Tuesday, 14 August 2018

Geocaching Adventures Iceland - The Blue Lagoon

This is the second article to accompany S1E1 of Geocaching Adventures; "Iceland, Reykjavik to the Blue Lagoon."

Haven't seen the video yet? Oh no! Here's your chance right now!

Here's some great news; I heard that you wanted to know more about the Blue Lagoon Spa so I'm providing some personal insights on that visit.

Where Is It?

First off, where is it? The Blue Lagoon Spa is located a short drive from Keflavik, or just under an hour from Reykjavik, on the Southern Peninsula.

How Do I Get In?

There are two types of "standard" entry, and then the more luxurious "Retreat Spa" option.  You should really book ahead via their website; they have a schedule/ticket system that's quite easy to use.
The two types of standard entry are called comfort or premium.  Staff in the pool know which entry you've paid for by the coloured RFID wristband you'll be wearing. 

Once through the front doors, there will be two lineups - one for tour groups, and the other for non-tour guests. The staff is highly efficient at getting you signed in, giving you your wristband and towel, and directing you to the change rooms.

What Should I Expect When I Get There?

Both entries get you access to the lagoon, a silica mud mask, use of a towel, locker for your stuff, and one free drink. The premium upgrade gets you use of a bathrobe and slippers, a second mud mask, and reservations to their on-site restaurant. 

Honestly, you get the full experience with the comfort entry which costs about 79EU, and the upgrade to premium is around 102EU. We didn't even consider the 280EU "retreat spa" option. We really enjoyed the comfort entry for the 3 or so hours we were there.

Off you get to the change rooms. You must shower before lagoon entry, and the free lockers work off of the RFID wristbands. A very cool system and all instructions are in English and several other languages. It's really hard to mess up!

Once you're showered and ready for the lagoon you make your way out and into the WARM water. It looks murky/cloudy, and the temperature ranges from spot to spot - as you get closer or nearer to the water inflows. 

Generally the bottom is flat and a bit gritty, and the water is super-buoyant. Most of the pool is at an average depth of just over a metre, but it does range slightly.

What Do I Do There?

Now that you are enjoying the warm waters, explore around and head to the mud-mask bar! They will ladel out (literally) a big handful of warm silica mud to apply to your face, and give you instructions such as "not in your eyes, nose or mouth" which is maybe obvious but important. 

The mud really feels like wet drywall mudding, and once applied to your face beings to dry quickly. You are expected to wear it for no more than 10 minutes, then you dip underwater to wash it off. Now you see one of the reasons the water is so cloudy!

After rejuvenating your face, head over to the opposite side of the lagoon and queue up for the in-water bar. They have a wide selection of pop and juice, you can also get red or white "house" wine, or a local beer. They even have a couple flavours of the Icelandic equivalent of a slurpee/slushie style iced drink. 

Amusingly, it's called Krap.

You can enjoy your drink anywhere in the pool, but they prefer you don't roam too far with it, and that you use the provided receptacles for your empty plastic cup.

You are expected to keep your visit in the Lagoon to about 2 hours, after which you head back to the change room for another shower.

The change rooms are very well appointed with hair-dryers, mirrors, and all the basic amenities so you can dry off and clean up nicely for the rest of your day.

I hope this info has been interesting, and maybe even helpful! 

If there is something else that would be helpful or interesting to you, please make sure to leave a comment. If you enjoyed it, please make sure to share it on social media and use @LANMonkeyGC so I can thank you.

LANMonkey's Geocaching Adventures are written by Jay Kennedy, outdoor adventurer and photo-journalist. All content is affiliated with the Wander Network. Experience his adventures on Twitter and Instagram by following @LANMonkeyGC, and subscribing to LANMonkey on YouTube. He is also a regular co-host of the Caching in the Northwest geocaching podcast. 

Thursday, 9 August 2018

Geocaching Adventures Iceland - Behind the Scenes Day 1

Accompanying each episode of Geocaching Adventures we'll provide a "behind the scenes" blog article to give you details on the cool adventures you saw in the video.  

What should you expect here? Things like: 

  • GC codes for the caches we found
  • Maps of where we traveled
  • Photos and video that didn't make the cut but were still cool
  • Some of the fun stories we just couldn't squeeze into the videos

This is the first of these articles and it accompanies S1E1 of Geocaching Adventures; "Iceland, Reykjavik to the Blue Lagoon."

Haven't seen the video yet? Oh no! Here's your chance right now!

How Did We Get There?

First things first, right? So our trip planning was largely (almost entirely!) done via the fact that we signed up for a Landsharkz Geocaching Adventure. We've previously joined them for their Alaskan Adventure and had so much fun we signed up for this Baltic one also.

As for the nitty gritty of our travel, we flew IcelandAir from YVR in Vancouver, BC to KEF in Keflavik, Iceland

Pro Tips - unless you can get by for six hours on a bag of pretzels, bring food on the plane with you. Standard fares do not include meals. Also, check your carry-on baggage size, as IcelandAir may have slightly smaller carry-on restrictions than you may be accustomed to.

There is another airport right at Reykjavik, but the primary airport for travel in and out of Iceland is KEF.

Once we landed, we did not need taxis or rental cars as we were part of an organized tour group picked up directly by bus from the airport.

There is however the opportunity for car rentals, taxis, and a shuttle bus that can take you from KEF to Reykjavik, which is about 45 minutes away.

Where Did We Go?

Before we went into Reykjavik, our group did a tour of the Southern peninsula where the KEF airport is, an area called Reykjanes. This is a drive  that I would highly recommend as it takes you to some extraordinary sights that really aren't that far from the airport. 

Key stops of note in this area include:
  • Midlina - the bridge across the Mid-Atlantic Ridge
  • Gunnuhver - mudpools and steam vents

  • Reykjanesta - spectacular cliffs and basalt formations dropping into the Atlantic

After our drive-about tour we headed to Reykjavik and some folks did an organized city tour, but as the city was quite walkable for us Monkeys, we chose to opt out and walked around a fairly sizable loop (a few km's). 

Reykjavik - Capital city of Iceland

The Blue Lagoon - World-famous geothermal spa

What Caches Did We Find?

Here's a list of some of the geocaches we found and would recommend. There were more, but these are at least some highlights to get you started!

Naissance d'acier - GC6CVP8

Midlina - GC2DK2E
Gunnuhver - GC3112E
The Unknown Bureaucrat - GC7B6YN

In a crevice among some large rocks ... - GC5ARP6

Bláa lónið - Blue lagoon - Blaue Lagune - GC25643

I hope this info has been interesting, and maybe even helpful! 

If there is something else that would be helpful or interesting to you, please make sure to leave a comment. If you enjoyed it, please make sure to share it on social media and use @LANMonkeyGC so I can thank you.

LANMonkey's Geocaching Adventures are written by Jay Kennedy, outdoor adventurer and photo-journalist. All content is affiliated with the Wander Network. Experience his adventures on Twitter and Instagram by following @LANMonkeyGC, and subscribing to LANMonkey on YouTube. He is also a regular co-host of the Caching in the Northwest geocaching podcast. 

Sunday, 8 July 2018

Three Pro-Tips for Staying Hydrated on the Trails

Water. Probably one of the poorest planned and most important aspects of the 10 essentials when we go out for a day hike.

Don't get me wrong, I know almost all of us grab a water bottle (or two?) before we head out, but do we really think about our hydration much more than this:

"I've got some water; I'll drink it when I'm thirsty. I hope it lasts."

A recent Twitter conversation with friend Limax7 prompted me to share three simple pro-tips to make sure you are well hydrated on your hikes, regardless of where they are or what season it is.

Tip #1 - Pre-Hydrate

Uh, what does that even mean? It's as simple as it sounds. Drink some water BEFORE the hike. 

Top advice from professional trainers, athletes, and first aid folks is consistent on this point. Plan on your morning before your hike to drink about 1 litre (1 quart, or 34 fluid ounces) of water in small amounts. We'll talk about the drawbacks to "chugging" water in tip #2. 

This is super important as you'll be losing fluids through the day and this way you are off to a solid start on staying well hydrated.

Tip #2 - Bring the Right Amount for Your Day

Exactly how much water you will need for any hike will of course be affected by certain variables - heat, duration of the hike, incline of the hike, your personal health, etc. 

Most medical professionals agree that people should drink 2 litres (~1/2 gallon, 2 quarts, or 67 fluid ounces) of water per day. So use that as a baseline, minimal amount to bring on a day hike.

I get it though - water is HEAVY! Consider "caching" water along your route to have it available on your way back and not have to carry it the full distance. Have a .5 or 1 litre water bottle tucked behind a tree or under some rocks (sealed tightly, and with no flavouring so as not to attract animals to it) then drop a waypoint on your GPSr or phone.

Split your daily water carry between members of your team, and consider using lighter containers for the water such as collapsible water bottles, or maybe even a hydration pack. The small amounts of weight & space it saves can end up making a big difference.

On a hot day, or a longer hike, add another 1-2 litres to your daily carry of water. You can cache a litre at the "half way back" point of your hike (of course, not if you are hiking a loop!). 

Ultimately, you need to be the best judge of how much water to carry but you will rarely regret carrying too much.

Lastly, don't "chug" your water. It's tempting and we've all done it. But you are far better off to "sip" your water at regular intervals, perhaps every 10 minutes as a guide. On a hot day day or at high elevations your water intake should equal approximately 1 litre per hour

So doing the math, if you are going on a 4 hour hike on a hot day, you should pre-hydrate, and then carry approximately 4 litres of water! I know - that's a lot of weight!

Tip #3 - Have a Back-Up Plan

Plan B, right? So what happens if you didn't bring enough water? We won't get into the details of heat stroke, heat exhaustion, dehydration, muscle cramps... you likely know all this. But be aware, running out of water is serious business. 

So what's your Plan B? Essentially what I'm getting at is how will you get water while you are out on the trail?

Try and figure out if there are natural or man-made water sources along your planned route. Hiking trail review sites or geocaching logs are good sources of intel - don't rely on the fact that your topo maps show a creek or pond!

In the event there is no water source on your hike, then make certain you bring MORE than enough with you. 

Myself and many of my hiking friends always carry a LifeStraw with us. It's a great "Plan B" because it filters the Cryptosporidium and Giardia from natural water sources. The beauty of these types of filters is they are reusable, inexpensive, effective, and light to carry.

If you are planning a longer hike, consider a pump or bottle-press type filter such as Katadyn products. These are a bit bulkier and heavier, but can process larger amounts of water that you can bottle/store for later use.

Get Home Safe!

So that's my quick three pro-tips you can use to make sure you avoid any issues with hydration on your geocaching or other hikes. 

One last note - don't get tricked by Winter or cool Spring/Fall weather! Your body needs the same base amount of water regardless of the temperature and climate, so don't fall into the trap of "it's cold out so I only need 500ml for a day of hiking." 

So that all said, go outside and "cache safely, and cache often!"

LANMonkey's Geocaching Adventures are written by Jay Kennedy, outdoor adventurer and photo-journalist. All content is affiliated with the Wander Network. Experience his adventures on Twitter and Instagram by following @LANMonkeyGC, and subscribing to LANMonkey on YouTube. He is also a regular co-host of the Caching in the Northwest geocaching podcast. 

Sunday, 15 April 2018

New Contest! Are You One of The #DNFAvengers?

#DNFAvengers Assemble!

Caching in the Northwest - you might have heard of our little podcast? 
Well we are calling for #DNFAvengers to assemble!

Starting NOW share your stories and photos of how you turned that blue frown upside-down and you'll be entered to win one of several prizes from CachingNW and our sponsors!

So here's the deal; you can enter as often as you'd like - the more you enter the better your chances! And there's a few different ways to enter, check them out and try them all for the best chances to win! 

To make it even juicier - everyone who at least enters ONCE will receive some HTML to add a virtual badge for your Geocaching profile - a special Caching in the Northwest #DNFAvengers badge!

1. Twitter - tweet your #DNFAvengers story, and make sure to include that hashtag. Fit in @CachingNW and if you are able, @LANMonkeyGC also to make sure we see them! Include a photo for maximum impact! 2 contest entry "points" per post - as long as it has #DNFAvengers and @CachingNW.

2. Facebook - post about your #DNFAvengers story, and again, lead off your story with #DNFAvengers and add @CachingNW! Remember, photos make everything better. Again, 2 entry points per post with the hashtag and include @CachingNW.

3. Call in - to 253-693-TFTC email us a voice recording from your phone or computer, or use the voice recording widget on CachingNW.com and tell us your #DNFAvengers story in your own voice! We'll play it on the podcast and enter you in! Getting the story in YOUR voice gets you 5 entry points

4. Email us at feedback@cachingNW.com and explain your #DNFAvengers story in under 150 words (we're slow readers!) for a 3 point entry.

So to sum up - show everyone that you are one of the true #DNFAvengers by posting to Twitter, Facebook, or sharing your story by audio or email to us and start racking up your entry points for the random draws - first draw will be Thursday May 3 at 5:00pm pacific, and the winner announced just after 9pm pacific on the live podcast!

Tuesday, 27 February 2018

How to Get All 10 Souvenirs! #PlanetaryPursuit

Want to make sure you can earn all 10 souvenirs available from Geocaching.com between March 19 and April 8? Well I'm here to help you on your stellar mission.

I've got 5 simple tips that will get you your 10 souvenirs, or my name isn't Buck Rogers!* 

#1 - Build Your Crew!

First things first - if you're going shoot for the stars (or the souvenirs) you'll need to build your team. Remember the Mary Hyde events and activities from last year? Well it's the very same system for the Friend League support to get you ship-shape and on your way.

Make sure you check in on your own Friend League page to ensure that your crew is set up by going to:
Dashboard > View FriendsGet motivated with your friend league!

(pro-tip - just click the last "your friend league" link, and then bookmark it so you have a quick way to get there in the future!)

Do you already have a great crew amassing huge points? Awesome! If not, just click the "Add Friends" green button and send some friend requests to your geocaching buddies. 
For more tips on great Geocaching Friends etiquette, check this post from last summer!

#2 - Know the Score!

Next important thing to know is HOW to get those valuable points! This simple table from Geocaching.com explains what you most need to know.

Action Point value
Log a Found it on any geocache (Traditional, Virtual, Webcam, Wherigo) 5
Log a Found it on a Multi-Cache or Letterbox Hybrid 10
Log a Found it on a Mystery Cache or EarthCache 15
Attend any event 15
Drop off trackable 4

#3 - Start the Countdown!

T minus 19... 18... OK, you get it. Take a look at your calendar, and message some of your friend league - see if you can't pick a time to get out caching together between March 19 and April 8

You can send messages individually on the My Friends page using the  "Send Message" link on each friend's "card" on the page.

But it might be even easier, if you are already all on Facebook or Twitter, to start a group chat for planning purposes.

#4 - Find Unexplored Space with Your Crew!

You've got the team, you've got the dates, but where to go? Make sure the adventure gets max points for everyone by using the Geocaching.com Search page

Enter an area to start your search from and you'll get the initial list. But now click on the Filters green button, and make sure to click the radio buttons for "I Haven't Found" and "I Don't Own."

That done, next thing to do is enter in the names of your space crew in the "Not Found By" box.

Now click the Search button again and you'll see the caches that will maximize your teams points!

#5 - Earn Nine for Ten!

So you know how to get points, but what are your targets? Why the planets of course! OK, the souvenirs named after planets! And to help you out here's the next great table Geocaching.com provided so we can all know the score(ing system).

Souvenirs  Points needed on the Friend League (individual)
Planetary Pursuit: Earth 5 points
Planetary Pursuit: Venus 10 points
Planetary Pursuit: Mercury 20 points
Planetary Pursuit: Mars 40 points
Planetary Pursuit: Jupiter 65 points
Planetary Pursuit: Saturn 100 points
Planetary Pursuit: Uranus 200 points
Planetary Pursuit: Neptune 300 points
Planetary Pursuit: Pluto 500 points
Official Space Explorer Collect all planet souvenirs (500 points) and earn this meta souvenir.

Note that as like other souvenir events in the past, the tenth souvenir is "automatically" earned by achieving the prior 9

Pay attention that these are individual points in Friend League, so you'll have to earn those points yourself to get the souvenirs, not total points in your League.

*full disclosure - my name isn't Buck Rogers, but these are still great tips!

Most importantly - get out there and cache safely, and cache often!
The LANMonkeys

Follow the LANMonkey's Geocaching Adventures every week by following us on Instagram and Twitter, Facebook, and of course, our YouTube channel where we're always adding new fun videos.
Every Thursday night at 9pm Pacific you can watch LANMonkey and his co-hosts live on the Caching in the Northwest Geocaching podcast - don't miss any podcasting fun by subscribing to the CachingNW podcast!

Saturday, 3 February 2018

Top 3 Things You Need to Know About Snowshoes

It's the perfect time of year to get out snowshoeing - heading out for a geocaching adventure, or just enjoying the beauty of winter.

But if you've never been before, or maybe you have been but you've got some questions, what do you need to know?

Here's the top three things you need to know about snowshoes - watch the video and get all top three in less than 3 minutes!

But for the recap of the video, here's what you need to know:

1. Anatomy of the Snowshoe

The modern snowshoe consists of 4 parts. 

The Frame - this is the structure of the snowshoe, usually made of a light sturdy metal in generally oval in shape.
The Webbing - keeps the snowshoe "aloft" in the snow and keeps you from sinking. Generally made from a vinyl-like fabric, but sometimes made from hard plastics or various other materials.
The Bindings - the bindings are how your feet stay in the shoes! There are various different binding system in modern snowshoes but they usually consist of a series of straps that hold the toes and top of your foot into the "toe" of the show, and a second elastic/rubber strap that holds your heel into the show.
The Crampons - without these metal teeth on the bottom of your shoes, you'd just slide around on the snow. Crampons provide traction and come in a variety of sizes and arrangements.

2. How Do I Put Them On?

In simplest terms, this breaks down to 
  • determine left vs right (often noted on the bindings)
  • loosen the bindings
  • slide your foot in
  • tighten the bindings
It's really that simple! The video walks you through the steps, so it's much easier than me trying to explain it - just watch and learn.

Note that the binding systems vary between manufacturers and models, so it's often best to get the person selling or renting you the show to show you how to secure the bindings properly.

3. Do I Need Poles?

I strongly recommend poles. If you are new to snowshoeing you may need the extra balance help. If you are experienced, they are handy for tackling hills. 

Getting collapsible snowshoe or hiking poles (make SURE they have snow baskets) is best so that when you don't need them, you can collapse them and store them in your pack.

Want to Know More?

So there you go - the top three things you need to know about snowshoes. 

Of course, there's many other things that are important to know, and for way more detail, check out our recent episode of Caching in the Northwest where we breakdown snowshoeing in more detail.

And most importantly, remember to "cache safely, and cache often!"

Jay Kennedy is better known as LANMonkey on geocaching podcasts and videos, and presents regularly on outdoors topics.
Follow LANMonkeyGC on Twitter, Instagram, and Periscope for weekly photos and video of our awesome adventures. Check out LANMonkey on YouTube for regular videos with great tips, adventure recaps, and product reviews.

Tuesday, 23 January 2018

Three Quick Tips to be Tsunami-Safe When Geocaching

Hey Geocachers, 

So we had a "near miss event" overnight in the Northwest - a tsunami warning from the 7.9 Magnitude earthquake off the coast of Alaska. Great news is that all regions I've heard about were not hit by a tsunami of any significant size.

So after a collective sigh of relief, I thought it would be handy to share a bit of insight into what tsunamis are, why it's something to keep in mind in the coastal Northwest (and really, any coastal area), and what geocachers should know about tsunamis.

A tsunami is not the same as a tidal wave. A tsunami is a series of large waves, triggered by some sort of under-water seismic event such as an earthquake, volcano, etc. The key points here are that it can be a series of waves - not a single large rogue wave - which can significantly impact low-lying coastal areas, and that they are triggered by some sort of seismic event, most of which are monitored by government facilities.

This is really good news, because in *most* cases it means that in the event of a potential tsunami, there will likely be an hour or more warning that it is coming - that of course depends on where the seismic activity occurred relative to where you are at the time.

Further, here's some interesting facts about tsunamis borrowed from the Government of Canada's "Get Prepared" emergency awareness website:

  • Tsunamis are a series of large waves caused by events such as submarine earthquakeslandslidesvolcanic eruptions, and less commonly, meteoric impacts. Tsunamis can also occur in large lakes.
  • They can occur with little warning in the ocean and in lakes.
  • A tsunami can be triggered by a large, high energy, but relatively short duration disturbance of the sea floor. Such waves can travel across the ocean at high speed (800 km/h, the speed of a jet plane).
  • As the tsunami waves approach the shoreline and water depth shallows, the wave speed slows, but wave height will increase as wave length decreases. In 20 m of water, wave speed will be 50 km/h.
  • Tsunamis can occur as individual or multiple waves following each other by minutes and even hours.
  • Tsunamis can grow to 60 or more metres in height (the size of a ten-story building).
So with the events of this morning, and the knowledge that this seismic activity is monitored by US and Canadian governments, it's helpful to know that when you are geocaching in low lying coastal areas - or along river/water systems  connected to the oceans - to have your mobile phone configured to receive any alerts of this nature. 

In the US, many states subscribe to the emergency broadcast alerts via the Commercial Mobile Alert System and can send messages directly to your mobile phone over most mobility networks. While this may result in the occasional erroneous incoming ballistic missile false alarm, it will give you a head's up of an incoming tsunami or other significant natural disaster.

Here in Canada however, our CRTC has not permitted this "push" technology yet. Therefore, to be notified of tsunamis while out geocaching in coastal Canada, it is important to subscribe to a service such as the Emergency Info BC Twitter account. In April 2018 the BC Government is committed to having a text service available as a component of the BC Emergency Alert system, which will most certainly be helpful.

So as a geocacher, what can you do to be tsunami-prepared? There's really three simple things to do:

  1. Understand what areas may be tsunami susceptible when you are out caching.
  2. Watch for "tsunami evacuation route" signs to know which direction to head should there be an alert.
  3. Subscribe to any emergency broadcast services available, and keep an ear open for tsunami alert sirens if you are ear-shot of such notification systems.

Most of all, we hope that you all cache safely, and cache often!