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On a Trail

Harry Dolphin

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While contemplating placing an EarthCache in a state park, I was told that I would need explicit permission (including the name of the person granting permission) plus that the points of interest would have to be on an established trail. (The lady I spoke with is a geocacher, but would not give explicit permission. Thus I have not worked on developing the EarthCache. But that is not the point...) Recently, I went looking for an EarthCache with the listed starting point in a city park. The geological point of interest (and it was interesting!) was in a nearby slag dump. (Hey! I thought it was interesting!) Accessing the required point would have required climbing over the wall of the park, bushwhacking through some trees, and climbing about 150 feet up a coal mine tailings dump. With no trail. (Great tailings dump. And if the temp hadn't been 95º, I might have attempted it.) My question is: Is being on an established trail only required for municipal/county/state/national parks? Or, if the point of interest is on private land, is there no requirement for it being on an established trail? (I have no idea if permission was received for this EarthCache.) I DNFed it mostly due to the heat. Only my second DNF on an EarthCache. (The other was a 1 terrain EarthCache that required walking a mile on a trail. My sister was not up to that after her hip-replacement surgery. The terrain listing was changed to 1.5.)

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The 2013 guidelines do say "established trails only."


9. EarthCache sites adhere to the principles of geocaching and Leave No Trace outdoor ethics. In addition, use waypoints to ensure cachers take appropriate pathways and use established trails only. Damage to the site is unacceptable. Please be mindful of fragile ecosystems. EarthCache sites will highlight the principle of collect memories--not samples. Furthermore, no physical cache, or other items, can be left at the site.


Problem is, not all sites have established trails. Take Aravaipa Canyon, a great hike north of Tucson I've done a few times. There's no established trail there, though hikers have created a few. Sticking to the text of the guideline would mean I can't put an earthcache in Aravaipa, but I don't think the guideline is meant to be that inflexible. There has to be some way to get there, and if there is a right way and a wrong way, use waypoints to make sure people use the right way and don't encourage them to use the wrong way.


I sort of ran into this when I placed my earthcache at Falling Springs Falls. The state park that oversees the falls wants people to stick to the overlook across the valley from the falls and not to bushwhack down the slope to the bottom of the falls. I put my waypoint up at the overlook to keep people in the right place. If I had put it at the bottom of the falls, that would have gone against this guideline.


As far as what to do when there is no set trail . . . I'll let a reviewer weigh in, but I would say work with the landowner/manager and come up with a solution, and that would satisfy the intent of this guideline.

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As far as what to do when there is no set trail . . . I'll let a reviewer weigh in, but I would say work with the landowner/manager and come up with a solution, and that would satisfy the intent of this guideline.


Well, the reviewer is someone from GSA. The trail is their requirement. The one I looked for has a parking area at a local park. From what I can see, one needs o climb over the short fence bushwhack through some trees to access the area of the coal mine dumpings, then bushwhack up them. With permission from the owner of the coal mine dumpings, it still requires bushwhacking from the nearest local park.

From what I understand of the guidelines, the EarthCache must be along a trail. There is none here, and one has to bushwhack from the parking area.

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