The Future of Geocaching?
BaytownBert (Bert Marshall) 1-23-24
I am no expert on the game for starters, regardless of how I am perceived, but I have been playing it off and on going back to 2003. Back when I started, it was a wild adventure game of unknown containers, cryptic tips, tricky GPS devices and sketchy coordinates, and descriptions that often told a story. It was a danged challenge to find one and quite often, you would burn a gallon of gas between caches.
Each ‘cacher’ had a signature way of hiding caches and in
the case of one aaronbarbee, you were fairly certain to get injured trying to
sign the log (GC25N1B). There were no children that I remember and the game was
dominated by computer geeks, math nerds, rocket scientists, geologists, lab
techs and school teachers. I was a chemical Plant worker and a computer dude
and was attracted to the technical side of the game.
My mentor was Sam Morrow, one of the three founders of the educational Texas Geocaching Association, which I informally joined in 2004. Sam was the lab superintendent at the Plant where we worked and my first few caches were around the San Jacinto monument. It was very common back in those days to be questioned by police and most veterans had numerous encounters. Before I go further, let me establish this is strictly an opinion piece and not intended to malign anyone. Geocaching is just a game and is fun however you play it and I am fine with that.
By 2010 there were a lot more caches, but nothing like there
is now. I met my second mentor at the ten year anniversary of Geocaching –
Houston Control. Larry Houston hosted an event at the Baytown Nature Center (GC25FVH
) and to me he was a rock god. HC owned a lot of very interesting and
challenging caches and still hides them that way in 2024 (GCAJFM0 ). My brother
tjbustem and I were in awe of him as he had maybe 200 caches under his belt and
I, maybe half that. These were earned one at a time, often on solo expeditions
and this was common. Back in the day, finding five or ten in a week was a
I decided I would try an astounding a thousand caches a year and some years I made it, but most I did not. Now mind you, numbers were important, but not my motivating factor. A few years passed and all of a sudden I started noticing some people were bumping their numbers up a thousand in a few days. I couldn’t believe it. How in the world? Before I knew it there came the proliferation of low-quality hides. These were caches that required no skill or effort or apparently forethought and the introduction of cell phone GPS capability further diluted the quality of the game. Now any casual interested person with a phone began hiding caches that more often than not registered a negative number on quality. They soon lost interest and their containers needed maintenance only to be archived by the reviewer after a few months.
Events at one time were real gatherings with lots of attendees and everyone walked away feeling like they had witnessed something and learned from it. Now, again more times than not, they are meets and eats (BYO$). Trackables fell in value to veterans and (FMK5BM) are viewed as extra baggage and there are so many, most of us don’t even grab one or record it.
Souvenirs were big deals and were cherished, but took the same inflationary path to the point veterans basically ignore them. IMO Groundspeak has fomented this tactic to feed instant gratification and should cease this practise. The same goes with Cash in Trash Out (CITO) at cache locations. I’ve personally observed litter all over a cache area after veteran cachers had just visited it.
What has happened to our game and how do we correct it on an individual basis? Do we simply say times have changed and let it go the route of Munzee’s where you can hit the 28th level in four hours? Let’s get the game back into the woods and out from under lamp posts.
I suggest archiving low quality hides, placed mainly to boost numbers (which mean nothing now). If a person has umpteen thousands of finds, what does it actually mean? Fourteen bazillion of them were LPC’s or ET Highway 1/10 of a mile power trail hides most likely or were group finds where one person jumped out of a van while everyone yelled, “Sign my name!”. To me this is silly and forsakes what we all started the game to do. The game has hybridized into a joke in many ways, making veterans look like a Banana Republic general with 650 medals on their uniform.
Let’s put the adventure back into the game. Do a little homework and locate a cool place to hunt or find one. Along the way, stage an event worth attending and do it in a park. Try to mentor newbies and teach them how much fun the game can be. Like I said, times have changed and no one is impressed with how many caches we’ve found, so why not step back, take a deep breath and start over fresh? Become a mentor.