Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Terrain 1: what does it really mean?

Note: Many suggestions, ideas, and hints for this blog were taken from this article by Pyewacket. There's far more in that article than we'll cover here; I highly recommend reading it.

Okay, now for our article on Terrain 1! What does it really mean? The "accepted" definition is that any cache rated "Terrain: 1" should be wheelchair-accessible. Simple, right? Or....not.

Look around at some of your local caches rated T1. In fact, I'm going to choose a cache that sure does seem to be able to be rated T1. Note, I'm not picking on the cache owner, and I'm not trying to slam anyone. This is a demonstration that a Terrain of 1 isn't nearly as straightforward as you might think.

This cache, GC1D0MV is a great little stop-and-grab along the side of a road. It truly is an enjoyable little find. It takes you down country roads that even locals don't necessarily use much.
Here's a Google Map of the cache location:

View Larger Map

Right off the road! Definitely a T1!'s not.
See, the cache is behind a couple trees, and there's a small "ditch", and some logs in the area. It also suffers from roadside non-maintenance: the grass isn't mowed. It's a fairly typical farm-field treeline area. While most average cachers wouldn't have a problem getting this cache, I can say from recent experience that there is no way your average Wheelchair-bound cacher is going to be able to get that cache. They'll have to do as I did, watch helplessly from the road, while their caching companion goes in and finds the cache. (Unless they happen to be named "Pyewacket", in which case I'm sure they'll figure out how to get that doggone cache - ONE WAY OR ANOTHER.)

So...what truly makes a T1? Think "HOF"
Hard-packed ground (including paved). Wheelchairs get bogged down easily in leaves, pine needles, dirt and sand. Even small stones and gravel can really bog down a wheelchair - and it's really darn hard to get free once bogged.
Obstacle-Free. Even if it's in a parking lot, if there's a curb between the parking area and the cache, it's not wheelchair-accessible. Look for "curb-cuts" (also known as wheelchair curb ramps) and make sure they're close to the cache. The Wheelchair-bound cacher doesn't want to have to go 1/4 mile out of the way just to get to the same level ground as the cache. Also, if there are cement parking "bumpers" ringing the parking lot, and the cache is on the OTHER side of those, that cache suddenly became at least a Terrain 1.5.
Flat. At least it should be wheelchair-friendly. A lot of hills, bumps, and uneven ground isn't going to be easy to pilot a wheelchair over, if it's even possible. Wheelchair ramps, curb-cuts, etc. are fine, as long as they're not extremely steep or abrupt. And while we're at it, make sure the path is wide enough for a wheelchair! A flat trail doesn't help if it's only a single-wide, teeny footpath.

Okay, you've found the ideal location. It's a decent challenging cache, not some parking-lot lampskirt micro, it's nice and hardpacked, flat ground, with easy access for wheelchairs. Now...where to hide it?

That stump is great. It's right next to the path; and it's deep enough that non-cachers won't find the cache right away. How about we put the cache there?
Wait a second!
Can a wheelchair-bound cacher reach that cache once it's at the bottom of the stump? Can they pick up a film can from the ground? Well....could you? Think about it. Sit in a chair - an office chair or kitchen chair should do - put your feet on a low stool, and then try to bend over and pick up a small film can. Can you do it? Can you do it without standing up, moving your feet, or tipping over? No? Neither can a wheelchair cacher. Try to keep your T1 caches within the reach of a reasonable seated person. Maybe it can go at the bottom of the stump - if there's a rope on it, attaching it to the top of the stump. I hear some types of fishing line work great for this sort of thing.
How about in that tree? Can it be reached from a seated position? AND, can it be put back from that same seated position?

Bet you didn't think that a Terrain 1 was so difficult to achieve, did you? Granted, not all the suggestions here really pertain to a "Terrain" rating, but if you're truly going to say "wheelchair-accessible" in your terrain rating, you might want to think about making the cache itself completely wheelchair-accessible.

Again, the linked article by Pyewacket has many other suggestions on how to make your cache truly Disabled-Friendly. Please do read it, and give a little more thought to your terrain rating before picking "Terrain: 1".

Up Next Time: "Tackling The Terrain of 5."


Tee said...

Brava! Well done! You addressed a few issues I neglected in my article, such as path width. In defense of cache hiders, it really is a bit difficult to think like someone with a disability unless they themselves have been in that situation. After recovery, it really makes one think back on their previous limitations. And, it is very subjective, relative to each individual's ability or disability.

Kudos to you for raising awareness of placing caches for the mobility-impaired.

Pyewacket, who is often blessed with more stubborness and determination than common sense

Webfoot said...

The time I went caching with Tee, I learned a lot about terrain ratings and have since become much more sensitive to them, especially that pesky 1 terrain.

There were some caches that were rated a 1 on that trip that would have been downright dangerous for a person confined to a wheelchair to even attempt.