INTRODUCING…!

Start, stop, start, stop…procrastinate…start again, stop, wait, think a bit, start, stall, stall some more, download and format the pictures, stall some more, stop, start yet again…

That’s a quick summary about how writing this entry has gone…with a few more stops, starts, stalls and iterations of thinking thrown in. If I could invent a way to transfer thoughts directly to an electronic document during my daily commute to and from work I’d have this blog writing thing whipped…and probably get myself in really big trouble.

So what is it that I’m trying to write about that’s giving me fits? Geocaching. OK, not just geocaching but Groundspeak’s new Geocaching Intro app for iPhone and Android. Sorry Windows Phone folks, there isn’t a version for you…well, not yet anyway. This shouldn’t be giving me fits right? Right…but it has been…but now that I actually have more than a few words on the monitor I best just put the frustration behind me and go with the flow.

Intro

Here’s the deal, Groundspeak, Inc., the parent company of Geocaching.com, recently released a new ‘Geocaching Intro’ app. Geocaching Intro is primarily designed for folks that want to give geocaching a try without having to pay $10 for the full Geocaching app or pay $30 a year for a Geocaching.com ‘premium membership’ for use with an app by another developer in order to not be limited to downloading just three geocaches a day without the premium membership. Simply download the app, set up your basic membership via the app (its free!) and GO!

So what’s the catch? First of all, Geocaching Intro doesn’t have as many features as the full-blown Geocaching app – not that big of a deal for me since more often than not I don’t use all of the available features in any given app. Second, the user is limited to ‘traditional’ caches instead of being able to download the cache info for the various other types of caches which are available…again, not that big of a deal…especially for beginner geocachers.

I’ve heard some pretty good things about the app from some fairly experienced cachers so I downloaded the app onto my phone a couple of weeks ago to give it a try. I’ve had time to hunt for a dozen or so caches with it and so far I like it pretty well.

How does it work? Here’s a quick rundown of the basics, assuming you’ve set up a basic Geocaching.com account…

Once the app opens and gets past the intro page it will pull up a map centered on your location and populate the map with nearby caches. The app will identify three ‘recommended’ caches (green cache symbol) and show other nearby caches (green or gray dots).  For folks that have already done a but if caching, the app will also show the caches you’ve found and logged (yellow smilies).

Local Caches

To select a cache to hunt tap the symbol or dot to get to the cache page…

Location

Swipe the gray bar with the cache name at the bottom to get to the cache information including difficulty, terrain, cache size, the cache description. Tap on ‘Activity’ to get to recent cache logs and ‘Hint’ to see any hints that might be available.

Details

To start your search tap the ‘Start’ arrow on the right side of the screen to get the straight-line distance and direction to the selected cache as well as a ‘compass bar’ at the bottom of the map

Distance and Direction

Navigate to the general location of the cache then center the orange line on the compass bar in the middle of the screen to navigate to the cache location. There’s also an option to bring up a compass by tapping the orange arrow that will show up at the end of the compass bar when turned away from the cache. One thing to note…the compass face will always be oriented toward the north but the orange end of the needle will point to the cache…sorta counter-intuitive for experienced compass users, not so much for folks more familiar with a handheld GPS receiver.

Compass

As much as I’d like to say if you just follow the arrow it will take you directly to the cache. Sometimes it will but more often than not, because of limitations of cell phone GPS antennas, you’ll have to get close and then use your intuition or ‘geosense’ to actually find the cache. Once you find the cache…or maybe you don’t find it and give up…tap ‘Log Your Experience’ on the info page, select ‘Found It” or ‘Did Not Find”, whichever the case may be, type in your log entry, then tap ‘Post’ at the top right corner of the screen to submit your log to the Geocaching.com database and you’re on to your next cache.

Log It

All in all the app is pretty easy to use. It only takes a few minutes to learn the features well enough to get started and even though there are limitations when compared to the full Geocaching app, there’s still plenty there to keep one busy for a fairly long time.

Sooo…GET OUT! And give geocaching a try!

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