A little about me

My name is Mike and I geocache under the name Teamtailwagger.

We chose the name Teamtailwagger because our dog at the time, Domino, had won a contest as the best tailwagging dog in the city. Domino, who looked like a small Dalmation, passed away Oct. 30, 2018, at age 18. On April 11, 2017, Kinsler, a German shorthair pointer, came to live with us. On the way home from picking him up, we took him geocaching. We bought him a trackable for his collar and gave hime the geocaching name of Capt. TailWagger.

Capt. TailWagger doesn’t come on all of our geocaching adventures. Sometimes, it’s just too hot for a dog to be comfortable. Sometimes, we’ll leave Capt. TailWagger at the kennel if we’re going to be out of town for a few days. But for the most part, Capt. Kinsler is with me when I’m out and about looking for those hidden treasures.

If you’re unfamiliar with geocaching, I’ll give you a quick primer: Geocaching is often said to be using billion-dollar satellites to find Tupperware in the woods. Well, yes and no. Geocachers are using billion-dollar satellites to find all kinds of hidden containers. A geocacher hides a container, gets the cooridinates and posts it on geocaching.com. After a volunteer reviewer checks to make sure the new geocache meets the guidelines, the geocache is published and geocachers begin the search, often using a smartphone with a geocaching app on it or using a handheld GPS receiver. When the geocache is found, the finder signs a log sheet inside the container and places it back where it found for the next person to find it. That’s it.

This is the first post on my new blog. I’m just getting this new blog going, so stay tuned for more. Subscribe below to get notified when I post new updates.

International EarthCache Day

I got an email from Geocaching HQ on Tuesday announcing this year’s International EarthCache Day is Oct. 10 and 11. Here’s what they wrote:

“How do you best prepare for an EarthCache outing? You planet!

“Learn more about Earth and how it formed through history on Saturday, October 10 and Sunday, October 11, 2020 in celebration of International EarthCache day! Earn the official souvenir for completing your research and receiving your smiley.” 

I’m the first to admit EarthCaches are a bit intimidating, although the last one I found I gave it a favorite point. It took me on a hike at Chain O’ Lakes State Park, one of my favorite Indiana state parks, and I learned about some of the ways glaciers formed the land of northern Indiana some 10,000 to 14,000 years ago.

My wife and I at Chain O’ Lakes State Park completing an EarthCache
Capt. TailWagger looking for a place to go into the lake while on the EarthCach hike

Earlier this year, I found a couple of EarthCaches at artesian wells — one in Steuben County, Indiana, near Lake James and other in Wayne County, Indiana, in Richmond. Both required getting a reading for how fast a bottle filled. For one, I had a half-gallon bottle. For the other, I had a gallon jug. Unfortunately, I don’t seem to have any pictures from those trips.

In July, I did an EartchCache in Ohio where we learned about flint. That one, I thought, was quite informative.

Probably the best EarthCache I did this year was at Zion National Park in Utah. Our family flew from Indianapolis to Las Vegas on a really inexpensive flight and spent a few days exploring southern Utah, western Arizona and southern Nevada. We made a quick stop in Needles, California, to get a California geocache.

The Zion EarthCache I did took a walk deep into the heart of a canyon. I think there were questions abut the rocks. It was a beautiful hike on a brisk January day.

For International EarthCache Day 2020, I have a couple of nearby EarthCaches picked out. One is at Eagle Mash here in Fort Wayne on the continental divide (separating the Great Lakes watershed from the Mississippi River watershed). The other is a wetlands in Garrett, Indiana.

What are your thoughts on EarthCaches?

Reaching a milestone

Today I set out for Wells County, Indiana, to do another Adventure Lab, this one in Ossian. And after completing the five stages of the AL, I drove a bit south of Ossian to find a traditional cache — find No. 1,800.

Find No. 1,800 today in Kinglsand, Indiana

Ossian is in the northern third of Wells County, on Indiana 1, about 15 miles south of Fort Wayne. Current big-league baseball player Josh VanMeter is from Ossian. According to Wikipedia, it has an estimated population 3,382. Also, according Wikipedia, the town was named after Ossian, the narrator of a cycle of epic poems by the Scottish poet James Macpherson. Beyond that, I don’t know much about the town.

The Adventure Lab visits five locations, four in town and one in West Ossian. Before a ditch was dug between Ossian and West Ossian, swampland separated the two towns, and it was easier for residents to get to Cincinnati, more than 100 miles away, than to Fort Wayne. The ditch helped drain the swampland and made travel north to Fort Wayne easier.

I learned that tidbit of history on the Adventure Lab and from a traditional cache I found along the way. The town’s founder is buried in the Old Cemetery, which really appeared to be run down. Many headstones were broken and knocked over.

I learned of a local family that was dedicated to auto racing and one of the letters of another family name on their headstone in the other cemetery is backward. Oh, and a town marshal served more than 20 years. I decided to walk the Adventure Lab, so it took me probably 90 minutes to complete. Driving would have been faster. Taking my bicycle would have been faster. In either case, I walked and except for a few places where the sidewalk ended, it was a nice day to be out.

I completed the Adventure Lab at 1 p.m.

After completing the Adventure Lab, I headed south to the small settlement of Kingsland, where in September 1910 there was a deadly train wreck. The cache is at a historical marker signifying that event. For reasons unknown, I’ve had this cache on my watch list. Since finding it and logging it, I’ve wondered why I have it on my watch list. It doesn’t meet a Jasmer month. It doesn’t meet a date hidden need. Every time it’s found I get an email. I got an email today when I found it.

Over the past two days, counting the Adventure Lab, I’ve found 12 caches. I hope to find another 200 before the end of the year. I’ve already picked out my target cache for No. 2,000. I’ll keep that my secret for now, though I should put that one on my watch list, right?

On Tuesday, Capt. TailWagger and my sometimes geocaching partner and I drove to northern Whitley and southern Noble counties to find some caches. Three were in cemeteries, one was at the site of church fire, and one was at a beach. The one at the beach was just published the day before. We got second to find on that one.

How has your geocaching gone?

A bit of history

Capt TailWagger and I are thinking of putting out a challenge cache or two. We have a couple of things in mind, so I went on Project-GC to see who else has met the challenge. While I was doing that, I accessed my original geocaching account stats.

In 2004, my father-in-law gave us a handheld GPS device and introduced us to geocaching. We found a few here in Indiana and some in Colorado where my in-laws lived. Then for whatever reason we stopped geocaching. Misplacing the GPS device didn’t help. There were no smartphones in those days.

In 2015, after we met someone in Grand Tetons National Park wearing a geocaching T-shirt and talking to her about geocaching, we decided to try our hand at geocaching again. I could not remember how we spelled our original geocaching name, and I’m pretty sure the email account it was tied to no longer exists. So I created a new geocaching persona and left those early finds behind.

Then the other day on Facebook, in the Worldwide Geocaching group, a survey popped up. When was your first find? What continent was it on? Is it still active? I went to my original stats on Project-GC and I was able to figure out which was our first find — GCH22J The Parks Less Traveled: Hamilton Park. It was a key holder on the backside of the concession stand/restroom building at a Little League baseball diamond. The cache was archived in August 2005.

I was talking to my wife later that day and she remembered that find.

What I found was that all three of the caches we found in Colorado are still active and just one of our finds here in Indiana is. Geocaching HQ apparently was not giving out state souvenirs back then because we had no souvenirs listed on Project-GC.

Is there a way I can claim those finds? And if I do, what will it do to my stats? Today, I found GCPB0V A Chameleon in Lutheran Park, an unknown (blue ?) cache that has vexed me for years. That cache was hidden in June 2005. It has nearly 30 favorite points. The find gives me 1,780 (not counting those nine from 2004).

Anyone else have an 11-year break in geocaching? And when your restarted, did you create a new account?

My Labor Day find

A year ago on Labor Day, I went to Northwest Ohio to buy mums at a nearby farm and to find a multi cache. In 2019, Labor Day fell on Sept. 2, a day that was a hole in my 366 grid. You can read about that adventure here.

Long story short, I did not find the cache I wanted to find because I screwed up the minutes number on the latitude and ended up going 7 miles south of where I needed to be. Well, Monday was Labor Day and went back to Ohio to find that cache.

I had already done all the work in getting the coordinates so I didn’t need to go back to the virtual ground zero to get the numbers I needed to get the final coordinates. After my wife and I did a bit of shopping at a nearby farm, we drove to the cemetery where ground zero is. I made my way back to GZ and there it was. It took a bit to open the container. After I got it open I was able to get my signature on the log.

Wind turbines overlook cemetery where final is located

The find also gives me 25 multi cache finds all-time. I found another multi last week. I don’t know about you, but I tend to like doing multi caches. They make you think and they get you out of your geocaching comfort zone. When the year began, I had a goal of getting to 100 multis. I think I now have two for the year. I don’t know if I can find 75 more multis over the rest the year. I count just six unfound multis within 10 miles of my home and another four 10-15 miles from home, so there are not a lot of multis around here.

What are your thoughts on multi caches? Are there many where you live?

New attributes

I don’t know about you, but I tend to look at attributes when I’m geocaching, including two in particular: Dogs allowed and bicycling. Capt. TailWagger has never joined me when I’m on my bike, whether I’m geocaching or not. But he does frequently join me on my adventures, particularly on days when it’s not too hot.

On Monday, Geocaching HQ introduced four new attributes: Challenge cache attribute, bonus cache attribute, power trail attribute, and geocaching.com solution checker attribute.

And I’ve checked one of my puzzle caches and the geocaching.com solution checker attribute is attached to cache. I didn’t have to do anything.

In addition to the new attributes, Geocaching HQ also now allows Premium members to search by attributes. Again, I’m going to like this because I want to know if dogs are allowed or not. Or if it’s a place to bicycle.

What about you, dear reader, what attributes do you look for?

Ohio calling?

For each of the past two Sundays, our family has traveled to Ohio to do some hiking and, at least for me, a bit of geocaching. We went to Oak Openings Metropark near Toledo each time. The first time was to drop off a trackable called Motorhead Families. The trackable, which I did not take a picture of, had traveled west and southeast but had not really been to Ohio. My wife suggested a larger cache far enough into Ohio so it would travel the state. We parked in a small area across the road from the main part of the park and deposited Motorhead Families in GCZBBM Dancer, a traditional cache.

What was interesting was what I found in the cache — a geocoin minted in 2003. The guest on the Geocache Talk podcast a few weeks ago was Moun10bike, the person who came up with the idea of geocoins. He briefly touched on geocoins near the end of the program. He described the original coin, and the one I found was similar to his description. Had I found an original geocoin? No, it turns out. Geocoins started in 2001. Still, it was cool to find such an old trackable.

Not a great photo of the coin.

Here’s the interesting thing about that geocoin: When I found it, Dancer was just the second geocache it had ever been to, according to its logs. It was placed in the wild in May 2003. A geocacher named Pencil5757 found in June 2003. In May 2020, Pencil5757 wrote a new log for the coin: “Found in an old coat,” and placed it in a TB Hotel in Texas. That same month twosailers retrieved it from the Texas cache and in July placed it in Dancer, from where I retrieved it.

The coin is in a little plastic bag with a handwritten note: “USA GeoCoin You may keep or move along to another cache. Either way, be sure to log on the Travel Bug page at http://www.geocaching.com. Thanks.”

What would you do? It sat idle for 17 years. I felt bad when I found a TB I had had for nearly two years that had been marked missing by the TB’s owner. It’s back in the wild now, retrieved a few days ago from a cache east of Cleveland. Hopefully that one will get plenty of mileage and not go missing again.

Last week, we went back to Oak Openings to do a bit of hiking. Capt. TailWagger played in the water. He decided to walk through the mud rather than use a bridge. He pulled a large limb out a lake and otherwise tried to keep cool.

Capt. TailWagger pulled a limb out of a lake.

After a hike around the lake, we head up to a cache called Buddy Holly. The app showed the cache was just 0.5 miles away. That’s as the crow flies. It was probably more like 1.5 miles away by the time we got there. And as luck would have it, I found a TB — Fire Chief Duck #5. He has traveled over 19,000 but has never been to a geocache in Indiana. Hopefully, that will change soon. Trouble is, I have not cached since our trip to Oak Openings. It’s been hot and humid around here in recent days, and I’ve not wanted to do anything.

We made two trips to Oak Openings, and the one cache we did not look for is GC2DBE Ancient Lake, one of the oldest caches in Ohio. (GC31A Shawnee Lookout Cache is generally regarded as the oldest cache in Ohio even though Ancient Lake has an older hidden on date.)

I hope to go back an look for Ancient Lake some time (maybe this fall) when I have a bit more time.

Again, what should I do with this coin? Place it in another cache, where it might go missing for 17 years, or hang on to it and dip in caches along the way?

More Adventure Labs and a new promo

Since my last blog post, I’ve completed two more five-stage Adventure Labs. The first was at Blackhand Gorge State Nature Preserve in Licking County, Ohio. The second was in Syracuse, Indiana.

The Adventure Lab in the nature preserve had stops on either side of the Licking River. Three stops were on one side where a railroad once went through the gorge. The other two were on the same side of the river as the parking lot. We looked at a house that helps visitors understand the reason the gorge is called Blackhand Gorge, a canal lock, a railroad tunnel, cleats to hold boulders together.

In addition to completing the Adventure Lab there, I found several other caches during our stay in East Central Ohio, including an EarthCache and a virtual cache. The EarthCache was at Flint Ridge, also in Licking County, and the virtual was at the former headquarters for Longenberger Baskets. We also visited Roscoe Village, a canal village, and Newcomerstown, the hometown of baseball legend Cy Young.

I took Capt TailWagger to Syracuse. He hadn’t been on a geocaching adventure in awhile. He doesn’t do well in the heat, so I’ve been leaving him home. He stayed in a kennel when we went to Ohio; the cabin we stayed in didn’t allow pets.

In Syracuse, we made five stops at different historic sites: An old mill site, the public library, history center, an old theater, a veterans memorial. We parked once and walked, which is my preference.

Completing the Syracuse Adventure Lab made me eligible for this month’s Geo Challenge of the Month from the Geocaching Vlogger and Cache-Advance, which is to complete an Adventure Lab during the month. To complete an Adventure Lab, you need the app on your smartphone.

Finally, next Wednesday (Aug. 12) Geocaching HQ is launching another souvenir challenge — Wonders of the World. Essentially, each cache will be digitally marked with a Wonder of the World. Find all the wonders and get a souvenir. It appears to be similar to last summer’s Mystery at the Museum promotion. It will require use of the Geocaching app to complete and get all of the souvenir.

Adventure Labs

Fort Wayne has many claims to fame. One of the city’s nicknames is the Summit City and there is not a mountain within 200 miles of Fort Wayne. It was the highest point on the Wabash-Erie Canal.

You can learn about the Wabash-Erie Canal by playing FortIslander80’s Adventure Lab. I completed that stage of the Adventure Lab on Tuesday.

Another of Fort Wayne’s claims is that it is where television was invented. Philo Farnsworth was living in Fort Wayne when he developed television transmissions. I learned about his contributions to society when I completed that stage of FI80’s Adventure Lab.

So, what are Adventure Labs? Geocaching.com a few years ago rolled lab caches (which were generally available only at mega or giga events) into a new Adventure Lab app and is allowing local geocachers to apply for the opportunity to place Adventure Labs in their area.

Here’s a video from Derek at Behind the Cache. He calls an Adventure Lab three caches in one: multi, virtual and WherIGo. Multi because you go to multiple locations, but unlike a multicache, you get credit with a find at each location. Virtual because there is no cache container to find and log to sign. The Adventure Lab takes you to a location and asks a question. WherIGo because the app guides you to each location. In his video, Derek travels through Memphis completing a five-stop Adventure Lab.

Along the way Tuesday, I found my 1,700th cache. The two Adventure Labs I found Tuesday counted as finds No. 1,698 and 1,699. I discovered a traditional nearby. So I rode my bike to that tradition and signed the log. The cache even had cash in it, though I left that cash since I had nothing of equal or greater value to trade.

No. 1,600 came at an event in early March before any of us realized how much the coronavirus pandemic was going to change our lives and our habits. My geocaching has slowed down. since March. I found just four caches in April and except for a first to find, all were sort of lonely caches off the beaten path. In May I found more and used sanitized my hands after each find. The beauty of Adventure Labs is there is no container to touch, just your own phone.

That gets me to the downside of Adventure Labs as I see it. The phone app is required to complete them. And the app is separate from other phone apps geocachers use. I know of geocachers who still strictly use a handheld GPS device to cache and don’t want to use a phone.

New HQ promo

Geocaching HQ’s latest promo, Memory Lane, started Monday. The promo lasts seven months, so most geocachers around the world can have a chance to complete the challenge.

Basically, find between 20 and 40 caches and you earn five new souvenirs.

Today, I found a traditional cache and attended a Community Celebration event and got a new souvenir. Events in Indiana started late last month. At today’s event, I met a couple from Michigan who drove to Iowa in April and again in May to extend their monthly event streak. I think they said their streak is about 10 years. They wanted to get to an event early in June in case travel restrictions tighten up again.

When I opened up Word Press to write today’s blog, I realized it’s been a month since I last blogged. I need to make sure I write more often. I know my readers are waiting with baited breath for my missives.

My FTF streak reached a full year last month. I claimed three FTFs in May. One was in Adams County, Indiana. I think that was my first in Adams County. It was in a cemetery west of the town of Berne. My other two were here in Allen County. One was more than a week without an FTF. The other I found the day after it was published.

My goal this month is to claim an FTF. Get the streak to 13 months.

On Monday, I was cleaning out the car and found a trackable. I don’t ever remember bringing it home. I logged it in 2018 as a discovery. I took it today’s event and a cacher from Ohio took it.

How are things in your area? Is it OK to geocache? Are reviewers publishing new caches or events?

Happy birthday, Geocaching

Sunday marked the 20th anniversary of the hiding of what is considered to be the first geocache. On May 2, 2000, the U.S. government ended selective availability on the Global Positioning System, which allowed civilians to have accuracy on their GPS readers to within 30 feet. Dave Ulmer buried what he called the first GPS Stash in Oregon and posted the coordinates on the internet, and he urged people around the country to do the same. The next day it was found.

The Geocaching Vlogger put out a YouTube video over the weekend that included footage from Dave Ulmer as he was putting together his stash, including the logbook.

Sunday I celebrated by finding GC8MC5E Pining for Greatness, a cache that was published in March and already has more than a half-dozen favorite points. The cache is fairly close to home, so I took a break from yard work and hopped on my bicycle and rode to find the cache. I won’t give it away, but I can see why it has so many favorites.

And for finding that cache, just my fifth since April 1, I received a cool souvenir. Geocaching HQ is giving this souvenir to anyone who finds cache between now and the end of the year, so if you haven’t found a cache in awhile, here’s your chance to earn a spiffy souvenir.

Blue Switch Day 2020 souvenir

In addition to celebrating 20 years of geocaching (I only started again in 2015 after an 11-year hiatus), today, May the Fourth, is Star Wars Day. I watched Episode IV “A New Hope” the other day. It’s as great as ever, though I’m not sure how Luke Skywalker was able to convince the space force officers that he was qualified to go off and take down the Death Star. After all, he was stuck on a planet with his aunt and uncle while all his friends were off fighting the empire until R2D2 showed up on his planet.

In honor of Star Wars Day, I am wearing my Star Wars mask when I’m out in public today. My wife and I picked up some new dining room chairs today from the Habitat for Humanity Restore. I did not find a cache today. My son and I are planning to do some geocaching on Tuesday.

May the Fourth be with you, always

As I mentioned above, I rode my bike to find a cache on Sunday. It’s May. That means it’s also National Bike Month, and the first part of the Love to Ride National Bike Challenge. I started Friday with a short ride to the library to return some materials. Our local public library has been closed since March, and while it’s still not open, materials are due today. After stopping by the library, I rode to a lookout over the St. Joseph River. I think there is a geocache here — GC8JQKB The Groundhog is Hibernating. I put the cache out on Feb. 2, Groundhog Day this year.

Spring has sprung on the banks of the St. Joseph River

How is anyone else celebrating 20 years of geocaching since all of the events surrounding it are on hold for the time being? Are you able to get out in your area? Our governor is starting to lift some of the restrictions, though I think he might be overly optimistic to have everything reopened by the Fourth of July.

Take care, and be safe.