Thursday, 18 June 2015

Soaring Over Hope - Birds Eye View of Geocaching Country

This past Sunday Mrs. LANMonkey sprung a surprise on me - it was one of those "bucket list" items for me that it turns out she's been arranging for about a year, and she was able to turn it into a Father's Day gift that I'll never forget.

Sunday morning we got up bright and early, and headed East up the Fraser Valley. As we neared the town of Hope, she routed me off the highway and eventually we ended up at the quaint Hope Regional Airpark. Now my curiosity was really up!

Well, then we walked into the clubhouse for the Vancouver Soaring Association and I knew what was going on - and my excitement continued to grow!

The folks who run the association are friendly and professional - they take the safety of their hobby very seriously, but are so welcoming to anyone who wants to learn more about gliding (or soaring, choose your term!) and go for a birds-eye tour of the area.

After the safety briefing, and some orientation, we helped get the gliders down to the end of the field, and folks started getting pulled up by the tow plane.

After waiting patiently for a chance, it was finally my turn!


Into the cockpit I climbed with my expert pilot who had cinched me up safely with the parachute and then down snugly into the front seat of the cockpit. A few quick photos, and before you know it we were being pulled along the grass airfield and we were aloft!


The tow plane climbed us up to ~2,500 feet at which point we released, and then circled around above Hope before heading East to check out the entrance to the Coquihalla area, and catch some updrafts and gain more altitude. 


The sensation of gently spiraling upwards in such a tiny aircraft is at once exhilarating and just a little unnerving, but the confidence and expertise of the pilot helped me relax and enjoy it.

 

Here are some of the photos I took during the amazing ride, before we glided back in for a landing. If you are interested in trying out gliding/soaring, I strongly recommend you check out the Vancouver Soaring Association's Intro Flight - a reasonable price for an unforgettable experience.


And once we wrapped up at the VSA clubhouse, we checked out some of the Geocaching around Hope. Turns out, the town loves encouraging the hobby - check out the Geocaching section on their website

An amazing day, and I am so thankful to Mrs. LANMonkey and the great people at the VSA for an awesome day!


Thursday, 11 June 2015

#GeocacheRoadTrip Contest

This summer, from July 01, 2015 to July 31, 2015, Geocachers* have an opportunity to win cool prizes by submitting photos of themselves out geocaching and tagging them creatively with #GeocacheRoadTrip.

What do we mean by “tagging them creatively?” We want you to incorporate the #GeocacheRoadTrip hashtag into your photo, in whatever manner you deem best. Perhaps holding up a sign with the hashtag on it? Maybe photoshopping it in afterwards? Be creative, and have fun!

Submit up to three photos per Geocaching username, each including the hashtag #GeocacheRoadTrip by email to: geocachingroadtripcontest@gmail.com and ask everyone you know to vote online by “liking” the photos as we post them up on the CachingNW Facebook page. Be sure to include your Geocaching.com user name, return email address, and any story you wish to share about your photo in the body of the email.

The photo with the most votes by 9:00pm Pacific time August 12, 2015 will be the Best Overall #GeocacheRoadTrip Photo winner and have first choice of prizes from our awesome prize sponsors!

But if you don’t win that category, there’s even more chances to win! Ten other finalists will be chosen by our panel of celebrity judges for selection of three more winners on August 15, 2015 by Geocaching.com Lackeys live at the 2015 Geocaching Block Party.  

Online voting starts from July 1 (or whenever we get the first entry) and closes on Aug 12.


The top prizes will be for:
  • Best Overall #GeocacheRoadTrip Photo - This will be the “audience favourite” and the one with the most Facebook votes. Whatever really got everyone’s attention.
  • Most Creative Use of the Hashtag - how did you incorporate #GeocacheRoadTrip into your photo? Permanent marker on your forehead? Arranging your family into a “pound” sign?
  • Most Aesthetically Pleasing - just the nicest most appealing photo overall; landscape, still life, chickens, whatever turns your crank.
  • Wildest Adventure - however you determine what makes a wild #GeocacheRoadTrip share it with us; toddlers loaded up in the station wagon? T5 geocache success? Scuba gear power trail? Just cache safely, and cache often!


Prize Sponsors:


*Rules:
  • This contest is open to anyone in (meaning legal residents of) the USA or Canada, to a maximum of 3 photo submissions per contestant/geocaching username.
  • Canadian winners will have to answer a (simple) skill testing question so that we don’t get in any trouble.
  • Photos without the #GeocacheRoadTrip hashtag will not be eligible to win.
  • Submissions will be accepted from July 01, 2015 to July 31, 2015
  • Online voting starts from 08:00AM Pacific July 1, 2015 and closes at 9:00PM Pacific August 12, 2015
  • Entries submitted without the Geocaching.com username and preferred return email address in the body of the email will not be possible to include in the contest.
  • The on-line voted Best Overall #GeocacheRoadTrip Photo winner will not be elligible to compete in the August 15, 2015 selection by Geocaching.com Lackeys for the reamining three categories.
  • One prize will be awarded for each winner of the four categories. Prizes will be selected by the winners on a first-come, first served basis.
  • Winners will be announced on the “Caching in the Northwest” podcast & website, “Only Googlebot Reads This Blog”, and related Social Media channels.
  • Physical prizes selected will require the winner to provide their physical mailing address to Caching in the Northwest or our prize sponsor in order to be able to send it to you. Your name/address will not be used for any other marketing purpose.
  • The remaining three categories (Most Creative Use of the Hashtag, Most Aesthetically Pleasing, Wildest Adventure) will be judged by Geocaching.com Lackeys from the ten finalist photos provided to them by the CachingNW celebrity panel of judges, based on their personal opinions, on or during August 15, 2015 at the Geocaching.com 2015 Block Party event.
  • Judges decisions for the ten finalists and top three overall winners are final.
  • All photos submitted will be considered “public domain” (Creative Commons attribution) and must not be copyrighted or otherwise legally unable to be shared freely on the Internet.
  • Any/all photo submissions may be kept online indefinitely. Winners will be posted on the CachingNW.com website for 1 year after the close of the contest.
  • Prize sponsors will be entitled to promote the contest, winners, entrants, and their photos during the contest and for 1 year after the close of the contest.
  • Caching in the Northwest and Dave DeBaermaker reserve the right to reject any submissions deemed offensive or otherwise inappropriate representations of the values of the show and hosts, and the principles of geocaching.

Thursday, 30 April 2015

Challenge Caches Paused - Where to Find Information and Opinions

Paws on Challenge Caches? OK, easy!
April 21st 2015 Geocaching.com announced a moratorium on publishing new challenge caches. This announcement has resulted in a lot of opinions from many quarters, but as with anything in life, it's important to sort out information from opinions to help you understand what is actually going on.

"Geocaching.com is not approving...challenge caches...for 1 year..."

In simplest terms, Geocaching.com is not approving any further challenge geocaches for publishing on their listing site for 1 year, effective April 21. This moratorium will be used to consult with the Geocachers around the world and determine how to make the challenge cache aspect of Geocaching better for everyone who plays the game. It is important to also be aware that "it does not impact previously published challenge cache listings."

This morning I took a listen to episode 400 of the Geocaching Podcast and was interested in the opinions and ideas of the hosts on that show. I found it curious that a few of the things they discussed were actually covered in the interviews I conducted at Geocaching.com's office the day the moratorium was announced! 

For example, there was some discussion about how Geocaching.com can/should consult more with Geocachers on these kinds of topics to ensure that decisions are made with input from the user community. Well tune in to episode 92 of Caching in the Northwest to listen to lackey JaymeH explain how they are engaging YOU, geocachers, in making decisions by way of her role as the User Insights Analyst.

Her methods move far beyond the User Insights forum although that's a great place to start. She shares with you in our interview how she will be engaging directly with geocachers to get their opinions on various topics to bring directly back to the development teams. 

That's right - JaymeH will be at select Mega events throughout the year meeting with groups of geocachers to get your insights

Want to know how to get an invite? Listen to the podcast live tonight (Thursday, April 30th at 9:00pm Pacific) or hear the recording afterwards if you can't join us live. JaymeH explains the whole process in our interview.

"...listen to ... Caching in the Northwest where Eric clarifies the situation and how you can be involved..."

Several other of the Geocaches podcasts, including episode 8 of the "Cache & Release" podcast, have shared the news about the challenge cache moratorium, and while Michael Miller and his peers have all explained it fairly well, if you'd like to hear the thoughts directly from Eric, PR & Social Media Manager at Geocaching.com, listen to episode 91 of Caching in the Northwest where Eric clarifies the situation and how you can be involved.

As always, we're really interested in your thoughts about challenge caches:
  • Do you enjoy doing them? 
  • Do you have any plans this year to complete any? 
  • Will you be providing Geocaching.com your constructive feedback on how to make the Challenge Caching experience better?

And whether you are going after challenges or LPCs, remember to always:

"Cache safely, and cache often!"
The LANMonkeys

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

A Cookie Comes Home...

You may have heard that last week I was down at the Lilypad (Geocaching.com HQ) for a tour and to record some interviews for Caching In the Northwest. What you may not have heard is the neat story of the trackable I brought home.

Many of us have sent out trackables, and help others along their "missions" and for the most part, we really don't know what happens to them. Some arrive at their intended destinations after many detours, and many just "disappear."

This story is about a trackable "cookie" that went on an exciting worldwide adventure, and then through a series of coincidences made it's way back home again - and I'm so excited to have played a small part in making that happen.

Local geocachers may know Dave The Best (the guy who gets everyone's attention at CITOs and Flashmobs?) - well he's the owner of the "COOKIE!" trackable. In his story I've copied below for you to read, I'm the "fellow cacher" he was Tweeting with who brought "COOKIE" home for Dave.

Dave tells this story so well, that I'll quote him instead of retelling it myself:

"On April 28 2014, I dropped this a cache in Cuba. It was then picked up and traveled all around the world to Austria, Slovakia, Cyprus, Poland, France, Germany, Italy, Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil, Portugal, Luxembourg, Japan, and Belgium, before being brought back to North America and dropped in the Groundspeak HQ cache. 
On April 21, 2015, I noticed a fellow cacher post on social media about heading down to the HQ. Less than an hour later, I get a notification that my TB was dropped off there. I tweeted at the cacher asking him to pick it up, and he replies with a picture of my TB! Today we met up at a CITO and I got my trackable back after it's long adventure around the world. 

This is such a fun game, and so many different things can happen. When I released this into the wild, I never set any goals; I just wanted it to travel from cache to cache, and see where it went. I think it's a super cool story that it traveled the world and then came back to me. 

Thank you for discovering my TB, and don't forget to be awesome!"

I thought you might enjoy hearing a happy tale of a TB coming home after a world-wide adventure. If you have interesting TB stories to share feel free to post them to our Facebook Page!

And remember:
Cache safely, and cache often!
The LANMonkeys

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Caching Amongst Nesting Herons

Have you ever considered whether herons nest on the ground or in trees?
 
This past weekend our geocaching adventures took us to the "Great Blue Heron Nature Reserve" in Chilliwack, BC. As it turns out, they nest in trees!

This location is quite easy to access, ample parking, and a nice selection of geocaches for the family on very well maintained walking trails. 

You can use the multi-cache "The Tower" as your reference point on the Geocaching website to navigate your way there, but it's just a few minutes off of the Trans-Canada highway.

It's important to know a few things before you go:

  • The trails are open dawn to dusk all year
  • The interpretive centre is open 10am to 4pm daily with free admission
  • Some trails do NOT allow dogs :-(

Only a few of the 130+ nests here
In addition, it's helpful to know that "parts of the Heron Colony Loop Trail and Discovery Trail are closed in the spring to allow lots of room for the herons to forage and nest undisturbed." This doesn't seem to impact the trails along which the geocaches are placed, so that's great news for geocachers.

All of that said, the experience this time of year while the herons are nesting is absolutely amazing. To see these giant water-striding birds glide gracefully into their tree-top nests at the peaks of huge cottonwood trees is stunning. 

Heron in it's tree-top nest
Our visit took us on one of two possible looping trails to pick up geocaches, but by taking the "westward" loop from the interpretive centre we were able to observe the 130+ heron nests from a distance that was safe for the herons and that our geo-hound Piggy was allowed on.

Spending some time afterward in the centre chatting with one of the staff we learned that this reserve is the largest heronry (group of heron nests) in the Pacific Northwest and that the number of returning herons (on average) has been quite steady the last several years.

Visiting the Great Blue Heron Nature Reserve is not only great way to not only spend the day out geocaching, but also to learn more about these amazing indigenous birds in their natural habitat.


Resident eagles guarding their food source
Geese with a gosling nearby





Friday, 24 April 2015

Mrs. LANMonkey on GeoGearHeads

Last night BOTH LANMonkeys were guests on the GeoGearHeads podcast with DarrylW4 and TheBadCop, to talk about caching by kayak. It was fantastic to have Mrs. LANMonkey come onto a podcast with me, and we had way too much fun.

Darryl & Chris make it easy and enjoyable to visit them on their podcast and the live viewers in the Google HangOut Q&A were awesome! We couldn't believe how many great questions and ideas they brought up to make your kayak geocaching experience better.

If you have the time to watch the live video feed you can check it our here


or better yet, subscribe to the GeoGearHeads podcast by going their website and hear every episode of this fun and informative podcast on tech, geo-location gaming, and enjoying the outdoors.

Thanks Darryl and Chris for letting us spend the evening with you, it was a blast!

Thursday, 23 April 2015

LANMonkey Visits the Lilypad

This Tuesday I had the exceptional opportunity to drive south to the Freemont neighborhood (also known to the locals as the "Centre of the Universe") and visit the good folks at Geocaching.com headquarters - or "the Lilypad" as it's called.

I arrived early and had some time to grab a quick lunch and stroll the neighbourhood - what a quirky place! We've been to two Block Parties and have had a "rushed group" tour of the area doing the GeoTour and lab caches before, but it's fun to check it out at a more relaxed pace. 

I was greeted immediately by smiles and a fun attitude from the moment I walked through the door until I left to make my way home. It's really clear that the people who work here love working here, and are really passionate about what they do. What a great office environment and team.

My guide was Eric Schudiske, the PR and Social Media Manager for Geocaching.com. Eric was kind enough to tour me around the office, make several introductions, and also set up an interview for me with Jayme - the User Insights Analyst from Geocaching.com. She has a fascinating role, and if you'd like to hear more about that, make sure you catch episode 92 of Caching in the Northwest when we'll play that interview on our podcast.

On the tour I got to see a number of the cool spaces set of for people to work, chill, recharge, and work some more on making the website and apps everything they can be. I also met the social media team and had a quick chat there. I found out where the Signalbrau flows from; the inspiration of my favourite Geocaching mascot variant! (mental note... need to order myself the Signalbrau shirt sometime...)

In checking out the development areas, I also met up with Moun10Bike, and he showed me the very first geocoin!



Eric & I spoke about a number of things including the reasoning behind two major recent cache guideline changes (minimum time for events and 1 year moratorium on challenge caches), the 15 Years of Geocaching celebrations, souvenirs, and a hint of what's to come in May, as well as a couple of topics near and dear to the hearts of Canadian geocachers as well as those planning to attend the MVG Summertime Winter Games event.

Before we were done I also spent a bit of time chatting with Bryan Roth, one of the founders of Geocaching.com. I've met Bryan in passing before but never had the chance for a bit of a chat. It was great to meet him and I must say I have an enormous amount of respect for the organizational culture he has built here.

If you want to check out the Lilypad yourself, follow this link to arrange a visit - they love having people come and see them and treat you like family when you're there. I thoroughly enjoyed my visit and look forward to a future opportunity to come down and see the team there again.

Thanks Eric, Jayme, Bryan, Jon, and everyone else I'm forgetting to mention (so sorry!) for an amazing and fun visit. I'll be back!



Some more photos from my visit are below...
One of the cleanest server rooms I've seen in a long time.


"The Creek" one of the areas for lackeys to meet, chill, and plan.

Mobile development team - with a sense of humour!