I hike the AT and I can tell you that sidetrails are not a good thing. Even though I know what the white blaze looks like, my 12 year old daughter and I went out of our way one day, down a side trail. Fortunately, I can use a map and compass and figured out where we were. We went backtracking and caught up to my sister and son who weren't too worried about us, but had some thru hikers waiting for us too... just in case. Ellen, my sister, was in Maine last weekend and we went to Abol Bridge where she had waited for us. We had a good laugh.
I just received a copy of the new AT policies regarding geocaching:
Geocaching Guidance to Clubs
Following adoption of the geocaching policy by ATCs Stewardship Council and Board of Directors on November 1, 2008, ATC staff developed further guidance to the clubs relating to the implementation of the policy.
The geocaching policy attempts to strike a balance between the value of geocaching as an outdoor recreational activity and the potentially significant negative impacts to natural and cultural resources that unmanaged geocaching can cause. To this end, A.T. land managing agencies are encouraged to either 1) manage and monitor geocaching activity or 2) prohibit it.
Clubs should disseminate the newly adopted policy and guidance to their members, especially trail maintainers and corridor monitors, and ensure that information is available to members who have questions about the policy. Clubs should refer questions and comments back to ATC.
Clubs are not responsible for monitoring geocaches; however, volunteer help in finding and mitigating caches impacting natural or cultural resources is greatly appreciated. Club members who locate geocaches on Trail lands in the course of other Trail duties (corridor monitoring, encroachment mitigation) are requested to document and report their findings. Ideally, club members should document the placement of the geocaches as precisely as possible as well as any visible impacts with field notes and photographs and report their findings through their club to the appropriate land managing agency and ATC regional office.
Trail clubs are not responsible for managing geocaching requests. Geocachers are responsible for determining land ownership and obtaining permission before placing caches on public or private land.
If clubs receive any requests regarding placement of a geocache on AT lands, they should direct the person making the request to the appropriate land managing agency. If clubs require help in determining which agency is appropriate to contact, they should direct the person seeking permission to the appropriate ATC regional office.
If the request pertains to ATPO managed land, or other lands where the club knows that geocache placement is not permitted, the club should inform the person making the query that geocaching is prohibited on those lands and encourage him or her to contact the appropriate managing agency for more information.
Club volunteers are not responsible for removing geocaches. If club volunteers find a geocache where they believe that such activity is prohibited, or in an area of sensitive or historic resources, or where the geocache seems to be creating impacts (i.e., social trails or any other impact), the volunteers should check with the appropriate land managing agency. If the location and the prohibition can be verified, the agency staff may ask the volunteers if they are willing to help by removing the cache.
ATC asks that volunteers notify their regional office if they become aware that a cache is being considered for removal: ATC will do its best to contact the appropriate cache owner as well as GroundSpeak to apprise them of the situation, the better to educate the geocaching community about existing agency rules and regulations and foster a better working relationship.
Clubs should examine their sections for areas that they believe are particularly inappropriate for geocaching, using criteria such as existing natural and cultural resources and intensity of use, and highlight these areas of particular concern in their Local Management Plans. Clubs are encouraged to work with partner agencies in highlighting such trail management concerns for their consideration. Conversely, clubs may feel that certain unrestricted areas are appropriate for geocaching and may work with partner agencies to highlight opportunities and consider options.
Relevant contact information:
ATPO contact: Chief Ranger Todd Remaley 304-535-6171
Appalachian Trail Conservancy Regional Offices:
New England 603-795-4935
It looks like a lot of critical watching of any cache placement, but at least they are trying to adopt policies recognizing that deal with (instead of a blanket ban) caching. The local clubs have the option of banning caching, so it behooves us to be extra diligent in meeting the AT criteria on any cache we may wish to place in an AT corridor. Hopefully with time, GC and the AT can find policies that work for both groups.
It's a start at least.