©mon. An upgrade has been on the table for a long time now and I have been putting it off until I could emotionally prepare myself for the stress of it all. Blimey I am starting to sound like an old fuddy duddy. It is quite possible that by the time you read this I will be the proud owner of an IPhone SE, although I probably won’t be able to use it because Sam will be “catching em all”

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Showcasing the GeoBlogosphere #8

Below is another great selection of articles to be found on geocaching blogs around the internet recently. Don’t forget to check out my extensive list of geocaching blogs.

Brave little LAGeek
a bad case of Ophidiophobia for LAGeek resulted in one of those blog entries that you know you shouldn’t laugh at, but do anyway.

Kel gets creative for the Bugs
Some people are just far too clever for their own good. This is a fascinating article about how Kel created her TravelBug hotel. I have a vested interst in this one as Here’s Cheers to the GeoBlogosphere became one of the first residents.

Growth is not Sticky
While we are “down under” check out this interesting article i found on Ontario cacher R’s blog talking about geocaching in Oz.

Sandhurst goes to Devon
Back in the UK with the Sandhurst Geocachers on their recent holiday to Devon and Cornwall. Of the numerous articles on their blog about the trip, this one was my favourite because it demonstrates how easy it is to bump into other cachers sometimes.

And now for something a little different.
Normally I focus on articles from purely geocaching blogs in this feature but this time I wanted to include some cool articles that I came across on blogs that aren’t solely about geocaching. We went geocaching and I lost my cool is an article that I am sure a lot of us can identify with. Obsession, frustration and flared tempers, thankfully related here through the humourous slant of hindsight. A Good Day is an article that touched me both for how geocaching can be such a simple pleasure but also because of the deeper story that accompanies it of how a mother copes with bringing up a child who has very challenging needs. And lastly Special dates with Sam and Nate is just a heart warming story of how geocaching can be a fantastic way to spend time wiht the grandchildren.

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Half Term Geocaching – Lee Gate Part 2

Having cached already once in the half term, I was pleasantly surprised that the family was all up for a second outing before Sam went back to school. Seeing as we had enjoyed our first visit to the Lee Gate area a few days earlier, we decided to return to pick up the remaining nine geocaches.

In true British weather style, where we had needed jackets at the beginning of the week, just a few days later and it was much warmer which meant I was back to trying to decide whether a t-shirt was enough or if a jumper would be needed as well. As experienced cachers know, this decision is not always an easy one even when the sun is out and the temperature is lovely and warm. The extra thing to consider is how much protection do you want on your arms. Along with the showers of spring/summer and the occasional bursts of sunshine comes the explosion of nettles, bracken, thorns and all manner of other nasty things. Going short sleeved can be a real tough decision sometimes.

We parked at the same pub as before, but headed off in a slightly different direction this time in search of our first cache, Swan Lane (GC3BYR5)>. Straight away I was glad that I had elected to keep my arms covered as the first hide was buried deep in amongst some holly.

Next it was into the woods proper and a pleasant if somewhat surprisingly muddy walk towards Lordling wood (GC3BYRW). The area obviously suffered from drainage problems as the amount of mud we encountered over the next few caches was vastly disproportionate to the amount of rain we had received over the last few days and weeks. Our phones pointed us off the path and into the undergrowth a short distance and it was quite some time before we finally did make the find, the patchy GPS coverage not helping either as the phones were jumping all over the place.

It didn’t get any easier at Brun Grange (GC3BYT8) either. Once we had reached GZ, having to squelch through another patch of mud on the way, the arrow again pointed us off path and deep into the dense undergrowth. Another long search was almost abandoned when just by chance I managed to knock the half-buried cache with my foot. You instinctively know when you have kicked something that isn’t a branch or a rock, the feel of it and the sound of it is just not what you would expect for the environment.

A little bit of backtracking and then a climb up a long gentle hill, through yet more mud, took us toTP (GC3BYVB). Sam made the find quickly at the side of the path, but I was far more intrigued by the object that stood on the opposite side. It was a trig point. Only the second one I have ever come across “out in the wild”.

In case you didn’t know, trig points are concrete pillars erected, usually on hills and higher ground, to facilitate the accurate establishment of position. The modern trig point network was built between 1932 and 1960 and comprises over 6000 pillars placed all over the UK. In theory, weather conditions permitting, you should be able to see at least 2 other trig points from any one pillar, or at least that was the case back when they were built. Alas, now many are not visible at all due to encroaching vegetation. Whilst these things are a relic of the past, as modern satellite and laser measuring systems can provide much more accurate positioning information, you have to give a nod to the map makers of the past for creating a system that could allow the development of the national grid system, on which all the ordnance survey maps are based in the UK. I noted with interest the grooves and hooks on the pillar and later discovered this would be how a theodolite was mounted to allow for the measurement of angles between other nearby trig points.

Sam stands next to the concrete pillar that is the trig point on a hill in Lee Gate.

Trig Point

From here we turned tail again and headed back down the hill, and through the mud, to our next couple of caches, Edge of Widmoor Wood (GC3bytj) and Timberley Again (GC3BYX6). Both of them we found, but I don’t really have much of a recollection of them. Not every cache can be memorable I suppose.

Just A Tree (GC3BYXM), I do remember, as it was so nearly a DNF. We had reached a less dense part of the wood and the arrow was pointing us to a club of trees surrounded by narrow paths. An obvious looking tree or two provided places to search but Sam and I both came up with nothing. Shar wasn’t having much luck either and after about 10 minutes we were all ready to give up. We took a moment just to reread some logs and gave it one more search, digging just a little deeper in the ankle deep leaf littler that was all around and Shar came up with the goods.

We broke out of the woods and walked along a lane for a short distance before making an easy find of Gate (GC3BYQ1 ) at a kissing gate leading into a field. Once through the gate and even though we only had one more cache to go, we opted to stop for a picnic in the half shade of a big tree. So many of our lunches are staged with half the groundsheet in the sun and half in the shade. I love the warmth of the sun on me, but Shar is not so keen. As you can imagine, if we stay for any length of time, this involves a certain amount of getting up and moving the groundsheet every so often to maintain the even distribution of sun and shade.

Refuelled and refreshed we packed up and started for the last cache, Another Gate (GC3BYQK), and a longish walk back to the car. On arriving at GZ which was a gate in a hedgerow between two fields I was told that I had stepped in some cow poo on the way. I shifted instinctively and promptly put my foot in another nearby pile of poo. Consequently I spent the remainder of the walk back to the car, after we failed to find the cache, dragging my feet through the grass and generally looking like a bit of a weirdo. Not much change there then.

It was a shame to end on a DNF but Sam and Shar both agreed that it was a good way to spend a few ours together. Aside from getting cow poo all over my boots, I couldn’t agree with them more.

This geocaching adventure took place on 5th June 2016 and took our cache count up to 1480.

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