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niraD

How to write a great cache description

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Groundspeak recently posted the blog entry How to write a great cache description. Here's the tl;dr version:

  • Describe the experience finders will have
  • Don’t make it too long
  • Consider including photos

 

I especially liked the fact that they included "Don't make it too long" (with specific suggestions), while still encouraging more of a description than "Bring your own pen."

 

Thoughts? Comments?

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1 hour ago, niraD said:

Thoughts? Comments?

 

Yes, I generally concur. Most of my descriptions begin with a paragraph or two about the cache's theme to set the stage, followed by some guidance on getting to GZ and concluding with something about the container. I'm a bit reluctant to include photos of the attraction at GZ (view, cave, waterfall, rock formation or whatever) as I don't want to spoil the surprise, likewise with the container if there's an element of surprise in that. The description should be a guide to experiencing the cache, not a substitute for it. Here's an example from a recent hide I called The Postmaster General's Retreat:

 

image.png.1f153b809b6e0a25239b194cfb90654c.png

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7 minutes ago, barefootjeff said:

The description should be a guide to experiencing the cache, not a substitute for it.

That's a good way to put it.

 

My cache descriptions have included a banner for the Geocachers of the Bay Area. The first included a photo related to the theme, which helped answer the question of why I placed the cache there. The second (which I adopted) included a photo of one of the signs at the garden entrance, which was a bit of an introduction to the location, and a confirmation that you were in the right spot. The third (a puzzle) included the Certitude logo. And the fourth (an EarthCache) included a photo of the general area (which also shows what 3 of the 4 signs/benches look like), a diagram of the referenced geology, and the official GSA EarthCache logo.

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I like what Ambrosia basically said in the comments of the blog post: Don't bury useful information. If your description contains a bunch of tangential information (e.g. history of the area), make sure any important access or safety information is at the top. Many times, I've discovered information that would have been very useful in getting to or locating GZ, but only when it was too late. Basically, don't do something like this:

Quote

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Suspendisse tristique neque risus, ac auctor magna aliquet eu. Aenean faucibus, risus id aliquet pretium, metus velit malesuada urna, id euismod ligula dui eget eros. Cras fermentum nulla vestibulum arcu blandit cursus. Pellentesque massa nisl, iaculis at varius quis, lacinia sed erat. In id imperdiet erat. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Nam ac nulla id velit hendrerit dignissim. Mauris dui odio, ultricies vel magna vel, rutrum euismod turpis. Aliquam ultricies mi diam, ut facilisis libero rutrum vel.

 

Sed dui velit, porttitor vel odio vitae, dapibus consequat lectus. Vivamus eget vestibulum sapien. Sed elementum auctor neque in cursus. Praesent ultrices, magna ac auctor semper, libero lorem dapibus mauris, et accumsan nulla elit in odio. Aliquam erat volutpat. Nulla odio sapien, pretium at ultricies sit amet, semper ac nisi. Integer finibus ante magna, et tristique turpis fermentum venenatis.

 

Aenean pulvinar dui ut arcu elementum, vitae ultrices dolor mollis. Cras posuere pulvinar sapien, semper euismod purus egestas pellentesque. Interdum et malesuada fames ac ante ipsum primis in faucibus. Praesent sed malesuada arcu, non mattis massa. In et erat vitae metus hendrerit volutpat. Ut felis diam, fringilla nec lorem et, dignissim congue arcu. Quisque leo purus, varius a fermentum non, rutrum vel arcu. Integer leo felis, dictum sed nibh eu, maximus tristique felis. Duis a erat eget justo tristique sagittis. Ut aliquam dignissim tristique. Nullam porttitor tristique mi, nec consequat justo mollis a. Quisque pretium, ligula convallis volutpat iaculis, orci enim posuere ex, at faucibus ipsum ante auctor diam. In eget lacus rhoncus, vestibulum mauris vel, feugiat ligula.

 

Vivamus sagittis turpis sit amet sem tristique, ut pulvinar orci maximus. Fusce pretium vehicula bibendum. Duis viverra a ex quis ultricies. Nunc convallis lacinia augue non hendrerit. In in sem feugiat, feugiat arcu sed, molestie purus. Ut et malesuada diam, gravida sodales dui. Aenean lectus enim, tristique et vestibulum at, maximus in arcu. Nam molestie faucibus ipsum, id tempus lacus fringilla et. Nullam aliquam odio at urna faucibus bibendum. Praesent tincidunt vestibulum nisi, a feugiat sem aliquam nec. Nulla volutpat sodales semper. Donec venenatis risus lorem, sed vestibulum massa tincidunt nec.

 

In justo eros, venenatis quis elementum sit amet, varius a tortor. Donec malesuada sem sed tellus pharetra, et bibendum metus sagittis. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Etiam sit amet efficitur eros. Vestibulum quis enim convallis, mattis lectus ut, posuere nulla. Cras quis libero ac enim pretium vehicula sed vel quam. Aenean hendrerit, elit vel dignissim ullamcorper, risus ligula congue sem, eget porttitor lectus metus ac urna.

 

The best access is from the west. Don't come in from the east, because it's private property. You'll need to bring a ladder and a jug of water to retrieve the log.

 

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3 hours ago, The A-Team said:

I like what Ambrosia basically said in the comments of the blog post: Don't bury useful information. If your description contains a bunch of tangential information (e.g. history of the area), make sure any important access or safety information is at the top. Many times, I've discovered information that would have been very useful in getting to or locating GZ, but only when it was too late. Basically, don't do something like this:

 

 

3 hours ago, The A-Team said:
Quote

..... In justo eros, venenatis quis elementum sit amet, varius a tortor. Donec malesuada sem sed tellus pharetra, et bibendum metus sagittis. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Etiam sit amet efficitur eros. Vestibulum quis enim convallis, mattis lectus ut, posuere nulla. Cras quis libero ac enim pretium vehicula sed vel quam. Aenean hendrerit, elit vel dignissim ullamcorper, risus ligula congue sem, eget porttitor lectus metus ac urna.

 

The best access is from the west. Don't come in from the east, because it's private property. You'll need to bring a ladder and a jug of water to retrieve the log.

 

 

Yeah.  Guilty.  I'm from the Deep South, and you know what our motto is:  Why say in 20 words what you can say in 200?  😊

I prefer to lead the description reader from the general story to the specifics of the cache finding, with a definite break in the prose to signify important stuff coming up.  So I get an F on that "put the cache info first" part.  But honestly, it just doesn't seem to flow as well with the cache specifics FIRST, and then the story. 

 

The article was a good wake up call, for the most part, for me.  Although I think it depends on the type of cache, too.  I may not WANT to tell what they're going to experience until they get there.  Overall, I reckon I'd score a D ... being saved from a total failure only by the inclusion of photos.  CO Summer School awaits me. 😜

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Posted (edited)

Tell me what I'm searching for - either the type of standard container or a reasonable general description (decon, preform, film can  micro in a host, hanging camo'd micro). Not only does it help my search, but helps ensure that if I find a container that I know it's the cache. 

 

Tell me basic access and safety info information (along the orange trail in John Smith Park, watch out for a barbedwire fence to the north).

 

Tell me points of interest I might otherwise miss, both to inform me and encourage me to seek the cache.

 

Take the time to do a little research when relevant. If you're the first cache in a park or preserve, tell me briefly about the property (John G. Smith Park is named after a former county commissioner. It opened in 1987 and has baseball, basketball, and racquetball facilities.) If you're next to some ruins tell me what was here. Tell me about some prominent nearby plant. Educate and inform me.

 

Tell me you have permission if relevant, especially if there is any signage or conditions which should normally give me pause. 

 

Include parking and trailhead waypoints waypoint if they aren't obvious. 

 

Don't include images in the description unless necessary for a puzzle or other importantg for the cache. They're useless on most GPS and take up extra data on my phone. Save it for the Gallery. 

Edited by JL_HSTRE
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2 minutes ago, JL_HSTRE said:

Don't include images in the description unless necessary for a puzzle

Just dropped to D - !  I'm going to hide my report card.  SHHHH! 

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6 minutes ago, JL_HSTRE said:

Tell me you have permission if relevant, especially if there is any signage or conditions which should normally give me pause.

This is a good one.

 

Extending this further, if a cache is hidden on private property with permission, give the finders some way to know which property. On several occasions, I've shown up to GZ for such a cache to find that my GPSr was pointing to a fence between two properties. I had no idea which one I was allowed to be in, and which one I'd be trespassing in. Something as simple as "the blue house" or "the one with the geocaching symbol on the mailbox" can prevent uncomfortable situations.

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After reading the above I could see that I am mostly on track with my descriptions but they could be organised a little better on some. Out of curiosity I had a look at one of my most recent and saw that it could use some tidying up.

 I don't really understand this HTML thing and the description kept coming up as one long paragraph. I have heard of WYSIWYG and understand it. On closer inspection of my script I saw a little thing like this <p>. Guessing it could mean paragraph I tried putting it where I wanted the breaks and it seemed to work. This was after I sorted the description information. I think I got it about right - enough detail without being to wordy. Now I'll have to go fix all the others.

 

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1 hour ago, JL_HSTRE said:

Don't include images in the description unless necessary for a puzzle or other importantg for the cache. They're useless on most GPS and take up extra data on my phone. Save it for the Gallery. 

 

I'm not buying into that one, sorry.

 

Sometimes a (short) story is best told with a mix of text and images.  Part of the "sell".

 

With all due respect, I'm not bending over backward to support old hardware.

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I'll confess. Many a time I've seen a description more like a tome and skipped the lot unless there was some detail in it needed to complete a Mystery or Multi. Even then I would have second thoughts. And, using an Etrex 20, pictures will end up as pages of gobbledegook so I'll give it a big miss and move on.

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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, colleda said:

I'll confess. Many a time I've seen a description more like a tome and skipped the lot unless there was some detail in it needed to complete a Mystery or Multi. Even then I would have second thoughts. And, using an Etrex 20, pictures will end up as pages of gobbledegook so I'll give it a big miss and move on.

 

I don't know about the Etrex, but on the 62S and Oregon 700 I've owned, it just skips any images completely. I just tried it with my Postmaster General's Retreat cache which has the photo of the PMG Trail sign between the second and third paragraphs (after the word "track") and yes, it just skips it, no pages of gobbledegook or even a raw html link.

 

1818933478_GC831ARonOregon700.png.772703f8f48e454c89caae244cba7f32.png

Edited by barefootjeff

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3 hours ago, JL_HSTRE said:

Don't include images in the description unless necessary for a puzzle or other importantg for the cache. They're useless on most GPS and take up extra data on my phone. Save it for the Gallery. 

 

Two of my traditionals have images in the description, the one I showed earlier with the PMG Trail signpost and on GC70YHG where I included a photo of the cascade to show what to expect near GZ. Both those images are less than 100kB so I doubt they're going to make much impact on anyone's data plan. In the case of the sign, that section of the Great North Walk has numerous side-tracks so I thought it might be helpful to show it as something to look out for at the trackhead waypoint, and in the case of the cascade, it was to show people what to expect so they could decide whether it's worth the T2.5 hike out there and as a bit of a guide to what the terrain is like as you need to cross there to get to the cache. In neither case is the image needed to find the cache, but in both cases I thought the value added warranted doing it.

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12 hours ago, Viajero Perdido said:

With all due respect, I'm not bending over backward to support old hardware.

 

The Etrex 20/30 are not quite a decade old and lots of people are still using older repurposed Garmins. In my experience, the majority of geocachers are using "old hardware" handheld GPS.

 

And if you suggest catering to smartphone users then congrats your ancestors making the same mistake as Groundspeak.

 

9 hours ago, barefootjeff said:

In the case of the sign, that section of the Great North Walk has numerous side-tracks so I thought it might be helpful to show it as something to look out for at the trackhead waypoint, and in the case of the cascade, it was to show people what to expect so they could decide whether it's worth the T2.5 hike out there and as a bit of a guide to what the terrain is like as you need to cross there to get to the cache.

 

That's useful information, even if not absolutely necessary.

 

Unfortunately, often images on geocaching pages are all flair and no substance. They're neat on a computer screen but no help and often a hindrance in the field.

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I'm creating a cache now with an image in the description.

Right above it is a paragraph that starts with something like "For those of you reading this on a GPS receiver or with no live connection to the web and the illustration,....)

 

Sometimes I cache with my phone, sometimes with my Explorist-GC.

I don't mind a little accommodation.

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Posted (edited)

I don't like overly long descriptions, but I also dislike descriptions that are too short.  "Film canister."  "Happy caching."  Um...okay?

 

Don't tell me to do things I already plan to do, like putting the cache back as I found it, or to bring a pen.  It wastes words.

 

If you change the cache container, update the listing to reflect this.  Don't tell me I am looking for a blue box when the cache is actually a green bison tube.

 

And don't put a hint unless it is a hint.  "No hint needed" and "Have fun" are not clues.

Edited by Ageleni
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A set of complaints about cache pages:

 

My first peeve is with descriptions containing grammatical and spelling errors.  Have somebody who can edit look at your description.  Poor grammar and misspellings in cache descriptions make you, the cache owner, look bad. 

 

Regrettably, both are quite common in my area.

 

Another peeve is with "free" image-hosting services.  They do not last.  Don't use them, except for the services Groundspeak provides.

 

Yet another issue is the use of Flash on cache pages.  I have a hard time believing Groundspeak still allows caches requiring Flash.  It's a security problem.  Don't use it.

 

Finally, I really hate puzzles that use images of text.  Nothing more tedious than re-typing text from an image.  As a cache owner, computer-readable text is easy to insert into the ALT field of an image tag.

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20 hours ago, Ageleni said:

I don't like overly long descriptions, but I also dislike descriptions that are too short.  "Film canister."  "Happy caching."  Um...okay?

Agreed!

 

20 hours ago, Ageleni said:

Don't tell me to do things I already plan to do, like putting the cache back as I found it, or to bring a pen.  It wastes words.

While you might not need instructions like that, others do - unfortunately - as confirmed not only by my own caches, but also by many threads containing mention of these very acts (or lack thereof).  Many of my caches draw new cachers, and I deem including those simple instructions as part of a "preventive maintenance plan".  Those instructions are at the end of cache descriptions 1) because it's chronologically correct (read, hunt, find, sign, replace), 2) if read last, it's possible it will be remembered better, and 3) experienced cachers can easily skip them without wondering if they're going to miss anything by doing so.

 

20 hours ago, Ageleni said:

If you change the cache container, update the listing to reflect this.  Don't tell me I am looking for a blue box when the cache is actually a green bison tube.

 

And don't put a hint unless it is a hint.  "No hint needed" and "Have fun" are not clues.

100% !

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On 7/25/2019 at 9:06 AM, JL_HSTRE said:

Include parking and trailhead waypoints waypoint if they aren't obvious. 

 

Don't include images in the description unless necessary for a puzzle or other importantg for the cache. They're useless on most GPS and take up extra data on my phone. Save it for the Gallery. 

I agree, parking and trailhead waypoints are handy.

 

Images for some sorts of caches are actually one of the features, such as the railway station for the SideTracked series of caches. It doesn't matter if they can't be seen on a GPS (I use a GPS), but they can be seen on the computer when planning the caching trip, and some photographs help me decide if that's a cache I want to visit. I like the photographs.

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On 7/25/2019 at 9:18 AM, The A-Team said:

This is a good one.

 

Extending this further, if a cache is hidden on private property with permission, give the finders some way to know which property. On several occasions, I've shown up to GZ for such a cache to find that my GPSr was pointing to a fence between two properties. I had no idea which one I was allowed to be in, and which one I'd be trespassing in. Something as simple as "the blue house" or "the one with the geocaching symbol on the mailbox" can prevent uncomfortable situations.

I agree. I can't understand why the CO didn't think this was an obvious thing to do. I walked away from one such cache, because the coordinates took me to the fence between two properties. Later,  when I attempted this again, I found the cache wasn't even near the fence. Also, let the neighbours know about the cache to save an interrogation.

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On 7/25/2019 at 10:19 AM, Viajero Perdido said:

 

I'm not buying into that one, sorry.

 

Sometimes a (short) story is best told with a mix of text and images.  Part of the "sell".

 

With all due respect, I'm not bending over backward to support old hardware.

LOL, as I am not bending over backwards to support new hardware and the data problem, and then the so wonderful descriptive logs of TFTC or Thanks or :)

I'm keeping my photographs. Sorry phone users.

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Posted (edited)
On 7/25/2019 at 12:18 PM, barefootjeff said:

 

I don't know about the Etrex, but on the 62S and Oregon 700 I've owned, it just skips any images completely. I just tried it with my Postmaster General's Retreat cache which has the photo of the PMG Trail sign between the second and third paragraphs (after the word "track") and yes, it just skips it, no pages of gobbledegook or even a raw html link.

 

1818933478_GC831ARonOregon700.png.772703f8f48e454c89caae244cba7f32.png

Extrex 30 skips the photographs too. So although they are no help, they are also no hindrance.

Edited by Goldenwattle
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20 hours ago, Ageleni said:

Film canister

And then the cache is rated as a small 🤣🙄

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10 hours ago, fizzymagic said:

My first peeve is with descriptions containing grammatical and spelling errors.  Have somebody who can edit look at your description.  Poor grammar and misspellings in cache descriptions make you, the cache owner, look bad.

Yes, so much so I wonder if this is a child. With spelling, good grief, that's what spell checkers are for. Load one one and use it.

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12 minutes ago, Goldenwattle said:

I agree. I can't understand why the CO didn't think this was an obvious thing to do. I walked away from one such cache, because the coordinates took me to the fence between two properties. Later,  when I attempted this again, I found the cache wasn't even near the fence. Also, let the neighbours know about the cache to save an interrogation.

Yes, this was going to be my suggestion, too... as well as to mention that additional permission in the description.

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10 hours ago, fizzymagic said:

My first peeve is with descriptions containing grammatical and spelling errors.  Have somebody who can edit look at your description.  Poor grammar and misspellings in cache descriptions make you, the cache owner, look bad. 

 

Our reviewers say that they are not allowed to intervene ortographic issues. Maybe it is better this way even the cache owner may look bad.

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1 hour ago, arisoft said:

 

Our reviewers say that they are not allowed to intervene ortographic issues. Maybe it is better this way even the cache owner may look bad.

Yes, I agree that Reviewers should not edit cache descriptions. That should only reflect the words and spellings of the Cache  Owner. Sometimes there may be a clue in that irregular word structure or misspelling.

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22 minutes ago, K13 said:

Yes, I agree that Reviewers should not edit cache descriptions. That should only reflect the words and spellings of the Cache  Owner. Sometimes there may be a clue in that irregular word structure or misspelling.

Yes, I've solved puzzles that used that ploy!

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Perhaps adjust the judgment a bit?  While their verbal-linguistic skills might not match yours, their other types of intelligence may be off the charts.

It was an eye-opener when my boss told me that he always had to proofread his exceptionally intelligent [and successful] architect spouse's blueprints for spelling errors.

 

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52 minutes ago, VAVAPAM said:

their other types of intelligence may be off the charts.

 

Yet still not up to using a spellchecker! 😉

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I can handle the occasional spelling error (in other peoples caches!) - but when words like cache are spelled wrong, I can only shake my head.....

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3 hours ago, K13 said:

Yes, I agree that Reviewers should not edit cache descriptions. That should only reflect the words and spellings of the Cache  Owner. Sometimes there may be a clue in that irregular word structure or misspelling. 

 

Actually, that is often the problem.  I see misspelled words or bad grammar and I assume that is part of the puzzle!

 

My all-time favorite on cache pages is an admonition to "be discrete."

 

🙄

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28 minutes ago, fizzymagic said:

My all-time favorite on cache pages is an admonition to "be discrete."

 

Presumably to discourage group finds. 🙂

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On 7/24/2019 at 4:06 PM, JL_HSTRE said:

Include parking and trailhead waypoints waypoint if they aren't obvious. 

Although I have found caches where the point of the cache was for seekers to figure out how to access the cache location in a safe, legal manner. In those cases, parking/trailhead waypoints would be spoilers.

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On 7/29/2019 at 11:01 AM, arisoft said:

 

Our reviewers say that they are not allowed to intervene ortographic issues. Maybe it is better this way even the cache owner may look bad.

 

I agree reviewers cannot edit.  However, you can have a friend look at it before you list it.  Or just read it through a couple of times to make sure the more obvious errors are caught before you send it out.

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Get a spell checker and that would solve many problems. I can't understand why someone would not have something as basic as that. My spelling has improved since I got a spell checker. In the past my spelling was so bad, I often didn't know a word was spelled wrongly.

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You know what word I see misspelled most often on a geocache page description? Cematary.

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Posted (edited)
9 hours ago, Max and 99 said:

You know what word I see misspelled most often on a geocache page description? Cematary.

 

There's a lot of interchanging "it's" and "its".  And strange. punctuation in cache descriptions and even in cache names.

 

But I've gotten a head start on an FTF or two by discovering a typo.  Also, I might hide clues in misspelled words in a devious cache puzzle someday.  So I just power through the errors on cache pages.  :P

 

 

Edited by kunarion

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On ‎7‎/‎24‎/‎2019 at 10:18 PM, barefootjeff said:

I don't know about the Etrex, but on the 62S and Oregon 700 I've owned, it just skips any images completely. I just tried it with my Postmaster General's Retreat cache which has the photo of the PMG Trail sign between the second and third paragraphs (after the word "track") and yes, it just skips it, no pages of gobbledegook or even a raw html link.

 

Sometimes I get a heads-up by seeing an IMG link.  Sometimes I'm scratching my head when I can't figure out the "clue" from the text, not realizing the "clue" is in the entirely invisible photo on my GPS. :)

 

And one time, the formula for the coordinates was something like "A + B2", which the Garmin showed as "A + B2".  :yikes:

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To each their own.  I like reading long detailed descriptions.  That's just me.

 

I found Groundspeak's suggestions a bit sterile and technical.  I write tech docs all day long.  I like a fun description with whimsy and creativity.

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