As the warmer months approach, I’m going to be more apt to head out and geocache on free weekends and maybe even a few nights after work, if some local caches start popping up.
The winter was harsh.
It was so tough, in fact, that I didn’t even consider geocaching most of the time. It was either too cold or there was too much snow – or for several months – both. Back in the day, I’d have gone anyway. But as I’ve grown older, I’m more a fair-weather cacher. I love the game, but I also want to have fun doing it and not worry about how much longer I am doing it, which is often the case when out in frigid winter weather.
Between December and March, I found one cache – and that was an event in December. Work and weather and other items made it so I didn’t get out or think about caching much. As it’s gotten better out, I’ve tried to go more often. That will continuethis month as I attended the ASP Geobash this past Saturday and head off to GeoWoodstock this week (and using some vacation time, finally, for it).
I actually had grand plans of making GeoWoodstock my 4,000th find, but I don’t see that happening. I need 118 and the event is Saturday.For the ASP Geobash weekend, I ended with 20 finds. There were grandeur thoughts of a 40 or 50 cache day, but with a slightly late start and things taking longer than expected… as well as some humidity and such, well, just didn’t happen. There will be plans to do a lot of geocaches on Thursday and Friday this week, but I’m not sure I’ll get that 118 before the big event. I’ll make a push, but we’ll see.
If I had been even somewhat active with caching this past winter, I probably would have no issues making this my 4,000th find. So it’s my fault if it doesn’t happen, but we will see how it all goes.
As the weather has started to bloom, however, I figured it was a good time to look at how the game seems to be overall. I’ve had a few odd logs on my caches recently that made me think about the game. I’ve also listened to a few geocaching podcasts that have touched on some interesting topics, so I wanted to chime in as well.
With that in mind, here’s my look at the Geocaching State of the Game Address
Geocaching, whether you call it a game or a hobby or something else (I refuse to call it a sport as some others do – it’s not. There’s no competition and no winners… it’s purely a recreational thing), is still growing. With technology constantly changing, more and more people sign up to play.
Heck, just take a look at other geocaching listing sites. Though geocaching.com is still the main one, others are popping up and giving people options. And that’s a good thing. No business should be able to monopolize the market. I will admit I haven’t really checked the others much, but I will likely look into it a bit more.
That being said, geocaching.com is the biggest and more active listing site. The site boasts more than 2.6 million active caches worldwide and more than 6 million geocachers worldwide.
The game is healthy, or so it seems.
I’d be more interested to find out some information about those 6 million geocachers though. I’d be willing to bet that at least half of them haven’t found 25 geocaches. I’d say at least half probably aren’t all that active, either.
That can sometimes hurt.
With the growth of the game, there come some pains – for example, the geocaching app for smartphones. When I first started caching, I needed to get a GPS unit (for the record, I still own and use said unit and I started in 2008) to play the game. Now, somebody just has to download an app and they are off and running.
When I started, at the end of your day (or whenever soon after), you sat down at the computer and logged your caches (I still do it this way) and usually put some thought into your logs. Now, you can do it on the fly via the app and you can even just do a “log it” without writing any comment (that should be fixed. Force people to type something).
To say the game has changed would be an understatement.
Don’t get me wrong, I like this growth. In fact, when I travel, I’ll often pull out the phone and find a nearby cache to try and find. It makes it a lot easier to cache on the fly, which is nice. That being said, the app can also be a bad thing. Why? Well, people join, find a few caches and disappear. Worse than that, they’ll sometimes place a cache or two (usually nothing great), leave the game and then the cache becomes trash.
So it’s much easier to play, that’s for sure. But sometimes, I wonder if that’s a good thing.
The growth has seemed to go backward in my area. New caches don’t pop up too often. I have a boat load of containers ready to go, but I need to find spots to put them all out. I have a couple of ideas and hopeful plans once I can get out and do it.
WHAT TO LOG
Speaking of all the new people and such (and even some veteran cachers), it seems like it’s becoming the thing to post needs maintenance or needs archived when you can’t find a cache, instead of the old fashioned DNF.
I realize there’s no actual “rule” as to certain logs, but I have my own way of looking at things.
If I don’t find a cache, I DNF it. Simple as that.
If I look for a cache that has a bunch of DNFs and I can’t find it, I might log a “needs maintenance” because it might be gone. I also use this selection if I find the cache and it’s in bad shape.
In the rare instances I use the “needs archived” selection, it’s usually because the cache is in awful shape and the owner hasn’t been seen in a long time, or if there are many other DNFs or needs maintenance logs and nobody seems to be doing something about it.
But goodness knows I don’t use those last two options if the cache has been being found and I just can’t find it.
It seems like that’s the new thing as I’ve received a few of these logs from people with fewer than 10 finds. I’ve also seen it on caches I am looking to search for and it makes me shake my head.
The simple fact? Just because you can’t find it doesn’t mean it needs maintenance or should be archived.
If you are newer, keep that in mind when logging. Reach out to the owner. Reach out to others. Geocachers, for the most part, are friendly and helpful. Become part of our community and learn from people who have been doing it for a long time.
Another tip – when placing your first few caches, test those coordinates. Phones aren’t always that accurate, so make sure you have the coords you need.
One thing that still seems to be good, for the most part, is the attitude of those playing the game. It’s not like I haven’t seen some petty stuff (and heck, in the past, I’ve been involved with it – haven’t we all?), but for the most part it seems OK.
I’ve made an attempt to wash slates clean over the past year or two and take the game for what it’s worth and it’s made it much better. I don’t worry about some of the things I’ve heard in my area and beyond – whether it’s not liking somebody for the way they cache, or ignoring somebody hides because of what you’ve heard, or simply avoiding things because people are there – I’ve decided it’s not worth it.
Life’s too short.
I’ve made a lot of friends through this game. I enjoy talking to other people. I love traveling to different places, many of which I may have never seen were it not for geocaching. I’ve made contact with people when traveling to different parts of the country and the world to meet up and cache with somebody (it’s always more fun to cache with somebody than by myself, I think anyway).
But, the attitude isn’t always positive. I’ve also met grumpy people who find everything to be wrong with the hobby. And, I’m sure, I have been grumpy in the past. But in the present, I take it all for what it’s worth. I have fun. I talk to people. I smile. And why? Because it’s not worth getting upset over.
At this point of my geocaching life, when something feels like it’s going to irk me, I walk away from it. Easy as can be!
As I look back at my seven years of geocaching (which, to me, is a long time … but the hobby is in its 15th year!), I’ve seen a lot of things that have helped me come to some conclusions about the game.
- Some take it really seriously
And when I say seriously, I mean seriously. I’ve met people who get visibly angry over, say, not being FTF. Some will get really competitive about the numbers. Personally, I like numbers and such, but it’s because I’m a baseball nut and love statistics and the programs. But I don’t care where I’m ranked or where I’m stacked up against other cachers. Why?
And this next thought isn’t something that’s across the board, but something I’m curious about. I’ve talked to several people who are extremely competitive or call this game a “sport.” I grew up playing sports and still play competitive softball. So, to me, geocaching is relaxing. I’ve talked to many on the opposite end and the majority of them didn’t compete in sports growing up or in high school etc. I wonder if there’s a connection there as to who pushes and who doesn’t when it comes to competitiveness?
- Change happens
The reality is, the game is controlled by the listing sites. Though they may all listen to the community, in the end, they make the decisions. So when they make changes, it’s what they might think is best for the game and/or their business. Often, the changes are met with outrage.
As for me? I try and go with the flow. I can’t say I’ve always agreed with changes at geocaching.com, but I also realize they are a business and they have to do what they feel is best for them as well as the community. As the game continues to grow, more changes will happen. May as well deal with it, right?
- What’s a 3 to me is a 1 to somebody else is a 5 to another person
Though I often look at terrain and difficulty, I realize people think of ratings in a much different light. Though there’s a tool to use to be able to help with it, not everybody uses it or agrees with it. So it’s a good starting point, but sometimes it might be a different thought process, so keep that in mind.
- All types are fun
Though I’d rather not have a day full of lamp post caches and guardrail finds, I have no issues overall with them. I’ve gotten to the point where I enjoy all of the geocaches I find (besides those that are in bad shape and not being taken care of), and they all have their place. So, sign the log and move on.
Too often, I’ll see negative posts that call people out and things like that and it makes me shake my head. That is why it’s better to contact people privately, so utilize it. There’s no need to be negative and make somebody feel or look bad.
Positive energy is a good thing.
Now, I will say one thing, though. The only time I feel all types aren’t fun is when there’s an opportunity to place something bigger and a small container is placed instead. I don’t even care if it’s a soda preform (to be honest, they are some of my favorite containers, so I have no issue with them anywhere), but go up a size from a nano or a small bison, or a small plastic tube. Sometimes, you just can’t, and I get that. But when there are many other places to hide something, try and come up with something a bit more.
Either way, I’ll sign and smile!
- I like what it does for me
Geocaching gets me out and about. I’ve met friends that I never would have known, if not for this hobby. I have a few podcasts I listen to about the game and never would have found those if not foe being involved. I enjoy events, creative hides, and easy grabs. I like a good hike, or taking me to an interesting place I never knew about. I like the people or the solitude this game can give.
It’s been a great thing for me and I hope it continues.
THE STATE OF THE GAME
Geocaching is strong right now. More and more people seem to know about the game, and that’s a good thing. I plan on caching as much as I can this summer and hopefully be able to meet more people, swap stories and cache with friends as much as possible.
I’m planning at least 4-5 weekends around geocaching, with two (GeoWoodstock and the Block Party in August) being longer and more in-depth. I look forward to seeing new places this summer, finding some great caches and enjoying being outside.
I’m excited for future milestones and trading pathtags and being involved as much as I can. Maybe I’ll make some old connections or find some new ones.
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