“Guest Blogger” number 1 announced

You’ll note the phrase Guest Blogger is in quotation marks in the post title. There’s a reason for that, which we’ll get to shortly, after a little background information. When this blog was in the planning stages, we thought it might be pretty easy to lure guest bloggers into the fold, and we even mentioned it in the very first post. That wasn’t really the case, in the classic sense of guest blogger, meaning getting people to write posts on a certain topic. So not too long ago, we had noticed that an older, much more well known Geocaching Blog has the owner of a very popular Geocaching Video Youtube channel as a guest blogger. In other words, all the Geocaching videos he makes and posts to Youtube are embedded into a new blog post on that blog, and the videographer is considered a “guest blogger”. Well, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. A light bulb went off in our heads, giving us the idea that we too could pursue “guest bloggers” from an audio and audiovisual perspective. We have reached agreement with not one, but two Geocachers in the audio and audiovisual Geocaching community to embed their content into this blog as guest blog posts! This will almost triple the content of this blog. We too will be embedding the content of a Geocaching Video Youtube channel, but we’d like to introduce the owner of that channel with an interview within the next couple of weeks. The other guest blogger, whom we’ll call Guest Blogger number 1, has already been introduced to the readers of this blog via an interview, so we will announce our relationship with that Geocacher, who is in the audio spectrum, right away.

 We are very happy to announce that we will be embedding the archived shows of The HikerJamz Geocaching Talk Show as posts to this blog. HikerJamz started this show right around the same time we stared this blog in March, 2013. The show is co-hosted by Kenny Gibb, and airs live at 3:00 PM Eastern Standard Time on Saturdays. The archived shows are generally available as soon as the show ends, so we should get them up every Saturday without fail. We may even try to get fancy, and embed them automatically using his show’s RSS feed. We’ll see how that one goes. The first show as a guest post, dated Saturday, August 24th will be embedded immediately following this blog post, although we will back date it to that date, so this post shows up “ahead” of it. We are very excited to have HikerJamz and Kenny on board!

If you listen to the show, you will hear the first ever ad for the OCNA blog, and a couple references to the blogger himself, who was expected to call in, but didn’t make it, as it was the day of the Birthday party for his two Children. Not Grandchildren mind you, he’s two young for that! (Hopefully). We already had a little laugh with HikerJamz on that one. Enjoy!

The HikerJamz Geocaching Talk Show: August 24th, 2013

Join us as we discover new adventures in the field of geocaching every Saturday at 3:00 pm. EST on Blog Talk Radio with your host – Hikerjamz and co-host -Kenny Gibb.

Have a caching story to share? Want to learn more about geocaching? This is the place to be. Call in or use the chat to experience the great outdoor adventure of geocaching !

Sporadically featured cache: OCNA’s oldest cache (sort of) – The Truth Is Out There

We have a very unique cache listing for this installment of the sporadically featured OCNA cache; this cache was originally placed in early March, 2001. Which was less than ten months after Geocaching was invented, and almost ten years before our website was launched! The cache is located in Charlotte, North Carolina, near the campus of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte (parts of which can be seen in the upper right corner of the Google Sat View above). To find out more about this cache, and why it’s so old, you’ll have to read beyond this conveniently placed page break.

The cache in question, named The Truth Is Out There, was archived on Geocaching.com on August 12th, 2002, and never picked up by it’s owner. It is no longer eligible to be listed there, as there are not one, but two Geocaching.com caches within 528 feet of it’s location, as seen here in a nearby caches search. (By the way, we’d like to insert a plug here that we have only a “300 foot rule” on the OCNA website). It was found (more than 10 years after archival), left in place, cleaned up, and listed on our website by TermiteHunter, the 3rd most prolific cache hider on the OCNA website.

The path to the cache (with Blair Witch figures)

We wondered how TermiteHunter even knew about this archived cache, and why he suspected it might still be in the woods. He says “There had been some discussion in our local club, the Greater Charlotte Geocaching Club, (GCGC  Charlottegeocaching.com) about finding old caches from the early days of caching.  We had talked about the style of the Old Guard cachers especially in reference to NC’s oldest cache Octopus Garden and another, Lara’s Tomb.  While perusing the profiles of some of these original cachers in the area, I took note of their archived caches.  The Truth is Out There logs mentioned that the cache was chained to a tree.  There was no mention that it had disappeared or been removed before archival in fact it had been found by accident by another cacher after archival so I set out to find it.” The blogger doesn’t think this is too unusual, seeing as similar situations have been discussed on his own local forums. For example, many of us in my area speculate that The world’s 62nd placed cache, which is in our area, was never removed after archival. And I’m sure such conversations have taken place on local Geocaching forums all over the world.

This story gets even better though. Although The Truth Is Out There was originally placed as a traditional cache, it was adopted out to another cacher in January, 2002, and was changed to a multi cache, and the first leg was nowhere to be found! Says Termite Hunter “I thought that the cache may not be all that far from the starting point but all I had to go on was that it was chained to a tree.  I searched the area trees expecting that I could avoid the nearby path and low lands subject to flooding.  I spotted it from some distance away.  It was a thrill like finding my first cache.  This thing had been abandoned for years waiting to be found again.  I came prepared to clean it out if I should find it.  The cache is a tool box with a tray inside.  The contents of the tray were mostly ruined by ants that had made it their home and the bottom of the box was full of water and rotted goo.  I cleared it out and placed my new items and log in the tray.  I managed to salvage several old City of  Charlotte token coins that were around during the caches’ heyday.  I kept a few and gave a couple away when telling my story to Geofriends.”

The Cache (with more special effects)

The Blog has received permission from Geocaching.com username adventuretom to use the previous photo, and the one to the right for this post. Obviously, he’s fluent with photoshop, and there’s a Blair Witch Project thing going on, both in his find log photos, and on the original cache page. We didn’t ask. But as we said, Termite Hunter went out ten years and two months after the archival date and found this cache, cleaned it up, obtained coordinates, and decided to list it on OCNA with the same name, The Truth Is Out There. He tells us “I Joined Opencaching.us right after DudleyGrunt posted about it on the GCGC forum. I quickly went out and hid several caches on the site at my favorite park and have promoted OCus, now OCNA, at every opportunity. After finding The Truth is Out There I knew exactly where I would be listing it, hoping that giving others the chance to find such an old cache would be another way to promote OCNA.  The decision was really made for me since newer caches now occupied the .1 mile area around the cache and there was no way to move it being chained to a tree preventing submission of a new listing with Geocaching.com.”

It is important to note, that Termite Hunter posted a note on the original Geocaching.com listing saying the cache is still there and being cared for, and if the owner wants it back, he can reclaim it at any time. We at the Blog think this is a pretty darn good idea, reusing an abandoned container sitting out in the woods, what has become known in the Geocaching community as “Geotrash”; an abandoned container that has not been removed. We don’t see how anyone could have a problem with it. If you are a long time user of one of the alternative Geocaching websites, such as Terracaching.com here in the U.S., I’ll bet you’ve seen this happen before. If you have, feel free to comment on this post, we’re always looking for comments here at the OCNA Blog. Or you could even comment on our new Desert scene banner. Congratulations to Termite Hunter for being the owner (sort of) of the 3rd sporadically featured OCNA Cache. Great job!

Happy Birthday to us, Happy Birthday to us..

We at OpenCaching North America turn three years old on Sunday, August 18th, 2013, as our official public launch was on that date in 2010. Although we were founded as OpenCaching.us, which is still our primary domain name. We re-branded ourselves as OpenCaching North America in 2011, after “merging” our site with the then new domain name owner of OpenCaching.ca (more on that later) and purchasing the name OpenCaching.mx. Go ahead and try those two, they work also. Since this is the first anniversary date since the Blog was founded, we figured a little history on our founding/about us post was in order. It’s also interesting to note that Geocaching.com has arbitrarily assigned the third Saturday in August as International Geocaching Day. So, (and the Blogger had to do a little math here) our anniversary can never fall more than 3 days from International Geocaching Day. As a matter of fact, the 2nd annual IGD fell on August 18th itself.

We were founded by Jerry, AKA RVRoadTrip (that’s a link to his personal website). We did not want to pester him for this blog post though, as he is recovering from a July 16th Motorcycle accident. Please keep him in your thoughts and prayers, and wish him a speedy recovery! However, most of our history is well documented in the “announcements” section of our forums, and we were able to contact Paul, AKA Lord Darcy (link is to his Google+ page) from our sister site www.opencaching.org.uk to fill in the holes on the founding of our site.

Original Opencaching.us logo

It has already been documented on this Blog that the world wide Opencaching Network was founded by “some guy named Hank” in 2004, and his dream became reality with the launch of Opencaching.de in 2005. It is also well documented throughout the network that if you have the ability, time and resources to open your own National OpenCaching node, contact someone about doing so. Jerry did just that, contacting Paul from Opencaching.org.uk, seeing as that was the only English language node. Paul even had the original inquiry from Jerry in his email archive; it was dated July 25th, 2010. Paul had launched Opencaching.org.uk on August 17th 2009, after painstakingly translating Opencaching.pl (Poland) to English.

This is not to say that Opencaching.us wouldn’t have been possible without Paul’s translation work, I suppose Jerry could have done it. But it sure made things a lot easier! Say’s Paul “I had been translating the pages for a couple of months previous to this date. translate.google.com (Polish to English) got some pretty heavy duty use during this time.” In fact this made things so easy, that Opencaching.us was launched just 3 1/2 weeks after Jerry’s original inquiry email. And it was “up an running” even sooner, as can be seen from the 45 or so people on our members list in our forums who were invited to join before August 18th. We very much appreciate the work of Paul and Waldemar (Username SP2ONG) from Opencaching.pl in getting the site up and running so quickly.

 It is documented in an August 24th, 2011 post to the Announcements section of our forums that our username Coffee Peddlers (George) obtained the domain name Opencaching.ca (it was registered by someone else, but never used), and came on board with his domain name in hand to become the new lead Admin. Two days later, the purchase of the domain name Opencaching.mx was announced, as well as the rebranding as OpenCaching North America, which is where we are today.

The OCNA website is hosted by Rackspace.com in their Chicago Data Center. A single server hosts our website and fourms, and an image is taken every night at Midnight, Chicago time. Of course an image can be taken on demand before we do any tinkering on it! This server runs Apache web server software on the Ubuntu Operating system (a Unix-like, Linux-based operating system). As previously mentioned, it is, in layman’s terms, Opencaching.pl translated to English, and was written in PHP by the OCPL development team. Many of these PHP files have commented text (that only a person with Server access can see) that release them under a GNU General Public License in 2004 and 2005 by the mysterious Hank, founder of the Opencaching concept.

Oh, and we just thought we’d mention, we are not affiliated with The Garmin Opencaching website!

Bad Ideas, Bomb Scares, etc.

It’s no secret that many, many Geocaches have caused bomb scares in the U.S. and Canada since our game was invented in 2000. Elsewhere in the world too, of course, but we are a North American based blog, and the majority of these incidents occur in the United States. We doubt that anyone keeps statistics on the number of bomb squad incidents, but the Blogger, who has checked in and read the Geocaching.com forums several times a week for almost 10 years (where almost every incident is reported), would estimate the average to be between two and three per month.

A Google search of the phrase “Geocaching Bomb Scares” generally returns two Geocaching.com bookmark lists in the top results, both of which we at the blog have been aware of for several years. Bomb Scares and Other Fun Stuff, is the older of the two. However, this list has essentially been abandoned, and a quick scan of it tells you it hasn’t had any new caches posted to it since 2007, although the adopted owner of the list is still an active Geocacher. The other top result, Bad Ideas, Bomb Scares, etc. is a very well maintained and regularly updated bookmark list, and is is the subject of this Blog post. The bookmark list owner, David Brierley (Geocaching.com Username: dbrierley), has graciously agreed to be interviewed by this Blog.

OCNA Blog: Where are you from, how did you first hear about Geocaching, and when did you start?
David: I’m from Rhode Island and I started geocaching in 2005. I probably heard
about geocaching while looking into buying a GPS receiver for hiking.

OCNA Blog: What would you say inspired you to create this bookmark list?
David: Sometime after starting in geocaching, I found the earlier “Bomb Scares and Other Fun Stuff” bookmark list, which was no longer maintained at that

OCNA Blog: Many Geocachers (myself included) have noticed that you advertise this bookmark list on Google AdSense ads. Why do you do this?
David: Nearly all of the geocaches in the bookmark list are archived, making them
unavailable by searching the geocaching site or through search engines; so
advertising the list is the only way to generate awareness.

OCNA Blog: How do you hear about the unfortunate caches that make the bookmark list? Do you use Google News alerts? Do you have to do a lot of research tying the news reports to a particular cache?
David: The geocaches are mostly discovered through Google News alerts; the likely geocache can often be found within minutes.  Some caches have been suggested by other geocachers via email and others have been found through the forums.

OCNA Blog: Do you feel that a majority of Geocaches that cause bomb scares are
due to them being on private property without permission? My experience over
the years from reading the Groundspeak forums suggests so. Not all of them,
but I’d have to guess over 50% of them.

David: I haven’t done any counts, but absence of permission seems to be a major
factor.  Another factor seems to be the container type — unlabeled
nontransparent containers, especially pipe-like containers, in areas where
there are many people.

OCNA Blog: When a cache causes a bomb scare, the cache page usually turns into a “forum”, with local cachers (many of whom have found the cache in question) chiming in. The theme generally leans towards the authorities being overzealous. Do you believe the authorities are being overzealous in many cases?
David: Law enforcement personnel have to consider all possibilities, especially
when dealing with an unlabeled and opaque container: it could be trash, it could be an explosive, it could be a geocache or letterbox, it could be an explosive placed in an actual geocache, etc.  Assumptions probably cannot be made as to what a bomb or a geocache is supposed to look like.  There might not be time to search the various listing sites for geocaches and letterboxes and the geocache/letterbox might not even be listed with any service. Complaints about law enforcement responses often seem to be attempts to divert attention away from permission issues.

OCNA Blog:  Do you have any advice for cache hiders to stay the heck off of your
bookmark list?
David: There are no guaranteed ways to avoid problems, but there seem to be
precautions that can be taken to reduce the chances. These are not new; people have been talking about them for years in the forums:

  • The most important precaution for caches on private property is to get
    firm permission, preferably written, from the owner or manager; seek
    permission from someone in authority to make decisions. Show the
    owner/manager the geocache and where it will be hidden.
  • Make sure the container is location-appropriate.  Media reports mention
    law enforcement requests to use labeled transparent containers in areas
    frequented by the public. 

Thanks to David for doing that interview with us! I really liked his answers. Again, here is the link to the Bad Ideas, Bomb Scares, etc. bookmark list. There are limitations to what you can do with Geocaching.com bookmark lists, but David has done the best you can do, with what you’re given to work with. He has used BB code to insert links to relevant media stories, forum discussions and nearby caches in the description for the caches on the list, where applicable. And in the main list description, he posts links to his Facebook and Twitter accounts, where he posts updates to the list. And he also has a Geocache, Bomb Scares, etc. board on Pinterest. This blog post was a little short on graphics this week, but we didn’t want to copy any of the mostly news media in orgin copywrited photos that appear there on Pinterest. Feel free to check those out.

Also feel free to comment on this blog post! We’re always a little short on those too at the OCNA blog, although Blogger and Google Analytics stats show this blog has decent readership. Are you one of the plurality of Geocachers who feel law enforcement overreacts almost every time a Geocache is called in as a suspicious container? Let us know!

Sporadically featured OpenCachingNA Cache: Ohio’s First Dead drop!!!

Xenia Station, hub for 5 bike trails

As mentioned in the last post, the Blogger recently went on a little Road Trip to the great State of Ohio, where he attended Midwest Geobash 2013 in Wauseon, Ohio. That was not the focus of his trip, however, and he spent only about 2.5 hours at the event, and most of that finding caches and capturing Munzees. Zero of which, for either game I might add, were very challenging! After the event, the Blogger, and his two traveling companions (his 13 yr. old son and 14 yr. old nephew), headed 3 hours south to the greater Dayton, Ohio area, for a two day stay at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, where he hoped to find some of the 16 Opencaching.us listings in the greater Dayton area, with a focus on Ohio’s First Dead Drop!!!, the sporadically featured cache.

Little Miami Scenic Trail, one of the five

 The Dead Drop Cache is located in The City of Xenia, Ohio (ZeeNeeUh), 12 miles SE of Downtown Dayton, and very near Xenia Station (pictured in the paragraph above), a hub for five bike trails. The building is a replica of the City’s 1880’s Rail Station, not original, but is very nice, and has a lookout tower you can visit. Shown to the right is one of the five trails, The Little Miami Scenic Trail, with a bridge over Shawnee Creek. The City of Xenia touts itself as “The Bicycle Capital of the Midwest”. The slogan is even on one of the water towers in town, which I later visited for an Opencaching.us listed cache. You can read about the five trails on the Xenia Station wikipedia page.

Required caching equipment

 Some of you may have read this far, and are still wondering “what the heck is a Dead Drop?” They are probably more commonly known as a USB Dead Drop, and they are computer USB Flash Drives hidden (sometimes in plain site) in public. We at OpenCaching North America have only adapted the concept to Geocaching; the world-wide peer to peer file sharing network was invented by German Media Artist Aram Bartholl in October, 2010, and he maintains the official website. The concept of public USB Dead Drops is not without controversy though; anyone can intentionally or unintentionally infect the flash drive with Malware such as a trojan horse or keylogger, for example. The flash drive itself could become corroded from the elements, and short out your USB port. We at OCNA feel our Dead Drop caches are much safer then the public Dead Drops, at least from the standpoint of receiving Viruses or Malware, as the drive will typically only contain two text files, a “readme” file, and the log. This is outlined in the article on that cache type in our OC Wiki

The readme.txt file on the flash drive

Ohio’s First Dead Drop!!! was placed on September 1st, 2012 by username Bernoulli on our website (Bernoulli and family on Geocaching.com). We asked him how he first heard about our website, and what he liked about it. Of course he couldn’t remember exactly where and how he heard about it, but he had a lot to say about what he likes about the unique cache types available on our website:I spend a lot of time outdoors in the woods and on the rivers but I also have a young family who is into everything so I get busy and can usually just work it in when I can.  That’s where virtuals and other cache types come in – I love taking the family to interesting places that others should see but I can’t always place a physical cache there because of restrictions, as there should be.  Both the Hocking Hills Region of Ohio as well as the Red River Gorge of Kentucky fall into that category and Earth Caches are OK but it’s hard to get confirmation that someone was there.  You can’t require a photo anymore with EC’s and there is no option for some sort of required code to prove you were there.  With the “numbers mentality” of many cachers, it wouldn’t be too hard to fudge a log to some of those EC’s and I hate having to delete logs.  With OCUS virtuals, I can require a picture and a confirmation code that can only come from being there.  Caching is about the journey anyway, so virtuals make perfect sense”. We agree! Did you know that about 97% of Geocaching.com accounts were created after they stopped accepting virtual caches? We are happy to allow this cache type, and, contrary to popular belief, we rarely, if ever, receive any “lame ones”.

The Blogger’s find log; ignore the fact he forgot to date it

Well, the Blogger and his traveling companions arrived on site at Xenia Station, and found the cache relatively quickly. We would say we consulted the hint, but the “hint” was pretty much on the cache page in plain text. We did sort of need it, the USB Flash Drive was extremely well-hidden to the casual passer-by, and we did have some difficulty locating it before consulting the cache page on the GPS! On the left, you see the Blogger’s find log on the computer screen. Complete with a reflection of him taking the picture of it, in the 9:30 or so AM sun. It almost looks like it’s supposed to be the background image on the computer, doesn’t it? P.S., ignore the fact that he forgot to date it. :-). 

An excellent cache, in an excellent location, near the hub of five bike trails. And a unique cache type, which is only available on Opencaching North America. How could you possibly go wrong here? Thanks to Bernoulli for placing the cache, and congratulations for being the second Sporadically featured OpenCachingNA Cache on the Blog.