Saturday, November 20, 2010

Trip to Zanpa and a New Geocoin

We loaded up the car this morning and took a trip to the Awase area, where I found four caches, including a previous DNF (Did Not Find).  We then trekked over to Chatan to grab some curry from CoCo Ichibanya.  Yum.

Next, it was north to Zanpa Point.  I walked all over that park trying to find the letterbox hybrid cache there, but no luck.  There was a great view from the point, so it was certainly worth the trip.

I also am the proud new owner of a couple of new geocoins.  These are unactivated, trackable, commemorative coins that were minted in celebration of Okinawa having 500 active geocaches.  I got two each in gold, silver, and antique nickel. 

The family and I had a nice Saturday out and about.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Spoiled Geocachers and Regional Quality

What is the geocaching environment like where you live?  A ton of micros?  An endless supply of rural ammo cans?  I've said a few times that I believe I'm spoiled here on Okinawa.  I've cached a couple of times in Southern California and was disappointed both times.  Is there such a thing as regional quality when it comes to geocaching?  I believe so.

Here in the tropical paradise of Okinawa, the majority of the caches are placed at various points of interest.  In addition, most of the caches have trackables in them (geocoins and travel bugs).  The folks over here are very generous with their coins, and we have pretty good luck with them staying in circulation.  There are a couple of suspect geocachers over here, and most of us know who they are, but the rest seem very reliable about logging and moving trackables.

Stateside caches that I've found have not had any trackables in them.  When I did a couple of pocket queries (downloading of geocache listings for a particular area), I was amazed at the lack of geocoins that are out there.  Many folks that leave here talk about how most geocoins get stolen in America, so most cachers don't put them out, or only place them in caches with very high difficulty ratings.  I have a couple of coins that have made their way to The States and (searching for some wood to knock on...) those coins have done pretty well so far.  Are they the exception to the rule?

In addition to the lack of trackables to enjoy, stateside caches seem to be placed in some of the most mundane locations.  I like finding hidden caches, but shopping center parking lots?  Are you serious with that?  Urban micros have their uses, and it's neat to be able to go grab a quick geocache if you're short on time, but some of those lamp post skirt hides are just plain silly.  I must admit though, lamp post hides in hotel parking lots are cool because you can check into your room, and grab a cache two minutes later!

Those of you that have cached extensively in The States may have seen enough areas to weigh in on this; are there regions that are more "lame" than others when it comes to the quality of the geocaches?  What's it like in your neck of the woods?

Herein lies one of the coolest features of this hobby:  I don't have to go search for those geocaches that I don't like!  If a cacher wants to hide a leaky film canister under a lamp post in a supermarket parking lot, they are free to do so and somebody, somewhere, will get some enjoyment from that.  I would never point at a geocacher and say they are somehow inferior because I don't like their particular style of geocache.  Personal taste is exactly that, but have any of you noticed trends in particular areas?

What say you?

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Geocache Maintenance

I recently accompanied a buddy of mine while he found some of his first geocaches.  One of our stops was at the Agena Castle ruins in Uruma.  I have previously found this cache, so I figured it would be easy to steer my buddy in the right direction.  We found the cache quickly enough, but we also discovered that the lid was cracked and the cache was full of water.  The contents were soaked, and the logbook was well on its way to an oatmeal-like consistency.

I stopped by this cache this morning and replaced it with a new container and logbook.  I even threw in some swag items.  The cache owner is no longer here on Okianwa, but the cache has not been adopted by anyone.  This is too good of a spot to let the cache get archived, so I decided to lend a quick hand.  Here's a few pictures:

Friday, August 20, 2010

More Okinawan Stuff

As my time on the island of Okinawa goes by, I have to force myself to remember that the quirky little things that I see every day are considered oddities by the folks back home.  Here's a few items from a trip to "American Village," in the Chatan/Hamby area.  

The cars here all seem to have odd names.  Even some models that we have in The States have different names here.  For example, what we know as a Toyota 4Runner in America is a Hilux Surf over here.  What on earth is a Voxy?  

Here's part of my dinner from an Okinawan buffet.  Have you ever had corn on your pizza?  It was good, but it's not like the pizza we grow accustomed to in America.  The meat on a stick is called Yakitori. The little dumpling-like thing is called gyoza.  The salad dressing was a soy-based affair and it was pretty good.

This is part of American Village.  The name is a bit of a misnomer, since there were far more locals in this area than Gaijin.  There are a bunch of little shops, restaurants, and the Dragon Palace (games, slot machines, and other entertainment).

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Island Hopping Campaign

I went on a leisurely drive to a couple of the nearby islands today.  My wife and kids joined me on an afternoon trip to Henza Island, Hamahiga Island, and Ikei Island (pronounced eee-kay).  I was three for five on geocaches today, and that's just fine; I had fun searching. You can click on any of the pictures below for larger versions.

We crossed the bridge to Henza Island, and stopped at a park on the causeway, where I did not find (DNF'd) the cache there.  I have been to this geocache three times now, and just can't seem to come up with it.  Some caches are easy, and some are not.  Next, we continued across the causeway to Henza Island, and made the turnoff toward Hamahiga Island.

There's a memorial on Hamahiga Island to Colonel K.H. Shelly, and I never would have found it without the hobby of Geocaching to guide me there.  My daughter and I made the quick find, I picked up a geocoin, and off we went on our tour of these outlying islands.

Next, we crossed back to Henza Island, and stopped at a marina and park there.  This was a neat little park, and appeared to be a bit under-used.  The cache container was a pelican case, which I think are perfect for this hobby (water-tight year 'round), and it was an easy find.  Off to Ikei Island!

We wound our way through the cliffs and ravines of the islands and stopped just after Ikei Beach.  We walked a jungle trail to a small, secluded beach that seems to be frequented by mostly locals.  I made quick work of the cache there, and then joined my wife and kids for a walk along the beach.  We picked up a few shells and "sea glass," and then got back in our van for to head toward an obscure little park.

In the middle of a farmer's field is a little grove that shelters an ancient (300 B.C.) ruin of an Okinawan village.  Some of the huts have been renovated, and the site would be overlooked by most Gaijin if it were not for Geocaching.  I have been to this site once before, and I had a repeat of that visit today.  I enjoyed going to the little park, but I couldn't find the geocache.  I think it may have been swiped, since there isn't much at the published coordinates to search through.  There's also a string of DNFs before my logged visit.  Bummer; this was a great spot for a cache. 

Overall, today was a fun day, and I'm glad I got to share it with my family. 

Monday, July 19, 2010

Trackable Items Are Not Swag

I've mentioned before that geocaching in Okinawa seems to have a uniqueness that may cause this hobby to appear dull when Stateside.  I consider myself a bit spoiled here; we have trackable items in most of the caches here, the core group of cachers is very friendly, and almost all of the caches here are placed at real points of interest.

One thing that I have noticed when it comes to trackables (geocoins and travel bugs), is that they should not, but sometimes are counted as swag.  Let me back the truck up here--Swag is the goodies that people place in a geocache, and the premise is that you should leave something in trade if you take something.  For example, if I see a keychain flashlight in a cache, I should leave something equally nifty if I pick it up. Trackable items, however, are NOT swag; the owner of a trackable item wants it to move, almost without exception.  Imagine, if you will, a trinket that you can track around the globe, and you find out that it just sits in one spot because nobody feels like they have something of equal "value" to trade for it.  

Trackable items do not need to be traded for, but some cache owners think that they do.  I've seen some experienced cachers place bulletins on their caches that state something along the lines of, "Don't take the last geocoin out of this cache; remember to trade up or trade even!"  If my geocoin were the last/sole trackable item in a cache, I would still want it to get moved; I wouldn't really care if a cacher left something in its place.

I can understand the desire to treat trackable items like swag, since trackables often draw cachers to a geocache, but that should not be a policy, nor the nucleus of geocaching.  I suppose that, since we all play this game in our own way, one could simply ignore the desires of a cache owner and grab the last trackable out of a cache, but would that be in keeping with the spirit of the game?  

What say you about trackable items?  Do you always grab them, or just "discover" them if you don't feel like you can move it quickly?  Do you feel like you should leave a trackable if you pick one up?

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Okuma, and Points North on Okinawa

I just spent a week at the Okuma Resort here on Okinawa; what a treat this was!  Over the span of seven days, I only found one geocache, and that was just fine.  I looked for a couple of others, but they just weren't doing it for me while I was in vacation mode.

Here's a shot of the area near one of the caches that I DNFd; it's an old tunnel entrance that is now used for the long-term storage of Awamori

Later, we drove to the very northern tip of Okinawa.  The view was impressive:

We then headed to the cliffs that can be seen in the background of the above picture:

The view from here was amazing.  We could clearly see the tip of the island, where we had just been earlier:

We had a great time, and I spent more time relaxing than anything else; you can't beat that with a stick.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Like a Breath of Fresh Air

It has been a little while since I've last posted on here; forgive me?  I have no excuses to offer.  I simply haven't been caching or blogging as much as I'd like to.  

I did go geocaching today with a friend of mine, and I was able to accompany him on three of his first four finds!  It's always good to introduce someone to the hobby of Geocaching.  He's got the bug, and he even ordered a new GPSr on one of those extremely popular shopping websites.

The weather has been a challenge lately; when it's not raining, it's hotter than fevered snot.  This makes geocaching in short bursts the idea of the day.

Here's to hoping that you all have a great Independence Day, and that you don't forget what this upcoming holiday is all about.  


Thursday, May 6, 2010

Joshua Tree National Park

After my business in California was completed, I was able to spend a few days with family. We took a day to drive through the Joshua Tree National Park, and we had a great time. There were plenty of wildflowers blooming, and some of the cholla cacti were blooming as well.

A couple of days later, I was able to hit a few geocaches in the Yucca Valley and Joshua Tree area; most seemed to be placed simply to place a cache, but one was at the Joshua Tree Inn, which has a bit of interesting history to go with it (click here).

A day before departing to come back to Okinawa, I had the pleasure of accompanying my father on his first geocaching experience. He found his first cache after a brief search, and he's now a genuine geocacher.

Here's a few pictures from the Park:

Ocotillo plant in bloom

Overlooking the cholla cactus garden in JT National Park

Cholla in bloom

Beaver tail cactus in bloom

Friday, April 9, 2010

Ramble On

My job, by design, keeps me somewhat on the move. My wife and I are pretty skilled at packing up and moving to a new place. I've also had the opportunity to travel on a few short trips in between moves.

I get to head out tomorrow on another such trip, this time to California. Time to do a pocket query, and load the 500 caches that are closest to Camp Pendleton into my GPS.

I love the scenery of the SoCal coast, and I hope to grab some great pictures while I'm there. More importantly, I'll get to see my parents, my sister, and even a friend or two.

Updates to follow...

Sunday, March 28, 2010

What Model of GPS Would You Recommend?

A buddy of mine is looking into getting his wife a GPSr due to her new found interest in geocaching. He asked me for advice on what to buy. I thought I would put the question out there in this venue, since I get zillions of readers every day!

I use a Garmin Colorado 400t. Garmin doesn't make that anymore, but I like its features.

It seems that the Garmin GPSMap 60CSx is the tried and true workhorse, but it doesn't have all of the bells and whistles that the Oregon and Dakota have.

I don't know enough about the Delormes to comment on them, but I like the list of features.

What say you all?

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Nice Day for a Track Meet

My son had his weekly track meet today and my wife and I enjoyed a nice day in the Chatan and Awase areas. We spent the morning in Chatan for the track meet, then came home after lunch. We then took our daughter to Comprehensive Park near the Awase area. It was a fun day, and we got some neat pictures.

Amazingly enough, I left the GPS at home. I have already searched for the cache at Comprehensive park, and was discouraged by the amount of refuse near ground zero. I think that one can stay undiscovered for me. That's the cool thing about geocaching; somebody else will probably have a great time finding that one and we all play the game differently.

At the sea wall near Chatan. I love the look of these pilings

Graffiti on the sea wall

Kelp farming near Comprehensive Park

Danger! Cigar-smoking pigs in the area!

Monday, March 22, 2010

200 Finds

I had to run some errands today, and I was able to squeeze in some geocaching while I was at it. My wife and I stopped in the vicinity of the Tengan River, and made three finds there. Then it was off to a park near a power plant, and then to Nakamura House, which is a well restored house in the Nakagusuku area.

Nakamura House is typical of a 15th century, wealthy farmer's home, albeit a little primitive. This was also the site of my 200th find.

One of the caches near the Tengan River is called, "London Bridge Cache." It's very appropriately named, since the bridge appears to be slowly falling down.

It was a nice day out today, and I was able to go 5 for 6 today. There was a 7th cache that we were going to try for, but it was a playground with moms and kids. Since we didn't have any kids with us today, we would have looked a little suspicious.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Cape Zanpa

I took the whole family to Cape Zanpa today. My daughter and I found a neat cache at an athletic park in Yomitan. The young baseball players were fascinated with my daughter's red hair...Grrrrr!

I DNF'd a couple of caches, mostly due to muggles. When a stranger is sitting almost on top of where you need to search, it's a bit tough to search for a hidden container.

There was a neat multi at Zanpa beach, and there was a wedding party at GZ! What are the odds? It was still a neat day at the beach.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Okinawa Earthquake

I hadn't planned on sleeping really late today, but ended up getting out of bed at 5:30 AM anyway...Well, "getting," probably isn't the most descriptive word to use for my exit from this morning's slumber; "shaken," is probably more accurate.

We had a 7.0 magnitude earthquake that was centered about 50 miles from us this morning. No real damage, and everyone is fine. So far, there are no local reports of injuries, and only some broken water pipes nearby.

The quake seemed to last for several seconds, and I recall thinking to myself that it sure was lasting a long time.

Perhaps we were in need of some excitement!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Okinawa Comprehensive Park

I went with my wife to the Awase Home shopping center (also known as the "OK" and "Gracie" stores). While out and about, we headed over to what many Americans call, "Comprehensive Park." I think it is actually called the Okinawa Athletic Park.

The park is huge! There is a nice 5k running course that is well maintained and even padded. There is a freshwater pond, and the large carp and placos will eat anything you throw at them (watch your fingers!).

I hunted for a geocache there, but the only thing I found at ground zero (GZ) was a bunch of garbage and junk. There were plenty of sharp objects in the brush (glass, an old steak knife, discarded cans, etc), so I didn't really poke around in there very much at all. I questioned the cache placement, since there were plenty of other secluded spots in the very large park. With that one quickly placed on my "no thanks list," we soon departed.

On the way to Kadena Air Force Base after a stop at the park, I saw yet another "engrish" sign. I enjoy these, and think that they give Okinawa plenty of personality.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Nago Central Park

Today I drove up to the city of Nago with my wife and kids. We were hoping that there would still be a few trees in bloom, but we were too late. We still had a good time.

We started with lunch at CoCo Ichibanya, an icon among Americans here in Okinawa. I had thin sliced pork curry.

Next, it was off to Nago. At the park, there is an impressive foot bridge, plenty of jungle terrain, and countless trails to walk. The hills are steep, the views are stunning, and the bugs don't eat much.

I went three for three on geocaches today, including picking up one that I had previously "DNF'd," or "Did Not Find." All in all, a good day, even if it was a little wet out.

Routine Maintenance

Another cacher contacted me this past week and informed me that the magnets were coming loose from one of my geocache containers. So, I made a trip to the nearby park where it is hidden, and glued the magnets back in place.

I like this little park. It's a quiet spot in the middle of urban clutter. It's also easy to miss when driving by. The tree above is entirely fake, and I thought it was an interesting item.

This park is located near the following geocache: Shady Character GC1DKJ4
(I think PJ will get a kick out of the hint for that one).
If the weather holds up, I'll be making a trek to the North with my family. We've not been able to go check out all of the cherry blossoms on the upper half of the island, so today might be our best shot.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Cherry Blossoms

It's that time of year again in Okinawa. Okinawans, and Japanese people take their cherry blossoms very seriously.

I took a couple of quick photos at a nearby park today while searching for a three part multi-cache. I found part one quickly, since I recognized the well camouflaged container from another cache, but got stumped on part two.

Oh well; it was a nice day at the park. Here we are in January, and it was 73 degrees!

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Happenings of Life, and Other Mysteries

I've seen, on several occasions, the phrase, "Life happens," on the Geocaching forums. How appropriate. Life does indeed happen; it gets in the way of what we want, by presenting us with demands for what we need.

I have neglected this blog for almost three months, and have not done any real Geocaching during that time. It's not entirely due to a lack of interest, but more a result of other influences. School has been kicking my butt, and work has been a bear. I would certainly prefer to update this blog more regularly.

On a side note, when do we decide that barbecue is good barbecue? I know; totally unrelated, but the title of the post also includes, "and Other Mysteries." I took my wife to a neat little barbecue place for our anniversary last weekend, and we're going back tonight. I never dreamed that we could feast on such tasty American cuisine here in Okinawa. What a boon! A friend of ours is also celebrating a birthday, so it's a fine occasion to dine out in town.

How have your last few months been?