Sunday, June 03, 2007

Arggggh! Not another power trail, please

The phenomenon of so-called "power trail" caches began within the past year, and now this invasive cache type has found it's way to Iowa. Power trails are when a geocacher hides caches every 528 feet or slightly more along a trail -- just far enough to meet the .1 mile cache separation requirement. The guidelines don't prohibit power trails, but they do comment on them:

The reviewers use a rule of thumb that caches placed within .10 miles (528 feet or 161 metres) of another cache may not be published on the site. This is an arbitrary distance and is just a guideline, but the ultimate goal is to reduce the number of caches hidden in a particular area and to reduce confusion that might otherwise result when one cache is found while looking for another. On the same note, don't go cache crazy and hide a cache every 600 feet just because you can. If you want to create a series of caches (sometimes called a “Power Trail”), the reviewer may require you to create a multi-cache, if the waypoints are close together. A series of caches that are generally intended to be found as a group are good candidates for submission as a single multicache.

We didn't have any power trails in Iowa until a few weeks ago when I approved the LOBRI Trails in Muscatine, after geocachers LOBRI wrote to me to request that their series be approved so they could "draw attention to geocaching" in Muscatine in advance of an upcoming geocaching event and so they could take a local newspaper reporter on a cache hunt. Even though Grounspeak discourages power trails (see the guideline excerpt above) I decided to approve this series. Evidently that power trail or others outside of Iowa inspired other geocachers to create their own power trails. Now several more have been submitted.

Because of what's written in the guidelines, I'm going to begin questioning geocachers who submit power trails -- asking why they can't be set up as multi-caches instead. If there is no good reason, they can expect that their power trail cache will not be approved.


Bob said...

Because of what's written in the guidelines, I'm going to begin questioning geocachers who submit power trails -- asking why they can't be set up as multi-caches instead.

It doesn't sound like you used that standard when you reviewed The LOBRI Trail series. This seems like it could lead to confusion as to why one cacher's power trail is okay and another's is not.

If nothing else, it demonstrates inconsistency.

For me, by placing 20 caches that close together may "draw attention to geocaching", but what kind of attention will it bring?

IowaAdmin said...

Bob, This is exactly the point I was trying to make. It WAS inconsistent with's guidelines. That's why I have stated how and why I'm going to view all newly submitted power trails from here on.

Jason said...

Thanks for sharing this bit of approval transparency with us, IowaAdmin.

While still in my caching infancy, one of the best times I've had geocaching was a multi-cache with all of its waypoints along the same trail. I don't think it would have been nearly as fun if it had been separate caches instead.

IowaAdmin said...

Thanks for the feedback posted so far. Please let me add that in no way did I mean to disparage any particular geocacher for submitting a power trail. After all, I approved them. I just wanted to point out that I didn't realize approving one or two might cause so many other geocachers to emulate that type of series -- to the point that we now have many of them submitted in Iowa. That's why I felt it's time for a time-out so we can get on track with the intent of the guidelines. This is not meant to be a negative against anyone who has placed or submitted a power trail. They're all enthusiastic geocachers who are trying to make the game fun for others. But occassionally Groundspeak has to make decisions that it feels are in the best interest of the game.

Allen said...

My question is What distance then is appropriate? Is it a "Power Trail" is the caches are about every .2 mile, .3 mile or a combination of .1, .2 and .3? And if the caches are submitted a week apart does that make a difference? If a caches are placed every half miles or so and submitted this week, then caches are placed in between those caches say a month later and then the distance cut again a month later, it this still a "power trail"? Is it only a "Power Trail" if the caches are by the same cacher? If so, why? If the rules say space them at least a tenth of a mile, and they are being placed a tenth of a mile, aren't the rules being followed?

I cached one of these "Power Trails" that was set-up for the event this weekend and the containers were different, the hides were different, the difficulties were different. Could it have been a Multi-cache? Sure but with the way they were hidden and stocked, each cache was it's own cache so why would you want it to be a multi cache? I guess if it had be 10 magnetic key holders under benches, I could see requiring some sort of multi-cache.

Again, my question becomes what is the distance that it is no longer considered a "Power Trail"?

welch said...

Does anyone else think this sounds like the 'If You Give A Mouse A Cookie' story?

If they should have been listed or not, one power trail is not reason to list another. The third paragraph of the guidelines begin:
"First and foremost please be advised there is no precedent for placing caches. This means that the past listing of a similar cache in and of itself is not a valid justification for the listing of a new cache. ..."

Bob said...

one power trail is not reason to list another.

Likewise, listing one should not preclude listing others.

I think it is fair to expect others to emulate a "new" style to an area.

I don't see why a newly submitted power trail would not be afforded the same consideration the first one was.

welch said...

"I don't see why a newly submitted power trail would not be afforded the same consideration the first one was."

That true, except IowaAdmin already said they maybe should not have listed the last one.
I read their posting as saying,
"I was asked to list something,
I did,
In hindsight I probably shouldn't have,
I won't be listing anymore in the furture"

IowaAdmin said...

Welch summed it up pretty well. Just because I approved one power trail series that in hindsight I should not have, doesn't mean that all other power trails must be published.

As to the questions raised by allen, I don't have the authority to establish add-ons to the guidelines regarding what distances would be appropriate. If someone set up several widely spaced caches and then began filling in the gaps with additional geocaches over time, at some point it would become obvious that he or she is playing a game other than geocaching. Instead of the onus being on the reviewer to state further guidelines, the guidelines says the cache owner has the responsibility to explain why his or her series of caches should not be set up as a multicache.

Allen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Allen said...

My comment was more asking the question what makes it a power trail? the guideline says "the reviewer may require you to create a multi-cache, if the waypoints are close together. A series of caches that are generally intended to be found as a group are good candidates for submission as a single multicache." My question is what is "close together"? Is it .1 mile? If so, then placing them .2 mile is okay? Or is "close together" farther than that? What is the distance that has to be between caches (of different size, style, ect...) for it to not be considered a power trail and be required to be a multi-cache? The question is what are YOU planning to use for this distance?

Example: Harry Potter Series of caches in Johnston (my caches). 7 Caches along one side of the river and 4 on the other side. Caches were placed .2 to .3 miles apart along a 2 mile stretch on either side. Should this have been a single multi cache? If so, had I placed those caches a mile apart along the same bike trails, does that change the answer?

I am not trying to be difficult, I am trying to get an idea of what is and isn't acceptable as we move forward. I plan to put out more caches and I have enjoyed the logs I get from this series of caches. If I place another "group of caches", I want to know is this style of cache still appropriate? If it is and I want to place it along a trail, What distance makes this style of cache okay and what distance makes it unacceptable to you as the reviewer?

chem-man said...

Just wanted to say that I enjoyed doing the caches along the Mississippi and also the ones in Clear Creek.

Bob said...

"I approved one power trail series that in hindsight I should not have"

Then pull the plug on that series and admit the mistake. There is certainly precedence for that. That would establish a consistency to how you are reviewing these so no one will feel shunned.

Tom said...

As a cacher with somewhat of a vested interest in this discussion, I've watched with interest but withheld comment until now.

Let me share a couple of observations:

1) If you've done the Pearl Series, you've seen a well-crafted series that is not in any sense a multi-cache. The hides are unique and meant to be done by bike, even though myself and another cache did them all on foot.
2) The main proponent of the rules is a cacher who has published exactly one cache this year, and that is basically a "virtual" cache not a real hide. I'm not saying that if you don't play the game, you can't have an opinion, but being an active hider is different than being an observer.
3) I'm still sort of neutral on the issue. I like the freedom to do a series when warranted, and I, at the same time, I realize the potential for abuse. I am please Ken has taken the issue "public" to gather opinions, because it lets all cachers know what "current thinking" is on matters like this. When I read the original quote from, I don't see it as "discouraging" power trails as much as saying use your head. I believe there's room for further discussion, and will watch with interest. Thanks for the blog and my opportunity to express my views!
Blue Grass Tom

Larry said...

I have read with great interest the comments from all on the "power trail" controversy in Iowa. I would like to first start with my appriciation for all of the work that you have done, and continue to do. I know that cache approval is not really as simple as it seems. (Check to see if it is 529 feet from Cache "X" and ensure it isn't in the middle of railroad tracks... OKAY! Done!)

As others have noted, the sport of geocaching has become very sucessful. We now have to make sure that our sucess dosn't ruin us! In many cache rich spots it is impossible to find a "legal" spot to hide a cache. My "Hanna Park micro" and "12X12 CC8C4 Challenge" are two caches that had to be placed with a slide rule and a crowbar...

This issue has become so charged that emotions are coming into play and we risk damage to relationships within our community. Therefore Ken I recommend that we end this controversy once and for all. You are like the Father of a 10-year old girl. As long as you continue to say "yes" all is well. If you say "no" you can expect a tantrum... When this is over, we all need positive relationships with each other.

Having said that I am in the "approve a power trail and those that don't like them can avoid them" camp.

My ideas to resolve this. (Noted in order of MY preference!)

1. Begin to approve "power trails" with guidelines that the hides are unique, and that reasonable safeguards are in place to protect the setting.

2. Confer with the Admins in other states and then have all admins on the same page, and Iowa falls into line.

3. Make an announcement. (Like you have started to do.) Say that as admin this is how you interpret the rules and that is how it is going to be. Period. We in the Iowa geocaching community will then need to "deal with it" and in the interest of all concerned, move on.

Larry Darling
Tipton, IA

Tom said...

I appreciate cc8c4's remarks. The only caveat I might add is that I don't believe it is possible to be extremely doctrinaire with the rules. This is a fluid and evolving sport and a fluid and evolving situation. Rather than "rules in cement," I think that "process in cement" is better.

As an example is the "power trail" issue. Fluidity here means being open enough to the changing nature of caching, not just hiding, but how the finding is desired by our fellow cachers. If one mode of finding is that "I like to walk/ride a trail and find caches at the same time while walking/riding the entire trail." and that sentiment is shared by many, than it warrants consideration as an evolution of geocaching, and not a bad evolution.

While there may be emotions, emotions are not always a sign of immaturity. In this case, I see the expression of them as a sign of passion for the sport, and the feeling that "our" sport is being hurt, so in this case, rather than reacting as children, I think the cachers are reacting as "parents" in defense of what they see as an attack (denials of approval) on their child (the sport of geocaching).

That's all I have to say about least for now.

John said...

Power trails are for power trail people. If you don't like it, don't do it. It is just a game. Sometimes this is fun, to see how fast and how many you can do. Most of the time it is boring to me. It is a work out. Another way to exercise.

IowaAdmin said...

Since my original post about power trails a few years ago, Groundspeak has changed its position and is now allowing power trails to be published. This is fine with me because it takes away some of the ambiguity that reviewers had to deal with when reviewing caches that may or may not have been considered parts of a power trail.

Kevin Petter said...

the hides were different, the difficulties were different.Could it have been a chance? Sure but with the way they were hidden and stocked, each cache was it's own cache so why would you want it to be a multi cache? I think if it had be 10 magnetic key holders under benches
Malakoff Diggins SHP
malakoff diggins park
Malakoff-Diggins State Historical Park