“With great caches comes great responsibility”
This phrase was made famous by Spiderman… or at least it would have been if he had been a geocacher. Hmmm, now I am considering what sort of caches the arachnid super hero would have placed. I expect some serious 5/5 ones. In fact climbing up the outside of a building and swinging on a thread across to the top of a radio mast where the GZ is would probably warrant the creation of a whole new difficulty and terrain rating system. Oh wait, there is no way Spiderman could be a geocacher… where the hell is he going to put his pen? But there is a point here, somewhere. The point is that creating and publishing caches is barely the tip of the ice berg when it comes to being a cache owner. Many are lured by the thrill and excitement of setting hides for others to find but a fantastic cache can soon deteriorate into a mess and sometimes even a blight on the landscape or an embarrassment to the hobby if it isn’t maintained.
Keeping your caches maintained includes everything from monitoring the find logs and taking note of DNFs. Considering and acting on “Needs Maintenance logs and periodically doing a physical check to dry out containers, replace damp or full logs or freshen up on the swag. When you visit you should also pay attention to the impact your caches are having on their surroundings in case their position is causing cachers to unwittingly damage trees or fences etc.
The logs you receive will be the biggest clues you get to the state of your caches. Comments about damp logs, damaged containers, coordinates that are off, difficult or iffy placement and changes at GZ can be very helpful. Most geocachers are not backwards in making their feelings known in their logs, especially if they didn’t actually find the cache, but caution should be exercised when considering the information provided by other cachers. A lot of these issues are very subjective… what one person considers a problem, another might not.
Something else to consider is how many DNFs should you allow before checking on your cache in person? Well unless the DNF log you receive is very specific such as, “There is no way this cache is here as they have now built a Starbucks at GZ where last week there was a field”, then you might do well to hold fire on rushing out. I tend to wait for 3 DNFs before making a point of going and checking on the cache. If you are convinced that the cache is missing or damaged, then mark it as temporarily disabled with a note that you will visit soon. Better this than have cachers needlessly searching for hides that aren’t there.
Don’t be afraid to contact those who note problems or DNF your caches either. This is a good way to get more information about what the problem is, if indeed there is one. Also, it gives you the chance to connect with the people who are searching for your hides. Generally they will appreciate your courtesy and interest if you contact them and it might encourage them to return and try again sometime or even to feel positive about the next set of caches you place, believing you to be a caring and dutiful cache owner. Be courteous and polite though. There is no point in ruffling people’s feathers in an attempt to find out what might be wrong with your cache. If they are willing to give you any additional information then make sure to be appreciative. Likewise if people are kind enough to replace a damp log in one of your caches off their own back, send them a thank you email, it takes a lot less time to send a short note than it would have to actually go out and do it yourself.
So that takes care of reactive maintenance, but what about being proactive? This is sometimes the best sort of maintenance there is. Taking the time to visit your caches every so often armed with fresh log sheets, swag, a couple of replacement containers and a wad of paper towels can ensure that your hides stay in tip top condition, which in time will generate favourable logs and possibly even favourite points. But how often should you visit your caches? As far as our caches are concerned, we try to visit at least 2 or 3 times a year to do proactive maintenance runs. If this seems a lot to you then perhaps you have too many caches. Our caches are relatively close and are placed in locations that we are happy to return to. If the thought of returning to your caches fills you with dread, then why the hell did you put the cache there in the first place?
Weather can often be a big factor in how well your caches fair, so timing your maintenance visits at certain times of the year can be useful. After winter has thawed and the days get milder it might be a good time to get out and see how your hides have held up during the harsher months. As the weather improves you will start to get more visitors to your cache so cleaning them up will make sure that you have lots of happy cachers. By the time you get to the autumn, the heavy foot fall of the summer will start to ease off and it is a good idea to assess how the extra visits have left your caches and the surrounding area. This is also a good chance to prepare them for the winter. Check the seal on lids and ensure you have decent bags for your logs.
Our Wall Hall series has been out for a year now and, during that time, has chalked up around 100 visits. Aside from responding to definite problems in the past year we have made sure that all the caches have had at least a couple of proactive checks. A couple of months ago we walked the whole series checking each cache and were reminded of what a lovely walk it is. But it is important not to rest on your laurels just because you have walked the whole series, problems can arise at any time. One of our caches had received 3 DNFs over the space of a couple of weeks and then a second hide received two in quick succession so at the weekend we went to check them out armed with replacements just in case. It is a good job we did as both caches had indeed gone missing. Thanks to helpful DNF logs we were able to sort this out within a short space of time and this is why it is so important that you log your DNFs. Some cachers don’t bother, and that is fine I guess, it isn’t a rule after all. But as a cache owner, getting DNF logs is extremely important in helping ensure that your caches are still there and available to find. It sucks big time getting them, I can tell you. Not many cache owners would say they liked getting DNF logs but if the cache really has gone, then we need to know about it.
Here’s some handy points to remember for seekers and owners alike.