Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Getting started

Today I received a message via from a geocacher who is planning to place a bunch of caches this summer. Here's his message -- with his name and location withheld in case he doesn't want to be identified.
I have been doing geocaching for about a year now, and plan on putting out my first cache. To make life easier for both of us, I thought I would ask you for any suggestions or tips on placing a cache. Our current plan is to put between 10 and 20 caches in the ______ area, mostly in the citys parks. We have received permission from their parks department already. Our goal is actually to have them in place before the end of July. We have collected a variety of containers, some magnetic, a few coffee cans, and others. We have 2 GPS units to verify the co-ordinates with. Would it be best to activate all of them at the same time, or to do one or two at a time as we get them placed? Any insight you can give us would be greatly appreciated. I have read the placing caches section on here.
Thank you for your help,

And here's my response to him:

I recommend that you activate a couple at a time as you place them. That way you'll get feedback from geocachers when they post their finds (and possibly feedback from me when I review them) that will help guide you and possibly improve your caches and cache hiding as you go along. You'll also see which containers work best over the weeks and months. In general, coffee cans have a limited weatherproof life in the outdoors, so you may want to reconsider using those. Placing a few at a time will also help you determine how many caches you want to have active at any given time -- that is, how many you can comfortably maintain on a regular basis.

As far as other advice, you may want to spend a little time reading my blog ( because I mention a number of geocaching topics there that may be helpful. Here are some highlights:
- Don't hide caches that are on or that simulate electrical equipment unless you can show express permission that you have permission from the owner of the electrical equipment. (I still think these are a bad idea, but they may be approved if the cache owner has permission.)
- Check to make sure your caches are at least 528ft from existing caches and from physical cache waypoints of multicaches. Try to avoid a string of caches placed close to the minimum separation distance along a trail. This is known as a "power trail" and Groundspeak frowns on them because they tie up stretches of a trail so that other geocachers can't place caches there.
- Use the "attributes" feature to add attributes on your cache page, especially one to indicate whether or not the cache is wheelchair accessible.
- Use the "add/edit waypoints" feature to enter coordinates for all waypoints and final locations of multicaches and puzzle caches.
- If the cache is on land managed by the Iowa DNR, you'll need to first get permission from the local land manager. Some local parks departments also require permission for caches in parks.

Thanks for asking. I hope this helps. I look forward to seeing what you come up with, and so will geocachers in your area.


Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Okoboji event

Thanks to everyone who attended my Waterlogged at Okoboji event! It turned out to be a very windy day this past Saturday so I didn't know whether to expect anyone to show up on the water, but three intrepid boatloads of geocachers did show up despite the cool temperatures and treacherous waves. Davy Duck, who lives closest to the event, boated the longest distance -- from East Lake Okoboji. Other floating geocachers were present from Webster City and from Minneapolis. I was the lone manually powered boater -- paddling out in my sea kayak (equipped with proper safety equipment, including PFD, spray skirt, wetsuit and dry shell). Mary had started the voyage with me but she decided to turn back because of the conditions, so I escorted her most of the way back before heading out once again. I had my GPSR mounted on the deck of my kayak in a waterpoof pouch but I couldn't read the display because of the waves that were washing across the deck, so instead of using my GPSR to navigate to the coordinates, I simply headed for the three boats that were bobbing around on the lake. When I got close enough, I shouted that it was too rough for me to try to hand out coins out there on the water and that I would meet them at the parking coordinates. I turned around and enjoyed the quick ride back to shore with the wind and waves pushing me all the way. Safely back on land, Mary and I enjoyed meeting the boating and non-boating geocachers who were waiting there.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

What's up with Scott County Park?

One of the most geocache-saturated pieces of land in Iowa is Scott County Park. It seems like every week someone is submitting a new geocache for that park. Just when I think another new cache couldn't be wedged in sideways, another one is submitted. So what's up with this park? What makes it a geocache magnet?

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

A busy day

I reviewed and published 56 new geocaches on Sunday. This must be a record for new geocaches published in Iowa in one day. It doesn't even take into account the geocaches that were reviewed that day and not yet published. Additionally, I estimate that for at least half of those caches, I posted a reviewer note asking the owner to add an attribute that indicates whether or not the geocache is wheelchair accessible. This is something that Groundspeak has encouraged us to do by highlighting caches that do not have such an attribute, so your help in remembering to use the attributes feature -- especially one to indicate whether your geocache is wheelchair accessible -- would be greatly appreciated.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Iowa DNR posts geocaching rules and permit form

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources has just posted a web page outlining its geocaching "rules and regulations." (I always love that term. It makes me think, "Which ones are the rules and which ones are the regulations?") Anyway, after a couple years of informal geocaching policy which instructed geocachers to obtain permission from the local DNR manager before placing a geocache on DNR-managed land, there is now a formal process. From what I can tell, there are three major changes:
1. The process now includes a permit application (available at the DNR web site linked above).
2. All permits expire annually on March 31.
3. The cache container must be clearly marked on the outside with "Geocache" in block letters no smaller than one half inch in size and the name of the geocache.

One very nice aspect of the new DNR web page is that they include a link to Staff Contact Information: Park E-Mail and Phone List -- a very helpful tool for geocachers seeking information on placing a cache.

How will these changes affect my review process for caches on DNR-managed land? For the past few years I have asked geocachers who submit such caches whether they obtained permission from the local DNR land manager, and if so, to post the name and contact information for that person in either the description or in a reviewer note on their cache page. From now on, I am going to ask if you have obtained the required DNR permit. I may also refer you to the DNR web page to make sure you're aware of the March 31 expiration date.

Once they are approved, I will not be policing these caches annually to enforce the March 31 expiration date. That's an Iowa DNR rule and not part of the guidelines, so the annual expiration and removal of these caches will be a matter left up to the DNR and the cache owner. I couldn't enforce that rule if I wanted to. It would simply be too much for one non-paid person to keep track of.

It will be interesting to see what effect this formal policy will have on geocache hiding on DNR-managed land. Will it encourage more caches there, or will it discourage them? And what effect will the annual March 31 expiration have? Will cache hiding tail off in the first quarter of each year and then explode with pent-up placements after March 31? I'd like to know what you think. How will this change affect you?

Thursday, May 08, 2008

The Caches of Madison County

Here's information about geocaching in Pammel Park in Madison County. (And for those of my readers who live outside Iowa, yes, it's THAT Madison County.) My thanks to Barheet for giving me permission to publish his email here.

Date: Mon, 5 May 2008
To: IowaAdmin
Subject: Barheet contacting IowaAdmin from

Hey there. I recently submitted 3 caches for approval in Pammel Park, near Winterset. I wasn't aware that I needed the director's approval before placing caches there. I contacted the local director who said not to place anything there. Here are the reasons he gave me:

1. They don't know what people would place inside the caches and don't want any inappropriate items in the parks.

2. They want to place their own caches for educational purposes.

He said they wanted to be able to control what was in the caches. I'm not sure how they'd do that, unless they made it just a local scavenger hunt or something. He also says Pammel is not a state park anymore and is managed by the county.

Anyway, just thought I'd let you know what happened for future reference. I will remove the caches and archive the listings. Thanks!