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Feedback Needed! Hiding a Geocache

This is a full draft  chapter from Joy of Geocaching. We need your input! What have me missed? What have we got wrong? What new stories can you contribute? Please comment or e-mail us.


After you’ve spent a few months searching out other people’s geocaches,you’ll probably be tempted to place one of your own.  This can be great fun.  Instead of trying to figure out other people’s hiding places,you’ll be making up your own mysteries and then sitting back to see how other people fair against them. “A clever cache is memorable if it’s at the coordinates and you just can’t seem to find it,”says Stephen O’Gara (Ventura Kids). “No bush hides,No digging in dirt,No sorting of rocks,just simple clever hides.”And it’s always a thrill to get your first FTF message,usually from someone who’s delighted at the honor.

However,placing a cache isn’t necessarily simple,and there are responsibilities that go with being the “owner.”If one thing,you are responsible for ongoing maintenance,and that means meaning trekking out in the middle of winter to replace a missing logbook or fix a pill bottle whose cap has cracked.  For that reason,many owners maintain only a few geocaches.

Maintaining a cache can take dedication. Scott Veix (InfiniteMPG) remembers seeing a log for his Nowhere In Sight cache that reported that one stage had melted from a brush fire. “I quickly adjusted my schedule and the next day spent 4 1/2 hours mountain biking out to replace the stage,”he says. “You might think it’s a great idea to place a cache at the end of the 10-mile hike,but remember that if there’s a problem,you have to return there to maintain it.”

Those who count their hides in the hundreds usually rely on their contacts to help out with the work.  As we noted in Chapter XX,experienced geocachers usually carry an assortment of replacement items to repair caches that have been compromised.  If your own network isn’t very robust,you’ll probably be on your own.

Another factor that owners must contend with is geocaching.com’s review policy.  The organization maintains a network of volunteers who screen every cache submitted for listing,and their styles are as different as their fingerprints.  Our first five placements were all rejected by our screener for problems that we didn’t anticipate.  In one case,we were chided for including language in the description that promoted a nonprofit animal rescue league. Our reviewer deemed it too commercial. Another hide was rejected because we listed the difficulty as 1.0,which is a rating reserve for caches that are wheelchair accessible.  Rather than argue the point,we simply changed the difficulty rating to 1.5.

Gotchas

Geocaching.com revised a detailed list of its rules on its website,and it’s a good idea to become familiar with them before making your first hide.  Here are some things to watch out for,in particular:

Proximity —As a rule of thumb,your cache must be no less than 1/10 of a mile from another.  This may seem straightforward,but the rule also applies to intermediate stages in a multi-cache.  In one case,we were twice rejected because our placement overlapped stages in a seven-part multi placed in the same area.  We thought we were in the clear,but we hadn’t bothered to complete and log every stage of the overlapping puzzle.  In that case,we finally did what many catchers do when frustrated:we contacted the owner.  He provided us with the coordinates of every stage and we were able to re-hide our ammo box outside of his sphere of influence.  In general,proximity shouldn’t be a problem,but high-density areas require special vigilance.  Load up your GPS with a pocket query for the immediate vicinity and be sure you are at least the required distance from anything else that might be a problem.

Prohibited areas —As we mentioned earlier,the National Park Service prohibits the placement of caches on its properties,so don’t even try.  Some state park services may have restrictions,but most of them seem more enthusiastic than apprehensive about the game.  Still,it doesn’t hurt to check.  Other prohibited locations are government buildings,military installations,airports,dams,active railbeds,and highway bridges.

High-security areas or those that may be targets of terrorist attack are the squishiest locations. For example,geocaching.com prohibits the placement of caches within 150 feet of railroad tracks. If this number seems arbitrary,it is,but that’s the rule.  If your placement is even close to an area where security is an issue,you have a chance of being rejected.  Very often this decision is at the discretion of the reviewer. If you have a good relationship with that person,you may be able to argue yourself into his or her good graces.  However,our experience is that you shouldn’t count on it.

Private property - Under no circumstances should you place a cache on someone else’s property without obtaining their permission. This usually isn’t a problem,as many small business owners are delighted to have an excuse to bring visitors to their stores. When in doubt,ask. If you don’t get permission,you stand the chance to subjecting other players to embarrassment when an angry property owner asks just what the heck they’re doing. And if you do have permission,be sure to note that in the description.

bomb-like-geocach-deviceSuspicious Locations –Every couple of months,the press reports on another example of law-enforcement personnel being called upon to “defuse”a device that turns out to be a geocache. This is always a black eye for the game,and geocaching.com is emphatic about avoiding containers and placements that may arouse suspicion. The photo at right is of a cache in Auckland,NZ that mobilized local police. These incidents don’t endear local authorities to geocachers and you should avoid any actions that may tempt fate.

Personal Injury —Geocaching.com disclaims responsibility for any injuries suffered by a cacher in pursuit of a goal,but they shouldn’t ease your conscience if your hide causes harm to another.  We learned the hard way that if people can’t find your cache,they will sometimes go to extremes in the search. A pill bottle hide we had rated a modest 2/2 turned out to be a lot trickier than we had expected. One cacher ventured over a nearby fence and put his foot in a hole,severely twisting his ankle. We quickly amended the description to make it clear where visitors shouldn’t go. That’s why you should inspect the area for a good 50 feet around your hide and warn players of any hazards.

That said,people who go after a cache rated 4/4 or above know that there is some risk involved. In the chapter on Extreme Caching,we discuss some of the physical challenges of these very difficult finds. Every extreme cacher we talked to understood that there were risks inherent in their pursuits.

Promotional Language – Geocaching.com maintains a strict policy against promoting commercial interests of any kind on its site or in its forums. Of course,if you want to pay an advertising fee,the rules are different.  The volunteers who approve cache placements can be sticklers for this rule.  We had one rejected because we said some nice words about a nearby nonprofit animal shelter.  To avoid delays like this,don’t promote any organization,no matter how worthy.

There are four basic components to hiding a cache:choosing a container,choosing a location,deciding how you will direct searchers to your location and creating a good description.  Let’s look at each in turn.

Choosing a container

geocache_sizes_cropped
Typical geocache containers (r. to l.):Ammo box (regular),Nut jar (regular),pill bottle (small),bouillon cube jar (small),candy sleeve (micro) and bison tube (micro)

Call us old-fashioned,but we love the traditional ammo cans and large plastic boxes.  There’s so much you can put in them and it’s such a challenge to hide in object that size so that it can last for years without being discovered.

That said,the clear trend in Geocache over the last couple of years has been toward “micro”and “nano”containers. They are easy to hide and don’t require much preparation.

When choosing a container,the watchwords are durable,waterproof and concealable. Larger containers are more appropriate for woods settings while micros and nanos fit better in urban locations. When repurposing a container such as a pill bottle,be sure it’s sturdy enough to last for several years in the wild.  Loose caps,broken seams and thin materials may cause problems after a year or two,forcing you to hike out into the field to replace the container.  AlsText Box:Voices of Experience Baggies always rip. Better to get a good container than protect the log book with a plastic bag. A great container is a birdfeeder with birdseed glued to the inside walls of the feeder. When a cacher looks at it,it looks full of birdseed,but really it's full of a log book. -Mrs. Captain Picardo be careful about poking holes into containers in order to affix screws or hooks.  The smallest opening can lead in water and destroy log books. Seal any openings tightly with a hot glue gun.

For large containers,the venerable ammunition box can’t be beat. Sizes range from dictionary-sized to containers big enough to hold a small child. They’re camouflaged,watertight and last for decades. Ammo cans are available at Army/Navy stores and many online outlets. Another popular option is the popular lien of food storage containers made by Lock &Lock Co. They’re watertight,durable and come in many sizes.  They’re also a lot cheaper than ammo boxes. Our advice:invest a couple of bucks in a brand-name container instead of using the freebies supplied by the supermarket. They’ll last a lot longer,and that means fewer maintenance headaches for you.

ammo_can_ajar
Ammo can in its natural habitat

Pill and vitamin bottles make excellent and economical small containers,but chances are you’ll want to cover them with camouflage tape,which is available at sporting goods outlets. Five dollars will buy you more tape than you can use in a decade. Military decontamination (d-con) kits also make great small cache containers. They’re two to five inches long and lock tight against the elements (Cost????)

The most popular micro caches are film canisters and “bison tubes,”which are small metal containers originally designed to hold pills and which are named after their largest manufacturer,Bison Designs.  Micros generally hold no more than a logbook,although they can accommodate small items of swag.  Bison tubes are popular because they’re watertight and can be hung or attached to metal with a small magnet. They also come in many colors.  You can buy them for and about $1 each on eBay or at online geocaching specialty stores. Film canisters are becoming harder to find as people move to digital photography.

Nano containers are actually kind of cool.  They can be no larger than the tip of a pencil eraser and contain very small log sheets that barely accommodate a set of initials.  You can put nanos almost anywhere because there are so hard to see. They are particularly popular urban containers.

quebec_micro

Nano caches can be no larger than a pencil eraser.

Micro and nano containers have flourished in recent years with the growth of urban caching and because,frankly,they’re easy to hide. They can also turn a simple hide into an evil one. Don’t criticize owners for stashing micro and nano containers in vast wooded areas. They do it to make the hunt that much more difficult.

There’s no consensus on what is the largest geocache container ever placed. We asked around and the best candidate we found was from Graeme McGufficke (OzGuff),a North Carolinian who is a bit of a local legend for the volume and creativity of his hides.

For his 300th hide,OzGuff placed a multi-stage puzzle that led to a 24-foot square storage container covered by a camouflage tarp and placed about 150 feet from the trail. “It was basically a thank-you to the caching community,”he remembers. “I stocked it with premium stuff:a George Forman grill,an AM/FM radio and things like that. It was thanks for two fun years.”This cache has been archived,but you can find the description at waypoint GCQC5A.

What to Include

The very minimum requirement for a containerized geocache to be considered legitimate is a logbook.  The tiniest logbooks are nothing more than tiny scrolls of paper that are tightly rolled up and fit inside a nano container.  The Geocaching.com website has templates for various log formats that you can print.

For larger containers,a spiral notebook or small diary works well.  Be sure to choose a book that won’t lose its pages,as a mass of torn sheets can frustrate and confuse visitors.  You want something that’s going to last a while,since your cache could be in the field for years.

Many people like to stylize their logbooks with logos or illustrations.  You don’t have to do this but it’s a nice touch.

If you can,include a couple of pens or pencils in the container.  Pencils are a better bet in environments that are prone to freezing,which can gum up the flow of ink.  Felt tip markers tend to dry out over time.  If you can’t include a writing implement,be sure to mention on the description page that players should bring their own.

It’s customary for larger geocaches to include items of swag,which are usually toys and trinkets that you can buy at the local dollar store.  Visitors who take these items are expected to replace them with other items of equal or greater value,so the quality of your swag should actually improve over time.  For thematic caches,you may want to customize the contents to the scene.  For example,one cache in our area was placed by a local Girl Scout troop and includes a bounty of girlish items,such as lipstick,nail polish and miniature dolls.  Use your imagination!

Some other items that owners like to use:

Disposable cameras —This is a great way to personalize your hide.  Ask visitors to take photos of themselves and leave a prepaid mailer that they can use to send the camera to a processing service when full.  You can then post photos on the cache page.

Trash bags –In the spirit of “cache in trash out,”leave a stack of disposal bags that visitors can use to clean up on their way out.  What a great way to reuse those sacks left over from the supermarket!

“First to Find”Prizes –It’s not hard to get people to compete be the first to find,but if you want to juice up the competition,leave something special for the victor.  A silver dollar,a couple of movie tickets or a gift certificate are nice ideas

pinecone_cache
MacKenzie Martin’s pinecone cache (filename:pinecone_cache.jpg;high-res photo requested)

Offbeat Containers

Just about anything durable and hollow can be a geocache container,but true aficionados delight in inventing their own original and deceptive vessels.  There is actually a small cottage industry of enthusiasts who invent and sell containers disguised as logs,rocks,leaves and even woodland animals.  And some just prefer to apply their own devilish creativity.

OzGuff created a string of caches he calls the “atypical”series because the containers are each a little offbeat. There’s a Barbie dell with the log book hidden inside her torso,  an unused plastic mustard bottle,a garage door remote control,a soccer ball,a travel toothbrush container,and a mailbox,among other things. ”Most folks get a laugh when they find the atypical containers,”he says.!

The only hard and fast rules governing geocache containers is that they can’t be buried.  They can be all but buried,but they must still be retrievable without digging.  This leaves quite a bit of room for invention.  An avid geocachers have come up with some remarkable ideas for hiding those tiny log sheets.

MacKenzie Martin of Scottsdale,AZ is one of them.  He runs Cachingbox.com,a website that sells all manner of caching accessories.  His inventory includes 10 custom containers,including a pinecone,switch plate,rock,sprinkler head and the unique rattlesnake cache.  The pinecone container is “the most labor intensive but also the most popular,”he says. “People pick up one or two with pretty much every order.”

Martin likes to find ordinary objects in the woods and attach bison tubes to them in creative places.  In addition to his inventory,geocachers have requested custom orders like scorpions and lizards. He advises to harmonize the container with the environment.

“The best approach is to go to the location where you’re going to hide the cache and look around. If it’s an urban area,you can find metallic wall plates at the hardware store. If you’re around grass you can do a sprinkler cache. Make sure it fits in with the surroundings.”

rattlesnake_cache
The rattlesnake cache is one of Cachingbox.com’s most inventive containers

If you decide to build your own container,think durable and waterproof. “Glue is important,”he says. “It’s going to get hot and glue can melt. Water-based super glues work the best. If you’re going to use paint,be sure it’s water-resistant. If you’re going to put a bison tube in something,use a drill. Bison tubes fit well into drill holes and are less likely to fall out.”

As inventive as he is,even Martin has been stumped by some requests. “I keep getting requests for the horse manure cache,”he says. “I wouldn’t even know how to make it.

We’ve also had requests for road-kill caches. That’s kind of disgusting.”

Scott Veix (InfiniteMPG) is a bit of a legend around his Bradenton,FL for his dastardly disguises. “I’ve had few case of people spending four hours looking for a cache that they had it in their hand and didn’t know it,”he says. It’s true. One of his caches was hidden in a tree branch that a visitor used as a walking stick.

“We’ve cored out bones and put micro containers in them,then used Quikrete to mold the cap,”he says. “Some people have actually sent me pictures of a person sitting down frustrated after looking for one of my caches for 15 minutes and they’re sitting on it.”

Inventive containers are actually a lot harder to create than you may think.  In order to blend in with their surroundings,they need to look like part of the scenery.  There is little you can buy at the hardware store that meets the criteria.  A rubber snake picked up at the toy store is going to look like,well,a toy snake. In contrast,Mackenzie Martin’s rattler is sculpted by a native American craftsman to look like the real thing. If your container looks contrived,you’ll get humiliated in the logs.  And who wants to deal with that kind of abuse?

The Joy of Ownership

We found that after hiding just a few geocachers,we developed almost a sixth sense about locations.  When passing by a stone wall or a hollow tree stump,we look at each other and nod,“great spot.”  Pill bottles are no longer discarded are at our house;they’re quickly covered with camouflage tape in preparation for their eventual deployment in combat.

Owning a geocache has its own unique rewards.  Each discovery has a story,and players are sometimes effusive in their comments and compliments.  It’s rewarding to get the occasional “great cache!”  and even a TFTC (“Thanks for the cache”) is appreciated.  Finders can sometimes be quite creative,too.  We had one cache we dubbed “24″,although it had nothing to do with the popular television show.  Nevertheless,one of the first finders wrote a log in the form of a journal entry from the popular thriller. “If I didn’t get feedback on the caches,I’d probably stop hiding them,”says InfiniteMPG,who has nearly 300 hides to his credit. “Owners put a lot of effort into hiding and maintaining caches. It’s nice to know it was worth it.”

Hiders and seekers actually have a sort of unspoken lingo that communicates appreciation and approval.  The more ingenious the hide,the longer and more detailed the log entries are likely to be.  It’s actually considered a bit of an insult to leave a short log entry for a cache that was brilliantly hidden.

By the same token,a description that misleads players into thinking a cache is easier to find than it really is,or that subjects them to physical danger,will be rewarded with blunt feedback.  Geocachers are a pretty civil group in general,but they have ways of making their displeasure known.  If your hide is generating immediate disapproval,fix it.

Basic hides are easy,but the most delightful ones lead players to new and exciting locations or are accompanied by good stories.  Owners often used a geocachers a way to lead people to a place that has sentimental value or historical significance to the area.  We go out of our way to look for these treasures,because they help us understand our own community better or learn more about the history of the place we are visiting.

Text Box:Most Extreme Geocache? Nobody keeps formal records of the most difficult geocache in the world to find,but many people would probably agree that it is Rainbow Hydrothermal Vents (GCG822). The goal is a small plastic sea horse with a travel bug placed beside a hydrothermal vent about 7,000 feet below the ocean. The owner explains that expeditions regularly visit this area,but that only a few dozen people each year have the opportunity to get that far. We’ll admit a bias for large cache containers.  They are more difficult to hide but more rewarding if you can come up with a crafty solution.  They also reward finders with a place to deposit trackables and interesting trinkets there are even geocachers designated as “travel bug hotels”that function as stopping points for trackable items making their way around the globe.

Choosing a Location

Pick a place that gives you the opportunity to show off your knowledge of the area.  Tell stories and reveal little-known details about the location.  Puzzle caches may challenge seekers to gather bits of information from multiple spots –dates on a plaque,letters in a name,numbers in an address –to piece together the final coordinates.  The more you can relate these puzzles to local lore,the more you’ll delight your visitors.

Hiding spots should provide ample protection from the elements as well as from the eyes of passersby.  As cache owner,you are responsible for the preservation and integrity of your hide. If a cache disappears,it’s your obligation to replace or disable it.  For this reason,few owners place caches very far from home.  Serious owners will go out of their way to verify cache integrity or check on problems. Scott Veix (InfiniteMPG) remembers once adjusting his schedule so he could spend 4-1/2 hours riding his mountain bike to a remote location to replace one stage in a multi-cache.

Always choose locations that are safe and warn players if there are potential dangers nearby.  Geocaching.com prominently disclaims any responsibility for injuries to players,but you don’t want to live with the guilt that your hiding spot causes someone to break a leg.

Be aware of local conditions.  We live in the Northeast,which is covered by snow several months of the year.  For that reason,we try to avoid hiding caches on the ground. Areas that are covered by ice during the winter may also present hazards,so think before you place.  In warmer climates,consider the effects of boiling sun,harmful plants and local wildlife.

The Deafdillos of Austin,TX can tell you about the latter. Richard &Natalie’s  total deafness hasn’t stopped them from amassing a count of more than 5,400 geocaches but one west Texas hide was particularly memorable. “When we were about 50 feet away,we realized we were coming from the wrong side of the river. As we moved around to the other side,Natalie heard something,thanks to her cochlear implant,that she hadn’t heard before. But it was gone quickly and we dismissed it. We found the ammo can in good shape. Later,when we visited the Monahans Sandhills State Park,we learned about what that sound was. Natalie had heard a rattlesnake for the first time!”

InfiniteMPG can relate. “Once while caching and hiking on vacation with Cathy (Paddler Found),we set out on the Big Oak Trail at Suwannee River State Park.  There is a spot on the map labeled ‘Big Oak,’so I was walking with GPSr in one hand and trail map in the other,looking up at the trees to find which oak was THE big oak.  Suddenly Cathy yelled,‘You just stepped on that!’and pointed at a large snake that was sunning on the path and looking at me wondering what the heck I was doing.  Luckily,we all went our own ways.”

Dutch Sanders (Linuxxpert) came face to face with a cacher’s worst nightmare on one search. The area is filled with old coal mines that are gradually being turned into state parks. While pursuing a challenging cache,he and a buddy were poking theads into the abandoned mines along the way. “We hike down into a gully and there’s a mineshaft held up by one of those old beam supports,”he says. “I duck down with my flashlight,step into the hole and shine my flashlight into the eyes of a bear. It was bigger than I was. I didn’t even have a chance to think. I turned around and ran screaming ‘Bear!’My buddy and I were half way up the hill before we peeked back and were relieved to see the bear hadn’t followed us.”

Determining Difficulty

A devilishly difficult hide probably won’t get found very often,but you’ll enjoy reading the logs of the people who persist. An easy find may generate a lot of logs,but they won’t be very exciting to read.  Most veteran owners mix up a combination of simple and difficult hides to keep themselves interested and players on their toes.

The most common spots are under a rock,inside a tree or hollowed-out stump and attached to the back of a sign.  Parking lights at lots across America are festooned with film canisters hidden under the plastic skirts at the base of light poles.  These routine locations are good for running up your numbers,but they don’t challenge you very much.

We love an inventive and devious hide. Here are some examples from out travels and the experiences of experts:

austin_great_cammoOn one trip,we found ourselves looking directly at our target and not even knowing it.  Look at the photo.  Can you see the geocache?  It’s the leaf in the middle,beautifully disguised and colored,made out of waterproof cloth and just big enough for a log book. We never would have seen this one if our companions hadn’t pointed out to us.

Stephen O’Gara (Ventura Kids) tells about one of his favorites:

The owner (Agoura Charger) “was known for some devious hides. We had already searched the area and found nothing. Obviously we were not looking in the right spot. My daughter Theresa was visiting and she concluded that if the cache was exactly at the coordinates,it must be directly over our heads. We split up and started scouring the tree canopy above. Theresa spotted a great big pinecone in the oak branches above. ‘A pinecone in an oak tree? I found it,I found it!’she cried.

“And so she did. She was happy until I explained that we need to actually sign the logsheet and that it was 40 feet above us! After a bit of searching the area,we found the other end of the string and lowered the cache for signing.”

InfiniteMPG tries to tie the location to a theme. “When I locate a spot,I usually will ponder the location a while,”he says. “I will look at the surroundings and try to pick out something that can camouflage a hide or be a theme.  Then I try to use the location as a theme for how the hide turns out.”

Sometimes you don’t even need to hide the target. We learned of one high-difficulty cache that is actually a large ammo box painted orange and placed atop a pillar on an island in the middle of a rushing river. The cache is visible from a half-mile away,but the trick is getting to it! InfiniteMPG is proud of one large container that he disguised so well that he was able to hide it in plain sight. “It’s a full-sized Lock &Lock right in the view of 10,000 people,”he says,with no small amount of pride.

[We need more examples.]

The Art Of The Description

In interviewing veteran owners,we were struck by how much attention they pay to descriptions.  Some said they actually spend more time working on the description than they do placing the container.

“Sometimes it’ll take me 10 minutes to hide and an hour to think of a name,”says InfiniteMPG,who adds that it’s not unusual for him to spend a full day thinking up a title and description. “The Web page is your sales tool. You’re trying to entice the cacher to go after your cache,”he says. For a veteran owner like him,the reward is in the log books.  A string of unremarkable “TFTCs”is a sign that players don’t think much of the hide or the container.

A favorite example of InfiniteMPG’s is a cache he placed not far from his house called “Alfred’s Birds.”(GC1DHMA) Its description commemorates an Alfred Hitchcock classic by a similar name. “It’s a little island that’s become covered with birds,”he says. “The text of the description is almost all drawn from Hitchcock movie quotes.”

Names are one of your tools. They can be inventive twists on the descriptions,simple declarative terms or even clues in disguise. One cache we sought bore a name that turned out to be the description of the container spelled backwards.

When writing a description,almost anything goes as long as you keep it tasteful and don’t promote any commercial interests.  Personal stories are always popular,and many geocachers like to concoct fictional narratives that weave together elements from a complicated find. Word games can be great places to hide clues. We also love caches that teach us something. One multi we sought in New York City took us on a tour of Revolutionary War landmarks in lower Manhattan. We were fascinated to learn about all the important events that happened there. If your area is frequented by tourists,do them a favor and give them a history lesson or hide a cache next to a landmark that they’ll want to tell others about.

Descriptions can also be baffling.  Puzzle cashers,in particular,delight in stumping their victims with gibberish descriptions or no descriptions at all,as is the case with “White Noise,”(GCRFZB) a 4.5 difficulty puzzler placed by pghlooking. The description page contains no text at all. Nevertheless,scores of people have found it.

While showing off your literary prowess,be careful you don’t defeat your own purpose.  People are increasingly opting for “paperless”geocachers in which the descriptions are downloaded to a handheld device or even to the GPSr itself.  Long descriptions that look fine on a computer screen can be laborious when viewed on a tiny pocket display.  Also,when embedding clues in images,be aware that they may not display on the device the player is using.

Puzzles and Riddles

In the case of intricate puzzle caches,this isn’t surprising.  Puzzles may involve watching movies,reading books or unscrambling complicated ciphers.  We can’t even begin to unearth the innovation that goes into these complex riddles.  One tip is to check out the cipher listings on Wikipedia.org (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cipher) for a link to pages that can help you unscramble particularly gnarly codes.

There is an art to embedding clues in the text and images.  We sought out one cache in which the coordinates were spelled out and hidden in other words (for example,“17″was encoded as “All in all,seven teenagers joined us on the trip.”)

More common is the puzzle that requires the player to visit several stops in order to assemble the clues to the final,like this one from “Whitin ‘Tree’Park”(GCVF7A) in Massachusetts:

Clue 1:Locate the Cercidiphyllum japonicum. Find the fourth letter in its common name.
Clue 2:Locate the American Yellowwood. Find the eighth letter in its botanical name.
Clue 3:Locate the Fagus sylvatica ‘Pendula’. Find the letter with the most occurrences in the 2-word common name.
Clue 4:Locate the Liriodendron tulipfera. Find the fifth letter in the common name.
Clue 5:Locate the Acer saccharinum. Find the first letter of the common name.

Easy,huh? Be careful to spell out any expertise that a player will need to unravel the clues. In the case above,we assume the trees were labeled,but if a seeker needs to bring along a guide to native vegetation,tell them that.

There is nothing more embarrassing for a cache owner than discovering that the solution to his puzzle leads to the wrong coordinates or that multiple solutions exist.  Hopping mad players will let owners know in no uncertain terms about the disruption this causes.  Do yourself a favor:use Geochecker (http://www.geochecker.com/) to enable players to quickly and easily check their solutions against yours. The service doesn’t reveal the answer to the puzzle,only whether the player has the correct one.  And it will always give you an excuse to say that the right answer was available all along.

The Geocachers of the Bay Area created a great list of guidelines for puzzle caches. You can find it at http://www.podcacherforums.com/phpBB2/viewtopic.php?t=56.

Puzzles bring out the most playfule side of cache owners. Dgreno especially likes it when a seemingly obvious puzzle stumps people. One of his puzzle caches uses a YouTube video as the key. All you have to do to get the key to the puzzle is Google the name of the cache,then click on the first result (a YouTube video) and watch it. The video isn’t Dgreno’s,but he loves the way it meshes with his objective. “I think it’s clever to have found some guy who wasted so much of his life creating the key for my geocache,”he told us.  Incidentally,as far as Dgreno knows,the creator of the video doesn’t know about the cache.

Dgreno also has a somewhat twisted side. One of his hides requires the player to watch an actual video of Dgreno’s knee surgery and take numbers from the screen to solve a puzzle. The final cache is hidden inside the knee of a statue,which completes the theme. We’ve watched the video and can say that while it isn’t bloody,it is a little weird.

Dressing up with HTML

Some owners like to play games with the HTML in their descriptions,concealing clues in hidden tags or even in text that is displayed in invisible white type.  Whether hiding or finding,be sure to consider the HTML as a factor. The “View Source”option on your menu bar is an asset.

Speaking of HTML,it doesn’t hurt to learn a little about the lingua franca of the web.Geocaching.com descriptions except most of the common HTML Fordham formatting commands and you really don’t have to learn very many to make your descriptions fun and interesting.

In fact,most basic formatting tasks can be accomplished with just the few tags:

<p align=”right”>Whatever goes next will be aligned to the right (or left or center)
<img src=http://www.yoursite.com/images/myimage.jpg>Grabs an image in that location and inserts it in the description.
Height=”250″ align=”left”When used immediately following the “img src”statement, displays the image 250 pixels high and aligns it to the left with text wrapping around.
<a href=http://www.yoursite.com/cache.htm>Hyperlinks text to a page called “cache.htm”
<font face=”comic sans ms”color=”green”size=”4″>Displays green text using the Comic Sans font at a large size
<td>and <tr>Used to create tables,which are a nice way to display lists.
<hr>Creates a hairline across the page
<ul>followed by <li>Creates a bulleted list
<br />Starts a new line

Remember that nearly every tag needs to be anchored at the other end by a closing tag,such as </p>. There are lots of great free HTML tutorials online. A popular one is at W3Schools (http://www.w3schools.com/htmL/)

9 comments to Feedback Needed! Hiding a Geocache

  • What a great guide! So very true about reviewer differences. Regulations from parks vary at the city and county level too. For cache placement,I would also consider how likely it is to be muggled. No use going through all the work if it’s going to be lost very soon. Think like a cacher finding your geocache.

  • Steve (Ventura Kids)

    Well done so far.
    I was laughing at your html “simple”guide.

    I’m still learning how to use

  • Steve (Ventura Kids)

    Whoops…see…it deleted my html example….it’s never that simple

    I was using P with around it

  • Steve (Ventura Kids)

    less than and greater than around it.
    Feel free to delete these goofy replies….

  • Jeff Kroner

    A word of caution to anyone considering the unique cache containers referenced in the article from Cachingbox.com and owner Makenzie Martin. Although the website looks very professional and authentic,and an order processes seamlessly (all automated) don’t expect to receive your order and good luck getting in contact with the company to get your money back. I placed an order on December 6th 2009 for Christmas. Everything processed immediately with a confirmation of order. I waited and waited and nothing ever came. I checked on my order through the site and it showed a completed order. My credit card was charged the day of the order. Still nothing. I attempted to contact Cachingbox to see if there was a problem,the contact info is only a generic email address that no one responds to. I found their number on my credit card statement which gets to a generic voice mail (presumably Mr. Martin himself)….again no response. I will be contacting my credit card company to see if they can do anything but I may be out the money I spent. Worse than that I never received the goods that were intended as Christmas presents for my parents and was only able to deliver them a sob story about getting ripped off. Shame on you Makenzie Martin. Tread lightly with the hobby internet stores. I don’t know why I didn’t use paypal but will in the future for an added level of protection.

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  • Substantially,the article is really the freshest on that valuable topic. I fit in with your conclusions and also will eagerly look forward to your next updates. Saying thanks will not simply just be enough,for the wonderful clarity in your writing. I can instantly grab your rss feed to stay privy of any updates. Authentic work and also much success in your business efforts!

  • Karmie

    As much as I love the idea of this new fad. I just learned today what it is all about,but I have to say after learning from some kids roaming thru the woods behind my house that their coordinates suggested a hidden cache near my house. I have some elderly neighbors living by me and I know for a fact that they will be calling the police if they continue to see kids in the woods. Unfortunately we have homeless people using these woods as homes now so we try and keep unfamiliar people out by contacting the police when someone is spotted. How does this possible cache get moved away from this area? These kids looking today never did find anything.

  • The best way to get a cache moved or removed is to contact the owner. Sign up for a free account on Geocaching.com,look up the cache using your home address and send a message to the person who placed the cache outlining your concerns. In most cases people are happy to archive (remove) or relocate a cache if people who live nearby have concerns.

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