As it’s the end of the year, or the start of a new one, there’s always a bit of chat on various geocaching forums about who has achieved what in the past year, and who is going to try to achieve what in the coming year. I don’t normally go in for setting targets, or at least I haven’t in the last couple of years, on the basis that I’ve lost my caching mojo a little bit and, in the case of 2020, you couldn’t really plan to do anything at all.

As we enter 2021 we’re still in the position of not being able to plan anything at all, and indeed we’re not even supposed to travel outside of our immediate area. That causes a bit of an issue for a geocacher because, generally, you’re more likely to have done caches close to home than anywhere else. In my case then I’m limited to caching in Milton Keynes until the world starts to get back on its feet a bit. As a long-time cacher you might expect that I’ve essentially got none at all to do near home, but you’d be wrong. In the past 3-4 years I’ve spent most of my caching days out by driving over to Hertfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire to do substantial series. I’ve spent relatively little time finding caches locally, and really haven’t done any “odd ones and twos” at all. This meant that as 2021 began I’d got (roughly) 60-70 caches in the town, plus maybe a couple of hundred more in the outlying villages. In addition, someone set up a series of about 40 around Olney. That’s enough to keep me going for a while, I guess. And, since the start of the slightly different approach Groundspeak took to Lab Caches, there’ve been about 8 sets of them set up in MK, of which I’ve only done 3.

So what about challenges and targets? I mean I’ve titled this post as if it’s about a challenge, haven’t I? Yes.

The challenge I have set myself is to try to get each one of the 366 days in the year to above 50 total finds. Not all in the one year – that would be impossible unless I was retired and divorced. I am neither of those and don’t plan to be (I may retire at some point, but there’s two children to get fully educated first). So 50 total finds minimum on each of 366 days of the year. When I set the challenge, at the very beginning of 2021, that meant having to find caches on 264 of those 366 days, and having to find at least 9,464 caches to make up the numbers. You can see that this is therefore not a simple challenge, and given that one of the days needing to be bolstered up is February 29th, it’s not a challenge I can finish before early 2024. It’s taken me 10 years to make 12,736 finds so far, so it’s possible that a further 9,464 will take me another 7-8 years. Additionally, February 29th 2024 is a weekday, so I’d have to take holiday on that day or wait until 2028. And I’ll also need to make another 48 finds on Christmas Day and another forty-something on the kids’ birthday. Both of those are generally difficult days for going out caching.

Why did I set such a challenge, one that’s simple in concept but time-consuming to achieve? Mainly because I don’t like challenges, or more specifically I don’t like feeling that I am obliged to go out caching. A few years back (2013, I think) I set myself a very aggressive target to fill each day with at least one cache. I had something like 160 days needing to be filled and it became a chore. There was a night in February when I couldn’t find the needed cache, and another day in June where I simply forgot to go. After that year I basically no longer pay any attention to “streaks” of caching. Maybe that’s something for retired people who’ve moved to a new area. So to be honest it’s not really a challenge. It’s just a review of the calendar to give some sort of priority for which weekend days to go out caching and which not. I will prefer to stay at home on weekends when I already have 50 finds on each day, and I will prefer to go out on weekends when one or both days need a boost. It also helps me spot weekend days which only need a handful of finds (so can be done by driving and walking locally) and ones which need forty of more, and so need a “proper” trip out.

The picture below shows the size of the challenge following my (successful) attempt to bring January 1st up to scratch.

I sort of also set myself a target of trying to get 2,021 finds in the year of 2021, but that is totally dependent on the lockdown situation starting to ease no later than the start of February. Any later than that and I’ll be trying to pack in too many caches at the end of the year and I’ll run out of places to go locally. January 2021 has nine weekend days that need some attention, of which two require under 10 finds and the rest require over 30. If I complete 4 of those 9 days I’ll be happy.

So for now, I have maybe 300 caches available that I can access during lockdown, but relatively few of those are big series that can be used for days when over 30 finds are required.

So all in all, I guess it’s more of a strategy than a plan. I am setting off with the best of intentions, but wary that I might be pushed back by forces outside my control. What a strange world we live in now, when a comment like that is true.