Thursday, February 21, 2013

Geocaching Safety

The View from the GZ (Ground Zero of the cache)

My heart is pumping.  I’m thrilled to be caching here…gazing at the mountains in the distance and listening to the roar of Yellowstone just a couple of hundred yards away.  I’m near the GZ of Electric Rock (GC1K5FJ) north of Yellowstone Park and there are wild buffalo, elk and bear in the area.  I’m quite aware of this and have taken the appropriate safety precautions.  Yep, got my bear bell on my walking stick, I’m making lots of noise as I walk and I’m approaching this huge rock with care…knowing that a buffalo could easily be hidden behind it. 
I was within fifteen feet of the GZ, but I wanted to make sure I was safe before I went for the find.  I decided I needed to peek over the truck-sized rock to see if there were any man-eating critters hiding behind it.  You know, just in case.  Just as I leaned over my tennis shoes lost their grip on the slippery rocks and I fell.  Hard!
As I lay there, gasping for breath, I had some extra time on my hands and thought it would be a good time to review the safety precautions published on and how well I had prepared.
Precaution #1:  Tell someone where you are going.  I had left our hotel room early in the morning leaving Mrs. M. sleeping peacefully.  I had not left a note as I planned only to be caching near the hotel.  As a bare minimum I should have left a note.  But even more so, this is an area where you shouldn’t cache alone.   Grade on this one: FAIL 
Precaution #2: Focus on your surroundings.  Yes, I was watching out for “lions, tigers and bears”, but I had paid no attention to the slippery rocks I was standing on.  Moreover, why was I wearing tennis shoes in this environment?   My hiking boots were in the car and I hadn’t taken the time to put them on.  Duh!  You need to be properly geared-up for your surroundings and you need to be aware of all the dangers.  Focus! Grade on this one:  FAIL

Precaution #3: Bring the right gear including extra water, batteries, etc.  I actually didn’t do too badly on this one.  My car was only a few hundred feet away and all the right stuff was in it, including a first-aid kit.  However, laying there on the rocks I could have used a drink of water.  Grade: Passed, but barely.

Precaution #4: Be mindful of where you are.  Be aware of local dangers such as poison plants or dangerous animals.  In my case, I was very aware of dangerous animals in the vicinity and I had brought my walking stick and bear bell for safety.  But really?  Would either of these have provided adequate protection had I encountered a buffalo or a grizzly bear.  I think not.  Grade: FAIL

Yes, laying there on the rocks I had plenty of time to reflect on my failure to take properly safety precautions.   I vowed to myself that I’d do better next time! 
About this time the shock of my hard fall was beginning to wear off and I was starting to feel another sensation.  Kind of prickly.  Made me think of an addendum to Precaution #4…something to do with plants….yes, plants, prickly….YEOW!!!!  I had fallen into a bed of cactus plants and my entire left side was covered with sharp, painful spines!  I jumped up and started using another piece of my geocaching gear…tweezers!

In the end, I got lucky.  I escaped with just bruises and “friendly” reminders from the cactus that I continued to pull out over the next four weeks.  But, it could have been much worse considering that I failed to follow so many safety precautions.  I’ve learned my lesson and I hope you will learn from my experience as well.  Geocaching is fun for everyone, but it can also be dangerous unless you practice safe caching.

Have fun and be safe!!!

(Note:  In the cache description the CO of Electric Rock warns of wildlife and cactus in the area.  Perhaps, Precaution #5 should be added:  Read the cache description and make note of any precautions listed!)


  1. Central IL we dont have to worry about to many caching dangers.... no deadly snakes, bears or buffalo...but you have to careful of falls, easpecially if no one knows where you are. Hope you follow your rules now.

  2. Agree that we don't have to worry about lions, bears or buffaloes, but our area has it's own dangers. Spider bites, speeding cars, dicey neighborhoods, and of course my own personal Waterloo: rip rap (broken concrete) under bridges. At least when I fell there I had someone with me.

    And, yes Sheryl, I'm really trying to follow my own rules and doing a pretty good job of it. Haven't had a geocaching fall since that last bridge (almost six months now!)! Keeping my fingers crossed while minding my Ps and Qs. Hopefully, all that doesn't distract me too much!