Geocaching in Santa Teresa Park


 


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        Tiny geocache container disguised as an olive, containing sign-in log


 
                      

 Contents

What Is Geocaching?

Geocaching is a new sport that has been growing in popularity, spurred by the wide availability of inexpensive GPS locators. It's a high-tech combination of hide-and-seek and treasure hunting. It involves hiding caches and publishing their geographic coordinates on the Internet. Caches usually have a log sheet that finders sign. They may also have small "treasures" in them that finders may exchange for others. Seekers use GPS locators to find the caches. Because GPS locators have a resolution of 20 feet or so, the geocaches require some searching to locate them. There are geocaches all over the world. There are thousands in the Bay Area and many in Santa Teresa Park. The purpose of this page is to provide information about geocaching, as it is an activity that is gaining more attention and is having an increasing impact on the park. Advice and opinions below are those of the author. 

Issues and Concerns

Geocaching is an unregulated sport with no official governing organization, though local clubs have been formed in some areas. People who hide and search for geocaches are doing it on their own. Therein lies one of the main concerns. Geocaching is so new that public parks agencies are still figuring out what to make of it. (See the Rules and Regulations links below.) It is like the early days of mountain biking, when park officials did not know whether to allow it, ban it, regulate it, ignore it, or wait and see how it developed. Geocaching is officially banned in National Parks, National Wildlife Refuges, and in certain sensitive areas. Some parks require geocaches to be registered. Others allow it, but  have regulations. Some only allow certain types of geocaches, like virtual geocaches. ("Virtual caches - A cache is actually an existing landmark, such as a tombstone or statue. You have to answer a question from the landmark and let the "cache" owner know as proof that you were there." See the note about virtual geocaches in the Advice section.) 

Even without new regulations, certain aspects of geocaching can run afoul of existing rules. Since geocaches obviously cannot be hidden in the middle of a trail, they are usually placed off the trail. Going off-trail is technically against park rules. Also, abandoning personal property on public lands could be considered littering, though geocachers usually do their best to keep the caches out of sight. With heightened fears of terrorism, finding suspicious hidden containers on public or private lands could cause bomb scares, which has actually happened. Misunderstandings like this can bring undue negative attention to geocaching. While geocachers tend to be responsible people, there is always the potential for mischief and abuse. 

Park officials are worried about the impact of geocaching on the natural resources of the parks  They are concerned about people trampling sensitive habitats or damaging historical sites while hiding or searching for geocaches. Park officials are also concerned about the safety of people involved in geocaching. There was an incident recently in Santa Teresa Park, where a person searching for a geocache off-trail above the Bernal Ranch sat on a log to rest and was bitten on the hand by a rattlesnake. He was in Santa Teresa Hospital for 3 days. Even though this could have happened to anyone, it is incidents like this that can draw attention to geocaching and spur park officials to take some kind of action. 


Small geocache in Tupperware container

Santa Clara County Parks Geocaching Policy

After many meetings and discussions with local geocachers, the County Parks adopted a policy on geocaching in November 2006. It may change over time, but here is the initial policy:

Policy Name: Geocaching
It shall be the policy of the Parks and Recreation Department to encourage positive use
of its parks and resources. Geocaching can be a positive recreational activity when
practiced under established conditions and procedures.

Procedures:
Geocaching is initiated by an individual hiding a cache, (normally a waterproof container with small items inside) then recording the location with a Global Positioning Unit (GPS). The individual then posts the GPS coordinates along with a description of the cache on a Geocaching website. Other individuals then try to find the cache. When it is located, participants sign a logbook, then take or leave a small item. The following procedures shall apply to the placement, discovery and management of geocaches.
  • A permit is not required for the placing or searching for geocaches within Santa Clara County Parks.
  • Placing and searching for geocaches may only take place during normal park hours in park areas open to the public.
  • Caches must be registered on the Internet with Geocaching.com.
  • Caches must comply with all guidelines established with Geocaching.com.
  • All caches must be clearly labeled either on the exterior or within as a “Geocache” and include a note describing the activity to an unintentional finder.
  • Contact information for the owner must be included in the cache.
  • Caches must not be placed so as to encourage the development of new “volunteer” trails.
  • Caches must not be placed in locations that will encourage erosion or trail damage, or further than 20 feet from a trail edge.
  • Caches may not be buried, or located within a water body.
  • Cutting or modification of vegetation is prohibited.
  • Modification of geographical features is prohibited.
  • Altering park signs, fences, posts, trails, trail markers or any park building is prohibited.
  • Caches may not be placed on or near potentially hazardous locations.
  • Caches must not interfere with wildlife or other park visitors.
  • Caches may not contain inappropriate, hazardous or illegal materials such as flammables, explosives or food.
  • Caches may not be located on or in park buildings or structures or within designated historic or cultural resource areas.
  • Caches must be maintained by the owner. Caches that have been abandoned and not maintained will be considered as litter and removed.
  • The Department reserves the right to remove any cache that has been determined to be inappropriate either in location or content, hazardous or has an impact to other park visitors, park neighbors or natural or cultural resources.
See the rest of the policy for a description of the management procedures.

Here is a geocache at County Parks Headquarters that demonstrates these rules: GC Rules!

Advice to Geocachers

Here is some advice for geocachers to avoid getting into trouble. They should be careful not to go far off-trail. They should avoid sensitive areas and watch for rattlesnakes and other hazards. While rattlesnakes, Lyme disease-carrying ticks, Hanta virus-infected rodents, thistles, and poison oak are a hazard to all park users, geocachers are especially vulnerable if they go off-trail and use their hands to search through plants, rocks, and ground holes for geocaches. Using long-handled grabbers, hiking sticks, or other tools are safer, plus they can be used for picking up litter. 

People placing geocaches should avoid hiding them in animal holes or among large piles of rocks, as those are prime hiding places for rattlesnakes and poisonous insects. Tree holes can be breeding grounds for West Nile virus-carrying mosquitoes. Hanta virus is carried in rodent droppings. Rodents can chew through plastic containers. Don't put anything edible or anything that smells like food in the cache. Don't use plastic containers that smell like food. Wild pigs will root through fields, digging them up, which can reveal or bury geocaches. Pigs have strong jaws, which can break through containers. People hiding geocaches should take care to make the caches animal-proof, so that wild animals are not likely to get into them and ingest the contents, which can be harmful to them. People should never go geocaching in the park at night. Not only is it against the rules, but night is when mountain lions are on the hunt. Skunks are also out. 

If geocaches are placed at or near the edge of a trail, searchers can find them without going off-trail, and thus avoid breaking the rules against going off-trail. If geocaches are placed off-trail, volunteer trails can develop, leading people right to the cache, defeating the purpose of hiding them. They can also lead "geo-muggles" to the caches, which can lead to them disappearing. They should be labeled as geocaches, so they are not mistaken for trash or bombs. Caches should never be buried, nor should searchers dig in an attempt to find them. (Geocaching.com will not list buried caches.) 

While a simple GPS unit can tell you where a cache is located, it may not necessarily tell you the best, the safest, or the most legal way to get there. To do that requires a map. Always carry a park map. A topo map would also help. Expensive GPS units can store maps, but a park map is free. Stay on established trails to reach the caches. Plan ahead. Look up the geocache coordinates on a map or online mapping site and plan which trails to take. Don't bushwhack a shortcut or use illegal trails. 

Santa Teresa Park is surrounded by private property. It also has restricted areas where public access is not allowed. Geocachers should take care to avoid these areas. Consult the park map. Some areas to avoid are the Bear Tree Lot, the Pyzak Ranch, the Bonetti Ranch, the Mounted Ranger Unit, the Rosetto Ranch, and the Club 14-E site. The Muriel Wright Ranch is a restricted correctional facility. The Lagatutta property near Coyote Peak and the antenna sites on Coyote Peak are private and off-limits. Parts of the Santa Teresa Golf Course are open to golfers only. Stay away from the actual shooting areas at the archery range. The Coyote-Alamitos Canal levee is not a park trail. Some parts of it, parcularly west of Brockenhurst Drive are private property. The Stile Ranch Trail is technically on IBM's property, for which an easement is granted for trail use. IBM could consider going off-trail here to be trespassing. 

Particularly avoid historical structures that are not open to the public, such as the old barn at the Bernal Ranch, the barn on the Fortini Trail, and the old house and barn at the Buck Norred site. Not only are they valuable and delicate historical treasures that can be damaged by trespassers, they can be hazardous. They may contain sharp objects, rusty nails, and broken glass. They may not be structurally stable, and may collapse on top of people. They often harbor disease-carrying rodents, which can attract rattlesnakes. 

Note on virtual caches: These have actually become so popular that new virtual geocaches and reverse virtual caches (locationless caches) are no longer allowed on Geocaching.com. There is a new website, which is a spinoff from Geocaching.com, for these types of caches, Waymarking.com. One big advantage of virtual geocaching is that it is practically impossible and unnecessary to regulate it, as it is indistinguishable from hiking and sightseeing with a GPS, as long as it doesn't involve going off-trail. 


Geocache in plastic container, hidden in tree trunk

Benefits of Geocaching

Despite the concerns, there are many positive aspects to geocaching in parks: 
  • It introduces people to the park who might not otherwise visit it. More users can mean:
    • More potential park supporters and volunteers. 
    • More eyes to watch for hazardous conditions, fires, injured persons, or illegal activities. (Having a GPS locator can be very useful in reporting emergencies or reporting the precise location of problem areas.)
    • More park revenues (e.g. parking fees).
    • More support for park funding and improvements.
  • It brings people outdoors and out for walks and hikes, which is good for their health.
  • It is a quiet, slow, and sometimes stealthy activity that is minimally disturbing to other park users and wildlife.
  • It does not deface park property, unlike paintballing. The goal of hiding geocaches is to make them hard to see.
  • It is a relatively inexpensive activity. A GPS locator is cheaper than most digital cameras and mountain bikes. In a group, only 1 person needs to have a locator.
  • It is an activity that can be enjoyed by all ages and physical abilities. 
  • It can be enjoyed by individuals or by groups, such as classes, families, and organizations.
  • It is one way to entice older children in families to use the park  They might not be excited about seeing wildflowers or historic structures, but they might be by the prospect of a hunt for hidden treasures. This kind of activity can bring families closer together.
  • It can be educational in teaching kids about geography and map-reading skills. Just being out in a park can be educational in terms of experiencing and learning to appreciate nature and the environment. 
  • Many geocachers participate in the practice of "cache-in, trash-out," where they pick up and remove trash they find while geocaching.
The parks department has so far taken a "wait-and-see" attitude towards geocaching. Ultimately, it could end up being like mountain biking: allowed, but with some rules. 

Geocaches in Santa Teresa Park


Small geocache in magnetized mint container


The following list and titles are from the Geocaching.com Website as of the last update. These are primarily non-puzzle geocaches in or near Santa Teresa Park. Note that these are subject to change at any time and may not be all-inclusive. Some of these may require a paid membership to Geocaching.com to access (these are indicated with an *). Some are multi-caches with more than 1 cache. These caches are listed for information only. The locations and the contents of the caches and the means to find them are not necessarily approved (or disapproved) by the Friends of Santa Teresa Park. Listed are the closest trails to the caches where it's not obvious from the names. These may become disabled at any time, so they may not all be necessarily available.

  1. BGJ Ranch (Bernal-Gulnac-Joice Ranch)
  2. Dottie's Pond (Santa Teresa Spring)
  3. Once in a Blue Moon (Joice Trail, watch out for snakes)
  4. One for the Shade (Joice Trail)
  5. Joice-Bernal Corner (Joice Trail)
  6. St. Teresa's Other Boundary (PGE Service Road)
  7. Anthony Was Here on Sunday (Joice Trail)
  8. Rocky Bench (Joice Trail)
  9. Nicely Stacked (Bernal Hill Trail)
  10. What a View (Bernal Hill Trail)
  11. Daniel Was Here in October (Bernal Hill Trail)
  12. Vista Point (Vista Loop)
  13. Albertson Parkway (Multi-cache, on the city trail just outside the park)
  14. Old Times at B.M.S. (Bonetti Ranch)
  15. Lichen the View (Norred Trail)
  16. Buck Norred Hoedown (Norred Trail)
  17. Official Neighborhood Trailhead (Brockenhurst entrance, Mine Trail)
  18. Pure Country (Fortini Trail)
  19. Secret Trailhead: Fortini Signal Issues? (Fortini/Stile Ranch Trailhead)
  20. Yield! (Stile Ranch Trail)
  21. The Old Hide-in-the-Bush Trick (Stile Ranch Trail) *
  22. Rocky Pasture (Stile Ranch Trail)
  23. Adelante Escondite (Stile Ranch Trail)
  24. Geocache (Stile Ranch Trail)
  25. Stile Ranch Waterworks (Stile Ranch Trail)
  26. At the Corner of Mine and Stile (Stile Ranch/Mine Trail)
  27. Cache for Clunkers (off the Mine Trail)
  28. It's All Mine! (Mine Trail)
  29. Cache for Clunkers (off the Mine Trail)
  30. Find Me! #3 (Mine/Bernal Hill Trail junction)
  31. Bird in the Hand (Mine/Fortini Trail junction)
  32. Manzanita Decon (Fortini Trail)
  33. Rosetto Ranch View (Fortini Trail)
  34. A Simple Cache #2 (Fortini Trail)
  35. Corner Corral (Mine Trail near the Rocky Ridge Trail junction)
  36. Kamikaze Downhillers (Rocky Ridge Trail)
  37. Shady Creek View (Rocky Ridge Trail)
  38. The Rainbow Bridge (Rocky Ridge Trail)
  39. Rocky Ridge (Rocky Ridge Trail)
  40. Hey, Wanna Find Me? (Rocky Ridge Trail)
  41. STP Overlook (Rocky Ridge Trail)
  42. Oh Oh ....... THUD! (Rocky Ridge Trail) *
  43. Between Resting and Insanity (Boundary Trail) *
  44. Boundary of Insanity (lower Boundary Trail)
  45. I Can See My House From Here! (middle Boundary Trail)
  46. Bay Area Multiple Hills - 3 (upper Boundary Trail)
  47. Hidden Frog Pond (Hidden Springs Trail)
  48. Coyote Junction (Coyote Peak-Hidden Springs Trail junction)
  49. Find Me! #4 (Coyote Peak Trail)
  50. Peek at Coyotes (Coyote Peak, multi-cache)
  51. Coyote Peak (waymark)
  52. Santa Teresa Roller Coaster (Coyote Peak Trail) *
  53. Of Eagles and Horses (Coyote Peak Trail) *
  54. Four Pillars (Coyote Peak Trail near Country View Drive, which is not an entrance)
  55. Free St. Teresa! (Bernal Road parking lot)
  56. Welcome to Santa Teresa Park (Pueblo Area entrance)
  57. Pueblo Santa Teresa (Pueblo Area)
  58. Hidden Secrets Trail (Hidden Springs Trail multi-cache)
  59. Hit the Road (Old Bernal Road)
  60. OWL 1: The Hairy Plodder Trail (multi-cache, continues from Hidden Secrets Trail)
  61. OWL 2: The Hairy Plodder Trail (mystery multi-cache, continues from OWL 1)
  62. Fool on the Hill (Ohlone Trail)
  63. Some Shade, Some Trees (Ohlone Trail)
  64. It Ain't Easy Being Green (Ohlone Trail)
  65. Birthday Bush (Ohlone Trail)
  66. Creature Comfort (Nature Trail)
  67. Santa Teresa Driving Lessons 2 (Ohlone Trail near the driving range)
  68. Club Santa Teresa (Santa Teresa Golf Course Upper Clubhouse)
  69. Gateway Santa Teresa (Heaton Moor-Bernal entrance)
  70. Tiny Gators (Ohlone Trail entrance)
  71. A Tree Near the Nature Trail (Ohlone Trail)
  72. A Tree Along the Nature Trail (Nature Trail)
  73. Rest On Your Laurels 2: Boulderdash (Laurel Springs on the Ridge Trail)
  74. Ridge Trail Rest (lower Ridge Trail)
  75. Let Sleeping Bears Lie (upper Ridge Trail)
  76. Bay Area Ridge Trail (Calero Creek Trailhead) *
  77. Surprise! (Calero Creek Trail)
  78. Live Backwards 2 (Calero Creek Trail)
  79. Riding Fences (Calero Creek Trail)
  80. Live Backwards (Calero Creek Trail)
  81. Can't See the Forest for the Trees (Calero Creek Trail)
  82. Familiar Trailhead (Calero Creek Trailhead)
  83. Wildflower Aptitude Test (puzzle cache, possibly in Santa Teresa Park)

Local Geocaching Links:

Large geocache in plastic ammo container

General Geocaching Links:

California Geocaching Links:

Links to Geocaching in Other Areas:

Links to Geocaching Rules and Regulations:

Other Geocaching-Like Activities:

GPS Technology Links:

GPS Receivers

Left: magnetic case used as geocache, Right: GPS receiver

Mapping Links:

Geocaching Supplies, Tools, and Resources:

Legal disclaimer: links above do not necessarily imply an endorsement of the products, activities, or opinions expressed in them.


Large geocache in surplus ammo box 

Note that the geocaches pictured on this page are not necessarily in Santa Teresa Park and some no longer exist.

Created 11/19/04, updated 9/5/
14 by Ronald Horii