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Featured Cacher For March 2009 - CriffRee

CriffRee of Katy, TX.
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What got you interested in caching?
CriffRee: A high school buddy (Dave) and I used to play computer games way back when computers first came out. In those days there were no joysticks, sound cards or graphics. These games (Adventure games) consisted of being in an imaginary world where you would explore, search for trinkets, solve puzzles and or otherwise simulate things that you could do easily in the real world. The first such game like this I played was a DEC version called ADVENTURE. This later was modified by a group of college students and released as ZORK for an upstart company called Infocom. Dave and I would play these things exhaustively, mapping out the world, trying every possible command.
Time passes; I graduate high school and go off to college. Dave does the same and our lives diverge. But we’ve stayed in touch all these years. In 2006 Dave calls me and says he thinks I’d be interested in a hobby he picked up. It reminded him of the adventure games we used to play as teenagers.
I initially was interested, but didn’t have a GPS. Easter of 2006 I went to Taos, New Mexico, with my family. Knowing my brother had a GPS, I subscribed to GC.com and looked up a few caches in the area and printed them out. Over the course of the week stay, I never figured out how to use the GPS and or otherwise hunt for caches.
More time passes, Dave mentions it again. By this time I have an old Garmin that I bought as a gift for my father-in-law. He passed away and I ended up with it and thought I’d try geocaching again. Created my account again, and at the suggestion of Dave, he found three caches near my home. Of the three, one was a puzzle (GCRRZ4 the Columbiad); one turned out to be missing and I never found; but the third one (GC16WFR Grand Lakes Picture Perfect) did the trick. The GPS I had was old and not very accurate. It got me within 90 or so feet. As you can imagine, that’s not very close. And with this cache, not only was a not close, but it was cammo, hidden very cleverly. But find it Sherri (my wife) and I did! That was the last cache she was interested in. You can see pics of my first Geocaching adventure here: PHOTOS
OK, so this is pretty cool, I think, and I start trying others. Not knowing anyone, or anything about the hobby I make ALL the mistakes. I look for puzzles at the posted coordinates (even though it clearly says not to); I look for caches without looking at sat images and otherwise do everything the hard way. And yet, I get lucky and find a few, and a few more… And before long I’m more successful.
I dragged my Mom and Dad to two caches in downtown Katy, and as a result of that, they bought me a Garmin GPS for Christmas of 2007. From there, the doors opened and the rest is documented in every log since!

How did you decide on your caching name?
CriffRee: I lived in Singapore summer of ’83. My parents lived/worked there and I went there to spend the summer. The locals had a hard time with my name. Cliff Lee was always pronounced as “Criff Ree”. I liked the ring of it, so I started using it as a nickname and or BBS account names. Ultimately it’s been part of my email address for the better part of 2 decades.

When you cache, what equipment do you use? (PDA, Garmin, Magellan, software)
CriffRee: I use a Garmin Hcx Legend. I really like it and have added the street maps, which I use quite a bit. My only complaint is the rubber ring around the device is held on with a double stick tape. That tape melts, and the rubber comes off. I’ve had it replaced under warranty, but the replacement is doing it as well. I also use a Blackberry phone with a Cacheberry loaded. That keeps me from having to have paper with me in the field. At home I use GSAK, where I use two databases (Found and Not Found). I’m considering consolidating the two databases, and using just one as I’m getting better at using the filters and such. For puzzles, I keep almost everything in Excel spreadsheets.

What are your all-time favorite cache(s)?
CriffRee: I’m partial to a good hike that takes you some where surprising, puzzles that give you “ah hah!” moments, and cammo’s that hide in plain sight. I’ve been a fan of Piman314 puzzles which more often than not gives you both. I liked his Iguana Rock, which is in Cozumel, The Maze, 12 degrees and so on. Most all of his puzzles are well crafted. Unfortunately many are now archived (after my attempts to find them…). I feel like I have the kiss of death for many of them.
An example of a cache taking you to an unexpected location is GCPMB5 Sand Dune Run. I found this in Los Angeles while on a vacation. What a cool place and I would never have found or run across it otherwise.
Finally, good cammo cache’s I’ve found include (besides my first cache mentioned above):GC1HXTQ Civil Engineering Sculpture (Recently published in College Station)
GC1CP3P H.I.P.S. - No Shock Included (LOVE this series!)

Do you have any special caching adventures you want to tell us about?
CriffRee: Just about any time you get to cache with another cacher is special. I’ve had the privilege to cache with several people (Davarle, Kirbydox, Bografan, Easygroomer, Teamterz, The Pieman, Cookcachers, Grangerfam, GabbyTabby, MT Cachers, Manosteel… I’m sure I’ve leaving someone off). I guess one of the most memorable caching trips was to GC1J42N Fork in the road. It came up with perfect timing. A buddy of mine came in from Dallas (Luke) and was interested in caching, so I thought I’d take him for a simple hike. Along the way, I see a couple guys looking at a cache I’d done recently and stopped to say hello… It was Camomaster and Beast101, who joined me and Luke on our trip to Fork in the road (they were keen to try for FTF!). The coords take us to George Bush Park, where we take the path as best we can until it’s time to cut into the thick of things. On the way there, we have several water crossings, which we navigate to varying degrees of success. Ultimately we ended up wet and not worrying about the water. Along the way we see snakes, spiders and various other critters. Ultimately we get to GZ and look around to find nothing. Nothing at all. I get on the phone and call The Pieman and ask him about the hide. He tells me to look for the fork in the road. ?!? Road? I’ve not seen a road in almost a half a mile?!? Let alone a fork in it! It didn’t make sense. A few more head scratching moments later and The Pieman realizes there’s a typo in coords and he’s taken us on a wild goose chase! We all had a good laugh about it (because what’s the point of caching, but to have an adventure, and in this case we did!). So as not to waste the effort, Camomaster and Beast101 decide to place a cache here. We spent the next hour or so getting it rigged up. Not wanting to make the trip a second time, I sign the log as “Not First to Find”. By this time, The Pieman has given us the correct coords and we make a beeline (having just come this way) for the cache (still hoping for FTF). Again with the bushwhacking and water crossings and critter sightings… We get back to the paved trail, and low and behold there is a fork in the road, and sure enough we find the cache! FTF to boot (no wonder since we were the only ones with the updated coords!). About the time we find this, I get a call from GrangerFam and Fendmar who get to the posted coords for Fork, asking me what “Not First to Find” means?!? Instead of find what we found (i.e. nothing); confusingly they find the cache that we’d just placed! I told them our story and they got to find an unpublished cache!
I don’t tell this story to cause The Pieman grief… We all make mistakes. I’ve embarrassingly done so a couple times. It’s just that for this one, we made lemonade when given lemons!

Have any "Most embarrassing Geo-moment" you would like to share? Details please!
CriffRee: Too many to mention, except that on the way to the 2008 Christmas White Elephant event, I had the bright idea of caching on the way out. I was in the Meyerland area and started looking for a cache near a bridge. As I looked around, I slipped and fell into the ditch. I was completely covered in mud. I went to Meyerland (covered in Mud) and bought a new set of clothes! There I was standing in the Christmas lines, covered in muck, looking like I’m homeless. I bought the clothes, and wore them out, and showed up at the even with new clothes. Uggg.

What is your favorite type of cache (traditional, multi, puzzle) and why?
CriffRee: My favorites are the ones I’ve not found yet! I’m partial to puzzles. But the thing is that you’ll get to think that your good at them and one will come along and kick your butt! I find that I do the math related puzzles well, the ciphers about 50/50. I also love the idea of hiding in plain sight. This is why I loved OSC’s series on the subject. One the things I had the most trouble with was the acronym called PAF. I had no idea what that was about and boy what a useful tool that it. The best way I’ve found to resolve this is by attending the events, which does wonders for your PAF collection!

Summer or Winter caching? Why?
CriffRee: Winter? What’s that? Isn’t that something they have further north?
I cache all year round, because I don’t know any better. It never occurred to me that it would make a difference. Turns out it does. There’s definitely a snake and spider season that can be avoided if one chooses. I don’t mind finding snakes, but absolutely HATE walking into a spider web. Give me the heebie jeebies every time.
I’ve been caching in the DEAD of summer to the point of heat stroke, and or been what we get as winter till my fingers were blue. The coolest thing about caching is that it gets you out of the house and when the days are good, you are out there to enjoy it! Clean air, clear blue skies, fresh greenery… good stuff.

When a new cache is listed, are you tempted to go for FTF?
CriffRee: Yes. I have the FTF utility running on a laptop that alerts when a new cache is published in a 15 mile radius. It’s quite competitive on the west side. I’ve met LOTs of folks a midnight (ish) chasing FTF. Easygroomer, Bografan, Familieryan, Teamterz, Atennisbabe and Cookcachers have all made the late night dash! I’ve since geared up for night caching, and am very tempted when the alarm goes off.There’s been more than one time that I’ve gotten up from a perfectly comfortable bed to chase these things at night! Easygroom, Bografan and I had an interesting adventure doing the 7 in 7 series (GC1KD2X 7-in-7: #1 Central Park) with a wrong coordinate on #5. It took us to the middle of a golf course. A quick call to TeamTerz (at midnight!) and he confirms we have the wrong coords. He gives us the updated, and hangs around while we look for his clever hide.

Tell us about your cache mobile.
CriffRee: I have 2006 Chevy Trailblazer with a bike rack. I’ll bring a bike from time to time to work clusters. I used the bike to do Grangerfam’s Pump it up series (GC15MKE Pump It Up #1). Funny thing while doing that series, Sherri and I are looking for one, and I hear this “Hey what are you doing in that tree…” It was Grangerfan. Cool meeting the cache owner while doing the series! I’m not in love with the trailblazer, and am considering a change, but now need to take into consideration caching.

What other hobbies do you have?
CriffRee: My wife and I are collectors of all sorts. I have a HUGE collection of Pez candy dispensers (and have done GCP84P Pez Collector's Cache). I even built an artcar with over 1500 Pez dispensers glued to it. I made this the theme of my Pathtag: PATHTAG
I’ve recently re-ordered and have begun adding them to caches.
Sherri loves the Disney movie “The Aristocats”. We collect all the memorabilia we can with regards to that movie. A turn out there’s not a much as you’d imagine.
We also collect metal lunch boxes and pinball machines. I also have a fascination with Gemini and Apollo era NASA memorabilia. I’d LOVE to meet any of those fellows. (I wrote a letter to John Glenn once, but I’m not sure it ever got to him).
I’m an avid Scuba diver and have been looking for cache that might require the use of the equipment. There’s one near Waco, but my diving buddies weren’t interested.
Sherri and I love live music and go to small clubs around town frequently. We’re partial to Blues and Rockabilly. We just LOVE the new House of Blue that’s opened recently.

Do you currently have any caching goals that you are working towards?
CriffRee: Goals? I’ve been filling out my terrain and difficulty matrix. I’ve also been trying to maintain a 12% puzzle ratio (why 12%? Seemed like as good a number as any). I also want to cache in other countries, but I’m not travelling as much as I used to.
The numbers will come with time. Just keep plugging at it! I’m also trying to add different cache types to my finds. I’ve trying to add more benchmarks. I find them, but have trouble logging them.

Is it all about the numbers?
CriffRee: In my case, no. The numbers aren’t the reward, the journey is the reward. It’s the adventure one has during the find, the camaraderie with other cachers, and the places you end up.
I’ve discovered that caching is really two parts. The first part is the hunt/find, and the second is the log. Initially I didn’t understand that and my logs were pathetic. But I’ve come to realize that I was missing out on a dimension of this hobby, and that is sharing your experience. So I’ve tried to up my game with regards to logs.

Thanks for this interview. Is there anything you would like to add?
CriffRee: I’ve been a part of online communities/forums since the 110 baud modem days of BBSes. I’ve hosted BBS’es and created email lists and yahoogroups that exist to this day. I joined HGCS.org and read for many months before I posted a message. I’ve seen how in established communities that it’s sometimes difficult for a newbie to join in (not aware of the history and culture). I’ve not felt that with HCGS, and have been welcomed at every step of my path. From the various event caches to responses on the forums, I’ve felt the sense of community here. Is that unique to Houston, or is this what all cachers are like? Thanks for the warm and encouraging welcome.