You would think that summer is the best time of year to go geocaching, but in nearly every respect you would be utterly wrong. Don’t misunderstand me, there are lots of positives about searching for tupperware in the summer months, however when you consider all the pros and cons of the various seasons, summer does not come out on top.
First off there is the weather. Whilst it is warm and dry, the line between it being pleasantly warm and uncomfortably hot is a fine one. After you have hiked a kilometre or so across an open field in the blazing sun, up a hill, wearing long trousers and walking boots, you soon yearn for the clouds to appear. You find yourself adding sun screen to your caching bag, or, more likely, forgetting to include it, and as a result you return home looking like a lobster and walking like an extra on the set of a Thunderbirds movie. Not that the sun screen will do you any good though as it will all melt off you anyway. In response to this people point out that with the right choice of clothing and footwear you can feel cool even in the hottest of temperatures. But this is not an option when geocaching and this brings me on to my next point.
You can’t go geocaching in sandals. No matter how you try to justify it, you just can’t. You need decent walking boots and that means socks as well. This means your feet are going to get hot and sweaty and there is nothing you can do about it. The alternative is to wear sandals and get your feet scratched and cut to buggery. You will also probably twist your ankle at least once and maybe even lose one of them in a patch of muddy ground in the middle of the woods.
Whilst we are on the topic of clothing, it is also not possible to geocaching in either shorts or a skirt. I agree that the idea of a gentle summer breeze wafting warm air around your legs and nether regions seems appealing, but unless you want to get bites and scratches all up your legs in addition to brambles and stinging nettles up your jacksie, then it must be long trousers that you choose.
At least you have a bit more flexibility about what you wear on the top half of your body. Sure, go ahead, wear a t-shirt or a flimsy top that is cut low enough to keep the air moving around your body. However this will mean that you get your arms scratched and cut and all manner of creepy crawlies will take refuge beneath your flowing garments. There is something very distinctive about the sound a woman makes when a dragon fly or similar insect goes on a dive bombing mission down the front of her top. The jumping up and down, swearing, running around, shrieking and seemingly inappropriate self-molestation that ensues for the next minute or so, followed by the obligatory shiver and horse noise impression is universally known as the mammary menagerie eviction quick step.
Us guys don’t get away lightly either. Seeing as the weather is “so nice”, we find ourselves carrying a backpack weighing a darn sight more than it normally does as there is a full picnic in there this time, and don’t forget about the 10 litres of water that you are lugging around to ward off dehydration. Regardless of who is carrying the backpack and even if the lunch isn’t in there the result of carrying it on your back for any period of time longer than about 5 minutes will cause the back of your t-shirt to become completely sodden in sweat. Lets hope you don’t have to re-enter normal society directly after caching as you will stink like a packed London tube train and look like you have been standing too close to a car wash!
So you have managed to find some suitable clothing and are prepared to put up with all the consequences of your choices. Once out on the trail you would expect the caching to be simple; everything is dry and mud-free and the caches should be quickly and easily located. Wrong. As soon as the weather improves things start to grow. In this country, as spring develops, the sun is normally accompanied by frequent showers and the net result of this is that nature goes mental. Everything grows and flowers and blooms and generally does what it does. So what is wrong with this you ask. Well, for starters the trees have leaves… billions of them and anytime you enter a wooded area you might as well be walking into a concrete bunker when it comes to getting a reliable GPS signal. As fantastic and astounding as the Geostationary Global positioning satellites are, their super powers are easily thwarted by putting something in between you and them. The bigger the thing, the more of a problem. When the cache owner set the hide during the winter there were no leaves on the trees and he was getting coordinates accurate to about 5 metres. Now standing under the cover of the trees in the middle of august you are lucky if you can get a fix on which postcode the cache is in let alone which clump of trees. OK, so that might be an exaggeration, but a low accuracy in the region of 30 metres can result in a very large search area indeed. Of course the opposite could have happened too; the cache owner could have placed the cache during the summer months and as a result the published coordinates could be no more accurate than those little white lies you tell your children about how long it is to get back to the car… 10 minutes, my arse.
When you do manage to get down to some sort of reasonable estimate as to where GZ is, then the problems begin. Trees aren’t the only things that like to grow during the summer. Along with the likes of holly, which doesn’t go away regardless of what time of year it is, you now have to content with stinging nettles, brambles, thistles and all manner of other triffid like abominations. During the winter months GZ is relatively exposed and the cache might be nestled in the bowl of a multi trunk tree. Come summer and the stingers are as tall as your head and surrounding that tree is a military grade fence of brambles. “I don’t give a toss if there are blackberries growing on it, just pull it out of my arm please!” Even if you have worn all the right things you will still emerge from ground zero with rashes and scratches on every exposed bit of skin and bizarrely on some bits that weren’t.
So you manage to avoid having the skin flayed off your body by the sun, or ripped off your skeleton by the brambles and therefore everything is good? Yes? Well not quite. Nature’s march not only extends to plant life, you also have animals and insects to deal with as well. Mad cows, over-enthusiastic horses and even those fluffy cuddly sheep are out in the fields just waiting for an opportunity to get up and in your face. But worse than those are the insects. The odds of getting harassed by farm animals is pretty low, but as sure as a dropped pen will always land in the only cow pat in the field, you will be bitten by at least one insect when you are out. We have a staggering amount of things out there that are just waiting to sink their teeth, or the insect equivalent of teeth, into your juicy flesh and throw up their poison into your blood stream. It won’t seem like the place is infested, but in the car on the way home you will notice one or two bumps on your arm or an itchiness at the back of your knee. By the time you get home your leg is the size of an elephant foot and your tongue has swollen in your mouth making you sound like Igor the mad crippled slave servant of some evil genius.
So to summarise, a typical Summer caching day can leave you dehydrated, sun burnt, stinking like an endurance runner’s armpit, bitten, scratched, swollen, itching, nursing a fantastically amusing speech impediment and with a stack of DNFs to log. I think I might wait till September!