Top 10 Geocaching Tactics – #5 to #1

Our last post was Top 10 Geocaching Tactics #10-#6. Today, we’ll finish up our geocaching tactics with #5-4-3-2-1.

#5. Check everything.  Except for burying it, almost anything goes when hiding a cache.  We’ve seen them disguised as rocks, pine cones, reflectors, light switches, bird houses, bolts and sheet metal. Look for something that doesn’t belong – a shape. a rock in a tree, a stack of sticks, a color variation, a glint in the sun. Don’t take anything at face value. Look everywhere. Tug, twist, prod, kick or whatever it takes to inspect something.  Don’t forget to be discreet about it.

Winter Caching
We are all-weather cachers. It can be tough in the winter. You have to read the descriptions carefully and see if it’s accessible then.

#4.  If something near GZ looks like a good hide site, check it out. If you’ve done your background work, have a good idea of what your cache is and see a likely hiding spot, go for it.  Don’t ignore a good place because the GPSr says it’s too far away. We’ve found caches as far as 100 feet from the posted coordinates. You can post corrected coordinates in your log or you can keep quiet and let the next person fumble around cursing their GPS.

Ground Zero
In the Laurel Highlands of western Pennsylvania, here’s Ground Zero. It was a three mile hike on the Laurel Ridge Trail to get here and the bugs are out. Let the search begin. We’re looking for an ammo can and we’re not leaving until we find it.

#3.  Take some cache tools. Once you’ve found the cache, you may have other things to deal with.  The cache may have to be pulled from a tight place. It may be so small that it takes tweezers to extract the log.  It may not have a pencil. The log may be full or wet.  The ziploc bags may be torn. Carry a “cache extraction and repair kit” to deal with all that. If the cache is really FUBAR, do what you can and send a note to the owner.

The Find
Here it is, an hour later. It was well hidden and tucked away in the rocks. We find our caching sticks, which are five foot lengths of 1 1/2 inch dowel rod, to be indispensable. In terrain like this, they give you a third leg, which comes in handy around here.

#2.  Don’t expect the GPSr to take you directly to the cache. This is by far the biggest mistake that new geocachers make and even experienced cachers get lulled into it. All GPS does is get you close. Don’t keep pacing and walking around waiting for it to go to zero and then expect the cache to be at your feet.  Once it starts bouncing around in single digits, its job is done. Then it’s time to start looking.

#1.  Think like a geocacher.  Don’t bury your face in the GPSr. Do your research. Evaluate the terrain and route. When you get to GZ, ask yourself  “Where would I hide this?”  Leave the cache as you found it or better. Pick up some trash along the way.  Geocaching is huge and growing all the time. It is self-regulating and most places are very receptive to it.  To keep it that way, we have to be good stewards of the sport and the places where we do it.

Cache on … The Cachemanian Devils

Top 10 Geocaching Tactics – #10 to #6

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

Our new blog

Sgt. Blogger
My student teacher – Sgt. Blogger. Here he makes a point during a “teachable moment.” You’ll see him around the new blog “Teaching Kids Math and Other Stuff.”

Hi again,

I’ve had three real passions in my life – my family, the outdoors and teaching.

My family continues to evolve as my kids have grown up, I got re-married and now we have grandkids.  You’ll see them in some of our posts and pictures.

I grew up in the Allegheny Mountains of central Pennsylvania running around with the guns and the dawgs.  Then the Marine Corps gave me my outdoor fix for 20 years.  Now, adventures in retirement get me outside.  That’s all covered by this “Off the Beaten Path” blog.

I’ve always felt that my real calling was teaching.  My mom was a teacher and I guess I inherited the gene. She always said that good teachers are born, not made.  I discovered early on that I was good at it and liked it. 

The Count
Count Cachula, a regular guest lecturer.  That’s one blog post. Ah ah ah

The Boy Scouts, martial arts and the Marine Corps gave me plenty of practice on how to teach and no shortage of subjects .  When I retired from the Corps, I never really considered anything else but teaching as a second career.   I taught middle school math for five years, freelanced as a Microsoft Certified Trainer for another five years then went back to a different middle school for five more years.  During most of that time, I was also an adjunct instructor at a local community college teaching computers and general education subjects.  In 2008, I got re-married.  Pam and I both retired and became geocaching fanatics.

Teaching was the hardest I ever worked.  At times it was more stressful than combat.  I had a lot of success in the classroom and was nominated for the Who’s Who of American Teachers three times.  Teaching is first and foremost a leadership challenge.  Running a classroom is a lot like commanding a military unit.  You have to lead by example, establish routines, make your standards known and enforce them firmly but fairly.  When a classroom is firing on all cylinders, there’s nothing quite like it.  I found it to be very rewarding and satisfying.

I always thought the biggest part of my job was to model successful and responsible adult male behavior since students see so little of it.   In TV, movies, video games etc, men are routinely portrayed as losers and idiots.  I was determined to change that perception. On the back of my car, I had Marine Corps and recon stickers and my NRA life member sticker.  I had a dad come up to me at parent conferences one night and say “We’ve never met, but I could tell from the stickers on your car that you’re the kind of guy I want teaching my kids.”   I live for high praise.

Johnny Bravo
Another adoring parent. He also appears on the guest lecturer circuit.

Like most teachers, I was a pack rat and never threw anything away.  In addition to this “geostuff”, which I used in the classroom a lot, I’ve got a ton of material unique to the teaching side of things.   This includes years  of accumulated ideas, opinions, forms, sheets, letters, exercises and evaluations.  Some of it is on paper, some is on my hard drive and some is in my head.    It seemed like a shame to toss it or forget about it, so I decided to give it a new lease on life and blog it. 

Introducing “Teaching Kids Math and OtherStuff.”   The title is self-explanatory.  Most, if not all, of the content in my teaching blog will be useful to parents, coaches, youth leaders and even grandparents (whose ranks I have now entered.) If it gives one good idea or one chuckle to one person, it will have been worth it.

You’ll  find some opinions and reflections on this site which you may or may not agree with.   You may find my sense of humor a bit wacky but it goes with the territory I’ve been in for five decades.  There are several issues in particular that I wrestled with for years without a good resolution. You’ll be seeing a series called “Classroom Capers”  where I free write about anything that comes to mind.  I hope you find something of interest or value somewhere on the site.

I’ll keep adding stuff until I run out, which will probably never happen.  Where appropriate, I’ll cross-link things.  I welcome your feedback and ideas.

Click this link  Teaching Kids Math and Other Stuff to get started.

Thanks …. Dan