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TWiG – Bushwhacking

This Week in Geocaching, or TWiG for short, is an on going series of articles where I highlight my personal geocaching treks and anything else that I find of interest in the world of geocaching.

Bushwhacking

Bushwhacking can best be described as “Leaving the established trail to hike and explore.” That definition came from Backpacker.com and it’s one that seems to work really well for geocaching bushwhackers like me.

When I first started geocaching I always seemed to find the worst approach to a cache and ended up bushwhacking way too much. I think my urge to bushwhack stems from my early military training where I was taught to follow an azimuth in a straight line and to either go through, or over, whatever was in the way. That method worked good when it was just me breaking the brush, but now with the family with me, it makes for a slow hike. They seem to get tired and frustrated much quicker when bushwhacking. However, once we get to the cache, I usually find a neat little trail leading back out of the wood line. Sometimes that can add to the frustration too, just knowing that there was an easier way to the cache.

How to Avoid Bushwhacking

To avoid bushwhacking while geocaching with my kids, I have changed my approach to bushwhacking (most of the time). Instead of heading straight through the brush, try the following:

  1. Look for a trail. This may seem like an obvious thing to do, but sometimes a trail isn’t visible when you approach the cache. Most of the time the approach depends on where you park. Before heading into the brush, take a minute and look for a trail or an opening in the brush.
  2. Look for the least dense path. If you can’t find a trail, look for the path of least resistance.
  3. Look for signs for others. Check the cache logs and if someone has been there recently, their tracks may give you a hint to the best approach.
  4. Think like the cache hider. Take a few seconds and ask yourself, “If I was going to hide a cache here, where would I place it?” You may be surprised how much easier it is to find by doing this simple step.

Bushwhacking Tips

Sometimes you may just have to bushwhack. If so, here’s a few tips to follow:

  1. Wear pants and long sleeves. This helps keep ticks and bugs off your skin. Additionally you can avoid some cuts and scraps from the brush too.
  2. Use bug spray. Another layer of defense against ticks and bugs.
  3. Wear a good pair of boots/shoes with good ankle support and a steel shank. When breaking brush it is often hard to see where every step lands. A pair boots with good support will help prevent sprained ankles and the steel shank will protect your feet from rusty nails and other foreign objects.
  4. Dummy cord your equipment. A dummy cord is a piece of string where one end is tied to your gear and the other is tied to you. If you drop something during the hike, the tug on the string from the fallen object will quickly alert you.
  5. Keep your distance. If you are traveling in a group, keep a distance of at least 5 feet from the person in front of you. This will help you avoid those seemingly spring loaded tree branches and help keep you from running over someone when they suddenly stop.

If you will be bushwhacking or hiking for more than .2 miles, but less than 3 miles, consider bringing the following:

  • Water
  • First Aid Kit
  • Poncho
  • Walking stick
  • Eye protection

If you will be bushwhacking or hiking more than 3 miles, then you probably should look for closer parking. But if you must, check out these tips from DayHiker.com.

Final thought

These are a few tips and tricks that I use and may not be suitable for everyone’s style of geocaching. Feel free to leave any additional tips, tricks, or hints in the comments section.

And don’t forget, the most obvious approach may not always be the easiest.

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