I’ve been geocaching regularly for 8 years now. While I used to enjoy doing it for its own sake, over the past few years, it’s become more of an excuse to get outdoors for activities such as hiking, kayaking, etc. One of the things that’s really cool about geocaching is that it brings you to outdoor locations you might not otherwise visit. For example, if not for geocaching, I likely would never have visited Liberty or Prettyboy Reservoirs, various remote areas of Patapsco Valley State Park, or any number of other out-of-the-way places in the area.
One aspect of geocaching is the concept of a “challenge” cache. This is a cache that you can only “find” if you have met an arbitrary goal chosen by the challenge cache creator. One simple geocaching challenge might be to find, say, 100 other caches, which would make you eligible to find and log an associated challenge cache.
I have a love/hate relationship with challenge caches. The rules for constructing challenges used to be fairly arbitrary, which led to some interesting and creative challenges. A few years back, Groundspeak, the company that runs the most popular geocaching listing service, tightened the rules for what constitutes an acceptable challenge. While well-intentioned, the result has been kind of a dumbing-down of geocaching challenges, and lately, there has been an explosion of somewhat frivolous challenges, to the point where “power trails” of 20 or more challenge caches have popped up in various areas. Challenge caches by themself are not an issue, but when they begin to saturate a given area, they can become a “barrier to entry” to new players in the area who want to pick up the hobby. I know that, when I was new to the game, I would have been discouraged if I had looked at the geocaching map, and seen that most of the caches near home were challenges that I would be ineligible to “find” until I had been caching for many years. One way that Groundspeak could address this might be to add a special “proximity rule” for challenge caches that is much greater than the 0.1 mile for traditional caches: for example, only allow one challenge cache per square mile. I think that would level the playing field nicely, allowing for challenges while preventing them from becoming too prevalent in a given area. But, that’s just my opinion. I’m sure many challenge cache aficionados will vehemently disagree with me.
Now that I’m off my soapbox, I’ll talk about a type of challenge that I enjoy. Several years back, one of my goals was to find a geocache for each day of the year. It was a very effective motivator to get me out of the house. I finally completed that quest on Feb. 29, 2016. Once that’s done, you can try to find two caches for each day of the year (which I still have yet to accomplish, thanks to Christmas Day), and on and on. I have friends who are working on 5 caches/day, 10 caches/day, etc. Then you can move on to finding one of a specific type of cache for each day. My current project is to find a puzzle or “mystery” cache for each day of the year, and my goal is to do so by the end of 2022. While you could argue that it’s a “frivolous” or “arbitrary” goal, I’ve planned several bike rides, hikes, etc. around finding mystery caches on specific dates, and it’s been a good motivator to get me outdoors during these crazy times. Once I’m finished, I’ll have to find another “arbitrary” goal to pursue, just to stay motivated.