The GC Doc and the oldest (and first) cache in Minnesota

docAward winning Vlogger The Geocaching Doc recently found the oldest and first Geocache in his home State of Minnesota, GC9FF, Alvin’s Phone Line (Placed 11/5/2000), and posted the video to his account on December 10th, 2016. Here is a link to the video, as the latest video from the Geocaching Doc to the right of this post obviously updates to his latest video when he posts a new one. With him in the screen shot is a new face on the Geocaching Vlogging scene, SoDakZak. As you can see, he can be zany, shown taking the “wear orange to this cache” warning on the cache page to the extreme. Here is the link to SoDakZak’s YouTube Channel. They made a great video together, check it out, whether it still appears on our sidebar when you see this post, or you have to use the direct link above. We’d  also like to point out, because we do not believe we ever have, that you can watch the Doc’s videos in full screen mode on this blog; you don’t have to watch them 4″ x 2″! See the red circled rectangular box in the screen shot above? Click that to go to full screen mode, and hit escape on your keyboard to exit full screen mode.

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The Geocaching Doc at GW 14er in Colorado


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Award winning Geocaching Vlogger Justin, The Geocaching Doc, will be attending GeoWoodstock 14er in Denver, Colorado this long holiday weekend. And you can meet him! He will be having a meet and greet (along with his entire family) at 2:00 PM on the day of the event (Sunday, July 3rd), at the Cache-Advance booth. There, you can buy one of his new Geocoins ($20), which he sold/is selling as a fund raiser for the family trip to Colorado. He will also be holding a drawing for great prizes while there (including some Geocoins we imagine), so be sure to stop by and see him, and Lisa from Cache-Advance, while you’re at it. The video above will perpetually update to his latest, and he plans on making and uploading several from GW.

And as an added bonus, The Geocaching Doc is back!

Back on this blog, that is. And we’ll bet he didn’t even know he was MIA. 🙂 When we interviewed The Doc in 2013, he agreed to provide guest content for us. We totally stole this idea from the once popular Geocaching Blog Its Not About The Numbers, which posted the content of Joshua, The Geocaching Vlogger. But then, about a year ago, our so called WordPress sidebar widget that displayed his videos broke. Then for several more months, our entire WordPress installation itself was acting up. That is now fixed, and we went out and found a different sidebar widget that works with the latest version of WordPress, and you can see his latest video is once again displayed on our sidebar. Be sure to visit his YouTube Channel and subscribe. He recently passed the 5,000 subscriber milestone; a major accomplishment for which we offer our congratulations.

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Guest post: Building my “Simon Says” smart cache

This guest post, detailing how to build an awesome Simon Says type gadget cache, is by Hyliston, a Geocacher from Massachusetts. It originally appeared on his own Geocaching blog, on April 29th, 2016. You can read more about him at his nicely done Geocaching.com profile.


I actually built this cache last summer, but still get tons of requests for instructions on how to make it. I didn’t document everything as I went, but this should help people who are interested in building something similar.

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Inside Simon Says

The cache page for GC5PTYV: Simon Says can be found here.

The Cache Container

I did not take many photos of the container as I was building it.  Sorry.  But here a few things I kept in mind as I figured out the final dimension:

  • I needed the main panel to fit the four buttons and a 3 AA battery holder
  • I wanted to use a metal Pokémon tin as the cache container, so I had to make sure the cache compartment was big enough to hold it
  • I wanted the cache door to open on its own, so I had to leave space for a latching mechanism

I knew I wanted to try to make the outer container as a birdhouse.  So, the main button panel and the cache container determined the width and total height of the birdhouse, while the depth of the Pokémon tin determined the depth of the birdhouse.  It actually ended up being pretty close to the dimensions for a bluebird house.

I ended up building the birdhouse out of red oak, which was a mistake: it is HEAVY!  I was concerned about the steel pole holding it up properly, but it seems to be doing a good job, along with the tree behind it at the final location.  Because people will be pressing the buttons, I’d recommend some kind of object behind you final cache, so that they don’t push the whole thing over.

Simon Says Open by marcipanek
Simon Says Open by marcipanek
Simon Says Latching Mechanism
Simon Says Latching Mechanism

You can see the steel pipe and tree behind the cache in the left photo.  In the right photo, you can see the latching mechanism in more detail.  The bolt with the spring around it is slightly compressed when the door is closed, and pushes the door open when the latch releases.  Above the bolt, you can see a bent piece of metal with an orange wire tied around it.  It acts as the latch. A small hole is drilled for the wire to go through, which connects to the servo in the chamber above, which is where all the electronics are.  When the servo spins, it pulls on the orange wire, lifting the latch and allowing the springed-bolt to push open the door.

The Circuitry

For the circuit, I thought through what I wanted: an Arduino microcontroller, 4 different colored lights (preferable the same as the classic Simon game), 4 buttons, a speaker for sound, a way to power the cache, and a way to open the cache door.  Ideally, the 4 lights and 4 buttons should be the same object – that is, the buttons themselves should light up different colors.

The Prototype

Based on this, I decided to try and build a mock-up using parts I already had from Maker Shed’s Ultimate Arduino Microcontroller Pack, which my wife had gotten me for Christmas the previous year.

I made a video of the prototype in action:

 

You’ll notice a few compromises: all of the colors were red, the buttons and the lights were separate, and the power supply was coming straight from my computer over a USB cord.  This was just a proof of concept, and I was satisfied I could scale it up.  If you’d like to copy it, here is a circuit diagram of the prototype (minus the servo) from Sparkfun:

Simon Says Prototype Fritzing Diagram
Simon Says Prototype Fritzing Diagram

The Final Circuit

Here is a parts list for the final version (remember, I used small parts from a kit to prototype it), along with a rough cost in USD.  I have no affiliation with Adafruit.

You’ll also need a bunch of M-M jumper wires.  The servo can pull over 600 mA of current, which is why I went with Adafruit’s PowerBoost 1000 as my voltage converter.  When I tried a lesser step-up converter or a 9V battery connected directly to the Arduino, the circuit would brown out and fail when a signal was sent to the servo.  Short of plugging the whole thing into the wall, I never found another good solution for supplying power.  I also went with a slightly more expensive servo with metal gears.  I figure this will keep the gears from getting stripped.

Between the wood, hinges, electronics, etc., this cache is likely to cost you $100.  Keep that in mind when you determine if you want to build it and where you want to place it.  I ended up putting mine in a somewhat out-of-the-way location and making it a multi so that it takes a bit of work to find.

You don’t have to, but I also swapped out the LEDs and diodes that came with the arcade buttons with ultra-bright LEDs.  You can read more about my LED experiments here.

The Program

While I’m sure this would have been great fun to code from scratch, I started with some “Simon” code from a guide on sparkfun.com.  This code does way more than I need to it, including a head-to-head memory battle.

So, I started by stripping out anything that wasn’t for the one-player game.  I am playing a song, but not the entire Bee Gee’s Stayin’ Alive, so I also got rid of a bunch of musical note definitions that piezo buzzer wouldn’t use.  I also dropped the requirement to win from 13 to 10.  You’re welcome.   If you want to be a real bastard, feel free to increase that number (line 87) and the speed at which the buttons light up (line 170).

If you look at the top image of this post, which is the inside of my Simon Says cache, you may notice that there isn’t an Arduino UNO board in the picture.  I wasn’t willing to leave the $25 micro-controller in my cache, so I just used the main integrated circuit, an ATMEGA-328P.  It’s the long black rectangular thing in the middle-bottom.  I attached a timing crystal and two capacitors and it acts like a stripped-down Arduino.  All just to save $20.   I did a lot of reading to figure out how to do that, and unless you do too, your cache will look different than mine (because you’ll have a full Arduino inside yours).  Fair warning.

If I had to do it again, I’d probably just get an Arduino Nano and leave it in the breadboard, just like my Shave and a Haircut cache.  If you were to do that, your circuit diagram would look something like this:

Simon Says Wiring Diagram
Simon Says Wiring Diagram

The Final Result

Here is the cache in my shop.  The blue light is a bit dim, but it is much better in person.  This video is in the Hint for the cache.

 

If you decide to put a “Simon” cache out in the wild, please let me know!  I’d love to follow it and see the reactions of geocachers in your neck of the woods.  Thanks and good luck!

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An interview with Geocaching Vlogger Geohnny Cache



Above is the YouTube trailer video from Geocaching Vlogger Geohnny Cache AKA Ron, Geocaching.com username I’m Geohnny Cache (note the spaces). You may remember him one of the winners of some of our 5th Anniversary Pathtags that we gave away in a contest in February. We knew of him from him being very well connected in the Geocaching Twittersphere at the time, and when we announced we were going to start getting back into news and interview blogging at the OCNA blog, he was the first person we thought of. He graciously agreed to do the interview.


OCNA Blog: Where are you from?

Ron: I am from Detroit, Michigan, I grew up on the Eastside of Detroit. After meeting my wife, we lived in a suburb of Detroit and about 7 years ago moved our family to St. Clair in the lower “thumb” of Michigan.

OCNA Blog: Many people have interesting stories how they heard about Geocaching, but yours is especially interesting as a Little Free Library owner. When did you install your LFL, and how did the whole thing happen with you first hearing about Geocaching as an LFL owner?

Ron: My Little Free Library/Geocaching story begins on Twitter, where I like to follow a few of my favorite authors. One day a picture was posted on an author’s account of a Little Free Library that contained one of his books. I thought, “Little Free Library, what the heck is that?” At first I was bewildered because I had never seen a LFL before and I immediately became intrigued and excited to learn more. Once I saw what the LFL movement was all about and the amount and variety of libraries around the world, I had to have one! I began to make plans and do more research.

My planning began in early Spring of 2014. By June, I had acquired a used wooden bookshelf that was perfect for building a library. With my Dad’s help we repurposed the shelf into a LFL.

It was through an online community of LFL Stewards that I had another “What the heck is that” moment. This time it was Geocaching. A fellow Steward asked if anyone had a Geocache in their LFL. Again, I was intrigued and excited to learn about something new. I did some researching and started by hiding a geocache in my LFL. (Although, I would recommend that a new geocacher spend more time finding and experiencing caches before hiding their own). Then I began geocaching myself and that’s when I became hooked! Networking is always a great way to learn and interact with people, so I started a Facebook page, Twitter, Instagram and a Youtube channel dedicated to sharing my geocaching adventures. I would also encourage new cachers to meet other cachers at Meet N Greets or other events. It’s a great way to learn and share stories.

OCNA Blog: After you started Geocaching, how long did it take before you found out there were many Geocaching Vloggers out there on YouTube, and that you would like to join their ranks? Had you made YouTube videos on any other topic before hearing about Geocaching?

Ron: Youtube was one of the first places I went to learn about Geocaching. The first videos I watched were by The Geocaching Vlogger, The GCDoc, and Geocaching with Darick. Their enthusiasm was contagious! I was intrigued by vlogging and knew this was what I wanted to do as a Youtuber. I have always enjoyed video making and editing for other personal or work projects but had never created my own channel. I followed the example. I watched in their videos and gave it a try. Of course the first few videos are rough as I got used to holding and talking to a camera and then actually finding the geocache. I have made 34 videos since that first one just over a year ago. I strive to make a video that is entertaining while showing the journey. Because after all, geocaching is about the journey not necessarily the cache itself. I tend to do less talking and let the scenery and music tell the story.

Soon after starting my channel, I joined The Geocaching Network. The GCNW is a hub for collecting youtube channels with the goal of promoting geocaching videos in a centralized location.

There are many other vloggers that I enjoy watching and we interact by commenting on each other’s videos. I would love to mention them all but would leave someone out my mistake. I am inspired by all of the vloggers on Youtube.

OCNA Blog: What gear do you use to make your videos?

Ron: My video making equipment is extremely simple. I use a point and shoot Sony Cyber-shot. I discovered that this still photo camera took way better video that my handheld video camera did. I attach it to a small handheld tripod. Recently though I upgraded my tripod to a VariZoom Stealthy. It can be configured into multiple setups and works great in the field.

My editing is done on a Macbook Pro with iMovie. I find that iMovie is simple yet really effective for editing.

I also carry a Geobag  that contains tools of the trade and swag.

OCNA Blog: Geohnny Cache is quite clever, Or would you have preferred Johnny Cache if that was available? How did you come up with that name?

Ron: I knew that Johnny Cache would have long been used so I came up with the alternate spelling of Geohnny and was excited to use it. For my geocaching user name I added “I’m” to the front to call myself “I’m Geohnny Cache”. That kind of reminds me of the beginning of the live Folsom Prison Blues when Johnny Cash says, “Hello, I’m Johnny Cash” (My Pathtag actually says that: “Hello, I’m Geohnny Cache”). On all social media I shortened the name to Geohnny Cache.

I’m a musician, so to have that caching name was pretty cool to me. I play guitar and mandolin professionally (I still have a day job) in a duo cover band called Smith & Tucker. I also play music with my dad and brother in a band called Runyons Branch. Music has always been a part of my family heritage, Classical on my Mom’s side and Bluegrass on my Dad’s.

OCNA Blog: We understand you’re one of the 5 rotating hosts of U.S. Geocaching Hour on Twitter.  Can you tell us a little bit about what that is, and how it works?

Ron: The #USGeocachingHour is a Tweetchat that occurs every Monday night at 9:00 ET, 8:00 CT, and is hosted by @USGeocaching. I was a regular participant and last December became one of the rotating hosts along with @geocachingVlogs, @GeoDarick, @myruggy89, and @geojosh13.

The tweetchat is a lot of fun and gives geocachers from all parts the opportunity to get together. The hour works like this; The host will run the show and ask geocaching related questions from the @USGeocaching account. Typically there will be 7 or 8 questions throughout the hour. Participants can answer/discuss the questions and/or have side chats. As long as everyone puts  #USGeocachingHour in their posts, all the participants can follow under the same feed.

I’ve enjoyed being a part of this team and especially collaborating on a Holiday Video we made together. (See below).



OCNA Blog:
Smartphone app, or handheld GPS? Which app do you prefer?

Ron: I started Geocaching with a Garmin 450. Last summer I upgraded my phone to a smartphone and now use an app. I am currently using Cachly a lot and I also use the original paid app from Geocaching.com.

OCNA Blog: Here’s a good one for a guy from Michigan. What are your Geocaching Temperature extremes? Coldest temperature in which you found a cache, and the hottest?

Ron: Michigan winters can be very extreme. I have been out in temps of single digits Fahrenheit with wind chills of ??. Winter caching can be especially challenging with  several inches or feet of snow on the ground. Because I started caching in Winter, I was determined to get out there. I kind of enjoy the stillness and beauty of a snow covered trail. One of my recent videos shows the beauty of a snowy trail as I went after a First to Find.

Michigan summers can reach 95 degrees with high humidity, so both times of year require good common sense and proper clothing and extras like hand warmers in winter, sun screen / water in summer.

OCNA Blog: Favorite Cache(s) so far?

Ron: I think one of my favorite caches was one called “What’s Worse than Thorns?” This cache was an ammo can hidden is a thick brush if thorny trees. The ammo can was filled with glitter and Red Herring containers. So after bushwacking to GZ, I had to dig through the glitter, open several containers to find the log.

Another favorite was a photo booth cache that my dad and I found in Kentucky. One of my Cachin’ in Coal Country videos show us dressing up and having some fun.The Hatfield and McCoy Geotrail was also one of my favorites because my dad grew up in that area of Kentucky/West Virginia. There is a lot of history there.

There are so many other caches that could be favorites, not necessarily because of the cache itself but because of the location or the time spent with family and friends.

OCNA Blog: It seems like the smartphone app Periscope is becoming popular with geocachers, including yourself. Can you tell us a little bit about that app, and how you have used it?

Ron: Periscope is an app where you can broadcast what you’re doing live and anyone that follows you can get a notification that you are “on” and watch your streaming video. When people watch your broadcast they can send messages on screen and you can verbally interact with them. It’s a great way to share a quick geocaching find and build an audience. The videos are available to view for 24 hours afterward. It’s also integrated with Twitter so your broadcast can be posted.

I have used it a couple of times for a geocache find. I have also used it on another account to share my son’s Marching Band shows with other band parents.

Geocaching with Periscope can be tricky if you are using the same Smartphone for both. I would recommend using a GPS as well or go with a friend.


Thanks to Ron for that great interview. Very informative For someone who is a “newer” Geocacher, we’d have to say he’s a natural! Here are some links, check them out!


Links:

To learn more about Little Free Libraries visit: www.littlefreelibrary.org

Visit Ron on Social Media:

Smith & Tucker:

www.facebook.com/smith.n.tucker

Videos:

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An interview with Vlogger Geocaching Kaity



We did tell you in our last post (in not so many words) that OpenCaching North America considers itself well connected in the Geocaching Twittersphere, didn’t we? A couple weeks ago, we stumbled on the new Twitter account (created in Mid-February) of a new face on the Geocaching Vlogging scene, Geocaching Kaity. We were immediately impressed by her intro video, which is embedded above, and asked her if she would take some time out of her busy schedule for an interview, to which she agreed.

OCNA Blog: Where are you from, when did you start Geocaching, and how did you hear about it?

Kaity: I am from good ole’ Georgia! My dad actually introduced me to geocaching around 2007 when I was in middle school.  He just bought a GPS to use during his deployment in Iraq and needed to test it somehow.  He discovered Geocaching on the internet and that was the beginning of all our fun adventures! I didn’t start my own Geocaching account until 2012 when I had a lot of free time with my friends.

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OCNA Admin DudleyGrunt on The Geocaching Podcast



Our longest tenured admin, DudleyGrunt AKA Dave, was on The Geocaching Podcast on Wednesday, November 12, 2014. He went under the geocaching microscope on episode 377 in his bid to possibly become their fourth host. What interesting and fun facts will be find out about this very influential geocaching entity? There was plenty of talk about OCNA and alternative geocaching sites. Watch the video version of the podcast above. And be sure to check out The Geocaching Podcast every week, which airs live on Wednesdays at 9:30 PM Eastern Time, as well as host Andy “HeadHardHat” Smith’s other weekly show, The Geocaching Reboot Podcast, which is recorded live on Thursdays at 8:30 PM Eastern Time with his co-host Amy HeadHardHatress.

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