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Like To Benchmark Hunt, But Not Geocache?

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From another thread, came the comment from someone who likes to benchmark hunt that they did not like to geocache....and that leads me to this question..just curious, because I like them both--for different reasons.


...What is it about geocaching that doesn't interest you?


To me, geocaching is much like benchmark hunting:

There are coordinates, a description, and something to find (or not) at the end of the hunt.

You have the opportunity to record the results of your hunt in either case.

The hunted items were placed by humans in both instances.

Either type can "go missing"

There are variations in what you will find in both types of hunt, and obstacles, challenges, and misinformation to be had in either sort.


The differences:

Benchmarks have (usually) been there much longer than the oldest geocache

Benchmarks serve a legal purpose (locating a specific place on Earth)

Geocaches are put there "just for fun"

Benchmarks were meant to be found easily

Geocaches are meant to be a challenge to find (in theory).


Edited for spelling errors, poor grammar (teacher in me, I guess).

Edited by Neos2
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I'll offer my 2 cents, but I'm also curious about other's comments.


I do both, but definately prefer benchmark hunting. I think it is a combination of it being "offical" in some capacity and the fact that they are "supposed" to be easy to find but often are not. And when I can't find it, tracking down the reason why can be lots of fun. Perhaps it's gone. Perhaps the road has been moved. Perhaps I'm not looking in the right spot (!). Read that description carefully, out loud to myself to try to figure out where I might have gone wrong. Perhaps the description has an error in it, can I figure out what it might be? It's amazing to finally find one after I didn't find it where I expected it.

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My interest in benchmarking stems from my fascination with them when I was a kid, as well as my interest in history and the built environment. Then, there is the feeling that my work is being noticed. I post recoveries to the NGS database frequently and hope I am helping someone find a mark to use for a grand purpose (such as making sure the slope of a sewer line is proper) or helping them NOT look for a mark that isn't there. My opinion on benchmarking has been posted a number of times on this board.

As for not caching, I just don't quite get the point. For one thing, FTFs in my area seem almost impossible to come by. Maybe it isn't about competition, but an FTF sure feels good in benchmarking, so I can only think I would enjoy it in caching! Second, I don't really get into the little gizmo swap that characterizes caches. I am the kind of guy who tells people not to get him birthday presents so I don't get something I don't want, so I have trouble selecting chatskis (sp) for others too. And finally, once you use your GPSr to get to the cache you are left looking around wondering what the cacher hid and where he/she might have hidden it--more of a hide and seek than a mental exercise at that point. And to be honest, I can't find stuff in my own house that I left lying around a couple days ago, so I would be really bad at finding a camoflauged film can! Maybe if I tried it I would get hooked. I seem to be that way.


But for now I am satisfied hunting my metal disks, and cut squares, and copper bolts, etc.



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I tried geocaching, but found that benchmarking was so much more interesting that I lost interest in it. Geocaches seem so contrived compared to benchmarks. For the last couple of geocaches that I did, I wasn't even interested in exchanging the stuff - I felt no sense of accomplishment about any of it.


Benchmarks are a different story. They're not made for a game - they serve a real purpose.


They have a sort of mystery about them - they're important, yet small and often quite hidden by time and circumstance. Finding them is sometimes technical and challenging, but not in a contrived way.


Some of them are actually antiques. There's a quaint sort of history about the old ones - they sit quietly as their locality changes tremendously around them. When I find one from 1935 or 1913 or 1882, I wonder - what was it like back then in the area? What transportation was used by the men who installed it, what did they eat and drink for lunch that day, how long did it take them to get to the site? How did they do all the data adjustment math? Did they set up camp and use a torch all night for sighting to and from another location? How did they communicate their sighting prcedures from one mountaintop to another with no radios?


Although both can be fun to find, benchmarks are old and important, while geocaches are new and trivial.

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Let me quote a couple of posts I've made over the past few months regarding hunting benchmarks:


Quote 1


Quote 2


I'd rather be looking for benchmarks that require following directions than walking up to a pile of rocks with a cache underneath. Guess it's the interpretation of what a surveyor saw when he mounted the disk 50-200 years ago. I find searching the libraries and museums about the history and maps very fascinating.

I could go on and find more statements, not only from me, but from other dedicated benchmark hunters. I find it more of a challenge as can be seen from one of my latest forum strings Benchmark Discrepancy.

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Everything that Black Dog Trackers said, plus -


Hunting for benchmarks often challenges you to go to the kinds of places (like rough neighborhoods, industrial complexes, private property and rights-of-way) that cache hunting seldom would or that you (well, me) would seldom be motivated to go to otherwise. I call it micro-tourism, and it is amazing how interesting it is (and I've been to most of the conventional macro-tourism places in the US and Europe). I presume that cachers get some of that but, when you hunt a cache, I think you can generally assume that the cache is not going to be located in a place that is intolerably unpleasant to the person who set the cache. Benchmarks may be in very unpleasant places. Poking around in a state park is not as interesting as poking around in the median of US Rte 301.


Then, there's the public service aspect. After about one year of hunting benchmarks, I started sending recovery reports to NGS. I have even got Deb to reclassify several stations as destroyed. I like doing this.


Finally (and to expand on a theme developed above), there's the Sherlock Holmes aspect of benchmark hunting. It's hard enough to find some marks by following your GPS and datasheet. But when your search has failed, you have to assume the possibility that the official description's "southwest" may really be "southeast", or that the mark may be six inches below the surface rather than projecting three inches, as described. Some searches actually turn into two or three distinct searches. Caching doesn't have this property of the material random error (at least I don't think it does). But finding a mark that has been substantially mis-described (or where the environment has changed to render the latest description invalid) is rewarding in a way that finding a cache can never be.



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I can echo what others have said here about finding benchmarks serving a purpose for the greater good. I enjoy being able to do something to serve the public interest.


I have always had a fascination with maps and long ago noticed the BM markings on the USGS maps. Before finding geocaching.com and learning about the NGS, I would try to find the USGS marks shown on their maps.


With geocaching, there is a possibility that someone has found the cache and thrown it out thinking it was garbage. There is usually no way to verify this unless the owner or someone who has previously found it verifies it is missing.


With benchmarks, they are far more permanent and less likely to get carried off or tossed aside. While many are gone, it is possible with proper research to determine that it truly is gone and sometimes even determine when it was removed.


I also got tired of finding geocaches full of geotrash. I am not one of those who charge out as soon as a cache is placed. Often, by the time I get to it, the good stuff has been removed from the cache and replaced with happy meal toys and cracker jack prizes.

Edited by California Bear
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Others' comments ring true, but let me add two more observations of my own enjoyment of benchmarking relative to geocaching.


Geocaching often leads me to secret places of some sort of special beauty, like a great view or an unusual geological formation. That's cool. However, I enjoy in a different way how the utilitarian nature of benchmarks gets me out of the car and on my feet in some rather mundane places that I would otherwise never give a second glance. I get a nice feeling passing a nearly hidden culvert knowing that there's a disk mounted on a very certain spot. Summed up, hunting benchmarks provides a means for me to gain a depth of feeling for the everyday places in my immediate surroundings.


A second notion I've thought of is that geocaching presents an opportunity to hunt an object in three dimensional space, but caches are relatively ephemeral. Their life span is typically no more than a few years, if that. Benchmark hunting adds the dimension of time. Dozens or even scores of years ago someone placed a BM trying to forsee as best they could what would survive the ravages of time. I feel like I'm completing the effort by trying to find an item while having to look back to imagine what the place might have looked like when the description was made.

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I am enjoying hearing these answers. I expected to hear that the idea of the 'official capacity' and being able to provide 'public service' would be among the answers I received. I was suprised, however, by how poetic and passionate your answers have been--I can't explain why that surprises me though, benchmark hunting is obviously a task not taken lightly.

Thanks for the responses so far, feel free to continue.

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'official capacity'

'public service'

Naw, that's just a by-product. Hope we didn't disappoint you.


As I search for long lost benchmarks, I often say to myself, "If only the trees and rocks could talk" and I wonder who the mounters were and how did things look back then? Were they on horseback? Did they have pack mules? Dozens of other thoughts. A feeling you don't get when looking for a cache.


As said before, Thanks geocaching.com for adding a benchmark section!

Edited by Colorado Papa
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Well I guess I will step up to the plate next.

I am a History Buff and have been all my life,My Dad got me collecting from the time I can remember,he took me (almost) everywhere he went and taught me many things that I still use today,I do not need the GPS or Maps ,but thats a different story.


We use to go to Old West Ghost Towns,Mines and Historic Travels.

As the years have passed I have always wanted a way to get it all down some how............along comes www.geocaching.com and they have benchmarking and high tech treasure hunting.

Well to make a long story shorter this is the ultimate way to track your travels,treasure hunt,add to History all the things that I wanted to do,and am in the process of doing each day.

I do volunteer my work with the USA FREEDOM CORPS And at the USGS BLM National Map.I also do Local Hikes

And have updated to the TOPO! SYNC USA Where I can add the benchmarks and caches across the Country as I do them,I can also update the Old Maps with places that are Historic and only a few know about.Such as Old Forts,Pictographs,Indian Ruins,Spanish Trails and many other things discovered by myself and with DAD.

The Benchmarks are recovered around the areas I have slowly been working on over the last ahhhhhhhhhhh 40 or so years!!! That makes me feel old when I look at it this way...but thats not the story.


I have always been, what I find out now is called a multi-tasker, I do all the things I can while in a specific area.

I study long before I go and then update upon return.

And I always find that I needed just a few more things.............so I write it down and when I go back I get it and the other data I wanted.


I love to do it......and being multi tasker might as well get credit for it too,and along the way a pin or two,for the recognition and let's not forget those (treasures) I have several cache exchanges that are awesome,you never know what you just might find.

You call that a "no light task" I say it is great.It's easy,fun and keeps you out of trouble while doing good for your Nation and fellow man.

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