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That wacky compass


Max and 99
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I don't know if it's the app or my phone, so move this to another thread if you want.

 

Today when I started a Waymarking/geocaching trip, I went to navigate to  a nearby cache and my compass was all over the place on the geocache map: 1/2 mile west, then 10 seconds later 2 miles north, then 1 mile south, and 10 seconds later 3 miles to the east. Literally ALL over the map! It was useless. I made my husband watch the screen so he'd know I wasn't exaggerating. Every 10 seconds it was in a wildly different direction.

 

I logged out of my  Android app, then back in, and it seems to work. So I'm not sure if it's the app (move it to that thread if you do), or just my phone.

 

Regardless, I'm curious what causes this. I don't know if I got lucky logging in and out of the app, or a different solution is best.

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I've seen geocaching apps be hundreds of feet off in various directions. Turning GPS back on solved that; the app was getting only an approximate location from cell tower triangulation and/or WiFi networks.

 

And once, I saw my geocaching app reporting that I was somewhere out in the Pacific Ocean, hundreds of miles off the coast of California. I never did figure out what was wrong that time, but it fixed itself while I was signing the log (having found the cache based on where I remembered it being in the satellite photos).

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4 hours ago, Max and 99 said:

I don't know if it's the app or my phone, so move this to another thread if you want.

 

Today when I started a Waymarking/geocaching trip, I went to navigate to  a nearby cache and my compass was all over the place on the geocache map: 1/2 mile west, then 10 seconds later 2 miles north, then 1 mile south, and 10 seconds later 3 miles to the east. Literally ALL over the map! It was useless. I made my husband watch the screen so he'd know I wasn't exaggerating. Every 10 seconds it was in a wildly different direction.

 

I logged out of my  Android app, then back in, and it seems to work. So I'm not sure if it's the app (move it to that thread if you do), or just my phone.

 

Regardless, I'm curious what causes this. I don't know if I got lucky logging in and out of the app, or a different solution is best.

What your experiencing can be caused by a few different things. Yes the software for your phone may be finicky. But there is also the need to calibrate most electronic compasses occasionally. This basically allows the software to catch up with the "Live conditions". These things get moved constantly, so they will need to get straightened out from time to time. A simple matter of holding it as level as possible, and being as far away from known ferric metals as possible (not in a metal scrap yard for example), rotate it a complete 360 degrees. Let it settle, then do the same thing in the opposite direction. This will calibrate most units.

Then you have the things that fall into the "Other" factors categories. These include proximity to natural to ferric metal deposits in the ground, and they are all over the place. Magnetic variations from man made electronic fields like power lines, electric generation facilities, microwave stations etc. Unless you are out in the middle of a very barren area, these will all come into play, and they vary constantly. Then there is the effects of "Magnetic Ley Lines", Vortexes, Lunar influence and the like. These things do exist, and they can be very erratic at certain times of the year and certain localities more than others.

I used to do land surveying, and on occasion we would  have to rely on magnetic readings to get our bearings when there was no "Known" baseline to work off of. You would lock your instrument on an assumed point, read the compass, lock the bottom plate, turn the instrument 180 degrees, flop the scope, and record how far you had to move the top plate to come back to the original backsight. This helped to reduce the affects of magnetic deviation, but it would actually change during the course of a day, especially if you were traversing long distances in areas that had lots of iron deposits in the soil. It actually got pretty creepy at times when it would change, and you hadn't moved in several hours. This little ball that we are bound to is hurling through space at incredible velocities while dodging all types of physical, solar and magnetic bodies. So it's not surprising at all that these little gadgets can only do so much to compensate for all of it. Best of luck, because that is what a lot of this is based on in the end.

Seeker_Knight

Edited by Seeker_Knight
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My husband's IOS geocaching app frequently asks him to do the figure-8 motion to calibrate the compass. I never get any such notice on my Android phone. I searched my settings for compass, and no results appeared. I searched GPS and nothing related showed up, but I did discover thru that search that there is an organ donor/medical information on my phone for emergencies. Learned something new.

Thanks everyone for the help!

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One thing I've noticed on three different family Samsung S8's is that the compass doesn't hold calibration for crap.  And the calibration process isn't something that is documented by Samsung anywhere that I've seen, though there are a couple of descriptions for how it's done out on the web, created by individuals.  It's necessary to open up the sensor page by hitting

* # * # 0 on the keypad, the locate the magnetic sensor from the list, then go through the usual Garmin-like 3 axis gyrations to get calibration.

 

That said, I never see crazy distance differentials, only a problem with poor compass calibration pointing in odd directions. 

 

 

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5 hours ago, ecanderson said:

One thing I've noticed on three different family Samsung S8's is that the compass doesn't hold calibration for crap.  And the calibration process isn't something that is documented by Samsung anywhere that I've seen, though there are a couple of descriptions for how it's done out on the web, created by individuals.  It's necessary to open up the sensor page by hitting

* # * # 0 on the keypad, the locate the magnetic sensor from the list, then go through the usual Garmin-like 3 axis gyrations to get calibration.

 

That said, I never see crazy distance differentials, only a problem with poor compass calibration pointing in odd directions. 

 

 

 

I calibrate my my S8 fairly often. Too often, I think.

The thing that gets me is that when I'm sitting in my car (that big metal box with electricity flowing every which way) the darn thing orients 60-90 degrees off. Following the screen, it looks like we're driving sideways.

She's a better driver than I am, so when this happens, she takes the wheel.

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Inside the car you can expect a whacky magnetic compass.  My Garmins with magnetic compass feature have always behaved the same way when we're stopped.  Too much local steel for it to know which way to go.  I remember in the old days having to drive in a bunch of circles to 'calibrate' those old ball style compasses we used to install in cars before a 'compass' was added to the electronic displays in vehicles.

 

@Max and 99

What brand of Android phone are you using?

If it's a Samsung, see if you can get this to work for you at the beginning of a day of caching..

 

On the telephone keypad, press

*#0*#

Locate the box that says "Sensor"

Scroll down to "Magnetic Sensor"

Note the little black circle.  The line in it will be either red (most likely) green (partial calibration) or blue (calibration complete).

 

Calibrate Compass on Samsung Devices

 

Odds are, it will be red as seen above left, with a number, and the tiny words "Need for calibration".  The number is the count of axis in correct calibration.  In this example, it is "1", but will more likely be "0".

Rotate the device as you would for a Garmin with 3 axis compass (if you're not sure what that looks like, see link below).  With each successful axis calibration, the unit will flash green on the screen and vibrate, and the number will increase.   Eventually you reach "3" and have a blue line indicating that all is now good.

 

When you are done, beat on the "back arrow" in the lower right of the screen a few times to get out of the sensor pages.

 

This is the rotation video.  Motions to use start at about 00:50 into the video >> https://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=garmin+3+axis+compass+calibration+picture&view=detail&mid=8C96A5B5B30C17B06BEB8C96A5B5B30C17B06BEB&FORM=VIRE

Edited by ecanderson
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On 2/17/2020 at 3:36 AM, Max and 99 said:

My husband's IOS geocaching app frequently asks him to do the figure-8 motion to calibrate the compass.

 

Does he have a case with a magnetic clasp?  Or other magnets close to the phone?  I used to use a magnet to quickly pop up the compass calibration screen  on my iPhone 5s for testing.

 

My Samsung tablets are perpetually in need of calibration, often stuck at a heading.  So I do the figure-of-eight out of habit.  Same with most any phone ever, especially my iPhone 8 being 90 or 180 degrees off while on a cache hunt, but that's due to a major bug in the Official App.  I don't have to "calibrate" my Garmin Oregon's compass nearly as often, but it's more of a pain to do.

 

 

Edited by kunarion
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On ‎2‎/‎16‎/‎2020 at 8:14 PM, Max and 99 said:

Today when I started a Waymarking/geocaching trip, I went to navigate to  a nearby cache and my compass was all over the place on the geocache map: 1/2 mile west, then 10 seconds later 2 miles north, then 1 mile south, and 10 seconds later 3 miles to the east. Literally ALL over the map! It was useless. I made my husband watch the screen so he'd know I wasn't exaggerating. Every 10 seconds it was in a wildly different direction.

 

If it was just the direction that was erratic, then it could be the compass. However, since you said the distance was also erratic, then that points to an issue with how your location is being determined. Whether this is just within that specific app or more generally on your phone, it's hard to say at this point. With your location jumping around that much, I'm wondering if the device had reverted to using some form of cell tower location and your phone kept jumping between roughly-equidistant towers.

 

If you see this happen again, jump out of the app and try something like Google Maps to see where it thinks you are and whether your location is similarly jumping around. That would help narrow down whether the problem is the app or your phone.

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Thank you to everyone who has responded. We will be re-reading all the advice and checking out the options to fix this. I was so happy to finally be able to use my app since this phone had a compass! Ha. We did notice while in a parking lot waiting for lunch that the blue dot at first appeared to circle our location on the app, but then it started jumping in odd directions and distances.

The issue is on both the app and google maps (which unfortunately I ran into today). So we'll read all the advice and see if we can figure out a fix. Thank you to everyone for your help!

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If your current location is jumping around on Google maps, that indicates that the device isn't achieving a very good satellite fix.  That's a fairly unusual problem with today's technology, so one would have to suspect either a phone issue or some local interference that you're carrying around with you, which is VERY unlikely! 

 

Suggestion - grab a copy of GPS Test >> see https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.chartcross.gpstest

Then post a copy of the screen that looks like this one and we'll see what you're phone is up to.

 

949668587_Screenshot_20200219-100027_GPSTestPlus.thumb.jpg.f40dc65dc36bd494f99146ed26485cdb.jpg

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17 minutes ago, ecanderson said:

If your current location is jumping around on Google maps, that indicates that the device isn't achieving a very good satellite fix.  That's a fairly unusual problem with today's technology, so one would have to suspect either a phone issue or some local interference that you're carrying around with you, which is VERY unlikely! 

 

Suggestion - grab a copy of GPS Test >> see https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.chartcross.gpstest

Then post a copy of the screen that looks like this one and we'll see what you're phone is up to.

 

 

 

I had a similar one "GPS Status and Toolbox", which had the added feature, at the time, of a compass that you could select within the Official Geocaching App.  A big compass!  Anyway, it helps to be able to see what exactly the "GPS" is using for location.

 

Today there are a lot of Apps and even features built into some phones that show satellites and help troubleshoot.  IOS is still pretty restricted.  I had my "iPad Retina" for a couple of days before I realized it has no internal GPS circuits.  It showed caches with an accuracy of 400 feet to 3 miles as I walked or drove.  But what it would never show me was where it was getting its location information.

 

Edited by kunarion
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On 2/17/2020 at 2:16 AM, arisoft said:

 

I saw similar effect on a brand new Android device. It was somehow related to Google location service that overruns the gps for some reason.

 

I have a 4 month old Samsung S10+ and I get bounced all over the place. My fiance and I could be standing shoulder to shoulder, using the compass, and both be pointed in completely different directions.

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47 minutes ago, ecanderson said:

If your current location is jumping around on Google maps, that indicates that the device isn't achieving a very good satellite fix.  That's a fairly unusual problem with today's technology, so one would have to suspect either a phone issue or some local interference that you're carrying around with you, which is VERY unlikely! 

 

Good guess. I rarely have anything with me but my phone and its case. No purse, nothing magnetic.

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22 minutes ago, amgraves86 said:

 

I have a 4 month old Samsung S10+ and I get bounced all over the place. My fiance and I could be standing shoulder to shoulder, using the compass, and both be pointed in completely different directions.

 

Look up "Android Phone Compass Calibration" (videos are available if you need them).  Basically it involves a wide "figure eight" motion, as if you're flying a toy airplane.  Takes 3 seconds.  I have a couple of devices that need it so often, I just do it and keep going.  There's a similar issue on my iPhone 8, same calibration fixes it until I holster the phone.

 

Some phones can update faster than others, so they are jumpier, within the normal "bee dance" range while caching.  But if you mean this Thread's OP about your phone being 3 miles off, that's different. :)

 

 

Edited by kunarion
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On 2/19/2020 at 11:57 AM, kunarion said:

 

Look up "Android Phone Compass Calibration" (videos are available if you need them).  Basically it involves a wide "figure eight" motion, as if you're flying a toy airplane.  Takes 3 seconds.  I have a couple of devices that need it so often, I just do it and keep going.  There's a similar issue on my iPhone 8, same calibration fixes it until I holster the phone.

 

Some phones can update faster than others, so they are jumpier, within the normal "bee dance" range while caching.  But if you mean this Thread's OP about your phone being 3 miles off, that's different. :)

 

 

I do the figure 8 quite often, just out of habit while I'm walking with the phone, but it hasn't fixed the issue. But that is a good suggestion, and next I'm out geocaching I'll try doing it more often, even after holstering it and taking it out again. We're looking at all the suggestions. Thank you.

Edited by Max and 99
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7 hours ago, Max and 99 said:

I do the figure 8 quite often, just out of habit while I'm walking with the phone, but it hasn't fixed the issue. But that is a good suggestion, and next I'm out geocaching I'll try doing it more often, even after holstering it and taking it out again. We're looking at all the suggestions. Thank you.

 

Which model and brand of phone is it?  Really, there may be a certain software version or hidden setting or some trick related to that particular kind of phone that could clear it up.  Plus it happens in Google Maps?  Seems like something with the way the phone treats GPS for sure.


The distance being miles off in random directions is weird.  What does "GPS Status and Toolbox" (or else "GPS Test") show you about satellite capture?  I used "GPS Status and Toolbox" with my old Acer Tablet, to get an idea of how long it took for satellites to be found, and how many.  That tablet would jump around when you power it on, it simply took forever to figure out where it was.

 

I have a non-GPS iPad and unless I'm driving so the data gets updated, it never jumps around although it's typically 2 or more miles off the actual location.  It just points to its calculated spot.  It's using whatever signals it can besides "phone" and "GPS" (those circuits aren't inside). 

 

 

Edited by kunarion
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1 hour ago, Max and 99 said:

I do the figure 8 quite often, just out of habit while I'm walking with the phone, but it hasn't fixed the issue. But that is a good suggestion, and next I'm out geocaching I'll try doing it more often, even after holstering it and taking it out again. We're looking at all the suggestions. Thank you.

 

The term "calibration" to refer to what the figure-8 does is not correct, but unfortunately it is what the manufacturers call it.  It is not a calibration like the calibration of a speedometer or a scale.  The 3-axis magnetometer in your GPS requires no calibration; it knows perfectly well what the magnetic field is.

 

The so-called "calibration" of the electronic compass in your GPS is actually a correction for local magnetic field anomalies.  The figure-8 motion allows the compass to determine the local field and attempt to determine magnetic north from it.  However, if the Earth's magnetic field is overwhelmed by the local magnetic field from other sources no amount of "calibration" will help.

 

If you are well away from things that can affect the local magnetic field (magnetic materials such as steel, magnets, MRIs, etc.) then a single "calibration" should be fine.  If you are inside your car and not planning to move the GPS (or phone) much relative to the car, a calibration will probably work pretty well.   But if you are going to move your GPS from inside the car to outside of the car, then any "calibration" will be ineffective.

 

Generally speaking, if you are out in the wilderness somewhere, the Earth's crust doesn't affect the field too much, unless you are near a large iron deposit or something.  So these compasses work relatively well away from vehicles and buildings.

 

I always try to disable the magnetic compass in my device and use the arrow that comes from movement.  Sadly, I cannot figure out how to achieve this on my phone, which regularly shows me pointing about 45 degrees from reality.   But since I understand how it works, I just ignore it.

 

This is one area where a handheld non-phone GPS has a big advantage over the phone version, because you can turn off the magnetic compass.

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3 hours ago, ecanderson said:

Why turn it off instead of correcting it?  There are times when it's really not convenient (or safe, for that matter) to be moving in some directions when trying to sort out a bearing to a cache.  Those are the moments when the magnetic compass is the most useful to me.

 

An interesting question.  Almost everywhere I cache, I know the direction of north by topography.  I suppose if I did a lot of caching on cloudy days on the plains, it might be more difficult.

 

Bottom line is that I don't trust the electronic compasses in consumer electronics; I like to use instruments I understand and can trust.

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4 hours ago, ecanderson said:

Why turn it off instead of correcting it?  There are times when it's really not convenient (or safe, for that matter) to be moving in some directions when trying to sort out a bearing to a cache.  Those are the moments when the magnetic compass is the most useful to me.

 

Inside a car, you can't always get the compass to function so well.  That depends on the car.  I had a Datsun pickup that had its own magnetic field, so magnetic compasses didn't point the right direction inside.  You may "calibrate" (I'll just call it "calibrate", it's what everyone else calls it) the GPS's magnetic compass inside the car, and maybe it works.  And now you have to calibrate it when you leave the car.

 

My GPS (I'm just calling the handheld Garmin device a "GPS" because that's what everyone else calls it), switches automatically between magnetic and GPS compasses internally, depending on ground speed.  So I don't correct it, it's automatic.

 

I'm pretty sure the OP is not talking about a magnetic deviation anyway.  The OP's phone not so much just pointing the wrong way, it's jumping 1/2 to 3 miles in various directions.  You can't "calibrate" that distance error out of the "compass".

 

Edited by kunarion
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9 hours ago, fizzymagic said:

 

An interesting question.  Almost everywhere I cache, I know the direction of north by topography.  I suppose if I did a lot of caching on cloudy days on the plains, it might be more difficult.

 

Bottom line is that I don't trust the electronic compasses in consumer electronics; I like to use instruments I understand and can trust.

Here, it's not so much a matter of knowing where north is, but having finally achieved a half decent position relative to the cache, shooting a new bearing somewhere that you can actually navigate on foot.  We've got 'topography' out the wazoo here in Coiorado once you get west of the urban areas of the Front Range.  I can imagine this would be true in areas where the undergrowth is very dense as well.  Sometimes you go where you CAN go and then stop to figure out where you CAN go next.  During those moments, it's nice not to have to try to be moving in order to get a new bearing to the cache.

 

@kunarion

The OP's problem clearly wasn't a 'compass' problem at all - we got a little sidetracked there.  When huge distance jumps are involved in addition to directional changes, it's a problem of having a decent satellite fix / positional computation for whatever reason.  A wonky mag compass doesn't cause weird changes in distances to the target.

 

And yes, allowing the device to auto-switch between GPS (about 3mph as I recall) and magnetic is a good idea, and no, these handhelds don't work worth diddly inside the car most of the time.  Standard procedure for us is to get the vehicle close, then get out and figure out what direction to travel on foot after getting clear of the vehicle by a few feet.  Of course, as we approach, the automotive GPS is usually giving us a fair idea of that direction already.

 

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On 2/16/2020 at 8:14 PM, Max and 99 said:

Today when I started a Waymarking/geocaching trip, I went to navigate to  a nearby cache and my compass was all over the place on the geocache map: 1/2 mile west, then 10 seconds later 2 miles north, then 1 mile south, and 10 seconds later 3 miles to the east. Literally ALL over the map! It was useless. I made my husband watch the screen so he'd know I wasn't exaggerating. Every 10 seconds it was in a wildly different direction.

 

A little over a week ago, I took a walk along a neighborhood trail, about 3/4 of a mile long, and set some waypoints for potential cache hides along the way, using my Pixel phone.  It all looks good on the map, the points are all along the trail, as expected.  Fast forward a few days, I have a more specific idea for a cache in my head, and walked the trail again to get a reading on a more exact location (it's a puzzle, so I needed final coordinates to create the puzzle around).  I could not navigate to my previously set waypoints, or even  try to get good coordinates for where I was -  my location was jumping all over the map, just as Max and 99 stated above. I gave up that day, and just enjoyed the walk, and I plan to try again today.

 

Yesterday, I was using Google maps to navigate to an address (I was a passenger in  the car, hubby was driiving) - and Google maps was doing the same thing - it showed us (blue dot) jumping from where I thought we actually were, to a mile west, to 1/2 mile north, and in the meantime we arrived at our destination - it's like my phone's navigation, whether in Google maps or geocaching app, is just wonky.

 

I've had the same phone and used it nearly 3 years now for geocaching without problems, and longer than that for navigating with Google maps.  The last two weeks have been annoying, to say the least!  And yes, I am aware that this week we lose an hour, there's a full moon, and a Friday the 13th.  But I'm not surperstitious ... or should I be?  :anicute:

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16 minutes ago, CAVinoGal said:

I could not navigate to my previously set waypoints, or even  try to get good coordinates for where I was -  my location was jumping all over the map, just as Max and 99 stated above. I gave up that day, and just enjoyed the walk, and I plan to try again today.

 

Yesterday, I was using Google maps to navigate to an address (I was a passenger in  the car, hubby was driiving) - and Google maps was doing the same thing - it showed us (blue dot) jumping from where I thought we actually were, to a mile west, to 1/2 mile north, and in the meantime we arrived at our destination - it's like my phone's navigation, whether in Google maps or geocaching app, is just wonky.

 

If you don't mind, try it with a satellite App such as "GPS Status and Toolbox" or "GPS Test" or something that shows satellites it's fixed on.  Maybe the phone has its own built-in satellite info screen.  There should always be a bunch of satellites with good signals as shown in the picture a few posts back.  If satellites aren't found, that's a clue.

 

It may come down to knowing time and date and location of these events, but also if it was limited to the one phone.  There are various Earthbound and Solar reasons for GPS issues, some that are published.

 

Edited by kunarion
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8 minutes ago, kunarion said:

If you don't mind, try it with a satellite App such as "GPS Status and Toolbox" or "GPS Test" or something that shows satellites it's fixed on.  Maybe the phone has its own built-in satellite info screen.  There should always be a bunch of satellites with good signals as shown in the picture a few posts back.  If satellites aren't found, that's a clue.

 

I just dowloaded the GPS Test app, and will use it when I go out later today.  Thanks for that!  I'm playing with all the settings - looks like a fun app to play with!

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1 hour ago, CAVinoGal said:

 

I just dowloaded the GPS Test app, and will use it when I go out later today.  Thanks for that!  I'm playing with all the settings - looks like a fun app to play with!


Supposedly “GPS Status and Toolbox” helps other Apps acquire and hold signals.  I don’t know how that could be, but that’s what I heard.  Anyway, it has a big compass that used to be selectable in the Official Geocaching App.  I haven’t really used it in a while.

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UPDATE: Walked the trail again today, and initially, I couldn't get any satellites to show up, no numbers, and the geocaching app had me a mile and a half away.  I'm beginning to think this might explain why there are no caches along this stretch of trail!!! My daughter and I found a suitable spot to hide the prepared puzzle cache anyway; I'd picked one of the waypoints I had marked on the first walk through and created the puzzle using those coordinates, figuring I'd just have to tweak a couple of numbers once it was finally placed.

 

On our way back, things seemed to have settled down - I got readings from both apps at the spot we had placed the cache, and once we got back to her place, I checked to see how much tweaking I would have to do.  :::Play the Twilight Zone theme here:::  The coordinates I got with the geocaching compass/add new waypoint were IDENTICAL to the random waypoint I had chosen to create my puzzle.  And the GPS test app had the last digit out by 1 for both N and W coordinates.  EERIE!

 

So, my plan now is to leave the puzzle alone, let hubby solve it and try to find the cache with those coordinates, and see where HIS GPS takes him, if it's anywhere close to the actual location or not.  I had hopes of placing several caches along this trail, but if the coordinates are as wonky for everyone else as they have been for me trying to place this one, it would just prove frustrating for seekers.  It's along a creek, some tree cover but not a lot, with houses on the non-creek side, no power lines overhead, and GPS seems to work, some of the time!

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