Do you hunt benchmarks? If you cache in the United States you have the opportunity. In case you are outside the US or aren’t familiar here is the official description written by Groundspeak.
A benchmark is a point whose position is known to a high degree of accuracy and is normally marked in some way. The marker is often a metal disk made for this purpose, but it can also be a church spire, a radio tower, a mark chiseled into stone, or a metal rod driven into the ground. Over two centuries or so, many other objects of greater or lesser permanence have been used. Benchmarks can be found at various locations all over the United States. They are used by land surveyors, builders and engineers, map makers, and other professionals who need an accurate answer to the question, “Where?” Many of these markers are part of the geodetic control network (technically known as the National Spatial Reference System, or NSRS) created and maintained by NOAA’s National Geodetic Survey (NGS).
In the beginning, I never really considered benchmark to be a legitimate part of the geocaching world. They don’t count as a smiley and no one in my circles seemed to be interested in them. Then I stumbled on a couple while out hiking. They seemed neat so I started grabbing them whenever they were near geocaches. That came and went for me as I picked up a few here and there. One day, a stumbled upon a challenge that required the finding of 250 benchmarks. Well, you guessed it. Now there was a reason to think about benchmarks differently.
I started planning out geocaching trips that would intentionally allow me to hit a few more benchmarks. My totals really started rising. Finally, one day, I made it to 250. Woohoo! Success. This was good and bad for me as I no longer had any incentive to continue my benchmark quest. I tried enticing others into finding benchmarks by creating a Wherigo entitled Benchmark Hunter that took you around to some. This proved mildly popular but didn’t cause the swell I envisioned. It also ended up getting muggled after only 18 finds.
In 2015, I attended a breakout session covering benchmarks at GeoCoinFest in Omaha. That gave me a renewed interest and I started finding and logging them again. I crafted great logs with loads of photos. I felt really good about including benchmarks in our geocaching schedule. As usual, this excitement lasted a few months until I started thinking that these logs didn’t really go to a CO. Most likely, no one would read them. I slowed down on finding benchmarks some but definitely wimped out on my logs. I went from logs of a couple hundred words to found while geocaching – the benchmark equivalent of TFTC.
I ended up around 400 benchmarks, most of which I find while I’m traveling. Among those most are water towers or benchmarks that are in close proximity to caches.
What it comes down to is value. Are they worth hunting? On the negative side, there is not an easy app to use and searching for them on the website is near to impossible. On the positive side, there are many different types, some have never been logged, and you generally have to read vague clues leading you to a much more fun adventure than the average 1/1 cache.
I still like benchmarks but am curious as to how people keep their motivation up. Are you a benchmark hunter? Do you write good logs when you do find them? Please let us know on Facebook (@GeocacheTalk) or on Twitter (@GeocacheTalk).
My real name is Jesse, but I seem to be known by more people as Memfis. I am the patriarch of Memfis Mafia, and some would say master mind (but not the boss) of the family. I am way too wise to live in a house full of women and think I am in charge. I am always looking to push the envelope and never back down from a new experience. I love geocaching and always try to elevate the game from a simple scavenger hunt to an unbelievable adventure with every find I make. The only thing I love more than adventure is geocaching with my awesome wife and two wonderful daughters. Find the Memfis Mafia’s adventures on Instagram (@memfismafia) and their blog (https://memfismafia.wordpress.com/).
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