There used to be a time when I went on a trip, I’d plan some geocaches.
Even if I was with people who didn’t geocache, I’d find a way to go find a cache or three, just to satisfy the taste.
It seems like it’s passing me by.
It’s not that I don’t enjoy caching anymore. I do. In fact, a few weeks back, I went on a caching adventure with some people who were getting the bug back when I first got it. It was a throwback day. We did a bunch of caches, walked several miles, enjoyed the weather and had a fine afternoon.
I thought, at that point, I’d be back into it.
Not so much.
I’ve cached a little here and there since then. But one day, I went on a quest to find a few. And what followed was some DNFs on hides that had hints that didn’t help, difficulty levels that were high and some of the areas made me unsure if I was supposed to be there or not.
I don’t mind high difficulty caches. In fact, I enjoy a good hunt. But, in this day and age with the economy the way it is and gas prices as they are, walking away with more DNFs than finds make me want to re-consider the hobby as a whole.
I’ve made difficult cache hides. But in the end, I’m hoping people find my caches. That’s what this game is all about. At least that’s what I thought. I didn’t think the idea was to stump people. Now, I don’t believe this hider had the intentions of stumping people. Quite the contrary, actually. I think the idea was a hard hide with people finding it in the end. Alas, a few DNFs showed differently.
I fully remember my first day of caching.
It was March 1, 2008. A new hobby. A friend had said we should try it. So we went and checked out one in my town. That day we found five caches. I even picked up my first geocoin to move along.
Oh my was I hooked.
Caches all over the area and for me to find? Score! Soon after, I invested in a handheld GPS of my own. I still have that GPS to this day and it’s been amazing for geocaching. It’s a strong GPS, gets a good signal in the woods and has done so much for me. The averaging coordinates feature has been wonderful for placing caches.
I had the bug though. I ran out for new caches. I planned trips. I loved the game. Through events, I met like-minded people and it was fun. It was relaxing. It made me realized that life beyond work could be fun again.
At that time, I couldn’t see me ever giving up this game. Ever. It was fun. People were cool. Traveling was neat. And people put these caches in crazy cool places. Or they had fun and interesting puzzles. So why would I give it up?
As with anything, when the game starts to grow, the “bosses” change things.
In the past several years, Groundspeak has taken some things away from the game. Items such as ALR (additional logging requirements), which made caches entertaining. I remember finding caches where we had to take a photo with something in the cache to be able to log it. It was awesome!
Though virtuals were gone as new caches by the time I joined, I realized how great these caches could be, if given the proper treatment (see Earthcaches).
Instead, last year, Groundpeak added Challenges, which is a watered-down version of virtuals in that they aren’t really watched by the “powers that be” and, last time I checked, there was no way for the “Challenge owner” to delete a log if someone logged it without doing what they were supposed to do. See, that’s because nobody really “owns” challenges.
Technology, too, has made caching easier for the masses.
With the addition of smart phones and apps for people to be able to cache with, it’s made it easy for people play the game. But, with all positives come negatives.
Some of those negatives include people rushing to do things — such as placing caches with not-so-good coordinates or placing caches that aren’t so great. But that’s fine as a hide is a hide and people can learn from it. However, some people play the game, enjoy it for a while, place a few caches and then stop playing.
In the end, the caches might eventually get into bad shape and if the owner is no longer active, it can take a while before things get archived. And, unfortunately, but without the permission of the owner, people can’t adopt the caches.
With this, too, comes micro caches.
Oh are there micro caches.
It seems to be the norm anymore where people place lots of micros. And then there are the “oh-so-clever devious hides.” Geocachers should know what I mean by this — the ones that are fake items: such as electric plates, sticks, bugs, sprinkler heads, fence toppers, gum, screws, bolts and anything else. Many of these can be found quickly because cachers are used to them. Others, not so much because of the surroundings.
The other negative?
Placing caches in places that just don’t matter. If I am looking for a quick find, an occasional lamp post skirt or guardrail cache is one thing. But it’s almost becoming commonplace for people to do these. They go somewhere and decide there should be a cache there (say, a shopping mall) and then place a film canister somewhere silly.
It gets boring.
The worst part is when you have these and they screw up placing a good cache elsewhere. Say there’s a nature trail nearby. You have to get 528 feet away from that.
There’s the micros in the woods, too. Why not something a little bigger. You are taking me somewhere, why not reward with a good cache?
State of the game
You can quiz 100 cachers and you might get 100 different answers on what the state of the game is right now.
As for me? I don’t know what to think.
I got back in the habit of trying to read log books (when it’s something other than a micro). The problem with that? Nobody writes much anymore. If they do, it’s more about what they took or what they left or something like that. Not the adventure. So the in-cache logs are becoming more and more of a “sign and run.”
It’s unfortunate that the game has become even more numbers-oriented than it used to be.
Look, I won’t lie — I used to be a numbers guy. Loved it. I wanted to find as many as I could. I’d run out for an FTF and all that. I still love the stats programs and stuff because I love stats/graphs etc.
But a funny thing happened on the way to the ammo can…
I realized how much numbers don’t matter. Getting the FTF meant nothing more than if I found the cache two weeks later. And, by going after new caches at night, I started to fear I might miss something cool the cache owner wanted me to see. So I started scaling back. And it became fun again.
That fun doesn’t last as long, however.
Reality is I’m not someone who enjoys caching solo. And most of the new caches in this area are found quite quickly by others, so asking people to cache usually means that somebody has to sit through cache after cache of someone finding ones the other already has. So it can be a bore. Therefore, it’s become secondary, at best, to me.
I’ve had other hobbies pop up, too. I’ve done more with this blog and my new one. I got into disc golf. I’ve become extremely passionate about photography again.
So my time has other things.
The funny thing is, you’d figure I would be missing geocaching. Maybe get the feeling of needing to do it. Not so much. As I said earlier, I still like to do it. But I don’t worry as much about trying to do it.
For example, this past weekend I went on a mini road trip. The first day was in Watertown. When we left the event we were at, I had a flat tire. That kind of sucks when it’s midnight. So I call AAA and we wait for the guy to come help me out. We were in a safe area (fairgrounds) with nary a person around.
Turns out I was probably 300 feet from a cache. I never checked my phone. It never even crossed my mind to check the caching app to see if one was close. Two years ago, it would have been the first thing I would have done.
That’s the state of the game for me.
The other things that have made me kind of ignore the game are items I’ve covered in the past on the blog — negativity, competition, self back-patting and, now, gas prices. Seriously, I can’t afford to drive all over the place to find caches. If I can go somewhere, go on a 3-4 mile hike and find a few good caches, I’m more apt to do that because then I feel I can do a few things in one trip (cache, photography, exercise).
I’ll still go to events. I’ll even organize a few (I have a couple in mind I am working on now, actually). But my caching days will be limited because I just don’t feel like the game is as fun as it used to be.
My future in caching
Tough to say.
I remember scoring my 2,000th find in Ireland in 2010. At that point, I figured I’d have to plan my 3,000th find a lot sooner. Checking my profile on geocaching.com shows I have 2,672 finds. I don’t think I’ll hit 3,000 this year, so I have time to plan a cache I’d like it to be.
For the immediate future, I plan on archiving several of my caches. The reality is, many of them have passed by in time and don’t get found anymore. So hopefully some others will step in and place a few. But I know that I don’t want those caches to become those ones that don’t get found or become nothing. I do have a couple I’d like to keep out there and will, but that’s more than sentimental than anything else.
I have even let my Groundspeak premium membership lapse. That’s something I’ve never done. I’ll likely renew it shortly, but it hasn’t been a “rush” for me to do so.
I’ll keep finding caches here and there.
And events, for sure. I plan on doing one or two mega events this year (unfortunately, GeoWoodstock is out. I just can’t afford that trip) and trying to find my “caching mojo” again. I’m just not confident it will be found right here.
Who knows? Maybe when I find a job, it will take me to a new area and maybe that will jolt me. Maybe not.
I’ll stay active. I’d like to recapture the feeling of the early days of caching. The coolness of finding things. The fun. And, well, knowing when I found something, look around and see what else is there. When I started, it was about the journey. Hopefully I can find it again. If not, it might be a hobby that slowly disappears for me.
Fundraiser: I am, again, trying to raise money for the Relay For Life. If you donate to me — even a small amount — you will be entered to win a super-sweet quilted scarf. Click here for all the information!
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