Follow-Up to a Questionable Hide

About a month or two ago a new hide popped up in the area.  It was in a clearly marked “off limits” area but because other caches had been placed in the vicinity I believe the owner was under the impression a new placement would be just fine.  This is unfortunate as in my area we have seen “no trespassing” signs sprout up all around Geocaches.  No matter how off road a cache looks, development tends to encroach.  Such is life in Southern California.

A few folks piped up about this problem location and I was one of them, receiving a memo of irritation from the owner.  I responded rather verbosely and I thought the note important enough to share with you here.  I don’t plan on sharing the original memo from the hider unless that becomes necessary.  Let’s just say the owner was mildly upset with my position, which was “archive this cache”, and he/she was inclined to stop playing.  I respect his/her anger but don’t want the hider to give up on things.

My response, in 4 parts, was intended to help future hides and was a direct response to a comment by the owner concerning the  “I am your worst nightmare” section of my Geocaching profile.  All that, below the fold.  If you find it useful, please copy and use it in your own “counseling sessions”:

1.) The Community
We have an active and engaging Geocaching community here in North County. We have a Yahoo! group, NCC (North County Cachers) and we connect regularly to plan outings or large cache puzzles, compare notes, etc. You should absolutely get involved there. It is a wonderful group of people from a huge variety of backgrounds. We really enjoy talking to folks who are new or haven’t been around as much.  Xxx  is a regular, as are quite a few of the 1000+ find cachers in the area.

2.) Experience with the lay of the land
The number of finds someone has is largely irrelevant after a point. Every one of us has placed a bad cache and heard the whining from other seekers or even our own kids. They’re picky, those 8 year olds. Having said that, Groundspeak has a rough guideline that encourages folks to find a bunch before placing one. I won’t quibble with the target number but the idea is sound: let people experience good and bad for themselves so they can see what works. Nowhere is this more critical than in San Diego county as the pace of development is so fast as to be impossible to keep up with what’s “legal” or not unless you or someone you know has had first hand experience. We’ve had lots of lively discussions about specific areas, hide types and general acceptability to the Geocaching public. Unless you’re participating there it is hard to get a sense for the lay of the land until you have dozens of finds in the general vicinity. Bottom line: there are a LOT of locations that look good on paper but just fail miserably for a number of reasons. This cache is one of those.

3.) This Hide
What really sucks about this hide is not that it’s in a poor location but that it is a creative hide with a well thought out puzzle/description that has to be archived. I wish there were more folks who went out of their way like you did to think it through and put something interesting together. A good cache setup takes hours and hours to build. I don’t want to discourage you from going after it again but I understand this kind of thing is disheartening. In no sense is there a “dogma” attached to assessing cache location/type suitability. In fact the Geocaching rules are pretty clear that these things are taken on a cache by cache basis. I’ve had to argue my case (both successfully and unsuccessfully) several times for my own hides. Yup, it stinks. But I have to keep coming back to the basic premise of the game: we don’t operate on private property, state parks, or anywhere it could be construed or even give the perception we are adding something other than good clean fun to the community. Which brings me to my situation…

4.) The Worst Nightmare 
My worst nightmare Geocaching was looking for a GC19QBT “The walls are alive” last June. Now this cache is perfectly kid friendly if approached from the right direction, but my GPS told me to approach from a road that made this a cache-n-dash. The problem was the elevation: I was 5 feet from the cache on the map, but 50 feet too low.  I didn’t know this, nor did I know that while the area I was in was technically safe public ground the local homeowners had lots of crime problems.  I landed in the perfect storm of pain which you can read all about in the log from 6/9/08.  Luckily my children were not with me and several others have made the same mistake since my adventure, thankfully again none had so severe an escalation as mine.  I will willingly put my own safety at risk for a 5-Star terrain (I have) but it is unfair to walk someone into a known hazard or off limits area without warning.  In the case of your cache, this is plainly marked private property.   If what happened to me could happen on public property, what’s the risk on private property and would you really want to put children in that position?  You just can’t.  It’s not responsible, nor does it agree with the rules or spirit of the game.  There is at least one person in jail for the next 10 years for Geocaching on restricted ground (train station in the terminal) and I know of many more who have had their GPS and car confiscated (Indian tribal lands are off limits, with some very painful consequences).  If someone were to be injured or killed while Geocaching on private property the entire “sport” would be immediately put at risk.  What was a fun game for me and my kids would now become a distant memory. So I am of mixed emotions about archiving your cache.  On the one hand it is a decided issue: we can’t do this.  On the other, I think your ingenuity and creativity is something the Geocaching community could do with more of and while I urged you to archive the cache, I strongly encourage you to get engaged with the local community.  They’re all very supportive and I think they will elevate your opinion of the game. Please don’t give up on my account.  I’m looking forward to attacking your next hide and hopefully beating Dougandsuzy to the punch for FTF. In the mean time, you should go after my “Don’t Do This!” series (or at least read them for a chuckle or two).  The first one has some good material in there for you to help build and stock that next cache.  That’s what it is for.  If it’s been cleaned out, let me know and I will restock it for you.

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