Sunday, 31 May 2015

GPS Adventures Canada & Happy Birthday Mr. GO! Team

I remember several months ago I was logging some caches through instead of GSAK (probably because there was only one) and I noticed in the side ad banner an advertisement saying that the GPS Adventures Maze was at the Telus World of Science in Edmonton. It had been a dream of mine to get one of these logged on my account.  The chance to come across one just hadn't come my way at all, so intrigued I clicked on the add and got very excited. I know it had been at the "Best of the Bad" Mega but there was no way I could have gone to Alberta for that when I had to be there the following month for my cousins wedding.  And besides this was the furthest west I've ever seen it come ever since. So I concocted a plan to use this gift money that I had and purchased airline tickets for Mrs GO Team and I to come out and do this rare cache type for my birthday.

Click on any photo to enlarge
Fast forward a few months to early May.  We were in Vancouver seeing my second favourite band on the planet "Faith No More" (they would be #1, but U2 is just too awesome to beat out), making another of my bucket list wishes come true!  The day after the concert we got together with our good caching friend Magicman65 (check out his blog HERE) to grab a couple of caches in and around the PNE grounds. Just like on any geocaching adventure we got to talking and I learnt he would be in Edmonton at the same time, so I told him about what we had planned and invited him to join in the fun. And of course he gladly accepted!

The rest of the month quickly passed by, and the weekend of my birthday arrived. We arrived early at YYJ (Victoria International Airport) so we could check in for our flight, hopefully get the seats we want, and have a quick cup of coffee before heading in though security.  We soon boarded our plane, and in short order arrived at our destination.  We were met at the airport in Edmonton (YEG) by Mrs GO! Team's brother who then drove us out to our hotel.  We had originally planned to stay with him and his family, but he decided with all we had planned that it would logistically would be impossible.  So as kind as he is he gave us the gift of a hotel close to everything we wanted to do in the area.  So after checking in and getting settled we had nothing left to do, so we decided to head out and go caching.  But what kind of caching did we want to do?

I didn't bring my GPS along (I know, sacrilege right!?), but I never planned to based on what we had in store.  But I did have my GPS enabled cellphone, and using the app I looked at the surrounding area for traditional caches.  The area was pretty bare of those, but upon closer inspection I noticed 2 earthcaches not to far away.  And reading the descriptions of both they seemed very interesting to do.  So out we went, caught a cab and headed to the Royal Alberta Museum.  These were a great choice for us to do since we had never gotten a earthcache is Alberta before, so in doing one we actually became qualified for Platinum Earthcache Master.  The two CO's of these earthcaches (GC5QQERGC5QD5Q) should be very proud, as both were fantastic and highly educational!  And when these were done we hopped into another cab and went back to the famous West Edmonton Mall to wander around until it was time to head back to the hotel.

The next day was not geocaching related at all, so we will only limit it to a mention.  On this day we went back to West Edmonton Mall and did the World Waterpark followed by a round of mini-golf at Professor Wem's Adventure Golf.  And since neither of us had been to a Hooters before, we decided to give that a go for dinner.  Just to side note, the burgers were fantastic and the Fried Pickles were to die for!!!

May 31 finally arrived and I could barely hold my excitement.  I know not to get my expectations too
high on something, but that was not what my excitement was about.  I'd say the excitement was about getting to do and log something new, and that in itself is pretty cool!  We had breakfast at the hotel and got ready.  Too soon the time to leave came, so again we hopped into a cab and met with Magicman65 at the Science Center. We were also joined by my brother in law and his family who were interested in this event, and we all had a great time wandering the maze and finding the hidden geocaches to unlock our secret Canadian Treasure.

Let's talk about the maze for a bit.  The concept is simple, but the idea is eloquent in its style and execution.  You approach the maze entrance and pick up a card.  This is your game piece (it is randomized) and is needed to unlock your treasure.  You will find a station outside that you need to use to create a rubbing of Signal the Frog ('s mascot).  This is just to teach you what to do when you find the 4 stations like it inside the maze.  Now you head inside!  Once inside, you choose which way to go and enjoy the maze.  Along the way you stop and read about cool geocache hides across Canada, learn about compass navigation, GPS navigation, and types of hides, all while finding mock geocaches in the maze.  Remember those 4 stations I mentioned, these mock caches are needed to find a little picture on them that correspond with the station you are at.  This would mean you do a rubbing in the square associated with the same picture on your card eventually netting you a 4 digit code.  Once out of the maze there will be a set of lockers with pictures of signal on it in various poses.  Just find the locker that matches the signal image in the top right of your card and enter the code in the digital number pad.  The locker will open and you can now see what your secret Canadian Treasure is.  Speaking of our secret location I got The Northern Lights, NU and Mrs GO Team got the Bay of Fundy, NB.

After the maze was done, the group of us enjoyed the rest of the museum, and soon Magicman65 had to depart.  The family and I went to a restaurant called Soda Jerks, and enjoyed an evening of fun, food and laughter. Of course there was the trip home the next day, but nothing eventful happened to warrant writing about it.

Thanks to my family, Magicman65 and my AMAZING wife who helped make this day one of the best birthdays I have had in a very long time!

Also thanks to you my readers for taking the time to read my blogs!

Sunday, 3 May 2015

15 Years of Geocaching & Camp Thunderbird CITO

Hi everyone!  As of now while I type this blog it is May 3rd 2015, and the geocaching world this is a big deal.  May 2nd & 3rd holds special meaning to any geocacher, as this is the when geocaching was born 15 years ago.  On May 2nd, 2000 the US Government unscrambled the GPS Satellite system call the "selective availability" feature that was intentionally degrading the GPS signals for national security reasons. The move to do this made GPS signals up to 10 times more accurate for million current GPS users, and paved the way for a man Dave Ulmer to come up with an idea.  The very next day (May 3rd) Dave Ulmer (a computer consultant and GPS enthusist) wanted to test the accuracy of his GPS after hearing the news.  So he set out and hid a bucket full of trinkets and goodies in the woods near Beavercreek, Oregon, not too far from Portland.  He called his idea the "Great American GPS Stash Hunt" and posted it in an Internet GPS users' group. Within the first month it was found by Mike Teague, more were being created and submitted to Mike and posted on his personal home page, and 15 years later you come to today where there are over 2 million geocaches hidden worldwide with thousands of geocachers playing the game.  So happy 15th anniversary geocaching, and here is to many more to come!

Now let's fast forward to now, but not all the way.  May 2nd, 2015 will do just fine!
It is saturday morning, and I find myself getting out of bed at a awfully early hour.  I had worked the night before until midnight, and I never just go right to bed when I get home.  I always require a wind down period, which I am certain I am not alone in doing as a practise.  So why am I getting up so early if I had not gone to bed at a decent hour the night before?  Well for a very good reason, there was a CITO today.  A CITO is a geocaching event that has us the geocachers going out and doing something for the environment.  Usually we are picking up trash in local parks and along highways, however sometimes we are out also helping remove invasive plant species.  But today's event was nothing like them.  This time it was helping the users of trails at a local YMCA/YWCA camp called Camp Thunderbird enjoy their time on the trails by clearing the trails of blow down debris.

The event hosts were Grifung, very active cachers in our community who spend a lot of time out on these very trails with their good friends Islandfinders.  Grifung had us gathering at the parking lot near Glintz Lake.  After a brief gathering and talk about what we were to do we split into groups and headed out onto the trails to get our CITO on.

I joined Grifung and Islandfinders for my first real foray into the Sooke Hills.  We had a great hike moving debris off the trails and cutting small blown down trees and moving them out of the way.  Please note nothing living was hurt by any of us on this trek, everything was already broken or uprooted from the ground.  In the end many of the trails were cleared up for recreational use due to the efforts of the different groups heading off in multiple directions.

Thanks for a fun CITO and taking me under your wing Grifung, and thank you to everyone that came and participated in the event.