Challenge Cache Chasing – Day 1

In December 2019, I announced my Tabula Rasa Day Declaration as “finish my Geocaching Jasmer Challenge in 2020”. Since all but one person was a geocacher at my Tabula Rasa Day XI celebration … they had zero idea what I was talking about.

I clarified it, of course.

Triad of Trouble: Yuba City, Vitreous, and Potter’s Pond

Any geocacher in the Pacific Northwest that embarks on completing the Jasmer Challenge which is …

One of the oldest and most popular geocaching challenges is the Jasmer Challenge. To complete the challenge, you must fill your Jasmer grid by finding caches placed in every month since geocaching began in May 2000. As of the time of this blog publication, there have been 222 months since the beginning of geocaching, which means you must find 222 caches to qualify.

Official Geocaching Blog ~ October 2018

As you can imagine, caches placed in 2000 that are still active are rare. I was left with finding an August, September and December 2000 finds. None of these exist in Washington, which travel is required if I want to complete this.

I located my triad of trouble: Yuba City (September 2000 – GC5F), Vitreous (December 2000 – GC11E), and Potter’s Pond (August 2000 – GC3B)

Two in California, one in Utah. A considerable amount of money and resources would have to be poured into this effort. The global pandemic of COVID-19 was another layer of complexity that was not needed but needed to be dealt with.

We waited until Washington was in Phase 2 of 4 which allowed for travel.

The Biggest Little City In The World

My little sister, which is also my constant partner-in-crime, and biggest support, suggested to fly into Reno, The Biggest Little City In The World. The we drive to the two marquee geocaches in California on two separate days then fly to Utah. I agreed with her logical assessment.

I had a plan. I always have a plan. I may not say it or explain it, but I do. Sometimes those plans detonate in my face on step 1, sometimes they are executed like a well-oiled machine.

Today’s plan was the latter; not the former.

En Route To YUBA CITY – GC5F

Today’s plan was chasing down the geocache simply called, Yuba City. It was placed in September 2000. After a leisurely wake up process, we started or journey westward.

We were dressed for 76 F degree, sunny skies type of weather. And knowing we’ll be in a vehicle for 90% of the time with temperature control, mostly air conditioning, we were in shorts and T-shirts.

We didn’t know about the traffic situation so we bounced early morning to head west. As we discussed our itinerary and battle plan, we also agreed to stop in Truckee, CA. I had suggested our first Californian geocache find will trigger our digital souvenir for California.

WCP24, my sister’s geocaching username, searched that area for a viable candidate for this designation. She knows (knew) that I love abandoned vehicle hides for some inexplicable reason.

I love’em because there’s a story there that’s untold: how did it get there, who crashed it, what happened, why didn’t they rescue it? I digress … WCP24 found a few along a trail.

After we ordered breakfast online at Jax’s at the Tracks, a Guy Fieri featured restaurant on Diners, Drive Ins, and Dives, we hopped out. We were greeted by sub 40 degree weather! BBBRRRR. Then as we were gearing up, it started to snow.

I said it was hail, but my sister corrected me with … “that’s snow!” So we hustled to the Ground Zero (GZ) coordinates. It was glorious! We also carrying around LEGO mini-figures which serve as avatars for our geo-squad. ArturoFaitCR (passed away); his daughter, Montse; our friend in Costa Rica, Jorge; WCP24, and yours truly, Falconer_Swarlos.

Luckily we found it! By the time we returned to the rental, our food was ready.

Jax at the Tracks

When we rolled up we understood why it was selected to be featured! It’s popular while being eclectic. My menu selection was a breakfast sandwich with the egg prepared over-easy.

This would prove to be a mistake.

My first bite essentially popped the egg yolk which exploded in my hands. Mercifully, it only covered my hands, forearms, my mouth, and dripped on my clothing – nothing on the rental vehicle.

Breaky Bayne

I laughed it off as I could only do so. Once we devoured our food, found a few more geocaches in Truckee, we rolled on to our target geocache in Yuba City.

TO BE CONTINUED …

Let’s get out there!

Falconer_Swarlos

The Joy of Geocaching – Part 2

May 25, 2020 – Part 2 of 2

Once I returned from Costa Rica to my home in the United States I was greeted by my Geocaching online purchase: a trackable walking stick! My intention was to gift to Arturo since he seemed fond of walking sticks but didn’t have one himself.

Since he passed away before I could give it to him, I kept it. Then … I named it after him: The Fait Walking Stick of Protection. I concluded that he was (is) my newest guardian angel. I vowed to take it with me on every Geocaching adventure I have for protection, and now, it’s a talisman of good luck.

While I love Geocaching, my sister really only enjoys it as long as I’m with her. I could play the game with others, or by myself. I can play for a few minutes or for days on end. After a recent visit to Wenatchee, she had remarked that on the next trip if we could incorporate a day or two of non-Geocaching downtime, she would appreciate it. That made me aware that her enthusiasm for the game could use so revitalization.

The best way I knew how would be to have her experience one of the biggest bragging rights within the game: First To Find, aka FTF! I remembered the excitement in Arturo when I was able to share that with him, I knew if sister experienced it too, she would be reinvigorated with Geocaching.

Memorable Memorial Day 2020

Since we work for the same company, we had the same day off of Memorial Day. The #COVID19 global pandemic has much of the world in quarantine mode. With Washington State in Phase 1 of a phased reopening approach, road trips are a popular way to get out of the house, yet stay socially distance from others. My sister had a magazine that she offered to me for inspiration because of the many scenic drives in contained. I spied the Mount Baker Scenic Byway as a viable choice. We agreed on this route for our Memorial Day road trip. She volunteered, “… we can also Geocache along the way.”

I plotted the route by super imposing the Geocaching Map of yet to be found geocaches. I also generated a report that indicates newly published i.e. hidden Geocaches in the month of May. Coincidentally, I am actively working on a challenge in which I find at least one Geocache hidden in each of the months in the game’s existence. For example, find a geocache in May 2000, June 2000, etc. The report had only one result: Del’s Meadowview in Oak Harbor. I thought it was quite a detour from the intended route but could be well worth it if we’re the first to find it.



Cautiously Optimistic

I’m a Seattle sports team fan for as long as I’ve been alive. One of my first lessons learned is being cautiously optimistic as our sports teams are known to disappoint me. Meaning, I didn’t tell her that we could potentially be the first to find this geocache. Just I did for Arturo in Costa Rica last year. I didn’t want to over promise, and under deliver.

I monitored the geocaches Activity Log like a concerned wife of a husband’s indiscretions. No Found It logs, yet.

We loaded up a vehicle, and headed out to the location typically referred to as the GZ, Ground Zero. And just like I felt last year, in my gut I held the belief we could be the first.I wanted to manifest this experience for my sister. I wanted to her to really know the Joy of Geocaching.

Del Fairfax PreserveI studied up on the location, while it is remote to our home in Lake Stevens, it wouldn’t be a strenuous hike to do. Knowing time is critical, I kept prompting her to move a grip faster, and I avoided any time vampires en route. Usually I am hungry for breakfast, and ache for coffee, but I sacrificed all of the those to ensure First To Find glory.

Yes. Yes, it’s THAT big of deal!

My sister knows me well-enough that observing this time of behavior can only mean one thing: it’s important. No, it’s monumentally important. Once we parked, we donned our Geocaching gear complete with my GoPro to document it, and my Fait Walking Stick of Protection (dedicated to my fallen friend, Arturo Fait) We hiked out to the location based on the coordinates. While I was relishing in the environment of the cool morning air and fresh rain, I was protectively surveying for interlopers such as other Geocachers seeking it out. I spied nothing, but wildlife.

As advertised the hike was quick, and flat. With laser like precision, and using our geo-senses, we assessed the location where we would start our search. Coincidentally, I approached an area of the woods that seemed disturbed by human activity, surveyed it, remarked about it out loud to WCP24, my sister, and then dismissed it.Moments later, in that same location, she barked, “Hey Lamp, I found it!”

Fantastic, I thought! We dragged over our prize like landing a large fish on the out board for a vessel on the sea. I kept hoping mentally, “Please let her be the first, please let her be the first.”

We opened the ammunition can with trembling hands like Charlie Bucket opening a Willy Wonka Chocolate Bar with the anticipation of finding the final Golden Ticket … we reviewed the contents, and to opened the logbook. No ink on the logbook!

We were ecstatic! EUREKA! We literally were the first to find it. The biggest smile quickly appeared on her face, just like Arturo’s when I bellowed, congratulations! She signed the logbook on the line designated: FTF.

I coached her to open up the app on her brand new phone, and claim victory before anyone else does! We snapped various photos, I captured video of the “win”, etc. I wanted proof-is-in-the-pudding: think of it as the obligatory information needed to substantiate our claim of first to find. After we replaced the Geocache, I noticed another group of folks appearing at the trailhead. Invariably, other Geocachers because let’s be honest, who the hell else would be out here in the sticks for a casual stroll. We had a 20-minute head start on them! We hiked back to the vehicle. I surveyed the remaining car in the parking lot which proudly displayed a Geocaching tell: a trackable on it.

I smirked, that confirms those were Geocachers seeking out First To Find bragging rights. As we clamored into my sister’s SUV, I asked, “Aiight, we were in such a hurry to get FTF, I forgot victory beers at home. Since no bars are open during the phased approach of Washington, what would you like to do to celebrate your first EVER, first to find?”

“The Shrimp Shack, big brother,” she fired back immediately. “I want Victory Shrimp.”

“Well, alright, Victory Shrimp it is!” I agreed. “I’m so proud of you, WCP (West Coast Player) that I’ll treat regardless of the cost!”

She was so excited that she didn’t even start the vehicle until after she posted a few photos, and words on her social media platforms.

THAT! That, my friends, is #theJoyofGeocaching.

Let’s get out there!

Falconer_Swarlos

The Joy of Geocaching – Part 1

May 18, 2019

I am a meticulous planner, but willing to abandon those plans if the risk-reward scale outweighs a spontaneous adventure. I traveled to Costa Rica with the intention of finishing my second book that I started too long ago.

I called it my Ernest Hemmingway, writing sabbatical.

I planned on writing for two days consecutively; take a day to play, and repeat this cycle until the book was completed or when my vacation was over. The day to play would be with my Costa Rican friend, Arturo, whom I met while traveling on business year’s prior.

Since this is his home country, I suggested a trip to Arenal Volcano as I was denied it the first time I visited. He was delighted to show me one of his country’s national treasures. My reasoning was two-fold: to see this active volcano and finish up old business, and to show my friend the Joy of Geocaching.

I was supremely confident that he would love it if shown properly. Besides, I had been asking about it  prior to my arrival constantly.

Arenal Volcano

We employed his friend, Jorge, to drive us out to the volcano, as I didn’t know Arturo wasn’t licensed to drive or own a vehicle. I thought, cool enough, as long as we get there.

After the obligatory tour activity of selfies, photos of the landscape, etc., I opened the Geocaching App. I knew that a geocache was hidden nearby that I wanted to find to earn my digital Costa Rican country souvenir.

It was my treat myself day, per se.

Arturo being naturally curious asked if he could accompany me. I replied, of course, that was my intention. We followed the coordinates to the location. I coached him that while I didn’t know exactly what we were looking for, it would be an object that seemed out of place, that just didn’t naturally occur.

With my keen sense of observation, and having found several hundred geocaches at this point, I found it first. with my eyes only. I guided Arturo over to it to let him find it.

It was a Thermos converted to a geocache. We opened it up together, I demonstrated to sign our names to the logbook to prove we actually found it. I displayed the trinkets inside of it, i.e. SWAG, and more.

I placed it all back the way I found it, and anti-climatically remarked, “That’s that.”

He asked, “Now what? What do you do next?”

I laughed, “Now you find another one, and another, and you play until you don’t want to anymore.”

He smiled back, “You, mi amigo, will never stop playing.”

I chortled, “You’re probably right. I’ll play until I can’t move anymore.”

“Amigo, please, let’s find more! This is fun, ” Arturo implored. I knew it. My planned worked: he’s addicted to the Joy of Geocaching.

Coast To Coast

When they dropped me off at my rental, I resumed my writing until our next planned day of adventure. I suggested to Arturo since we visited the East Coast of Costa Rica, perhaps we could visit the West Coast in a couple of days.

I remembered Arturo grew up on a coastal town, and that his home was also out there. I also knew there were several geocaches out there that beckoned to me.

One was published, i.e. hidden, in April 2019 that had yet to be found by anyone.

I live in Washington State, more specifically in the Seattle area. After 5 years of playing, I hadn’t been able to be the first to find because of the saturation of players meant if you didn’t find it within an hour of publishing you most likely wouldn’t be.

It’s been 30-days, and no one has found it.

I plotted our route with the hopes of being the first to find, FTF, this particular geocache. On the day of, Arturo arrived with a different friend. Arturo was so excited; he practically jumped out of the vehicle.

He was amped to show me what he did over the last couple of days. He signed up for the Geocaching Premium Membership, watched all the demonstration videos, gathered up pens, and trinkets to trade, and downloaded the app on his smartphone.

I was stunned. I didn’t realize that the first experience had inspired him so profoundly. He did all of this on his own, and without my knowledge. I had a besmirched smile on my face the entire ride out to the west coast.

Our driver today was not as polished, or as cordial, as Jorge. As I learned from the backseat of this non-air condition car, that he was hung over from the night before. In fact, to this day, I’m sure he was still intoxicated like a drunken sailor that we woke up after a beach, bonfire party to drive us somewhere.

His command of English wasn’t fantastic, and he seemed disinterested in exploring the countryside. I shrugged, MEH, it’s a means to an end.

I digress...

At the geocache’s entrance was rickety, wooden security shack with a guard inside that was about 1,000 years old. Arturo spoke with him, the guard wrote down our license plate number, description, and allowed us to proceed.

Rocky Mountain High

The location for the hiding place was perch with a view of Coconut Beach on Coconut Bay. It was amazing. Once parked, I got to work. We had been on the road for hours, so being cooped up like that had me anxious.

Using the three pieces of information: geocache description page, coordinates, and a cache-owner provided hint, I searched with Arturo.

Again, I found it first, but nudged Arturo in the direction so he could find on his “own”. He sought out the logbook, and found it blank.

He seemed surprised, “Amigo, no signatures.”


My Tico Brother: Arturo Fait Morales

“Correct, amigo,” I agreed. “We are the very first players to find it, meaning we have bragging rights of FTF. First To Find. Congratulations to us both!”

We laughed as we signed the logbook. For an outside observer, such as our driver the scene was anti-climatic. We drove hours to the coast only to find a plastic container and be the first to sign a piece of paper.

From our perspective it was a big deal, and part of the Joy of Geocaching: enjoying your first EVER First To Find! There are some players that never have that experience, and Arturo’s second geocache to find is a monumental!

From my backpack, I fished out two beers. I opened them up, handed one to Arturo with the words, “Victory is ours, let’s celebrate with what I call, Victory Beers. “

After a few sips, Arturo remarks, “I’ve had this beer for many years, but this one tastes better than all the rest.”

I laughed, “That’s because it’s a VICTORY BEER, bro! They always taste better!” My day simply couldn’t be better.

We killed our beers while enjoying the scenery below from our perch above. Little did I know that Arturo would pass away nine days from now which made (makes) this memory bitter sweet for me anytime my mind wanders over to review it.

What I’ll never forget is Arturo’s exciting experience of being the first to find a newly hidden geocache. The Joy of Geocaching doesn’t get any better than that.

Let’s get out there!

Falconer_Swarlos

The Boomerang – Brigadier Wallace McHoots

In January 2017 I had renewed my interest in the worldwide GPS treasure hunt game called Geocaching.

One of the game pieces are called trackables or travel bugs (TB) Trackables are any objects that have an assigned code from Geocaching HQ. The intentions for trackables are to be picked up by a geocacher from a geocache to be carried over to a different geocache and place in there for the next geocacher. This ‘travel’ is recorded by the player thus making it trackable.

The type of trackables include, but not limited to, dog tags, T-shirts, and Geocoins!

GEOCOINS

Geocoins are my favorite type of trackable. They usually are metal or wooden tokens minted in the similar fashion to a medallion, token, military challenge coins, etc for use in Geocaching.

BRIGADIER WALLACE MCHOOTS

In February 2017, I bought a #Steampunk themed owl geocoin. My girlfriend, Deana, encouraged me to create a persona for it with a backstory.

Brigadier Wallace McHoots

Greetings! I’m Brigadier Wallace McHoots, special owl attachment to Geocaching. As a bird of prey, I’m rather anxious to being freed from this cache-cage. How about some jet-powered excitement by logging my departure, and advancing me to the next available geocache that can accommodate my ample size? Keep calm and carry on, my fellow geocachers!

~ Geocaching dot com

In hindsight, I probably shouldn’t have done the following. I hid my first geocache, Walk The Line, in the neighborhood with McHoots inside. I had the misplaced faith in the Geocaching Community to be true to the process, and be full of integrity.

For several months, and a thousand or so miles, the player known as sproutter took Brigadier for a tour. Meaning he would metaphorically ‘dip’ McHoots into a geocache for a visit. Then continue to retain him.

I even set up a Facebook Page to track his progress with posts and pictures.

All was well until April …

Geo Saloon & TB Hotel

sproutter dropped McHoots at a travel bug hotel called, Geo Saloon & TB Hotel, (GC2EG3F) a geocache specifically for exchanging trackables. Another geocacher player, ShebblesAtPlay, found the geocache but no trackables whatsoever in July, 3 months after sproutter.

I reached out to her through the messaging system asking if Brigadier Wallace McHoots was in the cache. She replied a month later, stating no, even after two visits.

My heart sunk.

It’s gone missing, presumingly forever. This confirmed that I shouldn’t have done this in the first place. I marked him missing on the website and moved on with my life.

Christmas Miracles

On December 1, 2017 (Tabula Rasa Day in my world) I received this message …

Well, it’s time for a Christmas miracle… after your email, I got thinking about the group of kids that was with us on our stop at the milkshake shop that was also home of a TB Hotel. I asked my friend to ask the parents of the kids who had attended the hike and milkshake party with us, to see if anyone had grabbed a metal owl. Well… 4 months later… it has been located!!!! One of the kids in our group had grabbed it!! My friend was able to connect me with the mom of the boy who’d grabbed it and today I was able to make it to her place of employment and pick it up. I have it now, safe and sound. I will be taking it around for a visit here and there. I will send it on its way soon, but I wanted to let you know it is in good hands now and the owl will be flying around a bit. Merry Christmas!! 🙂

ShebblesAtPlay Dec 1, 2017 6:09 PM

My reply was …

Oh my, Shebbles! This is the most AH-mazing news I’ve received in awhile – THANK YOU FOR IT. 😃 I’ve been telling my GC group that you’re my hero. For my Christmas “wish” I had a request. Once you and Brigadier (TB) had your fun of visits and travel, could you please return him to my house? ******, Lake Stevens WA 98258 – but ONLY WHEN you’re done – if it’s weeks, months, years, so be it but I kindly request this. Did you know I created a Facebook page for him? Search for Brigadier Wallace McHoots – we can post our story. At any rate, again, THANK YOU FOR THE SEARCH AND RESCUE! You’re a saint. Merry Christmas indeed. May you and your family be blessed.

From there I would continue monitor her activity with Brigadier on the Geocaching website, but didn’t directly interact with her.

TWO AND A HALF YEARS LATER

The global pandemic of COVID-19 rages on since December 2019. Washington State Governor Jay Inslee has effectively shutdown the state, and it’s citizens. For fear of being forced into quarantine, my plans to find 2 marquee geocaches in California were shelved.

To stay in-state, my sister and I agreed to finish up the Wenatchee area from when we cherry picked a few Jasmer Challenge geocaches last summer.

The Springhill Suites Wenatchee was our hotel. A geocache was hidden in the parking lot by ShebblesAtPlay. Yes, the current guardian of Brigadier Wallace McHoots.

Once we recorded our find, she immediately hit me up via the messaging system asking me if I was in town and for how long. I answered, and she suggested that she return Brigadier Wallace McHoots.

She has had her fun but that it was time to follow through with our agreement thus displaying a ton of integrity. On the day of the meet up, she brought me cookies that were “made of Lysol and love”, and my beloved Geocoin.

In exchange I gifted her 2 unactivated travel bugs for my gratitude. We couldn’t shake hands, but the feeling was mutual to place a username and face.

Now that he has returned … I’ll place him in my Collection, and out of Inventory for safekeeping. Perhaps I’ll create a facsimile of him, and send that out in the world at large.

Let’s get out there!

Falconer_Swarlos

Why Falconer_Swarlos?

I have attended a few local Geocaching Events, such as Parley Like It’s 1699, Going Ape X, and smaller events, and invariably another player will ask for my player name / online handle. It is nice to match a face, and name to a player #IRL.

My Geocaching username is Falconer_Swarlos. Most players will create a name reflective of their given name. But I’m not like most players …

Falconer Swarlos, Part I

Two parts of my name, so there are two stories to be told. I’m confess that I love a motif to most things. My Geocaching vision is no different.

One game piece of Geocaching are trackables: items that “travel” from cache to cache.

The only way this inanimate object moves is via another geocacher picking it up and physically moving. Groundspeak, dba Geocaching HQ, released a series of Steampunk bird metal die cast Geocoins (trackables) I also love Steampunk, so the combination piqued my interest immediately.

I bought a Steampunk owl, because my girlfriend at the time was obsessed with owls. We named it Brigadier Wallace McHoots! The first of several Steampunk Birds themed Geocoins. I bought a raven, eagle, peacock, etc. Upon further research, a falconer is a trainer and retainer or birds of prey. I thought *bOoM* part one done.

Falconer Swarlos, Part II

Before I was playing the game, I was (still am) an event entertainer. I am a gregarious person therefore an easy target to chide, especially for my close friends. Speaking of friends … my friends and I closely followed the television situational comedy (sitcom) How I Met Your Mother.

The character in the series I best identified with was Barney Stinson played by Neil Patrick Harris. The Season 2, Episode 7 was titled Swarley. The episode was mostly focused on the character Marshall dating a new girl. However, one scene addressed the incorrect name spelled on coffee cups in a cafe. So instead of Barney, they spelled Swarley, which is homage to Starbucks employees scrawling in Sharpie pens the wrong names of customers.

Barney is notably upset about being chided on, picked on with his new nickname. As you can imagine, my friends immediately jumped on this…

My new nickname was [yes, you guessed it] Swarlos.

And no, I didn’t like mine either. But like schoolyard bullies, they would keep using it as long as they see you are upset with it. The moment you embrace it is the moment it stops.

A falconer is a job title, but Falconer Swarlos is a name of a geocacher. That would be yours truly!

Let’s get out there!

Falconer_Swarlos