Hi-ho, Hi-ho, a-geocaching we will go.

Because we were going to be renting a boat while we were at Lake Buchanan, I decided to take my GPS. It’s an older model that doesn’t have a whole lot of memory and doesn’t do place maps. Nor does it jack into a computer. But it does do waypoints and tracks and navigation and that makes it easy to set a point on the GPS (“here, now”) then wander around for a few hours. When you’re ready to go back to that point, you just say, “take me there.” and it gives you bearing and distance. It’s very handy. We used it a few years ago at White Sands. We parked the car in the middle of the proverbial “nowhere” and set a waypoint. Then we did literally wander for hours. When we were ready to get back to the car, it turns out we were only about 2 miles from it over a couple decent dunes. We walked pretty much straight-as-the-crow-flies right back to the car. I love my GPS….

Oh, but back to our story — we were going to be on the lake in a boat, so I thought we’d do the same thing — set a waypoint at the dock where we got on the boat. Then we could tool all over the lake for the day and not have to worry about keeping track of landmarks (yes, I’m fully aware that a GPS is not a replacement for quality orienteering; we’re on vacation — NOT hiking the Andes).

Except that as we drove through Marble Falls on our way to the cabin, the display on my GPS went all wonky. Well, Meredith did not want to go on the lake without the GPS, and I’ve been itching for a new one ever since my dad got the top-of-the-line Garmin eTrex a few months ago. It does maps and jacks into the ‘puter and all that jazz. So, yeah, I picked up a new GPS at the local Mart of Walton (Sam, that is). It’s a Magellan eXplorist 210 and it does maps and connects to the PC.

Flash forward to today (oh, in case you’re wondering it did a yeoman’s job of navigating on the lake)….

I did a little poking around at geocaching.com and found about a dozen caches near our house. I even downloaded a file with all of them as waypoints. Then I had to figure out how to get them onto the GPS; I really didn’t want to have to enter them all by hand. I remember how well that went over a few years ago, when I got my first GPS. I spent several hours hand-entering several geocache waypoints into the GPS and then went out to find the caches, but didn’t actually find any because by that time it was dusk and I was a complete newbie to the whole ordeal. Talk about off-putting!

Anyway, I plugged the eXplorist’s USB cable into my Mac and lo-and-behold, the damn thing mounted as an external disk. I was able to see all the waypoints, tracks, routes, and et-cetera. VERY COOL! At that point, I just needed to figure out how to convert the geocaching.com waypoint file format (.loc) into a Magellan waypoint format (.upt). A quick Google search later, and I have Chimbisimo to thank for pointing me to GPSBabel! What an awesome tool it is! It instantly converted the .loc to a .upt and I was able to drop it right onto the eXplorist!

So, to make a long story short (TOO LATE!), Hays and Griffin and I went geocaching this afternoon. We hit nine spots; found four; didn’t find four; and had one inconclusive. These designations are all from the geocaching.com website.

Our four finds:
GCZH8V – Our very first geocache find, ever! Woohoo!

The four we didn’t locate:

The inconclusive one was GCXPNG, where we did find a non-permanent chewing gum box, but it was empty, so I added a short note to it and put it back where we found it (under cover, no the green one).

I downloaded the track log from my GPS and then ran it through GPSBabel again to generate a Google Earth kml file. I then loaded that into Google Earth and massaged it a little and cleaned things up and organized them a bit. If you’d like, you can download a KMZ file of our trek. It should load directly into Google Earth (I tested it on Meredith’s computer, and it worked fine).

I think maybe next weekend we’ll go hunting for GCRK4C, GCW71A, GCW970, and GCWP82.

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