It is a true honor to introduce Hixon in our September Member Spotlight. We have never had the pleasure of caching with Hixon but I was inspired by his write-up! Bicycling the Gadgets of Sleepy Creek, and 117 bike ride to complete Mega Multi-Cache Cycling Fandango!! WOW! Say hello to Dave!Caching Name: Hixon
Real Name: Dave Anspach
Interview Date: August 2013 1. How did you become involved in geocaching? When did you start?
Two and a half years ago, in March 2011, a friend I work with mentioned it was a good family activity. So, I took my boys out, armed only with an old car Tom-Tom GPS, to try for our first cache. The Tom-Tom gave me vague coordinates in some weird format that I could barely understand. There was no ability to enter the cache location, and therefore no arrow to follow, not to mention absolutely no geo-sense whatsoever. It was just rudimentary orienteering with the hopes that we were heading in the right direction. If veteran geocachers do "the drunken bee dance", then we were probably doing the "totally sloshed one-winged blind dodo bird dance." Yet, we were having a blast, and finally we spied the mysterious, secret prize. For a cacher with any real experience, it couldn't be more obvious exactly where it was hidden, but for us, it was a thrilling success.
I was hooked.2. How did you choose your caching name?
Hixon is a reference to Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu legend Rickson Gracie. A ways back, when playing one of those Everquest-style online games, I created a character that had a striking resemblance to Rickson. I used the phonetic spelling of the name for my character (their leading "R" is pronounced like an "H"). Folks online would call me by my character's name, and so it stuck. I've used it as an online handle ever since.The real Rickson Gracie 3. How many geocaches have you found?
925, something around there. 1 in 4 are puzzle caches. 4. What brand/type of GPS do you use?
I use a Garmin GPSMAP 62s, along with a older 60c, and an iPhone 4S. I have no particular allegiance to either brand, but I'm quite happy with them. 5. What programs/software or hardware (PDA/laptop/phone) do you use to make caching easier?
Oh, the typical stuff. The standard iPhone app is a huge time saver. I'm not a big GSAK user, but it's worth its weight in gold when it's time to do any real heavy lifting. FizzyCalc, a host of online tools, and good ol' Excel are my "lab" when it comes to puzzles. Mrs. Hixon, the love of my life, sweet enough to watch the kids when I go off on these crazy adventures. Here, she is joining me on a hike to Alum Cave Bluff, a virtual in the Smoky Mountains. 6. What type of cache do you prefer seeking – traditional, multi, puzzle, virtual?
I can answer that two ways, both very different, both very true.
I really try to take an "ecclesiastical" approach to my geocaching. There is a time for all caches, a season for any kind of caching under the sun. A part of me loves some uber-challenging 5/5 insane puzzle and death-defying find, or a race against time to complete a set of caches before sunset. However, when my kids and I have fifteen minutes to kill waiting for a table at a restaurant, 5/5s are pretty much worthless, and that 1.5/1.5 LPC a few hundred feet away suddenly becomes the best cache in the world. I cherish every cache I've found, because it's exactly what I wanted to find to meet whatever goal I had that day. Sometimes it was to fulfill a sense of accomplishment all on its own, or part of seeing how many caches I could rack up in a session, or FTF hounding, or it's what my friends wanted to do, or it just simply seemed fun at the time. After all, it's a game, plain and simple. Having fun is what it's all about. This random, lackadaisical approach to my caching tends to make me very bad at streaks and challenges and that stuff (suffice to say, I did *not* achieve 31 days of finds last month), but it's very good for my own health and well being.
That said, there's no doubt that I have a very driven competitive side, and that I'm partial to one type of cache: puzzles. I kind of see the world of geo-puzzles as a second pastime that coincides with "normal" geocaching. The slices of spare time I use to sit down and work on puzzles is completely different than the time spent going caching. When I have time to go outside and want a casual adventure, I cache. Conversely, when I'm stuck inside and want a mental challenge, I work on puzzles. Then, when I go get caches for puzzles, it's more to "claim my trophy" and tie a ribbon on a satisfying solve, rather than the typical serendipity that gets me out and about.
That's not to say they are entirely different animals. In a lot of ways, I see these puzzles as very similar to cache hunting. In both cases, you are given a general idea of where to look, but it's up to you to explore various possibilities, often thinking outside the box and testing the limits of your wits, before managing to find the hidden prize. You learn new things about stuff that has always been right there just waiting to be explored, but you never had a cause to take the time to discover it. I find puzzle caching to be a very natural extension of the hobby. Still, it scratches a different itch, and so I tend to think of it differently.
I know, I know, I ramble sometimes, and that's probably more of an answer than you needed. Better get used to it, we're only on question #6. TL;DR: puzzles. 7. Which caches were the most challenging – physically/mentally? Why?
Hmmmm, hard to pick. Doesn't take much to challenge me mentally or physically, and I do like challenging caches. In any case, it certainly is fun to take a trip down memory lane and relive these cool caches.
I'd say my most challenging physical cache was B-Sharp's Mega Multi-Cache Cycling Fandango
. I do believe (as of this interview), I am the only one to have completed this multi-surface multi-cache in one continuous ride. I logged 117 miles on my bike going down the towpath, sightseeing in DC, then coming back up the W&OD trail. Probably not too tough for competitive cyclists, but a competitive cyclist I am not, and so I found the experience quite taxing. More intelligent people have had the sensibility to break up the cache into different days, but, well, I'm rarely accused of being intelligent or sensible, particularly when it comes to finding geocaches.On the Fandango, there were still some cherry blossoms in and around the DC area.
Special mention to Marsh Maze
, near Atlantic City, NJ. Made the only find on that one in over four years, sludging through an expanse of thick, deep marsh, a literal layer of grasshoppers that blanketed the ground like a plague, constantly crunching underfoot, and extremely dense 10-foot-high wild bamboo caging everything close to GZ.
Do I get two special mentions? Who knows, it's my spotlight, and I'll blab if I want to. It's not one single cache, but my most physically challenging caching session was 27 May 2012, on a successful quest to get 200 caches in one go, by myself, without a motor vehicle. Cycling over 14 hours and easily over 200 miles of road and rough trail, I spent much of it in unshaded 100+ degree heat. It spanned four separate trails and numerous caches in between, across the greater Newark, DE area (James T Corcoran, big ol' Chesapeake & Delaware power trail, Glasnow, and Mason-Dixon). For those that might care, a full accounting over the course of three long logs starts here
I was shooting for 200 caches, but towards the end I was literally going a little bit delirious from minor-to-moderate heat exhaustion, did not trust my own ability to count, and certainly didn't want to accidentally fall short... so, I ended up getting nearly an extra ten caches to be safe. 210 caches in all, averaging around a mile of biking per cache, with about 70 as normal, non-power-trail hides. It pushed my limits. I confess, in the sorry state I was in, driving home afterwards for an hour and a half late at night was probably not the smartest thing I've ever done in my life. As I've said in many of my cache logs: Good thing my wife doesn't read these things. She'd probably never let me cache again. My two-wheel geo-mobile. Pic at Sleepy Creek.
Moving on, from power trails to PMCs.... For the mental challenge, I'll have to go with PMC - The Song of the Master Sun
. It was my 100th find, and first 5/5 cache. It is a Puzzle Master's Challenge by mmammel & Sue-Cat. Absolutely brilliant work, arguably the Magnum Opus of the area's reigning Queen (Mistress?) of geo-puzzling. I daresay I've solved some tough puzzles, and this one stands out a giving me the greatest sense of accomplishment. First honorable mention to Free Hazardous Moot
, another masterpiece of innovation and execution, though very, very hard. I should have solved it more quickly than I did, insomuch as it should have only taken me a few months, not more like a year.
Second honorable mention goes to Bertha and Bubba's Numerology Adventure
in NoVA, because I believe I stared at this God forsaken puzzle longer than any other before coming up with the solution. Imho, like many by this CO, I found it very hard in the way that a nano in the woods is hard--not necessarily intellectually demanding but it takes quite a bit of sheer perseverance as you explore option after option after option after option to find the right angle and see the answer. To add to the mental anguish, after it sat there unfound for nine months, I was beaten to the FTF by just one stinkin' day (by none other than that same Puzzle Mistress). I've yet to go on another numerology adventure. Mrs. Hixon and I, shortly after I solved the Numerology Adventure.8. Do you have a favorite or favorites among the Maryland caches that you’ve found? (Feel free to list a favorite for each type of cache) Do you have a favorite in a nearby state?
While the last question was hard to choose, this one is just impossible. Like I said before, I cherish almost every cache that I've found for one reason or another. I am incredibly grateful for every CO for the time you take to make this hobby fun. 9. What’s the most unusual thing that you’ve ever found in a cache?
Racked my brain on this one, and yet I can't remember finding anything particularly unusual in a cache. I'll take the chance, though, to tip my hat to deepdish23's FTF prize in There's a Ryno Spotted in Gillis Falls
: a '83 Ryne Sandberg rookie card. It remains the crown jewel of my humble little FTF prize collection.10. What are your current caching goals? Is there a certain cache that you can’t wait to do?
Let's see what I wrote in the thread on this topic at the beginning of the year...1. Finish, publish, & maintain about couple dozen new caches, including three new series that I've got loosely planned.
Getting there. I put out the Frederick Trail of Puzzles (FTP) series
earlier this year. I'm in off-and-on conversations with many puzzle veterans over a "Puzzles 101"-type series of caches I have planned, currently titled "The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Puzzle Cache Solvers." Third, I am drawing up a series of caches called "Hermione's Help". These will be hint caches for my Horcrux series. I put quite a bit of time into those Horcruxes, and it's been great that the puzzle masterminds of the area have been able to enjoy the challenges, but now I'd like to open it up to a wider audience. Perhaps there are some out there that are less interested in hard puzzles but still would really enjoy the theme of the series, and these hint caches hopefully will give the opportunity for them to experience the series as well.2. Save gas, bike more. Continue to use caching as a way to get/stay fit.
Doing well on that one, when possible. I used caching as a way to train for a triathlon in July. 3. Find 100 puzzles in a row.
A rare "streak" style challenge for me, I got that one done in April. Fun times. 4. Do at least one that truly transcends geocaching, whereby a fun, rewarding life experience happens to end with a container and a smiley. PUC #13 and Gadgets at Sleepy Creek come to mind.
I did the first half of Gadgets at Sleepy Creek (on bicycle). It was phenomenal, can't wait to finish. For PUC #13, I have an idea for a non-traditional way to get the cache, but I'll need some time and a bit of engineering resources to put it all together, and that hasn't taken priority. Speaking of engineering, just last month I found a cache up in Central Park, NYC called It Begins At The Engineers Gate
. Part of a stellar puzzle series, it was so unique and innovative that it fulfilled this goal as well. Rungo (my son Ben) in Central Park.5. Meet new people and cache in groups more often.
Yes, and yet still not enough! 6. Enjoy shooting for those goals, but moreover, enjoy not being overly burdened by goals. Cache in whatever mode, with whatever determination or lack thereof, that I feel like on that particular day.
Still the #1 priority.
A seventh goal, one that persists year to year, is to try my best to really take the time to write meaningful logs. Generally, the more effort I sense that the CO put into his or her craft, the more I enjoy responding in kind by taking the time to properly detail my experience and express my appreciation.11. How many caches have you placed? Do you have a current hiding goal?
I have placed 34 caches, all either puzzles or traditionals that lead to a puzzle finale. All but one remains active today. I do not have a hiding goal, though as previously mentioned, I have a lot in the pipeline. (LPYF might say my hiding goal is to put out enough puzzles he can't solve to take him over the brink of insanity. I will neither confirm nor deny this.). I'll hide as many as I feel I can maintain well. 12. What advice would you give someone that wants to place a cache? What steps do YOU take when placing a cache?
I think past spotlights have covered this topic pretty well--take multiple readings, consider seasonal variations, etc. Try to pick a spot with some distinctive entertainment value, whether it be a crafty hide, a scenic location, a fun trip to get there, or even cleverly in theme with your cache listing. If it's your first hide(s), I highly recommend getting a veteran hider or two to "beta test" your locations before you publish them, and give you feedback. I don't think people do this enough in general, and it can really help.
I put a high value on "theme" in my cache listings, so I always try to come up with spots and/or containers that compliment the theme or fit the essence of the puzzle. This isn't always possible, and sometimes I just try to take the cacher to a pretty spot, or populate an area that's a little lacking in caches. Most of all, I take seriously my duty to ensure that my coordinates are as accurate as possible. Multiple trips, multiple devices, and satellite verification all help in this regard. 13. How often do you go caching?
Maybe one or two dedicated caching outings a month, topped off by whatever spur-of-the-moment or along-the-way opportunities happen to present themselves. 14. What advice would you give a beginning geocacher?
Many will tell you to go along with experienced cachers, who can show you the ropes. That makes a lot of sense, in a way. Yet, if you really want my opinion, and you (the beginning geocacher) enjoy being challenged, then I'd say to do the exact opposite. DO NOT
go out with an experienced cacher. Embrace your newbie-ness, because your time as a geo-neophyte (geophyte?) could quite possibly be the most enjoyable time in your geocaching career. This hobby is not that complicated, and it won't be long before you have look far and wide to find a cache that really pushes the limits of your knowledge and skills. Cherish the time when every hide is a unique new test of your budding geo-prowess. Don't be too quick to grow up, lest you find yourself longing for your youth.
I found 99 caches before I went caching with anyone besides my kids, and for that 100th cache, the guy I was with had less finds that I did. I think I had 300 or 400 finds before I cached with anyone with more experience than me. Sure, I suffered quite a bit in terms of efficiency because of my general cluelessness, but the numbers don't matter (unless you want them to), and what I gained in sheer fun factor was priceless. I still remember one of my first finds. It was this thing that some past loggers called an "LPC," not that I had any idea what that meant. Nor had I any idea that those skirt things move as such... I spend 20+ minutes trying to figure out what to do. But most importantly, I was elated when I finally figured it out. Yeah, maybe I would have found it right away if someone was there to show me... but... what's the fun in that? And, when again will I ever get that much joy & sense of accomplishment out of an LPC?
So, long story short, I'd make sure a beginning cacher has my PAF info and isn't afraid to use it, tell 'em to take plenty of water and poke stuff with a stick first before reaching in, then send them into the wild to explore and blossom. Not an LPC.15. Have you completed CAM in the past? What was your favorite aspect?
Yeah.... ummm..... I suck at CAM. (See above re: lack of motivation for streak/challenge type stuff). The only CAM cache I've found while it was in the "active" pre-picnic status was this year, when one was published a couple miles from my office. I still didn't get to it until like three days before the picnic. Like I said... I suck at CAM. 16. Do you collect geocoins? Of the ones that you’ve collected, which is your favorite?
No, I do not do the TB or coin thing. Total respect for those that do, but the first and only TB I sent out disappeared shortly thereafter, and I lost my taste for it. 17. What type of gear do you carry with you on your caching trips? What’s in your geopack?
Typical stuff, I guess. My wife got me a nice pack for Christmas last year, which I keep in my trunk along with some hiking shoes so I'm always ready. I do cache alone a lot, so, I usually keep fair bit of safety & survival gear in my pack, just in case. I admit, it's probably strange when I grab my pack to get a quick cache at a tame, suburban setting, and it's got survival bracelets hanging off it and a hunting knife sticking out. Oh well. I've learned long ago not to be bothered about looking strange while geocaching... that's a foregone conclusion.18. What is your most memorable caching experience?
Oh geez, hard to pick one. First thing that comes to mind is a "guys night out" last May. It was the opening night of The Avengers, and we assaulted PMCx - Listening Post
before catching a late showing of the awesome blockbuster dude flick. Sharing details would spoil the cache, but the whole evening came together really well--just the right amount of challenge, peril, novelty, sense of accomplishment, and camaraderie. Part of the Listening Post crew, though this was from another day, hiking South Mountain.
I also have fond memories of a Saturday spent caching in Winchester a couple years ago. Nothing particularly special or unique happened, but the day embodies much of the essence of what I enjoy when I cache. I went down there in the morning with my bike strapped to my car to try to get FTF on a 5-star puzzle. After that, with my competitive side sated, having never been to Winchester before, the whole town was ripe for casual exploration. I hopped on my bike, then just pulled up nearby cache listings and did them. Some simple, some very clever, all fun. I got some exercise, enjoyed beautiful weather, saw stuff I never saw before, all with just enough of a challenge to keep my easily-bored brain engaged. I should be so lucky to have another day like that. 19. What is your best caching story?
I'm going to play the ecclesiastical card one last time... I just can't pick one story above the rest. Besides, this is already a total wall of text--I couldn't possibly make you sit through multiple stories. Hopefully my oft-embellished cache logs and my other responses serves as stories enough. 20. What do you like about geocaching? What keeps you going? Rungo at the oldest cache in Massachusetts.
Friends and the caching community. Innovative, well-crafted caches and puzzles. The fact that my kids' interest in geocaching is growing.Two hounds in training.21. Besides geocaching, what other things do you like to do?
I work for a medical research lab in the US Army (as a civilian). My background is in software engineering, though I do more project management these days. I play a lot of sports, and am heavily involved in my church. I've played guitar for a number of bands over the years, mostly heavy/classic/modern rock, and currently am in a Christian rock band. 22. What question did you expect us to ask but didn’t. What is the answer?Can I have a hint to your recent Scrabble puzzle?
The FTF is still out there, so... no, not yet. Please?
Alright, alright. Frankly I'm impressed you're still reading this, so the least I can do is honor your request. Let's see... Scrabble
.... While there's no importance to the slightly lighter and darker sets of traditional brown tiles, there is importance to the distinct dark maroon tiles. They stand out for a reason. Nearby the maroon tiles are two occurrences of another distinctive pattern on the board, that align in exactly the same way with the two sets of maroon tiles. That's important too, to get you to focus on the right stuff. Finally, don't overlook the two tile racks. While not essential, if you do a scrabble-ish thing with them, it might help you out. Now that you've cracked, how 'bout hints to the rest of your puzzles too? A .gpx with all the final coordinates would be fine as well.