Well, December is here and that means geocachers around Ontario are soon to be following geotrails in the snow, possibly with something new from under the Christmas tree. The Organized Group Hunt event cache experiment continues, and I encourage you to host or join in on one of these opportunities before the experiment closes at the end of the month.
While you are out hiking or snowshoeing the trails this winter, take time to appreciate the natural wonders you enjoy, often due to volunteers who build and maintain these trails.
Geocaching is an activity that can lead people on wonderful adventures both urban and wild. Many highly rated geocaches are located along Ontario’s fantastic outdoor trail systems, including The Bruce Trail, The Oak Ridges Trail, The Ganaraska Trail and countless others. These trails are often laid out to follow some geographical interest and are maintained by volunteers. They may cross sensitive ecological or historical places, on both public and private land.
When you place a geocache, and list it on geocaching.com, one of those little check boxes you tick is that you have adequate permission to place the geocache where you did. We tend to assume that places like parks and trails are OK because you have permission to be there for other activities, like hiking. This is not always the case.
Where possible, you really should get explicit permission from the land owner, preferably in writing, as occasionally the manager changes. In the case of land along a hiking trail, this is not necessarily the trail organization, but the owner of the land itself – as they have the final say what happens on their land. Keep in mind that sometimes the trail organization does, in fact, purchase the land and have the final authority over it.
We tend to see geocaching as an activity for outdoor enthusiasts to reconnect with nature. You can help the landowners see us the same way by keeping your cache placements as close to the trail as possible. Many trails traverse sensitive ecosystems and the route is carefully chosen to minimize damage from a wayward foot fall. Geocachers wandering hundreds of meters from the established trail can lead to environmental damage – a crushed plant, a dead salamander or perhaps the deposit of a harmful pest that hitchhiked on your boot. The worst case scenario isn’t that a cache is archived, it’s that the land owner retracts permission for the public to be there.
Make sure, whenever you geocache, you do it in a way that would be seen in a positive light by the people who manage the land you are on. Stay on the trails, place on the trails, and practice CITO to leave the trail cleaner than you found it.