Saturday, May 3, 2008

First to Finds

I doubt anyone would be surprised when I say that we enjoy our First to Find hunts. Our first successful attempt had been January 13, 2006 as I was preparing to head into the office for the day. I got lucky -- the cache wasn't far from office, I had been up early enough that I caught the cache publish in my e-mail, and I was already packed (except the laptop) for the office. So I manually loaded the GPSR and we ran out for the hunt. It was a rushed hunt that had me staring at the needle more than I should have, and the dog walkers had already begun to pass through the park, so Firefly03 was enjoying that view and keeping a lookout for both Geomuggles and Geocachers hoping to steal our FTF. I finally discovered the cammo taped Bison tube and retrieved it, walking it back to the car both for a pen to sign the log and to stay out of the area. All I had to document the event was the camera in the mobile phone, so I popped off this poor excuse for a photo and logged the cache through the WAP interface. We never saw another Geocacher that morning, though we had a few Jogger approach with MP3 players we thought might have been Cachers. None. We had beat everyone to the cache.
We've improved the whole workflow for our FTF hunts now, and we don't really care if we get the FTF credit as much as meeting up with the other local FTF Hounds. The workflow is fluid, but I thought I'd share what we have going;
  1. I set-up the "Instanotify" Notification Service (Premium members only) to send any new publishes within 25 miles of the home coordinates (though I tend to change that for overnight trips to wherever we stay) for all Traditional, Multi-, Unknown, and Earthcaches.
  2. All these messages go to the gMail account where I set-up a filter to run on "from:(noreply@geocaching.com) subject:([GEO] Notify:) published," forwarding them to my mobile phone's e-mail address.
  3. The mobile phone pages me with a text message that I have new mail from geocaching.com, but nothing else. I then pop open the gMail Mobile application if we're on the road, or through whatever mail access we have on a computer.
  4. If the cache looks possible and interesting, we load the GPSR(s) either by hand or through the Garmin Communicator Plugin (thank you Garmin!). If we're at home, we'll print the cache page for the longer descriptions or puzzles, but normally we just work from the information in the WAP interface. We run to the car, a start off in the general direction of the cache while Firefly03 works the NĂ¼vi and gets it routing to the cache.
  5. On occasion we'll call some of the other FTF Hounds to see if they're on their way and let them know we're on our way. Typically we like to hunt with the group and share the FTF credit. Its not about the numbers, its the hunt and camaraderie.
  6. Once found, we'll log the cache through the WAP interface noting whether we'd got FTF, STF, or TTF.
Unfortunately it seems that the number of folks heading out for those FTF hunts has been dwindling. Frankly, we've cut back on our attempts for that and the lack of free time (the FTF hunt Monday kept me from doing some work for the Geocaching Podcast). Most though seem to blame the increased cost of fuel and their lack of available time. As much as I miss the hunts and parties, I am happy that this gives the newer Cachers the opportunity to hunt some FTFs for themselves.

I'd love to hear/see you're FTF caching workflows. Post a comment to this post if you have something you could share.

1 comment:

Bill said...

TL4 workflow for FTF hunt:

We receive instant notification of all publishs within 50 miles of home to both email and as a direct text message to the phone.

If the cache looks like one we want to attempt, we grab our "go bag" and run out the door.

Since we have portable WiFi we load the GPSr's along the way.

I drive, Krystal loads the equipment, and Chris prepares any other equipment (i.e. boots, lights, hiking sticks, etc.).

I agree with Darryl, meeting up with other cachers at the ftf hunts is always a blast.