Sunday, 21 December 2014

Festive Fun and Frivolity

'Tis the season when many a fair-weather geocacher packs away their GPSr for the winter, the inboxes of cache owners get a well deserved break as logs on hides begin to dwindle and everyone begins to get ready for the onslaught of Christmas. Only the hardiest of cachers will venture out at this time of year and, as I have discovered myself, this can be a magical time for geocaching adventurers.

I haven't blogged for a while as I have been busy as of late; demand for my time has been divided amongst family and friends, work, the forthcoming festivities and an ageing dog. However, I have made time for a little caching where I can, whether it be solving puzzle caches, finding caches or attending events. I won't bore you with all the details though, instead I shall tell you about a few of the highlights.

Before I do though, if I don't get the chance to blog between now and next year I hope you all have a...

Zreel Puevfgznf naq n Unccl Arj Lrne! *

All For a Good Clause

The most recent event Nige and I attended was BBH#84 ~In spitting distance of all 3 counties, held at the Red Lion pub in Dagnall, Hertfordshire. We had a great time at the event catching up with some (now) familiar faces and meeting some new ones. We have been to a few BBH events now but this was - so far- the most fun one we have been to. Alibags did an amazing job of organising this event and it was, as is usual for any BBH event, very well attended. 

Of course, there was plenty of talk of geocaching but also the event organiser had put together a few games of pass-the-parcel, something that many of us have not played since we were children. Prizes included boxes of chocolates and the coordinates of a yet-to-be-published geocache, the winner of which would be able to claim the coveted title of FTF.

This event was not only special because it was the last BBH event before Christmas and New Year, but also because a fellow cacher called IB Searching - who is the first geocaching friend I made - was there with a mission to raise some money for charity. Before I tell you how he was going to achieve this let me show you a picture of him...

 That's a mighty impressive crumb catcher he has there.
"Following numerous queries about when I'm going to have a shave, I have decided that it is time that my 'Santa's Whiskers', as someone dubbed them, come off" said IB Searching and he would be doing it "in aid of The Brainstrust Charity."

The pub wouldn't allow the beard to come off inside the premises - which is understandable as it is a food establishment - so we all bundled outside to strip Santa of his beard.

The transformation was remarkable and fortunately not a drop of blood was spilt as nearly everyone had a go at chopping bits off.

With the face fur gone, we retreated back to the warmth and our drinks to continue the party. Everyone dug deep that evening and a lot of money was raised for charity, so congratulations to IB Searching, I'm guessing a scarf is high on his Christmas wish list now though.

If you would like to know more about Brainstrust then please follow this link. If you are feeling generous and would like to help IB Searching's fundraising attempt then please click here.

If you would like to see how we mutilated Santa, then there is video evidence!

Oh Deer!

Like I said earlier, I haven't been out caching as much as I would have liked to over the past few months. With the shorter days, I have found it better to go out and find single caches here and there rather than the trails that we were doing in the summer months. Although the cold weather can easily dissuade me from going outside, I have found that the different sights and colours that Mother Nature can paint at this time of year make it all worth it. 

It was late afternoon when Nige and I arrived in Woburn, Bedfordshire to find a multi cache called "Dear Abi" located on the stately grounds of Woburn Abbey. We parked in the free car park as suggested and started our walk up towards the Abbey and Gardens. We have visited the Abbey before but have only ever driven through the surrounding parts until that day.

We got to the ticket booth and as we were unsure whether the hunt for the cache would take us away from the "free" footpaths, we paid a small fee to gain entry. It was only later that we realised that you only need to pay to gain access to the Abbey gardens and the tea shop, neither of which we had the time to visit after finding the cache.

As we walked around, the sun was beginning to go down. It didn't take us long to find the first stage of this multi. The going was very muddy in places but the views were amazing and I got some great photos of the deer. We couldn't believe how many of them there were.

When we approached GZ of the final stage, there was a moment when we thought we weren't going to be able to get to it as there was a huge herd of deer right where we wanted to look. We waited for a while and eventually they moved on. 

At this point my GPSr began to play up (turns out the batteries were beginning to die) so we had a little difficulty finding the cache. There were only a few possible locations to hide a cache though so we spread out and, using the hint, found the cache in the end. We had a wonderful time finding this cache, it is such a beautiful area and it was great to see all the deer up close. We even saw some reindeer which only served to remind how fast the festive season had crept up on us!

London Baby!

It wouldn't be Christmas for us without a trip to London. This year had the added bonus that I was now a geocacher! Despite my best intentions though - pocket query of a thousand caches downloaded, a few puzzles solved and a couple of select caches as recommended by some fellow cachers - I managed to find a grand total of two! And not even very good ones at that! Ah well, there is always next year. I managed to snap some good photos though and it's always fun to visit Hyde Park at Christmas.

* Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Monday, 10 November 2014

Mega Mud, Mega Monsters and a Mega Event

A couple of weekends ago, Nigel and I attended our first Mega-Event Cache and with it came a few more firsts for us that weekend. The 25th October saw us heading off to Wakerley Great Wood near Corby for the annual Halloween Mega 2014. A Mega-Event Cache is an Event Cache that is attended by 500+ people. This year, 1,339 adults and children descended on Wakerley Great Woods for a day of "Creepy Caches & Halloween Hides" and with over four and a half thousand favourite points given to the various caches by attendees, I think it is safe to say that everyone had a mega time that weekend.

With a potential 64 caches to find during the event, Nige and I were set to break our record for "most finds in a day". Okay, so this wasn't going to be a difficult record to break - our previous total was only seventeen - and the caches themselves were not going to be difficult hides, but we still found it a challenge. Not including the event itself, we found and logged 61 caches that day including 10 lab caches, a letterbox cache, an earthcache, a mystery cache and a multi cache!

It took us twelve hours and about fifteen miles of walking. I got covered in mud, I busted my knee, and I managed to smack my head pretty hard on a branch in the dark, mainly because of my stupid decision to wear this during the evening:

Never again!
At first it seemed like the Best Costume in the World Ever until we ventured out into the dark forest; I found that I couldn't see a damned thing and kept standing on my beard when ducking under branches. Despite all that we had an amazing weekend.

I nicknamed this little chap Bones
Attending an event of this magnitude shows just how diverse the geocaching population is. Young or old, two-legged humans or four-legged canines, alive or undead... we met them all. As we walked around from cache to cache, we kept bumping into people we had only just met that day and by the evening our brief "Howdies" to these strangers evolved into friendly banter and conversations of shared experiences. There was a sense of camaraderie that you rarely get at large events outside the geocaching world.

Everyone was so friendly; we had help from and gave help to many people throughout the day. We joined up with a group of zombies to help them solve the mystery cache, they were the slow moving George A. Romero kind though and we were on a mission so left them behind after a while. We had help from another group of cachers to find the multi cache and we worked together with others on the lab caches.

Heroic moment of the whole day though goes to Nigel and another man (whose name I didn't get). We were blessed with fantastic weather that day, being October I was expecting it to be either raining and/or cold, but within the woods the temperature was moderate enough that we didn't really need our jackets. However, the preceding week had been a bit of a wet one which transformed the area into swamp-like conditions that even Shrek would refuse to inhabit.

"You've got to be kidding!"
We had met a few people at the event that day that were in wheelchairs and mobility scooters and, all credit to them, they were getting about the woods remarkably well considering. However, conditions were anything but improving as darkness descended. We were walking along a particularly sloppy footpath when we heard a bit of a commotion behind us. We looked back to see a group of cachers that we had met earlier in the day. One of them was a lady in a mobility scooter, except it wasn't so mobile at the moment, it was wheel spinning in the mud and leaning precariously to one side. Just as the woman was about to receive a complementary Wakerley Wood face pack, Nigel and the unnamed man leapt into action through shin high mud and guided scooter and rider to sturdier ground!

Now onto the caches. Every single one of the unique cache containers were an amazing find and the organisers of the event, The Halloween Crew, deserve every single favourite point and then some for the effort they put into them all. There are too many to write about here so I shall just tell you about my favourite day and night caches from the event.

Spitting Sid - day cache.

It was approaching dinner time for me when we came across this cache so I didn't pay much attention to the name of it. Ground Zero was slightly of the beaten track, as were most of the caches throughout the day.

In my excitement at finding the container to be an ammo can - it's always a bit special to find one of these in the field - I rushed to open it up only for Spitting Sid to live up to his name! There was a mechanism inside the box that when opened caused Sid to squirt water right at his unsuspecting victim. Much to Nigel's amusement, I not only got wet retrieving the log but stupidly got another soaking putting it back!

Deady Bears Picnic - day cache.

This was the last of the day caches that we found. Whoever created this beautifully gruesome piece of brilliance has a twisted mind! I loved it! It's probably a good thing that all the caches were replaced with Tupperware containers at midnight; can you imagine coming across this whilst in the woods out on your own? You wouldn't want to stick around for long that's for sure. The log book accompanying this creepy little dude was concealed in his cup. Fortunately, this one had no nasty surprises when you opened it up.

MEGA HERTZ - night cache.

This was my second favourite cache of the whole day. A cache with a shocking twist! - I'm sorry, that was a terrible joke. This genius piece of engineering was far from terrible though. There was a box on the side of the chair that contained the log book. When opened, the chair started to 'charge up' and everyone nearby took a nervous step backwards. As the sound reached it's crescendo the poor soul in the chair began shaking violently and lit up like a lantern!

Even though this cache has made an appearance at previous Halloween Megas, it still remains a firm favourite amongst event goers.

MEGAPHOBIA - night cache.

As with most of the caches we seeked out during the day, there was a small crowd of cachers surrounding this one as we approached. Being small, I could not see what was up ahead, I didn't need to see it though to know that this find was going to be special.

As I wound my way through the gathering of people to get a look at the cache, a chilling sound arose from the darkness ahead. There were gasps and nervous laughter from all around me. I emerged from the crowd, looked up and stood in awe at what I could see above me. About 20 feet up in the trees was a giant spider hanging from it's web. The log book was inside the skull that you can see at the bottom of the photo.

We couldn't see how the sound and movement was activated, we guessed that it was when someone attempted to retrieve the log book. I kind of wish that there had been no other cachers there when we found this one as I bet this would have been super creepy to find on your own.

This was by far the most impressive cache for me at the event, not just for the fact that it was the most monstrously nightmarish hide there, but also because of the time, effort and skill to put something like this together. I have heard that it took about 3 hours just to put it in place!

That is definitely not something you would like to come across in the woods at the dead of night on your own! Except if you're a horror fan like me and think that, although scary, it would be awesome!

The above videos were filmed by Adam of caching trio the3maslankas. Please take a little time to visit his youtube channel by clicking here.

Overall, Nige and I had an amazing weekend, even though we couldn't move the next morning because we ached so much! If you have never been to the Halloween Mega Event before then I urge you to go next year... we definitely will be.

Friday, 7 November 2014

Happy 7th Birthday Church Micro!

Seven years ago today, the very first cache in the Church Micro series was published. Today, there are over 6,700 caches in the series and that number will undoubtedly continue to grow. To find out more about this series then check out the Church Micro Website.

Many cachers will have been out in the field today searching for a Church Micro, myself included. The one I went for belongs to a couple of caching buddies of mine who go by the caching name Smokeypugs. Their Church Micro can be found in Edlesborough and is called Church Micro 3410...Edlesborough. My log for this cache turned into a small novel so I had to edit it a bit for the cache page unfortunately because of the character limit. What follows is my log entry in it's entirety.

Church of Saint Mary the Virgin, Edlesborough

I woke up this morning to find that the internet was down in our area. That meant I couldn't access to look for a cache to find today. Fortunately, I have been looking at different Church Micros recently to try to increase my finds of them and get one of those cool badges for my profile.

I fired up the app on my phone and going from memory scanned the map to choose a CM to find today. I picked out this cache as I have been meaning to do it for a while. It is only a short drive from where I live, so I grabbed my rucksack and jumped in the car, dragging my muggle brother along too for the ride.

We headed into Edlesborough coming from Eaton Bray direction; as we drove into the village, we spotted the tower of the church at the top of the hill. It looked quite impressive as it jutted up out of the surrounding trees high up on that hill. We turned into a street opposite the church and parked up. Having no internet at home meant I couldn't download the .gpx file to my GPSr so I had to use the app on my phone instead.

Stages one and two were completed easily, we then followed the compass round to stage three. Turning the corner of the church we were shoved towards the edge of a rather steep looking slope by the immense wind that was accelerating like a slip stream off the wall of the church tower! I was not expecting that but I managed to stop myself tumbling down the hill like a ragdoll.

As we faced the tower, the biting wind continued to battle with us. To get some shelter we ran against the wind towards the chuch and stood with our backs against the wall. For each question of stage three we had to run a few steps away from the church, turn round to figure out the answer and then run back to the wall to note down the numbers. Back and forth we went until we got stuck on the last question.

"How many foils are there...?" I said to my brother, reading from the cache page "What's a foil Matt?"

"I haven't a clue Kel" he replied.

We looked at each other with puzzled expressions then ran out of the shelter of the wall to look up at the window. By this time, I was having trouble seeing well as my eyes were watering from the wind and from laughing so much! It was beginning to feel like we were attached to the church by bungee ropes. We couldn't be sure what a foil was just by looking so we pinged back to the church wall. It was time for a little help.

Hoping I had a phone signal way up here, I sent a message to Smokeypugs saying "I'm at your CM in Edlesborough. What the hell is a foil? Lol". A few seconds later I got a message back telling me what to look for (thanks G for the help). Fighting the wind, we pushed off the wall, looked back at the church and found the last answer we needed. Seeking shelter against the wall for the last time, we worked out the final coordinates and, with cold, numbing fingers, punched the numbers into the phone.

Before heading off for GZ, we stopped for a selfie in front of the church and saluted the wind (a two finger salute!) We got to the bottom of the hill and as if in retaliation, the wind performed a u-turn and blasted us with an icy smack in the face!

Me and my little bro

We were getting quite cold now and the sky look menacing so we scurried down towards the final location hoping a little power walking would warm us up a bit. When my phone indicated that we had arrived at GZ we stopped and took a look around. I couldn't see anything that would be an obvious hiding spot so fumbled about on my phone to bring up the hint. I looked up and immediately spotted the cache. The coordinates were spot on! Well done #1 to Smokeypugs! I pulled on my gardening gloves, retrieved the cache and signed the log. There was no need for stealth as the area was pretty remote with not a muggle in sight. Replacing the cache, I managed to poke myself in the eye on a part of the bush... Ouch! Well done #2 for a neat little cache that is well hidden.

We would loved to have stayed to look at the church more, inside and out, but we were so cold by now that we just wanted to get back home for a cup of Darjeeling. Heading back up the driveway of the church I heard a loud noise that made me jump. It was only a car horn but it made a "TAH DAH" sound. With comic timing Matt said "Congratulations! You have found the cache!"

Despite the weather - it is definitely not summer anymore - we had a great time looking for this cache. Our only disappointment being that we had bought along our cameras for some photography practice but it was too cold to stick around. I will definitely be back though as there is a Village Signs cache nearby that is on my to do list. Well done #3 is for the fun time we had and the well thought out virtual stages. This cache gets a favourite point from me.

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Earth, Wind and Fire Tacks

There has been a bit of a gap since I last posted as I have been quite busy lately. I have still found time for geocaching though whether it be out finding them, planning for days out or simply solving a few mystery caches. Let me apologise now if this is a bit of a long one, I do hope you read to the end though.

Sunday 12th October was International Earthcache Day. For those of you that don't know:
"An EarthCache is a special geological location people can visit to learn about a unique feature of the Earth. EarthCache pages include a set of educational notes along with coordinates. Visitors to EarthCaches can see how our planet has been shaped by geological processes, how we manage its resources and how scientists gather evidence. Typically, to log an EarthCache, you will have to provide answers to questions by observing the geological location. For more information about EarthCaches visit"
Unfortunately for me, this was the same weekend as the final of the British Touring Car Championship. There was no way I was missing that but I also wanted the souvenir for finding an earthcache on that day.

So, I had to come up with a plan for our weekend away at Brands Hatch Racing Circuit that would have an earthcache squeezed in somewhere along the way. There were a few factors to consider given the time of year - namely, the shortening days and the wonderfully capricious British weather! Time was also a factor; it needed to be somewhere along the route to or from Brands and the D/T rating needed to be reasonably low. This was going to be a 'cache and dash' of sorts. I was a little disappointed at this prospect as I would have liked to have taken the time to appreciate the site of the earthcache I would be visiting, but... Touring Cars!

I had been formulating a plan for a few weeks - which, if you have read one of my previous posts, you will know that this is quite an achievement for me - our weekend away had arrived and I had an earthcache in my sights with two backup caches if my plan fell apart.

The cache I had found was just around the corner from the circuit and as an extra bonus it was a Church Micro. After a bit of research in the week (I love how educational these types of caches are) I had answers for the first two questions, the rest would be ascertained on our visit to the site.

Druids Hill Bend
Whilst sitting in the stands at Brands Hatch on Saturday watching the qualifying races, we discussed tactics for the next day. We decided that we would grab the cache early in the morning before heading back to the track as Inaccuweather told us the weather would be fine. This later proved to be the right decision as it was raining hard and getting dark when we left for home after the racing.

We got up early on Sunday morning. the scene that greeted us outside our hotel was amazing, however I am not a morning person - Nige will definitely attest to that - so I failed to get a photo. Our hotel was situated next to the River Medway; the sky was clear, the air was crisp but floating atop the river was a thick, white cloud of fog like someone had placed a wad of cotton wool on the surface water.

Our chosen cache was Church Micro 2372... West Kingsdown- St Edmund. To find out more about the Church Micro Series, by cacher sadexploration, then please click here. There were two locations that we had to go to for this cache; a motorway bridge over the M20 and the church itself. Thankfully the roads were quiet, so we stopped the car on the bridge en route to the church and I took the required elevation reading without getting out of the car.

We arrived at the church shortly after  and was pleased to find the area muggle free. I got to work gathering the information needed to log the cache, I was still very much asleep at this point - I cannot stress this enough, I do not do mornings - so when a lady materialised in front of me from within the church and asked me if I was here for the Sunday Service my only response was to stare at her blankly with a look of sheer horror on my face!

"I see you're taking notes" she indicated towards the paper and pen I was clutching.

Plausible explanations eluded me. I tried sending psychic 'Help Me!' thoughts to Nigel who was somewhere behind me but that didn't work. I think I mumbled a few words that certainly did not make a coherent sentence. For some reason, it felt like I had been caught doing something naughty, this was a holy place after all. The lady disappeared briefly and returned with something in her hand.

"It's a lovely building isn't it? Here, take this." she said as she handed me a postcard. Bidding us a good day she left us to return to her duties within the church.

After that awkward little moment, I gathered what information I could glean from the church and we headed off to watch some TOCA carnage. In between races, I continued researching chalk hills, flints and scarp slopes until I was confident I had all the right answers to log my find and aquire the souvenir for International Earthcache Day.

My Souvenir

The following weekend Nige and I decided to attempt a night cache. We thoroughly enjoyed the first one we did at Linford Wood and wanted to try one that was a little more challenging. There was one that I have had on my radar for a while now and being nearby in the forest of Ashridge, this was the perfect cache to choose.

I first tried to solve the puzzle part of Spirit of the Teine Sith when I started geocaching back in the summer. I was pretty sure I was looking for the coordinatess in the right place but I couldn't get a hit on geochecker. A couple of weeks ago, I was idly looking through my unsolved puzzles and came across this one again. On closer inspection of my numbers, I realised I had made a monumental mistake. Back onto google I went, making the necessary corrections and this time I got BINGO on geochecker!

Nige and I invited a couple of friends, Aravona and Dynadin, on this outing as it's their first night cache. A friend from the BBH Facebook group, mjcross, joined us for this adventure too. I'm so glad he did as this was only our second night cache and he gave us loads of tips that we never would have thought of like waypointing the markers as we went.

We rendezvoused at a small car park near the start of the trail. There were already a couple of cars there and we pondered as to whether they belonged to  geocachers on the same mission as us or if they belonged to a completely different kind of persons who frequent this forest. There was no movement from the cars and the windows were steam free so we deduced it was the former.

Following the trail was relatively simple. After a while though the trail seemed to go dead. We decided to back track and see if we had taken a wrong turn. Whilst contemplating alternative routes we saw some lights in the distance. Were they the Spirits of the Teine Sith come to guide us? No, it was a group of cachers out searching for the Spirits too. This was a first for Nige and I; we have never come across fellow cachers whilst out before. We had a bit of a chin wag and they kindly confirmed that we were going in the right direction.

Even by day Ashridge can be creepy as Hell!
On we went through the darkness and mud, encountering all sorts of wildlife like deer, beetles, centipedes and spiders! I've been to Ashridge many times during the day but night time transforms it into a different world. Conversation inevitably turned towards horror movies, at which point I realised I was bringing up the rear of the single file we had formed, I was a prime target for any Vorhees wannabes lurking in the darkness, like a shot I ran ahead past the others shouting: 

"It's not safe for me back there... I'm not a virgin!"

After much trekking across some interesting terrain we came to a likely spot for GZ. Whilst looking around for further markers I spotted the well hidden, huge cache. It was great to see it well stocked and in good condition. We signed the log and started back for the car with mjcross leading the way. This was an adventure in itself as, like me, mjcross likes to take the 'direct route'. If the GPSr says I can go straight through that wall, then I'm going straight through that wall!

Overall it took us about 2 hours to locate the cache and get back to the cars. This was an amazing experience and we all thoroughly enjoyed it.

The next day, Nige and I went out to Leighton Buzzard to complete a trail of caches called LB Sandpit Series. Even though the difficulty and terrain rating for the caches were low, the wind was blowing hard that day which made the 4.6 mile walk a little extra challenging. The scenic area was completely muggle free and we found the first few caches with ease. Our luck soon changed though.

I usually love doing trails of caches but for the first time since I began geocaching, I became a little fed up and disappointed with this series by the end of it. It wasn't because of the weather, the wind was tolerable as the sun was out and it was quite mild for the middle of October. The walk didn't bother me either; the trail we followed was beautiful with some great views despite the lack of discernible public footpaths at some points. 

I think what frustrated me most was that out of fifteen caches most of them were micros, had no hints and we logged five DNFs. Most of the ones we did find had naked logs - film pots are not waterproof - so most of them were damp or too wet to write on. On the bright side, it has taught me a lesson; if I ever set my own trail, I will use a variety of cache containers and not place a hide just for the sake of placing one to make up numbers along the trail.

I would like to end this post on a happy note so here is a picture of a rainbow that I took at Brands Hatch:

I wonder if there is a geocache at the end of that!

Friday, 3 October 2014

Interrogations and Deliberations

I received a Facebook message the other day from fellow blogger and geocacher Paul (aka Washknight). He writes a wonderful blog about his geocaching exploits and I have been following it for a little while now. I urge anyone reading this to pop over to his site and take a look. You can find Paul's blog here.

 I am new to blogging and not all that confident in my writing abilities so I was chuffed to hear that he has been following my blog and actually enjoying it!

Recently he has been doing this "thing" (his words) on his blog whereby he is asking fellow geocaching bloggers a series of questions about their own geocaching experiences. I think it is a fantastic idea and was thrilled to be asked to join in. So please read on to find out how I fared under interrogation.

If you would like to see how other bloggers answered these questions then please click here.

1. When and how did you first get into geocaching?
"Why oh why have I only just decided to Google what Geocaching is? There's loads nearby me too!"
That was a status update from one of my friends on Facebook that appeared on my timeline back in May of this year. She lived near me at the time so I was intrigued to know what there were loads of in our town. A quick search on Google led me to  A cursory glance at the map showed a few caches in my area.

'Huh, this is pretty cool' I thought, and then I zoomed out further and further on the map.

An immense number of caches started popping up on my screen and my initial  bewilderment transformed into a sense of awe and wonderment. How on Earth can a sport that has millions of participators all around the globe not be more widely known about? But then discretion and stealth are the nature of the game.

2. Do you remember your first find?
My first attempt at geocaching was pretty abysmal. I didn't fully read up on the process of finding a cache and in my haste decided it was a bright idea to use the only GPS device I had to hand... A sat nav! Sure, I had a smart phone, a bottom of the range smart phone, but quite clearly it had a higher IQ than I did right then. Needless to say, the sat nav was useless and being told to "perform a u-turn" when standing in the middle of a field was a little frustrating.

Back home I went back to the website and actually took the time learn more about geocaching. I downloaded an app called c:geo onto my phone and headed out again. This time I dragged my youngest brother along with me.  Our target was a small cache called WoodlandWalk situated in woodland at the edge of my town. We found it quite easily and I signed my very first log. I replaced the cache and feeling quite chuffed with myself stood back and trod in a very different kind of log!

3. What device(s) do you use for locating caches?
I started out using an app on my phone called c:geo but it used a lot of battery power and I it can be a little inaccurate at times. After I had been geocaching for a while and decided that this was probably not going to be a fad for me, Nigel and I purchased a Garmin eTrex 30. I now use a combination of my phone and the GPSr as both have their own features that suit different situations. I also find it helpful to use print outs of caches too, especially when I am doing a series of caches or a multi cache.

4. Where do you live and what is your local area like for geocaching? (density / quality / setting etc)
I live in a small town called Houghton Regis in Bedfordshire. It is bordered by the Chiltern Hills so we are a stones throw from some beautiful countryside spots like Dunstable Downs. It is also a short drive or train ride from some big cities like Milton Keynes (is that a city yet?), Cambridge, oh and what is that other big city it is close to? Oh yeah... London.

So with regards to setting, we've pretty much got that covered for both urban and rural caches. There seem to be a large number of active geocachers in the Three Counties too so we are never short of caches to find. When it comes to quality, there are many caches around this area that have gathered quite a few favourite points over time. And let's not forget, we have the Oldest cache in the England in this region too. We are very fortunate to live where we do.

5. What has been your most memorable geocache to date, and why?
For me it has to be the first event cache that I attended, BBH#80 - Bordering on a Giga!. I was already a member of the Facebook group Beds, Bucks and HertsGeocachers and had started to get to know a few of the members there. I wanted to attend the event so I could put some faces to names. However, I am not a sociable person, I just can't do small talk, so I was a little apprehensive about attending the event.  I was glad when Nige said he would come with me as this meant that he would drive and that meant that I could have a pint or three. A little lager loosens the tongue! The event was very well attended that night and at first I felt a like a bit of an outsider, this didn't last long though as the event organiser welcomed us with a huge smile and thanked us for coming. As I talked to people my nerves started to ease and conversations began to flow with ease. In the end, I really enjoyed myself and, best of all, I made some new friends that night.

6. List 3 essential things you take on a geocaching adventure excluding GPS, pen and swaps.
#1 Gardening gloves - I discovered the need for these very soon after finding my first few caches!
#2 Camera - I always have one of these with me whether it be my phone camera or my bridge camera.
#3 A notebook - I have a terrible short term memory so I like to make notes in the field to help me write my logs when I get home.

7. Other than geocaches and their contents, What is the weirdest thing you have discovered whilst out caching?
I saw this on the side of a building as we walked through a village called Wadesmill. It made me giggle.

8. On a scale of 1 to 10 where 1 is I am obsessed by numbers and 10 is I am all about the experience and the quality of each individual cache. Where do you put yourself?
I would like to say 10; I do not go out to find as many caches as possible, I really don't give a monkeys about the numbers. However, when I go out caching, I get caught up in the adventure and I don't want it to end so my initial " will only be about five caches, Nige, I promise..." swiftly becomes six, seven, ten, fifteen....! With that in mind, I would put myself at about a 6... And a half.

9. Describe one incident that best demonstrates the level of your geocaching obsession.
There was the time that I was interviewed on national radio station, TeamRock Radio. I am one of the many "founding fathers/ mothers/ brothers/ sisters" who have been listening to the station since it's inception last year. It now has listeners all over the world.

The producers arranged a series of phone interviews with some of us recently in order to get to know it's listeners better. We were supposed to talk about what we liked and disliked about the shows and the music they play but I somehow managed to turn the subject towards geocaching. That's right, I confessed publicly to the whole world about my obsession with geocaching!

10. Have you picked up any caching injuries along the way?
Sadly I am no Hooper or Quinn (sorry, that's a Jaws reference).

I have only suffered the usual caching injuries so far like nettle rashes, thorn pricks and welly boot blisters!

11. What annoys you most about other geocachers?
Geocachers  that do not play fair annoy me. To me, geocaching is not only about the adventure, but also about the friendships that you build. For example, I have heard stories of cachers pushing fellow cachers out of the way to claim a FTF. That is just downright rude and not in the spirit of the game.

Another thing that annoys me are logs that contain just 'QEF' or 'TFTC'. I have to confess that I used to be one of those geocachers but once I started placing my own caches I began to appreciate the time and effort it takes to do this. From then on I felt it only right to make an effort in return to compose logs with more detail and helpful information. There's nothing worse than being in the field, searching for a cache for what seems like hours and seeing a QEF log on the cache page. It's like it's mocking me.

12. What is the dumbest thing you have done whilst out caching?
It's not what I do, it's what I say! I think I managed to insult a fellow cacher that I met at an event once. I was trying to strike up a conversation with him and noticed that he was wearing an Iron Maiden t-shirt. Being a fan myself, I figured that this was a perfect way to get talking. It was going well until I said

"I was going to wear my Maiden top tonight but I thought it might make me look like a geek!"

As soon as my brain caught up with my mouth, the implication of what I had just said struck me. I had inadvertently called him a geek!

13. What do your non caching family and friends think of your hobby?
I have determined that most of my friends are allergic to the great outdoors. That is the only excuse I can think of for not wanting to try geocaching. I have a few friends that keep saying that they would like to come out with me one day, but this hasn't happened yet. It doesn't bother me though, it's their loss.

My family think it's great that I have this new hobby and have helped me out a few times. I took my sister and her two children out for a days caching in the summer holidays and they had tremendous fun. They keep bugging me to take them out "treasure hunting" now.

14. What is your default excuse you give to muggles who ask what you are up to or if you need help?
I have only been ever caught out once when I was looking for an urban cache in Dunstable called Priory Gardens. The app on my phone led me to a tree on the wrong side of the road. I didn't have much time as I was on my lunch break. It was also raining so I had my brolly up. The tree was right next to a main road and I was trying so hard to avoid funny looks from passing cars that I didn't notice an elderly man approach me.

"Are you ok?" he asked, "do you need any help?"

I swung round, startled.

"No, thank I'm ok" I squeaked, "I've, um...lost...erm...a thing?" I wasn't very convincing.

There was an awkward silence before he backed away slowly.

I try to avoid muggle confrontation as much as possible now. Failing that I just fess up and tell the truth.

15. What is your current geocaching goal, if you have one?
My current goal is to find more "extreme" caches. Nige and I heard about these types of caches at a recent BBH event and couldn't resist giving it a go. We have found one so far called Are You Afraid Of TheDark? and we are hoping to add more to the list soon.

I also have a secondary goal; the Alphanumeric Cache Name challenge. I have completed about 60% of this challenge but I am in no rush to find them all.

Ultimately, my goal is to keep having fun, explore new places and learn new skills.

16. Do you have a nemesis cache that despite multiple attempts you have been unable to find?
Not anymore as I finally found it!  Village Signs 128 Houghton Regis* is hidden literally right at the end of my street. Night after night I visited GZ and night after night I could not find it. I went out to our local curry house one evening that week with my parents and my youngest brother. On our walk back, fuelled by vindaloo and Cobra beer, I made them join me in the search for this cache and still couldn't find it. My mum started having dreams about it and she is not even a geocacher! I'm pretty sure my dog, Sadie, had nightmares about it too! I would get home from work  to find my mum and Sadie waiting for me at the door so we could head out to search again, they were becoming as determined as I was about this one. Kudos to my mum though as she was the one to eventually find it even though she had never seen a geocache before.

*This is a premium member only cache so some of you may not be able to follow this link.

17. What 3 words or phrases best sum up what geocaching means to you.
Pushing boundaries

18. What prompted you to start blogging about geocaching?
It was the instigator of this interrogation, Washknight, that prompted me initially to start blogging. I found his blog through the BBH group on Facebook and found it truly inspiring. I have been following with interest ever since.

This blog is basically my diary and my extended logs. Like I said in a previous answer, I have a diabolical short term memory (seriously, I cannot even remember what I did yesterday) so this helps me remember some of the significant and noteworthy adventures I have whilst out caching. There is a limit to how much you can put in a log on a cache page so this blog gives me free rein to waffle on as much as I like.

19. Which of your own blog entries are you most proud of.
At the time of writing this, I have only published four entries so far. Out of those, I am most proud of Ilaugh in the face of spiders (and then run away!). I have never been very good at creative writing so I am proud of this entry because of its story like quality.

20. Which other geocaching blogs do you enjoy reading?
I am a newbie when it comes to blogging so I have only come across two blogs to follow so far, The Official Blog and Washknight's blog. I know that the latter has been interrogating other bloggers with these questions. I haven't visited their blogs yet so as not to be influenced by their own answers and style of writing but I fully intend to see what they had to say after publishing this.

So, there are my answers. I hope you have enjoyed reading this and maybe it will inspire you to start blogging yourself. I wonder what my answers will be in a years time. If I remember and am still blogging, I may have to revisit these questions next year.

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

The Linford Witch Project

As the nights are drawing in and Autumn is snapping at the heels of Summer, a whole new world of Geocaching is being opened up to me. Night caches!

Halloween is fast approaching and with it an event that I am very much looking forward to. The Halloween Mega 2014 will be the first Mega Event Nige and I have attended. I think Nigel is more excited at the prospect of dressing up though than the actual caching! More on this in a future blog post though.

Last week I treated myself to a new torch in preparation for caching in the dark. What better way to test it out than by going out to find my first night cache. Hunting around on threw up a few likely candidates. There is one in Ashridge that I have had my eye on for a while, but I still haven't solved the puzzle yet. There are a couple in Ampthill that look interesting and a few more further afield that sound quite challenging but I am saving those for another day.

The cache I decided upon as my first night cache is called TheWitching Hour !! - Night Cache. It is set in
Linford Wood in Milton Keynes and has a short puzzle to solve to locate the starting point of the trail. I had solved the puzzle part back in the summer and was waiting for the right time to venture out to find the cache.  My new torch provided the perfect excuse.

Another reason I chose this cache is because I have always had an interest in the paranormal. Whilst I have not had any supernatural experiences of my own, I am very fortunate that Dunstable and Houghton Regis has a rich history and an abundance of ghostly tales.

It wasn't quite the witching hour when we headed out to Linford Wood on Saturday evening, it was closer to eight o'clock. We parked up and "look[ed] for the Hunter of the Fox where the day begins" to find the start of the trail. The sky was an eerie red but it was still dark enough that when we shone our torches into the woods we found the shining markers that would lead the way. As we walked along we had a debate over whose torch was the brightest, Nige had a tiny little thing compared to mine so I was winning until he pulled a Maglite out of his bag. At that point I shone my torch in his eyes, completely by accident... Honest!

The walk along the path was easy enough; I kept a look out ahead for the markers, whilst Nige had our back looking out for zombies. After a while the marker trail seemed to go dead. We knew the trail was going to lead us off the path eventually so it was just a matter of shining our torches through the trees until we found the next marker. Nige was the first to spot it and disappeared into the tree line. I hastily followed as I knew we were getting closer to ground zero. Trying to find a way through this part was tricky and I nearly tripped up a couple of times in my haste. Nigel was ahead of me and found the three markers to indicate our goal.

We were expecting a regular sized cache, but on retrieval were pleasantly surprised to find a large container filled with an array of goodies. As I was fishing the log out, Nige decided it would be funny to point out all of the spiders that were crawling around me with his torch. I was not amused! I quickly signed the log and replaced the cache. It was time to find the car.

Not quite the Blair Witch!
 One of the features I love on my GPSr is the 'track' feature; as I walk the GPSr shows the path I have taken with a blue line. As I have a poor sense of direction, this means that if I get lost I can easily find my way back to where I started. With this in mind, we decided to follow a different path round the woods to get back to the car. It was such a mild night that we were in no rush to leave.

When we usually go out caching, Nige always asks me how many hides I have planned for us to find. I always say "just a few caches" to which he always replies "it's never just a few caches with you Kel!". He was quite astonished this time to find that it really was just the one cache this evening. What I didn't tell him though was that there were more caches in the area but the cache files had disappeared from my GPSr!

The downside of visiting Linford Wood when it is dark is that we missed out on the things to see and do around the woods. There is a series of sculptures hidden in the undergrowth according to this website and it is home to an assortment of wildlife. However, now that I know this place exists I shall definitely head back there some day.

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

I laugh in the face of spiders (and then run away!)

I don't like walking without a purpose, I get bored of that quickly. That's one of the reasons I love geocaching. I could quite happily walk for miles to find a geocache. Everyone has their own reasons for getting outside and finding hides; it might be to find as many as possible, to complete the Alphanumeric Challenge, to claim the coveted title of FTF or one of many other personal goals. For me it is all about the adventure.

The majority of caches out there are relatively easy to find and are run of the mill. Don't get me wrong though, I appreciate every single one of those hides and fully understand the time and effort that goes into them. My own two caches are of the 'run of the mill' type. Each one has its own merits and each one is special in some way.

There are cache owners out there however that go completely above and beyond, some would say insanely so, but they do it in spectacular fashion.

Our mission last weekend was to find one of these "extreme" caches. These types of caches have cropped up in conversation many times when we talk to fellow cachers at events so our 'to do' list is steadily growing. Are You Afraid Of The Dark? is the cache that we had heard most about, so this is the one we decided to undertake. Seeing as it would be quite a drive to get there, we spent the night before looking for caches in the same area.

Sunday came round and we set off for Hoddesdon where today's adventure would start. We began with a small circuit of caches set in the woods consisting of eight traditionals and a multi bonus called HPW. Then we went into Hoddesdon itself to pick up a few in that area. The were all easy finds and served as a warm up for the more difficult ones later on.

So far so good. We had found eleven traditionals, a multi, a Travel Bug and a Geocoin. We were on a roll.

"So what's the next one?" asked Nige as we got to the car.

"A small series called 'Off Yer Trolley'. Seems simple enough, the first is a cache and dash in a supermarket car park. How hard can that be?" I replied.

As we arrived at GZ, we realised that this would be challenging to say the least, but I thought I'd give it a go anyway. Nige parked up, I jumped out of the car and headed to where my GPSr said the cache was just as a car parked up in the space next to it. I looked back at Nige, he just sat in the car laughing at me. I tried my best to have a look around but my attempt at being stealthy just made it look like I was checking cars out to boost! So before security was called on my suspicious behaviour, I ran back to the car. This was our first DNF of the day. We decided against the other two caches in that series, figuring we would encounter the same problem. Not to worry though as, we still had a church micro, a traditional and the main event to go for.

The traditional and the church micro were found without a fuss so we headed for our final cache of the day. Before continuing, I should tell you a little about the things that scare me. The list is quite short as I am not phased by an awful lot. My biggest fears are planes, dentists and spiders. So on with the cache, Are you afraid of the Dark.

We found a parking spot across the road from where we were told to start this cache. Crossing the road we found a gap in the bushes and ducked through. We had high expectations of this cache and as we climbed down to the tunnel entrance we were not disappointed. I shone my torch inside and the beam was swallowed by the darkness. As I stood in front of this pitch black tunnel, it suddenly occurred to me that this is exactly the sort of place that spiders like to call 'Home, Sweet Home'. I was here now so I just had to suck it up.

In we went. I led the way. We had heard from others that the tunnel has water running through it sometimes, but not today, it was just very slippery. Being a shorty, I had the advantage over Nigel and could walk through without stooping. On the downside, I was practically doing the splits trying to straddle the uneven brickwork on the ground. I shone my torch above me and that's when I saw Them. So many different types of spiders. On the walls, in the pipes, potentially on me! From that point on, I concentrated the beam of the torch at my feet. With logic that only makes sense to me, I figured that if I couldn't see Them then they weren't really there.

Sunlight had disappeared behind us and there was no sign of it ahead. I had no concept of how far we had travelled through the tunnel, it seemed never ending though. We stopped for a brief second and turned the torches off. The darkness was absolute. I don't have a problem with the dark and for a moment I forgot what was living in this tunnel.

We continued making steady progress and it wasn't long before we saw the end of the tunnel ahead. We emerged into the sunshine and I gave myself a mental high five for not freaking out about the spiders.

'I used to be a kickboxer. One of you hairy little suckers touches me and I'll slam you into next week!' I thought as I headed back into the tunnel. I lead the way again but this time I actually had to look for the cache which meant shining my torch on the walls and ceiling. This seemed to highlight every single spider in the tunnel. Every nook and cranny I looked in seemed to house a spider and they seemed to be getting bigger and uglier the further we went in. After a few sweeps of the torch, something caught my eye.

"It's here!" I shouted trying to contain the urge to jump up and down, thus cracking my head on the ceiling "you can retrieve it though cos I ain't touching it!".

I took a few steps back in case removing the cache from it's home unleashed an arachnid avalanche on my head. We signed the log and took the time to replace the container exactly as we had found it. It was time to head back up the tunnel. Nigel turned to me and asked

"What would you do if a velociraptor came up the tunnel right now?"

Yes, we have some strange conversations sometimes, but it's wise to have a plan for all types of eventualities. Before I could answer, however, we heard the cry of an animal. Now, I'm pretty sure it was a horse, but I wasn't leaving anything to chance and started back up the tunnel post haste... With Nigel behind me of course!

We finally emerged from the tunnel, triumphant and elated. We had done it! This cache took us to a new level of geocaching that we had yet to experience and straight away we started discussing the next one to go after.

A big thank you has to go to the cache owners, Noztradamus and JackNano, for taking the time and effort to hide this amazing cache. This is certainly one that we will not be forgetting any time soon and will definitely be recommending it to everyone.