OCNA Blogger heading out on the road!

It’s a Mule, not an Ass

That really is Mr.Yuck, AKA Jim, the OCNA Blogger, at a photo opportunity available at one of his own caches, which is listed exclusively on the Opencaching North America websites. That would be this cache at the Erie Canal Museum, in Lockport, N.Y. This is what we call a guestbook cache, where you sign the guestbook at a museum (in this case), or just about any tourist attraction you can think of. You could also use it for a trailhead register, or even a summit register at the top of a mountain. The blogger has made the high point of Ohio a guestbook cache on opencaching.us, for example; although technically a summit register, it’s admittedly not too much of a hike for that one! It sits on the grounds of a Technical High School, which was formerly a cold war era Air Force Installation. Anyways, you can read more about this cache type on our OC Wiki, which is not a wiki in the traditional sense, as it’s “closed”, but there is a wealth of information about our website there, including the many unique cache types we offer. Please check it out.

So yes, we’re heading out on the road! We will be attending what is often touted as the World’s 2nd largest Mega Event, the Midwest Geobash, which has made it’s permanent home at the Fulton County Fairgrounds, in Wauseon, Ohio, in the extreme NW part of the State. Geocachers Unlimited is hosting a little “event within the event”, Geocachers Unlimited Meetup @ The Mega II  which is listed on our website, as well as being cross-listed on other alternative Geocaching websites Terracaching.com and GPSgames.org. Check us out if you happen to be at MWGB!

CacheFace.com launches CacheBlogger.com, a microblogging community for Geocachers

OCNA NOTE: CacheBlogger.com shut down in late 2014.

Paul Suggitt AKA Pilot Suggs from CacheFace.com is at it again with a new website; CacheBlogger.com, which was launched at Midnight GMT on June 28th, 2013. Twitter, of course is  referred to as a microblogging website, and CacheBlogger.com very much resembles Twitter, in both look and feel. Why a microblogging platform dedicated to Geocachers? Says Paul: “CacheBlogger was developed to compliment cacheface.com in such that geocachers have a dedicated social network AND micro blogging platform at their disposal where they can shout about their geocaching adventures, make new friends and share the geocaching love, no matter where they are on the planet. Other platforms may have the volumes of people using them in general, however the idea behind CacheBlogger (and indeed cacheface.com) is that the platforms are developed for and dedicated to geocachers so its easy to find cachers, make new caching friends around the world and even share ideas and adventures with people you have never met, knowing they all share the same passion….geocaching.”

OCNA CacheBlogger feed, click to enlarge and view in lightbox

Above is the OCNA CacheBlogger feed, as it appeared on the morning of this blog post. You see some big names in Geocaching there, headhardhat and Podcacher. Hopefully Hikerjamz, also shown, will be a big name in the future! You’ll notice you can type a message (shout), and upload a photo or video. There is one major difference from the Twitter website though; you get to use a maximum of 200 characters, rather than 140. Paul explains, “CacheBlogger is a micro blogging platform like twitter, and as we geocachers have a lot to shout about, I decided to set the character limit to 200 instead of the adopted 140 on other platforms.”  We here at the blog agree, 60 extra characters is an excellent choice. There is a visible character counter while you are typing your post, and it “goes red” at 20 characters remaining.

Most of the other features Twitter users are familiar with are on the right hand sidebar, including the users Avatar and Bio (160 characters), a link to their “Gallery” (all the photos and videos they have uploaded to the site), the users “Mail” from other members (1,000 characters allowed!), number of posts, number of people following, and number of people they follow. There is also a “keyword search” box on the side bar. You may also link to your Facebook, Twitter and Google+ pages, as well as display your Geocaching.com stats banner, all of which are chosen under “settings” on the top banner, which is explained below in the next paragraph.

General Settings screen, click to enlarge and view in lightbox

The stationary blue top banner or frame (seen in either of the two screen shots posted) contains a “people or places” search box, as well as several links on the right hand side: My profile, Mentions, Messages, Settings and Log Out. Shown is the settings page, when you can upload your profile image, including the option of using the globally recognized user avatars provided by the website Gravatar.com. There are also some background image choices for your page, and boxes to add the links to the social media sites, as well as one to paste the URL for your Geocaching.com stats banner. Of course Opencaching North America itself doesn’t have a Geocaching.com stats banner. Which brings up a good point, although we are not, some Geocaching websites are commercial entities, and there are may other commercial entities who sell Geoaching goods and services. According to Paul, “Geocaching companies can also create accounts on CacheBlogger and use it to blog about their SWAG etc. and gain a following to their products and services.”

CacheBlogger.com couldn’t be easier to figure out, and if you’ve spent any amount of time on Twitter, there is almost no learning curve at all, you’ll be set up and running within minutes. We wondered how long CacheBlogger.com was in the works, seeing as it was released about nine months after it’s sister site, CacheFace.com. Paul replied “The idea for CacheBlogger came not long after I started developing CacheFace.com so I decided to press on with the development and launch of CacheFace first, and then concentrate on developing CacheBlogger. This way, each project got full attention. I wanted to give the global geocaching community a dedicated set of platforms to interact socially where they can share their adventures and love of caching with other geocachers.”

From a technical standpoint, Paul informed us that like CacheFace.com, CacheBlogger.com runs on a dedicated server, is secured by 256 bit SSL encryption, and was written by himself in PHP. Also, like CacheFace, you can “share the adventure while you are on the trail as CacheBlogger is fully mobile enabled”, said Paul. We at the blog can attest to the fact that the mobile versions of both CacheFace.com and CacheBlogger.com work flawlessly. Paul thought it very important to release them both with fully functional mobile sites. Of course Smartphone apps (iOS, Android and Windows Phone) are in the future for both websites as well, stay tuned.

As mentioned on the about CacheBlogger page the site is free, and always will be. That page, incidentally, is an excellent overview of all the features of the site, we couldn’t cover everything in this post. So give CacheBlogger a try! It’s only three weeks old, you can say you got in very early on something big! And if you haven’t already, consider joining it’s almost one year old sister site, CacheFace.com. Thanks to Paul for answering a few questions, and providing the CacheBlogger.com banner.

An interview with Stormgren-X on the 4.5lb Walleye Cache find

The Find!

This is the third post we have done here on the OCNA blog covering the epic eight day Canoe trip (nine days to reach the final destination, the village of Fort Albany, Ontario), to find the world’s then oldest unfound Geocache, the elusive 4.5lb Walleye, placed by Jamie Matear way back on June 21st, 2001. This journey was undertaken by Chris Wereley, AKA Stormgren-X, of Sudbury, Ontario Canada, and his long time friend Gordon Morris, a non-Geocacher. This involved a 400 Km (250 Mile) paddle from Limestone Rapids, just North of The Constance Lake First Nations, and NW of Hearst, Ontario, to Fort Albany. The Rivers traveled on were The Kabinakagami, The Kenogami, and finally, The Albany, 1 Km (.6 Mile) wide in spots. The 4.5lb Walleye cache being along The Albany River, only 65 Km (40 Miles) shy of Fort Albany. This is one of the biggest stories in Geocaching in years, and was completed a month before this blog post, so we assume readers are at least somewhat familiar with the story. If you’d like to become very familiar with their trip, you can download Chris’ 29 page journal as a .pdf from wikisend.com, a file that is only available for 3 weeks from the date of this blog post. Chris has also let us host this 29 page .pdf on our server at https://www.opencaching.us/AlbanyRiver-4.5lbWalleye.pdf but your web browser and internet connection will pay the price!! We will eventually convert that to an HTML page. On with the interview!

OCNA Blog: What did you two eat during this 9 day trip? By the way, I had to Google what a Bannock was. Did you catch and eat any fish?
Chris: We brought and ate mainly dried and dehydrated foods.  Some instant meals that you just add hot water to, dried meats, instant mashed potatoes, dried fruits, nuts, trail-mix, bannock, granola, powdered milk, gatorade powder, cheese, crackers, chocolate, onion, garlic, tea.  The only liquids we brought were honey and a small bottle of after dinner drink to sip on.

We attempted to catch fish, but the water level made for poor fishing.  Even the First Nations people were not having much luck, and they also told us this was due to high water levels and the water being “dirty”.  This area usually has a great abundance of fish.

Kabinakagami in the rain

OCNA Blog: How about drinking water? Did you just boil water, or use purification tablets? The first river, the Kabinakagami, didn’t look very drinkable!
Chris: All the water was boiled using a Kelly Kettle, some of the water had sediment suspended in it, but it was a very fine sediment and it didn’t bother us.  The Kabinakagami river did have a lot of sediment in it, but after boiling was ok to drink.  We did try to filter it with a ceramic filter and pump, but the sediment was so fine that a lot of it went through the filter.  Boiling kills everything I suppose, and we didn’t have any side effects.

Tin Cabin near Mammamattawa

OCNA Blog: I was amazed by the amount of gear you two were carrying in the pictures from the tin cabin near Mammamattawa. Was the barrel for food only, or did you stow other gear in it, in case the unthinkable capsizing of the canoe happened?
Chris: The canoe was rated for about 700 lbs. of total weight, and we were well under the maximum.  The barrel was for food only, and the rest of the items were kept in dry bags and we kept all our electronic gear in a Pelican water proof case.  Getting gear and food wet in the event of rain or capsizing would pose a problem.

OCNA Blog: Did you encounter any mentionable rapids on this entire trip? From some of the videos posted, it looks as if the water was flowing fast enough that you could just float down these rivers.
Chris: We did encounter some minor fast water and rapids.  Nothing of the kind we are accustomed to in the rocky and hilly Canadian Shield.  The high water levels we encountered in the rivers also contributed to smoothing out the rapids as the rocks were well below the water surface.  There are a dozen or so rapids listed on this route, and are more challenging during mid-summer water levels.  Some of these rapids need to be lined during lower water levels to prevent canoe damage.

One could just ‘float’ down these or any rivers, but the trip time would be extended greatly.  At least once a year, the First Nations people build a raft and do just that.  Float along the river all day and night.  We heard a story about one guy who built a raft and placed a brand new truck on it to bring to Fort Albany and made it!  Out of the 8.5 days, we traveled for 7 days, making good time due to high water levels and stronger current.

OCNA Blog: I assume you were very happy with your Goal Zero solar battery charging device? (NOTE: The device can be seen in this video, and an iPod rocking The Doors can be heard).
Chris: The Goal Zero solar powered battery charger worked very well for us during the trip.  It kept all our devices charged and worked as advertised.  Of course it works best under full sun and we were able to take advantage of that during sunny days.  It charges the battery pack that can hold AA or AAA batteries, and then in turn, the battery pack will charge any device that can be charged via USB.  They do make quite a few different solar powered products.

Cemetery at Ghost River, Ontario, along the Albany River

OCNA Blog: As someone who was closely watching everything on the SPOT tracking device, I saw you stop for lunch short of Ghost River, and was wondering if you were actually going to stop there. But you did, and spent a few hours there. That had to be one of the most interesting stops during the trip. Do you have any idea who is maintaining the cemetery there, some 60+ miles against the current from Fort Albany?
Chris: Ghost River was one of the spots that we did want to stop at and explore a little.  We had read about the graveyard from a 1983 trip report and wanted to see if it was still there and also see if we could find remnants of buildings.  It was one of the highlights of the trip and we do not know who maintains it.  Someone still cares and respects these hardy pioneers from the past.  Apparently there are some old First Nations burial sites along these rivers as well.  We did see one other cross up on the river bank on the Kenogami river that we did not investigate as we were on the other side of the river when we spotted it. (NOTE: The 1983 trip report, a blog post, can be seen here).

OCNA Blog: The SPOT tracking device tells us you spent about 2.5 hours in the area of 4.5lb Walleye. How long did you spend actually looking for the cache? It sounds like it was pretty much “buried”. How deep under Moss would you say it was?
Chris: We didn’t measure the time we spent at GZ, but estimated a few hours once we set off again on the river.  We probably spent about 1.5 hours of actually searching for it.  I say at times we were “digging”, but at no time did we need a shovel or other digging instrument.  The container was placed under moss as per described on the cache page.  It was under perhaps four inches of moss.

OCNA Blog: I was surprised at how many other people you saw out on these rivers during the trip. I assume everyone is very friendly and helpful out there in the wilderness?
Chris: We were surprised as well to see so many people during the first part of the trip to Mammamattawa.  There were boats on the river and float planes coming in!  Just happened to be there when the First Nations peoples were having a gathering from the different communities.  After we set off again from Mammamattawa on day 4, we only saw one other boat heading upstream on the opposite bank until day 8.

All the people we met along the river were very friendly and helpful.  I found that once you approached them and showed some courtesy and respect, the same was given back.  After all, we were in their neck of the woods.


OCNA Blog: So you gave the canoe away in Fort Albany? No problem finding someone willing to take it off your hands?
Chris: The plan from the start was to leave the canoe as it was an older one with many fiberglass patches.  No problem giving it away, although we kept our paddles as a souvenir!  We also gave away our unused food and ammunition.  The cost of transporting the canoe was too great, and sometimes you need to wait until the cargo plane can take it, adding days to the trip.

OCNA Blog: Your longtime friend and trip partner Gordie has no desire to create an account at Geocaching.com, and log this cache?
Chris: Gordie has no desire to start a geocaching account or to log the find.  He just likes the adventure and the challenge of the great outdoors.  If I would have had another geocacher on the trip with me, I probably would have arrived in Fort Albany alone….  😉

Thanks very much to Chris for taking the time to answer our questions, we here at the blog really appreciate it. We know he’s been very busy with other such requests, and answering emails from all over the world. He has stated that after he finally logged on to the internet at the Lodge in Fort Albany, he was astounded by the interest in his trip in the Geocaching.com forums, and all the emails he had already received while on the water. He has also stated that he is most touched by people commenting that they were inspired by the trip, and want to challenge themselves, even if it is just a little bit more. We agree. Reading his 29 page journal, with all the excellent pictures, and links to 15 videos posted to YouTube, one can’t help but be inspired; what an amazing journey. Maybe one can even be inspired to take the same trip, after all, he did leave a Geocache at the Ghost River site!

$10 Travelfleas.com Gift Certificate winner announced!

Sorry, our graphic artist wasn’t available. We have a winner in the $10 Travelfleas.com Gift Certificate contest!! Louis, AKA Nighthawk700, a Geocacher from Baltimore Maryland, was the lucky winner. His name was drawn last night, and he responded within an hour to claim the prize. We won’t disclose how many entries there were, but we hinted at it in the last blog post, and we can say dozens. The Google Doc storing the entries has been deleted as promised, along with all the entrants email addresses, which we would never use or share. Thanks to Travelfleas.com for providing the prize, thanks to all who entered, and congratulations once again to Nighthawk700. This was our first contest at the OCNA blog, hopefully the first of many, so stay tuned.

Happy 4th of July, and some odds and ends

Happy 4th!

Happy 4th of July! Enjoy this public domain fireworks picture, as we’re all about public domain things at OCNA, be it the Leatherman Variant Logo, The Geoachers’ Creed, or our own new logo. Mr.Yuck had a really, really bad day on Tuesday, July 2nd, with two separate really annoying things happening, so we’ll just wish you all a great holiday, and blog about a few assorted odd’s and ends here. We have completed our interview with Stormgren-X, he of the epic 9 day canoe trip to be the first to find the (then) world’s oldest unfound cache, 4.5lb Walleye. We had and planned to post that this week, but we’ll put that one off for a week.

New OCNA Logo

Speaking of our new logo at OpenCaching North America, we have shared that on Twitter, Google+ and Facebook, but we’ve never mentioned it here on the blog. Of course you’ve seen it for a couple weeks on the banner on the top of this blog. This is the “unlettered” version, without the text OpenCaching North America. We are very close to finalizing that design. First up? OCNA Pathtags! We will not be selling them ourselves though, they will be available through a little-known and little-used fundraiser program for Geocaching Organizations through coinsand pins.com. Don’t worry though, we will not be “raising funds”. The proceeds, if you want to call them that, are payable only in pathtags cash, so whenever we earn enough, we will just buy more of our own pathtags, and distribute them to promote our website. Next we will probably try OpenCaching North America T-shirts. We would most likely set the commission at zero to keep the cost to a bare minimum, and no money would be made there, either. It’s all about promoting Opencaching North America!

After a slow start, the Travelfleas.com gift certificate contest is going very well; we have many entries. Maybe this blog really does have 500 readers a week, like the Blogger.com statistics tell us! Since you now have a less than 1 in 25 chance of winning, and probably even worse odds by the time the winner is drawn, feel free to go to their website and buy your own. Remember, the contest ends at 7:00 PM Eastern Standard Time, on Wednesday, July 10th. Remember to check your “spam”, or “junk” folder should you be the lucky winner, because as previously mentioned, you will be contacted from a Gmail account, more specifically Opencachingnorthamerica at that domain. We will do a short blog post announcing the winner. Be sure to check back for that post next week (assuming the winner responds quickly), and also the interview with Stormgren-X.