Of course, cycling involves a lot of routing unless you’re the sort that strictly wanders wherever the mood may take you. I’m a planner so I always make a plan before setting out of my bike and that plan is usually decided upon based on several factors. Of course, geocaching can involve a lot of mapping and sometimes routing, as well. To that end, Geocaching.com has a great feature to find caches along a route, but it has a few user experience (UX) quirks that took me a bit to get used to so this post will serve to document a proven process for those few who may stumble upon it.
As I’ve posted previously, I’ve settled upon RideWithGPS.com as my favorite route mapping tool so I’m going to use that as a starting point. If you prefer a different mapping service, you should find a technology intersection that will let you apply this procedure. If you find any quirks to share with other, please stop back by and leave a comment.
You need to export your route so click on the “Export” tab on the right-hand panel in RideWithGPS. You’ll find options there to export to TCX, GPX (track), GPX (route), CSV, and Google Earth KML whereas you’ll soon find that Geocaching.com accepts GPX, KMZ, and KML file types. That gives you an intersection of three file types: two forms of GPX and KML.
Now, if you look at the description below GPX Route, it will basically wave you off with the statement, “… you most likely want a GPX Track”, but I’ve never been able to get a GPX Track export to work; it always errors on upload. And then there were two…
From my testing, the GPX Route and Google Earth KML files both work, but the KML file seems to have a much more detailed route. I don’t know how it might affect the query for caches, but when you see the resulting route on Geocaching.com, the GPX Route will be much less detailed with just a few line segments sort of indicating the route. For this reason, I recommend exporting to Google Earth KML files. This will export and download the KML file to your download location.
Now, you need to upload your route to Geocaching.com so click on the “Play” menu and select the “Pocket Queries” menu item.
Click the “Find Caches Along a Route” button.
Click the “Choose File” button to select your downloaded KML file and then click the “Upload” button.
And here is one of the UX quirks, IMO. If your route was uploaded and parsed successfully, you will see it in the list under “GPX, KMZ, or KML Upload Information” and you must check the box to the left of your uploaded route and then click the “Save Selected Routes” button below the map.
Now, click on the tab titled “Your Created Routes”, find your uploaded route, and then click the “Create Pocket Query” link to the right of your route.
This takes you to the User Route Pocket Query page where you will refine the search for caches along your route. You may edit the name of your route and this will appear in lists later and also as part of the downloaded file later on.
You can specify days of the week on which this query should be generated, but unless you want this to repeat daily or weekly, I suggest you select the current day and then select the option titled “Run this query once and then delete it”. The query itself will be deleted, but the results will be preserved for download.
Next, alter the search radius and to what radius depends on you. I tend to use .5 mile as I’m usually focused on cycling and don’t wish to venture too far off my route to go find a cache. Now, if this were a long, touring route and I was not concerned about the time or distance veering off to find caches, you might set a wider radius.
You can see that you can also filter by cache type, difficulty, and various other parameters. I like to filter by “Is Enabled” because it does me no good to see caches that are inactive.
In the “Output To” box at the bottom, make sure “GPX Exchange Format” is selected and I recommend that you check the box title “Include Pocket Query name in download file name” because otherwise the file name is just going to be a function of the date & time. Finally, click the button titled “Submit Information” to create your query.
If you checked the box for the current day of the week, your query will be scheduled for execution and my experience is that it is usually ready within a minute or two. In the meantime, you can click the “Preview the Search Here” link to take a look at your query along a route.
If you click the preview link, you’ll be presented a list of the query results and you must then click the “Map this Location” link to see your route and caches on a map.
But go back to your pocket queries (Play->Pocket Queries) and click the tab titled “Pocket Queries Ready for Download” assuming that there is at least a “(1)” beside the name. If there is not, that means you must wait a bit for the query to execute and periodically refresh the page until you see a result.
Locate your new query along a route in the list of queries ready for download and click the linked name. This will trigger the download of the GPX file to your local file system.
Open your download folder (different depending on your OS) and you will either notice a folder or a single GPX file. If any of the resulting caches have additional waypoints associated with them, a second file will be generated for the waypoints and the download will be a folder with the two GPX file. If none have associated waypoints, the single GPX file will be downloaded with no folder.
You should then be able to load the GPX file into your GPS unit ready to take on your bike ride and find caches.