The fifth cache (which wasn't, chronologically, the fifth, but it was the most interesting one) was listed as a mystery cache. Mystery is a sort of catch-all for caches that don't fit into standard categories; they almost always involve a puzzle of some sort. I mostly dislike mystery caches, at least the ones that require complicated and lengthy puzzling at home before you can even figure out where to go. (A puzzle or unusual feature on the trail is fun -- but looking at the cache page at home and being unable to figure out what the hell they want you to do, that's not fun.) The theme of the cache was water, the encrypted hint was along the lines of "duh, you're looking for water," and the coordinates took us to a Glacier machine outside of a mini-mart. As we approached, a store employee was throwing out some sort of outer box for drink cans, and he gave us a decidedly odd look and only very slowly went inside. We hadn't even stopped and done anything suspicious yet! I was reluctant to search the side of the machine that faced the store's window, since I didn't want to end up talking to the store employee guy. Instead, we thoroughly searched the far side and top and bottom and back of the machine... but I wasn't surprised when we didn't find anything. Why was it a mystery cache, after all, if it was just a micro stuck to the machine? Then I thought to look at the nearby rain spout, but no such luck. There wasn't much in the description to go on -- the owner said it was log only, several very good cachers had to stop by multiple times or get extra hints, but those who found it called it clever. Something eventually worked its way free in the back of my head -- the cache owner had gone out of his way to avoid calling his cache a micro. The 'size' indicator hadn't been filled out, and he said "log only," not "log-only micro." There was a pay phone next to the Glacier machine. I picked up the attached phone book, and looked up "Water." There was the log sheet! I think only one other person has quickly located the sheet without any extra hints or visits.
With those five caches logged, we're up to 499. It's my hope that on Saturday we can finish the big multi-puzzle cache we started last weekend, and make it a milestone cache for #500.
When we got home, there was a box by the door. I was very pleased to discover it was a shiny new Magellan Explorist 500. Will we be seduced away from Garmin? The Explorist is almost exactly the size and weight of our eTrex Vista, and it's got a color screen (which I haven't actually seen yet -- it runs only on a rechargeable battery and we're still charging it). I have no idea how we'll feel about its features and interface, since we've never used a Magellan. We'll take it on our big puzzle hunt Saturday and see how it compares to the Vista. I think its fonts are easier to read, which is a plus, and it probably can't help but acquire satellites faster. On the other hand, some people have complained that the system for bringing up a particuar waypoint is clumsy, and we need to do that rather a lot. The Explorist is certainly worth what we paid for it, at any rate, but only time will tell if it will become our primary GPSr. If not, it's kind of pointless; after getting the Vista, we tried taking both the Vista and the yellow caching. That lasted, oh, about five minutes. I think I carried the yellow for the first cache of the day, and then left it in the car and shared the Vista as needed. It's easier to trade off who's holding the GPSr than it is for each of us to juggle our own, and loading up both GPSrs every weekend would get old fast. I suspect we will remain a one-GPSr team -- the question is which one it will be. But anyway, however it comes out in the end, I'm looking forward to playing with the new toy.