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.

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