So here I am, sitting at my PC after midnight, going over a list of caches I have bookmarked, trying to decide which ones I want to include in a cache run I intend to do tomorrow. As I run through the logged comments, check the difficulty/terrain information, and plot out the best route, I’m finding my thoughts drifting from the task at hand to the inane amount of work I’m putting into what should be a rather quick and easy process. With the Geocaching for iPhone app, I can pull up on the fly any cache located in my vicinity. I can read the comments and get the same information on the fly. So why do I torture myself while my wife is sound asleep next to me? What advantage do I get in meticulously plotting out a course of potential finds to help me reach my goal of surpassing 300 finds by the end of the weekend? Easy….I just can’t help myself.
I have always been a bit of a planner. Sure, spontaneity was one thing I prided myself on when it came to hanging out with my friends, but as I look back, there was always some sort of planning involved. If I decided I was going to stop by my best friend’s house for a night of whatever-the-hell….I usually had jotted down some ideas on things we could do. These usually involved going to see a movie (which I had made a note of all the movies I thought we’d all like and the various showtimes for the nearest 3 theaters), hitting up the local bowling alley at just the right time for Cosmic Bowl, or heading to a popular miniature golf course that is known for its, shall we say, “rustic-ness”. So even when I thought I was being all spontaneous and loose in regards to a random visit with my friends, I always had the outcome sketched out. Some of my friends actually have commented on it, saying that if it weren’t for me constantly trying to steer the group towards a goal, we probably never would have done anything. Personally, I think they were making fun of me.
Anyway, what could I possibly gain by sitting here, “auditioning” potential caches for my run? Surely the information I cull tonight could have been done during the run tomorrow, freeing up the time I’m spending now to rest up for what could be a several hour excursion. Well, it’s part of my ritual that I feel gives us the most success. We’ve done some spontaneous runs in the past that ended up with more DNFs than finds. This is mainly due to the urgency of locating a cache nearby that we feel we can do. A lot of the time we wouldn’t bother to check the logs to see if there had been a string of DNFs lately. Other times it would be an issue of not looking at the difficulty/terrain level and discovering too late that we, very foolishly, started the hunt for something in a wooded area and we’re sitting here in shorts, sandals, and tank tops. But, when I spend some time actively looking up caches along a rough path towards a goal location I have picked out, I noticed that our runs were much more successful. Using the tools available online, I can decide if I feel we can handle a higher terrain ranking based on where it’s at, the saturation of surrounding caches that are relatively much easier, thereby making up for lost time and maximizing the amount of caches we can find in a given period of time, as well as adding in, ahead of time, a number of P&Gs to pad the numbers and also, if necessary, lift our spirits when we inevitably come up short on one. I find that even an LPC can lift our spirits after a couple failed searches. After I’ve settled on a set of caches, and even thrown in some difficult ones, just in case I’m feeling saucy (see, I can’t even go out of my comfort zone without planning for it first), I load everything into a Pocket Query (I think I’ll have to do a post on just the terminology at some point…I’m sure I’ll be confusing the non-cachers who happen upon this blog) and then download that to my phone….which I do twice because I actually use another Geocaching app called Geosphere (which I actually think is better than the official app in many ways as it’s more powerful, quicker, and uses last battery), especially when I hunt puzzle caches and multi-caches because I can input additional waypoints and save them for later use if necessary….but I digress. So when it comes down to it, not only do I have a list of caches I want to find, I also have a backup in case I can’t find some. So I even plan for failure. But I swear it’s all worth it in the end. On the last 5 planned cache runs, we had a success rate of roughly 78% while the majority of runs we did by the seat of our pants was closer to 50%, give or take. We used to be pretty bad about logging of DNFs (Did Not Finds to the uninitiated) but I have come to realize that it’s helpful to log those….not just as a reminder that I’ve tried and failed a cache and should skip if I wish to avoid frustration, but also to let others know that something MAY not be on the up and up with this cache. Who knows…maybe it was muggled.