It feels a little disingenuous saying this because I have three or four caches sitting around the house and three or four more envisioned but not made yet, all gathering dust because I can’t come up with quite the right places to put them, but I think this needs to be said, and it’s inspired by my local area. There is a cacher here in the Austin area who is a really good person, an excellent cache maker (his handcrafted rocks are amazing), and a really prolific hider. The problem is that he takes great delight in making especially difficult caches. This is hardly a crime. Having topped 5,000 caches, I consider myself an experienced journeyman, and I can call ten people who live within a thirty-minute drive who blow that number out of the water, most by an entire order of magnitude. Having challenging caches is welcome and important in a place with so many advanced cachers. But I remember being a newbie cacher. It wasn’t all that long ago, after all. I remember how frustrating it could be in those first days. When I figured out that a lamppost skirt could move, it blew my mind! How many tree branches did I scan looking for pill bottles or bushes for plastic containers? And I remember encountering this cacher’s hides early on and how frustrating they were because even once I started to “get it,” I still couldn’t find a lot of them. But I got better. His hides didn’t become any easier. I just got better at finding them. Even then, if I looked at a hide beforehand and saw it was his, I spent a few minutes debating if I felt up to messing with it at that moment. As my skill has gone up, his hides have gotten harder over time. It really came to a head a couple of weeks ago. I attended a CITO for which he placed a bunch of caches for people to find afterward. The first one we collectively went to was a D5 in a tree. There were twenty cachers there, probably fifteen of whom fall into that “order of magnitude” category, and not one of us could find a thing with seemingly all the ladders and poles on the planet at our disposal. We all gave up and tried again. Fifteen of us took a shot at a D4 on the other side of a nearby building. Once again, nothing. We broke, and ten of us reconvened again at a D2.5 that we still couldn’t find. In the end, a handful of us found one of his new caches elsewhere and called it a day. My point here (and I do have one) is that a lot of highly experienced cachers with every tool at our disposal and motivation to spare attempted these caches with intense focus, and we couldn’t find any of them. What chance is a new cacher with five finds going to have?
There are a lot of people who bemoan the lack of quality caches (myself, not least among them sometimes), who get tired of a micro in a tree or a key box on a bench or some other hackneyed geocaching trope. Believe me, my trip throughout Washington brought that to the forefront of my mind. Great caches have a very important place. But “tired” hides also serve an important purpose: they are the seeds that bring in new cachers. Everyone starts somewhere. How many of you would have taken up the baton if you DNF’d your first ten attempts in a row? So why should anyone oversaturate an area with insanely hard hides? Even more importantly, what is a healthy ratio of easy caches to hard caches? In a perfect world (which translates to “in my opinion”), each area (whether it’s a city or a large town or a county) should be able to support at least a full D/T grid worth of caches alongside a lot of easier caches for the more casual cacher to get out and enjoy a little nature walk or a visit to the park with the kids. It’s fun to have a quick little find at the grocery store when you’re out running errands. But if we don’t have some simple hides, we might be driving away the next generation. We should also think about saturation. New cachers are going to want to hide things, too.
I don’t want to give the impression that anyone is wrong. I’m the worst judge of such things. But I do think we should consider these things. After all, the future begins with me and you!