Sunday, 30 May 2010

How to spent a weekend around CacheDorado 's-Hertogenbosch

The city of 's-Hertogenbosch in the Netherlands is an area with a high cache density. Mainly responsible for this high density in caches is Geopatra, who has named this area 'CacheDorado'. According to him, there is a cache for everybody. But which cache is for you? I have put some recommendable caches in four groups for you; 'Point hunters', 'City walks', 'War theme' and 'Nature up north'.

Point hunters
For point hunters there is a lot to do in the cachedorado. There are a few bike routes combing multiple low distance caches: Fietsroute 2 from 's-Hertogenbosch to Drunen, Fietsroute 5 from Hedel to Nederhemert and Fietsroute 6 Elshout to Drongelen. Expect a lot, but not very spectacular, caches nearby interesting and less interesting spots.

City Walks
's-Hertogenbosch has a very nice city center and multiple cachers have taken the oppertunity to guide you through the city. Very special about 's-Hertogenbosch is that city center and nature are very close. You can best experience this in Hopman Henks version, but if you are more interested in the city walk and less in nature I more recommend Le Comtes version in combination with Jurassic Park. Off course Geopatra also has a city tour but the puzzle took me too much time so I have not found this one yet. Another recommendation is Moerasdraak, which starts close to the city center at very busy junction but after an exciting walk you end in nature with a nice view on the city.

Nature up north
North of the city center, there are some caches in special areas. Diezemonding for example, an area without any paths, 2 meter high thorny plants and cows. Another recommendation is Bovenwaard with animal skeletons all over the place and a cache with a nice plot but mainly very nice handcrafted waypoints. Unfortunately this caches is offline for some time.

War theme
South of 's-Hertogenbosch there are some very interesting war themed caches. Vughtse Heide takes you to the place where prisoners of camp Vught were shot in world war II. At Tower of Evil you can visit the museum related to the camp. Probably the best cache in CacheDorado is 'Het geheim van Elzenburg'. A war themed cache about trust and betrayal with a very, very good plot. Not war themed, but close to the war themed caches is IJzeren Man, a challenging cache which deserves its place in this post.

So, CacheDorado has something for everybody, a lot of good caches. But what it does not have is a cache that everybody likes. A cache that you have to do, which makes you come to this area. Or, is it this one, just outside the CacheDorado?

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

To rank or not to rank

A fierce discussion about the FTF (first to finish) ranking was going on at the forum last week. Main topic in the discussion was the question whether the suggested change makes sense or not.

In the geocaching world, there are various geocaching FTF rankings. The Dutch FTF ranking was initiated on, but when this website changed its vision, to focus more on quality of the geocaching experience rather then quantity of caches found, the FTF ranking was removed again from the site because it did not fit in the new vision. The website took over the initiative and the FTF ranking became one of the first important tools on this website.

To me, scoring an FTF log is always a pretty special feeling. You are the first to experience the cache. The first geocacher to follow the path of the cache designer. There are no search symptoms from other geocachers, no footsteps in the snow to follow. In an FTF hunt, you might experience some extra problems as the cache designer has made some mistakes in the hints, text or waypoints. If you have put your footsteps in the snow and taken all the extra hurdles, a log on a blank log book is an extra good feeling, your name is the first all other cachers will see when they open the logbook.

I have 2 FTF's on my name. The first one was to make the first kilometres of a friends TB, which they placed in a new cache of their own. The second was in Romania, when somebody put a cache right in front of my hotel when I was on business trip. A lucky coincidence, I even found it without gpsr. So, I have done it twice but FTF hunting is not my cup of tea. I liked the extra tension it brings but I did not like the rush. All I could think of is ‘keep going, keep going, FTF, FTF’. I totally had no attention for anything else but finding the cache, I could not really enjoy the surroundings or waypoints and puzzles.

Some people put everything aside to get this extra good feeling. When a cache is published, they jump in the car and rush to the cache. It is a sport within geocaching. And like in every sport, efforts must be ranked, to see who the champion is. The current FTF list is sorted on gold, silver, bronze. The one with most FTF’s is on top. So if you finish second all the time, you will never be above someone who has made a FTF just once. The request, which started the discussion on the globalcaching forum, was to create an alternative ranking based on points, 5 for gold, 3 for silver and 1 for bronze. This means, if you do a lot of FTF hunting, you can be FTF king even if you fail frequently to score an FTF. I understand you would like to see the results of your efforts somehow but this new sorting based on points measures attempts, not success rate.

If you fail to score an FTF, you score an STF or a TTF. But an interesting question is, how different is an STF and TTF compared to a 4th log, 10th log or 768th log? You have followed the steps in the snow of the cacher in front of you, you have maybe encountered the same mistakes in hints, waypoints or text but someone else has overcome all these problems before you and you are on the second page of the log book, which nobody reads…. There is just nothing special. So, this new ranking only identifies who has a lot spare time and is crazy enough to jump in the car at the weirdest moments of the day to try to score an FTF. Yes, there is a little jealousy on the amount of spare time, but to be honest I would not even want to be on that list.

What I do, to get the sensation of a first find, is look for a cache that is not recently found and do that cache. In the time the cache has not been found, are the waypoints still ok? Nature has used time to cover all the tracks of the people before you and there is no rush to finish before the people behind you so you can take time to enjoy the cache to the max.

Based on the logic that a cache is more difficult when it is not found a lot in the time it has been online, on also a ranking (TPS) is made. This ranking calculates points for a cache based on the number of times it has been found and the time it is online. This results in a value for each cache. The average value of the founds of cacher and the average value of a cache itself, results in a very interesting rating system, to my opinion. I have asked to copy a simplified version of this ranking system to their site. They are willing to do this and added it to their to-do list. Hopefully it will only soon!

In meantime, if you want to experience the first finder feeling, you can always do this cache, also still on my to-do list…

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Geocaching, the public secret

On may 18th, the first Lost and Found video was released featuring the 3 founders of the website. In this short video they talk about the founding of the website but also about the future of geocaching. I asked the same question to Brian Roth, one of the founders, in a chat organised by a couple of months ago. The answer was very simple, but not what I expected...

Especially for the geocaching dinosaurs (as early adaptors of the geocaching game are sometimes called), one of the exciting parts of geocaching is to be a member of this secret community searching for hidden tupperware treasures. They want to keep the geocaching community small. In their opinion a lot of new geocachers are trend followers, running for the simple caches out there to be a kilo cacher in no-time and after a few months move on to their next exciting new hobby. I must say, they have a point here. More geocachers equals more noise around the secret hobby causing more attention for cache rippers.

Groundspeak however, is going exactly the other way. For the question of the future of geocaching I was expecting an answer in the area of new features for the current geocaching community, such as Wherigo. Groundspeak however, is not focussing on the current geocaching community, but on increasing the geocaching community by reaching other people outside the current geocaching community. They simply just want more people geocaching. Off course they want to put a smile on peoples faces with their work, like they mention in the video, but also from their commercial point of view it makes sense. More geocachers means more traffic on the website, equals more income from banners and advertising.

So, if you already have problems with the large number of geocachers out there running through the forest hunting for a cache, I wish you luck for the next years. If you are waiting for exciting new developments in geocaching, you might have to wait some more time as they are not coming from groundspeak but, like wherigo, from the GPSr manufacturers. In meantime, I just look for the creativity that a few new geocachers will add to the community and try to keep away from all the rubbish that all the other new geocachers put out there...

Saturday, 15 May 2010

Oh no! Not another micro!

Two weeks ago, I found the cache Pömp'n'Pöt, a beautifull 42 km tour through the hills of the South of Limburg, the Netherlands. It is most recommended by placer Orange Lion and also by myself to do this cache by bike. Because of the bad weather I did it by car, but if you do it by bike it is a though 42 kilometer with at least 3 significant climbs. The cache is located in a nice spot, but your reward after 42 kilometers hard work, is just another micro....

In my opinion, a micro after such a great tour is a real disappointment. There is no place to write down your experiences on the logroll, no travelbugs or coins to take as a reward for the work and a missed oppertunity by the cache placer to end the cache in the same high quality level as the rest of the cache. Finding a micro after such a tour simply is a big disappointment to me.

Is placing a larger cache such a difficulty? Last week I have found some caches of A&F, for example Lichtpunt and Big Brother which clearly show that it is quite easy to hide a small or medium cache in full sight. But because the cache fits in its surroundings so good, it will not be ripped. Want to see how it works? Just go out there and check out these caches! Then, observe the surroundings of your cache, be creative and put a smile on my face when I write my log.