This sounds like a Windows error (of which there are plenty) but in actuality it is the outcome of my second geocaching expedition. Conditions were nearly perfect — blue sky, slight breeze, 75 degrees, DEET (N,N-diethyl-m toluamide) sprayed on skin, water bottles full, and latitude/longitude from geocaching.com loaded into Garmin GPS receiver. The Tobyhanna Lake Trail Cache is somewhere along the Tobyhanna Lake Trail near the enormous Tobyhanna Army Depot. The first few miles of the hike were great — a nice level trail and no bugs. The excitement built as the GPS receiver said the cache was just 180 feet away. Long story short — it was nowhere that I could find. I know I was close but in spite of a lot of searching in the woods in a radius around the coordinates, I was unable to find the cache. In spite of the frustration of not getting to the goal line, the three hour hike was very enjoyable. It also got me thinking about the broader aspects of geocaching.
For most of the last ten years, the web has been a medium that we "read". Most of the billions of web pages are browsed. With the introduction of security techniques in the mid 1990’s we began to engage in transactions on the web to buy things, reserve things, or check on things. Now we can "write" on the web. Like all "new" things, it isn’t technically "new" but it is adding a new dimension to the web. In effect, the web is becoming more "writeable". After you find a geocache, you go make an entry in the cache’s physical logbook and then you go to geocaching.com and write in the on-line log so your experience can be shared with the rest of the world. Yes, we have had "bulletin boards" and discussion groups for a long time but they are more transient in nature. Writing in the geocache log is potential more permanent. And then there is blogging. Blogging is the major thing that is making the web more "writeable". It has been possible for a time for someone to have their own web site and write things — but it hasn’t been easy for most. More importantly the introduction of blogging, which makes it easy for anyone to write stories, has been accompanied by a new protocol called RSS which provides automatic syndication of the stories to anyone who may be interested in the the author or topic. This will revolutionize the world of publishing.
Meanwhile, it is vacation season — that time of year when millions of people take some time to travel, visit with friends or family, or just take it easy at home. For me, the past thirty days have been very busy — a non-continuous vacation with various trips and meetings interspersed. No complaints, though. The month started with a visit to Tampa for the Americas Conference on Information Technology. There were a few hikes here and there and beginning of an education about geocaching. The second trip described earlier will require a repeat but the third geocaching hike was a success.
The cache is called “Mile Zero” and it is located in Southern New Jersey at N 38° 57.629 W 074° 54.166 at the beginning of the Garden State Parkway. Spanning the State of New Jersey from North to South, the Parkway begins in Cape May. The cache is placed a short distance from the Parkway’s official starting point at Mile Zero. The cache is in a standard tupperware container protected by a plastic Walmart bag. I forgot to take something along to put in the cache so I didn’t take anything from it.
Part of the success may have come from using the Magellan SporTrak Color GPS receiver. It is newer than the Garmin that I used on the last hike and I believe it is more accurate. (Note: the "accuracy" of GPS is highly complex. If you want to get really confused about this, click here.) The GPS constellation consists of 24 satellites arranged in clusters of six planes. Each plane is aligned with four satellites, which circle the Earth in a race-track orbit, with each plane rising and setting over a particular spot throughout the day. This architecture provides a raw accuracy of approximately 300 feet. In some areas, where there are supplementary ground signals available, the accuracy gets much better. During the recent war, there were modifications made to provide GPS accuracies of seven feet in and over Baghdad. That kind of accuracy would take all the fun out of geocaching!