Snooping Around The Origins Of A Geo-Shape

It wasn’t a dark and stormy night when American geocacher Kim Runion unveiled her geo-tribute to Snoopy but the lovable Peanuts character and his creator Charles M Schultz would still likely approve.

Kim Runion

The New Hampshire resident (GC handle: meandmydogs) actually launched her 160-cache series one Saturday afternoon in late April with event GC3F8CB. But it took the dog lover and 47 of her friends seven months to place all 134 puzzles and 26 letterbox hybrids.

In case you hadn’t guessed, this isn’t your usual shaped geo-trail, says Runion, whose profile page bears the quote “it’s a fine line between a hobby and insanity”. Due to a minor run-in with Groundspeak, once her SD (short for Snoop Dog) caches disappear, they won’t be replaced.

She explains that’s primarily because her Snoopy design is located on New Hampsire’s Lake Winnipesaukee, yet the final locations are spread across the New England region, breaking Geocaching.com’s two-mile puzzle rule – not to mention confusing tourists who hope to complete the trail while in town. “Truth be told, the final locations are all over the state, with the highest concentration on the sea coast (maybe I should have placed him over the ocean).

“I had originally planned to hide all the caches myself and was going to do a pug face for my dog Spike (and because my GC handle is meandmydogs, it had to be dog related).

“The design is over a lake in New Hampshire so as not to interfere with real caches around the state and I thought it would pop better as a visual. Since I am not that artistic, I was searching around for a good model for which I could use to base the image. I came across a sort of paint-by-numbers thing of Snoopy and thought ‘Wow, that’s perfect … now to just align the dots on a map’. I tried playing with Google Earth, but given my limited mapping skills, found it to be difficult. I called on Joe of boatrs and he used National Geographic Topo to get it close and then Mapsource 24K Northeast to finetune it.”

The next issue to tackle was how to place 160 hides “in a timely fashion”. Runion had already decided on a mix of letterbox hybrids and puzzle caches, with the latter to be “based on the various dog breeds, mutts, dog cartoons or anything dog related that could be educational”.

“The puzzle was hider’s choice on what worked for them. I can tell you after writing about 60 puzzle caches, I was bleary-eyed.”

Task No 3 was recruiting helpers to her comical cause, with “one cacher from Vermont and a few folks from Massachusetts” lending a hand. “The original goal was to get the head finished and have all those caches released at the same time so that it would pop up on the lake. Then we would finish the body as people could get their hides done.

Taking shape: Snoopy on March 26th and April 3rd.

“I started by inviting folks I knew to help with a hide or two and then I emailed people who had recently hidden caches to see if they were interested in hiding what was becoming the SD (Snoop Dog) series. As folks volunteered, I would send them a set of ‘fake’ co-ords they were to use on their page. The design was built on September 23rd, 2011 and the head – while not totally finished but close enough was released on November 2nd.

“If I had it to do over again, I’d wait for them to actually hide the cache, then send the fake co-ords. The head would have been released sooner and more complete that way and there would have been less confusion over the final locations of hides. While everyone was excited about helping, life gets in the way and it affected the release and design of Snoopy.”

During phase two, Runion and her team opted to publish the caches making up the dog’s body as soon as they were available – letting everyone see “the progression of the Snoopy week by week”.

“An event was being planned to celebrate Snoopy’s completion when Groundspeak sent us a cease-and-desist notice. Essentially, they were not in favour of the caches’ final locations being outside the two-mile radius of the posted fake co-ords. If you review each cache page, it tells you the town or general location of the final, but the locations are many miles from the posted co-ordinates.”

Runion decided to persevere anyway, holding the Snoopy event on April 7th with custom badges for her guests and “a slightly incomplete pup”. She’s hoping to “get out on the lake and place two more caches that will finish off his mouth and ear”; the rest will stay as is.

“From then on, I suspect we will see Snoopy die a slow death as the caches get archived over time (which was always the plan).”

Cost-wise, Runion can’t give an exact tally but says the 40-45 she hid probably totalled US$200. “Most of those were small lock’n’locks. Add a log and a little swag and I figure the cost to be US$3-5 per puzzle hide and US$5-7 per letterbox hybrid – that does not include gas. Many of the other hides are micros and film cannisters, which do not have the same cost to them.”

Her SD series has also had an emotional cost, she says, with reaction to her handiwork being mixed. “Some people loved it, especially: those looking for new challenges that took them to different places, and had different hides; those who wanted puzzles they could solve (most of the puzzles are very easy); and those working on challenges which require them to have lots of puzzle and letterbox finds.

“The following people did not appreciate it: Those who like to keep their radius clear and do not want to travel around the state to find caches. It was a little difficult to determine which hides might be in your back yard so there is now a bookmark, thanks to Anne of Team Skywalker, which tells you where the finals are located by town.”

When asked if she plans to create more geo-art, Runion replies: “Let’s just say after the ruckus I caused with Snoopy, I have promised the local reviewer (who is wonderful) that I will take a break from anything that will give him more grey hair!”

But for anybody planning their own shape, she offers this advice:

  1. Keep your design small and manageable to fit the two-mile puzzle rule.
  2. If working in with a team, hand out the fake co-ords (for puzzle caches and potentially letterbox hybrids) after people have placed their cache.
  3. Work hand-in-hand with the reviewer (ask for permission, not forgiveness).”

In the meantime, those who do complete the SD series – turning Snoopy yellow in the process – can log Runion’s official Peanuts geocoin TB4C0JQ). You can read more about the creation of that coin in an earlier It’s Not About The Numbers’ article.

1 comment

  1. Larry Butler

    What a lot of work, But very well done. I myself hide runs, Many find them unconventional runs but in the long run they begin to understand it and then end up loving it. Great Job Meandmydogs! I love the snoopy design

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