Posts Tagged ‘guest author’

Find Your Geocache: GPS Primer

Guest Author: Intro to GPS

This is a guest article about how a GPS works. It was written by RJ Stapell, of High Trail Expeditions, who I met at the Overland Expo 2012.

The GPS System

In General

The GPS navigation system currently maintained by the U.S. Department of Defense consists of:

  • 24 satellites (together with spares)
  • The satellites maintain six orbital planes approximately 12 miles above the earth
  • Each satellite orbits the earth twice every 24 hours
  • The system is designed so that at least 4 satellite are visible at any time of the day – anywhere in the world

The GPS system is based on line of site transmission from the satellite to the GPS receiver. A GPS handheld or vehicle-mounted receiver requires a strong signal from a minimum of 4 satellites in order to accurately report the receiver’s position, speed and direction of travel. The GPS signal from the satellite can be adversely affected by:

  • Canyon walls, tall buildings or other large objects or structures
  • Dense foliage or tree canopies
  • Antenna blockage by metal from cars or trucks
  • Low batteries

The exact position of each satellite is known at all times, which is continuously transmitted. Knowing the exact position of each satellite and the actual distance from the GPS receiver, the current position of the GPS receiver can be determined. The distance from the satellite to the GPS receiver is “measured” by determining the time it takes for the GPS signal to reach the GPS receiver from the satellite.

GPS Unit Operation

Most typical handheld GPS units operate in a similar manner. Each manufacturer has its own design regarding menus and button-functions. Reading and understanding the specific manual for your particular unit is very important to get the most from your handheld receiver.

Initial Setup:

The first step is the initial setup of your unit, which covers display options, units of measurement, map datum and time format. The following categories are critical in order to effectively use the GPS receiver in conjunction with a map and/or compass:

  • Coordinate Display Format: latitude-longitude/UTM/MGRS (for military users)
  • Map Datum: the GPS receiver must be set to map’s datum
    • NAD27/NAD27 CONUS for most USGS Topographical Maps
    • WGS84 for newer and non-governmental map sources
  • Headings: true north or magnetic north
  • Time Format: 12 hour or 24 hour format/local time, specific time zone or GMT (ZULU) time (especially important in aviation applications)
  • Units of Measure: feet or meters/miles or kilometers/mph or kph


Each GPS receiver will have a number of different types of displays to give your current position information. Most units will also allow you to customize the type of data displayed with the terrain map, 3-D map or digital compass. This allows the user to choose the type of information that will be most helpful based on the mode of travel and type of terrain.

An important display (that is often overlooked) is the Satellite Display Map. As noted above, it is critical for your GPS unit to receive a strong signal from 4 satellites in order to accurately report your position.

The Satellite Display map presents a map of the satellites that are “visible” to your GPS unit from your current position. In addition, most Satellite Display Maps also show the signal strength from these “visible” satellites and the location accuracy of the position fix. The accuracy of your position fix is also known as your “Estimated Position Error”. Most GPS units will give you this information on one of its displays. The EPE should be checked on a regular basis.

By using and understanding the information from the Satellite Display Map, you will be able to determine the accuracy of your unit in a given location and whether the unit can be used for navigation.

Practical Considerations

Your GPS receiver is an electronic “gizmo”. No matter how hard it tries to stay on, it will eventually run out of juice and unless you are prepared, you will become “lost”.

Consequently, the following is highly recommended:

  • Become skilled in using the “forgotten” map and compass as a primary navigation tool with your GPS as a secondary navigation device
  • Bring lots of spare batteries
  • Mark your GPS unit with bright tape (most units are black and are easily missed or left behind
  • GPS units do not do well when they are cold, wet, run over, dropped and, of course, forgotten
  • Before you really need your GPS unit to get you back home, read your manual, set your unit up so that it will give you the information you need, and PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE!

Suggested Route/Trip Planning Checklist:

Prior to Departure

Mark your trailhead and end of trail locations together with interim waypoints on the map. Mark landmarks and other easily identified features on the map even if not located on your trail or route.

Pull the waypoints from the map (latitude-longitude or UTM) and load the data into the GPS receiver.

CRITICAL—verify that your GPS receiver is loaded with same map datum as the map you are using and that your compass (by declination) and GP unit (at initial setup) are working on TRUE NORTH .

In The Field.

At trailhead obtain a position fix and verify coordinates to the stored trailhead waypoint.

Orient your map to the existing surroundings and compass.

CRITICAL—verify that your GPS receiver is operating in 3D Mode and NOT in 2D Mode.

Proceed on trail with either compass/map or with GPS using the “GOTO” feature to navigate to the next waypoint.

Do not use GPS receiver continuously, but only for occasional position fixes and to cross check on your map and compass work.

Use “Back Track” function on your GPS to return to your start for an “out and back” trip.

General Rule is to be aware of one’s approximate location relative to key reference points at all times.

Use a notebook to make notes starting from the trailhead, especially at trail junctions, landmarks and changes in direction.

Find Your Geocache: Geocaching Apps

Guest Author: The Top Geocaching Apps of 2012

Geocaching is a great way to discover hidden gems right in the wall of your city. It’s also a great excuse to get outside and explore the terrain. A Geocaching challenge is similar to a real-world treasure hunt, where teams or individuals use GPS tracking to locate “caches” or trinkets that contain lists of who has found them as well as details about the find—including notes about the terrain, hiding spot, and trinkets found within the cache. There are literally thousands of hidden caches all over the world, so you can geocache in any city you visit. Simply, access the official database of caches at, and use your iPhone or Android to locate caches in any area that offers T-Mobile wireless internet or Wi-Fi coverage.

There are thousands of geocaching applications to choose from. However, veteran geocachers will tell you that these apps offer the best quality for the price you pay…

1. Geocaching by Groundspeak Inc. ($9.99 – for Android & iPhone)

The official geocaching (GC) app from Groundspeak offers direct access to the official and ever-growing cache database that I listed above so it makes sense that this app would be first on the list! This app allows users to find nearby caches by address or by GC code, and you can choose specifically where you want your street, topographic, and/or satellite maps to come from. The friendly user interface offers four tabs for caches— search, saved, logs, and trackables—as well as an export button for instant login to so you can sync your saved caches to the master database.

2. OpenCaching By Garmin (Free – for Android & iPhone)

OpenCaching is a great app for geocaching newbies because it’s a free app that was created specifically for Garmin’s, a user-powered geocaching community. With this app you’ll get an introduction to geocaching, including an easy-to-use interface that will help you locate hide, log, and share your caches directly on your mobile device. You can also view nearby caches on the app’s map, by compass view, read text descriptions of each cache, or search for caches based on difficulty terrain, size, and type. This app even offers cache hints from fellow users to help you perfect your hunting skills. Once you find a cache, you can log your success right from your Droid and even brag about it on Facebook and Twitter.

3. Geocaching with Geosphere ($7.99 – for iPhone)

The Geocaching with Geosphere app offers a no-frills user interface with a built-in map to visually lead guide you on your journey and help you hunt down caches. The app offers users five tabs—including GPS (to direct you to the cache), Target (providing the details of each cache), Search (to view your downloaded caches), Data (to log new caches found directly from your smart phone), and More (for access maps, satellite, or hybrid modes).

4. Neongeo ($4.23 – for Android)

The Neongeo app also offers secure access directly to the official site. This app offers users both the online and offline geocaching experience so you can log your caches on the go or record your field notes to log at a later date. This app even offers pre-trip preparation—with thousands of geocache listings and maps to guide you on your real-life hunt.

Bio: Jane Johnson is a staff writer for GoingCellular, a popular site that provides cell phone news, commentary, reviews.

Pitch Your Tent: Guest Author

Guest Post: How to Have a Successful First Camping Trip

This camping equipment guide was kindly written by Russell Smitheram over at

I remember way back when I first started camping. It was daunting to say the least and I had no idea what to expect. I thought I was looking at the whole camping thing through rose tinted glasses – I was expecting the worst. I was anxious but very excited to get started.

Before I go into the meat of the article I want to settle a few misconceptions about camping. Firstly, it’s not as expensive as people make it out to be. Sure, it costs money initially to purchase your tent, sleeping bags and other gear which I’ll go into shortly, but once you’re set up you’ll have the kit to enjoy many seasons of camping at minimal cost. Much cheaper than checking into a hotel, that’s for sure.

Secondly, camping is far from boring. Camping is supposed to be a time to relax, spend time with family and generally wind down. If you have kids you can go fishing or walk a trail. Consider packing a football, paper and crayons, books and board games. Some camp sites have on site swimming pools, arcades and even evening entertainment. But if you haven’t got access to any of this you can’t beat bringing it back to basics with a good book, board game or ball game to enjoy as a group.

Lastly, but certainly not least, is the misconception of what to pack. Luckily that’s what this article aims to outline but before I get there let’s cover where to camp. If you’re totally new to camping I recommend going somewhere fairly close to home. Choose a camp site with toilet and shower facilities, nearby lakes, trails and woodlands if you can to keep the kids entertained. The good camp sites get booked up well in advance so once you’ve made your mind up reserve your spot!

So what should your camping equipment list look like? Well, you are governed by a) how much room you have in your vehicle and b) how much you want to carry. The basic equipment is a tent, sleeping bags, a gas stove for cooking, utensils, cups and plates, and a torch. Everything else is optional and you can go as far you want. It doesn’t need to be any more complicated than this but if you want more luxury consider things like kettles, tables and chairs, wind up radios, a selection of different torches, heaters and air mattresses.

If you want a better night’s sleep use a foam pad under your sleeping bag. This insulates you and stops warmth seeping into the ground from your body. For extra insulation consider using a sleeping bag liner. These help increase the temperature range inside the bag to further aid heat retention. Furthermore you can wear a fleece cap if things get really cold.

Here’s a quick check list to keep handy. You’ll need:

  • Tent, poles, groundsheet and a mallet
  • Sleeping bags, foam pads and pillows
  • Toiletries such as toothbrush, toothpaste, towels etc
  • Gas stove and fuel
  • Cooking utensils – pans, matches, table cloth, spatula’s, tongs.
  • Cutlery including knives, forks, spoons
  • First aid kit
  • Insect repellent
  • Sunscreen

Feel free to add to this list, it’s by no means exhaustive. The more you add the more luxury you’ll have but bear in mind it’ll also take up more room in your vehicle. I hope you find this article useful and I sincerely wish you all the best with your first camping trip. Remember, relax and enjoy the experience.

Find Your Geocache: Guest Author

Guest Author: Pony Express Trail

Geocaching via the Pony Express Trail

By Steve Allen aka MO PIRATE

Pony Express Coins
By now, I believe most folks know about the worldwide treasure hunting game called geocaching.

Using a GPS receiver and the satellites that transmit the signals to them, geocachers can get a “fix” on the location of over 1.3 million hidden containers around the world.

I’m sure the Pony Express riders from days gone by would have loved to have been able to use the GPS technology to help them in their trek across the Wild West.

Now, a new Pony Express Adventure can be had by trying your skills on the “Pony Express Trail Challenge” (GC1PRHM) geocache. It is a puzzle-type geocache by MO PIRATE where you need to “ride” the trail to find 10 traditional geocaches hidden by folks at or near Pony Express Stations, ruins of stations, statues, markers, or signs along the original trail of 1966 miles from St Joseph, MO to Sacramento, CA.

One geocache must be found from each state that the trail crossed and any two additional geocaches so long as all 10 are at qualifying sites.

A bookmark list of over 85 eligible geocaches is provided on the challenge website. Others may exist along the trail and could be counted as long as you check with the cache owner first.

Once you find a qualifying geocache, log your find and take a digital photograph of yourself at the site. E-mail all 10 of the geocache finds along with the pictures to the “challenge” owner (MO PIRATE). Once verified, I will send you the coordinates to the Grand Finale of this challenge (in St Joseph, MO) where you can sign the log and also get your username inscribed on a nameplate for the “Challenge Wall Plaque” which hangs proudly in the lobby of the Pony Express stable Museum in St Joseph, MO for all to see and enjoy.

For more information on this adventure, go to GC1PRHM. You’ll find all requirements and helpful hints to aid your travels.

If you want to ask any questions about the challenge just e-mail me Steve Allen aka MO PIRATE at

Find Your Geocache: Product Review

Guest Author: Review of Magellan eXplorist

My friend, Kris, was lucky enough to pick up a new GPS a few weeks ago: a Magellan eXplorist. Since I’m a die-hard Garmin fan, I asked her if she would write up a review of the eXplorist for the Find Your Geocache blog.

If you’re ready to buy, or want more info, here’s a link to Magellan eXplorist on

Here it in, in Kris’ own words:


Paperless Geocaching


I have been talking for years about geocaching and my family. Geocaching is a high-tech treasure hunting that my girlfriend Kim of introduced us to many years ago. With geocaching, you use a GPS, enter in the coordinates and search for a hidden treasure.


Mazy Fullmer Family Stats


Sometimes those treasures are as simple as a piece of paper that you sign your name on, other times there are little trinkets that you can exchange with your own. Some of the neatest geocaches that our family has found contain travel bugs or geocoins that you can take, move to another location and track online.

There is a local cache just down the road from us that has a history lesson in it that includes a newpaper article. We use geocaching as part of our PE for homeschooling.

Last month, our family researched new GPSs and came across one by Magellan. The eXplorist GC is specifically made for geocaching and you can load on caches that you want to find right from your computer and the website. It is waterproof (perfect for our family of 7) so that we can take it on our camping trips and not worry that the 5 year old is growing the drop it in a stream, after all 5-year old boys are addicted to throwing rocks into water!


Griffen pointing the way.


To get started with this GPS, you will need to download the driver to your computer. Visit the site and look for local caches. On the individual cache pages, there is a download to GPS button. Click it and follow the directions. (Here’s an article on Loading Caches Directly to a GPS) It’s that easy!! The geocache coordinates are now on your GPS!!!

With the eXplorist GC, you can mark the ones that you have found, add comments, view the entire file, including comments, hints and description right from your GPS on location. Then you come back to your computer and download the file and it updates your finds and comments online!


And it is easy enough for a 9-year old to figure out! We are thrilled to find this GPS for our family!!

(Just recently in the news – a local Prescott Geocacher found an INTACT Yavapai Indian pot – check out the post on The Outdoor Princess’ Find Your Geocache tips and tricks blog)

Remember too that Geocaching in a low-cost FUN activity for your family. You can find GPSs on craigslist for inexpensive. Found mine online on for less than $150. We pack a picnic lunch and plan our caches in order to save on gas money. And you get to SPEND time as a family OUTSIDE!

Readers Weigh In:

  • Garmin or Magellan? Why?
  • What is your favorite GPS unit?


Find Your Geocache: Guest Author

GEO*Trailblazer 1 & the Secret Service

A few weeks ago, I was asking my Facebook friends for some help coming up with ideas for the blog. GEO*Trailblazer 1 said that I should be stopped and questioned by the Secret Service and then write about it. But, since HE’S had that experience, I thought it would just be easier to ask him to share his story with us.

Here’s the story of meeting the Secret Service while out geocaching. Now THAT’S hard-core!

Secret Service Agent

Let’s turn on the Way Back Machine, which by the way you Ole Time Cachers will remember. Back to a time when Geocaching did not exist and SA did, that’s “Selective Availability” for those of you who do not know.

I guess you could say I was the techie for the time and did not know it. I was learning and teaching GPS. I was more into Benchmarks due to the fact it was one of the ways around SA by knowing the error for the day from known coordinates (Benchmark).

A good friend told me I would like this new game called Geocaching and he gave me the web site. Not having a computer made it hard for about the first year and there were no cables or any way to hook a GPS to a computer (my, things have changed!) At that time, you relied on entering each point by hand OH and my GPS then only has 2 decimal points (Benchmark second part Triangulation) used to find GZ (geocache, benchmark).

Now you are wondering what all this has to do with meeting the Secret Service while Geocaching.

It would take a novel to write all the things I (we) were involved in and around this time.

The reason for our visit (GEO*Trailblazer 1 & Tiggr) was a Lewis and Clark Mission 200th Anniversary. We walked in the footsteps of our forefathers 200 years to the day in many places as they did (back to novel).

Our Mission were Geocaches and Benchmarks:

This is where the fun started as we were walking the Ellipse and making tracks. We rounded the corner to the Washington Monument of the ZERO MILESTONE and were getting the required clues.

Compass Rose

I set my GPS at the Benchmark in the Center of the Compass Rose of the Washington Monument and was turning to talk to Tiggr when I noticed 5 little red dots in my heart area.

From my experience I know what this is and I look up and see a Secret Service Agent coming at me saying. “Sir what are you doing?”

Without hesitation I said in a loud voice: “GEOCACHING!”

I would give a million dollars to have a picture of his face at that very moment he was awed yet had to continue with his duties.

Tiggr was saying the whole time this was going on, “I told you that you were going to get us in trouble with that thing.”

But I took advantage of the situation even while going through a complete shakedown; I am a Warrior and can keep a cool head even under pressure and got to explain all about Geocaching.

After he was satisfied he asked for my ID at which point I gave him my ID and USA Freedom Corps ID and he disappeared.

A few minutes later he returned gave me back my ID and said to have a great tour of the City.

By the way, we were there and had a full run of the city with hardly any people as the City had been evacuated due to a storm approaching.

When we got home I found out the reason for the shakedown…The Original 100 Documents of the Founding of our Nation were being put on display at the very time we were out front playing on the White House Lawn.

(Back to the novel)

We also visited Philadelphia, Plymouth Rock and some very historic Benchmarks on that trip. Hmmm, maybe I really should write a novel as I have just touched the surface of the deep and wide adventures I have made while geocaching.

Readers Weigh In:

  • Have you ever had an exciting encounter with law enforcement while out caching?
  • If you have a story you’d like to share, please contact me and I’ll feature YOU as a guest author!

Mystery Mondays: Guest Author

You might remember that back in April, ESP Boss & I attended the Overland Expo 2010, near Tucson. While there, we met some really amazing people, not the least of them Mark & Brooke Stephens of Mark & Brooke take their young daughter, Chloe, on just about all their outdoor adventures.

Since I’m not a parent, I asked them a few questions about their experiences. I’m really curious to see if all you parents out there have had similar experiences!

Brooke, Chloe, and Mark in camp.

1. You go camping with a toddler! Wow! Why didn’t you & Brooke say “We’ll wait until Chloe is older before taking her camping?” What was the number 1 reason you didn’t want to wait?

Mark: When Brooke and I began dating, we enjoyed a lot of backpacking, rock climbing, trekking, back road driving, and those types of things. We had fun and accomplished some significant achievements together; particular hard or significant hikes and climbing routes especially. We made some good memories together in the outdoors, which really shaped our relationship. We believe that spending our time doing active things together, completing goals together, was good for us as individuals and as a couple. So we simply decided that we’d raise our children while showing them how much fun we can have outside, and also using an active lifestyle to teach goal setting and personal achievement. So, the number one reason? It was a lifestyle choice.

Brooke: I think Mark even bought the domain when I was still pregnant with Chloe! We both knew it might be challenging camping with an infant and toddler, but we understood it can become too easy to wait for “the right time” to get out and do neat things. It’s good for our marriage, and therefore our daughter, to keep doing the things that brought us together as a couple to start.

2. If you could give one piece of advice to families that are just getting started with outdoor adventures, what would it be?

Mark: As parents, we are typically way off base about what will get our children’s attention and hold it. It’s pretty normal to think you have to bring along 4,000 lbs of toys from home and make sure the backseat DVD player is running top notch. It’s just not true. Kids find more entertainment in a fallen log and and some open space than we can fathom. St. Exupery even wrote, “Only the children are pressing their noses against the windowpanes. Only the children know what they are looking for.” He wasn’t full of crap. It’s true.

Brooke: On another side, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to be comfortable while you camp. In fact, it’s far more enjoyable when you are comfortable. It doesn’t have to be like bad memories of a boy-scout backpacking trip. You can cook good food, and sleep on very comfortable bedding arrangements if you want. Mark has engineered a water tank and shower on our Frontier. Nothing makes me happier than being somewhere beautiful and exploring all day, having a great time with friends around a campfire, and then to top it all off with a shower. Added bonus: if you’re comfortable, your kids will pick up that vibe and have an enjoyable time, too!

3. What items are on your “Can’t have an adventure without _______” list?

Mark: Chloe’s purple blankey, a topo map, a camera, and a bright attitude.

Brooke: Swimsuit, s’mores fixings, headlamp, and a good mixture of music (currently we alternate between Dora and Friends, and Counting Crows)

4. What is the scariest thing about taking a toddler on your outdoor adventures?

Mark: Having to come home. She hates that part. No kidding! How many times have we been out on a little hike or bike ride and if she senses us turning around she’ll say, “We’re not going home!”

On a serious side, getting too cavalier about her safety, or oblivious to potential danger, is a constant thing we watch out for. Chloe recently fell into the coals of a dead campfire and burned the skin on her lower back. There were three adults within an arm’s reach of her and it still happened. Chloe wasn’t running or jumping or anything like that; she simply tripped over her own feet while walking and tumbled in.

Brooke: I have a fear sometimes that we are ruining all of the routines we work so hard to put in place at home. Sleeping through the night, eating well, having good playtimes inside and outside, and most recently, using the toilet like a big girl. It just seems so dangerous to mess with those things when they’re going so smoothly at home. It’s no different than every parent feels taking the kids on vacation, though. Just throw the routines out the window for a while, keep what semblance of normalcy you can, and then get back on track at home later.

5. What is the best thing about taking a toddler on your outdoor adventures?

Mark: The absolute best part? We don’t have to put our travels on hold. We get to expose her to the world, to wildlife, to plant life, to culture. We’ve taken her to Mexico a few times and she’s played with local children there, eaten the food, seen 17th Century missions, learned a few words of Spanish. Chloe knows that cacti have spikes that can hurt her, she knows what a California condor looks like and can see a picture of one and call it out. To some degree, I’m just a parent bragging about my child right now. But she’s experienced some cool things and we can see that she’s learning from them.

Brooke: I love seeing her eyes light up when we talk about getting the tent and truck ready for a road trip. And it’s like that when we’re someplace new, too, she is eager to see and play and talk about everything. I think about how many types of experiences she is getting and as a teacher, I can appreciate how that will help her future learning in school. Also, I like the slower pace we are “forced” to take on with a toddler along. We might spend a long lunch at the park, just so she can stretch and play for a while before our next drive. Having a child with us gives us a need to immerse deeper into where we are and to interact with more people along the way.

6. How do you plan your trip? What resources do you use? What steps do you take to make sure the trip is fun?

Maps! I like to look for the empty spaces on the Arizona map. Other times a trip just kind of unfolds as an attachment to something else. One time we were at home and got to talking about our dishes and how we wanted something new in the cabinets. I suggested we drive down to Nogales on the Mexican border for a day and buy some Mexican glasses. That flourished into a fun three-day weekend near Patagonia; we camped in the mountains down there, did a little biking, and made some tasty meals. Eventually, we made it to Nogales and bought those glasses.

I also like to read Arizona Highways and get specific ideas for destinations or things to do that I’ve never been to or done. Sometimes it just serves as inspiration to go find my own backcountry drive.

We just discovered and look forward to using that as a resource as well. (We met Kim at the Overland Expo 2010.)

To maximize fun for everybody, we try to keep the driving time down, eat meals at funky small town restaurants, find hikes or geocaches to find. Chloe can’t hike much more than hour on her own two feet before she starts asking to be carried, so that’s limiting. One of the best formulas for maximum fun is to go someplace and set up camp by about 3:00 or 4:00; that gives us plenty of decompression time for exploring, relaxing, and getting dinner ready before the sun goes down.

However, I think for a trip to be really fun is that both Brooke and I have to be on board with the whole idea. If she or I really don’t want to be on the trip, it’ll contaminate the spirit of things and deteriorate everything else. So, it’s best if we all have a good attitude. Chloe just wants some open space to go play. That’s easy.

Background / About

Mark and Brooke run their website as a source of inspiration and advice for other parents who enjoy adventure travel with their children – or parents-to-be who have that understandably typical fear of being forced to trade their active lifestyle for something dull. They enjoy the outdoors with their daughter Chloe by traveling throughout Arizona, the southwestern U.S., and Mexico.

Find Your Geocache

15 Tips for Caching With Kids

This article was written by the geocaching family of Kris Mazy, or kmazy on Kris can offer some unique advice that I just can’t: 15 tips for caching with kids.

4 of the 5 kids in this caching family.

Caching With Kids

By Kris Mazy

In this day and age of technology, it is hard to persuade kids to get outside. I know this for a fact! We have 5 kids in our family ages 11, 8, 6, 4 and 2 who love playing on their computers, wii and gameboys. (My husband is a Network Administrator and I am a digital graphic and web designer, so computers are our life.)

A year ago, in order to both get additional exercise for our homeschooled family and find a family activity that was not only fun, but also a way to get our kids “thinking outside the everyday box”, we discovered geocaching from our friend of many years, The Outdoor Princess. With a family of this size, it was hard at first to organize ourselves to get going with any activity. In the last year, to date, our family has placed 5 and found and logged 83 caches.

Here are a few tips to get your family started in geocaching.

  1. When searching for caches online, find ones that are not on main busy roads. It is much too hard to get your kids out of the car and search for the geocache safely.

    Away from roads means that each cacher can walk -- easier since Mom & Dad don't have to carry & the little cachers feel they're really part of the team.

  2. Caches are ranked on the website 1 to 5, 1 being the easiest. Only take the kids out on caches that are ranked 1 to 2. Success is the key. If they can’t find it, it will no longer be fun.
  3. Print out each cache that you are planning on going to and put each sheet in folder. They are easier to keep track of in the car and to keep track of after you finish.
  4. 3-5 caches is about the limit for 2 year olds. (Trust me on that!)
  5. Always think ahead, carry hats, sun screen, extra batteries for the GPS, a camera or 2 and bottled water. We have a canvas bag that we load up with the essentials to take with us. Don’t forget a SNACK!!! Nothing is more trouble than a hungry 4 year old. If you are going to be gone for a long time, pack a picnic lunch.
  6. Before you jump in to find a cache, make sure that your kids each get a turn at carrying the GPS (they will not break them and it makes the experience more fun for them.)
  7. Some kids can find geocaches better than others. Let the little ones look first. It is not a game against each other. Your family is on the same team!
  8. Kids are smarter than you think. They will follow clues, sometimes better than adults. My 8-year-old discovered that the names of the caches are sometimes clue – If something is called a honeybee, then it is probably hidden near something yellow and black.

    Kids are great at figuring out clues.

  9. You never know what you are going to come across. Keep that camera readily available.
  10. To get started you do NOT need a $500 GPS. We picked one up for less than $60 and it has lasted us a full year and is still going strong.
  11. When traveling on vacation, make use to check out the area that you are going to. On the way, there are bound to be a few that they kids will enjoy to find, also a chance to stretch your legs.
  12. Take photos of every place that you go. I guarantee that your 6 year old will have an adventure story to go along with each place.

    "And then I had to save Mom from a run-away donkey! She was looking for the cache when..."

  13. Don’t pick flowers! You never know what they are… and a 2 year old itching will end the day.
  14. Bring some little knickknacks to exchange. A dollar store bag of army men go a long way.
  15. Have FUN! This can be a GREAT family experience! It has been for our family.

When you get tired, stop!

Caching Parent’s Advice:

  • If you could offer one piece of advice to a family new to geocaching, what would that be?
  • How many geocaches do you try to find in a day?
  • What size of cache do your kids prefer?

Mystery Mondays: Guest Author

At the Overland Expo 2010, it was my pleasure to meet Phil Golden from  Phil will be undertaking a cross-country, back roads driving event to raise money for Adrenoleukodystrophy (ALD). I asked him to write an article about his upcoming adventure: what he’ll be doing and WHY he’ll be doing it.Read on!

Guest Author Phil Golden

Phil Golden from Expedition Awareness

When faced with the ultimate adversary, what do you do? Unfortunately, we are not comic book heroes wielding powers from another world. But in way, maybe we are. Maybe our super power is our ability to keep hope alive. To share with others our demons and them share with us in supporting the great fight.

Maybe we are super heroes.

When my wife and I learned that she could be a carrier for Adrenoleukodystrophy, a good friend and I began work immediately on Expedition Awareness. That was nine months ago. In those months that were to pass, we learned my wife was indeed a carrier of ALD and this past January, we learned my son does have the disease.

Phil's son: Brooks

Adrenoleukodystrophy is a terrible disease that affects little boys. It attacks the insulating sheath around the nervous tissue. In doing so, all bodily systems are affected. Most boys don’t live past the tender age of twelve, or two years after symptoms begin to manifest. There is no cure and no viable treatment. Bone Marrow Transplant and Gene Therapy have success in some cases.

In our darkest hour, we often find our greatest strength. Some individuals never see this strength that resides inside of them; the hour is never that dark. I suppose this is a good thing. But it is this strength that allows me to share this story with you today. For me, this takes moving well outside my comfort zone. And each time I tell my story, it is a small milestone. However, it is important for me to add that I know quite well, I am not a special person. I know this because I did not choose to do what it is I am doing. A special person would have done what I am doing BEFORE their child contract a deadly disease. I was forced. If I could have it another way, a way that spared my family from this monster lurking behind father time, I would. My decision was made for me to try and make a difference — somehow — in someway.

My solo North American expedition is to raise awareness for ALD and funding for the ALD Foundation. I am currently trying to raise money for the expedition project itself as well. Every dollar raised is going to support this project and any left over will go the ALD Foundation. Thus far, this has been a self-funded project.

Through hard work and in meeting some great people, my project snowballed into a place I could not have foreseen. Doors were presented and some opened, that leant themselves to new opportunities to reach further and give more. So I have adapted my goals to aim for new heights and altered my plan of action to reach those goals. But my family can only do so much without the support others. This is just the way it is.

We are average people.

As for the expedition, it will officially begin in Antelope Wells, NM and follow the Continental Divide — 95% off road — to Bannf, Canada. From there I will cross four Canadian provinces before turning south and heading for New Orleans and the ALD Foundation’s headquarters. I will be taking a modified Jeep and Overland Trailer and will be camping the entire way.

On the road in the hail!

I am filming an HD Documentary of the entire expedition project for distribution. I also want to give it to families affected by the disease at no cost.

Media and presentation stops are lined up along my route to help educate people about the disease.

To learn more, visit — Look for our Facebook and Twitter pages to keep up-to-date with the latest developments.

I believe that my son has this disease for a reason. Maybe it was to push me to do something potentially great with my life. Maybe this is why I am here. My Mother has always said that God never puts on us more than we can handle. I sometimes question this logic. Especially those nights where the reality of it is all too close and that each second forward in time, we are one second closer to a ticking time bomb.

It is in those moments, I truly hope I am doing everything I can for my boy. He does not know what road lies ahead, and it is my goal to keep it that way.


Thanks, Phil, for sharing your story with the whole family. We wish you all the best of luck!

If you would like to be a guest author for The Outdoor Princess blog, please send me an email at

Mystery Mondays: Guest Author

As I mentioned last Monday, I met some amazing people at the Overland Expo 2010. I’ve asked a few of my new friends if they would like to be a guest author for the blog in the coming months. My first author is Mr. Joe Bacal.

Joe with his vehicle.

Guest Author Joe Bacal:

I’m a professional off-road racer and cancer survivor — on a mission to inspire fans across my social media sites and at race events like the legendary Baja 1000. I’m 41 from from Anthem, AZ. Began my sophomore year of racing this January with a growing fan base on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. After beating Hodgkin’s lymphoma with the support of my care team from Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA), I decided it was time to make my dream of racing off-road a reality.

I was a Toyota test driver and instructor for years before racing. Following cancer, my team (JTGrey Racing) debuted in ’09 with a win at the Baja 500, and capped off the ‘09 season by driving more than 27 hours, day and night, to cross the finish line at the perilous Baja 1000, the “granddaddy” of off-road racing in Mexico. We have two wins under the belt in 2010 in the SCORE Desert Series – the Laughlin Desert Challenge and San Felipe 250.

Joe Bacal in action!

Cancer and off-road racing have a lot of parallels – they are both chaotic worlds, but it’s about taking control amid chaos.

A cancer diagnosis takes control of your life, physically, emotionally, mentally and even financially. It affects your family and all those who care for you. A cancer diagnosis creates chaos.

Unlike the feeling of losing control that cancer creates, I feels in complete control when I’m driving in the chaos of off-road racing. The truck bounces violently. Animals, rocks and trees seem to appear out of nowhere. It’s extreme, full of obstacles, often unpredictable – it’s chaos.

My cancer treatment experience mirrors my driving experience. I had doctors and clinicians dedicated to making sure my body remained strong during treatment; state-of-the-art technology to treat the disease; and a care team – including my wife Teresa – who provided the information needed to make treatment decisions.

My mission is to help cancer patients take control and be in the “driver’s seat” of their care to cross the finish line. You can’t win the race if you don’t finish. To finish, you need to be in control of what’s ahead of you and supported by a great team and family and friends who love you.

Follow our mission to take control when it comes to fighting cancer by becoming a fan of Control Amid Chaos on Facebook –


Thanks Joe, for sharing your story and mission with us! When Joe & I were chatting at the Expo, I asked him why he was still so focused on cancer. I mean, if you’re cured, why keep constant reminders around you all the time. His answer was that everyone has been touched by cancer in some form or another; either they have had it or they know somebody who has. Joe was very clear in sharing his passion with me: inspiring others.

If you would like to be a guest author for The Outdoor Princess blog, please send me an email at

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