Random thoughts, rants, raves and photo opportunities

2013 - For Your Eyes Only (GC47072)

For Your Eyes Only (GC47072) by bflentje

I had recently been playing with Arduino microprocessors for fun. They're fairly powerful programmable circuits used primarily in the robotics community but they're really limitless in nature. I'd been experimenting with various sensors and even wireless circuits just to see what I could put together and make work. It dawned on me as I was messing around that I could use these circuits to build the ultimate multistage geocache. And that's what I set out to do.

Beyond the idea of just wanting to build the ultimate multistage geocache, I had no idea what so ever what I was going to do. I did not have a theme, no location, I didn't have details in terms of stages, how difficult, how easy, I knew nothing. It wasn't until my family and I were immersed in a James Bond movie marathon celebrating 50 Years of Bond did the James Bond theme come about. My daughters and I spent the next couple of months trying to put the Bond theme on the map, planning and building the stages, brainstorming ideas, and laying everything out.

Believe it or not, the biggest obstacle in creating this geocache was not the stage assembly, but where and how will it be hidden. A vast amount of space was needed for a 12 stage geocache where each of the stages did not interfere with other geocaches in the vicinity. Lebanon Hills has way too much traffic for such a geocache so while remote from the metro area, Miesville Ravine was the most logical option. In order to avoid conflicts with the county, after all, wires and circuits in ammocans sounds fairly suspicious, every stage of this geocache was presented to the county for approval.

Now that the venue had been chosen, the cache was coming together. To make this an experience to remember, there were elements that had to be built into the cache. There were to be 12 stages. The first 10 stages each being unique in nature, contained a secret code. When you arrive at stage #11, the secret codes you collected from the previous 10 stages are to be used to derive the coordinates to the final stage #12. Each of the stages was to have a James Bond theme wrapped around it. There had to be a bit of tree climbing to simulate danger, but nothing overly challenging. In order to encourage social geocaching, I wanted to integrate the TEAMWORK REQUIRED attribute into one of the stages that could not be cheated. And finally, there had to be a backup plan in the event someone gets stumped. Check.

SPOILER ALERT Do not proceed unless you want to completely ruin your fun.

Enjoy the photographs (click thumbnails for larger view)..

2013 - Lateral Potholes (GC272EE)

Lateral Potholes (GC272EE) by bflentje

There seems to be some difficulty in finding this geocache. Here are spoilers to aid in scoring the find. But please keep in mind, using spoilers for a 3/5 rated geocache could be embarrassing if your friends find out. So use this with discretion. It should be noted that the reservoir has been drained down for the winter. The normal waterline is three feet higher than shown.

Enjoy the photographs (click thumbnails for larger view)..

2013 - Exploring Lake Byllesby Sea Caves (GC272D5)

Exploring Lake Byllesby Sea Caves (GC272D5) by bflentje

There seems to be some difficulty in finding this geocache. Here are spoilers to aid in scoring the find. But please keep in mind, using spoilers for a 4/5 rated geocache could be embarrassing if your friends find out. So use this with discretion. It should be noted that the reservoir has been drained down for the winter. The normal waterline is three feet higher than shown.

Enjoy the photographs (click thumbnails for larger view)..

2012 - A Highline Adventure, Cloquet, MN

Hanging over the St. Louis River in the state forest near Cloquet, MN, there's a 1" steel highline conecting the two river banks. No one knows why it's there. No one knows when it was built. Even the MN DNR is not sure of its history.

Mounted aboard the carriage that rides the line is a geocache named Highline (GC3EHXK) by EskoClimber. Today, in an attempt to practice safety in numbers, we held a geocaching meet-and-greet event in order to complete the 4.5/5 rated geocache. About twenty of us gathered for the The Great Geocaching Circus - A Highline Adventure (GC4023F) and while I was the defacto chosen one to ride the wire, I think it is safe to say that all of the event attendees had a great time.

In order to ride the wire out to the carriage, I had built a zipline trolley out of 1/4" plate steel. Two plates were held in place with four 1/2" bolts. Two steel idler pulleys were mounted between the plates using 1/2" class 8 bolts serving as a shaft. The idea is that for safety, the trolley gets mounted onto the wire. Therefore, if any single piece failed, the entire trolley should stay mounted on the wire. The device worked more or less as planned. Though, one small design change would have significantly lessened the amount of work required.

Enjoy the photographs (click thumbnails for larger view)..

2012 - Minnesota's 5th Annual Canoe-in Geocaching Event

Minnesota's 5th Annual Canoe-in Geocaching Event was held today, Saturday, August 18th, 2012 and was the most successful event I've held to date. Like last year, the weather was spectacular, the crowd of geocaching friends has grown, and the food was good and plentiful.

Like the previous four events, it was held in Dakota County's Miesville Ravine Park Preserve, located about four miles south of Miesville, MN and six miles northeast of Cannon Falls, MN.  The majority of geocachers paddled the Cannon River from Cannon Falls to Miesville Ravine, a 6.7 mile stretch of the river that is just gorgeous.  Others biked the Cannon Valley Trail from Cannon Falls, MN to Welch, MN.  And some geocachers just stopped in for the picnic.

I would like to thank the following:

  • My geocaching mother Norvina, who sets up and mans the shelter while we're on the water.
  • Doublemoose for stopping in to help Norvina with picnic setup.
  • Nosnow and Shadow's Friend, Commando04, the MNGCA, Dakota County Parks, and the MN DNR, all of whom provided door prizes.
  • And especially thank you to all of whom attended this event. Without you all it just wouldn't be as much fun to be on the river.

Final attendence numbers as of September 7th, 2012:

  • There were 43 RSVPs.
  • 43 have logged the event Attended.
  • 58 signatures were listed on the written log.
  • Physical headcount during the picnic was in excess of 65 attendees if you count infants and canines.
  • 6 dozen ears of sweet corn served along with a pound and a half of butter.
  • In years past, we've filled two park barrels with trash. This year, we hauled out two of our own trash barrels leaving the park with only a minimal amount of cleanup.

Lessons learned from this event:

  • Just when you think it can't get better, it does.
  • Bring more sweet corn next year.
  • I need a bigger wagon to traverse the picnic gear from the parking lot to the shelter.
  • Kayaking solo on the river was much easier than anticipated, but more tiring than canoeing.

Enjoy the photographs (click thumbnails for larger view)..

Additional pictures can be found attached to the event listing.

2012 - Mount Margaret, Snoqualmie, WA

The goal today was to climb Mount Margaret and find Washington's oldest active geocache, aptly named, Geocache (GCD). The hike of Mount Margaret goes down as not only THE, MOST, spectacular and gorgeous hike I've expereinced, but also as the most brutal and physically exhausting. According to the track log of my GPS, each direction of the hike was 2.3 miles in length with an elevation change of over 2000', topping out at approximately 5200' above sea level.

Enjoy the photographs (click thumbnails for larger view)..

2012 - Snoqualmie Tunnel, Snoqualmie, WA

Located under a mountain within the Snoqualmie Pass, the Snoqualmie Tunnel is a 2.3 mile long tunnel along the John Wayne Pioneer Trail. I discovered this gem while perusing maps a few years back and just knew that this had to be a stop on our way out west.

Exploring the abandoned railroad tunnel was quite an adventure that we all thoroughly enjoyed.  At the midpoint within the tunnel, the light at each end is nearly imperceptable to non-existent.  The eary feeling of hearing other pedestrians and bikers make their way through the tunnel brought on chatter about horror movies and other bone chilling thoughts.  We also scored the geocache that is hidden within the tunnel called Bloody Fingers, Dirty Diapers... (GCJMDK).  Finding this geocache will be something most of us will never forget.  Right mom?

Enjoy the photographs (click thumbnails for larger view)..

2012 - Enter If You Dare (GC26MDE)

Enter If You Dare (GC26MDE) by bflentje

Anyone who knows me understands that you just can't pass up hiding a geocache in, on, or near, the coolest of geological features.  The cave located along the Cannon Valley Trail is no exception.  Nearly 4 miles east of Cannon Falls, MN on the bike trail, this cave was not created in the traditional way that most caves are.  The cave was the result of erosion of underlying layers whereby a large slab of limestone "broke free". The downhill end of the slab collapsing, the uphill end of the slab still under support, effective creating a cave that resembles a lean-to.  Regardless of how the cave was created, it has many of the attributes you'd expect in a cave.  For example, local wildlife such as bats, raccoons, and bobcats use it for shelter.  And the atmosphere inside the 30 to 40 foot deep cave is cool and damp.

Geocache Enter If You Dare (GC26MDE) is hidden within this cave.  In order to find the .30 caliber sized ammocan, you have to go to the deepest, darkest, end of the cave using your flashlight.  The cache is hidden within a perfectly sized hole covered with a few boulders.  Even as someone that enjoys a good cave, I am always just a little leary of entering as you never know what critter might be inside to welcome you.

Enjoy the photographs (click thumbnails for larger view)..

2012 - Down Under (GC27AJJ)

Down Under (GC27AJJ) by bflentje

Geocaching power trails are popping up all over the countryside.  The Cannon Valley Trail, which winds from Cannon Falls, MN to Red Wing, MN, is no exception.  In fact, some of the finer hides in the area are along this stretch of the Cannon River, both in the water and on the bike trail.

Geocache Down Under (GC27AJJ) is located in this area and seems to be quite popular with those that can find it. The placement and execution of this cache is what makes it a fun cache to find. Most cachers approach ground zero on the bike trail and wander around in circles flumoxed as to why they're struggling to locate a .50 caliber ammocan.  It is only those intuitive cachers that realize that they're standing above the cache container, a whopping 75 to 100 feet above it.

Enjoy the photographs (click thumbnails for larger view)..

2012 - Pike Lake State Park, Hartford, WI

While on a day trip to Milwaukee, a stop at Wisconsin's Pike Lake State Park was in order as it is home to Wisconsin's oldest active geocache.  Geocache Pike Powder Hike (GC3B1) is located near the fire tower within the state park atop Powder Hill, a glacial moraine, which happens to be Wisconsin's second highest point.

Enjoy the photographs (click thumbnails for larger view)..