Sprechen sie Geocache?

Every group of hobbyists develops its own jargon, which can be fascinating to examine. The invented words and coinages reveal something about the habits, attitudes, and passions of the group, whether or not you know or care about the hobby.

Take for example GeoLex, the geocaching lexicon. As a novice geocacher (really just a geoseeker), I’m peripherally aware of the geocaching culture, but I keep stumbling across unfamiliar abbreviations and cryptic terms in the cache logs at geocaching.com. So I welcomed the chance to learn some more of the lingo—and some of them are pretty funny.

For example, there’s a type of cache called a “mystery cache”, in which the true coordinates of the cache are not posted but instead you must figure them out. (I call these “puzzle caches” because usually you have to solve some sort of puzzle first, which only adds to the fun!) In fact, I recently tackled my first puzzle cache, called “Stargazer’s Delight”. To get the coordinates, you must “decode” a series of images of stellar nebulae, clusters, and galaxies. Totally awesome puzzle! I actually solved it, but then ran out of time hunting for the cache itself! It was in a creekside forest and there were about a billion perfect places for a cache, which I would have loved to thoroughly investigate. Well, maybe next time I’m in Sydney I can try again.

At any rate, apparently some folks get frustrated with this sort of cache, yet still want to claim a find for it. Thus has come into being the term “battleshipping”, in which you try to indirectly pinpoint the puzzle cache without solving the puzzle. You do this by attempting to place caches of your own in the general vicinity (which is usually given by the fake coordinates of the puzzle cache). The gods of geocaching.com prevent two caches from being placed closer than 528 feet (161 m) together. So if you try to place a cache too close to the “true” cache location, your cache should be rejected. I don’t know if this actually works (GeoLex claims that cache reviewers will notice this kind of behavior and flag it), but the term makes me laugh.

I also laughed when I learned that the zig-zag path of the final approach to a cache is called the geocacher’s drunken bee dance. So apt!

Because this is the Internet, geocaching acronyms are numerous. There’s the well motivated CITO (cache-in-trash-out), GZ (ground zero, where the cache is), FTF (the person first-to-find a cache), TFTC (“thanks for the cache!”), DNF (“did not find :(“), and TNLNSL (“took nothing, left nothing, signed log”) — because one of the fun aspects of geocaching can be to find “loot” in the cache and swap it for some of your own. Me, I get enough fun out of just finding the thing. :)

And of course, there’s TOTT, which is what sent me hunting for a lexicon in the first place. It stands for “tool of the trade”, which apparently can be any sort of tool needed to access or open the cache. Not knowing ahead of time which tool is needed adds to the challenge.

But my favorite acronym (which I just now learned!) is YAPIDKA: Yet Another Park I Didn’t Know About. One of the greatest things about this hobby is that it leads you to little nooks you might never have discovered otherwise—sometimes in your own hometown!