It’s been almost eighteen months since I’ve seriously geocached, although surprisingly I am still ranked in the top 1000 of all cachers worldwide (#991 as of last week). The main reasons I put the “sport” on hold all centered around the local community; the mega-cachers were arrogant about their influence in the game, the quality of the caches plummeted with regard to size and location, and the ridiculous proliferation of geocaches made creating anything new or innovative almost impossible since every decent location was already taken by micro- or nano-caches.
While I have just started to get back into the fray and find a few and cannot yet speak to today’s cache quality, I can unequivocally say that micros (cache containers around the size of a film canister or smaller) are still unfortunately all the rage, and the density of hidden caches is higher than ever.
Even though I had been in hiatus, every day — almost without fail — my custom software continued to accumulate data about local geocaches under the assumption that I would eventually pick up the game again. Occasionally, I would load the data into my GPS and Palm Pilot, maybe find one or two caches, and then hang them up again for a few months. Each time I did that, I saved the tracks and waypoints. I happened to look a little closer this month at the results.
Each of the above four images represents a map of what I have coined “cache forests” — a group of at least five geocaches that exist within a half-mile radius of each other. The leftmost image is taken from data eighteen months old; the high-density forests, or clumps of caches, were found mainly in large regional parks. A year ago, as you can see in the second image, those large rural parks became even more populated and smaller urban parks were also beginning to see some saturation. Six months ago, the geocaching world seemed to go crazy and the heart of the high-tech region of Silicon Valley exploded with geocaches. Today it is even worse, as the fourth image shows the main high-tech center of California completely smothered in caches.
Today, 37% of the cache forests consist of micros, surprisingly almost the exact same percentage seen a year and a half ago. The biggest problem with micros is that the only people who actually like finding them are those who have been caching a long time and are striving to have the biggest number of finds, i.e. the mega-cachers, and it is through their poor examples that relative newcomers make the same mistake of hiding micro-caches. I have yet to find a geocaching newbie or kid who likes them; they are more likely to express dismay or disgust at finding such. These annoyingly small caches are rarely in an interesting location, and they rarely contain anything larger than a minute log sheet — nothing to capture the attention or delight of a young child.
The folks at Groundspeak, the commercial entity behind the geocaching.com website, need to crack down and enforce the rules and guidelines they set in place. It is not acceptable to place caches less than 528 feet apart for any reason; two caches I found today where in the same park, 338 feet part. For that matter, it is not acceptable to place geocaches every 500 feet along a road or trail. It is not acceptable to place a micro- or nano-cache in a place where a standard-sized cache could be placed instead. Parking lot and parking garage caches should be abolished. If a geocache must be magnetized to something to conceal it, if it cannot hold a travel bug, or if a standard pen or pencil won’t fit — the cache is too small.