Part 2 - Before You Begin Your EarthCache
Where do I start
There are a number of things that can help you get started. I usually start researching before I head into an area. You have a few options. One of the biggest mistakes of new EarthCache placer is the “pretty view”. You head to that awesome sight. We all know the cache; waterfall, mountain or valley view. A pretty view is not an EarthCache, and those are the hardest to modify into something that passes as an EarthCache.
What do you know?
What do you remember from school, or what have you read? If you remember information on erosion, or a particular stone, watch for it. Look for that as you travel. Faults, road cuts, mountain views can all work to help find something unique. Look for what you know.
Research before you go.
Pull geological information about the route. There are a number of books, and book series, that let you learn about the routes that you are on. Many times you can find that information and look for the highlights before you go. Much college geology department print “road logs” for self-given geology tours. Find those topics that you would be comfortable writing about.
Here are some ideas or some books that I use near home
Here is an idea of a Road Log from a local University
Milfort 1973 road log PDF file 6mb
If you have some ideas of locations beforehand, what permission do you need? Is it on a city sidewalk? In a highway? Backcountry? One of the biggest surprises that I get is people from Europe (and some from the US) that don’t realize that in the United States we need permission for all the caches in the National Parks. It is part of the agreement to have them as a partner in the EarthCaching program. Look for that, I have seen many caches where someone has put in many hours of work to get the cache going, and it is in a National Park, and they cannot get permission. A few Native American reservations will not give permission. Be prepared before you start.
If you wish to place a cache on a certain subject, make sure there is not another nearby. Yellowstone National Park is the biggest problem area for this. Within an hour drive you can find multiple caches on geysers, mudpots, and volcanic features. If you want to descibe how a geyser, mudpot, caldera, etc works then Yellowstone may not be a good location.
Visit your location
So you are driving down the road and you find that incredible spot, stop. Get out of your car and look around. Is there enough parking? Is there a sign? As you drive up the road is there another location that is better? Watch for a better spot. Remember to mark that location on your GPS. Watch for a few locations that may work, and gather those coordiates as well.
Photos, photos, and more photos
Once I find the spot I start walking around. Take notes, photos, and more photos. Quite often people try and make a logging task on something that is not related to their cache. They will get told to find a new logging task on your topic. If you live 5000 miles away, you may have a very hard time, especially if you visited the cache a while ago. I will take 15-20 pictures. Close ups, from afar, of the entire area. Something in them to give scale or size. Remember if you are doing a cache from a roadside location, to make your logging tasks something that google Streetview can give someone the answer.
Oops I screwed up
These are some of the most common issues I see, in preparation of doing a cache that make it far harder.
- Not knowing your topic, or what your EarthCache is on. Nothing can save your EarthCache if you have no idea what you are doing.
- A view is not an EarthCache. Just because you made it to the hilltop, or the waterfall and the view is amazing does not make it an EarthCache. Can it be, yes, but expect scrutiny and work.
- A sign is not an EarthCache (the Earth around you is). What is around you is the EarthCache. Like your cache page, the sign can give me information on the site, but your logging tasks are done in the Earth around you.
- Finding something cool and driving away. Not having the information for your logging task. Or if you want to change the direction, no ability to do so.
- Not knowing if you need permission for the location, or not getting the permission.
- Your EarthCache is near another on the same feature.
Nothing is more important than planning ahead. Finding something interesting on a route may happen, but it is far easier if you are looking for something. I know some EarthCache placers specialize a a few different kinds of EarthCaches. Just don't be afraid to read a little and move ahead.
The second in a series about EarthCaches.