June 2008 Spotlight: TeamWeathergirl

TEAM WEATHERGIRL – What a great caching bunch!

Tell us about your caching name.

I work in the weather business bouncing between the National Weather Service and managing weather satellite development programs. My daughter got enamored with weather and picked up the nickname of “Weathergirl” at a young age. Weathergirl has four brothers and being the only girl is not always easy. Since she was the most enthusiastic about geocaching when we started, we went with her nickname. In a way it helps her stand out from the male dominated crowd she lives with.

Tell us about the members of Team Weathergirl and what each one of you brings to the caching experience.

Our youngest cacher’s nickname is Mr. O. He turns 10 this month and is the most enthusiastic about opening the cache to find the surprises inside. His most favorite treasures are matchbox cars. He likes caching with his fellow scouts so he can show off his caching experience. Weathergirl is the dominant “youth” cacher on the Team. She loves the challenges on the searches. Nothing gets her more excited than having to cross a creek or climb a tree. I recall she had just climbed the tree rufnredy made famous with his fall and she volunteered to do future vertical caches for him. She also gets interested in odd objects while caching. While out to find zgrav’s “Engulfed” last weekend, weathergirl found a 15 foot long, one inch diameter stalk of bamboo lying along the path. She couldn’t part with it and carried a half mile back to the parking lot. She even tried to convince me to squeeze it into the Prius so we could take it home. Mama Weather goes out with us periodically. She is especially adept at urban micos so I always know I have a secret weapon if needed. The three older boys don’t join the team much. They verbalize the belief that geocaching was invented by middle aged men to frustrate each other.

How were you introduced to Geocaching and what was the first cache you found?

I was attending a day of Boy Scout training called “University of Scouting” in Feb 2004 and in one of the classes I took, the instructor explained geocaching and letterboxing as different twists to outdoor adventure. My middle son, who was the boy scout, happened to have purchased an “old” GPSr (Garmin GPS 12 model) from my brother a couple of years before so we thought we would dust it off and give it a shot. I pulled up Geocaching.com, entered our home coordinates and was thrilled to see a cache less than a half mile away in Huntley Meadows. Mr O, Weathergirl and I took off immediately and found Rambo’s Huntley Meadows Cache. Since each geocache had to be entered manually and the GPSr was only accurate to 0.1mile, we didn’t do too many caches the first year. When I purchased a Garmin GPSMap 60 the following year and learned the fun of computer downloads and 10 foot accuracy, our finds started to take off!

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

We basically just load the nearest few hundred caches to our house in our GPSmap 60C, pick and area and go caching. I have had a series of wireless devices (currently a Blackberry) which I can pull up the cache page as needed. I end up pulling up the cache page on the device when I am stumped at a cache site. In urban areas this means we usually just follow the GPSr to “next closest” and see where we end up. I probably should use some of the available software to make our caching process a little more efficient. Megawheatie’s recent post on the GSAK macro to count points for the Potomac Trailmasters got me to download that am currently trying to learn more of what that software can do for us.

Tell us about a favorite cache.

I asked Weathergirl this one. She has really enjoyed flowerman’s caches and so it isn’t surprising that her favorite cache is one of his. That cache is “Easter Egg Hunt”. Finding each of the necessary bits of the coordinates in various flowerman caches allowed us to assemble the coordinates for the final cache. The final cache was a nice hike in the woods by mom, dad, and the two youngest which ended in an interesting stream crossing. Weathergirl loves hopping on rocks across streams. I was surprised she still remembered this as it was over three years ago.
I have to say that Reedkickball’s Be the Genealogist Series is my favorite. The puzzle parts are easily done and provide an interesting learning experience as well. Then each of the hikes are absolutely wonderful.

What is your favorite type of cache (micro, puzzle, multi, traditional, etc.)?

Our favorite cache type is the earthcache. Although we have many more of all the other types, we really enjoy the combination of hiking, scenic location and learning associated with earthcaches. While traveling, we especially try to nab an earthcache in the area we are visiting to learn about the local geology. We have gotten some very interesting lessons on glaciers in Wisconsin, rivers/falls at Niagra Falls, artesian wells in Indiana, earthquate fault lines in California, the Katria induced levee breaches in New Orleans, rock creation in Colorado as well as the wonderful ones in this area.

Tell us about a memorable caching experience that you have had.

Three years ago we integrated geocaching with our family summer vacation. We planned two nights in four different spots: Lancaster, PA, Warren, PA, Niagra Falls, Canada and Corning, NY. We combined seeing the local sites with geocaching in each of the areas. This was probably our first sustained period of geocaching and taught us how many interesting places geocaching can take you that you wouldn’t otherwise go.

Have you converted any muggles into Geocachers? If I remember correctly, your brother caches. Who started whom?

We’ve introduced many folks to geocaching through work and scouts. I think the two that have gotten into it the most are my brother and his family (TeamBobcats) and one of my boy scout leader friends (Jeepincrew). While the geocaching “seed” has been planted in many of the scouts…we will see how those seeds germinate.

Tell a funny/or interesting story from GeoWoodstock in NC last year.

This adventure began as my younger brother and I going off and spending some time together for the first time in our adult lives. He is 9 years younger than I with three siblings in between. I went off to a private boarding high school, then to the Air Force Academy followed by a distant/mobile military career–so we’ve never really spent any time together. Now that we’ve both become hooked on geocaching, we’ve found a good reason to spend some “quality” time together. He flew into DC and we loaded up my full sized conversion van for a long caching/camping weekend at GeoWoodstock. As we started, he told me he had this idea of sending in a request to the TV show “Amazing Race” for the two of us with a “bring distant brothers together” theme. We had a great time caching but the experience of four days with me in a van and tent may have dashed the “image” he had of his oldest brother.. He alleged that while driving the van (not the most agile of caching mobiles), I often grabbed the GPSr from him when I desperately needed to make a decision on a turn. In addition, he alleges that I spent more time looking at my GPSr screen looking for caches than out my windshield while driving. He seemed to have gone home a bit of a nervous wreck. So much for the “Amazing Race”! But no need to worry about us, we’ve spent numerous days caching together since and are currently trying to find a weekend to do some of the Allegheny Geotrail.

Your family has been very involved in Scouting. Tell us how Scouting and Geocaching have become intertwined.

Over the last few years we have had a child in girl scouts, cub scouts and boy scouts simultaneously. Weathermom is the leader of Weathergirl’s Girl Scout Troop and I’ve been in a leadership position in cub scouts and boys scouts. Weathergirl earned a geocaching badge in girl scouts and we’ve incorporated geocaching in our hikes with the boys scouts. The idea of finding a treasure seems to bring out a real spark of enthusiasm in the boys. Often, we’ll put ammo cans full of candy in the woods and give the boys the GPSr’s and let them go find the treats. (Perhaps just a new approach to giving dads some quiet time at the campsite?) The cub scouts don’t have the stamina for long hikes but I’ve found that putting five caches out along our projected path keeps them almost running from point to point….no more “dragging” little boys along! There is now even a cache at the top of Viewing Rock at the Goshen Scout Reservation in west central Virginia. Last summer I took the cub scouts up this steep hike and took their picture around the cache overlooking the scout camp and lake. We’ll be heading back there this July for another go.

Have you set any Geocaching goals for yourself this year?

We are trying another of those family geo-vacations again in August. This year we are flying out to Montana and hope to get caches in Montana, Idaho and Wyoming. But most of all, we are looking forward to some really cool earthcaches in Yellowstone National Park.

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