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Exploring Off the Beaten Path
Hi and welcome. This is the travel, outdoors, history and geocaching site of Alpha6 and KidsRN - explorers, adventurers and geocachers. Those are our geocaching handles. We also use them for letterboxing and orienteering.
Our vision for Off The Beaten Path is a family friendly site that promotes interest in outdoor activities, curiosity about the world around us and lifelong learning. Our vehicles for that are geocaching and related activities, plus all that goes with them.
What is geocaching?
The best description we've heard of geocaching is using satellites and computers to find pill bottles in the middle of nowhere. Geocachers are part geek, part sleuth and part explorer. Geocaches are everywhere. You drive by dozens of them every day. They're on your street, in your parks, in the parking lot of the mall and in the wildest wilderness. You can do drive-bys and get 50 in a day. Or you can do back-country geocaching and spend all day getting just one. We've done both and everything in between.
You would be hard-pressed to find another activity which is more fun, positive, educational and family friendly than geocaching. My 85 year old mother and our two year old grandson have both been out with us. Some of the best times I ever had as a Dad were with my youngest son hunting down geocaches in the wilds of Montana and Wyoming. When I was teaching school, I used it in my math classes to teach all kinds of NCTM objectives before taking the students out to the park to do the real thing. One thing you can be sure of - geocaching will develop skills and take you places you would have never known about otherwise. If you're new to the game, your first stop is www.geocaching.com
A related activity is called "Letterboxing". It's like geocaching without the GPS. We like it to mix things up a bit and navigate the old fashioned way. Letterboxing, which started in Scotland, has been around since the 1850's. It's been in the U.S. since the late 90's. Letterboxing relies on clue sheets, compass headings, pace counts and riddles to get you to the box. Once there, you stamp the logbook (with a cool stamp that you design and buy for the activity.) These clue sheets are found online at Atlasquest and Letterboxing North Anerica.
That's not all. We also hunt benchmarks and obsessively collect National Park Service stamps and stickers. You can click on the linked words to read about them. They take you to related articles in our blog.
And if that wasn't enough, earlier this year (2013), we discovered Munzees. This is the new kid on the block in the world of geo-location games. It is similar to geocaching and letterboxing, but instead of a container with a logbook, you are looking for a sticker or a tag that has a QR code on it. It's all done with a smart phone and it's a blast. Click on the Munzee link above to learn all about it.
Our "Getting Started" section will get you on the hunt in no time.
To help get you started, be sure to check out our Top 10 lists.
We've also got a great Resources page.
Don't miss the Shiloh ghost story, our own geocaching X-file.
Alpha6 is a retired recon Marine and former middle school math teacher. KidsRN is a retired pediatric nurse. We bounce between Minnesota and Wisconsin most of the year and are on the road quite a bit. Every September, we do a road trip for a couple of weeks and we snowbird in Tucson from January to May. This is the second time around for both of us. In our previous marriages, we raised five kids. We enjoy biking, hiking, canoeing, orienteering, letterboxing, history, traveling and, of course - geocaching and now, Munzees. We often combine a couple of those for a great outing.
Our adventures have taken us to ghost towns, caves, mines, mountain
tops, waterfalls and more out of the way places than we can
recall. Along the way, we've braved bears, rattlesnakes, buffalo and plague-carrying prairie dogs
in addition to being out in some hellacious weather. It's been
a hoot. We've geocached in 38 states and have a plan in
place to finish all 50 by the end of
Regardless of the activity, our favorite part of any trip is stumbling upon great things we didn't know anything about. Maybe it's a small diner with great food (like the Beartooth BBQ in West Yellowstone, MT) or a really beautiful out-of-the-way place (like Cooke Lake near Alva, WY) or a small museum with some amazing local history (like the Peshtigo Fire Museum in Peshtigo, WI).
This site is a big part of our own lifelong learning. In addition to learning on the road, we do a lot of research during trip planning and even more when we start to write it up. We've also taught ourselves to built websites and write web pages. Alpha6 has become quite the geek with HTML, CSS and WYSIWYG editors in addition to bringing out his inner freelance writer.
Geocaching technology has changed a lot in the last several years. Gone are the days of printing out cache sheets and sticking the serial GPS device out the window to get a signal. Paperless caching is now the norm and smart phones enable geocaching on the fly, which was unheard of five years ago. We've learned new technical skills with GPS, laptops, phones and apps. Who says you can't teach old dogs new tricks?
We've been hitting the trail together for over six years. People think we're crazy but they always have questions. Where did you go? How did you get there? How was it? And the big one - How did you ever find the place? This web site will chronicle all that and more. We hope you'll get some adventure ideas of your own or simply enjoy the views and the news.
There's no armchair traveling here. We've been to every place in this web site and most of the pictures are ours. We're always adding things so check back often for updates. You'll find them in the New! Just added! links section to the left.
In between, you can follow us on our blog. We post more frequently there.
Navigating the Site
You can go anywhere on the site with the Sitemap link. There's one on each page.
Anything on the site that's underlined is a hyperlink. Most are blue but there are some other colors, especially maroon italics and gray italics.
The lengthier pages are divided into sections. There is a Table of Contents on the left hand side of these pages. Each entry is hyper-linked to that specific section of the page, so you can scan the topics and go straight to one that interests you. The links in a page Table of Contents are usually maroon italics. On a couple of Civil War pages, they are gray italics. The HOME key will take you back to the top of the page and the Table of Contents. Of course, we hope you'll read them all.
It's impossible to write about everything we do or every place we go. So we have picked out places and adventures that live up to our web site name - Off the Beaten Path
Semper Fi...Out here...Alpha6