Sunday, May 08, 2016

Pre 2002 Geocaches

For a little while now I’ve been slowly finding all the geocaches that had been published in the year 2000-2001. Due to their rarity and sparse localities it’s turned into a long-term goal.

With this in mind there were 2 geocaches that needed to be found in the Kosciusko National Park above the snow-line which means for a few months of the year they are inaccessible and for the other part of the year I seem to always find myself busy with other activities. So it was pleasing that I’d finally got the planets to align and I was heading south for a walk in the Alpine region.

In early May I found myself leaving home at 3am with a plan to drive straight down to Charlotte’s Pass where I’d leave the car and head off for my walk along the Main Range. To my pleasure I made good time and by 8am I was sitting in the carpark of Charlotte’s Pass doing a final gear check before setting off. I started for the Blue Lake under clear skies but very crisp and cool conditions. Puddles were covered in ice and plants were crisp with frost. The conditions made walking a little slippery, especially the river crossings where stepping stones were icy slippery….. the last thing I wanted was an early morning dip in the Snowy River. Making good time I was soon approaching the Blue Lake and my first geocache. The 2-Dogs cache of “Great Southern Land GC26E4” was on my to-do list. After a short search perched looking down on Blue Lake the cache was in hand.

With more ground to cover I was soon gaining altitude as I headed towards the track junction of the Main Range. Shortly after reaching this point I headed northeast and climbed Mt Twynam where the 360deg views were amazing. The mountains went forever and the valley’s disappeared into the abyss below, but I needed to keep going as my ultimate goal lied atop of Mt Anton. The “Australia’s Used to Highest GCF7” cache and my last year 2000 published cache were still ahead of me. With Mt Anton in sight the weather started to change with a strong wind blowing in high cloud and chilling temperatures, but alas it didn’t hamper my efforts as I soon had the geocache in hand.

After the obligatory photos it was time to start heading back, the wind had strengthened and on a number of occasions the cloud blocked out all views and with so many thoughts of bad luck stories rushing through my head I didn’t to add my own chapter. Descend off Mt Twynam I was slightly disappointed to see the serenity of my walk shattered by a massive school group that was tackling the Main Range walk in the same direction I had hoped to do. I wasn’t in the mood to share this walk with 60+ school kids so opted to bow out and head back to the car where I could continue my adventure in a different direction.

5½ hours after starting my walk I was back at the car having completed a 20km walk in some of Australia’s most spectacular countryside…. I certainly wasn’t complaining.   

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Canberra Caching

For a place that is so hilly and so cold in winter, Canberra offers so much for the outdoor enthusiast and geocaching is no exception. Over my years of caching I have done a few trips to Canberra for big numbers. The place is rife with puzzles, powertrails and geo-art and that’s just the specialised caches, chuck in the standard plethora of caches that litter any suburban area and you have the makings for a good weekend.

After work on Friday 8th steeba, Hoojar and I hit the Hume Hwy in search of the large amount of unfound caches that awaited us around Canberra. We headed straight out to the Captain Flat trail where a few hours of night caching seen us quickly rack-up 80 finds before midnight. From there we opted for an early night camping on the grounds of the Queanbeyan Scout Hall.

Saturday saw us hitting the caching trails early. Today we opted for 2-wheel transport taking advantage of the many hides that hug the bicycle tracks in Canberra. The Majura and Centenary Trail were on our hit-list. Perfect weather accompanied us as we had the day in the saddle. By days end we chose to have a night at the club with a good meal, a few drinks and a couple of games of footy.

Sunday was another early start with plans of finding the Kowen Forest Kangaroo but arriving at the forest we were turned away by the organisers of a motorbike rally which were occupying the forest for the weekend. Dejected we drove away with our plans shattered. Re-grouping we headed across town picking up small pockets of caches which kept us busy for much of the morning. By late lunch time we’d had enough caching around Canberra deciding to return home early.

Our weekend was very profitable in the find count and another great time away with the boys.

Friday, March 04, 2016

SES Geo-Art Puzzles

I’ve been toying with the idea of hiding a geocaching powertrail for some time now. Initially I’d brushed the idea off as just another one of my hair brain caching projects, but the more I thought about the idea of hiding a large number of caches the greater my enthusiasm became. Each time I thought about the powertrail I’d come up with a new twist to what my powertrail would be like. One idea I had was to make some Geo-Art with my geocaches, however each positive thought was met with the roadblock of “where in the Illawarra” could I hide a powertrail of caches.

After way too much deliberation I decided to make a geo-art powertrail using mystery geocaches, that way the artwork could be offsite from the actual hides…. Brilliant I thought, but how could I come up with 30 mystery caches and what would my geo-art look like? I soon had the idea to combine my two passions of geocaching with SES and thus my artwork was born. The internet opened up my thinking to a wealth of different puzzle caches and I soon had the concept to hide 30 unique SES puzzle geocaches.

When creating and deciphering puzzle caches I’ve found there are so many different options but most of them can be grouped into the following categories
  • Hidden information – Often the information we seek is right there in front of us. Text can be in plain sight or in the form a hyperlink, some caches use varying font sizes, colours or typefaces to provide information about the cache. Another good place to hide coordinate information is in the source code of the cache listing. Other less common places to find information are the cache title, cache attributes, cache logs, travel bugs, geocoins or the hider’s profile.
  • Lists – This is common type of puzzle, most cache coordinates will be made up of 15 numbers so if a list contains 15 items it is very likely that each item can be associated with a single digit.  Sometimes a list can be pictures instead of words. Nearly every list requires you to find a particular pattern.
  • Codes and Ciphers – This is where it gets a little harder. A code can be like Morse code, Binary, Braille or even foreign languages while ciphers can range in difficulty from cryptograms to much more sophisticated ciphers that use keys. Many ciphers utilise symbols or letters as a way of substituting or transposition of the real coordinates. Often a frequency analysis can be used to recognise letter patterns.
  • Images – To coin a phrase “a picture tells a thousand words” and this is so true, whether its counting the number of pictures on the cache page or counting items within a picture. Reversing an image or taking away coloured layers can reveal coordinates. Changing the pixels within a picture or animated gifs have been used in the past. Painting with numbers can expose coordinates in an image or the use of stenography.   
  • Word, Maths and Logic puzzles – This is a common form of puzzle with word puzzles being very popular. The puzzle can often take the form of anagrams, acronyms, crosswords, rhymes or word sudoku’s. The use of maths in a puzzle can take many forms, whether its finding the area of a shape, sequencing of numbers, finding constants or the use of base numbers. Finally, the use of logic statements, nonograms or hidatos can be used to reveal the coordinates, often the hider asks a number of multiple choice questions which can be placed into crosshatch grids and/or tables to find the coordinates.
In getting my series of SES puzzle caches published I’ve learned a lot about puzzles and the use of Google earth for my artwork. I hope the finders of my caches enjoy them as much as I have in placing them.

Thanks for undertaking the challenge
The Rats

Friday, November 20, 2015

Melbourne's 1st Mega Event

A geocaching mega event is one of those smileys that don’t come around too often so when Melbourne put their hand up to host their first one we jumped at the chance to attend, but as luck would have it the dates clashed with a close friend’s wedding…. In the end we opted for the mega.

Driving down to Melbourne on the Friday the Rats and mini rats were excited to be achieving respective milestones. For us it was to be our 12000th find while for the kids they were about to chalk up their 1000th find. However before getting to the mega there were a few other memorable caches to do along the way. Melbourne’s 1st geocache GC7A and Devil Bend GCAD are two of Australia’s oldest caches and for us were a “must do”. 

The trip to Melbourne wasn’t solely for caching as it gave us time to catch up with long-time friends we’d made as we travelled around Oz. We also took the time to do a bit of shopping and a drive-by of the latest “The BLOCK” renovation which had Leonie and Sam in awe.

For us the mega was a lot of fun. There was a huge variety of other events attached to the mega, the night time fireworks, the meet n greet, CITO and labs caches were all worthy of our time, but regrettably our time in Melbourne was too short and we were soon heading home after a short 4 day trip.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

The Road Less Travelled

A power trail to the Rats is like bees to a hive. With this in mind the Rats teamed up with the mini rats and Mizmaz to tackle this new power trail which had been placed by a few geocachers.

As the Rats and mini rats neared respective milestones we were keen to make the Melbourne Mega our milestone cache so we needed numbers quickly. The school holidays offered the perfect opportunity for a 2 day drive around Mudgee.

Heading off mid-morning on Wednesday 23rd we started at the Sunny Corner end of the power trail, after a few hours of weaving our way through the pine forests we found ourselves at Sofala where we setup camp beside the river. For Mizmaz this would be her first experience of bush camping and with a bit of trepidation she managed to get through a very cool night.

Day 2 saw us headed north-west towards Mudgee and Gulgong. The trail winds its way up and over Mt Parwa and then through some beautiful countryside as it drops down onto the open plains. The uniqueness of this trail is highlighted by the different hiders and their unique styles but for much of the way the hides are very good and worth the 2 days of country driving.

By days end, the Rats and mini rats had racked up the required number of finds to make our trip to the Melbourne Mega in a few weeks all the more pleasant.

Thanks to the cache owners and Mizmaz for an enjoyable powertrail.