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Random thoughts, rants, raves and photo opportunities

2008 - MN State Park Geocaching History Challenge Completed

This year the state of Minnesota is celebrating its susquicentennial, 150 years of statehood.  Beginning on May 11th, 2008, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is sponsoring the Minnesota State Park Geocaching History Challenge.  Using geocaching as a way to attract attention and visitors to the state park system, the DNR has hidden at least one geocache in each of the 72 state parks.  In addition, the state has been broken up into four regions, Metro, Southern, Northwestern, and Northeastern.  If you locate all of the geocaches in a particular region, you win a medallion for that region.  If you find the geocaches in all 72 of the state parks and complete each of the four regions, you win golden medallion to celebrate your accomplishment (pictured at left).  While geocaching is expected to be a new mainstay in the state parks, the geocaching challenge officially ends on December 31st, 2008.  Allegedly, it was originally predicted that only 25 individuals would accomplish visiting all 72 state parks from May 15th, 2008 to December 31st, 2008.  As of September 13th, there has been 21 of the golden medallions handed out.

Click here to see the history cards placed in each geocache

Together with fellow geocacher Norvina, sometimes KBayNPapaBear and various groupings of my children, I have been participating in this challenge.  Our original goal was to just complete the metro region and then possibly visit a few of the state parks in the southern region.  With the adventure to Garden Island organized by Paklid, one thing led to another, and we found ourselves on the path to completing the entire state.  Our obsession started on 05-17-2008 with our first find at Fort Snelling.  By 09-13-2008, we had travelled to every corner of Minnesota and visited each of the 72 state parks.  Tetteguche was the last unique state park that we visited.  But the challenge officially ended for us at Mille Lacs Kathio, after a three mile hike, in the dark while raining, which included crossing two different fens, up to our waists in muck.

While the five medallions we each earned are very beautiful and nicely designed, it will never be possible to justify this challenge in terms of cost, impact to relationships, and heaven forbid, impact to the environment.  I thought it'd be fun to compile as much information as I could from our follies.

Total trips:  13
Autorouting miles:  5200
Actual miles travelled:  5750
Fuel consumed:  316.83 gallons
Fuel economy:  26MPG when driving 2007 Chev Malibu
                       16MPG when driving 2002 Chev Tahoe
Average price of fuel:  $3.77 per gallon
Total price of fuel:  $1,176.05
Total state park caches found:  77
Total caches found:  153

Speeding ticket in Roseau County:  $140.00
Overnight at Warroad Super8:  $89.99
Overnight at Beudette Americinn:  $99.99
Food and beverages (estimated):  $160.00
Charter service from Young's Marina to Garden Island:  $25.00

Cost per state park cache:  $21.96
Cost per cache:  $11.05

Click here to see the finalists of the 2008 Geocaching History Challenge

2008 - Flentje Geocachers Unite

Click the thumbnail for a larger viewFor the first time ever, the three Flentje siblings that geocache were able to hit the trail together.  Geocachers bflentje, ckflentje and 3zimmers were able to gather for a caching tour of Eagan and Burnsville.  And to top it off, the mother of these three, norvina, also geocaches and accompanied us on the tour along with children Leo, Devon and Dominic.

We were able to hit the following geocaches before ckflentje and family had to peel away for another obligation:  Halloween 2007: Give me a hand, Le Bassin Aux Nympheas, Caching Challenge: Trapp Farm Park, Caching Challenge: Clear Water Park, Halloween 2007: Rest in piece, and MNGCA July 2008 Cache of the Month winner Shrinky Dinks.

Click the thumbnail for a larger viewNorvina, 3zimmers and I then proceeded to grab the following geocaches:  Miesville Ravine #1, Miesville Ravine #2, End of the Line, Yo, Anyone Home, Caching Challenge:  Biscayne Park, followed by the missing Caching Challenge: Birch Park.

As you've probably noticed, every geocache on the tour is owned by yours truly.  I admit, there may be some excessive pride in being able to take people to my geocaches.  But my sister, 3zimmers, did request that she be taken to some geocaches that were memorable.

2008 - The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcache (GC1ERC1)

The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcache (GC1ERC1) by bflentje

This geocache was inspired by a cache I found last summer while at the Outerbanks of North Carolina.  This cache happens to be one of my favorites but does not get much attention simply because it is a multicache.  I attempted to make this cache as child friendly as possible and had to make a few modifications along the way to lower the difficulty and the distance traveled.  The goal is to locate the eight gem stones which are all located within a circle in the woods within a 60' radius.  Once the gem stones are found, you use the color codes in the cache listing to determine where the final coordinates are located.  For those that are color blind or haven't read the cache listing, the stones are also marked.  Using these marks, one can arrange them to find the correct coordinates.  The final cache container is approximately 400' from the posted coordinates.

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

2009 - Caching Challenge: Trapp Farm Park (GC1CMWK)

Caching Challenge:  Trapp Farm Park (GC1CMWK) by bflentje 

This challenge cache is one of my favorites.  While this hide style has been used by many other cachers, I think I've done a pretty job of making it blend into its surrounding environment compared to most I've seen out in the wild.  This cache container was originally built to be placed on the Hastings Lock and Dam.  It turns out that all Army Corps of Engineering property is off limits to geocaching.  No bother.  This location was better suited for this cache container.

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

 

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Geocache - Caching Challenge: Trapp Farm Park (GC1CMWK)
Approaching ground zero. The muggle factor can be high in this area
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Geocache - Caching Challenge: Trapp Farm Park (GC1CMWK)
Can you see the cache in its hidey spot?
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Geocache - Caching Challenge: Trapp Farm Park (GC1CMWK)
Can you see it now?
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Geocache - Caching Challenge: Trapp Farm Park (GC1CMWK)
An up close view of the geocache container
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Geocache - Caching Challenge: Trapp Farm Park (GC1CMWK)
The cache container opened to reveal its log

2008 - Shrinky Dinks (GC1CKTX)

Shrinky Dinks (GC1CKTX) by bflentje 

I got the idea for this cache one afternoon at Menards while shopping for plumbing materials required for a project.  Casually walking past the commercial grade PVC, I noticed a 2" ball valve sitting on the shelf.  I stopped and picked it up, wondering to myself, would this work as a key component to an underwater geocache?  It was a bit on the expensive side, roughly $15, but the fun of watching a successful underwater cache would be worth it.

I eyeballed the valve closer and determined a matchstick container or ziplock bag would fit through the opening just fine.  I dropped the ball valve into the cart. I then had to make a run through Menards to pick up other parts such as 2" PVC pipe, PVC glue, a landscape block, an eye bolt, and some cable.  My idea also required a carabiner but I had "borrowed" one from another cache earlier in the spring.

Setting up the geocache would be tricky.  I had to find a location on a clean lake, where both the cache and the cache seeker would be safe from obstacles such as boat traffic, swimmers, and rocky terrain.  I had Burnsville's Crystal Lake in mind simply because it was the largest body of water that was close to my home that had public accessible spaces.  It turned out that the only location on the lake that met the criteria, and was far enough away from other geocaches, was perfect for the hide.  When I listed the cache, I did not want to give the cache seeker any indication that the cache was in the water, it had to be a surprise.  To fulfill that element of the cache, I had to list the cache as a multicache, a geocache with more than one stage.  Unlike most of my other cache ideas, the execution of this cache followed the plan exactly as I had wanted it to.  With fellow geocacher Norvina and a carload of kids in tow, the cache was placed on a cool, late, May afternoon day.

It's exciting to say that the cache was a success.  Besides the numerous very nice Found It logs cachers have written, it won the Minnesota Geocaching Association Cache of the Month for July of 2008 with a double nomination.  It was also the target cache for the June 4th, 2008 WeekNight Caching event which netted a pretty good turnout.

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

 

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Geocache - Shrinky Dinks (GC1CKTX)
The completed cache container
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Geocache - Shrinky Dinks (GC1CKTX)
Getting ready to place the container in Crystal Lake
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Geocache - Shrinky Dinks (GC1CKTX)
The best place to hide the cache seems to be right here
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Geocache - Shrinky Dinks (GC1CKTX)
If the light angle is high enough, you can see it from shore
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Geocache - Shrinky Dinks (GC1CKTX)
It's right there, see it now?

2008 - Night Vision (GC1AMMH)

Night Vision (GC1AMMH) by bflentje

Night Vision is a puzzle cache I created located in Rosemount, MN.  The idea for this puzzle just came to me while daydreaming one day a couple of years ago.  I wasn't sure how to implement it so I filed it into back of my mind for another day.  After discovering another board game hidden in the closet that used the same concept, Outburst by Hasbro, I finally got the motivation to determine a way to put the idea into play.

The original idea was to have the puzzler print out the image and find a red filter decoder to view the hidden clue.  After spending hours in Corel Paintshop Pro creating the clue, I figured out that puzzlers never needed to leave their PCs to solve the puzzle so long as they had some kind of graphics software that was more advanced than Paintbrush.  Requiring an actual red filter decoder from one of these games would have been impossible to enforce so it was fine by me that my work could be reverse engineered.

Here's how YOU can solve the puzzle.  Shown using Corel's Paintshop Pro XIII (click thumbnails for larger view)..

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Geocache - Night Vision (GC1AMMH)
The clue on the geocache listing
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Geocache - Night Vision (GC1AMMH)
The final location is revealed
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Geocache - Night Vision (GC1AMMH)
Using paint software, do an RGB adjustment removing the green and blue

2008 - Yo, Anyone Home? (GC19426)

Yo, Anyone Home? (GC19426) by bflentje 

I have a fondness for the Cannon Falls and the Cannon River Valley area.  On the return home from one of my many trips to the area, I decided to take a shortcut up Michael Road to Miesville.  Everytime I'd been through here in the past, it was in the dead of summer where foliage from the trees was thick, hanging over the road, hiding everything from the casual passerby.  On this trip though, it happened to be in the winter, as the forest was bare, exposing many things that are usually hidden.  I had no idea what geological features were lurking for me to discover only to find that a very cool spot resides a mere 10' from the roadside.

When I happened upon this spot, I could hear voices inside my head that kept whispering "plant cache, plant cache, plant cache". So, out of obligation to whatever geocaching spirits have possessed my brain, I stopped the vehicle and immediately found the best hiding spot I could muster.  The difficulty rating is 3.5 stars and the terrain is 3 stars.  Most cache seekers inadvertently understand the ratings to mean that they have to climb the bluff and locate a small cache stuffed in a hole.  When in fact, the ratings are a fair assessment of the fact that they have to crawl into the small cave and discover a very cleverly hidden Regular Sized container.

It is safe to say that of all of the caches I've hidden, this cache is in my top 5 favorites.

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

2008 - Alvin's Phone Line (GC9FF)

On January 8th, 2008, I had the privilege to visit Alvin's Phone Line (GC9FF), Minnesota's first and oldest, active geocache.  Daring the brutally cold -2°F morning in northern Minnesota was challenging. But the adventure was much more appealing than braving this swampy, mosquito infested area, during the summer months.  Snowshoes made the trek through the deep snow a pleasant experience.

While the geocache itself is not all that extraordinary, the story behind the geocache, getting to the cache, and the historical aspect of this cache, make it a must visit.

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

2007 - Caching Challenge: Clear Water Park (GCZDA7)

Caching Challenge:  Clear Water Park (GCZDA7) by bflentje 

I believe in the principle that hiding a geocache on or near, or masquerading as, electrical equipment is generally speaking, a pretty bad idea.  But here's a geocache where I've built the electrical hazard message right into the cache container.  This geocache is part of my Caching Challenge series and has had pretty good feedback.

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

Again, I want to emphasize that there can be danger on and near electrical equipment.  With the exception of this one hide, I do not support the placement of geocaches anywhere on or around electrical equipment.