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Mineral2

The Best States for Geocaching?

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As a data nerd, I'm always thinking about the state of the game and how it varies from region to region. There is much I'd like to know, but don't have access to the data to find. But one question I could answer (sort of): Which states are better for geocaching? I do have to make some assumptions based on the limited data I am able to acquire. The main assumption is that the number of active caches available to find, or rather the density of caches, is a good proxy for whether an area has a good geocaching community. I unfortunately can't take into account unique hiders, unique finders, find rates, hide rates, and archive rates or the quality of cache hides.

 

My full thoughts and analysis can be read here. My general conclusion is that the northeast is the best place for geocachers as it has the densest placement of caches, which surprised me given how many western cities are densely populated with caches. But I suppose that's one limitation of working with data at the state level, and also not having access to some of the variables mentioned previously.map_caches.thumb.jpg.76aaf147be7993c3ea1b38e5d84f790a.jpgmap_density.thumb.jpg.1c37d691cc88b809671e88e6c41e3cd9.jpg

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First you have to define "best". You've assumed that cache density is a good proxy for "best", but others might choose other statistics.

 

19 minutes ago, Mineral2 said:

which surprised me given how many western cities are densely populated with caches.

There is a LOT of open space in the western states. For example, even after someone throws film canisters every tenth of a mile along hundreds of miles of rural highways, Nevada still has a LOT of open space without many caches, which brings the state's overall cache density way down.

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Yeah, I addressed that in my blog post. "Best" is hard to objectively define, and I did the best I could with the data I had access to. Ideally, I'd like to have historical trends - how many new caches are being placed, how many are being archived over specified time intervals, and ideally over a smaller geographic resolution. Even the county level would suffice. But then we could get an idea of where geocaching is growing, declining, and holding steady with or without turnover. And that's just for cache data. I'd also like to know whether log rates are rising or falling, and the number of active cachers. So, yeah, I've made some assumptions.

I'd also like to not have to rely on manually acquiring data through search results. So if you know how to legally scrape data from the site (I'm not looking to get into any trouble with HQ), let me know. Or, if anyone from HQ is watching and also finds these kinds of questions interesting, I'm available for hire. 😁

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Similar in thought I guess, I don't feel "cache density" is what I'd consider for best.     One's perspective maybe...

 

But, the site even says my "best day" is based on finds, not the adventure heading to them, so for this hobby you may be on the right track.  :)

My best day was one cache that took until dark to complete.  Hopefully I can find similar in any state. 

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My thought is that cache density represents, to some degree, how long it will take you until you run out of caches to find without considerable travel. The Denver metro area, which is also huge in area, has over 10,000 caches, excluding unknown caches. There's also a high degree of turnover. But even without that, it would take the average cacher a long time before running out of something to find within a 30 mile radius of downtown.

The entire state of North Dakota has only 5000 caches. Living in Bismarck, you'd run out of caches pretty fast. Living in Fago is a bit better - there's more to find in Fargo, and it's on the border with Minnesota, which has more caches to choose from, even in the rural parts. Cache numbers doesn't tell you anything about quality, but it does give you more to choose from.

And I also make the assumption that more caches means more people involved in geocaching. Certainly that's not always true - I gave the example of what happened in the L-C valley of Idaho-Washington. But in general, more people geocaching probably equals more geocaches hidden, which in turn fosters an active geocaching community.

I'd probably next look at the number and frequency of events and their attendance.

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When I think about what makes this area great for geocaching, I think of the community. But I'm not sure how one would measure that. You can't necessarily count Event Caches, because a lot of the community activities are not listed as Event Caches.

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In ecology and evolutionary biology, we're often interested in knowing the fitness of an organism with respect to some trait value. Traits, especially physical traits, are easy to measure. But conceptual traits such as fitness require that we collect proxy data to represent the full trait. Fitness is defined as the lifetime reproductive output of an individual. And short of monitoring individuals throughout their life to count their offspring, we have to estimate using less desirable variables. Maybe we find survival rates from one season to the next, or we count offspring from a single reproductive event. Or we use mating success, assuming that leads to reproductive success. None of these fully represent the concept of fitness, but they are proxies and they come with strengths and limitations.

So too must we use proxies to define and measure the community or activity or whatever less-tangible idea it is we're interested in geocaching. The key is to try and find some objective measure to use, and yes... we'll start by making assumptions like events and attendance as a proxy to measure community, or cache density and/or log rate to measure activity. Perhaps we use favorite points to measure cache quality. It's not perfect, but it's something. 

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1 hour ago, Mineral2 said:

So too must we use proxies to define and measure the community or activity or whatever less-tangible idea it is we're interested in geocaching. The key is to try and find some objective measure to use, and yes... we'll start by making assumptions like events and attendance as a proxy to measure community, or cache density and/or log rate to measure activity. Perhaps we use favorite points to measure cache quality. It's not perfect, but it's something. 

 

It's also important to make sure you're comparing apples to apples. The heart of a big city is likely to have lots of caches and, especially if it's a popular tourist destination, they'll have lots of finds and lots of FPs even if the caches are mostly just nanos, bison tubes and magnetic key holders. By contrast, areas with waterways and rugged hinterland will have far fewer caches and those will get far fewer logs, but each of those logs on each of those caches will likely tell of an adventure. We all have different tastes of what we consider better, of course, but for me it's the latter.

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Purely subjective, of the US states where I've cached, South Dakota had the most caches that I thoroughly enjoyed and the fewest that were just another smiley.  I doubt meets any of your statistical criteria.

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9 hours ago, barefootjeff said:

 

It's also important to make sure you're comparing apples to apples. The heart of a big city is likely to have lots of caches and, especially if it's a popular tourist destination, they'll have lots of finds and lots of FPs even if the caches are mostly just nanos, bison tubes and magnetic key holders. By contrast, areas with waterways and rugged hinterland will have far fewer caches and those will get far fewer logs, but each of those logs on each of those caches will likely tell of an adventure. We all have different tastes of what we consider better, of course, but for me it's the latter.

What you described is what i found... A tight correlation between population density and cache density.

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4 hours ago, Isonzo Karst said:

Purely subjective, of the US states where I've cached, South Dakota had the most caches that I thoroughly enjoyed and the fewest that were just another smiley.  I doubt meets any of your statistical criteria.

It's hard to quantify indeed. For me, geocaching is about the adventure, and i like big open scenery. So the Northeast isn't my ideal place to be. But i love geocaching and if i lived in a state like Wyoming or North Dakota, I would have a hard time staying as active in the game as I'd like.

Edited by Mineral2

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On 6/14/2019 at 4:26 PM, Mineral2 said:

My thought is that cache density represents, to some degree, how long it will take you until you run out of caches to find without considerable travel.

 

I prefer caching that has involved a considerable amount of travel than having lots of caches close to where I live.

 

To me, if you can define "best" such that it accounts for cache quality, rather than just some quantifiable measure of the quantity of caches that would be a better metric, to me, for choosing the best state.  

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12 hours ago, funkymunkyzone said:

Personally I find the best "state" for geocaching is "awake".

 

Snnnnnooooorrrrrttttt,

 

      Greetings from the "Humboldt Nation" and the heart of the redwoods orrrrrrrrr "The Emerald Triangle".

      Just backwashed my coffee through my nose on that one.  

 

Well stated ... "awake" works well.

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5 minutes ago, NYPaddleCacher said:

 

I prefer caching that has involved a considerable amount of travel than having lots of caches close to where I live.

 

To me, if you can define "best" such that it accounts for cache quality, rather than just some quantifiable measure of the quantity of caches that would be a better metric, to me, for choosing the best state.  

In agreement with NYPC 

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I usually don't mind travelling either. But consider someone whose budget is tight (mine at the moment). Travelling 60+ miles round trip every other day or so just to find a geocache adds up. Even once a week takes its toll. Having more hides nearby to home means I can play the game more regularly for a longer period of time.

But... I don't live in a big city either, so I think my "problem" is not unique. The 10 mile radius search around my home yields 31 hides. Though I only need to expand that to 40 miles to max out a pocket query. But I've found so many that a 60 mile radius gives me results under 1000 for caches I have not found (excluding puzzles I have not solved). There certainly aren't a lack of adventures here, just my own ability to go after them as often as I'd like.

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Does the "best" state have to be one where you can find a cache (any cache) every other day, or even once a week?

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For me, the best area for geocaching (not necessarily state, but at the city/town/county level) is one that lets me participate in the game as often as possible. I enjoy geocaching, so I want to go out and be active often. Now, I'd prefer to have a plethora of quality hides - whether it's innovative containers and camo in town, or awesome hikes/adventures in the mountains. But if I'm out shopping and there happens to be a film canister in a lamp post skirt, I'll sign my name on the log and move along. I also like the social aspect. So the best area for geocaching for me would be one in which the community is active, engaged, holds events, and attends events regularly. So far, I've noticed a lot of communities and localities that fit this bill - they tend to be cities, even small cities, but they exist throughout the country. Again, some of this data is easier to aggregate than others, and states seemed like a good starting point. 

Maryland and New Jersey seem to have pretty active groups, which makes me wish I had been geocaching back when I lived in the area. Washington State is quite active. Of course Seattle is a hub being the home of HQ, but the Tri-Cities hosts an annual coin challenge mega event. Walla Walla is an active area. Spokane has a wonderful geocaching community. And our community down in the Quad Cities has dwindled over the years - I think we were larger than the area should have predicted, but the group is by no means dead yet. I think I'd have a hard time keeping engaged if I lived in Eastern Montana, or most of Wyoming or North Dakota. It's not that I necessarily wouldn't enjoy living in those areas, just from a geocaching perspective - I'd have to find other hobbies to occupy my time.

So... while the "best" state or region for geocaching isn't defined by a single metric, being able to cache often is going to be one of the variables I consider.

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13 minutes ago, Mineral2 said:

For me, the best area for geocaching (not necessarily state, but at the city/town/county level) is one that lets me participate in the game as often as possible. I enjoy geocaching, so I want to go out and be active often. Now, I'd prefer to have a plethora of quality hides - whether it's innovative containers and camo in town, or awesome hikes/adventures in the mountains. But if I'm out shopping and there happens to be a film canister in a lamp post skirt, I'll sign my name on the log and move along.

 

I think I'd have a hard time keeping engaged if I lived in Eastern Montana, or most of Wyoming or North Dakota. It's not that I necessarily wouldn't enjoy living in those areas, just from a geocaching perspective - I'd have to find other hobbies to occupy my time.

 

That why we have other hobbies.    :D    

When I havta ask "Why am I here ?",  it's time to head further out or do something else.   :)

 

Full disclosure...I did get conned by the other 2/3rds to get a guardrail and a lpc for that "day grid" thing.   :laughing:

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I'm working on the day grid as well. Partly because there is a local challenge cache to fullfill, partly because it gives me something to do. But I think it will be a few years before I actually finish it. Because winter caching around here is... well, challenging.

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On 6/14/2019 at 1:26 PM, Mineral2 said:

The entire state of North Dakota has only 5000 caches.

Actually, it's barely over 3000.

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On 6/14/2019 at 12:39 PM, niraD said:

There is a LOT of open space in the western states. For example, even after someone throws film canisters every tenth of a mile along hundreds of miles of rural highways, Nevada still has a LOT of open space without many caches, which brings the state's overall cache density way down.

That was the case even before Geocaching HQ nuked about 15,000  caches in Nevada this spring.

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4 hours ago, Corfman Clan said:

That was the case even before a cache owner's actions resulted in Geocaching HQ having to archive nuked about 15,000  caches in Nevada this spring.

Fixed that for you.

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10 hours ago, Corfman Clan said:

Actually, it's barely over 3000.

Typo. I knew that.

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