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One Paddle Short
WGA Member

Joined: 2006-04-29
Posts: 325
Location: Central Wisconsin

PostPosted: Fri Jun 22, 2007 6:30 am Reply with quote Back to top

As long as were talking policy. I have a question for the reviewer in the house too. A while back I requested archive of a cache that I thought should be shut down in the interest of geocaching. It, in my opinion, seems to fall in a gray area.

The cache in question is located in/ or adjacent to a city park. There are some "no trespassing" signs that make it unclear if this is public or private land. The cache is located about 40-50 feet up an old pine tree. Now picture 40-50 feet- we’re talking three story building or so high. Many of the branches being climbed are dead, yet though the cache page suggests using safety equipment there are photos of several geocachers up that high with no equipment at all. The thrill of the hunt and coming upon this cache seems to entice them to take risks that they normally would not. When I came upon this cache, and having two friends who have fallen from tree stands at less than half this height (broken neck, compound leg fractures- ugly stuff), I thought the right thing to do was to request archive of the cache.

My thoughts are as follows: we have folks meeting with city officials trying to convince them that geocaching does not need to be policed on the city level. Would the folks meeting with these city officials like to discuss this cache? If someone falls while geocaching in a city park and is killed (I don’t think I’m exaggerating that someone could die falling from this height) would that help the cause?

I have been watching this cache and now even the cache owner is questioning whether or not he/she should archive this cache for safety reasons. But I am the only person who has even suggested that this cache is unreasonably risky. I can’t understand that. There have been some experienced geocachers who have come after me who just climbed up there.

I can understand that some geocaches may be placed in an area where there is risk and that you would be responsible for that risk. You need a boat to reach some caches. You may need climbing equipment in an area that has steep terrain. The difference here is the cache was placed that high just to make it dangerous. There was no need to make it dangerous- there are plenty of places to hide caches in this park (in fact there are 10 others in the same park). There were even plenty of lower areas if they wanted folks to climb a little. There is no dangerous terrain anywhere in this park- it has been created. If it’s on city land I’m sure no city official has/ or would give permission. If it’s on private land I’m sure they, nor their insurance company, are interested in having folks hanging that high in their trees. If someone falls nobody is going to able to explain how this was reasonable risk.

Just to give you an idea. The little circle below represents a geocacher with no safety equipment retrieving this cache. This is posted on the cache page itself.


I realize the cache owner was just trying to come up with a new and exciting way to hide a cache. They have correctly listed this as a 5 terrain and the cache page does suggest that equipment is necessary. They have set things up correctly. I'm not trying to bring this up to put them on the spot but as they have asked for opinions themselves this seems to be a good time to ask the question- the question being what is reasonable risk? Was I right in requesting an archive here- or should I have just turned and walked away? I did it to try to help geocaching. It doesn’t help me. In the future I can just turn around and walk away too…

Thanks in advance for other opinions.

If you would like to share your opinion with the cache owner they have requested opinions on the cache page itself:

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WGA Member

Joined: 2005-07-24
Posts: 639
Location: New glarus, WI

PostPosted: Fri Jun 22, 2007 8:35 am Reply with quote Back to top

one paddle short,

That's just crazy! Pines are one of the worst trees to climb, their limbs can be very large and still just snap off right at the tree without warning. This is going to damage the tree, there is no way around that. I personally think that if the cache hide is guaranteed going to damage the area it shouldn't be approved, and that's not even getting into the personal injury aspects of it.

There is no reason that cache is located so far up the tree, 8-10ft would have been enough to consider it a unique hide.
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WGA Member

Joined: 2002-08-26
Posts: 218
Location: Madison, WI, USA

PostPosted: Fri Jun 22, 2007 1:42 pm Reply with quote Back to top

One Paddle Short,

I completely respect your point of view with this but I disagree with it.

I think if a cacher is unconfortable doing a cache they should just -not- do it. The cache owner is not hiding the fact that the cache is up a tree. They even have a mark to indicate which tree it is up.

I'm a hunter and I climb trees to get in stands and I have been in a stand that has collapsed. Climbing anything has risks and you -don't- have to do it. There are some cachers that would like caches/hides like this.

Just because there are caches that someone personally thinks is too dangerous doesn't mean it should be archived for everyone. There are caches underwater and I'm sure there are people that are afraid of water/swimming and think those caches are dangerous due to drowning concerns. Should those caches be archived as well? When do we draw the line?

As for the type of tree and the damage that could be done to it, I agree that is a concern. I have been in many pines that are very sturdy as well as not so sturdy it's hard to say what that tree's condition is through a picture or two. If this was on public land I'd be concerned that the tree will get damaged and require replacement at some point costing tax payers money.

That's just my opinion on it as I'm seeing it,

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WGA Member

Joined: 2003-11-01
Posts: 1682
Location: Manitowoc, WI

PostPosted: Fri Jun 22, 2007 3:48 pm Reply with quote Back to top

I have to side with cacheseekers on this one, too.

If you don't like it; don't hunt it. But also, don't take the added step of becoming the geocaching police or asking our reviewers to do that as well. The nice thing about our sport is that we are self-policing but not self-regulating. If we were to create rules or standards that would fit the "community" view on every geocache placed, we would have a huge non-variety of blaze-orange Warning-labeled and clearly marked "geocaches" for us to find.

However, we all have an option to just plain old not hunt the ones we don't like. We also have the right to complain about the ones we don't like. We even have the right to email the owners with our concerns and post questions about these caches in public forums. You even have the right to stand in front of the questionable geocache and picket each and every
geocacher that comes to find it, handing them colorful literature decrying the very dangers you suspect are inherent in the aforementioned geocache. However, I do not believe you have a right to stop these geocaches from being placed by over-regulating our activity.

To speak to your point about city property and permissions and working with local governments, you make many very valid arguments. But the responsibility goes right back to the cache hider. They have the responsibility to gain "adequate permission" to hide and maintain the geocache. They also have a responsibility to rate the geocache properly, which it appears has been done.

Could this geocache end up having a negative impact on geocaching? Yes. Then, if you as a geocacher feel strongly enough; please mentor the cache hider to reconsider the hide. This is a matter best left between geocachers, and not given over to more regulation of the activity.

We need to preserve the right to place and hunt geocaches of ALL types. But, just because you have the right to do something; doesn't always mean its the right thing to do.

PS I split this thread off of the original to keep the topics separate.

- Jeff
Team GeoPink 
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Wis Kid
WGA Friend

Joined: 2007-05-04
Posts: 16

PostPosted: Fri Jun 22, 2007 5:05 pm Reply with quote Back to top

I think there is room for lots of different geocaching experiences out there. In our state, we have underwater caches, island caches, "hanging off the edge of a footbridge over a river like an insane monkey" caches, and yes, tree climbing caches. All of these have some element of danger in seeking them.

It sounds like the cache owner did a good job of making it clear that climbing was required and used the proper terrain/difficulty. If the tree is not appropriate for climbing, as would be demonstrated by lots of broken branches, you should first try to contact the owner to persuade him to move the cache to a different tree. If he isn't responsive, send me an email. If he responds that he has checked out the tree and feels that it is still appropriate, well, the cache doesn't violate any guidelines, so there isn't much we can do about it. Nearly everyone I have met during geocaching has been friendly and willing to listen, and most have been reasonable. Give them a chance to respond. I think you will be surprised.

Note: If the cache is indeed on private property, that is different and unrelated to the danger aspect. The county plat books and GIS systems can help you make this determination.
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WGA Historian

Joined: 2002-02-19
Posts: 2461
Location: Mequon, WI US

PostPosted: Fri Jun 22, 2007 7:33 pm Reply with quote Back to top

I agree with those who would let this one remain. I have done a couple of tree-climbing geocaches and they're among my favorites. I recognize that I'm not a "normal" geocacher. I like to climb trees; always have since I was kid. That's also why I'm a rock climber today. Most people don't do these things. Some do.
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WGA Member

Joined: 2005-06-07
Posts: 3190
Location: Lake country area, WI

PostPosted: Fri Jun 22, 2007 8:10 pm Reply with quote Back to top

I too have been known to climb a bluff or two both with and without gear and many many trees as a kid. For kicks I would cross from treetop to treetop to see how many trees I could cross without touching the ground (16ish was my best). Anyway....that's neither here nor there.

I think people need to be protected from themselves. While this is an awesome cache and one I may even be tempted to do, I think I'd be way better off if the temptation was not there in the first place.

When it comes down to it I'm a big fan of letting people do as they wish so long as they are not hurting anyone. But the question I ask is this, "Could I in good conscience place a cache like that?" No I couldn't, if someone were to get injured I would never forgive myself.
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WGA Member

Joined: 2006-01-30
Posts: 5559
Location: Eau Claire

PostPosted: Fri Jun 22, 2007 9:21 pm Reply with quote Back to top


I am familiar with the cache OPS is referencing here, and appreciate where he is coming from. While I am of the live & let live philosophy, it is a bit concerning that the tree is quite high, and is an urban area where climbers would be seen by folks in the area. I think what he is getting at, is the black eye geocaching would get as a sport if a serious injury would result from an attempt to retrieve.

On the plus side, the tree has few branchs down low to even attempt a climb without special equipment or special skills, so it seems unlikely that it will be tried by anyone without either (or both), which decreases the potential risk.


Keep On Cachin In The Free World.

All posts are the opinions of the poster and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the WGA Board of Directors. 
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WGA Member

Joined: 2003-05-20
Posts: 1037
Location: Colfax, WI

PostPosted: Fri Jun 22, 2007 11:21 pm Reply with quote Back to top

Let's assume a cache was placed, on the ground, completely surrounded by an environmentally sensitive area. The cache owner rated it as a 5 since they expected you to suspend a rope and swing across the sensitive area to get to the cache without damaging the area. However, it is very easy to get to the cache by simply walking through the sensitive area and, probably, seriously damaging that area. Is this good placement?

A cache is placed in a tree and could be reached through the proper use of ropes - perhaps never even stepping on the branches of the tree. But, if most retrievers use the tree limbs and the tree is seriously damaged in the process, is this good placement?

I have never been to the cache in question. I do not know if this tree can withstand the affects of geocachers. I'm just offering a different viewpoint. Just because the cache owner set the D/T rating to how they preferred the finders retrieve the cache doesn't mean that is how it will happen, especially if alternatives appear easier.
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One Paddle Short
WGA Member

Joined: 2006-04-29
Posts: 325
Location: Central Wisconsin

PostPosted: Sun Jun 24, 2007 8:04 am Reply with quote Back to top

Thank you for all your opinions. This was my first (and last) request to archive. I really thought I was being helpful here but clearly some think I’m simply causing trouble.

I understand the “just don’t hunt it” philosophy and I did just that. I also understand the “cache owner is responsible for permission” philosophy. However, clearly there can/ and are caches being placed by and searched out by minors. I felt that as an adult participating in the activity that I have some responsibility to report what I felt could be considered an attractive nuisance.

There is no clear information on when to use a request to archive and I thought I was using it properly. Clearly, in the opinion of the reviewers and WGA VP I did not. When my request didn’t generate any response I didn’t understand why. Now that I understand that a dangerous cache, even if I consider it an unreasonably dangerous cache, is not a reason to request an archive I will no longer do so. I would think that others found this thread informative too so perhaps some good will come of it in that way.

While I doubt anybody will choose to use Jeff’s suggestion of to “stand in front of the questionable geocache and picket each and every geocacher that comes to find it” I would think that any parent finding that their child had searched out a cache of this nature, even if there was no injury, would call the park department in question to ask why they allowed permission. And then the position of protecting all cache hides could very well result in the loss of them all.
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WGA Member

Joined: 2007-03-30
Posts: 457
Location: Green Bay WI

PostPosted: Sun Jun 24, 2007 9:40 am Reply with quote Back to top

Having just spent time defending geocaching in front of the parks committee of Brown County, I sure am glad that there was not a cache like this one in one of the county parks that I had to explain to them. Also having just proven to myself just how easy it is to break bones falling from a mere 4 feet, I literally shuddered when I saw the picture of this cache. Shocked Maybe that's just me though.

Me? I\'m almost perfect. 
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WGA Member

Joined: 2007-04-15
Posts: 29

PostPosted: Mon Jun 25, 2007 4:21 pm Reply with quote Back to top

There is a similar cache in my area. It is hard to tell if proper precautions are listed because the text is written in German. It does say something about "if you don't like heights...." when you translate it. When I tried it I didn't know how high it was and if my knees could make the trip down so I only climbed about 10 feet before I gave up. Knowing how high it was would have been good but the owner was nice to answer my email and tell me. It does have a terrain and difficulty of 4 so we are warned. I think the cache shouldn't be there because of possible tree damage but I haven't said so because the owner got permission to put it there and so it's none of my business. There are caches I might like to do but will never because of my limitations. That's life.
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Jay Mills
WGA Member

Joined: 2007-02-05
Posts: 85

PostPosted: Mon Jun 25, 2007 6:15 pm Reply with quote Back to top

There is a 5-star terrain cache somewhere in SE wisconsin that is underwater near an old dam. Forgive me for not citing the cache I could not locate it for reference. It states on that cache page (and I am paraphrasing) that scuba gear is required, not to dive alone, and that it is a dangerous area due to rebar and other underwater hazards of some sort. Now along comes a yahoo that thumbs his nose at the warnings and decides he can do this cache alone with his mediocre "snorkelling" equipment or no equipment and gets into trouble.

Now we have a tree with a 5-star terrain cache high up in it. The owner states plainly that is is dangerous and states that climbing gear should be used. He also states very clearly not once but twice not to attempt this cache alone and to bring someone along. Again the same yahoo comes along, thumbs his nose at the warnings and decides to attempt this cache alone without any climbing gear and gets himself into trouble.

What do these two caches have in "common"?

It shouldn't need to be stated but it's "common sense". Let's heed the warnings, they are there for a reason. Possibly of more importance is to know our personal limitations before attempting a cache to avoid a serious or life threatening injury. The time to think is before the attempt not during or after when we might find ourselves past the point of no return so to speak..

I won't address the environmental impact of the tree climbing and leave that for another thread as that isn't the thrust of the OP which was a safety concern.

Also mentioned was the concern for kids climbing. While a legitimate concern I would have to ask: Where is the parental guidance? Like any "potentially" hazardous activity such as boating, hunting, trekking, geocaching, etc it is the parents responsibility to mentor their children in the do's and dont's of the activity and teach/help them to discover their personal limitations along the way. We can teach alot by example. Again just common sense.

Let's think before we attempt that next difficult cache and be personally honest about our abilities to complete it safely. A serious or life threatening injury just isn't worth the smiley we get for the "Found It".

For the record I would leave the cache in question stand as it is. The owner has been responsible and up front about the hazards and warnings. I will add though that if it was my cache I might have made it a members only cache to weed out over enthusiastic new folks who could get in over their heads quickly; and to reduce the physical impact in the area.

Cache on and cache safe.
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WGA Member

Joined: 2006-07-31
Posts: 2529
Location: Weston, WI

PostPosted: Sat Jun 30, 2007 8:08 pm Reply with quote Back to top

I have also been to this cache site and found it too demanding and certainly a safety hazard. When a person kayaks or canoes.. you can wear a safety vest and go in weather that will not create huge waves to make it dangerous. However, with this cache... cachers are dependant on the health of the tree and safety harnesses would need to be reattached every so often because of all of the branches.

It is not always possible to keep young kids away from temptations. There is a thing called peer pressure which for teenagers is huge and I am sure no one would want anyone hurt from a fall from this tree. If something should happen it would be all over the news and many parks WOULD shut down caching in their area. No one wants bad press or liabilities to worry about. It is with this concern that I hope the cache owner will reconsider before it is too late.
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