Many geocachers enjoy the sport because it takes them to interesting locations. Many enjoy it for the challenge. Many enjoy what they my learn along the way. There are a variety of geocaches that can help do that. EARTHCACHES are one of them.
An Earthcache is a special type of cache. It forbids the placement of a geocache. So how do they work? An Earthcache is built to highlight a geological feature of the Earth, and teach you about it. For example, an Earthcache could be built about Old Faithful, requiring you to learn something about how Old Faithful works.
But there’s an added twist. Earthcaches usually require you to do something at the site. If at Old Faithful, you might time how long Old Faithful lasts and use that to predict the next time it will go off or how much water it shoots out. It’s that extra step that turns just visiting a sight into an interesting learning experience.
Some don’t like Earthcaches because there isn’t something to actually find. Personally, I think the site is as valuable a find as the cache itself, if not more valuable. You are seeing an aspect of how our Earth was formed. I also enjoy the science lab-like atmosphere (probably because I’m a science teacher) that develops from having to take measurements and/or make estimates about the site.
Earthcaches are not governed by GROUNDSPEAK, the parent company that runs Geocaching. They are actually managed by THE GEOLOGICAL SOCIETY OF AMERICA, or GSA. The Geological Society was first developed in 1888 with the goal of advancing the geosciences. It is one of the major geological organizations in the United States, next to the THE UNITED STATES GEOLOGICAL SOCIETY.
The GSA has developed a rigorous submission process that requires their approval before the actual Earthcache is published on the geocaching site. This is done to ensure that the information is accurate, of educational value, and that there are acceptable logging requirements.
There is also an Earthcache Masters program. This program is designed to recognize achievement in both finding and hiding Earthcache. I am currently a Bronze Master, meaning I have completed three or more Earthcaches in two or more states. There are three other levels, Silver, Gold, & Platinum. It is the Silver level that brought me to today.
Today, I met with the park manager at a local park to talk to him about placing an Earthcache in his park. He whole heartedly gave me permission and even helped me go through some records to get some old photographs of the site to help me out, and answered some questions about the local area. It was really interesting as the area has a rich history that includes visits by PRESIDENT HARRY S. TRUMAN and famous pilot CHARLES LINDBERGH, alongside being an important stop during the period of Westward Expansion. Oh, and I needed to meet with him for the permission because Earthcaches require permission, and a name & phone number, of the land manager.
After getting home, I had lunch and then began working on building the Earthcache. It took me a few hours to process some photos, then write up and design the cache page. The process takes a bit longer because to have the best chance of getting your Earthcache submitted, you need to make sure the information is as accurate as possible. Finally, after all that work, I was able to hit the submit button.
The e-mail I received after this stated that the average turn around time is up to 10 days. I’ve seen them go in half that time, and I’ve heard of them taking longer if the initial submission isn’t up to par. I hope that my science background helped me prepare an adequate cache page. Recently, I saw something on the Earthcache site that indicated it might take up to three weeks due to backlog. And theirs a reason for the backlog.
Remember how I said I was aiming for the Silver Master level? When you reach a Master level, you are sent a pin, a small certificate, and a sticker (OMG…I got a sticker! WOO-HOO! I’M RICH!). Recently, the Earthcache site announced that it was stopping the service for the Bronze and Silver levels on August 1st, 2009. This means that after that date, the only awards they will be shipping out are for Gold and Platinum levels.
What does it take to make Silver? You have to find six or more Earthcaches in three or more states. I’ve done eleven Earthcaches in seven states (Wyoming, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Iowa, Missouri, & Illinois). Then, you have to place one Earthcache. Today’s submission will be my first, and if approved before August 1st, I can submit for my Silver Master level.
And what did I do mine about? Mine is about a waterfall. If approved, I’ll provide more details then, along with the GC code.
Sorry I didn’t hold up to posting about bad containers. I’m polling some geocaching friends for their suggestions and will post about that soon.
Oh yeah, my streak:
Total days in a row cached – 48 days
Total caches during streak – 264 caches