I’ve done a bit of geocaching lately on what are normally considered easier caches. These are caches rated somewhere between 1/1 and 2/2. I’ve noticed on these kinds of caches that many cache owners don’t feel a hint is needed. I don’t know if that is every the case. The most frequent argument I’ve heard for not giving a hint is that the CO doesn’t want to make it easy to find. From where I stand that is not the point of the hint or the rating system.
I always rate my caches based on how hard it is to find the cache without the hint. I add hints so that the searcher can determine if they are in the right location. My hints aren’t meant so that someone looking for the cache can get a sense of whether or not they are looking in the right location.
The other day while out caching I zeroed out in the middle of a bridge. I wasn’t entirely sure which side of the bridge the cache was under but I was sure it was under it. I picked the side that looked the most suitable and under I went. At this point I’m under an iron bridge so I’m not confident in my GPSr. After some searching in the obvious spots I had an idea of where it might be. I had to cross some water and stand on some old pilings. Before doing that I thought I should check the logs and the hint to make sure the extra effort was warranted. The clue said “The cache is there, the eyes have it”. This wasn’t a dead giveaway but I deduced that I should make the trip out to the pilings and have a look at the I-beam. After a little searching the cache was in hand. For me this was a helpful clue.
I contrast that with a cache a few weeks ago. This was a 2/4 cache that was through a ditch from an old railway line. It was kind of steep but not that bad. The cache was on a power trail of over 30 2/2 caches by the same owner. I spent 15 mins looking before checking out the hint, wait, there was no hint. I had briefly chatted with another cacher on the trail 15 mins early who had just DNF’d this cache. After 15 min and no hint I decided not to waste anymore time on this cache and started making my way home. After writing my logs I got a message from the owner. She said I have to climb the tree to find the cache. Is it just me or would it make sense to provide a clue along the lines of “look up”?
Here are the kinds of things I think a hint should be used for:
- A nudge, something that gets your mind to think in a different direction.
- Disambiguation, ”hanging in a tree” is not helpful when you are in a forest.
- Correcting for GPS wonkiness. If you know the GPSr is going to bounce around then provide someway to help the cacher get their bearings.
Like many cachers I like to look for geocaches when I travel. There is nothing more frustrating than knowing you are only going to be somewhere once and you can’t find that cache. The DNF will haunt you for a while. I encourage you to provide helpful hints so that travelers to your cache do not leave disappointed.