The skill levels of Geocaching

or steps to becoming a Complete Geocacher.

This is just for fun so don't take it to heart.

So you start out not knowing a thing. You are a Muggle.

Then you hear about Geocaching and you think it is strange. Your sister / neighbor / co-worker / someone takes you on your first geocaching expedition. As you experience it, the little light comes on and a seed is planted. At this point you are an Ex-Muggle. If you have not reached this point your self, you really should stop reading this right now.

You beg, borrow or purchase your 1st GPS. You start to read the manual and wonder if it can possibly be worth it. Things get complicated fast.

Out the door with your GPS and paper copies from the geocaching web site for a local hide. DNF, you go home disappointed. Later you learn what a 5/5 means.

The next day, out the door with your GPS and paper copies from the web site for a local 1/1 hide. You find it! Hey, this is FUN. You are HOOKED! You make a note in the log and replace the cache. Walking away you realize you forgot to SIGN the log. Go back, sign it and walk to the car. Where is your car? Where is your GPS? Back to the cache, pick up your GPS, and vow to always mark a waypoint so you can find your car. At home you log your find on the web site. Congratulations, you are now an Apprentice Geocacher.

You tell every Tom Dick and Muggle about Geocaching and get lots of blank stares. That doesn't matter, you do MORE. Your spouse (or parents) wonders if you have lost it, but as long as you are not out carousing with your hoodlum chums from school, it might be OK.

Another Geocacher finds you in the woods. You are embarrassed that you have been discovered in a patch of Poison Ivy, but then you exchange stories about your first find. During the discussion the other cacher lets slip that he actually downloads coordinates straight into his GPS. It had not dawned on you that there might be a better way than simply reading the numbers on your GPS and walking until they match your paper. Back home you start to order a cable but discover your GPS has no connector.

You buy your 2nd GPS. This one comes with a WIRE for your PC. You get home and find out the plug on the wire doesn't match anything on your PC. You buy a new PC (with USB) to replace the one you have been using for years. It needed to be replaced anyway. Your friends tell you how silly you are to spend so much money to go find plastic McToys in the woods.

You load your GPS with 60 caches and head out. Three days later you have found 5 of them and declare the wired GPS a complete success. After all, one of your new finds was your fist ever FTF. You'll get to the other caches next week. Life doesn't get any better. I think this makes you a Journeyman Geocacher.

Several months later you are headed out on another Geocaching expedition. You are contemplating hiring a team of accountants to manage your many volumes of cache pages you carry. All that paper you have been carrying has out of date "find logs" anyway. You borrow a laptop but find it to heavy after a half mile hike.

You have decided to go Paperless but you don't know how. You hear a halleluiah chorus as you promises to never kill another defenseless tree. You shop. You inquire. You Google terms, reviews and specs. Should you get a Pocket PC or a Palm? What about one of those fancy BlueBerries, or was it a Razzberry? Maybe an iPhone? iGuess not; not at THAT price. No WIRES anyway. As you reach a decision, the salesman asks: What software do you want with that (like: Do you want fries with that?). So, back to Google, specs and reviews.

(My apologies to the manufactures listed in the paragraph below, I just couldn't pass this up.) There is Cache Magnet (might be an LPC), Cachemate and Cetus where each one might setus back. EasyGPS and ExpertGPS seem the same but GeoBuddy and GeoCalc are completely different. GPSBabel leaves you lost for words. GPX2HTML and GPXView look like all the web sites you've been staring at. Then you almost buy GSAK but you don't like army surplus. You get eye sore at iSilo, pucker up at Plucker and find SmartGPX is no smarter. You set your radar on Sonar, give Spinner a spin and watch Watcher a while. Wow! You started this game as a simple amusement?

You decide on software and download it. A week goes by as you try to figure out zipping and unzipping. It sounds so simple, like tying your Velcro shoes. That week is not a loss, you have been teaching yourself how to use your new toy (the PDA). And you've been saving Waypoint files for all caches within miles. You find a neighborhood teenager to help you un-zip the download. They ask, what the difference is between a .loc and a .gpx but you don't know. It all starts to work. You've got easy coordinate downloads straight into your GPS. You've got tons of data ready to go into you PDA. The software opens on your PDA and you load in the coordinate files. Wait, why are they all blank?

After countless emails you lean that all the files you saved are .loc files (LOCation Waypoint), not the .gpx files (GPX eXchange File) that have the extra data like description and hints. Then someone asks you about Pocket Queries. You find out that you can, using Pocket Queries, get a hundred caches in ONE .gpx file. For PQ's you need a premium membership. Well, that is a small price to pay compared to all the hardware you have bought. Such is the Geocache learning curve.

You are now paperless. I think this makes you a Master Geocacher. I hope so anyway. This is where I am right now. :-) Paperless DOES make things less messy. Save a tree.

I am not sure what makes you a Grandmaster Geocacher. I suppose it would be a high number of finds, maybe of hides too. You can make up your own number, I refuse to be confined by that trap. Some people would argue that it is the quality, not quantity that is important. A Grandmaster would probably have national or international recognition like Dave Ulmer or Jeremy Irish. Maybe Charter Members of Ground Speak with screen names like TeamAlamo and CCCooperAgency.

So what is the next level? I don't think anyone is there yet. In my fantasy it would include a secretary, a cruse director and maybe the title of dictator or King. Till then, I'm going to keep on caching!


For personal use, I grant you free use of these words and use of the idea. Just give me credit. The copyright still applies for commercial or non-personal use.