Welcome to CarolinaCacher

Welcome to my CarolinaCacher site. I'm Randy Hefner. My caching screen name on GPSgames, Geocaching, and TerraCaching, is RanHefner. I have been caching since June 24, 2005.

You may be asking, "What is caching?" You would probably know it as Geocaching. Geocaching is the combination of technology, outdoor activities, and treasure hunting. You use a GPSr (Global Positioning System receiver) to locate hidden containers of different sizes and shapes. All cache containers will contain a log (piece of paper, notepad, or notebook) to document your finding of the cache. Some containers are large enough to contain trinkets for trading. The rule is that you take somthing and leave something.

There are many handheld GPS receivers on the market ranging from around $75 to over $400! All of them will get you started with geocaching. The more expensive ones are good for geocaching and road navigation. The two most popular companies offering GPS receivers are Garmin and Magellan.

Garmin offers a GPS Guide For Beginners. It is a little "technical", but does offer a lot of great information about how the Global Positioning System works.

The online "How To" manual, wikiHow, offers a very good guide to geocaching. This is a good article for beginners. This article takes you step-by-step from selecting a GPS receiver and how to log your find.

A good place to start is to join a local caching club. There are several in the Carolinas. If you live in North Carolina, you should join the North Carolina Geocachers Organization. This "club" is for everyone in North Carolina or anyone interested in caching in NC.

If you live in the foothills area of North Carolina, there is a group for you! The NC Foothills Geocachers is affiliated with the NCGO above, but is targeted towards the members living in the foothills.

If you live in the Asheville area of North Carolina there is a Yahoo! Group called Western NC Geocaching.

If you live in the upstate of South Carolina, there is an organization for you. The Upstate South Carolina Geocachers Association covers the 10 counties in the northwest portion of South Carolina.

There are two South Carolina state-wide geocaching organizations. South Carolina Geocachers Association and South Carolina Society of Geocaching.

Join the organization that best fits your needs and participate in their events. You will get more out of geocaching by making new geocaching friends!
CarolinaCacher Recommends:

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Southside Park geocache replaced!

traditional_72 I finally replaced the missing geocache at Southside Park in Newton, North Carolina.  The “Southside Park – Newton, NC” geocache is a micro geocache in the middle of the park.  Be careful for muggles.  The container and hiding spot is exactly as it was before.

Southside Park is a great little city park.  There are two walking trails.  Bring your dog with you.  There are several picnic sites with grills and picnic tables.  The kids will love the playground facilities.

Southside-Park Southside Park – Newton, North Carolina

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Geocache ethics - Doing geocache maintenance on someone else’s geocache!

Geocache Ethics Let me preface this by saying this blog posting is as much directed towards myself as anyone else.  I am not preaching, but, rather giving a little perspective on my limited experience with geocaching.  I am sure you have read a log that goes something like this:

Found the geocache.  Couldn’t sign log.  It was so wet it was falling apart.  The rubber o-ring is gone.  Maybe the geocache owner should check on it.

Yes, the one who placed the geocache is responsible for maintaining it.  But, it really is nice when someone helps out!  So what should you and I do when we come across a geocache that is need of a little tinder, loving care?

First, if you are not prepared, you can do very little to help other than report it.  I took a year off of geocaching.  I used to carry a bag of goodies when geocaching.  Of course, the bag contained things like swag, water, wet-wipes, etc.  I also carried several other items that would help in maintaining my own geocaches and any found that needs some help.  Here is a simple list that will help you be the one praised for keeping the sport fun for all.

  • Zip-lock bags of all sizes.
  • Several paper towels in a zip-lock bag.
  • Small bottle of alcohol.
  • Paper and small notebooks.
  • Assortment of rubber o-rings.
  • Three complete geocaches (regular, small, and micro).
  • Camouflage duct tape.
  • Children’s scissors.
  • Swag

This sounds like a lot of stuff to carry, but, you should be able to carry it in a small bag.  It’s probably obvious why you should carry these items.  I will go over a few just for clarification.

Zip-lock bags are used in most geocaches.  They keep the log and swag dry.  The problem is that with time, these bags will wear out.  Maybe the pen or pencil poked a hole in it and the log is getting damp.  You can find the bigger zip-lock bags at your local grocery store.  The smaller ones are a little harder to come by.  I have found all sizes available on eBay.  The prices are usually very good.  I’m sure there are other sources.

Paper towels can be used to clean yourself after searching for the geocache or to dry out a wet geocache container.  I like carrying the blue ones you find in the automotive section.  They are tough as nails!

The alcohol can be used, like the paper towels, to clean yourself of clean out a messy geocache container.  The alcohol based hand sanitizer is great for cleaning your hands, but, can make a messy container even messier.  Alcohol can take the itch away from insect bites, also!

Take a couple sheet of paper and a notepad size notebook.  The notebook can replace a full, missing, or damaged log in regular size containers.  The sheets of paper can be cut to size with the children’s scissors to fit most small and micro size geocaches.  Why children’s scissors?  They will get the job done without poking a hold in your bag.  They’re also very light weight.

The rubber o-rings that come on some of the metal pill containers (bison tube) used as micro geocaches are usually not UV (ultra-violet) proof.  With time when exposed to the UV light in sunlight and weather, they will become brittle and crack.  When that happens, you get a damp log inside.  Take one of these containers to your local hardware store and get some replacement o-rings.  Make sure they are UV rated.  I usually get them a little “thicker”.  They seem to work better for geocache use.

It may seem that carrying around three complete geocaches will be a little bulky, but, if you plan it properly, it will take very little space.  Get two lock and lock type containers.  One medium size and one small.  Also carry a micro container like a 35mm film container or bison tube.  You only need a few swag items.  Make sure you have a couple pens and logs.  You can “nest” the geocache containers together to save space.  If you run upon a missing geocache, you can replace the container and notify the geocache owner that you placed a temporary container.

Why camouflage duct tape?  Well, with duct tape and WD-40 you can fix anything!  You can also use the camouflage feature to repair a camo job if needed.

Bringing a geocache back to good health gives you a rewarding feeling.  The geocache owner will be grateful and you will be making the sport better for everyone.  Now I must get my geobag ready so I won’t be such a hypocrite!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

First-to-find. What is the big deal?

FTF-SignalOk, what’s the big deal about being FTF on a geocache?  I freely admit it.  I am an FTF hound.  Just this week, I stormed out at 1:30 AM in a severe thunderstorm just to attempt to be the FTF on a geocache.

A FTF or (first-to-find) is a term used for the geocacher who is the first to find a newly place geocache.  Some could care less about being the FTF and other obsess about it.  I think I fall in the latter category.  I currently have 61 FTF’s out of the 395 geocaches I have found.  That is a 15.4% FTF rate.  Yes, I am counting!  This confirms my obsession.  I even went as far to establish a 10% FTF club and am a proud member of the 15% FTF club.

The appeal of being FTF depends on the finder, but, I think most would agree that being the only one, other than the original geocache owner, that has seen the geocache in its original condition and hiding spot is something special.  Every time it is found after that, it will change a little.  Also, being the “first” at most things has its certain prestige.

So, how can you become a FTF hound?  You must be a premium member of Groundspeak.  Why?  One of the premium member perks is to be notified of any newly reviewed geocaches.  In my area this is a must.  There are too many FTF hounds around here.  In many cases, if you don’t find it within 2 or 3 hours after it is listed, you will not find the clean geocache log.  Also, if you have one of the new “smart” cell phones, you will have a leg-up on most others.  I have lost several FTF’s to those with an iPhone or other similar phone.  Another thing you need is the willingness to pay the price.  What do I mean?  If you are going after the FTF status, you will probably be driving a lot.  Gas ain’t cheap!

I freely admit that I am addicted.  This is more than just an obsession with me.  It is a bona fide addiction.  I fully expect to one day making the following public statement.  “Hi.  My name is Randy.  I am a FTF addict.  I have been sober for 12 days.”  (Cell phone sounds) “BEEP, BEEP, BEEP…There is a new geocache in your area.”  “Oh, crap!  I will be back in a little bit.”

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Geocache Ethics – Signing the log.

Geocache Ethics

When you find a geocache, you should sign the log.  If you found a regular geocache, there is probably a pretty good size log book.  I have seen everything from a wire-bound notepad to a full size composition book.

Micros are another thing altogether.  All micro size geocache have very small logs.  Some are so small you can only put your name or initials!  Those who place micro geocaches usually have to do maintenance often to replace the logs.

When I was geocaching I came across a micro with a limited space log.  Here is what I found.


Two geocachers used prepared labels for logging purposes.  On regular size geocaches, this would be fine, but, on a micro geocache, it causes excessive maintenance from the geocache owner.  The two logs are taking eight lines.  Is it really that difficult to just write your name?

When you are geocaching, please remember that the geocache owner has to maintain the geocache.  If you cause needless maintenance requirements, the owner may just think it isn’t worth it and archive the geocache.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Urban Geocaching? Use your auto GPS.

Mio-C230 If you ever go geocaching in an urban environment that you are unfamiliar with, you will quickly find that even with your handheld GPSr, you can find yourself a little lost in the city.  I found this out one day geocaching in Charlotte, North Carolina. 

Luckily, I had a solution right under my nose…Uh…I mean in front of my eyes.  I had an automobile GPS receiver.  I am sure you have seen them.  Some popular units are TomTom, Garmin, and Magellan.  I have one called the Mio C230.  It is a basic unit, but, does help me get around unfamiliar areas.

Mio-C230Handheld GPS receivers are, by design, to function at its best while being carried while walking.  Automobile GPSr’s, on the other hand, don’t work very well in the woods, but, are great for getting you around town.  Most automotive GPSr’s will allow you to input coordinates.  You will have to adjust the way you input your geocache coordinates. 

We are all used to seeing a GPS coordinate in this format:

N 35° 37.017 W 081° 16.962

This is the standard format used on Geocaching.com and other geocaching listing services.  This format works great in your handheld GPSr, but, most automotive GPSr’s require the digital format like this:

35.61695 -81.2827

Both coordinates are exactly the same, but, in different formats.  Since your geocache coordinates will be loaded into your GPSr, you can simply tell your handheld GPSr to display the digital format.  I have had several handheld GPSr’s and all have allowed me to do this.  Here is how it looks on the Garmin GPSmap 60CSx:

60CSx-Coords-Formats The format highlighted in yellow is the decimal format.  Now when you view all of your waypoints on your handheld GPSr, it will show them in the format compatible with your automotive GPSr.  Don’t worry.  You can always change the format back.

Now all you have to do is look at the coordinates of the geocache you are trying to find and enter the decimal format into your automotive GPSr.  You can use your automotive GPSr to take you to the area of your geocache hunt!  It is easier and quicker than using your handheld unit.  This saves time and gasoline…And time and gas are money.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Garmin technical support. As good as the hype?


I have heard many say that the Garmin technical support is the best in the GPS industry.  You really don’t know whether this is hype or truth until you can see for yourself.  I had an opportunity to test this belief.

I use GSAK (Geocaching Swiss Army Knife) along with my Garmin GPSmap 60CSx for geocaching.  In addition to loading waypoints, I use the GarminCsvPoiExport-v2 macro to load POI’s (points of interest).  Why POI’s?  Because you are limited to the number of waypoints that can be loaded.  POI’s are virtually unlimited to the number you can load to your GPSr (GPS receiver).   It is only limited by the memory space on your memory card.  Other60CSx-map-view features of the POI’s way of loading geocaches to your GPSr is you can have custom icons matching the ones on Geocaching.com and you can have information from the geocache page like the hint and description as well as notes you make…All available from your GPSr.

I have been doing this without a hiccup for years.  A few days ago  this changed!  While using Garmin’s POI loader, I received an error message.  The message said, “invalid string position”.  No matter what I did, I could not get rid of the message.  I tried only loading one POI thinking it may be some errant characters in a recent waypoint added.  The same error message was displayed.  I tried restoring my computer to a date that I knew the POI loader worked.  Still, the same problem appeared.

After doing as much as I could do, I called Garmin’s technical  support.  The wait time to talk to a real person was pretty short!  Usually, you have to wait a half hour or better for some technical support calls.  I spoke to a person and explained the problem.  I emailed them the entire error message to see if this would tell them anything.  After about seven minutes, I was basically told to reinstall the POI loader software and if that didn’t work quit using the POI feature of my Garmin GPSr. 

This is just unacceptable.  They were just admitting they either didn’t have the time to help me with the problem or they were unable to help me with the problem.  This didn’t match the hype.  Reality had just set in pertaining to my experience with the legendary Garmin technical support staff.

Unwilling to just give up, I searched the internet to see if anyone else had a similar problem.  Mr. Google is a fantastic tool.  After a few minutes of searching, I had a theory of what the problem was.  And this would explain why Garmin either wouldn’t or couldn’t help me.

I found another person having the same problem using another Garmin device.  When he was loading POI’s he got the exact same error I did.  The current version of Garmin POI loader is 2.5.4.  That is the version I have been using.  Apparently, there is a string of characters that this not recognized by the loader.  I also read an upgrade document for Garmin’s MapSource program version 4.13. One fix says, “Fixed an issue where MapSource would crash if the garmin-gpsmap-60csxregistry value that stored the user preference for distance units, which was set by MapSource 4.09 and older, contained an invalid value. Now, if an invalid string is encountered for this preference, MapSource will replace it with the default value.”  I think that the latest version of Garmin’s POI loader does not handle this error well.  It should basically ignore it or replace it with the “default value” and go along it’s merry way!  The fix the other person had was to install an older version of the POI loader.

I called Garmin’s technical support again and spoke to a different person.  He was a little more helpful and didn’t seem anxious to just finish the call.  I explained the “fix” I had discovered and asked him if he could send me a link to an older version of the POI loader.  I was surprised that he did.  Most companies don’t want to give you older software!  He sent me a link where I could download version 2.4.2.  I installed that version and it worked great!  Now I can load thousands of geocaching POI’s without a hiccup.

My conclusion based on my experience with Garmin’s technical support staff is it depends on who you get.  The first person I spoke with and the person helping him seemed to just want me gone.  Maybe it was because I had a problem they couldn’t solve or maybe they was busy on something else.  Either way, they should have spent more time with someone who has spent several hundred dollars with them.  The second person seemed clueless on how to solve my problem, too, but, at least he did help me with the fix I discovered.  I sent the technical service staff an email documenting the problem I had and the solution I discovered.  Maybe they can include it in their fix database.

I hope someone from Garmin reads this and will let their technical support staff they need to work with those who call.  Most geocachers are pretty electronics savvy.  Don’t assume they are just dumb users of their devices.  Listen to them.  Try fixes outside your database “box”.  Use internet search engines to see if anyone has had and solved this problem on their own!  It’s ok to admit that you don’t know how to fix it right now, but, at least assure the caller that you will work on the problem.  Telling us to just quit using the feature is totally unacceptable. 

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Happy Independence Day

Photo of the Constitution of the United States of America. A feather quill is included in the photo.The Constitution of the United States is the supreme law of the United States of America and is the oldest codified written national constitution still in force. It was completed on September 17, 1787.

Our nation was born 234 years ago today.  We should reflect on how important that day was.  No only was we changed as a people, but, the forming of our nation changed the world.  We decided that no person is more important than another.  We wanted a government where it was lead by one of the people and not a monarch. 

We decided that tyranny was now longer acceptable.  We decided that we will have a say in our destiny and not to be dictated by any one person.  Liberty was an unknown practice of much of the world at that time.  It is hard to overstate how much of a change it was!

The freedoms we enjoy today are the fruits of our fore fathers who voted to remove the yoke of a tyrannical King and put our future in the hands of the people.  It was a decision that made the traitors of England and, if caught, they would hang!

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

Independence day is the day we declared independence from Great Britain with the “Declaration of Independence”.  This ultimately lead to The United States Constitution that was adopted on September 17, 1787.  It is the oldest written constitution still in use by any nation of the world.  The ideas expressed on that piece of paper didn’t give us any rights.  It only confirmed rights that we already had, but, were suppressed.

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America. 

As you enjoy the Fourth of July, remember the true meaning of the celebration.  It is a celebration of freedom.