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Urban caching--organizing your search pattern?


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I give up. I need help approaching urban caching. Not the caches themselves (though I need practice there) but in figuring out how to organize and choose which caches to look for. I'm not talking big cities like Chicago, which self-limits to the area I happen to be near, but smaller ones that have from several hundred to a couple thousand caches (I'm close to a city with 1,600 in a 20 mile radius).

 

So far I've picked up one or two when I happen to be going there for other things, and that's about it. How do you plan a day of urban caching? I will admit upfront that navigation is not my strong suit--except in the woods, anyway. Do you plan a route on the map and stick to it, or just choose the "find next closest" and go for it? Do you make a grid and do a square at a time, or maybe choose one larger road and do several miles along it in one direction? Curious how some of you go about it.

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I have gone along on a couple of excursions like you describe. On one trip, we had a list of caches (around 30 total) and followed the list - until a new cache published very near to where we were caching, detour for the FTF). Another time there was a plan of sorts, a couple of target caches, with lots of "there's one just .2 miles east of here" - hours later I was worn out and really glad I had a notebook along.

 

One day, my son & I planned a full day trip which netted us 7 different cache icons, each with a different size on its listing, and about half a dozen other interesting caches. One of the most rewarding caching days I have had.

 

I had a fun time each trip, primarily due to the company. I prefer the list of specific caches, not straying (unless a FTF opportunity comes along).

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Do you plan a route on the map and stick to it, or just choose the "find next closest" and go for it?

 

These are my two most frequently used methods, sometimes the planned route but more often the "find next closest."

 

"Find next closest" turned out to be a very bad method one time when a railroad line ran through my territory and I kept having to go back to the same crossing time after time, because the

"next closest" cache was always on the other side of the tracks. A river or freeway running through it would cause the same problems.

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Study a map before you go out. I print out the satellite image showing the cache locations in the entire area I am going to cover and plan the most efficient route to do the caches. I then number them on the map and do them in that order.

When my other 2/3rds did those kind of caches, that's what she'd do.

She had her weekday lunch breaks planned every Sunday night. :)

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Do you plan a route on the map and stick to it, or just choose the "find next closest" and go for it?

 

These are my two most frequently used methods, sometimes the planned route but more often the "find next closest."

 

"Find next closest" turned out to be a very bad method one time when a railroad line ran through my territory and I kept having to go back to the same crossing time after time, because the

"next closest" cache was always on the other side of the tracks. A river or freeway running through it would cause the same problems.

 

"Find next closest" is almost always a terrible and very inefficient way to go unless the caches you're going for are all in a line, and you are starting at one end. You can end up heading in all directions, crossing over previous paths and making all sorts of inefficient moves. Much better is at least to print out a map the night before and plan out a route. If urban caching, try to avoid left turns where you may have to wait for traffic or traffic lights.

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My suggestions are to pick a town, do a PQ and dump it in GSAK. Elimanate ones with multiple dnfs on easy ones, and elimanate high difficulty ones because they suck up all your time. Find a dense area on the map and start there. Then go one direction like a loop or a spiral. A very well known cacher told me as a bit of advice, Don't make left turns. Takes time to wait for traffic or lights. If you have time read up on some of the Multis and Puzzles before you go to them (if you have the puzzles solved). Some Letterboxes are easy and some take time. So read those too. Anything you miss, you can always come back for them.

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How do you plan a day of urban caching?
Generally, I don't.

 

When I plan a day of caching, it usually isn't a day of urban caching. It's a day of hiking in the woods, or a day kayaking, or a day working through a puzzle multi-cache, or a day visiting landmark caches, or whatever. Urban caching is usually a cache or two on the way home from work, or after some other activity when I have some time before my next commitment.

 

The exceptions have been times when I've sought out urban caches that fit a specific theme (like an "Evil Cache Run" where we searched for specific well-hidden, well-camouflaged, high-difficulty caches; or a drive to find caches that were part of a specific series; or a drive to find a bunch of solved puzzles in an area I don't get to often).

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How do you plan a day of urban caching?
Generally, I don't.

 

When I plan a day of caching, it usually isn't a day of urban caching. It's a day of hiking in the woods, or a day kayaking, or a day working through a puzzle multi-cache, or a day visiting landmark caches, or whatever. Urban caching is usually a cache or two on the way home from work, or after some other activity when I have some time before my next commitment.

 

I hike and cross country ski and canoe at work, so...

 

Honestly I haven't ever tried to spend a day caching in an urban area; I tend to go to parks and preserves. Just want to try something different, but when I look at the map I wonder where to start.

 

I like the idea of printing a map and numbering them. That way I can read descriptions and logs at home and be wary of recent DNFs and stay on track. I'm sure I would tend to wander otherwise.

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In my experience in urban areas I have cached several ways. When solo, I like to find a area along a urban trail. I will walk up it a certain length, then exit the trail and go in a half circle back to where i parked, grabbing any in the half circle. Or, I would park in the middle of a cluster of caches and then walk in a large circle/or square getting them all on foot or bike. When in a group, we would sometimes "grid" the town and go East on a road to one end, drive a block South, then go back West...drop another block South, then go East again, and so forth. The grid would vary based on caches along a particular East-West road. We normally just use the built in maps of our GPS to find our way (with an occasional peek at a smartphone with google map satellite photo view).

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Do you plan a route on the map and stick to it, or just choose the "find next closest" and go for it?

 

These are my two most frequently used methods, sometimes the planned route but more often the "find next closest."

 

"Find next closest" turned out to be a very bad method one time when a railroad line ran through my territory and I kept having to go back to the same crossing time after time, because the

"next closest" cache was always on the other side of the tracks. A river or freeway running through it would cause the same problems.

 

I strategy I've seen suggested when finding caches near a road is to find the caches on the side of the road you're traveling then turn around and do the same on the way back. Using a "find next closest" method would have you crossing back and forth over what might be a busy road (and possibly a road with a center divider) and be far less efficient.

 

 

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Whether urban caching or not, I generally go about it the same way: pick a place where I want to walk, then look to see if it has sufficient caches to make caching worth it. Usually it always does, especially in an area with that kind of density, but when it doesn't, sometimes I take the walk anyway, but normally I'll pick another place to walk and try again. Once my place to walk agrees with a nice cache collection, typically I'll take a closer look to pick out the actual route, although sometimes I just wing it, and sometimes I pick a route but then leave it -- sometimes on purpose, sometimes by accident -- so I'm always ready to be somewhere I didn't plan. (Among other things, I'm always working with a PQ of the area.)

 

Although for urban caches, I'm more likely to look at each cache in the area from space to get an idea of where they are exactly because, in the steel canyons, it's nice to not have to depend on my GPSr to know it's in the newspaper box on the NE corner. (Although that last depends on the fact that in my area, COs typically set the coordinates based on the space view in the city, since their GPSrs aren't going to be too useful either.)

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I give up. I need help approaching urban caching. Not the caches themselves (though I need practice there) but in figuring out how to organize and choose which caches to look for. I'm not talking big cities like Chicago, which self-limits to the area I happen to be near, but smaller ones that have from several hundred to a couple thousand caches (I'm close to a city with 1,600 in a 20 mile radius).

 

So far I've picked up one or two when I happen to be going there for other things, and that's about it. How do you plan a day of urban caching? I will admit upfront that navigation is not my strong suit--except in the woods, anyway. Do you plan a route on the map and stick to it, or just choose the "find next closest" and go for it? Do you make a grid and do a square at a time, or maybe choose one larger road and do several miles along it in one direction? Curious how some of you go about it.

 

We usually pick an area that looks promising, pick a starting point, and use a next-closest or easiest-to-get-to method for selecting. Then we quit when we are tired or out of time.

 

It helps to have some mapping on your GPS, on a mobile device, or even paper.

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Thanks, y'all. Putting those suggestions together, I found a stretch of a main road with several much-favorited caches along it (four with over 20 points), two of which will be my start and end points. In between I'm sure I'll find a few LPCs and poorly hidden micros, but it's a good start with about 40 caches if I swing just a tad north and south. I won't feel the need to spend a lot of time finding *all* of them with so many to choose from, either. I think part of my problem before was that if I only looked for one or two when I happened to be out, I felt pressured to put more effort into caches that might be gone, need maintenance, or have terrible coords, because posting DNFs on the only caches you look for in a day is no fun.

 

Of course, we're supposed to get snow over the next 30 hours, so this will have to wait a bit....

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I call up the Geocache program on my computer and pick an area where there are a number of caches. I then ride my bike to the area and call up a list a Geocaches nearby, on my iphone. The list is in order of closest to next closest and so on; so I go down the list finding (or not) the caches and signing logs. I find it a whole lot easier to do urban searches on a bike. On one occasion I drove 20 miles to the target area, with my bike on a carry rack. Then parked and used the bike for the searches before returning to my car.

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Urban caches on a bike are so much easier. Like others have mentioned, I rarely do an urban cache run. Muggles deter me for sure. I have at times worn a vest and carried a clipboard. Nobody looks twice at you then ;)

 

Generally the only time I do an urban cache run is late at night. Like after 11pm. Less muggles, less traffic. I never thought of planning my route making right turns only. That's a pretty good idea unless you live in the UK I suppose, then you'd want all left turns.

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+1 to urban caches by bike (or on foot). You'd be surprised how much time parking a car takes away from caching, even when parking is readily available.

 

I usually just pick a spot that is cache dense, go directly to a cache that interests me, then pick one that is close and just walk there, trying to make a circle or square that leads back to my car. I can cover about the same number of caches on foot as I can by car if they are all less than a quarter mile from each other.

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I used to use Microsoft's Streets & Trips software to route me in the most efficient manner. But it has since been discontinued, and I don't know what else will do a similar job of routing from point to point.

 

 

Garmin's Base Camp now has a similar salesman algorithm to Streets and Trips.

Edited by Maingray
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