Leave no Trace and Geocaching
We are in the time of the Cache in and Cache out, and Earth day. It has given me time to reflect on geocaching and how we can be friendly with our caching hobby.
A few years ago I participated in a scout training that was two days long and dealt with Leave No Trace. Coming from a small rural community, we used the environment to help us, rarely did anyone want to destroy it, it ruined what we know and love. How can we use the environment around us and still play our game in the forests that we live in. Many people frown on us and our game, many of those complaints are well founded with the destruction that we can cause.
Leave no trace consists of seven principles that if we look towards we can help minimize the damage that we cause, and hopefully keep from giving our sport a bad name in those around. So after teaching this for seven years to scouts, and looking at it towards caching, I thought I would take some time to review it.
1 - Plan Ahead and Prepare
This is pretty obvious, yet it is so often overlooked. Think before you place, before you hunt. The reasons are pretty simple.
If you are placing a cache, think about what you are doing. Is the location you are hiding a cache someplace that is prone for damage? When people travel to your cache will they tear the area up? Is your cache so hard to find that people will tear things apart? In some countries in Europe the reviewers and communities do not allow hiding a cache in the old rock walls. People searching for them tear the wall apart looking for the cache. We can look for similar situations here. Places where a search will destroy the area.
If you are hunting for a cache try and not tear the area apart. Pick stones up and replace them. In getting into an area you may find the way that tears the area up the least. I think of traveling deep into a wilderness area once, and seeing a motorcycle trail that tore up a hill where it tried to climb. The action of one person causing damage to the reputation of hundreds of others. Look at your maps and examine the area before you start, and think like the hider. Where would you hide it.
Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces
Try and not tear the area up. Along some trail systems the caches that are places are required to be placed withing so many feet of a trail. Why? I think of the many fall caching trips I made. You can follow the path to the cache. In Utah most of the plants are grown in spring. Then everything goes dormant as the temperature rises. Except in a few locations there is little growth once summer hits. So as people tramp through the underbrush we destroy the dead grass and create a path.
Staying near a trail keeps all the damage on a "sacrificial surface" We allow damage to be caused in a location to protect others. A trail. The trail is destroyed, and not the area around them. We also look at planning your route to stay on them. In the desert we try and avoid the crytobiotic soil the black soil that grows on the ground in the sands. It grows slow, and once disturbed takes years to repair. So in many sandy environments we look for the trails through the sand or on the sandstone to avoid damaging the ground.
Dispose of Waste Properly
some look at this a number of ways. Many people say that the caches themselves are waste. Simply put, clean your trash. Avoid leaving trash as you go about your caching. At some point you may find a cache that is scattered, the container gone or destroyed. At that point we may want to just pick up the trash at the location, and post a needs archived. This last week I wonder if I should have done that.
The cache was destroyed, the owner long gone. Many people carry replacement caches, you can clean up the garbage, and place out a new container that will allow the cache to live on. Yet a cache that is long abandoned may need to go away. It is a constant balancing act, when should a cache go away, and how should it be done.
Leave what you find
Some caches are placed on locations of interest to the placer, ruins, old buildings, fossils, petrified wood. All of them tend to lead people to want to collect items and go home. As a cache placer we try and avoid places that we may cause that, or people may be tempted. Placing a cache in an indian ruin we find may bring people to see it, and cause people to take the artifacts home.
Leave the things there so people can see them later. Leave it for others to enjoy
Minimize campfire impacts
This means simply trying to use existing fire pits, keeping fires small, etc. It most likely has the least to do with us as geocachers.
This is something we run across periodically. Caches placed in bird houses, or too near a birds nest. Near nesting grounds, places where animals are borne. Scattering animals or chasing them. Those may be the largest impacts we see.
Be Considerate of Other Visitors
Leave it like you found it, or better.