Natasha and Boris at Cooke Lake in the Wyoming Black Hills near Devils Tower National Monument.
Hi and welcome. This is the travel, outdoors, history and geocaching site of Boris and Natasha - retirees, snowbirds, explorers, geocachers, munzee and benchmark hunters, history lovers, lifelong learners and wannabe photographers who can show up almost anywhere.
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 all the related skills and activities that go with it.
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.
We're known in some circles as the Cachemaniacs, but affectionately refer to each other as Boris and Natasha, usually with "dahlink" at the end.
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, in 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.
Whether it be geocaching - or its outdoor cousins munzees, letterboxes, orienteering - you would be hard-pressed to find activities which are more fun, positive, educational and family friendly. My 85 year old mother has been geocaching with us. Our five year old grandson loves to hunt munzees.
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 - the activities on this site and in our blog will develop skills and take you places you would have never known about otherwise. The only adverse effect we've encountered is G.A.S. - Geocaching Addiction Syndrome. Once it gets in your blood, it's hard to quit.
Our Getting Started section to the left will have you on the hunt in no time.
Before you head out, be sure to look over our Top 10 lists of geocaching safety and tactics.
We've also got a great Resources page.
Don't miss the Shiloh ghost story, our own geocaching X-file.
This is our kind of geohunt - a geocache site north of Sundance, Wyoming. The cache is called "Nuke on a Mountain". It's outside the perimeter of an old NORAD radar site that was powered by a nuclear generator in the early-mid 60's. You can see the perimeter fencing. The installation is still intact but was shut down years ago and is strictly off limits. The generator that was here now powers McMurdo Station in Antarctica. Getting here is a 30 mile drive on back roads, then a steep hike. If you try for this cache, be sure you read the log notes about route selection. The altitude here is almost 7,000 feet and it gets your attention. Once you're up here, the scenery is spectacular, including a long range view of Devils Tower. There are a number of other cool geocaches in the immediate vicinity. A couple of them are park'n'grabs but most aren't. Bring lots of water, sun screen and a tank of oxygen.
Boris is a retired Marine officer and former middle school math teacher. Natasha is a retired pediatric nurse. We are hard core snowbirds, splitting our time between Wisconsin and Arizona. We also do a couple of road trips each year. This is the second time around for both of us. In our previous marriages, we raised five kids and now have two grandkids. 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.
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 KD's Bar-B-Q in Midland, TX) 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. Boris has become quite the geek with HTML, CSS, WYSIWYG editors and social media in addition to bringing out his inner freelance writer. He's also started dabbling in HDR (High Density Range) photography. Here's a sample of what we're talking about.
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, munzee hunting and more on the fly. We've learned new technical skills with GPS, laptops, phones and apps. Who says you can't teach old dogs new tricks?
After putting it off for a long time, we recently got onboard with social media. Check out our Exploring Off the Beaten Path blog. You can also follow us on Twitter @cachemaniacs and our Facebook page. They're all connected. Whatever we post on one shows up on the others. They even interface with our favorite geotool Cachesense, which sends a tweet when we log a cache. Very cool.
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
2014 2015 (or
You never know what you might find here. We love forts, battlefields, ghost towns, one of a kind diners, cheeseburgers, skin-on French fries, anything to do with National Parks and anything else that's off the beaten path. The tougher, longer, higher, creepier or more calorie-laden it is, the better we like it. Of course, we do normal stuff, too. We'll mix things up to keep it interesting.
We've been hitting the trail together for almost nine years - and still going strong. 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 ours.
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! Recently Added! links section to the left.
In between, you can follow us on our blog. We post on Facebook and/or Twitter almost every day.
Navigating the Site
You can go anywhere on the site with the Sitemap link. There's one on almost every page.
The lengthier pages are divided into sections. You'll see the heading Move Around This Page on the left hand side. 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 HOME key on your keyboard will take you back to the top of the page. 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...Boris and Natasha