While attending the GeoFest in the Parks event at Chewacla State Park, we learned the details for the Alabama State Park Diamond Treasure Challenge. Hatched in the mind of the uber-cacher simply known as Woodnutt, this challenge requires cachers to find 8 caches hidden in 8 different state parks. Finding the caches is the easy part; opening them is a different story. These are NOT park-and-grabs. Once the cache is opened, cachers must stamp their passport with the stamp inside the cache to prove that they did, in fact, open the cache. Decode/unscramble the stamps to figure the final location where cachers must turn in the passbook before claiming the prize. The first 75 cachers to complete the challenge earn the rare Diamond Treasure Challenge Geocoin.
Completing this challenge would require us to visit 8 state parks, drive hundreds of miles criss-crossing our state, spend $$$ in gas…but it yielded lots of fun memories.
Our first stop was right there in Chewacla! I wish I had a picture of the crowd of 50 or so geocachers huddled around a large, wooden treasure box in the woods. No one had any idea about how to open it. Numbers were carved around the outside. Not just any numbers. These numbers could be combined to reveal details about the 2013 Iron Bowl. We were in Auburn, so it made sense. However, those numbers didn’t have anything to do with unlocking the chest. Several of us had Woodnutt on speed dial. He was contacted until we had enough clues to open the lock. Word of how to open the chest spread quickly throughout the campground.
The second DTC cache, we found on our way back to Tuscaloosa that same weekend. We decided to take a little detour to Wind Creek State Park.
“We’re here to find the Diamond Challenge Geocache,” we explained.
“There have been several people looking for that today!” the attendant replied as he asked for money to enter the park.
We handed over our debit card.
“Ummm, I’m new and haven’t ever done one of those….y’all just go on in. Good luck!”
We only had about an hour before sundown when we had to be out of the park. We rushed to GZ and stared at the chest. And stared at it some more. We tried a few number combinations, but nothing worked. I had to call Woodnutt to ask for a hint. We opened the box, stamped our passports, and got back on the highway headed for home.
On March 22, we traveled to Oak Mountain State Park to take a stab at the DTC cache hidden there. Once again, we found ourselves staring at a chest without a clue about how to open it. We found a hidden magnet, but weren’t sure where to put it or what to do with it. After half an hour of playing around, we got lucky and opened the chest.
On March 24, we set off on our most fun busy day when we visited DeSoto State Park and Guntersville State Park. Those two chests were quite simple to open compared to the previous three!
On March 26, we visited Paul Grist State Park. The DTC cache was not an easy find. It is very well camouflaged! It’s camo job is unlike anything I had ever seen. The good thing is that there isn’t a combination code to figure out in order to open the chest. After finding that one, we spent the rest of the day hiking around the lake, enjoying a picnic, and canoeing.
We still had Gulf and Lakepoint on our list. But they were going to have to wait until the end of the school semester.
In May, we made a trip to Gulf State Park. The caches hidden there are some of the most creative we’ve encountered. The DTC cache was so simple to open, though; it was almost a total let-down.
There were only 2 caches we wanted to find at Lakepoint that evening: the Diamond Challenge cache and the ASP cache. I LOVE looking back over our tracks. I’ve marked a few things on this map. You can see where we found the DTC cache. The boys had it open before I made it down the trail, so it must have been pretty easy. And with that, we had the final stamp we needed to claim the Diamond Challenge prize!To find the ASP cache, we had to stop by the administrative office to pick up a few tools that we needed to open the cache. We also had to figure out the coordinates to the cache. With those items in hand, we drove and parked as close as we could to the cache. Then there was a short hike to GZ. The photo doesn’t show it, but a severe thunderstorm was rolling in at the same time we were trying to find these caches. We were in a bit of a rush.
We found what we needed, grabbed a bite of dinner between Eufaula and Columbus, and spent the night at Karl’s sister’s house just outside of Auburn.
The next morning, June 7, we headed toward the closest WorldWide Flash Mob (WWFM) event we could find. It was held right on the border between Georgia and Alabama over the Chattahoochee River.
After a quick lunch at what my children dubbed “the fanciest Burger King EVER,” we made our way back where it all began: Chewacla. We proudly walked into the office with our fully-stamped passbooks to sign the log and claim our pretty coins.
Quite the whirlwind geocaching/roadtripping adventure! We visited interesting places, met interesting people, and had a blast.
WherIGo caches are a relatively new type of geocache. Do not allow the fact that there aren’t many of these caches in existence mislead you into thinking that they aren’t totally awesome. Every WherIGo we have completed has been worth the time.
A wherigo is an interactive tour. For example, the Old Town Helena wherigo begins at the Buck Creek waterfall. When we reached the start “zone,” a bell rang to tell us to stop walking, read some information, do something, look at something, etc. From the waterfall, our tour guide led us to the oldest buildings in Helena and through the park. Each time we reached the next “zone,” a bell dinged to alert us that it was time to stop walking and do/read/see something. At the end of the wherigo, we followed a series of clues which led us to the cache. It was so much fun!
We’ve also completed wherigoes in Fort Toulouse, Camp Tranquility, and Demopolis. Karl and Uncle Richard created a wherigo that takes cachers on a tour of the University of Alabama’s antebellum history; already, it has garnered 10 favorite points. They set it up so that cachers receive a clue at each zone that will help them find the hidden cache.
Completing a WherIGo is a little more complicated than using the geocaching app and finding a cache. First, download the WherIGo app/player. Using your GC sign-in information, sign-in at wherigo.com using your smartphone. (After a year of experience, I have found that the wherigo app in my Garmin does not work. WherIGoes work best with iPhone or Android apps). Find a wherigo file (referred to as a cartridge) near you or wherever you are planning to be caching. Download the wherigo cartridge you’ve selected. To complete the cartridge, you will open it in the wherigo app and follow the instructions.
It sounds more complicated than it is. The best way to learn how to do a wherigo is to do one.
Yesterday afternoon, the kids and I went out to see if we could find a couple of newly published caches. The D/T for this cache is 3.5/2. It took us about 15-20 minutes to drive to GZ. Then we had to climb uphill from the road to the treeline through some briars. The 2 rating on the terrain is fair, though; it wasn’t too difficult to get there. Then we had to figure out where to look first. Based on the name of the cache (the CO does not provide a hint), we settled on a particular tree. After a few minutes of searching, we found it. Noah took a picture:
Can you see it? Let’s zoom in and highlight it…
Isn’t it cute?! We earned the FTF.
Then it was on to another difficult cache a little further up the road. The next one is rated 4/1.5. The only hint provided by the CO is that we do not need to go beyond the gate. When we reached GZ, nothing caught our attention. Lots of potential hiding places, nothing too remarkable. As I poked around a cedar tree, I noticed something hanging behind one of the hunting club signs.
“Noah, take a look at that…it probably isn’t the cache because it’s right out in the open, but it won’t hurt to look.”
He jumped up the hill and poked around the sign. Sure enough, it was the cache. Hidden in plain sight.
The chain is what caught my eye. The screw and the chain look like they’ve been there for a while. But when Noah pulled on the screw head, the cache came out behind it. Another FTF!
Both were really creative hides.
Our local caching community is the Crimson Tide Cachers Association. Someone in CTCA will schedule an Event Cache for all kinds of reasons. We enjoy getting together for a little pep rally over lunch the Fridays before Bama’s home games. When life isn’t revolving around the local college football team, someone hosts the monthly CTCA Night Out or the CTCA Lunch. Mia87 hosts the Kaffeeklatsch where we drink coffee and talk. And yet another cacher will host the Caching Christmas Party.
In addition to the usual events, CTCA likes to celebrate its members geocaching achievements and milestones. The first major milestone is the geocacher’s 1000th find. Karl and I reached this one back in the spring.
Members of CTCA planned an event for us at the restaurant of our choice. Then, the local caching crew joined us for a meal and to shower us with geocaching goodies. They gave us new containers to hide and TOTT to find caches. They also gave us travel bugs to set loose. And all of those goodies were put into our golden ammo cans.
Yes, the tradition is to gift the cacher with a gold spraypainted ammo can. Cool, huh? I assume other geocacher associations do something similar for their local cachers. (If you do something different, please share in the comments. I want to know about it!)
We have also celebrated 10,000 finds for other local cachers. I wonder if we’d celebrate for 5,000.
A new milestone is on the horizon for CTCA — number of hides. We’ve not celebrated this one before because no one else in our state has ever done it. One cacher in our group has hidden 1,000 geocaches! He’s everyone’s favorite because he keeps hiding interesting containers for us to find. Of course, his celebration will include a large golden ammo can filled with all kinds of geocaching goodness.
I’m not sure if I’ve said this before, but when we started caching we really didn’t know anything about it. We had to learn as we cached. One of the things we had to learn was the geocaching lingo and abbreviations for phrases that we saw in many geocaches’ online logs. So, here’s a list of the most common abbreviations and shorthand phrases we geocachers use.
FTF – First-to-find. Use this when you are the first geocacher to find a new geocache.
“FTF with my favorite cacher, KesselRun!! We got the email alerting us to this new cache, so we jumped in the Cache Interceptor and hurried to GZ.”
GZ — Ground zero. The coordinates to which your GPS leads you. Hopeufully, the cache will be hidden there or very close to it.
“Made it to GZ. Searched for 30 minutes. Finally found the cache about 60 feet away.”
PAF – Phone-a-Friend. This is what you do when you need help finding a cache. Sometimes it’s good to mention in your online log that you had to PAF.
“After several minutes of searching, I decided to PAF.”
TFTF – Thanks for the find!
“Great hide. TFTF!”
TFTH – Thanks for the hide!
“Nice cache. TFTH!”
Muggles – Non-caching people. People who do not know anything about geocaching.
“Muggles on your 6. Act like you’re talking on your phone.”
Lampskirt – a cache hidden under a lampskirt
“While we’re in this parking lot, let’s see if there’s a lampskirt here.”
LPC – lamp post cache; a cache hidden under the skirt of a lamp post
“The thing I hate most about caching in town is all of the LPCs.”
BYOP – Bring your own pen. Usually found in cache descriptions.
“Cache is small. Logbook only. BYOP.”
DNF – Did not find.
“No luck finding this cache. Had to DNF it.”
Lock & Lock – a container with a lid that locks with a few snaps.
“You are seeking a small lock & lock container.”
SWAG – Stuff we all get. Trade-able items found in geocaches.
“Awesome cache! Thanks for the SWAG.”
TNLN – Took nothing; left nothing.
“Had fun searching for the cache. Neat container with lots of SWAG, but I didn’t have anything to trade. TNLN. TFTF!”
TOTT – Tools of the trade. Refers to anything that geocachers typically use to open/extract/find geocaches.
“I had to use my favorite TOTT to get this one!”
OR in the cache description:
“Will need a TOTT to open this cache.”
So, that’s my list. What did I forget to mention???