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Terrain Ratings


TeamTotoro
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We're admittedly newbies, but have recently noted a real disparity between the difficulty & terrain ratings for a lot of caches- especially in different areas. Today we went on a hunt with 2 preschoolers, a stroller carrying a 4-month-old, a grandma and 2 able-bodied adults. We targetted 1-star terrain & 1-star-difficulty caches, yet some had us scrambling into canyons with low brush that our 5-year old couldn't manage (let alone someone with a stroller!) or crossing streams and crossing over fences. :wacko:

 

It could sound like newbie mistakes, but in the 10 previous caches we found, a 1-star was often a drive-up cache and paved. I saw the system on geocaching.com for rating terrain & difficulty. Why don't more people use that-- and why does it seem to depend on area? (In the area near our home, 1 stars are usually paved and 2 stars are manageable with small children yet here on vacation, we're finding that 1 stars are often located in canyons and CERTAINLY off pavement!) We try to scan the logs in advance so we know what to expect, and we're certainly not trying to cache out of our league, but what else can we do-- especially when we're in an area we're not familiar with? :unsure:

 

Interested to hearing what you have to say,

TeamTotoro

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More should definitely use the Geocache Rating System, for sure.

 

Here in MD, a 2-3 star terrain rating in the Western portion of the state (more mountainous) might not be the same as a 2-3 star terrain for someone in Southern portion of the state (much flatter). The rating system helps level that, but it's tough to get everyone to use it.

 

1-star terrain caches are supposed to be wheelchair friendly so for the stroller you were right in trying for those. Unfortunately not everyone pays attention to details.

 

Welcome to geocaching, though!

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The Unknown:

 

That should have been at least a 2.

 

Difficulty rating: 1

* Easy. In plain sight or can be found in a few minutes of searching.

** Average. The average cache hunter would be able to find this in less than 30 minutes of hunting.

*** Challenging. An experienced cache hunter will find this challenging, and it could take up a good portion of an afternoon.

**** Difficult. A real challenge for the experienced cache hunter - may require special skills or knowledge, or in-depth preparation to find. May require multiple days / trips to complete.

***** Extreme. A serious mental or physical challenge. Requires specialized knowledge, skills, or equipment to find cache.

 

Terrain rating: 2

* Handicapped accessible. (Terrain is likely to be paved, is relatively flat, and less than a 1/2 mile hike is required.)

** Suitable for small children. (Terrain is generally along marked trails, there are no steep elevation changes or heavy overgrowth. Less than a 2 mile hike required.)

*** Not suitable for small children. (The average adult or older child should be OK depending on physical condition. Terrain is likely off-trail. May have one or more of the following: some overgrowth, some steep elevation changes, or more than a 2 mile hike.)

**** Experienced outdoor enthusiasts only. (Terrain is probably off-trail. Will have one or more of the following: very heavy overgrowth, very steep elevation (requiring use of hands), or more than a 10 mile hike. May require an overnight stay.)

***** Requires specialized equipment and knowledge or experience, (boat, 4WD, rock climbing, SCUBA, etc) or is otherwise extremely difficult.

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A lot of San Diego caches are rated a bit lower than I think they should be. There are a lot of genuinely easy ones, but locals don't strictly adhere to the idea that a terrain 1 should be wheelchair accessible. From what I recall of Geojay's First, the trail was flat and the walk short, although in that canyon one does often end up going over segments of streambed rocks. I might rate that a 1.5, but I'm not surprised to see it as a 1 (I've actually seen harder caches rated as a 1... and regardless of rating, rather a lot of caches here involve canyons that have at least some difficulty or rockiness on the descent). Also, this cache is quite old, and the placer probably didn't have the rating system as clearly defined.

 

If you want to go over to the West and Southwest forum and post a question in the San Diego thread looking for stroller-friendly caches, I'm sure you could find some suggestions for good areas there. I can also tell you that our terrain 1 cache is totally wheel-friendly :unsure:

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It could sound like newbie mistakes, but in the 10 previous caches we found, a 1-star was often a drive-up cache and paved. I saw the system on geocaching.com for rating terrain & difficulty. Why don't more people use that-- and why does it seem to depend on area? (In the area near our home, 1 stars are usually paved and 2 stars are manageable with small children yet here on vacation, we're finding that 1 stars are often located in canyons and CERTAINLY off pavement!) We try to scan the logs in advance so we know what to expect, and we're certainly not trying to cache out of our league, but what else can we do-- especially when we're in an area we're not familiar with?

Not everyone uses the rating system. and even if they do, it depends on personal perspective. (how can I rate for wheelchairs and strollers unless I bring one along and test it out for example) Also, some caches are in places that change alot from season to season...

oh, and try to make sure you use the 'correct' route, (hard to do sometimes for out of towners if there is no park name or parking location given I realize).

 

Read ahead as you have been might help. If you have time you could also try emailing an active local there and asking what would be suitable or NOT for you as XYZ cachers.

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Often I find that the terrain rating is much higher than listed.

Often I find that the terrain rating was correct if I had taken the prescribed way in. ;)

 

If you’re concerned about the terrain, e-mail the cache owner and ask them if it would be appropriate for the ability of the people going along on the hunt.

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If you are not concerned about the terrain rating because you believe that most cache hiders use common sense when rating their cache hides and then when you arrive at the location you discover that the terrain is greatly underrated...you're screwed. You can then move on or try it any way and turnaround when it becomes obvious that you are not capable of the path(this quite often results in frustation and bitterness).

 

When you get home you can inform the owner that you think that he/she ought to consider re-rating the hide. This will seldom if ever be done. I mean afterall, it is YOUR fault for not exhaustively researching and questioning the cache and trusting the rating in the first place.

 

Just do like I do, shine-on these caches, whine, grumble, rant, email the owner. This might make you feel better, it does me. :P Fortunately they are the minor exception to the population of caches.

 

Cache on Dude!! Don't sweat the small stuff...unless it is 95 deg. outside and you just finished a 2 rated that was in reality a 3. ;)

Edited by Team Cotati
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It looks like its just north of a side trail that branches off of the main trail, I think I'd say a 1 1/2.

I don't remember the cache but I did it back in november of 02, Let me make a little suggestion try using usaphotomap it's a free program and it really helps in deciding whether or not to do the cache.

I'm not sure where you parked, but possibly the parking lot off of black mountain rd would have been the best place to park, then take the main trail west to the side trail on the north side.

Just a little side note following the needle on the gps can sometimes get you into places you don't want to go, try checking the cache location out in advance it helps.

Also look at some of the logs where the person buswhacked, then note the log for may 1 by let's look over Thayer, and you'll see why it's a good idea to do your homework

Edited by vagabond
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Although it's not very common, there is the ocassional cache which has intentionally been given false D/T ratings by the owner. There is no rule which says the cache has to be rated 'accurately', although I believe most owners try to give ratings which are in the ballpark.

Are these the same people that give inaccuarte coordinates because there is no rule about it? ;)

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Although it's not very common, there is the ocassional cache which has intentionally been given false D/T ratings by the owner. There is no rule which says the cache has to be rated 'accurately', although I believe most owners try to give ratings which are in the ballpark.

Are these the same people that give inaccuarte coordinates because there is no rule about it? ;)

Well, the specific example I was thinking of was the liar's cache.

 

But I bet there are those who would play fast and loose with the D/T ratings, just to throw the hunter off the scent of the cache, just like the innaccurate coordinate hides.

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I've noticed many caches are incorrectly rated based on whether the cache owner thinks it is "easy" not based on their own ability.

 

If that's the way it should be done, then Lance Armstrong would rate any cache that requires less than a 50-mile bike ride as a "1" even though it would be a "5" to the vast majority of cachers.

 

Use the rating system. A "1" should always be handicapped-accessible. A "2" should always be suitable for small children. If you aren't sure, then add a star to the rating or bring a friend that is handicapped or has small children with you. If they have trouble with it, add a star to the rating. If everyone says it's over-rated, lower it by a half star.

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A cache put out in early Spring here in PA often becomes a bushwhacking nightmare by mid Summer and then back to normal in late Fall. I am adding a machette in my back pack for seasonal pickers and brush whose clearing will not pose any spoilers or errosion issues. :D ImpalaBob

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Recently, I tried to find a cache that was put out in 2001. It has a terrain rating of 1.5 and the description states:

This hike takes you along a little creek in a valley, hidden amongst the city sprawl. The trail is easy and flat . . .

Admittedly the recent past logs mentioned stickers and thistles, but we didn't think that applied to us. :rolleyes:

 

With all the rain this past winter, the "trail" is now completely overgrown with 6' tall thistle and mustard plants. At times we were walking on rocky rubble from the construction of the railroad tracks some 50 feet above us and we couldn't see where we were putting our feet because of the overgrowth of vegetation.

 

This one might be have been a 1.5 when it was placed, but it is at least a 3 now.

 

Oh . . . and now there are four DNFs on it, so we risked our lives for nothing . . .except the adventure. :anibad:

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