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Black Dog Trackers

How do YOU prepare for benchmark hunting?

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I usually start by picking some distance and direction from my home, using the bookmarked benchmark finding page with my home coordinates loaded in. Then I start looking at PID descriptions, looking for a likely candidate. When I find one, I click on Nearest Benchmarks (and maybe Nearest Geocaches) and work on the Benchmark list from there.

 

Sometimes I print out the benchmark description page from the geocaching site, and sometimes I just write down on a 3x5 card the PID, Coordinates, ADJUSTED/SCALED value, Designation, the distances from local landmarks, and any other required details.

 

I usually bring just 5 to 10 printouts or 3x5 cards at a time to look for.

 

I always enter the coordinates for each PID into my GPS by hand. Sometimes I sort them by the little map if I'm bringing printouts, or I punch them all in and use the "Nearest" function of the GPS to determine which to look for next.

 

Now, all these GPX tools looking interesting. I could load up the GPS with coordinates automatically, print out fancy reports from some of these nice GPX programs on reams of paper, try using a laptop with a full screen map instead of the little GPS screen, etc. I haven't done any of these things but am interested in trying some of them.

 

What do YOU do?

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As a first step, I would recommend you try using EasyGPS. For me, entering the waypoints into the GPS is tedious and EasyGPS really simplifies the process. Also, because you can link to the benchmark descriptions from EasyGPS, it simplifies the logging process when you return from a day's expedition.

 

I personally prefer using my Palm for carrying benchmark descriptions and entering notes. I don't do anything too fancy. I just use the Palm's memo pad to hold the descriptions for a day's expedition. As a programmer, I was able to somewhat automate the process, but I would think that copying and pasting to the Palm desktop would be quicker than writing out the info on a 3x5.

 

Before I used the Palm, I generally found that printing the description pages easier than writing the info on paper. Instead of printing the entire page, I usually selected the text and then chose Selection under Print range in the Print dialog box. Unless the benchmark has a long recovery history, it will fit on one page this way.

 

-- Its from aliens. I seen um. --

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I approach it much like you when selecting benchmarks to hunt.

 

As I'm making a list of 10-12 possible locations, I copy and paste special the unformatted text from each benchmark page into a MSWord document. I add a mapquest map at the smallest scale that gives me the best road map to each location.

 

I sort the Word document by waypoint in the most sensible route. Then I download the waypoints into my GPS with EasyGPS and I'm off.

 

While this system I've developed works for me, I'm interested in some of the other tools discussed recently to perhaps replace the MSWord c&p work I have to put in.

 

Friends don't let friends attempt to persuade them to be biased toward any particular type of cache.

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I pick an area in town or country I'm interested in tackling, then read through the markers within a few mile radius of that area, looking for BMs that seem fairly accessible or more likely to still exist. I also do a 'nearest marker' search when checking out cache pages, to make sure I won't miss any BMs that could be near the cache location.

 

I print out the description (handwriting them lately as the printer is on the fritz).

Sometimes I use the GPS when searching, sometimes I don't - when in the city or more familiar areas I don't need it for reference as much.

I enter coordinates into the GPS by hand - no software here. So far (knock wood) no incorrectly entered coordinate problems icon_razz.gif

I use the online maps to pinpoint locations, then pencil in the marker's spot on my city/state/park map.

Then I'm off!

 

I've noticed many markers with interesting name designations that I'd like to get - 'Love, Trust, Hope, Luck, Gross, Mars, Idiot'......

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I have tried to locate most of the benchmarks that are an easy bicycle ride from my house. Therefore I now need to look farther afield.

 

1. Ask the wife where she is traveling next. Get the zipcode and get the GeoCaching list of benchmarks for that zipcode. (I am retired and she sometimes takes me along. icon_wink.gif )

 

2. Read some of the descriptions to pick out some marks that I think might be findable. Copy and paste parts of the selected descriptions into notepad and print them out. Might also print out a mapquest or rarely a topozone map.

 

3. Use EasyGPS to download coordinates, etc. of the marks that I am interested in. Load from EasyGPS to my Magellan Merigold. Use Mapsend topo to print out an overview map for laying out a proposed route.

 

4. With the printouts on a clipboard, my overview map and the coordinates loaded into the GPS, I am ready to go.

 

Lately I have also tried some older marks and I have also looked for some NOT FOUNDS (skulls). I am not having much luck with either of those though. icon_smile.gif

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I seem to follow the trend.

 

I pick a benchmark then use MapQuest to generate the map location. I then choose nearest benchmarks and start following them up or down the road, plotting them with a pencil on on the MapQuest page. I also copy/paste the recovery data into Word and label it with PIDs.

 

Here's where I deviate from ya'll. I also download all of the benchmarks in my area using EasyGPS, and as I am driving from one benchmark to the next, I keep searching for nearest benchmarks. I have had some luck in finding some that I did not plan on finding (This past weekend I found 3 unplanned). Sometimes I am lucky enough to see a witness post, or recognise a likely spot for a mark.

 

You should try the "find nearest". It can be a lot of fun with bencmarks.

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With the advent of BMGPX, I think things are stacking up thisaway (until I get out this weekend, it's a little theoretical)...

 

General prep...

1. Download the archived .dat file of all benchmarks for a county from the NGS pages.

2. Run it through BMGPX

3. Run the resulting gpx file through GPX2HTML.

4. Run the resulting html file through Plucker.

5. Using the gpx file, load the waypoints into my Meridian with ExpertGPS or GPSBabel and save them to a file on the SD card.

6. Load the Plucked html files into my Palm PDA.

 

That may sound like a lot, but it's actually pretty easy. It's essentially a one-time operation that gives you hundreds of benchmark waypoints and data sheets. Having done it, when I want to go out I:

1. Look at the gpx file in ExpertGPS and pick out a general route for the day in an area with benchmarks of interest; print out a one page map of the vicinity.

2. Activate the relevant waypoint file in my Meridian.

3. Grab my PDA and my benchmark kit & go.

 

I can carry several counties' worth of waypoints and datasheets in my GPS and PDA. If you don't have the expanded memory capacity of the Meridians, you'd probably have to use a single waypoint file at a time. I'm best off removing waypoints from the gpx file on my computer after I've logged them so I only have unvisited waypoints left to seek out. Every so often I will update the waypoint file on my GPS with this trimmed-down file.

 

Those of you using paper should consider getting an inexpensive PDA to take advantage of BMGPX and whatever may follow. IMO it's now easy enough to do to make it practical and much preferable...easy, fast searching for the datasheet with no wasted trees. Used Handsprings and Palms on eBay look attractively priced; I'd recommend getting something with at least 8MB (I'm starting to feel a little crowded with the 4MB on my Palm IIIx).

 

One disclaimer: my county has less than 500 datasheets in the archived file. I'll probably have to figure out a way to break things down in counties that have more than 500, which would be more than the GPSr will handle in one file.

 

Max

Often wrong but seldom in doubt

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embra -

 

In the case of a big county, DSWIN will write .dat files. It has a function to do a point radius select. You can then write the resulting selection as a new .dat file. Then, use bgmx, etc.

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Sounds like that may be a good route to go if there's a need to generate matching waypoint/html files.

 

If it's ok to keep all the datasheets in one large html file, it looks like going into an ExpertGPS quick map with the gpx file will allow group selection of waypoints in a grid pattern. That would allow breakdowns into smaller data sets that are collectively complete, yet with no overlap.

 

Max

Often wrong but seldom in doubt

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embra -

 

Good point - a radius search is not good for splitting a file.

 

I checked DSWIN and besides the point radius selection, there is also a Min Max selection. I tried it on Fairfax County, VA (1353 PIDs) with:

 

Max Lat 90 00 00

Min Lat 00 00 00

Max Lon 180 00 00

Min Lon 077 14 00 (determined after sorting by Lon)

 

When I looked at the resulting selection's dswin plot, it neatly bisected the county.

 

I next used:

Max Lon 077 14 00

Min Lon 000 00 00

to get the other half.

 

The right and left sides of the county had 600 and 753 PIDs, respectively, after I used bmgpx to translate the .dat files into .gpx files and then importing into Watcher.

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