People who don’t geocache (referred to as “muggles” by us adventurous types) often don’t see what the big deal is about geocaching. They think you plug in the coordinates and just walk right to the cache.  Not so. On its best day, the GPS system will get you within 10 feet of a point.  That’s a circle 20 feet in diameter or a square almost 18 feet on a side – 314 square feet total. If you’re fighting thorns and mosquitoes, that’s a lot of ground to cover.

The truth is that when most people start geocaching, they punch in the coordinates, put their head down and follow the arrow. They go through the briars and the brambles to the cache only to find that there’s a path next to it. We were no exception.  But soon, you become smarter and more tactical about it. Keep in mind that people who hide caches want them to be found, but they also want them to be challenging. They also have to place the cache and maintain it.  The fact that they have to go there too works in our favor. So check out our favorite tactics.  They work very well for us.

#10. Read the cache information sheet and logs in detail.  This is the research phase of geocaching. Very often, the hider gives you a cryptic clue.  Sometimes finders do too or just blurt out a key fact in a log entry.  Parse every word and pull out as much information as you can.  With the new generation of smart phone apps and GPS devices, if you download the cache, you download some logs too, so that’s real handy.  If you’re seeking a long distance cache away from home, recon the area with a topo map, gazetteer or Google Earth. Talk to locals to fill in information gaps.  Gather your intel and have a plan.  Be sure to have any special equipment you might need, like tweezers (for nano caches) or flashlights.

PawPaw Tunnel

The western end of the 3,118 foot Paw Paw Tunnel in West Virginia. The geocache is on top of the edifice and you have to traverse the tunnel to get here. This tunnel was near the end of the old C&O Canal. That’s the original 1850 tow path going through it and that’s what you walk on. You need flashlights for this one. One thing we’ve found out about tunnels – even if you can see the other end, they get REAL dark in between. If you go tunnel caching, you’ll need a light with some horsepower. Mini-mags and the like won’t be sufficient. The darkness just eats the beam.  Tunnels also get quite cold and damp, even in the summer, so take something to ward off the chills.

#9.  Try not to head for the cache with any pre-conceived notions of what you’ll find.  Some hiders will tell you exactly what it is.  Others don’t. If all you know is it’s a micro or a small or a regular, don’t assume it’s a key holder or magnetic or an ammo can because then you search based on that and skip over the real thing. If you can’t find it in the cache info, you need to have a good search plan. Don’t waste time looking for something that’s not there.  On the other hand, many hiders will put out a series of caches that are all the same or very similar.  Once you figure out the pattern, you can start racking them up.

#8.  Plan your route and modify as needed.  In general, if the distance on the GPSr is going down, you’re headed in the right direction. It doesn’t mean you’re on the best route.  You may be on a trail that loops around a steep, thickly forested hill.  You can cut over the hill or you can stay on the trail, which means the GPSr may start to go up again. Don’t become fixated on the GPSr. It’s giving you the shortest distance between two points.  It doesn’t read terrain or evaluate routes.  You do.

whirlpool gorge

Here’s an exercise in route planning and modification. This is the Whirlpool Gorge at Niagara Falls and the Spanish Aerocar that goes over it. See those big rocks to the left of the car? There’s a geocache in that vicinity and yes, you can walk to it. Just don’t let the GPSr take you in a straight line.

#7.  Look for a trail or opening.  Like we said earlier,  hiders want their caches to be found. I don’t think we’ve ever found a cache just thrown into a thicket. If you find yourself facing a wall of brush or some other obstacle, start looking for a way through or around it. It’s probably close. Everyone ends up breaking brush at some point, but do it as a last resort. Usually, if you fight through brush to get to GZ, you’ll find a trail nearby when you get there.

#6.  Have a good search routine. When the GPSr is bouncing around in the single and/or low double digits, you’re close.  Do a quick scan of the area.  Check the obvious places. Then take your stick and poke around some of the less obvious. Finally, do a detailed search of the area with a search pattern. Look high and low.  Move slowly. Keep your eyes moving. Your peripheral vision is better at picking up shapes. A lot of caches are found “out of the corner of my eye.”

That’s all for this edition. #5 to #1 on our next post.…The Cachemanian Devils