Wednesday, September 22, 2010

A Nano Chain

For today's post, we are going to look at an interesting way to hide a nano that can totally confuse the finder.  I've mentioned this on Geocaching Podcast before, so I felt it was a good time to present it.

Materials Needed:
  • One Nano cache
  • One 1/2 inch Quick Link
I'll leave the nano-shopping up to you and focus on the Quick Link, also sometimes called a D-Link.  You can find these in most hardware stores.  Just find the section of the store that carries chains and you'll usually find these next to it.  Outside of caching, they are typically used to connect two chains together, among other connecting uses. Here is one that I've used:

Once you have both supplies, the rest is easy.  If you look carefully at the image above, in the little oval on the right side, you'll see that the Quick Link opens by unscrewing a piece in the center.  Go ahead and get out your new Quick Link and do the same.  Once open, place the nano inside the section you just screwed open, and now screw it shut, sealing the nano inside.  Voila.  You have a camoed nano.

Now you just need to find a place to hide this.  Near chain link fencing can work well, provided you can find a way to conceal it.  I once had one of these hidden at a tennis court.  It was placed right at the base of one of the corner posts, nestled between the post and a piece of metal.  It blended in rather well.  Even better, if you can find a location that has an actual chain with links about the same size, you can attach it to the chain.  That would up the difficulty just a bit (just make sure you have permission for either placement).

If you want, you can try modifying it by painting the Quick Link to match the color of it's surroundings.  Sand it just a bit to roughen up the metal so that the spray paint will flake off slower.  You might find yourself occasionally repainting it.

A quick, easy to make nano cache that will leave finders baffled if they've never found it before.  Oh, and here is a photo of what it looks like:


Monday, August 30, 2010

Dr. Who

I have been so preoccupied lately that I almost forgot to get in a Creative Cache for August.  Every once in a while, I like to highlight an already established cache for the readers.  A cache that is creative enough that it should be put on everyone's "Must Visit" list.  For that, I'm going to take you out to Portland, OR, where a unique and fun cache exists.  It's called...

Dr. Who

Now I'm going to warn you.  You won't be getting details about how this cache is designed.  It would totally ruin the experience for anyone planning on hitting this one. 

The cache was placed by goblindust on 05/22/2006.  Since then, it has racked up 594 finds and only six DNF's.  That's pretty impressive.  So what's so special about this cache?  Plain and simple and it goes with this site.  It's just plain creative.  It will make you cringe when you first arrive on site to try and figure out where it's hidden.  It will pop a light bulb when that idea comes to mind.  And it will surprise you when you discover how it's hidden.

I found it with my buddy Webscouter. while we were traveling the Pacific Northwest during our Geowoodstock VIII trip.  We had heard the name from several people and had planned on going through Portland anyway so we took the advice and visited it.  We were happy we did.

So anyone traveling to Portland needs to add this to their list.  Trust me.  You'll be happy you stopped for this one.


Saturday, July 31, 2010

Some Creative Supplies

Tonight, we are going to deviate a bit from our usual design post and talk a bit about some basic supplies you can equip yourself with that may become part of your regular cache design kit.  Some of these supplies may be used more than others depending on how you design your caches, but all are useful.  We'll start with supplies for the inside of your cache.

Interior Supplies
  1. Baggies - these are wonderful tools for protecting a logsheet from moisture.  Larger kitchen use baggies can be useful when placing a regular size cache, while smaller arts & crafts baggies are great for micro and small caches.  The smaller ones can be found at any arts & crafts store, and usually in arts & crafts departments of stores like Wal-mart and Target.  Just find the section where beads are found and you can find a variety of sizes in 50 and 100 quantity packages, often for $2 or less per set.  A few bucks can supply you with enough baggies for plenty of potential caches.  Carry them around with your regular caching supplies and you can help other cachers protect their logsheets as well, or replace damaged baggies.
  2. Writing utensil - not everyone likes to add a writing utensil to their caches, often because of the varying cache designs they might use.  Consider picking up a package of golf pencils.  Since they are smaller, the open up the range of cache sizes you can use them in.  Plus, a writing utensil inside can be useful if a cacher forgets their own pen or pencil.
  3. Swag - this may not work for micro caches, but if their is room for swag, consider adding an item or two.  What you use is entirely up to you.  Dollar stores are invaluable resources as you can often by packages of items like toy soldiers, plastic coins, etc.  Crafts stores are also useful, especially if you might be interested in making some personalized FTF swag.  Party stores often care packages of cheap party favors for parents looking to make gift bags for their child's party.  Toys often make great swag for kids.  What should be avoided?  Inappropriate or hazardous items, alcohol, food, liquids (what if something accidently breaks), and sharp objects or weapons, among other potentially bad swag ideas.
  4. Stash Notes - you can get these from various geocaching sites.  They break down geocaching into an easy to understand explanation for muggles who might find the cache.
Exterior Supplies
  1. Camo Tape - there are several varieties of camo tape that you can find, ranging from camo duct-tape to camo felt tape.  They are all usually pretty good.  Take any basic cache design and add camo tape to help reduce the visibility of a cache.  Most stores that sell a variety of duck tape will sell camo tape right there.  Otherwise, check sporting goods stores/departments to find some.
  2. Sharpie - this can be used to write something on the outside, like "Official Geocache, Do Not Remove" or a GC code.  
  3. Geocache Label - unless you make them yourself, you can buy "Official Geocache" labels to apply to the outside of a geocache.  These can be useful in case a muggle happens to find the cache.  Great when combined with a Stash Note inside.
  4. Spray paint - this mostly applies to ammo cans.  Try to have a can of spray paint, preferably a shade of Forest Green, to paint a recently purchase ammo can.  This is done to cover up the military markings which might worry muggles if found.
Each of these items is not necessary, but can be useful ways to add a little extra umph to your next cache.  Are their any other ideas out there?  Post a comment and share your ideas for readers to consider.


Saturday, July 3, 2010

The Pen is Mightier Cache

While caching, you'll eventually run into a cache design that you hadn't thought of before.  This design is exactly one of those caches.  I ran into it a while back while traveling.

Materials Needed:
  • A pen with a clear casing
  • Logsheet
The most important aspect of this design is having a certain type of pen.  The pen must be designed such that there is a clear casing somewhere in the design.  A clear casing that would allow you to see the inside of the pen.  Well, this isn't a necessity as you could probably design this without such a particular type of pen, but for the purposes of this design, it should be clear.

Open the pen up.  Carefully roll a logsheet around the ink holder and slide the whole setup back into the pen.  Make sure the logsheet is positioned so it is visible through the clear part of the pen casing.  Then seal it back up.

Why leave the ink part inside?  Why not?  You can quite honestly say that you don't need to bring a pen to the cache, even if it is a micro. 

This is a quick, cheap micro cache design.  Make sure you have some spares for future maintenance and have fun as people log their surprise at this different design.


Thursday, June 3, 2010

Pet Caches

Blending caches in with the environment can be tricky and there are a lot of ways to do so.  While camouflage can be very basic, to truly get it just right takes practice.  But there is another fun way to do camouflage that we will look at today, along with several examples of this method.  Because of the various methods used, it will be hard to provide a materials list that covers every possible method.  So we will try to highlight what will be needed for each of the provided examples so you can get an idea about how to approach the method.  And what is the method...


Yep, I said animals.  So what exactly does that mean?  Those of you who have found a lot of caches may have seen a cache built like this before.  It a geocache built to look like an animal.  In some cases, the animal part is a prop that has been turned into a geocache.  Other times, it is a geocache that is attached to some kind of animal prop.  And in some cases, the animal actually hides the container.  We will look at one of each of these methods.

One hard part about the methods we will be looking at is finding the right prop for the design.  There are two easy places to find these items, though they aren't the only locations.  One is a Garden Center.  Many stores that cater to landscaping and gardening will often have some animal related props.  Another location would be Halloween stores.  While these are usually only found in early Fall, with a little bit of looking you can sometimes find stores that sell Halloween related goods year-round. 


Our first example is an animal that has been turned into a geocache.  In this example, the animal is typically a larger prop that is hollow in some form.  Is this always the case...definitely not.  I've seen examples of bison tubes made to look like insects.  But for this post, we will focus on a larger version.  For this example, you will need a few items:
  • A fake cat
  • Logsheet
  • Weather resistant glue
  • PVC Plug and respectively sized threaded PVC adaptor
For the PVC Plug and adaptor, you can commonly find something called a PVC Cleanout W/Plug.  This would fit perfectly.  You just need to find a size appropriate for your design.  First, we see the cache itself, held by one of my caching friends:

You can see the cat, along with the black PVC fitting attached to it's belly.  A hole was cut into the belly, cut to the diameter of the bottom of the PVC Cleanout. The cleanout is then glued to the cat.  The PVC Plug then can screw into the cleanout to create a water-tight seal (provided you've properly glued the cat to the PVC).  In this photo, you might also notice a small metal loop in front of the PVC plug.  This loop was used to attach the cat to a tree, as seen here:

To attach this the way it is shown, the person who hid this would have had to drill a small hole into the tree, then take a hook screw a bit larger than the hole and screw that into the tree as well.  This would then provide the hook for the loop you see in the above photo, thereby attaching the cat to the tree as shown.

While this design is pretty cool when you see it in person, this did require putting a screw into a tree, which could cause damage to the tree.  If you like how this is setup (and it was pretty cool when I saw it), I would encourage you to find a location that doesn't require drilling into a tree.  I have seen reviewers archive caches that do this and they are right to do so.  It may not seem like much, but this can cause damage.

As you can see in this image, the design does create an interesting atmosphere for a cache, especially on Halloween. I know I laughed pretty hard upon finding this because my first thought was that we had actually found a cat.  Imagine the logs you would receive with a cache like this.


The next type of animal cache involves attaching animals to a geocache.  One of the first examples of this that I ran into involved a fake rat attached to a 35mm film canister, hidden under a log.  I happened to go after it at night, which made the cache even more fun to find.  These types of hides are rather simple and require nothing more than a geocache and some kind of fake animal to attach to the outside.  Spiders, snakes, and rats are the most common fake animals you'll see used, but insects often work wonderfully as well.

When building a cache like this using a smaller cache size, you typically need nothing more than the geocache itself, the animal to attach, and a method for attaching it.  Weather resistant glue is the most commonly used method.  For larger caches, like ammo cans, some geocachers will use items like snakes and large spiders and just rest them on top of the cache.

Here is an example of a micro attached to an insect.  The photo was taken by rhondapalooza.


The last example involves using an animal to hide the geocache.  Now the above example of the cat might seem like it fits here to but there is a difference.  With the cat, the cat was turned into the geocache.  The PVC parts merely provided an easy method to open and close the container, but the cat's body was the geocache itself.  For this last method, the fake animal isn't the geocache itself, it's merely the camouflage designed to hide the geocache.  Here, let's see an example of this:
In this example, the bird is the camo.  If you look closely, you can see the red, rounded edge of the geocache sticking out the back end of the bird.  It is hard to tell from this view, but the bird is actually carved from a lightweight wood, carefully painted to look like a real bird.  Using a drill, a hole was created for the bison tube.  A perch was created and tied to the tree on which the bird is attached.  Look carefully and you can see a triangular piece on the back end of the perch which helps prevent the bison tube from falling out accidentally.  To retrieve this cache, the bird rotated forward just a bit.  This was achieved by making the feet loop around the perch, but with a little bit of looseness to allow the rotation.  Rotate the bird forward, pull out the bison tube, and sign the logsheet.

Birds are definitely the most commonly used animal for this method, at least from what I've experienced.  Here is another example of a bird geocache (which happens to be an exact replica to two bird caches I have seen) as taken by Wrapped In Piano Strings, who we should welcome to the geocaching world as this is a picture of their very first find:

Once, I saw a large GINORMOUS Bison using this method up in St. Joseph, MO.  Always good for a laugh when taking someone to find it.

So there you have it.  Three ways to turn a simple geocache into a creative geocache using animals.  Have you seen an example of this before?  Post a GC code in the comments.


P.S. I am waiting for permission from a few people to display their photos on the site.  I will update the post with photos as permissions arrive.  For now, I've merely linked to the photos I am awaiting permission from.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Building a Pict-O-Cache

Disclaimer: This is an edited version of a post I made on my personal geocaching blog.  I was getting ready to write about this when I realized I had already done it a long time ago.  I've made a few updates.

If there was ever a cache that everyone should try once, pict-o-caches would likely be near the top of the list. They take aspects of several different types of caches and join them together to make a cache that everyone can participate in and enjoy. But how do they work? First, we need to establish what they are.

Pict-o-caches are a class on their own. Taking cues from multi-caches, on-site puzzles, and visual puzzles, these puzzles definitely require an observant eye. Given a location to start at, you are basically guided through a multi-cache not by finding hidden stages with coordinates inside, but by finding things right out in the open. The clues are pictures. Follow the pictures and find the cache. It sounds simple enough.

Let's look a bit closer. There are two basic methods of doing a pict-o-cache. For the first one, we'll use a pict-o-cache that I completed in 2008 with my friend 8601Delphinium.  Both of us enjoyed this cache and thought it was a good example of this method. It is the Hastings Pict-O-Cache located in Hastings, NE, set up by Still Searching.  In this method, you are given a starting location, usually the cache coordinates themselves. Standing in that location, you have to scan around the area. Somewhere, within your field of view, you would find this:

picto1 Obviously, this image shows a brick wall, so you would want to scan for brick buildings. It could be on a building near to you or one in the distance, but it will be in your view. One thing to consider is whether the object is close to the ground or not. If you find a building in your view that has other objects masking it, like vehicles, bushes, or trees, you'll need to take that into consideration. Once you find the object in the picture, you need to go over to it. Stand next to it, and begin searching for picture number two:

picto2 Examining the photo, you at least now that it is near a window. Second, you can also guess that it is at least a second story window based on the ledge. Third, even though it also appears to be on a brick building, don't assume that it is the same building. So make sure to scan every building in your view. Okay, over there. That's the window. Let's move over to it. Time to find number three:

picto3 Now, you can be certain that this is the corner of a building, and along the roof. Again, start scanning around, this time paying attention to roof corners that have this style of decoration on it. Wait...over there. Nope, it doesn't have the streetlamp object visible along the edge of the photo. But, if you look at that other corner of the same building, it does have it. Time to go to stage four.

This is the overall idea of this type of pict-o-cache. It's nothing more than following the pictures. These caches are great caches for group caching or family caching. Everyone can get involved with finding the images, including kids.

But I said that the above method is just one type of this style of puzzle cache. So what's the other method? For the other method, I'll use Krypto Kache, found in Omaha, NE. Set up by Team Kryptos, this one still has you looking for pictures, but this time you are given a list of coordinates for the pictures. This might seem counter-intuitive, but it's not. The coordinates are just a list of coordinates with letters assigned to them, and the pictures are numbered. Go to each of the coordinates and figure out which of the photos is found there. Match each coordinate to a picture and you'll get numbers for the letters. Then fill in the numbers in the provided final coordinates based on the letters and you'll get the final location for the puzzle. Go to that location and find the cache.

Either method provides an interesting caching experience. But, what if you want to make one? Before you do anything, you'll need a few things.

Materials Needed:
  • Camera
  • Photo editing software
  • Notebook
  • Cache Container
  • Logbook

A notebook?  That seems odd.  However I would also recommend bringing a notebook to help keep track of note only the order of the photos, but to match the photos to coordinates and to write notes about the photos. Both of those last two will make sense in a bit.  For a cache container, any size can be used.  Just remember to make it appropriate for the location you use.  Ammo can's are obviously not the way to go if this cache will be designed in an urban area.  And regarding the photo software.  Anything will work.  GIMP is a good free software.  It has a learning curve, but there are plenty of tutorials out there to help and it is quite powerful considering it is free.

For the first method, there's a bit more that goes into preparing this puzzle. Start by finding a place to hide the cache (and mark the coordinates). Many of the pict-o-caches I've seen are usually found in vibrant urban environments. Urban areas provide a lot of different options for photos that you just won't find elsewhere. Whether using architecture, window, window displays, vents, signs, lamps, etc., you should have a pluthra of objects to use for photos.  "Historic Downtown" areas often make great spots.  Out in a park, on the other hand, is not so great.  You have trees, bushes, plants, trees, benches, lamps, trees...imagine looking at a photo of a tree then looking around you to find a hundred trees that all look like the photo. Case settled.  However, that doesn't mean a park can never work for this type of cache, it's just harder to make it work.

Once you find a location, you have two options. You can find a random starting location and work your way along a path to the final location, taking pictures along the way. Or you can do the same thing, only working backwards through the route. Either way works, but it might be easier to visualize if you work your way forwards through the route. I'll describe the rest as if you are doing it forwards.

Find a random starting location and grab the coordinates. Then, scan around and find something to take a photo of. Remember, your path can be whatever you want, so don't feel like you have to always be getting closer to the final location. Also, your photo can be at a distance, or it can be closer to the object you want to photograph. Feel free to mix it up to increase the difficulty, just make sure that what you see in the photograph is at least big enough to see from the previous spot. Another way to increase the difficulty is use only a portion of the photo. For example, instead of using a photo of the entire statue, crop it so that you only see a small portion of it. This also helps to reduce the chances that someone spots stage nine and rushes straight to that spot in the puzzle before they've done stages one through eight. This is where the notebook can really come in handy, as you can write down notes about each image in case you want to mess with the images on the computer.

Once you have your photograph, move to whatever you took a photo of and stand next to it. Before you continue, make sure to grab coordinates. You will want to add waypoints for each picture when you list your cache online. This helps the reviewer in two ways. One way is to help them see what route you are having the cacher go. They may see something you hadn't thought of based on where those stages are that may require fixing. Second, each picture is techniqually a stage in a multi-cache. Multi-cache guidelines require posting the waypoints for each stage. Some reviewers may see it as a puzzle cache and not require the additional waypoints, but trust me that it will be appreciated. Some reviewers will actually require them for the above reasons.

After you have your coordinates, repeat the above process until you reach the final location. When you close in on the final location, think carefully about the last two photos. The last photo should be close enough to narrow down where the final location is within 10 - 20 feet (or about the typical accuracy of your GPSr). The second to last photo should get you close enough that the last photo makes sense. If the final location is hidden in the skirt of lamp post, and your final location is of the skirt, the second to last photo should not have eight lamp posts in the image. Figure out a way to narrow it down to no more than two, maybe three if they are closer together. You'll get complaints from cachers if you don't.

Now that you have all your photos, coordinates for each photo, and have placed the hide, you're ready to go home. At home, you'll need to take some time to get everything organized. Hopefully, you took notes of the coordinates for each photo and a description so that you can quickly match things up. Load up your images and start preparing them. I recommend numbering your final images so that you can get them arranged properly. Feel free to put a visible number in the photo to help the cachers as well.  If they are printing off a sheet of images then the numbers will help them keep everything in order too. Once you do have them prepared, you'll need to do one more thing.

When you post this online, you'll have an easier time displaying the photos if you create an image file that has the photos arranged in order that can be displayed online. Check out both of the linked caches listed earlier to see examples of this. It will make setting up the cache page easier. Also, don't forget to create additional waypoints for each image. They can be hidden from public view if using the "follow the images" method, or they can be public if using the "match the images" method (you have to list the coordinates anyway for this one). Get everything ready to go and submit.  As to the software to use for this, that may vary depending on your experience.  This isn't needed, but it makes creating the cache page easier.

But what about that second method I described.  You know, the one where you match the photos to the coordinates?  This method has a bit wider range of options for where you can set it up as compared to the first method because you aren't following images to the hide, but matching images to get numbers in order to determine the final coordinates. Your images can be in a confined area of a few blocks or they can be spread out over a mile wide area. I've seen some spread out across entire communities.  You just need to keep track of which images go with which coordinates.  Find some locations with something you want to take a photo of and take several photos of varying zoom levels.  You can also crop those as you see fit.  Make sure you take coordinates of the spot you took the photo from.  If using the notebook, take note of which coordinates go with which image.  Keep doing this for the number of photos you want to use, then find somewhere to place the final cache.  

Once you get home, make sure the photos are marked for identification.  Numbers are recommended.  Why?  Because when you provide the list of matching coordinates, labeling them with a number might confuse people.  Labeling them with a letter prevents this.  And if you label with letters, you don't want to label the photos with letters too. 

After cropping and marking the photos, and preparing the coordinates to match to the photos, you need to figure out how you want cachers to determine the coordinates.  One way to do this is to make math equations.  Write out a basic formula for the provided coordinates where certain positions equal certain letters.  For example:

N 40° 35.189 W 098° 23.354
N 40° AB.CDE W 098°FG.HIJ

Then, for each picture, provide a formula, such as:

Photo A = (B+G)*(F-I)

As cachers match up the correct coordinates to each image, they use those coordinates to determine the value of each photo.  Then they can plug those values into the final coordinates to determine where the cache is located at.  Since this is done in the field, a coordinate checker isn't needed.  Once they have the final coordinates, they can go after the cache to claim a find.

When submitting this design, it can be labeled as either a puzzle cache or a multi cache.  If you aren't quite sure how to list it, contact your reviewer and ask for what they would like it listed as since they will be the ones approving it.

These two methods are the two most common methods I've seen, but there are probably other ways to set this up.  I don't see Pict-O-Caches as often anymore, but I have seen a type called "Steeplechases" which are essentially method #2, but with a theme.  Themed Pict-O-Caches can be fun too.  While Pict-O-Caches aren't as common, I haven't met too many people who dislike them since they are a bit different and can be an interesting way to explore an area. 


PS: A thanks to reviewers *gln and Heartland Cacher for their input on how to submit a pict-o-cache and to Still Searching for letting me use some of the photos on his pict-o-cache. I probably SHOULD say thanks to Team Kryptos, but I didn't use any of their photos so they'll get a thanks for letting me reference their hide.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

An Electrical Plate

Some of you may have seen this design before.  It isn't anything new.  But it is easy to build and it makes a great example of creativity.  Before we begin, let's look at what materials you'll need.

  • Electrical Wall Plate
  • 2 magnets
  • Metal Epoxy
  • Small baggie
  • Logsheet
Most of the materials can be found in a hardware store.  However, most magnets you would find in a hardware store are larger and thicker than what is best to use.  For my magnets, I rely on Grainger due to the variety of different styles and sizes.  The only problem is that they usually require an account for most products they sell, especially magnets.  They are considered hazardous materials.

When you go to buy the wall plate, make sure that whatever you buy is the style of a wall cover with two holes for the screws.  For hiding outdoors, the metal variety will blend in better than plastic.  For magnets, I used a nickel plated, neodymium magnet that is .375 mm wide and .100 mm thick.  For a glue, I used a Metal Epoxy to better grip the metal between the two objects.  It is also fast drying and holds up to weather a lot better than normal super glue.  You will need a small baggie for this design.  Look in the bead section of any arts & crafts department/store to find cheap bags (50-100 for less than $2.00).

Here is an example of the Wall Plate alongside the magnets.  Notice one magnet covering the left hole.

With this image, you can easily see how everything will fit together. The magnets cover the holes on the backside of the plate.  All you need to do is glue them down.

Metal Epoxy works by mixing two substances.  One is a hardener and one is a resin.  This typically comes in a special container that looks like two syringes fused together.  Make sure you have a disposable container handy and something small and disposable for mixing the materials.  Open the container and carefully squeeze a small amount of both materials into the disposable container.  One of the materials will move rather slow.  I used my mixer to scrape the glob off the tip of the syringe.

Once you have the two materials in your container, you only have about five minutes to work before it becomes hardened enough that you can't easily apply it.  Quickly mix them until they have a uniform color and consistancy (about 30 seconds of stirring should be minimum).  Then, carefully begin applying the epoxy.  Use a little bit on the front side of the hole to seal that up, evening it flat with the rest of the plate.  Apply more to the back side, this time to the gap between the magnet and the plate.  Apply it a big thicker so that it can drip fully into the gap.  Apply it around the entire magnet and once you feel satisfied, you're done.

Here is what it should look like on the backside when you are done:

Now I recommend that you only do one magnet at a time. In the amount of time it takes to mix and apply the epoxy to one magnet, the rest of the epoxy will have dried out too much for easy application to the second magnet.  Once you are completely finished preparing the cache, allow at least one hours before handling it.  For the best strength, allow a full 24 hours before use.

This cache, as you might already be able to tell, works best in locations where an electrical face plate would seem likely (and not dangerous to the cacher who goes after it).  Since the epoxy dries a different color, you might look into a metal looking spray paint to blend the in the front side.  If placing this in a location with a different color than the face paint, definitely consider spray paint.

Once you have the location picked out, place a logsheet into one of the small baggies and place the baggie between the two magnets on the backside.  You will have to rely on the object you are attaching too to hold the baggie in place with the above design.  However, you can always consider modifying the design to hold the baggie into place.

A rather simple design, but also a devious design.  Even experienced cachers can overlook this one at first.  So find a good spot to hide it and enjoy the logs.


PS: Watch your fingers handling the wall plate.  The edges are sharp.  I accidentally cut my thumb while trying to clean off some excess epoxy because I didn't have a good grip.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Jolly Green Giant

Today's post is going to feature an interesting cache design already out in the field.  The cache is called Jolly Green Giant.  It was placed by Lacomo on February 5th, 2009.  It's location is Lebanon, MO.  Why is it unique?  The size.

I remember being on the local Kansas/Missouri forums when Lacomo first started inquiring about large caches in Missouri.  He was trying to find out what the largest size was in the state.  Then, as time rolled on, we started to find out what his idea was, even seeing a few photos.  Finally, his cache was released to the public and within only a few hours the FTF was the middle of the night!  It seems people really wanted to see what all the hype was about.  So what was so cool about this cache?  This shot was taken when I visited it just over a month later.
You can see a travel bug hanging off the top, and just above it is the Garmin eTrex Legend I was using at the time.  This homemade ammo can is large enough that a kid could likely crouch inside and not be seen.  Now it looks like it is in the woods.  Really it's in a small grove of trees on the back end of some property.  The property is owned by the cache owner's nephew.

Okay, time for some details.  When I asked Lacomo how he built this, he gave me some interesting details.  First of all, the body of the cache is actually a metal filing cabinet turned onto it's back.  Inside is some wooden platform about 1/3rd of the way up from the bottom.  This is where the containers for swag, trackables, and the logbook are resting.  It was done this way so that people didn't have to reach all the way to the bottom, and in case any water got inside.  Some framework was added to help hold it up.  The lid was the most expensive and time consuming piece.  Lacomo paid a local machine shop $50 for the material and the labor to bend the lid.  He did his own welding.  Due to how the sides of the lid slip over the sides of the container, it's actually surprisingly waterproof.  A local sign shop made the Geocaching label for the side. 

Once, it did actually get wet.  There had been heavy rain in the area and a small flood happened at the cache site.  It actually picked it up and floated it down a small drainage ditch before getting caught up in some trees.  Surprising that it would float consider the size of the container.

Total cost was about $75.00.  But Lacomo said it was entirely worth it considering the enjoyment people have had finding it.  And just how many people have found it?  Since it's publication, 183 people have found it as of the date I am writing this.

This isn't the only version of this I've seen.  I have seen pictures from a few other giant ammo cans around the world.  I've also seen other LARGE cache designs.  What about you?


Saturday, March 13, 2010

Updating the Site

For those of you who don't run a site on Blogger, and maybe even some of you that do, Blogger added the ability to have multiple pages on your blog earlier this year.  So I am working on adding some pages to enhance the site a bit.  The first update...a submission page.

Pages can be reached through some links found underneath the title banner.  Right now, you'll see two pages listed for the Creative Caches & Containers site: Home and Submit a Creative Cache Idea.  Home will obviously take you to the main page for the site, but what about the Submit page?

One of the ways I hope to keep this site going is through reader submissions.  You can submit creative hides, creative containers, even already established creative caches all provide me with a larger pool of ideas to post about.  Several of the articles posted on the site to this date were ideas submitted to us.  With this new page, I've made it even easier to submit your ideas.  The new page is set up with a submission form through which you can submit an idea.  Fill out the form (GC Code optional) with a brief description of your idea and why it is creative, then hit submit.  Once that button is hit, an e-mail will be sent to me with your idea.  I'll try to get back to you within a few days with any questions I might have.  Then I can work on adding it to our lineup of future posts. 

And don't forgot about already established caches.  Maybe you've seen a cache that really stood out as interesting.  Well, send those in too.  With the provided GC Code, I can look at the cache page and contact the owner about featuring their cache on the site.

So keep those ideas coming.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Geocaching...from your computer?

I am trying to stick to a bi-weekly posting on this site.  Last weekend found me away from home from Saturday through Tuesday, and I forgot.  So here is a quick post featuring an online friend of mine, ErikaJean.  Erika has put together a rather interesting blog that combines several of her various interests, including geocaching.  It's obvious to anyone reading her blog that the keyboard loves her.  But today, we focus on a YouTube video she put together that definitely fits into the Creative Caches site. It's called Interactive Geocaching, but there's just one problem.  There's no actual cache to find.

If you are a fan of computer games, you've probably played a game inspired by Myst.  Myst was an graphic adventure game released in 1993, most notable for it's "Choose Your Own Adventure" like method of story telling.  You were in control of how you played the game, with the ability to explore at your own free will.  You clicked on a spot in the game and it would either move you in that direction, or you interacted with something in the game world.

Erika has created a YouTube video that plays out just like Myst.  The collection of videos give you the opportunity to try and find a geocache from the comfort of your computer.  Now while none of our readers will be able to claim a find from the video, I have an idea for how to turn this into an actual cache. 

Required Materials
  • A micro or small geocache, ready to go
  • A video camera
  • A computer
Find a decent location to place a geocache.  For this cache, a good location will have a variety of possible hiding spots nearby.  If the spot you choose has a limited amount of spots to look for that size container, you should probably choose another location.  This is important for the overall design of this cache.  Once you've hidden the container, step back a bit and survey your surroundings.  Find a good spot to start and mark that location, both in your mind and on your GPSr.  We'll call it Waypoint A.  It might be a good idea to physically mark the site with something so you remember where you started.

Now, pick a collection of different items within your view: bushes, trees, man-made structures, etc.  You want a good collection of a least 10 different items.  Try to make the items viable hiding locations for your container (this works best if you are using a micro or small container).  Shoot a short introduction video of the scene with you speaking in the background.  If your camera has the option, make sure to stop each time you shoot a scene so you have easy reference points for later editing.

Once you've shot the intro, begin shooting video of you walking towards the various objects you noted earlier.  If your hand comes into view as you move things about in a fake search for a cache container then don't worry about it.  Play it up a bit.  Add commentary as you film.  After you film the various objects, pick a couple of random points that may seem like obviously unlike locations, but film them anyway.  It will provide more options for viewers.

Once you're done filming, and you have both the starting coords for the video and the final location's coords, head on home and go through the process of editing.  You'll need a collection of short videos encompassing all of the random points people might choose, including the correct location.  Edit them however you want, but in the clip that leads to the actual cache, post the coordinates for Waypoint A into the end of the video.  This way, when people find the correct location in the video, they will get the coordinates for the video's starting location.  Once they arrive on scene, they should see a view just like the video.  They already know where the final is located at, so the find will be easy from that point on.

Now all you need to do is upload the videos.  YouTube provides an easy, free option for doing so.  Once they are uploaded, you'll need to add linked notes to the video.  YouTube calls them "annotations" and they can be added by going to "My Videos" after logging in, finding the starting video, and clicking on "Annotations".  When you do this, make sure you have a second tab open so you can get the URL's for each video.  Pick the point in the starting video where you want to give people the option to pick their choices.  Pause the video there and add a notation.  Spread the annotation out over one of the areas people can choose, switch it to the "Notes" type (you can use "Speech Bubble" or "Spotlight" if you want), then click on the chain link icon to create an Annotation Link.  This is where you paste the URL for the video that explores that particular spot.  You'll have to be organized at this point so that all of the annotations link to the proper videos.  Once done, you'll have a video much like Erika's.

Yes, it's an easy find for anyone who completes the video.  But it will also be a fun find.  Due to the nature of the design, it should probably be listed as a puzzle cache.  This means that even cachers who don't like puzzles would be hard pressed to complain about this.  And if they automatically ignore puzzles without even looking at them, this is a shining example of why that practice can backfire.  This is also a kid friendly cache design that any geocachers with kids in your area will enjoy.


PS: And a thanks to ErikaJean for letting me highlight her video.  The starting video is below:

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Decorating the Logbook

Not every creative cache has to be only about the container.  Sometimes it's about the presentation of the cache.  Telling a good story.  Taking the cacher on a hike through the story.  Making the cache fit the story.  It's all about the presentation.  Cache of the Lost Sunglasses is an example of such a cache.  It told the story of a geocaching family, the father of which lost his sunglasses on the trail.  The cache took you on a lengthy hike through a park, visiting different stages along the trail where the family encountered different situations during their hike.  Over the course of the hike, if you read the story that went with it, you gained clues for finding the stages.  The stages weren't spectacular, the hides weren't elaborate.  It was the story, the mood, that set the level of fun for that cache.  Unfortunately, it was archived in 2008.

Designing a good story is not something you can really tell someone how to do so we won't focus on that.  One thing we will focus on is the logbook.  Now the logbook might seem like an unlikely part of the overall cache to focus.  Yet with the right cache, it can be a valuable part of telling the story.  Decorating a logbook works best with caches where the log has a book form to it, be it a pocket notebook for a small cache or larger book in an ammo can.  So today, we are going to look at one of my own caches, Necronomicron Ex-Mortis.  In particular, how the logbook fits into the design.

If you've seen The Evil Dead movies, you might recognize the name of the cache.  It was the evil Book of the Dead in the movies, the cause of all the horrors that occurred.  Bound in the human flesh and written in the blood of souls tortured by a group of Dark Ones.  An interesting example of B-horror films that has developed a cult status among horror movie fans.

For this cache, we need a few supplies:
  • Liquid Latex
  • Hot Glue Gun
  • Hot Glue Sticks
  • A logbook (preferably a hardbound notebook)
  • Fake Blood
  • Q-tips
  • Paint (or stage makeup...preferably skin tones)
  • Brushes/makeup sponges
  • Spray Adhesive
The Liquid Latex and Fake Blood will probably be the hardest items to get your hands on.  Sometimes, you'll find stores that will sell them year round.  If not, you either have to wait until Halloween supplies hit the stores or order them online.  For the paint, I happened to use stage makeup.  It sticks well, easy to apply, but a applying it takes a bit longer.  Use of a make-up sponge really helps with this.

The logbook is something else.  A basic notebook might work fine but for selling the cache you might have to splurge a bit and get a nicer notebook that is hardbound.  When you get a notebook, think about the fact that you are applying hot glue to the cover when you pick one out.

Once you have your supplies, it's time to let your imagination run wild.  It's best to do one side of the cover at a time.  The basic steps to follow:
  1. Plan out a pattern for the cover to be laid out with hot glue.
  2. Apply the hot the pattern you choose.  Pay attention to how thick or thin you apply the glue to best achieve your goal. 
  3. Let it dry, then carefully apply a thin layer of liquid latex using the Q-tips.  You can pour a small amount in spots and spread it out if desired.
  4. Let the latex dry, then apply a thin later of make-up.  Pick a skin-tone and carefully stipple it onto the cover. For those unfamiliar with that term, stippling involves patting the paint onto the surface as opposed to brushing it or smearing it on.  For stage makeup, this helps create a more natural effect on the book.  The makeup doesn't have to be fully even, opaque layer.
  5. Once the paint has dried, repeat steps 3 and 4 once more.  At this stage, begin applying any additional colors you choose to use, or even some fake blood in spots if desired.
  6. Let it all dry, then repeat the procedure for the back cover and spine.  
  7. Once finished, add a thin coat of spray adhesive.  Remember to not hold it so close that it creates weird bubbles on the cover.
So what does this look like when done?  Here is a shot of my logbook after almost completing the front cover:

This was designed to resemble a vision of the book from one of the movies.  You can see the eyes, the nose, an ear near the spine on the left, and the mouth if you look near the bottom center.  Teeth were designed into the mouth, and I later applied white makeup, some darker lines to separate the teeth, and some fake blood coming from the mouth.

Now, for a few steps that I did not have time to get too.  In the movies, the pages of the book are written in blood, containing weird languages, symbols, and drawings.  I had hoped to use the fake blood to design some similar pages inside but never got around to it.

The point of this post is to show how even the logbook can be part of making a creative cache.  Does it have to be a design out of a B-Horror flick?  Not at all.  This design was used for a night cache at my Halloween event last year, hence the horror theme.  This particular design works best with a regular size cache, but even a small cache can have a creative logbook.

If you are looking for something different to do, think about a cache with a story.  Then see how you can fit every aspect of the cache design into the story, including the logbook.


Monday, January 25, 2010

A Sprinkle of Finds

Yesterday, I was reminded of a cache container that is a classic example of creativeness.  Both the design and placement can confuse many geocachers who haven't seen the design before.  And better yet, it's easy to build.

Here's what you need:
  • 1 pop up sprinkler head
  • A 35mm film canister
  • Logsheet
  • A small spade
Optional items:
  • Bison tube
  • Toothpick, thin Dowel Rod, or popsicle stick
  • PVC

The best sprinkler head to get is one of those common round black ones you can find in most Gardening or Hardware stores.  For the spade...well that will depend on the location you choose to place it at. We'll discuss that after looking at the build.

The first thing you will need to do is unscrew the top of the sprinkler head, marked in the image to the left.  Once open, look carefully at the guts.  Sometimes there is a hollow piece running the length of the sprinkler that could easily hold a rolled up logsheet.  If not, just pull out everything, leaving the sprinkler casing and lid.

Next, get your logsheet ready.  The simple way is just to get a standard micro logsheet.  You can staple a few sheets together if you want to allow more finds between log refills.  Now if there is a hollow piece inside, you can slide the logsheet into there.  If this is an option, I recommend attaching something at the center of the roll that people can grip to pull the rolled up logsheet out.  A popsicle stick or thin dowel rod works great.

If there is not a hollow piece inside, then grab a micro container like a 35mm film canister, bison tube, etc.  Make sure it will fit inside, then add the logsheet and then toss the container inside the sprinkler head.

Once you have everything inside, just seal it up.  Now you need to find a location for it.  This is where this one can be tricky.  If you pick a spot with mulch, there's a chance the mulch is deep enough that you can just clear out a hole, place the sprinkler inside, and position the mulch around it to fill gaps.  You could also find a small bush, insert the sprinkler head through some branches, and cover the top with a leaf or two.  But sometimes, you might need to dig a small hole.  If you have exhausted other options and decided on digging, make sure you have permission from the landowner if it isn't on your property.  This is especially true at parks.  If a muggle sees you pulling up a spinkler head, they might get suspicious enough to report it.  You'll want the parks department to be aware of it.

To the right is an example of how to hide it to blend in.  Notice that unless you were looking for the cache, and even if you are looking for it, this sprinkler head looks like it blends in rather well.  You might not even realize it's not real unless comparing it to surrounding sprinkler heads (if there are any).

As you can see, this cache is a great example of concealing a cache out in the open.  It has become more common in the last two - three years, and some Geocaching stores will even sell ready to go versions of this.  The downside is blending it in.  Many parks and homes now have these pop-up sprinklers installed.  If you know what location you are aiming to place it, you can try to match the design as closely as possible to better blend it in so it doesn't stand out. Imagine an all black sprinkler head as the real sprinklers, then having the cache in one that has a bright white stripe around the lid.  An observant person might notice that.

Also, if you look at the picture of the cache surrounded by mulch, you'll notice the white base, a piece not seen in the first image.  An additional way to set this into the ground is to use a piece of PVC pipe that snuggly fits the sprinkler head.  Then, when you set up the hole for the cache container, you can place the PVC pipe in the hole.  Now, when the cache is retrieved and then put back, it will quickly slide into place.  No need to make sure dirt or mulch doesn't fall into the hole and force finders to redig them back out.

Now we have one more photo to show you.  In this case, it's an example of a homemade logsheet.  A longer piece of paper, likely from a calculator printer roll, has been rolled up with a small toothpick in the center.  The toothpick is taped to the printer roll.  Just twist to tighten the paper up on the toothpick and then pull down.  The housing is a small plastic sleeve glued inside a small piece of PVC pipe with a Geocaching logo taped to the side.  A rubber plug is at the top end to help seal that side.  And this all fits nicely into the sprinkler head.  Even though the logsheet isn't in a baggie, it has remained quite dry.

Like I said, a rather simple hide to build, not to bad to place, and great for concealment in plain view.  And this design works with any type of cache: traditional, multi, or puzzle.


Sunday, January 10, 2010

The Black Beast of AAAaaarrrgh

I've been busy since my last post dealing with business for The Great TB Race.  It's time to get to some more cache designs.  A cacher in West Virginia named WVangler sent me some ideas that he has used.  They are going into my list of ideas to talk about, but I thought I would feature one of his designs today.  If you recognize the name of this post, then you're obviously a fan of Monty Python.

  • Ammo Can
  • Weatherproof glue (Gorilla Glue is good)
  • Spray Paint (color is your choice)
  • Fake eyes
  • Regular cache items (logbook, swag)
This is a rather simple design to make and will get a good laugh from many, Monty Python fans or not.  For the glue, Gorilla Glue works well, but any glue that will survive outdoors is good.  For the fake eyes, you can use whatever you want.  You could go for those toy eyes that have the black dot that moves around when shaken.  You could use a collection of doll eyes.  Just make sure you have a lot of them.  For the color, WVangler used black, but it's your choice what to use.  Oh, and depending on the glue you use, plan on taking some time to put it together as described.

First things first, take the ammo can outside with the spray paint.  Coat it in a layer of paint, let it dry, then check for any spots needing a second coat.  Once you are happy with the paint job, and it is fully dry, let's go back inside.

Set the ammo can down, preferably with newspaper underneath to avoid glue stains.  Start gluing the eyes to the ammo can, covering as much free space as you can cover.  The more eyes, the better.  When you are done, the ammo can should be completely covered with eyes, mimicing the appearance of the Black Beast of AAAaaarrrgh.  For those of you who aren't versed in the Monty Python Universe, watch the following video:

Once the ammo can is finished, find a good spot to place it. Somewhere near a rockface with a mini-cave would awesome to help replicate the movie scence. Otherwise, a good wooded area will work well.

Check out WVangler's version of The Black Beast of AAAaaarrrgh to see his cache page or read the logs.  It's a great example of incorporating movies into interesting cache designs.  This design would work well no matter what the desired cache type is.  This would be an interesting design to follow a puzzle about Monty Python movies.