I’ve had some junk clogging up my computer over the past few days, preventing me from doing any writing at all.  I lost a complete post in all the muck yesterday, which was very nearly the same experience I had while Geocaching.

I was roughly 35′ from GZ when I spotted a plastic baggie with an obvious log, pencil and cheap scrunchy ball someone got from their doctor’s office inside.  This was definitely NOT the ammo can I was promised.  Then again, some folks think a sandwich bag IS pretty big, so who am I to complain over a good bike ride and a smiley?  Never.  But something wasn’t quite right.

The “log” just was a piece of paper reading “Secret Geocache Log” with some names.  No identifying stuff like a Stash Note or contact info for the owner, just damp paper.  It really was in pretty good shape for being containerless, so it certainly was intentional, but I rehid and moved on in search of something more, um, Geocache-able.  The prize was right where the coordinates belonged, but what about this Geo-trash?

I decided to pick it up and take it home.  So if you’re missing some random bag from near Discovery Lake in San Marcos, CA, it was me.  Here’s why I did it:

Geocaching is more than a game.  It is a ginormous community with a solid operating framework and volunteer support structure for this worldwide adventure.  It is a massive force for good, but sometimes trash makes its way into the system.  Fortunately, the players tend to police themselves or each other and the problems wax/wane.  Mostly, they wane.  Even with listings and players working through we find bad placements, bad cachers, and just plain bad stuff on the trail.  It happens.  But when you start Geocaching outside “the system” is when things start to get dicey.

Let me state plainly that and Groundspeak do not hold a monopoly on the game of geocaching, though they do own the URL.  The game is free, the tools high quality and the advantages of using Groundspeak/ as opposed to some other home-brew are legion.  You absolutely CAN place a hide and publish some coordinates on your own.  That’s easy and heck, why not, right?  Well, not so fast there, Punky Brewster.

What Groundspeak has done is build a framework that you simply MUST abide if you are going to play this game in any way.  At the very least you have to include a notice as to what the “hide” is doing there, some contact information and some way of looking up the information (or requesting it, anyway).  If you toss a bag under a rock with some paper in it, that’s trash, and that’s precisely the opposite of the intent of this game.

So PLEASE…if you are going to play the game of Geocaching, keep in mind there is a huge, well-organized and mobilized community to help you (and it is FREE!).  If you don’t want to join in with the rest of us, remember there are Geocachers who can spot a hide from 50 yards and who don’t like logging DNFs on the real target of their search because you placed some junk under a log.  We like to clean up the trash from our trails.  Without some way of identifying the hide, that’s all it is: trash.

Geo-Trash, to be sure, but it’s still trash.

So why not just join us?  It’s a lot more fun when you share and we would love to have you.

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