The Birth Of A Shaped GeoTrail



Wellington’s Geof Robinson (GC handle: xBoomstickx) had little idea of the challenges ahead when he began his first shaped geotrail (GC46EWW). He tells It’s Not About The Numbers about the pros and cons of placing 61 puzzle caches in the outline of a kiwi.

“For reasons I can’t adequately explain, I became fascinated when I first heard of power trails.

Back then, the idea of doing more than five caches in a day was foreign, and the thought of logging a hundred (as with the 101 Dalmations power trail in Auckland, New Zealand) or 1000 (the ExtraTerrestrial Highway in the American state of Nevada) seemed spectacular.

Geof Robinson

Geof Robinson

Investigations into the ET Highway Mega Trail brought up another new concept for me: geo-tourism. Apparently, the more popular trails add business to their host’s economy and, in some cases, are now a major contributor.

Several business trips north allowed me to tackle the MWTP series – the Mangere Wastewater Trail of Power (starting with GC2P7VQ) – in Auckland. Although there are better caches to visit in that region, it was great. Leaping from GZ to GZ with a little prize just another minute away was surprisingly exciting. That the plane home was not going to wait was the only thing that stopped my run.

Then It’s Not About The Numbers‘ kjwx sent me a link for a shaped geo-trail picturing Snoopy. The Canadian owner has run into problems with Groundspeak as many of their finals are spread well past the 2 mile-limit allowed in the guidelines. However, I liked the idea and thought something similar would be possible in my home patch, given the correct site.

My chosen location was Pauatahanui Inlet; a harbour roughly 5 kilometres end to end, and 2km at its widest, with a good 15km of roading around it and a significant number of walkways to boot. There was already a dozen or so caches in the vicinity but enough clear area to lay some 60 puzzles.

The shape chose itself – New Zealand’s native bird, the kiwi. Iconic, easy to create a theme around and widely recognisable.

Initially, there were grand plans of an event to launch my Kiwi GeoTrail, an accompanying Munzee trail and a celebratory geocoin, but it all got a bit big to handle in combination with family, business and everyday life. Instead, I focused on placements I could combine with training for a local half-marathon.

CHALLENGE No 1: Remembering where the other local caches were. I had solved all of the puzzle and multi listings near the inlet but had to rely on memory as to where their finals were hidden.

CHALLENGE No 2: Placements, or how to fit so many caches in between existing trads while still getting a reasonable hiding spot. Several of my trail caches had to be hidden on a busy roadside, which has caused some comment from finders. However, there are also new places to explore, which should be rewarding for tourists and out-of-towners.

At this point, I decided my logsheets should not identify any cache particulars, as with the density of hides around the inlet it was possible to accidentally stumble across a final. Each simply says ‘Kiwi GeoTrail’.

CHALLENGE No 3: Time. As per normal, everything took twice as long as I had estimated. I was also keeping a consecutive run going, trying to get to 100 caching days in a row for GC48AX0 100 Day Challenge.

Things started to lag but over a free Easter weekend, the final push was made. I prepared 60 pill bottles (I wonder if the pharmacist thought it strange me needing so many?) plus a surprise container, loaded each with a logsheet, and put everything in a backpack. Then it became a case of run, place, take a reading, run, place, take a reading, run, place, take a reading … and so on.

Once I even had to explain myself to some muggle walkers who asked if I was geocaching.

CHALLENGE No 4: Shape. Firstly, I needed a kiwi shape that would be easily recognisable as a dot drawing. Mr Google helped there. Then I mapped out the initial locations, working around the existing caches where possible.

Next was finding 61 sets of workable co-ordinates. Luckily, this was more about perseverance once an INATN tutorial was sent to me. It’s not a hard process but it was fairly easy to get mixed up, so good documentation became important.

Similarly, I opted for a Maori naming convention (tahi, rua, toru, wha …) but kept mistaking ono (6) for the number one. A small mistake but big design confusion.

CHALLENGE No 5: Puzzles. Having settled on New Zealand puzzle themes, repeated throughout the series, it didn’t get too hard to create all 61. Each required limited surfing to solve, and all had a basic checksum (a pet peeve is a puzzle or multi without any sort of confirmation).

CHALLENGE No 6: Publishing. A big thanks to the Geoocaching.com reviewers, particularly Growly Bear. To check this volume of caches took a lot of work by these volunteers. There were a few proximity issues, and some rulebook contraventions; the former were easily sorted, while the latter required a change in my trail final.

Initially, I’d planned to have a final challenge cache that required finders to do the other 60 trail hides before you could log it (hence the 61 caches in this series, in case you had wondered). This isn’t allowed, so it became a standard final (GC48XJ0) with a request that players add a screenshot of their completed kiwi.

We opted to publish in blocks, thereby allowing multiple players to have a chance at a first to find. As it happened, this wasn’t required. Players were remarkably good about grabbing a few FTFs, then leaving some for other cachers.

CHALLENGE No 7: Mistakes. Despite numerous checks, there was the odd mistake, a couple of incorrect checksums, several puzzle errors and one instance where the final co-ordinates were accidentally left in the listing description! Other cachers were very helpful here.

CHALLENGE No 8: Maintenance. So far, this has involved four replacement containers and three mounts. I suspect it will be a fairly regular occurrence, and spring tides will probably wipe out a few more hides – oh well.

Other notable mentions include the donation of a Flipper cache (GC498W1) by kjwx, and Yeetrees, another local player, kindly agreeing to re-position his GC1T15G Gone Fishing puzzle as the eye of my bird. I’m looking forward to seeing his starry-eyed kiwi screenshot!

The end result has been worth it, though. My geotrail shape works well; many kind words have been said; and I get a kick when I spy people along the trail route and know what they’re up to …”

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