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Planning Route for Day of Caching on Foot

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I am curious how you tackle route planning and cache information gathering for a day of caching on foot. I have been caching for a number of years but do it primarily in small communities where caches are spread out enough that walking between them isn’t an option or when the cluster of caches is small enough a route isn’t critical. This Christmas I will be down in southern California and am shocked to see hundreds of caches in just a few square miles! Frankly, I am overwhelmed by the choices.


I would like nothing better than to strike out on foot for a day of exploration and caching but I don’t know where to begin. I cache with a Garmin Gecko 201 which is a very simple GPS, no color screen, no maps or streets, etc. If I upload all the geocaches in 10 mile radius into my GPS I still won’t necessarily know what is between me and the cache when route planning on the fly, nor will I have all the info (rating, size, hint, when it was last found) of the cache.


I know I am not the only person to cache on foot… so how do you do it?


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I pick out what I want to try and get, load it into the GPSr, and write out what I think is important in a notebook. Then I head out and start walking. They are in the notebook in the order they *should* be obtainable. I also use the GPS to figure out what is closer to do next. It's not a perfect system, last Sunday my 3-4 mile walk ended up being 6 miles. Geodog slept on the ride home...

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If I'm going to be hoofing it for a day of caching, I usually just let the "nearest waymark" feature on my GPS be my guide (of course I also bring my phone which has info for the 3000 nearest caches so that helps too). Very rarely do I come across anything I can't get around with a five minute detour. Part of the fun is trying to find the correct route and all the cool/wierd things you see trying to find it :ph34r:

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I use a PDA to hold all the cache info (description, hint, last few logs) and I have my gps set to tell me the size, type, difficulty and terrain rating.


I look at the maps to find a spot where there are lots of caches near each other, with parking central to the whole lot.


Before we got nicer units with good maps, I used to make a map of the "nearest caches" (copy and paste it into your Paint program to print it out the size you want). That helped with knowing which side of the creek to be one, where there were large obstacles in the way etc.


The closest cache isn't always the next one you really want to do and the maps help you figure that out. Sometimes it's worth skipping one cache to head another direction for three that are close to each other.

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A number of options

1. If you have Mapsource, or any other mapping program such as Microsoft's load the GPX file and print out the maps. Mark the order you want to go after them.

2. I you don't have that you can use Google Earth to do the same.


If you don't want to carry the maps just write the caches down in the order you want to get them.


I'm fortunate enough to live in a cache rich area so I do alot of hiking and biking to get to them. I generally print out the Mapsource map of the area and off I go.

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I cache once a week (usually) and plan my route in the days leading up to it. I try to plan to park the car, then set out on foot with my backpack and have a route to take me to anywhere from 6 to 14 caches, depending on how dense the area is.


I'll first look for a good area to search using Google maps showing the caches. Then I'll get a rough idea of how many I can handle. Then I download the caches to my GPSr.


Planning the route between caches:


My last long hike before today was a little over 6 miles. I hit the caches to the south of the parking lot, then the string of caches (power run) to the north, starting with the first one I came to, and going along that way.


The problem was that once I was done, I had a very long non-stop 2.47 mile hike back to the car. I had to stop a couple times and rest my feet because they were sore and burning from all the walking. Later in the day they really hurt.


Just today I changed my strategy and it worked brilliantly! It was a 5.1 mile hike and I hit every other cache in a line until the end, then hit the ones I skipped on the way back. It broke up my hiking because of the 20 - 30 minutes spent at each cache spot, and when I finished, I was within 3/10 of a mile from the car. An easy walk! My feet were happier, and as I write this 8 hours after getting home from the hunt, my feet feel fine. No pain :ph34r:


Printing out cache info to take along:


I have a Venture HC so I can't "paperless cache", but I don't mind. In fact, I'd rather have paper along to write down my new hide coordinates in addition to marking and saving the waypoint - just in case the unit glitches and loses all the waypoints. I print the Google Maps satellite view of the entire cache area I'll be hitting on one side of the page, and on the other side I print a few lines about the caches, in the order I'll be hitting them. An example of the cache info would be:


Kohavis Klearing GC1HDVC MULTI SMALL 2/3

The cache is by a tree that stands out because it's the only one in a large clearing. Hint: Don't search the ground - cache is right around eye level for an adult.


Basically the useful info from the cache listing. On the hunt, I'll stop reading before I get to the hint, and read it if I can't find it otherwise. I can fit enough info for 10 or 12 caches on one letter-sized sheet, so when I head out, I have a sheet I fold in half, athen in thirds, and shove in my back pocket. As I'm walking I pull it out and review the next hide.


After each find I jot down if I found it or if it was a DNF. I also put down any TBs that were exchanged, and swag traded.


The system seems to work well for me. But I'll bet if you ask 10 different cachers what their favorite system is, you'll get 10 different answers :ph34r: My system works well for a deliberate, planned-in-advance trip. It would probably not be good for a FTF hound watching his cell all day for new listings. He'd probably want something paperless.

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I would join the local geocaching group there and read up on their forums for recommended caches and target some of those that are clustered together.

There may already be such a list, and even routes that the locals have created. I'd also suggest contacting some of the owners of the caches in the area you plan to be and ask them for advice.

The more specific you are with your requests, the better the return data is likely to be. Think about urban vs suburban vs out of the developed areas. How much elevation differential do you want to tackle. Would you prefer 1-2 really amazing longer hikes, or a series of shorter ones? Are you afraid of snakes? etc.


I started a thread in the SF Bay area forums when we started our Geowoodstock 6 planning and got some great advice.

Edited by wimseyguy
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I am curious how you tackle route planning and cache information gathering for a day of caching on foot.



What I've done prior to going to a new area is use the google maps and the nearest cache listings to pick and choose the ones to try. Make a list of gotta do, might do, and will skip; then have at it.


The idea of checking with the locals is also a good one.

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I use a PDA to hold all the cache info (description, hint, last few logs) and I have my gps set to tell me the size, type, difficulty and terrain rating.


I look at the maps to find a spot where there are lots of caches near each other, with parking central to the whole lot.



You can also consider using public transportation. Most urban areas have public transit maps online. Print it out then park in a spot near a cache and on a public transit line. Then take a bus as far away as you want to go and start caching back to your vehicle.


A friend of mine set her personal daily record in Southern California caching on foot using that approach.

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It sounds like cameltrekor and I do a similar thing.


If I have to go out of town where I won't have a car, I look at the caches I want to find before leaving home and send only those to the GPS.


Do you use anything like GSAK to keep track of caches? That would be the easiest way, but it's not necessary. If you don't use it, what you could do is setup a PQ for the area where you're going to be and then look at the caches individually. You don't need to download the PQ, just look at it in the geocaching maps page.


As you find ones you want to do, you can download the individual GPX file and then send just those caches to the GPS. If you have Google Earth, you can load those GPX files into the program, which will give an overhead view of all the caches. You could then print out that map so you can see which cache you're at and where you want to go from there.

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