2/16/2006 6:51:00 AM Discovering geo-caching opened up new world for Lindstrom couple
An example of a geo cache. This one is a length of plastic pipe covered in black duct tape and with a screwtop lid. This was a two-part cache, where first you find a miniature cache with additional waypoints inside, leading to the actual geo cache a short distance away.
BY DENISE MARTIN
Like modern-day C.S. Lewis’ book characters who found new horizons through the doors of an antique wardrobe-- a Lindstrom couple has stumbled onto adventure through the portal of their laptop computer.
This husband and wife, who wish to be identified only by their Internet computer pseudonyms “Eagleyes” and “Bird dog,” are deeply into geo caching. Go to the geo-cache website and their names crop up everywhere.
Five years ago geo-caching wasn’t even something they knew existed, but they quickly realized that geo caching covered many of their interests.
Eagleyes and Bird dog are coming up on 600 caches that they’ve located. They have also placed many caches both around this area and near Ely-- where they spend summers.
Geo stands for geography and caching for “hiding something.”
Begun in Oregon about six years ago, geo caching now involves 235,000 caches in 220 countries.
The caches are special containers hidden by people who fix the location of their cache using a hand held Global Positioning System. This electronic information is downloadable into a computer.
The latitude and longitude of their treasure is posted on the geocaching.com site along with clues for the site.
The caches contain a small log book for finders to sign-in. Finders and cachers also communicate through e mail.
Some caches contain trinkets which finders can take and replace with a new trinket.
Some caches house cheap cameras for the finder to snap a self-portrait and return the camera to the cache.
Geo caches range in size from “nano” caches which are about the size of a watch battery, to large caches (like a length of enclosed pvc pipe with a screw cap that we located while out geo-caching with Eagleyes and Bird dog.)
You may have sat inches away from a geo cache in a local park.
You could have walked right by one while viewing sculptures, near Taylors Falls. (Hint hint).
Chances are pretty good you have been within reach of a “geo cache” and didn’t even know it.
Eagleyes and Bird dog prefer to plant caches made of a plastic parmesan cheese shaker jar, a peanut butter jar or 2-quart Thermos container. Caches are camoflauged or decorated with materials that relate to their hiding place.
All the cachers have nicknames....using monikers like Eagleyes and Bird dog maintains the mystery of the experience and keeps personal life separate from geo-caching activities. “It’s like a CB radio handle,” explained Eagleyes.
Her name was selected because she can “hone in” on a cache. Even when there are no apparent hiding spots, she’ll practically intuit the hiding spot.
Bird dog came from how he operates the handheld Global Positioning System (GPS). Holding the unit out in front of him, he can hit on a trail following a swinging compass needle with intensity.
“The joy is in finding a cache,” Bird dog said. “Geo-caching makes you very observant...some are in plain sight and others you don’t get any help at all. There’s different levels,” he said.
Eagleyes said the two travel extensively and all they have to do is enter zip codes into the website to find cache maps and coordinates (waymarkers) in any area. “We are very easy to have as house guests,” she joked. “We entertain ourselves.”
At www.geocaching.com you’ll get a printout on a cache that includes information about terrain and difficulty.
The higher the number the tougher the territory is to negotiate. Some caches don’t even get on this couple’s list because of location.
Eagleyes and Bird dog have been geo-caching since 2002 and they’ve logged 570 finds. They located 104 caches in one two-week visit to a Colorado city.
They have geo-cached as far away as Croatia.
“Just a little while ago we got out the map and decided to spend the day in Red Wing,” Bird dog shared. “It was a good trip and we learned some history through the clues and we found 10 caches.”
“The locals (the hiders) know the hidden treasures in their community that aren’t always on the tourist brochures,” added Eagleyes.
Eagleyes and Bird dog got interested in geo caching because they like the endless possibilities presented by the small GPS system, knowing they really can’t get lost. Bird dog has always had an active interest in orienteering and he says geo caching offers many of the same elements.
Geo-caches are hidden by people who live close-by, because you do have to “maintain” your cache. The log book needs to be replaced when it gets filled, or if it gets damaged or wet. Some caches are “muggled” or tampered with and have to be refabricated. And, some people remove them, not understanding the geo-cache experience.
Geo caches might also contain a “travel bug.”
These small objects have what looks like a metal dogtag attached to them. Travel bugs are moved around by geo-cache enthusiasts. The bug’s journey is tracked by way of e mails from wherever the object lands.
One wolf-themed travel bug set free in 2003 by Eagleyes and Bird dog has 12,000 miles logged and counting. Every so often Eagleyes logs onto her geo-caching account in the computer and sees where “hitchhiker wolf” has wound up.
Another palm-sized tiger that the couple laid in one of their foreign caches travelled from Croatia to Munich...to Pittsburgh, PA and ended up at their cache near Ely, MN. He’s snug in a plastic baggie awaiting another journey someday.
In their luggage for an upcoming trip Eagleyes and Bird dog have stowed travel bugs they have found in caches. They’ll get the bugs closer to their owners’ hoped-for destinations and set them on their journey through other caches.