Life as a Geocacher

Caching and Reviewing

This is made up of stories from my caching and my reviewing.  It is a collection of those along with comments and thoughts.  Photos, and maps of some adventures and lists of some of the oldest caches.

Filtering by Tag: Reviewing

Springtime = Earthcache time.

Yep it is that time again.   Spring is here, and it is time to get going. I was thinking it was time for me to give advice on getting an Earthcache published.  I am surprised as I see there appears to be a number of people that just seem to struggle.  Some sail through the process and others get bogged down in minutia  They fall in a few categories.  

GC5H550 Fin Erosion, Photo by geogriefer from geocaching website

GC5H550 Fin Erosion, Photo by geogriefer from geocaching website

The Historically Interesting

Remember Earthcaching is about the geologic world around you. It is not about the building, dam, fort, city hall, or the history of the ancient people that lived there.  We are trying to teach about Geology Yes I know it is a little wider that just the science of geology, I will cover that in a minute.  Unless I loose track and start rambling, which happens often. 

As much as the building of the dam, the people it displaced, and the history may be interesting it cannot be the primary focus of the cache.  If part of your Earthcache is on topic we may ask you to remove it.  Some fight tooth and nail to keep it in, but it can't be the primary focus. 

I can go here so no permission is needed

Wow this has been a huge fallacy for some time. This is primarily for the US Earthcaches.  Differences in laws and land manager policies give other locations different opinions.  Recently I asked the other US reviewers.  Everyone was pretty much on the same page.  You need permission, there can be some leeway for a road pullout, but if you place off road you will be asked for permission. 

I have good relations as a reviewer for Earthcaches with many National Park Service, BLM, state parks and other agencies.  I regularly get emails from a few of them. I have taken the time when traveling to greet them if they were in their offices.  They are good people doing their job.  If you want to make them mad, publish and lie about permission.  That works for me as well.  I have had a few people that apparently lied to me.  I have contacted the email given and was told they never asked.  On the flip side, a manager from Zion National park contacted me, upset they had not given permission, and was thinking about having a number archived.  We pulled records with names and he left happy, after a good discourse.  So mistakes do happen. 

In another instance a cacher said there was no need for permission and pointed me to the BLM webpage.  At the bottom is stated "please contact the BLM office to make sure the location is appropriate.  I have had, and seen,  a number turned down.  For a number of reasons

  1. Area is closed.  Though no signage exists, it is a closed area. 
  2. People were gathering the material to be seen (archaeological, fossils, obsidian, etc) and they did not want to advertise. 
  3. A permit was needed, and contact with the managing agency.  They wanted to make sure the site was not advertised.  
  4. Dangerous location. 
  5. Plants/animals were considered endangered. 

In the end take the time.  They can be a help to you as well. 

Take a photo

Yep, not allowed.  Since about 2011 a photo requirement is optional.  It was not grandfathered.  I hear that a lot.  I have let a few cache owners know.  Log disputes are up to someone else, HQ and the Geological Society, however if the requirements do not meet the guidelines I will go back and address it with the cache owner. 

The terrible logging task

I will point to this in the Help Center

An EarthCache teaches an earth science lesson. The cache page must include logging tasks that help teach the same lesson. Remember that the EarthCache is based on the world around us, not on an informational sign at the EarthCache site. Geocachers must complete the tasks before they log the EarthCache as found.

What are good tasks?  Tasks that ask people to interpret what they see.  How did this form this way? I have one where people try to burn a piece of oil shale, I ask them what they see and learn.  Others ask people to describe the formation, and why it formed like that. 

What are bad tasks? Eleveation, measure the width of the river, or depth. Find a word on a sign, give me a diameter of the boulder.  Remember we are here to teach. 

Clastic Pebbele Dikes, photo by oxsling

Clastic Pebbele Dikes, photo by oxsling

The wrong earth science

Earth science is pretty broad.  For the sake of the Geological Society of America, it means the hard earth, the physical part of our planet.  Geology and its related fields. 

I know it is sad.  I have proposed a few times to people at Groundspeak to create a BioCache or something similar, however until then, we are stuck with using the GSA options. 

What is not ok?  Biology, ecology, geodesy, archaeology, oceonography, zoology.....  I think you get the point. 

Wayyyy to many

Once and a while something spreads.  Bob places an Earthcache, and everyone copies it.   You see a mirror of it all over.  So many are limited.   We can also see a time when things just are too problematic, they are not bad ideas, but really they are not doable. So what are these?

  • Springs, 
  • Building and decorative stones. 
  • river confluences
  • waterfalls 
  • artesian wells
  • glacial erratics
  • river gaging stations

Now an area may be saturated.  Yellowstone is buried with caches on geysers.  If there is nothing new to be taught, you may not be allowed to list a cache.  Every reviewer will have his limits on how close you can have a cache to a similar one. 

GC5FM6F, photo by utahsnowflake

GC5FM6F, photo by utahsnowflake

What can I do?

Well first, remember it can be a long haul.  I have had a few I have worked on for years.  I need a bit more info.  Many people take a few weeks to a few months to get it listed.  I am always impressed with the people that do it on the first try.  So do not be discouraged.  Don't try and overwhelm the visitor either. This is not a doctorate thesis on geology.  Pretend you are teaching a Jr High student. 

Remember to take it a step at a time. 

  1. Do I meet the focus of the Earthcache program
  2. Do I have the science to teach?
  3. Do I have logging tasks that use what I teach?
  4. Do I have permission?

Done.  See how easy?  Ok it is not that easy, but you know what I mean.  Take it in steps.

Earthcache Guidelines Updated

The Geoaware team has been working for a month or more on updates to the new guidelines.  There are not actually many changes on the surface.  If you are making your first Earthcache, and you are diving into things you will not have much to worry about.

This goes over some of the changes, and just to describe them.


Ultimately the purpose was to clarify things.  Dealing with complaints from cachers, community, land managers, and the review team.  We have a lot of people repeating the same process, and the same errors.  Sometimes cache after cache.  I will toss a few of the small changes, and go through them here.  In the past things may have been interpreted more liberally, so you may hit some roadblocks.

1. Earthcaches must provide an earth science lesson.

This is the shortest guideline (now).  Yet it is the one that I see the most problems with.  What is your cache about?  Does it teach?  These are the core parts of an Earthcache.

Earthcaches focus on the solid earth and the processes that shape it.

That means that many of the things that are submitted do not fit.  Biology, Botany, Zoology, Ecology, Atmospheric observations, Oceanographic observations, Geodesy, Archeology, History, and Engineering, are normally not accepted.  They fall outside the solid earth.  Many get upset at the reviewers, or point at other caches, but currently we do not.

2. Earthcaches must be educational

I see many submissions that do not teach a lesson.  Taking someone to a pretty view, or showing them a cool site is not enough.  Education is the second most important part of an Earthcache.

I see two common errors. Many caches I received take people to a hillside and ask people to tell me the number of a sign.   There is not educational material on there.   The second would be one that someone writes a lot of information on the plants and animals in the marsh.  When the reviewer lets them know that they need to do more, they then add to the 2000 word document another 1000 words and diagrams.  We now have a massive document.

Hint.  Teach people, but stay on topic.  Oh, and don't write a book on it.

Also, if you are a geologist, or know a lot about the geology, look at it from the level of a 14 year old.  You may have to describe a few more things for that level.

3. Earthcaches must highlight a unique feature.

We see many listings that are something that is not unique.  If a cache is written about the erosion of an area, you may not be able to do one on the same cache 30 minutes away. You may be able to if you are teaching something different. 

That said, there can be a few Earthcaches at the same location.  A cache on the stones, and another on the erosion could be at the same location (depending on how they are written up).

The feature should also be unique.  A river stone is not necessarily unique.  In fact this is why waterfalls, glacial erratics, springs, etc are no longer accepted. They are not unique.

4. Earthcaches must have approval from the Land Manager prior to submission

Some parks, cites, forest, etc have developed policies about containerless caches. If they have that policy online please point to that in a log.  If you think that you do not need permission explain why.  Just because the location is public does not mean you do not need permission.

Note for a National Park, you will need written permission.  It is part of the agreement with the National Park Service in helping with the program.  The email should be sent directly to the reviewer. 

5. An Earthcache can be a single site or multiple sites.

You have to have visited to location.  Do not toss out a site that you have never been to.  You may have problems in the review if you have not.  You need to get the coordinates there, and make sure the area is open to the public.  

Your cache can be at one location, or ask people to visit  4-5 locations.  I do not think this means that you can pick one of a number of locations to actually answer the question.  But I would have to see on a case by case basis.

6. Logging an Earthcache requires visitors to undertake a site-specific task which provides a learning opportunity related to the topic.

You must use information from the cache page, and the location, to perform a task to help the person learn. Those tasks needs to be about the geology of the site.  A word off a sign, couning fence posts or stairs, pillars, etc does not have anything to do with geology and will not be accepted as an Earthcache logging task.

That task is the proof of a visit. Photos are still not allowed, and you have to be able to send your answers to the cache owner through the Geocaching profile.  That also means that auto-responders are not allowed.  Why?  You are not maintaining your cache.  You are creating something to take care of the work for you.  Also auto-responders do not allow you to have good logging tasks.  You want an answer like 7, or green.  Not a logging task that makes someone think, or educate.

Also when you submit your cache, place your answers in a reviewer note. 

7. The Earthcache text and logging tasks must be submitted in the local language.

I think the is obvious.

8. Respect Trademarks and Copyright and only use text, images or logos if you have permission.

We have seen more and more caches where someone is copying entire web pages, logo or diagrams without permission.  Many state agencies, or other organizations would like a reference to the book or website where you got the information.  Just because it is on the internet, does not mean you can copy it entirely. 

9. Earthcache sites adhere to the principles of geocaching and Leave No Trace outdoor ethics.

Don't dig a hole, tear up the ground, paint something, or leave a cache or other materials at the cache site.  Try and stay near trails/roads.  Stay away from fragile ecosystems.

10. Earthcaches are submitted through and must meet these guidelines and adhere to the Geocache Listing Requirements / Guidelines and Site Terms of Use Agreement.

Yep.  Simple.


We had a number of problems, small and repeated.  So some tweaks were made.  Sorry for those that wanted photos back. 

On that note.  I was one of the most vocal at first that the photos were needed. Taking them away was stupid. I think that was the term I used.  I now disagree.  This is not a virtual cache, it is an educational experience.  A photo means the person does not have to actually answer the questions, and the owner does not have to actually see that they learn.

Earthcaches is education about geology and this earth.  Not photography, not numbers.  Take some time, and enjoy the world around you.

My reviewer tips of the Day...

I have been tossing out my reviewer tips of the day. I thought i would toss them here as I reach groups of five.

So here they #1 to #5.

Tip from the reviewer #1:

If a reviewer tells you your cache is too close to another cache, then you move it to get it listed, only to move it back soon after publishing, you cache will take a quick trip to the archive bin.

Tip from the reviewer #2:

A summit log is not a cache, a State Park log is not a cache, a Wilderness access log is not a cache, and a guestbook is not a cache. A cache might be placed in, on, or near those, but they are not caches.

Tip from the reviewer #3:

Look at the map, preferably the satellite before submitting. Many times caches appear in the ocean, in a backyard, etc.
Best case scenario: You get a note asking for permission, or if you went swimming for 3000 miles to place the cache.
Worst case: The cache is in the hills and gets listed, people drive and hike for hours, then hate you when you meant W40° and not W41°

Tip from the reviewer #4:

Look before you place.
Nothing is more depressing than telling a cacher. "I am sorry you hiked 5,000 feet in altitude, and put a cache with travel bugs in it, but you are 55 feet from another cache."
or the variation.
"... your cache is in a wilderness area." There may be a reason there is no cache within five miles of that location. You might just want to check first.

Tip from the reviewer #5:

Be sneaky - sort of.
As sneaky as you want, or can possibly imagine with your hides. Try and figure out a way to torment other cachers. Make the hides memorable and thoughtful
Do not be sneaky with your reviewer. Slipping in an ALR, changing Earthcache logging requirements to a photo, not publishing where you say it is, or changing a waypoint of the final too close to another cache. All of these are ways to get your cache disabled, archived, or retracted.

Life and caching

Just to be clear... I have a life.

I do spend a lot of my time geocaching and reviewing, but some days I just need a break. 

Here is my typical day...

12-7am My phone is shut off at night. I don't need it buzzing all night because some goober is waiting for their cache to be listed, or happens to be up complaining.

7-9am  I am getting kids ready for school. I usually read the news, check emails, etc.  I do it from the comfort of my bed.  Usually yelling at my girls telling them to get in the shower (I don't want to get up yet). I read emails, and see if there is anything urgent.

9-5:00 Work.  Yes I do work.  I do check my emails during this time from my phone.  Do not expect a response.

Breaks and lunch.  I am on my computer at work seeing what is up.  Providing that i do not need food.  If I am hungry then you are all screwed for new caches.  I really want to eat.

5-7pm  I usually review a number of caches. Usually the ones without issues.  If I have to type a discourse on how you need to add waypoints, remove commercial aspects, and that you are 4 feet from another cache I might put it off to get the fast ones done.   I might also wait if your caches has something that I want to think about, ask other reviewers opinions, or it makes me feel dirty. 

7-9 Scouts/Family/Movies/Yardwork  who knows what great adventure I may be involved in.

9-12 review, archive, and play with gsak.  I take the time to review in here if there is any.  I usually go through those painful ones that I have put off.  I will archive caches that are horrible, or just need stones thrown at them.  I also play with my GSAK.

Then bed...


In the middle of those, some nights I do Earthcaches as Geoawareusa2.  This is the most time consuming part of my reviewing list.  Very few people actually read the guidelines on Earthcaches. Where 70-80% of my caches are publishable at first glance, Earthcaches are about 10%.  Most just have simple issues that can be reworked. 

  • Remove photo requirement
  • Add educational material
  • Wrong topics

A few caches can take the evening.

Wrap up

I know sometimes that caches is the most important thing in some peoples lives. However it is not always the case in mine.  When I get ten emails for me to publish their cache when I pointed out a problem at 5pm, and now it is 8pm, I just ignore them. 

If your cache has issues then you fall to the end of my list. I check new caches, then go through my email from oldest to newest. Emailing me ten times will not speed it up.  It is no fair that I delay those that are waiting for review.  Or that I just jump to you now, when there are five people that have fixed their caches also waiting.

Most understand.  A few do not. I have been known to ignore my review queue for a day.  I may want a little vacation, read a book, or just watch a movie.  Please don't freak out.  I plan to be back to it sometime.



April Fools

Hopefully everyone had fun this April Fools day.  Many of us reviewers did.

There was a group of us that formed a group that bounced around publishing caches in other areas.  I only published a few in Utah.  Last night right before midnight I posted "I Give UP" on facebook.  Then avoided listing until today.

I got an email from england saying my account was hacked and I published a cache there (I did but I was not hacked).  Another lady asked me about a bunch of hacked accounts.  Some reviewers said they had been fired, others that they gave up.  And others told people that due to a dispute with groundspeak that others were publishing in their area.

Not all reviewers were involved.  Some did not have time time to plan and prepare for it.  It was worked on for a number of months.  How we would do it, how to keep errors from creeping in, and what we might say.  I know two reviewers were asked if they were replacing me.

In all it was fun.  I got two thank you notes for listing their cachers from Europe.  I lived in France at a number of places in the 80's and It was exiting to be able to publish a cache a few miles from where I lived.

I know of other jokes as well.   Some poor fellow had one of their caches published, retracted, and reviewers from around the world posted notes for and against the cache before it was finally left alone.  Still other reviewers published obviosly fake caches, or outlandish caches to get a chuckle from others.

Hope you had fun. Hope you noticed the fun. In all I think there were 18 reviewers that published in Utah from around the world.  Ogden, Weber, Salt Lake, Utah, and Central Utah all had a number of caches listed by different reviewers.   Too bad things were slow int he St. George area.  I wish the joke had carried on a bit better for them.

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