We spent Thursday geocaching with The Outlaw (10,735 finds),TreyB (10,076 finds) and Moosiegirl (7,536). Yep,that’s 28,347 finds between them,compared to our measly 124. Needless to say,we were in awe.
Outlaw had scoped out a terrific route around Great Brook Farm,a 1,000-acre park in Carlisle,Mass. We knocked off seven quick finds and one that took a little more scrounging (Outlaw found one that we would have missed entirely) in about seven hours. One of the things about caching in the Northeast is that you have to work for nearly every find!
Needless to say,we learned a few things. One thing we noticed right away was that these top cachers don’t live and die by their GPS. In fact,they tended to put down the gadgets about 50 feet before reaching the destination coordinates and to start looking around for likely hiding places. Outlaw explained that coordinates can be misleading on two levels. The person who hid the cache may or may not have been diligent about confirming their location. Also,GPS tend to fare poorly in the woods,meaning that precise coordinates don’t mean very much anyway. Their method works. There were at least a couple of caches that Dana and I wouldn’t have found for a long time if we had focused on searching right around our destination. The treasures were actually located 40 or 50 feet away.
We also learned the importance of paper maps. Outlaw stopped frequently to consult a trail map to be sure we were taking the most direct route to our destination. Our tendency has always been to rely upon intuition and our GPS,but he explained that trail maps can save you from taking the long way around to your destination,particularly when trails wind aimlessly in the woods.
Outlaw and TreyB were both saving their tracks for later use. Outlaw uses special icons to denote the location of bridges,cut-throughs,unofficial trails and other points of interest. He later loads this information into MapSource to create a detailed map for future use. When new caches are placed in the area,he can easily find the most direct route to them,because he’s already got his previous tracks saved.
When going on their own caching expeditions,these experts typically choose an endpoint and head for it,figuring that they’ll pick up other caches in between. They are devotees of Geocaching Swiss Army Knife (GSAK),the awesomely powerful utility that should be in every casher’s toolkit. They use GSAK first to filter the caches they want to find and then export to a GPX file. Importing that file into MapSource,they can get a visual representation of their chosen targets and then map a route between them. It takes a little more time up front,but it saves a ton of time on the back.
Outlaw’s number one piece of advice for the day? “Always mark your car’s location.” After five or six hours of clumping through the woods,I understood the wisdom of that statement. I have a pretty good sense of direction,but I had no idea where I was.
After seven hours,we had found eight caches,including a 4 mile multi,and placed one. My feet were aching and I was ready to call it a day. True to form,Outlaw was thinking ahead. “You can walk .4 miles to the car,or you can walk .7 miles and pick up two other caches,”he said with a wink. “I’ll even come and pick you up.”
Tempting,but my feet were too sore. We’ll come back for the other two later!