Prospecting Tools

Since I am always snooping for interesting places, I also snoop for tools to help me find interesting places. That includes anything I can bend, twist, or repurpose to fit my needs. GPS Receiver technology has spawned many applications, some of which can be used to identify and find places off the map that other folks have found.

GEOCACHING is a real world treasure hunt. There are over 2.3 million active caches spread over the planet and over 6 million cachers searching for them. Geocaching is supported by a well-developed user-friendly website.
A unique aspect of geocaching centers on the concept of a “Travel Bug”. The physical manifestation of the travel bug can take many forms but to the computer, it is a unique alpha/numeric code that can be moved from cache to cache by participants. “Drops” and “Pickups” are recorded by participants, mileage is calculated, and all interested parties are informed by email. The website keeps track of the location of all travel bugs. I have fourteen travel bugs traveling around the world. I get an email every time one is dropped or picked up. I use these emails as clues to possible sites I might want to visit and explore.
Two features on the geocaching website are particularly useful in finding places off the map: GeoTours and Trip Planner. GeoTours
I can explore unique destinations in a new way with GeoTours. These custom tours showcase engaging geocaches designed to introduce you to new locations. Here are two examples:
“Taking Flight” GeoTour (vicinity of Bradenton, FL)
Visit the sites along the Taking Flight GeoTour to learn about Manatee County’s wild spaces and the amazing birds that live in them. Caches are located in birding hot spots, and each one includes a fun, educational activity. Find 12 of 15 caches on the tour to earn a custom Taking Flight tracking tag.
The “Across the Divide” GeoTour features Colorado’s Rocky Mountain National Park and the mountain villages of Estes Park & Grand Lake. Traveling from town to town, you cross the Continental Divide reaching an altitude of over 12,000’. This tour celebrates the National Park Service’s Centennial – “Find Your Park Experience”. There are a total of 54 geocaches on this GeoTour.
Trip Planner: Geocaches Along a Route
This tool helps me find caches along a predefined route, within a specified distance from that route, anywhere in the world. Routes can be up to 500 miles long. I can generate routes myself or use routes created by other geocachers. Before creating my route, I search for other routes by location or keyword.
Once I have defined the route (beginning point and ending point), I submit it to the website and get back a list of all geocaches along that route. Here is where I bend the tool for my purpose. Many caches are just hidden to be found as part of playing the game. However, some players have the interest, good sense, and opportunity to hide a cache in a location that has some meaning. I go through the list and identify those that appear to be in a place I want to explore or visit. Even if I don’t find the geocache, I use those caches to get me to an interesting place.

WAYMARKING is a spinoff of geocaching and one account, username, password, and profile gives you access to both. The objective is to visit, catalog, and mark interesting locations around the world. Waymarks exist in categories (over 1,000) and can be in more than one. When you discover a place worthy of being a waymark, you submit it for inclusion in the database. There are over half a million recorded waymarks (some duplicates due to listing in multiple categories). If the waymark already exists, your encounter can be recorded as a “visit”. Your score gets credit for both. The waymarking website and database are less developed and user-friendly than the one for geocaching. However, waymarking is more comfortable and rewarding for those interested in places rather than trinket treasures.
What is waymarking?
Waymarking is a way to mark unique locations on the planet and give them a voice. While GPS technology allows us to pinpoint any location on the planet, mark the location, and share it with others, Waymarking is the toolset for categorizing and adding unique information for that location. Groundspeak’s slogan is “The Language of Location” and our goal is to give people the tools to help others share and discover unique and interesting locations on the planet.
What is a waymark?
A waymark is a physical location on the planet marked by coordinates (latitude/longitude) and contains unique information defined by its waymark category. An outdoor maze category, for example, could contain information like price of admission and days of operation while a statue category may describe the artist’s medium and date of dedication.
What is a waymark category?
A waymark category holds all the waymarks specific to that category’s theme. Each waymark category has specific submission requirements and content. Waymark categories are managed by individual Groups responsible for all the activity within its assigned category.
How do I feel about the Waymarking Website?
I am ambivalent. Reading the purpose and description make it sound like just what I want. There is so much information there I cannot walk away, but the website is so difficult to use I get infuriated. The site managers claim they are not “Waymarking Police.” The result is a website that has grown with no organization or discipline. I’ll stop there and let you decide for yourself.

LETTERBOXING is a mix of treasure hunting, art, navigation, and exploring interesting scenic places. Following word clues, directions, sometimes riddles or puzzles leads you to the hidden letterbox. Rudimentary compass skills are a plus. The trek to the letterbox should provide some learning experience or enjoyment. Carry a personal rubber stamp and stamp pad to play the game right. The letterbox should also contain a rubber stamp and pad. Logging your find is done by swapping stamp images – your stamp in the letterbox log and the letterbox stamp in your logbook. The take a stamp image/leave a stamp image concept in letterboxing replaces the take an object/leave an object concept in geocaching. The Letterbox counterpart to the travel bug is the Hitchhiker.
Letterboxing is complicated by the fact that there are two competing websites: “Letterboxing North America (LbNA)” and “Atlas Quest (AQ)”. I try to use both. A letterbox must be listed separately in each of the websites
How do I feel about the Letterboxing Websites?
Having two websites makes things tougher. To find all the letterboxes in an area, you must search on both websites.
Atlas Quest (AQ) has excellent search and sort capabilities. You can search by location, along a route, or over an area. Letterboxing North America (LbNA), not so much.……….

MUNZEE is the next generation in global scavenger hunt games. Simply download the free app, scan the munzees you find, and score points. No munzees in your area? You can grow the map by simply obtaining game pieces from the Munzee store, or printing out and deploying your own. Collect points when you place your munzees on the map or when they are captured by other players. Your points accumulate and you gain levels.
Munzee has something for everyone, whether you are a casual player, an avid explorer, or a hardcore competition enthusiast. The intensity of play is up to you. With over 1 million deployed worldwide, there is bound to be a munzee hiding nearby.
All of the above comes from the Munzee website. I have been playing Munzee for a few months but have yet to answer the fundamental question –WHY?
Munzee is all about the score. If there is a Munzee in an interesting place, it is a coincidence. For the most part, Munzees are plastered on every light pole in every Walmart parking lot.
I have put Munzees in a couple of interesting places and gotten grateful feedback, e.g. “Thank you for bringing us to this fascinating place”. For the most part, Munzees are a waste of time. I check for them on my cell phone app hoping for that rare occasion when the Munzee is located in a special place worth investigating.

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