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.