March 2008 Member Spotlight: LionHeart

It is with great pleaure that I spotlight LionHeart this month – the man behind some of the most amazing puzzles!

Tell us about your caching name.
My caching name came from an old Scottish saying, “A man is a lion in his own cause”. So I have the heart of a lion when it comes to my own cause. My cause is that I have a chronic liver disease called Primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC). It is a characterized by inflammation, destruction and fibrosis of the intrahepatic and extrahepatic bile ducts that leads to cirrhosis of the liver. PSC is often complicated by recurrent episodes of bacterial cholangitis (infection of the bile ducts with bacteria). Patients with PSC also have an increased risk of cholangiocarcinoma (bile duct cancer). The cause of PSC is unknown but many investigators suspect that it is an autoimmune disease. Other etiologies, such as infectious agents, toxins or recurrent infections of the bile ducts are also possible causes. Although the disease is slow in progressing it varies from one person to another, often liver transplantation is the only therapeutic option for patients with end stage liver disease resulting from this disorder. The progression of the disease is also unknown. The most famous of individuals that have had the disease are Walter Payton and Chris Ledoux (also answers to my Spare Parts cache). I’m currently listed with MAYO Clinic in Rochester, MN awaiting transplant.

Tell us how you started caching/how were you introduced to caching.
My wife actually bought me a GPS for Christmas a few years back. She wanted me to take up a hobby and she knew that I like to be outdoors. She did a lot of research on her own finding the right GPS and at the time and we were friends with Blunoz and his family. After I got my GPS, Blunoz helped me understand the basics of geocaching and took me around Ashburn, familiarizing me with the various hiding techniques and styles of caches.

What essential items are in your cache bag?
I don’t have a cache bag per se but I do have a caching vest. It’s a police tactical vest. Originally designed for law enforcement purposes, it has proven itself as a great asset for caching. I use to carry a backpack with me when I went caching but found it to be too bulky. The vest better distributes the weight of items and keeps them closer to my body. In my vest I carry two bottles of water, a leatherman kit, a small mag flashlight, extra batteries, hand wipes, a notebook, pens/pencils, swag, travel bugs, a couple of telescoping wands (one with a mirror and the other a magnet on the end), snacks for the kids, a knife and of course my Garmin 76CSX GPS. I also carry occasionally a medic kit that slings over your shoulder, if it is going to be a longer hike and the potential for injury is greater.

What is your favorite thing about caching?
Finding hidden natural treasures while hunting a cache. I can’t think of a better place to be than on a rocky outcropping, looking out over a green valley that lies before me or finding myself in a moment of quiet solitude, deep in the woods.

Tell us about your favorite cache or type of cache.
My favorite type of cache is a mystery/puzzle cache. I got hooked on them at a very young age when I lived in West Chester, outside of Philadelphia. My father and I would get a copy of the Sunday Inquirer and look for the puzzle challenge of the week. Then we would drive around Philadelphia all weekend, visiting various spots and deciphering the clues, trying to win the contest. It was never about the prize; it was about spending time as a family and mentally challenging ourselves.

Tell us about the inspiration for one of your puzzle caches.
My twin daughters are usually the inspiration for my puzzle caches. That is why I typically have a strong female character in the stories that I create around my caches. One of my favorite caches revolves around my daughter Anna and her love of pirates. A while back Anna had created her own pirate map complete with a hidden treasure. That inspirational moment eventually evolved into “The Adventures of Anna of Ashburn”. Pursuing the cache, you not only visit beautiful spots near water but you also gain a history lesson about women pirates of the Caribbean. The original cache containers were real wooden treasure chests. Through the containers and the especially the storylines of my caches, I attempt to invite you into another world to experience the cache adventure as if you were really there. I also try to incorporate as much factual data as I can into each of the puzzles.

Tell us about a memorable caching experience.
I knew I was close to ground zero. I was deeply entranced looking at my GPS trying to get as close as I could to the exact spot. I briefly raised my head to see where I was going when suddenly I locked eyes with a small animal peering around a tree, six feet in front of me. Suddenly we both froze in our path. Neither of us blinking, each of us waiting for the other to make the first move. All I could think of was, “How am I going to tell my wife that I was attacked by rabid animal?” I quickly looked for something to defend myself. Out of the corner of my eye, I spotted a couple of hefty branches to my left. Quickly I looked back; he was still peering at me from behind the tree. I began inching my way to the left slowly, never taking my eyes off of the little guy. My left foot was now hitting the nearest branch. I thought to myself, it’s now or never, I quickly dropped down to pick up the branch and regained my footing assuming a defensive posture. Looking back at the little guy, he still had not moved. I stared at him another minute or two and then I suddenly realized that he was actually the cache.

How many states or countries have you cached in and how is it different from the NoVA area?
I have found caches so far in Colorado, Delaware, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin and the District of Columbia. The climate and ways of hiding caches may vary a little bit from state to state; but what I continually find is that no matter where you visit, there are other cachers willing to lend a helping hand.

Are you trying to meet any geocaching goals right now? (a milestone #, DeLorme Challenge, clear off your first 10 pages, etc.?)
For me, it is truly not about the numbers. My goal right now is to teach my daughters the importance of preserving our natural resources. Every time I take them out with me, I try to leave them with something about the natural world around us, so they can carry it forward with them in life.

Tell us what keeps you caching. What do you love about this sport?
I’ll keep caching as long as it remains fun and my health does not fail me. Caching provides me with a creative outlet in terms of creating puzzle caches. For me, I would love to see the day that geocaching.com expands its software capabilities beyond HTML and enters a more interactive arena like macromedia flash, where you, as the cacher, will have a greater interactive experience in solving a puzzle cache. I know in time, our sport will continue to grow bigger and better. Ten years from now we’ll all be looking back, in amazement, as to how far we have come.

Fairfax County Parks Guidelines

The FCPA and NoVAGO are happy to announce the new guidelines for hiding caches in FCPA parks!

On the FCPA geocaching page you will find a list of “blanket approval” parks as well as a web form for requesting permission for other FCPA parkland.

We are very excited about this! It’s been a long time coming and everybody has been patient — but the wait is over! A huge THANK YOU to the NoVAGO members who worked on this project.

For more information, visit http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/parks/geocaching

NoVAGO 2007 Cache Awards

From now and until the 25th of February we will be taking the nominations for the categories below. The list of nominated caches and cachers will be posted for everyone to check out, and then vote on, starting on or before March 1st and will continue until 31st of March when voting will be locked.

The winners will be announced at the meeting in April, in Loudoun County

Please email your suggestions to the following email address:
matsusie(at)gmail(dot)com

Cache Eligibility:

1. Cache must have been placed between 1, January 2007 to 31 December 2007
2. Only 2 nominations per category
3. We will be submitting the top 3-5 nominees in each category for your votes. So the more nominations we get, the easier it will be to discern the best of the best.

The Categories:

Best Theme/Series
Best Kids Cache
Best Location
Best Hike
Best History Related Cache
Best Multi-Stage
Best Mystery/Puzzle
Best Letterbox
Best EarthCache
Cache of Year
Rookie of the Year
Cacher of the Year

February 2008 Member Spotlight: Zgrav

This month’s Member Spotlight is Zgrav and yelraM!

Tell us about your caching names.

My caching name is Zgrav. It is a one syllable variation on “zero gravity”, which pulls together a way to use my middle initial “Z” with some kind of science-fiction context. yelraM’s caching name is just a reverse of her real name ( Marley) .

Tell us how you were introduced to Geocaching.

I bought a GPS on sale because I could use it hiking outdoors. I have been a caver since I was a kid, and grew up plotting latitude and longitude on paper topo maps to mark or find cave entrances. When I looked on the internet for tips on using a GPS I discovered geocaching. I was hooked with the idea, and remember the fun of going out on those first searches. yelraM actually made our first find, which she will be quick to tell you.

Tell us about your receiver and any other “tools” that help you cache.

I started with a Lowrance, and switched to a Garmin Vista HCX last summer. The Lowrance had been a good horse — loyal, faithful, and brave. But it was ridden hard too many times and started to drain batteries even when it was turned off. The Garmin has made it a lot easier to shift away from paper. The other tech stuff that makes it easier to leave paper behind is GSAK (Geocaching Swiss Army Knife) on the computer and a Palm PDA that runs Cachemate.

What are the pros and cons of caching together?

Since yelraM only caches when she is with me, I guess she would say the benefit of not caching with me is being able to do other things like play soccer or practice the cello. She likes caching in different areas, and enjoys the novelty of some really unusual hides. I enjoy her company when we cache together, both on the trails and during the search for the cache.

What essential items do you always carry in your cache bag?

A GPS and a water bottle would be at the top of the list, but I may leave the water bottle behind on a short trip. Extra batteries and a pen or pencil are next. I also carry some band aids, antiseptic wipes, and a pocket knife. I usually have a small pad of paper and my camera . I also carry a pair of gloves, and use a walking stick on a longer cache.

I get a lot of use out of a pocket mirror and flashlight. I also carry a bent piece of wire for nanos that slip out of reach. I used to have a bent piece of wire with a magnet glued to it, but I lost it. I probably won’t glue another magnet to my piece of wire until I find another situation where I will wish I had already done that.

What or Do you like to trade items in and out of caches? Do you have any “signature” swag?

I enjoy trades, even if I am mostly moving small items from cache to cache. I also look for things to add to the mix, or will put something together. Recently I made some small yahtzee games with tiny dice and a small score pad that fit in a little plastic bag that you could leave in a hide-a-key cache. yelraM enjoys looking for fun things to trade in caches as well.

I also like to trade for nice items in noteworthy caches, or at least leave something unusual in a cache that I thought stood out.

What is your favorite thing about caching?

I enjoy going somewhere to find something in particular — sort of a self-guided tour to someplace interesting. It adds a lot to the fun if I had to solve a puzzle first, or if the cache presents a challenging hide or an interesting location.

Have you had any experiences or learned anything from Geocaching that you have been able to use in the workplace or at school?

I think yelraM has been able to use geocaching experiences for show and tell at school, especially when we have cached in places she studies in school (like Williamsburg).

Tell us about your favorite cache or favorite type of cache and why.

yelraM enjoys finding clever urban hides, and she enjoys working on some puzzle caches. I enjoy the caches that give me a glimpse into someone else’s interests, like Reedkickball’s well designed genealogy series. I also like the total immersion of a challenging multi-stage puzzle cache like the Prisoner.

Have you worked together to create any puzzle caches? Tell us about the process for one of them.

I run my ideas for a puzzle cache by yelraM first to get her reaction, and I usually take her suggestions. She will also go out with me to select the hiding places. She comes up with ideas for puzzles and then matches that up with a place when she sees something that catches her eye. It’s my job to help out with the details at that point and not slow her down too much.

Tell us about a memorable caching experience that you shared.

We went to GeoWoodstock 5 and had fun socializing with other cachers from many different places. We really enjoyed doing a cache at midnight in the woods called “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.” It might have been spooky, except we were with a good friend PsychoKiller and about 50 other people as well. It was also fun doing a cache-to-cache run in town when we kept running into the same groups of folks at slightly different times and places.

Tell us about your other interests or areas of expertise.

Some folks would say I don’t have any “other interests” since I started geocaching. I still go caving sometimes, and play guitar. In my day job, I am at attorney with the US Dept. of Education.

Have you converted any muggles into Geocachers?

I have a couple of friends that will join me caching, or occasionally go caching by themselves. But no extreme converts yet.

What do you think the biggest changes will be to geocaching in the next few years?

Geocaching is changing year by year. Ask the “old timers” that have already been doing this for a while. The more popular this becomes, the more rules that will go along with it. Given the explosion of cheaper GPS units, the companies are using geocaching as a selling point. That will give us lots more cachers and more cache placements. And more incidents with bad placements causing problems and negative press.

I am guessing that the response will then be to “save” the sport by putting more restrictions in place to prevent marginal placements. We all have some caches in mind that probably cross the line — storm drains, tree climbs, private parking lots. Most caches with Koz in the title. Caches that hold a special place in my memories, and probably for others as well. I think they are on the endangered species list and we should enjoy them while they last.

NoVAGO Meet & Greet and Cryptophobia Support Group GC18KFF

Please mark 2 February 2008 on your calendar, and plan to attend!! The “Event” has been in the scrolling window on the homepage for awhile, but it is easy to miss… so I thought I would throw out a reminder. The first Event of 2008 promises to be one you will not want to miss. You will get a chance to meet the 2008 NoVAGO Board, and to participate in a general membership meeting. Put faces to names, renew friendships, meet the new members, and before I forget…bring any and all new ideas on how we can help NoVAGO grow and prosper. There will be a puzzle cache solving presentation after the general membership meeting, great for those of you (us) who are puzzle challenged.

November 2007 Member Spotlight: Banshee Reeks

Tell us about your caching name.

I took my caching name from a beautiful wildlife preserve in Loudoun County that I have visited as a birder for years and where I volunteer from time to time.

Here is a description of the names Origin:

In the early part of the 19th Century, the owner of the farm now called Banshee Reeks was said to be of Irish/Scottish descent. In the Gaelic language, banshee is a female spirit and reeks refers to hills and dales.
The story goes that one night the farmer went into the town of Leesburg to attend to personal business and also paid a visit to the local saloon.
Upon arriving back at his farm very late at night, with the wind howling and the night animals making their noises, the farmer was in such a state of mind, that he claimed he heard a banshee on the reeks.

The phrase was altered over the years and the area became known as Banshee Reeks.

I already had a shirt and a lanyard for my GPSr and a hat with the name on it so it was a natural choice and a way to honor a place I really love.

Tell us how you started caching/how were you introduced to caching.

I have had a few GPSrs over the years and last fall decided it was time to upgrade to a nice color unit with added capabilities. In searching the web I came across references to Geocaching and thought, “Wow, that would give me an added incentive to upgrade!” I bought the unit and started looking for local caches. I found the event cache “Habanero Hullabalo” or whatever it was called, attended and that started the obsession.

Tell us about your GPS receiver.

I have had a few GPSrs starting with a simple three channel Garmin. About eight years ago I bought a Lowrance GlobalMap 100 considered by some as state of the art at the time. Last fall I bought a Garmin 60 Cx. I thought I had ordered the 60CSx but when it came decided to keep the 60Cx. After several months the off button failed so it went for some RnR to Garmin and they decided to replace it with a new unit.

Tell us about any software/hardware or other gadgets that help you cache

After spending some time carrying paper around and putting a strain on my printer I became a Premium member and then bought GSAK and Cachemate. About this time my old Palm Pilot was not working well so I upgraded that to a simple palm for caching. I like the routing capability of the 60Cx with the Garmin mapping software which helps me get to the starting point for the caches The GPSr also has other practical uses for regular traveling.

What essential items are in your cache bag?

I use a medium size shoulder bag originally designed for a birders. In it I carry a little swag, a camera, a compass, a simple first aid kit and whatever else I might need for a relative short hike. The bag has a nice water bottle carrier. For longer hikes I have other bags. I also carry a large trash bag, which can serve as emergency rain protection and is handy when you have to get down on your knees in a muddy area. Though not part of my cache bag. I don’t go anywhere far from the car in the woods on other than flat terrain without my Wal-mart special walking stick. It provides stability, spider web protection and is good for checking places I would rather not put my hands.

What is your favorite thing about caching?

It has to be the great places caching takes me to and the surprises it gives. I like going to historical or natural areas, some of them quite close to home, that I would never have experienced. The interesting new things I learn about history or geology are very enjoyable. In addition it allows me to meet a lot of nice people who do this hobby. I think the computer aspects add so much to caching because it allows you to keep track of how everyone is doing as they visit some of the same caches or go to ones I would like to do someday. Some caches like “A Child Not Forgotten” also give one a pause for thought and are much more important than the actual find.

Tell us about your favorite cache or type of cache.

I am not much for puzzles, as some of them make no sense to me. I do like some of the simpler ones like the Landmark puzzles Kylvag has put out. Though I will do urban caches and even an occasional lamppost, I really prefer caches that show me something new or give me a nice natural experience. I like caches that I will definitely find after I have put in the effort to get there. I can’t see hiking a long way just to find a micro in the woods that has no other significance than its presence. I don’t have favorite cache but there are many that I have really enjoyed.

Tell us about a memorable caching experience.

Eagles Watch was interesting for me. I drive a minivan so I parked a bit of a distance from the cache site. I walked to the area and realized I needed the clue so walked a considerable distance back to the car to get the Palm for the cache page. Having walked the route I decided that I could get to the cache with my minivan. I continued my search and after a PAF finally found the cache.

Now the fun began. When I returned to the car I noticed that I had a flat tire, my first with this car. I had to get out the manual and determine how to change a tire in high grass on a very hot day. I logged a “FTF” “First to Flat” for this cache. Looking at the GPSr I noticed I could do three more Disaster and Mayhem caches on the way to the tire repair shop so, of course, I risked another flat to get a few more caches.
When the tire was repaired there was no item present in the tire so I may just have run over something.

How many states or countries have you cached in and how is it different from the NoVA area?

I have cached VA, W.VA, and, on a 9-hour trip to the Philadelphia area to visit my mother, I cached MD, DE, PA and hopped over into NJ to pick up two virtuals to log that state. Most of these areas were familiar to me from birding over the years. Delaware is so nice to cache, no rocks or hills. But then again don’t do it in summer; the flies and mosquitoes would turn a 1/1 into a 5/5. I think our caches tend to be more challenging but of course in the interest of time I did mostly easy to get to caches on my travel route.

I have cached a few places in Texas while visiting my daughter. Two of the sites I visited were places where endangered bird species are found relatively easily, (Sadly, not by me). I also logged a virtual for a dinosaur park I visited on a 100 Degree-day. The park is known for dinosaur tracks visible along the local stream. If I cache more in Texas I plan to take a local guide who knows which rocks the Rattlesnakes and Scorpions are under.

Are you trying to meet any geocaching goals right now? (a milestone #, DeLorme Challenge, clear off your first 10 pages, etc.?)

I have no specific goals. Though “It’s not about the numbers” it is fun to log the number of caches found. The memorable experiences are far more important. Birders also debate the listing mentality but most keep a life list and other list every thing they can think of, like birds seen on TV. Others concentrate on the beauty of the experience. Like caching, you can play it the way you like to.

Tell us about your other interests or areas of expertise.

As is obvious, I am also an avid birder. I typically log about 225 to 250 bird species in this area on a regular basis. I would typically bird most weekends. Well, this year, spent mostly geocaching, my bird list for the year hovers around 100 and I have only birded 4 or 5 times. If I would slow down I could do both and might even find promising birding spots that other birders never been to.

I have sung in an interracial interfaith gospel choir for 15 years. Thought not particularly religious, it lets me sing music I enjoy, associate on a regular basis with good friends and it takes me to interesting places. I have sung for Bill Clinton at the White House and traveled to Europe for a 9 day tour to Germany, Austria and Slovenia. We lived with the people in Slovenia and did a total of five concerts. That trip gave me an intense interest in Slovenia. At last count it has about 70 geocaches.

I recently saw that a new cache was released and the owners had placed American-Slovenian lapel pins in the cache. I hunted the cache and contacted the owners. This has resulted in a new friendship with a family assigned to the Slovenian Embassy. I have further introduced them to some of their countrymen in the area. A new friendship for nine people including a new baby has resulted just because I found a plastic box in a tree.

I also have a long time interest as an amateur photographer and someday may prepare a slide show of the Rocks and Tree Stumps of the Middle Atlantic States.

Tell us what keeps you caching. What do you love about this sport?

I think all of the above pretty much sums it up. It has been such an enriching activity with satisfaction offered on many levels. There are social aspects, the thrill of exploration and the sharpening of navigation and observation skills. It is an activity that keeps one active both physically and mentally and has so many rewards. I like the fact that it is a great social leveler bringing people from many walks of life and social levels and ages. When we are together we are not that concerned with differences since the basis of our relationships is the common joys we share geocaching. Rather than being highly competitive everyone seems to enjoy sharing everyone else’s experienced and in actuality “It is not about the Numbers.”

October 2008 Member Spotlight: Zygote2k

Tell us about your caching name.

First- “Zygote2k”. Around 1999 when everyone was freaking out about the millennium, I heard a Chinese fable about when the 1000 year egg hatches; the world will undergo great changes. At that time my life was undergoing a great deal of changes so I adopted it for my email and caching name.

Tell us how you started caching/how were you introduced to caching.

In 2003, my new girlfriend- Hayseed 40 was interested in mapping and GIS so I bought her a Garmin etrex Venture for Christmas. During my search for information on GPS, I ran across the geocaching website. 3 days after Christmas, we found our first cache- “Signal Knob”.

Tell us about your GPS receiver.

I originally had a Garmin etrex Vista, but the click stick broke after 2 years. I took it apart to fix it and realized that was beyond my means. Anyone want to buy a parts only Vista?
When the Garmin 60CSx came out, Pyronorm rushed out and got one and told me how great it was and I picked one up a short time later.
I put a 2gig card in it and use Garmin Street Atlas v7.

Tell us about any software/hardware or other gadgets that help you cache

I don’t use any computer apps or PDA’s for caching. I think they are an incredible waste of time and money. I see no reason to track my progress on a computer- that’s why I pay Groundspeak.

What essential items are in your cache bag?

My cache bag is my backpack that I carry everywhere. I have the following: Leatherman, Digital Camera, GPS, basic first aid kit, compass, knife, extra rechargeables, rain gear, gore-tex pants and gaiters, some tuna packets and 3 liters of soda water. Sometimes a TB or three.

What is your favorite thing about caching?

I would have to say my favorite thing about caching would be all the little out-of-the-way places that I have driven by a thousand times, but until now, never had a reason to stop and explore them.

Tell us about your favorite cache or type of cache.

My favorite cache type is really any cache that provides an interesting story or theme, a decent hike to a nice viewpoint or hidden area, an ammo-can, and interesting schwag. I would have to say that “1000 steps” is my favorite cache so far. It has a sadistical set of stairs, old buildings, nice trails, and an excellent viewpoint.

Tell us about a memorable caching experience.

As far as a caching experience, “Dead Man’s Pulse” is set in the wilds of Ludington State Park. While on the search for this excellent multi, I passed through some of the most tranquil land that I have ever set foot upon. It seemed like what the original settlers or natives might have seen at any given time. No litter and no one else on the trails.

How many states or countries have you cached in and how is it different from the NoVA area?

I’ve cached in a couple of different areas. In Michigan, most of the cache seem to be 3/3 or less and considerably far apart. In Pennsylvania around the urban areas, it seems like micro is king. Southwestern Florida caches are all under palmetto leaves which are by far the grossest cache covering. Lots of spiders and possibly an alligator too. Good hides and concepts though. I really think the Nova area has the most variety and most originality of any of the areas that I’ve been. I really think that our area is part of the cutting edge of caching.

Are you trying to meet any geocaching goals right now? (a milestone #, DeLorme Challenge, clear off your first 10 pages, etc.?)

Goals for geocaching? Doesn’t that seem kind of silly? It’s like someone telling me that they are a football fan and are trying to see 1000 live games in a year. I just plan on staying with it indefinitely. It’s a great hobby that promotes activity and intellectual thinking.

Tell us about your other interests or areas of expertise.

As long as I am able to do land surveying, I’ll be a geocacher. Both promote free thinking and a keen eye for details. I find that surveying helps me learn about how to find caches and caching teaches me to pay closer attention to details.

Tell us what keeps you caching. What do you love about this sport?

My caching philosophy is to leave all caches a little better than I found them. This means either adding some good schwag or dumping all the useless crap that seems to find its’ way into them. We live one of the top wealthiest areas of the world and people are pretty stingy with what they leave in caches. Trade even or up and empty the geotrash. Sometimes its fun to leave the “schwag bag” stashed nearby. Make sure to mention it in the log. This sometimes has the effect of enraging other cachers. I just say, “It’s only a game”.