The following is a note to my fellow local Geocaching brethren in the Mississippi Gulf Coast region where I'm based, that I originally drafted on June 21, 2004, with the intention to Email it to each of those folks, and with the intention for it to "stay local". Well, although it is still applicable to my local region, I've instead elected to publish it here for the possible benefit of other regions as well...in case hiders in other regions might find a reminder of a "bigger picture" helpful when they're thinking about putting out more caches.------------------------------------------------------------------------
I'm sending this note out to all my fellow Mississippi Gulf Coast caching brothers and sisters.
I thought long and hard about whether or not to send this note, and then what to say in it. Many of you already know me, and others have probably seen my name here and there as (for better or worse) one of the more "visible" cachers in the area. As one of our area's "old timers" (in terms of time/volume spent caching -- 2+ years now), I also wanted to make sure y'all took my comments in this note NOT as "high and mighty Dave" imposing his ideas on you all, but rather, as constructive comments meant for ALL OF US to benefit, as a geographic region. As you read this, please feel free to respectfully disagree with me if that is your preference.
I travel all over the country for my job as a software consultant, and I try to cache whenever and wherever I can (it beats sitting in a hotel room after work!). I also travel and cache frequently for personal reasons. As a result, I've experienced the "caching propensities" of a lot of different areas. Where I'm going with this is: What's the "reputation within the Geocaching community" of our region, the Mississippi Gulf Coast?
There are high quality caches and cachers everywhere throughout the country. However, many areas have dominant hiders who hide excessive numbers of what I would call "less than high quality caches", whether it's the containers, contents, or more likely, poorly-chosen locations. In many (and I would say most) cases where this has occurred, this usually means "micros placed pretty much anywhere", without much thought to the quality of the location. Sometimes, it also means full-size caches, placed in less-than-optimal locations.
I'm pleased to continue to believe that we do NOT have this problem here in the Mississippi Gulf Coast region at this point...despite the fact that we have a fairly large percentage of micros. Lest you think I'm being hypocritical: Of COURSE I know that *I* hide a lot of micros, along with as many full-size caches as I can. The geographic features of our region don't lend themselves to as many full-size cache hide opportunities as they do for micros (at least close to the Coast - it gets easier as you move further North)...but luckily, thus far we've all done a pretty good job of choosing locations and hide techniques that are fun and interesting.
I recently made one of my every-few-months caching runs over to New Orleans. I've met a lot of the New Orleans "regular" cachers, both on the trails and also at Event Caches, and it's a great group of folks, who have placed a lot of really excellent caches in great locations around the area. This group has also made me feel welcome as "one of their own", since I'm a frequent cache searcher there.
Problem is, I've found recently that some of their newer hiders are following the example of some of the more-established hiders, and are placing a large number of micros...but several (but not all) of these newer hiders are, in my opinion, not choosing their locations as wisely as the earlier hiders did. When it feels like you have to hunt 6 or 7 "micros tucked into any tree hollow along the side of the road or bike path" caches (or worse, locations of questionable safety or legal entry) for every 1 "good cache/hide", to me that means things are evolving in the wrong direction. My thinking is: 1 or 2 of those not-so-great/seemingly-random ones would be OK, but 10 or 20 (or more) of them, that gets tedious.
Any of y'all who might have sampled caching in Mobile, AL, has probably also seen the same sort of thing (in Mobile's case it's a heavy dose of "any ol' roadside" cache hides). It's also certainly true in Nashville, where I spent 3 days a few months back running up my Cache Find stat numbers, but going home with only a memory of lamppost bases and trash dumpsters for my trip there.
Was that ALL I found in those regions? Of course not. EVERY ONE of those areas has a good number of HIGH QUALITY caches and locations (and that includes high quality MICRO hides/locations)...I can personally attest to that from EXPERIENCE. But, there was enough of a PROLIFERATION of those less-than-good ones (as opposed to just one or two here and there) that it's my lasting impression of the general overall quality of caching in those places...whether accurate or not. (And again, the sad part about these experiences is that the "good" hides/locations receive fewer visits and fewer positive memories because of what the other hiders have done.)
By contrast, I recently finished up a 2-month work assignment in the Orlando area, where during my after-work-hours caching adventures I found a LOT of micros as well as full-size caches, and by and large they were all EXCELLENT. Good (and often devious) hides, well-chosen locations, and a comparative few of what I would call the "lame" variety. I've had similar positive experiences within the past year in the Winston-Salem, NC area, the Dallas-Fort Worth and Houston metro areas of TX, Birmingham and Montgomery, AL, Monroe, LA, Tallahassee, FL, and the Twin Cities of Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN.
I believe that visiting cachers develop an "overall positive" impression of an area as a result of *local hiders setting a good example with their hides*, so that other new local cache hiders have a good blueprint with which to start as they look for (and think about) their own ideas.
Here in our region, we need to continue to work to keep OUR quality at a similar high level. Remember, we have relatively few "regular cachers" based here, but we get a LOT of cachers from elsewhere passing through the region and taking in a little caching while they're here. So, here's what this means to me:
- Hide your caches with an eye toward what ALL cachers might think of your cache, not just in terms of "hiding them like you might like to find 'em".
- A cache hide doesn't have to be "impossibly devious" to make it "good" (although "devious" hides are great fun, too!). A simple "1/1" rated cache, with a good hide in a well-chosen location, is very enjoyable to many (and I would say MOST) people...especially those passing through with only a short time available for caching. The key is the "good hide" and "well chosen location". *Just because a location CAN support a cache hide doesn't necessarily mean that it SHOULD.* Choose wisely and thoughtfully. And if you DO place a "gimme" cache out in a seemingly-random location, leave it at the ONE of that type...don't place 10, 20, or 50 of 'em. (Now, if you can hide 50 GREAT caches/locations, by all means DO!)
- Hide your caches with an eye toward our region's overall reputation in the Geocaching community. *TAKE OWNERSHIP in our area's reputation* - EVERY HIDE by EVERY CACHER here contributes to making our area continue to be one where folks will talk about us POSITIVELY - as in, "I was in the area visiting the casinos there, and while I was there, I took some time out for caching and the local cache hiders took me to some great out-of-the-way places where they hid some pretty nifty caches." The Internet is a powerful word-of-mouth medium - let's make the caching reputation of the Mississippi Gulf Coast POSITIVE power! *If that means hiding fewer caches but keeping the quality high, then that's what it means*. (Perhaps some of you have noticed: I've cut back on the number of my own cache hides in recent months - this is not by accident.)
- Maintain your caches regularly. When you receive multiple No Find logs, promptly get out there and make sure the cache is still in place. If there are multiple No Finds and you don't have a chance to maintain for a few days (or longer), post a note on your cache page and use the "Temp Disable" feature to prevent others from possibly wasting their time, until you've had a chance to verify/maintain.
- ACCEPT CONSTRUCTIVE CRITICISM from others, if offered respectfully. Make improvements where warranted. If you disagree, engage in a friendly, respectful debate...there's nothing wrong with that. And: IT'S OK TO ARCHIVE A CACHE if perhaps you hid it and didn't think of some aspects that others notice later. *Archiving a cache does NOT constitute "failure". * It's a LEARNING OPPORTUNITY! (Case in point: I have almost as many archived caches as active ones - mostly on the basis of constructive criticisms I've received, on aspects of my caches that I hadn't thought of when I made the hides.)
Finally, here's a link
to a document I published elsewhere on my personal web site that I've
shared with others I correspond with all over the country. Once again,
it's "one person's set of opinions" - not the "Geocaching gospel".
Still, it's been well-received, and I hope everyone will benefit from
it. The link: Dave's Opinions on Geocache Hiding
Thanks for reading. Please drop me a line with your thoughts, or if I can ever be of assistance in any way.
Next article: Drat19's Opinion on Geocache Hiding
Do you have constructive comments to offer me regarding this document? Email me via my Geocaching profile: drat19
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