Right off the bat, I want to be clear about one thing, geocaching is fun and free. It doesn’t cost you anything apart from a few trinkets to replace the swag you take from the container. We’re talking about fun in the sun with just you and Mother Nature in a totally intimate experience.
Geocaching in the woods is a unique adventure that everyone should indulge in. If you have woods near you, then you’re in luck. Chances are, these woods are full of geocaches since trees offer seclusion. Geocaching in the woods is one of the best pastimes you can enjoy.
With that out of the way, let’s get down to the nitty-gritty details. Like how you’d get started, what you need to go geocaching in the woods, what to look out for, and how to follow etiquette to keep the experience fun and pleasant for everyone involved. This guide will get you on your feet and out the door in no time.
Prevent Your Eyes from Being Hurt by Tree Branches
Unlike other locales and settings, hunting for a geocache in the woods requires you to be on your toes. It’s not there are wild animals to be wary of (geocaches need to be in safe locations that don’t put the lives of the geocachers). There are however other dangers that come in your way.
One of those is the tree branches. As you stare endlessly at your screen trying to stay on track as you get closer to the geocache, you might walk right into tree branches. You need to watch out for those suckers since they can knock you off your feet or smack you right in the eye.
You can avoid this problem with a baseball hat and protective glasses. The bill of the cap protects your face from falling leaves and branches. The glasses prevent the nasty branches and sharp-edged leaves from getting into your eyes. But just in case dust or pollen make their way into your eyes you should always have eye drops in your first aid kit that you keep on you at all times.
How to Tell the Direction in the Woods
Even though you have a GPS navigation device in your hands, the woods can be tricky and lead you stray. With nothing but trees all around you, it’s not easy to know which direction is north or how to make your way out of it.
Of course, once you know one direction, you can deduct the rest. If you stand and face the north, then east is on your right, west on your left and south is right behind you. The following tips will get you out of the woods in no time:
- Spider Webs: Spiders are smart. They always set their traps on the southern side of the trees. If you stand and face a spider web, you know the south is right in front of you.
- Moss: Moss, on the other hand, tends to grow on the northern side of the tree trunk. It’s avoiding the sun since UV rays are lethal. So look around you. If you spot moss, stand in front of the tree and keep the mossy side behind you. You’re now facing north.
- Sun Movement: Put a stick in the ground and mark the tip of its shadow in the ground. Wait for half an hour then mark the shadow again. Connect the dots with a line. That line follows an east-west direction. Now you can tell which way is north.
- Polaris: If you find yourself in the woods at night and you happen to be in the northern hemisphere, look up at the sky and pinpoint the brightest star. That’s Polaris or the north star. That’s your north then.
- Water: This trick requires you to be near a creek or a pond where birds or amphibians live. Note where they build their nests or lay their eggs. It’s usually on the west side of the body of water.
- Compass: Your compass should be on you every time you go out geocaching. Use it, that’s why you lug it around.
Observe the Surroundings to Determine the Direction
If fairy tales were part of your childhood and you grew up reading about Red Riding Hood and tales from the Brothers Grim, you’d know that the trouble starts with the heroine or hero once they lose their way in the woods. The big bad wolf is always watching and waiting for the innocent girl to make a mistake.
To avoid the same fate as many of those forgotten heroes, you need to take your nose out of the smartphone and keep track of your surroundings. It doesn’t help that you are surrounded by trees everywhere you look. So you need to keep an eye on other landmarks.
A mossy mound, a grassy knoll, or a stately and unusually large tree. These are easy to stand out and keep you on track. If you happen to see the same gnarly tree again, then you’re walking in circles and you need to recalibrate your GPS device.
Tips for Running in the Woods
Whether you’re walking or running, the woods are not the most friendly environment to find yourself in. This is especially true for novices who have no prior experience in geocaching. They find a location in the woods, they put on their shoes and they’re out the door without thinking twice about it. Huge mistake.
You should follow these tips when you’re starting a geocaching adventure in the woods.
- Find a trail and try to stick to it. Chances are the geocacher who hid the cache didn’t stray too far from the beaten track. Stay on the path and don’t stray until you’re at the closest point to the geocache.
- Don’t rush it and don’t run. A brisk walk will keep you on track without losing your bearings. If you’re short on time and fear you might not make it before sunset, you can take short strides.
- Mounds and hills are not your enemy. Be bold and don’t be afraid to climb the mound or the hill. For one thing, a hill gives you a better view of where you are.
- Chart the way ahead. This means you need to keep your eyes on the path more than on the screen. This will spare you the pain of falling or getting trapped.
- Rocks and roots are potential hazards. You can slip on a root or stumble into a rock and lose your footing.
- Don’t take unnecessary risks. Remember the one who hid the cache is human too. They couldn’t possibly have crossed that ravine or flown over that eerie looking pond. If you can’t do it, they couldn’t do it either.
Weather in the Woods
Nothing seems, looks, or feels the same in the woods. That’s the first thing you’ll notice once you leave the clearing behind and the trees close around you. Even the weather seems to change all of a sudden. It was sunny and refreshing outside, but among the trees, it’s perpetual shade and high humidity.
Depending on how dense the woods are, you might not notice the dark clouds overhead nor get an early warning about the thunderstorm on its way. So it pays to check the weather in your destination well in advance. You also need to bring in suitable clothes. The skies might not rain but that doesn’t mean that the trees won’t either.
Humidity is notoriously high among the trees and so is high temperature. If it’s wintertime, then you’re looking at chilly weather. Always be prepared for the unexpected as far as weather in the woods is concerned.
Safety Tips in the Woods
Safety should be your top concern. More than finding the cache, you should always care about being safe and getting out of the woods in one piece. Accidents do happen and to prevent them you should follow these tips:
- Know your limits. Don’t go overboard with your plans and if you meet a big hurdle that you can’t go round, call off your search.
- Dress for the occasion. Clothes are there to protect you from scratches and poisonous plants not to make you look good on social media.
- Watch the weather forecast.
- Keep an eye out for slippery roots and obstacles in your way.
- Don’t stay in the woods until it gets dark.
Equipment Required in the Woods
You’ll need a few extra pieces of equipment before you set foot in the woods. A compass and a GPS navigator are an absolute necessity. Your first aid kit needs to include scissors, tweezers, an antiseptic, a digital thermometer, antifungal and antibacterial creams, and lubricating eye drops among others.
You also need a pair of sturdy but comfortable shoes to protect your feet. Your clothes should reflect the weather in the woods. Nothing flashy, but practical clothes will go along way in keeping you safe from the plants and animals that pose a risk. Speaking of which.
Common Poisonous Animals in the Woods
The list of poisonous animals you might meet varies depending on your neck of the wood. If you happen to live in or decide to go geocaching in Australia, then you should know that everything you meet is designed to kill you. Don’t go geocaching in Australia, is all I’m saying.
Snakes and poisonous spiders are as ubiquitous as the trees in the woods. Not all snakes are dangerous though but are you willing to take that chance? If you see a snake, the safest thing to do is run the other way and try not to scream like a little girl.
Common Poisonous Plants in the Woods
Here’s a list of some plants that you might come across:
- Chinese Lanterns (Physalis alkekengi)
- Bittersweet Nightshade (Solanum dulcamara)
- Mountain Laurel (Kalmia latifolia)
- Foxglove (Digitalis)
- Castor Beans (Ricinus communis)
- Poison Sumac (Toxicodendron vernix)
- Poison Ivy (Toxicodendron radicans)
- Yew Shrubs (Taxus)
Now you may not find all of these plants or any of them in your wood, but you should always watch out which plants you come in contact with. Enjoy your geocaching and stay safe!