Homer's Travels: Potrero John Creek Trail vs. The Geocaches

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Potrero John Creek Trail vs. The Geocaches

Looking at my blog stats, posts about California hikes have gotten the most hits.  In particular, the post about the Potrero John Creek hike has been one of the most popular ones.

The Potrero John Creek hike is one of my favorites.  I'm not sure if it was about the trail or about the mindset I was in when I did it but it made me feel good.  Looking back, witnessing what has happened, I am not sure I would have written about it.

When I did this hike back in 2007 there were no geocaches on the trail.  Six months after I posted about the trail, a rather active geocacher, chaosmanor, commented that there were now 12 caches on the trail.  As of this post there are 17 caches, 18 if you include the one multi-cache's second stage.  While I am a geocacher myself, I wonder if having this many caches on a 2.75 mile trail is a good thing.

While geocaching, after getting close to the coordinates, it is often easy to follow what I call the geocacher tracks.  Over time as more and more geocachers hunt for a cache they trample the plants around the coordinates.  Since not all of the geocachers are coming from the same direction, there are usually multiple trample paths.  There are times I can follow the geocacher tracks right to the cache.  If the area where the cache is hidden is particularly beautiful, the trampled plant life and the dirt trail blazed by the geocachers often diminishes the experience of nature.  Not all geocaches are that destructive but, as the geocaching community has grown, so has the percentage of inconsiderate searchers.

And it's not just one trail.  Just look at this Map to see how cache happy the area has become.  Each little icon is a geocache.  The trail ending just to the right of center on the top of the map is Potrero John.  In less than 81 square miles there are almost 350 geocaches.

So, when I see that there are 17 geocaches on the trail, I wonder how much destruction has occurred?  How much has been taken away from the experience?  More importantly, how much damage is a direct result of my post?

My blog friend, GeekHiker, has posted about a hike that he calls his 'Secret Spot'.  He hasn't posted where it's at and, now that I have thought about the Potrero John Creek trail, I think that was a wise decision.  I wish I'd thought of that.

I have not gone back there since the geocaches have been hid.  Maybe my worst fears are exaggerated and everything is just peachy.  Or maybe not.  I console myself with the fact that there are many responsible geocachers who have, like me, discovered this once hidden treasure and have come away feeling happy.


  1. Like you go out into nature to see where all the dumbasses you are trying to avoid have trampled all over the place. People are stupid sometimes.

    I probably will never go to your favorite spot, since it sounds very nature-y. Now if your favorite spot was a Target...

  2. I wonder, as the hobby has continued to grow, has there been any talk amongst geocachers about putting limits on caches? Like no more than 2 caches per mile of trail? I don't know that it's practical or enforceable, but like most hobbies, with any controls or guidelines, it's simply too easy for it to spin out of control.

    Thanks for the comment about the Secret Spot. I decided years ago that out of all the trails I shared with others, I'd keep one just for me. Of course, it's a public park, so that's not really true, but at least in my mind it's all mine. Hopefully you'll find a spot like that for yourself. :)

  3. Miss McC: Yes they are. Sadly, you are right.

    Yes, it is a little nature-y and not as crowded as Target.

    GH: Geocaching already has some strict rules. Caches have to be at least a tenth of a mile apart (Too small in my opinion) and all cache placement must be okayed by geocaching volunteers.

    The old time geocachers used to be careful with their placement and would do it thoughtfully. As the geocaching community has grown, the thoughtfulness has been overtaken by the numbers-game people who just want to "log them all" and really don't care about the actual location or what they are doing to it.