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Intro to Geocaching – Loading the GPS

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If you use a smart phone for your geocaching, then most of what follows doesn’t apply.  With Internet connectivity and a geocaching app, you’re all set.

However, if you start to use a handheld GPS device for geocaching, you will need to interface your device with the Internet, specifically geocaching dot com.  You’ll need to  find, sort, organize and download geocaches from geocaching dot com to your GPS device.  That’s the subject of today’s post. It’s a bit geeky but that’s part of the game.

Geocache files have a file extension of GPX and are usually referred to as “GPX files”.  They are text files which contain all the information about a geocache.  They are quite small – only a couple of kilobytes each.  If you are dealing with a few single geocaches, you can work with them individually. The process is quite simple.

Text from a GPX file

This is what lies behind the icons – text from a GPX file. This is a small part. They can get quite lengthy. The good news is you’ll never have to deal with them in this format.

Login to geocaching dot com, go to the search function in the menu and select search by maps.  It will bring up Google maps.

Type in the name of a town or landmark where you want to geocache.  The map will go there and geocache symbols will appear.  Left click on a symbol to read about the cache.  You can pan in or out and move the map around.  The geocache symbols will change with it.  When you find one you like, you have two options.

A search page

Here’s part of a search results page with the features discussed in the post.

1.  Click the button “Send to My GPS” to send the file directly to your GPS, which will be connected to the computer via a USB cable.

or

2.  Click the button “GPX file” to send the file to your computer.

Geocaching dot com screen shot

Here is part of a geocache sheet showing the buttons discussed in the text. Other features can be seen also. You should become familiar with all of them.

I always use option 2 because it creates a storehouse of caches that I can refer to later and makes it much simpler to load caches on to more than one GPS device.

If you use option 1, disconnect the GPS when you’re finished and you’re ready to go.  If you have downloaded the caches to a computer, you can load them en masse on to the device.

For option 2, connect the GPS device to the computer via its USB cable after you’ve downloaded all the caches.  It will show up in My Computer as a removable hard drive.  Double click on it and find the folder the geocaches go to (depending on the device).  Select your caches, copy them and paste them into the geocache folder on the device. Disconnect the device and you’re ready to go.  Then get the next device, if any, and do the same thing.

Garmin icon

This is what you’ll see when the GPS hooks up to the computer – a device specific icon. All the new major models will do this automatically. Then you right and left click on it to use it just like any other drive.

Important:  Be sure you disconnect the device the correct way.  Just yanking out a USB cord can cause data corruption and more.  To safely disconnect, right click on the device icon in My Computer and select “Eject” from the pop-up menu.  When the device icon disappears, you’re safe.

This process works fine if you are geocaching in a local area and/or you’re just lining up a few for an outing.  I use it all the time.  It’s as close to geocaching on the fly as you can get without a smart phone. Be aware that it does have a download limitation.  If you have a free account, you’re limited to three cache downloads per day. Premium membership is unlimited.

However, if you travel and want to plan distant geocaches in advance and maybe in large numbers, you’ll want to learn how to do a pocket query.  We’ll do those in our next post.

Good hunting … Boris and Natasha

Geocaching Destinations – The Hotel del Coronado

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Opened in 1888 on the shores of San Diego Bay in Coronado, the Hotel Del is one of the most recognizable buildings in the world and America’s grandest Victorian seaside resort. It was built by Elisha Babcock and Hampton Story after they purchased all of Coronado for $110,000 in 1885.

Built on 33 acres, it was the largest hotel in the world upon completion.  It was also the largest building in the world outside of New York City to have electric lighting.  Thomas Edison supervised the installation of the electrical system.

The front of the Hotel Del

Bravo Lima in front of the Del a couple of years ago. There was a geocache right behind him. It’s gone now, but there’s plenty more where that came from.

You have to see The Del to really appreciate it.  Pictures don’t reveal the true scope, size, setting or architecture of this national treasure. When you go through the doors, whether it’s to stay or just have lunch, it’s like walking back in time.

Movies have been filmed here. It has been featured in books and been home to writers.  L. Frank Baum did much of his writing here and used The Del as a model for his Emerald City in The Wizard of Oz.  He also designed the chandeliers that still light the main dining room – the Crown Room.

The list of stars and VIP’s who have visited here reads like a Who’s Who of the last century. One of The Del’s favorite stories is about the visit of the Prince of Wales in 1920, who later became King Edward VIII.  He abdicated his throne to marry American divorcee Wallis Simpson, who lived in Coronado.  They met at the Del.

There’s also a resident ghost – Kate Morgan –  who died here under mysterious circumstances in 1892 and frequents the old section of the hotel.

And of course, there are geocaches.  Lots of them, strung out along the Silver Strand from downtown Coronado to Imperial Beach. The sun, the surf, the geohunt – life is good at The Del.

The interior courtyard of the Del.

The interior courtyard of the Hotel Del. No geocaches here. Sorry.

Much has changed in Coronado since The Del opened. The city has grown up around it. A cracker box fixer-upper in town runs about $1,000,000. The US Navy has a substantial presence here with the Naval Amphibious Base and North Island Naval Air Station. The Naval Special Warfare Center where the Navy SEALs are trained is practically next door. In fact, some of their rough water boat training takes place on the rocks of the jetty right in front of The Del.  The SEALs routinely run along the beach, much to my daughter’s delight the last time we were there.

If you come to southern California, don’t miss The Del.

Hooyah … The Cachemanian Devils

Hawaiian FTF (First to Find)

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Wai'ali'ali Gorge in Kauai, HI

Wai'Ale'Ale Gorge on the north coast of Kauai. If we had not gone for the FTF, we would have missed this view. Not a whole lot of people come here or know about the place. That's the lure of geocaching. It takes us places we would have never seen otherwise. The altitude at this vantage point is 5,148 feet. Sea level down at the breakers, of course, is zero. You can do the math in your head. This gorge is almost as deep as the Grand Canyon.

The Holy Grail of geocaching is getting an FTF (First to Find) on a newly hidden cache. Some people are really hung up on them. Others just kind of take them if and when they happen along. That’s the way we are. So imagine our surprise when we picked up our rental car on Kauai, called up caches on our Droids and there is a two day old FTF sitting up near Waimea Canyon. The cache is named “End of the Road.”  As it turns out,  they weren’t lying. Where we live,  an FTF is gone in minutes. We figured we’ll check it out. Maybe there’s something to this “island time” business and nobody’s bagged it yet. Off we went. The GPS took us right to the cache and its empty log book. A couple of geocachers from Minnesota just passing through grabbed a Hawaiian FTF.

Mahalo…The Cachemanian Devils

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