February 2008
 
For February's interview, I contacted Leonata, Montana's current top geocache finder. To date, she has found 3408 caches, ranging from traditional and virtual caches, to events and earthcaches. She's even logged some webcam caches, a locationless cache, and a Project APE cache. As a student in nursing, it's hard to imagine where the time and energy comes from that allows her to continue finding caches, however, for anyone who has met Leonata, her abundance of vitality for life is purely evident. High-energy, light-hearted and down to earth, she is very engaging and she genuinely enjoys meeting other geocachers (just as long as they're not too serious).

Hopefully you have had the pleasure to meet leonata in person, but if not, allow this to be your first introduction; I'm sure eventually you'll run into her at one of Montana's many Geocaching Events.


"Leonata, you began geocaching in the later half of 2002. What brought you into this activity, and would you describe your experience with your very first geocache find?"
My husband found out about geocaching on the internet while he was researching GPS units. I gave him a GPSr as a gift, then went off on a three week trip to my mom's. When I got back, he had 30 finds already and was eager for me to try this cool new sport. It's rather ironic, but I wasn't too keen on the idea initially. He had a hard time talking me into doing my first cache, and there was even a time when I went to a park with him on a hunt, but stayed behind to watch Misha the Geocaching Cat (who's been at this game longer than I have) frolic while he went off in the woods to find the cache. After about a week of badgering, though, he finally talked me into going to do a cache called McClay Ponderosa Plantation that he had been to already. It was a nice walk in a forested area, and when we got close, he gave me the GPS receiver and showed me how to follow the arrow. I still wasn't all that enthused, but to humor him, I did as he suggested. When I got to where the arrow took me, I started poking around and had no clue where to look or what to do really. I remember being perplexed that I couldn't see anything, but when my husband told me that I might have to move some stuff, I had a round yellow Tupperware container in hand in moments. When I found it, I got so excited! I had so much fun pawing through the trinkets and reading the logbook. From that moment on, I was hooked!
 
"According to your geocaching.com profile, you've found every type of cache available, with the exception of a Mega-Event, and the GPS Adventures Maze Exhibit. Are there any plans to attend either of these in 2008?"
This is news to me! I had no idea I'd found that many types of caches, and I have no plans to visit a Mega-Event or a Maze Exhibit in the foreseeable future.

"As a great number of Montana geocachers are aware, you are a very familiar face at many of the Events that occur, not only in our state, but throughout the Pacific Northwest as well. Are there any memorable Events you've attended that come to mind as being exrta-ordinary, or unique in some way?"
As I mentioned before, I love events. My husband and I go to one south of Portland, Oregon every July at Champoeg State Park. It usually has 200-300 cachers that attend each summer. It's the biggest event I've attended, though the folks in Portland consider this just a "little local event." We've been going to this event for four years now, and there are always intricate, collaborative games to participate in. One year we led a team in an event that involved tossing water balloons at people with homemade trebuchets. Another year, we competed in, and won a camp stove Iron Chef competition in which the theme ingredient was ramen noodles. Champoeg is always a unique and entertaining gathering with a few hundred folks who don't take themselves too seriously.

"What types of change have you seen with geocaching since you began nearly six years ago?"
The number of caches in our area has tripled or quadrupled at least, and the number of caches in the state has gone up exponentially, too. There are a lot more guidelines than there used to be, and some kinds of caches that don't exist anymore, at least on the main geocaching website (like virtuals, locationless, & moving caches). As the sport has grown, though, I think the changes have been necessary to keep geocaching from having a negative impact on public lands and on the community at large. There used to be more vacation caches around, some of which I've adopted myself to try to keep them from turning into geo-trash. I think that there are fewer of these orphaned caches around these days thanks to some of the new guidelines.

"What have been the most enjoyable geocaches that you've found?"
One of the best times I've had on a geocache hunt involved an overnight backpacking trip into the Bitterroot Mountains, south of Missoula.


I thought it would be fun to take a friend of ours out on her first ever backpack trip, in honor of her 30th birthday. Since she was willing, off the three of us went for a 20 mile, round-trip jaunt up Bass Creek drainage. We were after a cache called Room with a View GCPQ37, that had been out for over a year and never been found. Normally, I don't worry too much about whether I'm the first finder or the 500th, but a FTF on a cache like that is a lot of fun. This was an incredibly scenic journey that ended on a ridge between two gorgeous drainages, with a subalpine lake below and mountains going on forever above us. There were even ripe huckleberries along the way! It was a great deal of effort to get there, but so worth it. Oh, and at the end we found the cache, which was a great bonus. I love scenic caches, but I'm also partial to what I call "evil camo" caches. We once found a cache over in the Post Falls area that was called Pug Cloning, a cache that sadly is now archived. We searched for at least an hour without success, getting filthy and discouraged. Finally, we agreed that it was hopeless and turned to leave. On impulse, my husband decided to turn over a section of log near the coordinates just one more time. This time, when he moved it, something shifted and we heard an odd sound. It turned out that the bark all the way around this log was velcroed on. Once we removed it, we discovered a cavity containing a decon cannister. We were so amazed that despondence immediately dissolved into joy.

"Do you enjoy any one type of geocache in particular, or those with a specific Difficulty or Terrain rating?"
I really enjoy caches of all terrain levels and difficulties--I've done 5/5 caches that required an archery stand to get to and 1/1 caches that really made me think outside the ammo can. What I like the most are caches challenge me in some way, but I love caching even when the hides are familiar.

Events are another one of my very favorite cache types. I always have fun meeting other cachers, swapping stories, sharing food, and making new geo-friends. Thanks to geocaching, we now have caching buddies all over the Pacific Northwest and have been able to participate in a global community of truly awesome folks."I thought it would be fun to take a friend of ours out on her first ever backpack trip, in honor of her 30th birthday. Since she was willing, off the three of us went for a 20 mile, round-trip jaunt up Bass Creek drainage. We were after a cache called Room with a View GCPQ37, that had been out for over a year and never been found. Normally, I don't worry too much about whether I'm the first finder or the 500th, but a FTF on a cache like that is a lot of fun. This was an incredibly scenic journey that ended on a ridge between two gorgeous drainages, with a subalpine lake below and mountains going on forever above us. There were even ripe huckleberries along the way! It was a great deal of effort to get there, but so worth it. Oh, and at the end we found the cache, which was a great bonus. I love scenic caches, but I'm also partial to what I call "evil camo" caches. We once found a cache over in the Post Falls area that was called Pug Cloning, a cache that sadly is now archived. We searched for at least an hour without success, getting filthy and discouraged. Finally, we agreed that it was hopeless and turned to leave. On impulse, my husband decided to turn over a section of log near the coordinates just one more time. This time, when he moved it, something shifted and we heard an odd sound. It turned out that the bark all the way around this log was velcroed on. Once we removed it, we discovered a cavity containing a decon cannister. We were so amazed that despondence immediately dissolved into joy.

"Let's get into some specifics. What is the furthest cache you've found from your listed home coordinates?"
I found a couple of caches in Virginia when I was visiting family there a little over a year ago. That was actually the first time I'd found anything much outside of the Pacific Northwest. I've done quite a few caches in B.C. and Alberta, and one in North Dakota. Despite my number of finds, they are mostly concentrated in the immediate region.

"What is the most number of caches you've found in one day? Did you find all the caches that you searched for?"
I think the most I've ever found in one day was 66 caches; that was on my very first cache machine in Yakima, WA back in 2003. It's been a tough number to top as we don't often make it these days to a cache machine in an area we've never visited before. I had to look back through my logs to find out for sure, but I was surprised to learn that we didn't have a single DNF on the day we found 66 caches. That's pretty uncommon for us, even with all the reinforcements that are available on a cache machine.

"Truthfully, what is the longest stretch of days you've gone WITHOUT geocaching?"
Truthfully, I have no idea--I've never kept track! There have been occasions since I started nursing school where I think I've gone at least a month without a find, though.
 
"What is your next personal milestone that you're looking forward to achieving?" It'll be fun to hit 3500, but 4000 is the one I'm really looking forward to. I'm so busy with school right now that it seems extremely far away. We always do something special for the finds that fall on the thousands . Something high terrain in a scenic area to make the find memorable. For 2000 and 3000 we brought along champagne. These big ones are always a fun excuse to challenge myself and then celebrate the momentous accomplishment.

"And one last question and some 'food for thought.' What are your thoughts on the newest trend of people making their cars, or jeeps, or even themselves into 'Travel Bugs?' Is it just another step in the evolution of geocaching, or are these 'Trackables' getting too far away from the original idea that a trackable item should be able to be placed in a geocache?"
Just like geocoins, I think these things are another way to keep the game fresh and interesting. I met a guy once who had an actual travel bug number tattooed into his arm. He would let anyone log it under one condition: you had to take a picture of yourself with him and post it with your find to claim credit. He told me that he did this not because he was concerned about cheating, but because he was terrible with names. The pictures on the bug's page are all attached to the discovery logs and gave him a record of the all the cachers he's met, along with their user names. I thought that was a truly clever and creative use of a travel bug, and he was the travel bug! To me the game is all about having fun, and if people have fun making their cars or selves into TB's, that's great.


Well, leonata, thank you for sharing a little bit more about yourself, and for your time. I know there are a lot of geocachers out there that appreciate your energy, and enjoy your involvement within our community. We hope to see you reach your next milestone soon!