Caching Through the Snow…A Winter Cache Primer

How do geocachers fill the hundred and forty-odd days between Halloween and Spring Break?  The dreary season when the sun is shining on the southern hemisphere, and the government no longer requires daylight be saved?

In Colorado, where I live, winter creates new challenges.  Roads become impassable and daylight hours are short to nonexistent in the steep, narrow canyons where we spend so much time in the summer.  In this post I discuss a number of strategies that can get you through the lean winter caching season.

Southern Comfort:  Go south! Not only is it warmer and usually snow-free, but its really the best season for geocaching down in Dixie.

Take, for instance, a series of caches named “The Road to Insanity,” on the wild, watery edge of the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex.  This particular series is strung out on a narrow, swampy isthmus between the Trinity River and a reservoir, with no unobstructed land or river routes.  Hazards include gators, water moccasins, poison ivy, thorns, stinging nettles, snapping turtles and wild pigs.  Most of these threats are greatly diminished over the winter months.  This series is generally completed between the months of November and March.

In Virginia, where I visit on a frequent basis, I can attest that “off the beaten path” caches are much easier – and safer – in the winter, because it eliminates the need to strip search yourself for tiny deer ticks minutes after leaving the woods.  Not to mention the poison ivy is dead and underbrush thins out, making anything near the forest floor much easier to find.  So, if you’ve been thinking about a caching swing through the southern states, winter is the time to do it!

The Wulff Pack (and friends) at Wolf Creek after a Successful Search

The Wulff Pack (and friends) at Wolf Creek after a Successful Hunt

Find Your Powder Cache:  Winter in Colorado has its charms, most notably the 21 downhill ski areas currently operating in the state.  Just don’t forget your GPS when you visit your favorite mountain.   Ski-O-Caches combine the technical skill of all-mountain skiing with the sleuthing skills needed for geocaching.  Most are “danglers,” bison tubes hanging from evergreen branches, which I think are tough to find under any conditions.  Throw in the complication of variable snow depth and you must conjure up your geosenses, stamina and possibly even your survival skills, to prevail.

Most ski areas have at least one cache, and many have dozens.  If you are a beginner, the Steamboat Springs caches (most placed by prolific cacher Egroeg) will whet your appetite.  If you crave pain, try some of Chefstern’s caches at The Jane.  You might have to come back several times over the season to clear all the caches at your favorite resort (ones that are buried in February might emerge in April), but you’ll have a blast trying!

Urban Caches:  Winter is a great time to tackle urban caches.  Yes, it does take a different set of skills.  Bouncing GPS signals and downtown crowds can be a bit intimidating.  But I’ll let you in on a little secret:  the bigger the crowd, the more invisible you are.   You can be as obvious as you want, searching for magnetic nanos on Denver’s busy 16th Street Mall at 8AM.  People on their way to work will rush right past, vendi lattes in one hand and computer bags in the other, and will never see you.  Come back at noon and even your most flagrant search tactics will blend right in with the strange behaviors of the daytime Mall denizens.

Of course, you still must be careful around government buildings and points of interest, such as the State Capitol.  But hey, we have a cache for that!  Multi-caches, puzzles and earthcaches abound in the Civic Center.  All of these types are well-adapted to “sensitive” areas and lend themselves to unique travel and sight-seeing experiences.  See my earlier post on caching in Denver’s Civic Center, that chronicles the Wulff Pack’s caching exploits on December 31 of last year.

Planning by the Fire:  So throw a log on the fire and let it snow!  When all else fails, you can huddle in a cozy room and plan out the coming year’s caching adventures, dream up a brand-new cache series or create a killer camo-cache containers, the likes of which have never been seen before.  The adventure never ends.