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johnson pit no. 30 Virtual Cache

Hidden : 08/24/2017
1 out of 5
3 out of 5

Size: Size:   virtual (virtual)

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Geocache Description:

"standing at the bottom it's easy to forget what era you're in."

*to log this virtual geocache upload a photo of yourself and your GPS, or if you prefer, just a photo of your GPS, with your "found it" log, taken at the parking area or the posted coordinates with the earth sculpture in the background. if your camera is also your GPS, use some other object, car keys, wallet... the important thing is that the picture demonstrates you're a cacher logging a virtual cache, not a tourist.*
*bonus points if you provide a photo from the bottom of the pit*

johnson pit no. 30

Starting in the 1960s, post-industrial and derelict landscapes including surface mines, pits, landfills, quarries, and others seen as visual and environmental blights, became in the hands of some artists provocative installations that reclaimed the land. Untitled (Johnson Pit No. 30), an early monumental installation designed by the American artist, Robert Morris, is among the first land reclamation art projects in the country. Morris, an influential artist and writer, “played a central role in defining three principal artistic movements of the [1960s and 1970s]: Minimalist sculpture, Process Art, and Earthworks,” according to the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, which includes several of the artist’s works in its collection.

In 1978, the King County Arts Commission in Seattle, Washington engaged artists to find solutions for what the commission’s executive director Jerry Allen called the county’s “technologically abused land.”

The commission worked with the Department of Public Works (DPW), which oversaw more than 100 gravel pits, and selected the Johnson Pit (number 30 on the county’s list), declared surplus land in 1973, as a suitable site for the demonstration project. Of the 22 artists who were invited to submit proposals, eleven did so and a three-person jury selected Morris to work on Johnson Pit No. 30, which DPW donated to the county. The work was funded by a unique consortium of the U.S. Department of the Interior, National Endowment for the Arts, King County Department of Public Works, and the U.S. Bureau of Mines – the last of which had never before funded the creation of a piece of artwork.

Completed in November 1979, Morris’s 3.7-acre earthwork, which is set into a hillside, consists of a series of concentric slopes planted with rye grass that descend into Johnson Pit No. 30, in the center of the site. Morris said of his proposal: “I have employed a method of terracing which has been used in ancient times as well as the present. Such a method has produced sites of such widely varying context and purpose as palaces and strip mines, highway embankments and mountainside cultivation. Persian and Mogul gardens were terraced as were the vast amphitheaters of Muyu-uray in Peru.”

To create the installation, Morris had the center of the site cleared of vegetation. Along the slope at the northwest edge of the pit, he left a line of blackened tree stumps – a symbolic “ghost forest” intended to act as a reminder of the once forested land that had been decimated by its use as a gravel pit. This became one of the most controversial and debated elements of the installation. Morris responded that it was not the artist’s job to “transform devastation into inspiration.” Morris elaborated: “It would seem that artists participating in art as land reclamation will be forced to make moral as well as aesthetic choices. There may be more choices available than either cooperative or critical stance for those who participate. But it would perhaps be a misguided assumption to suppose that artists hired to work in industrially blasted landscapes would necessarily and invariably choose to convert such sites into idyllic and reassuring places, thereby socially redeeming those who wasted the landscape in the first place.”


The earthwork in its present form is largely as Morris created it in 1979; however, the surrounding landscape has changed considerably from agricultural land to commercial warehouses, then industrial parks, and now the site of multi-story condo and apartment developments. Throughout this time, conversations about the earthwork’s future have centered on surrendering the property to more condos and redesigning the site to include more recreational programming, such as a soccer field and picnic shelters.

In 1994 the King County Arts Commission, following the recommendations of a study group it had impaneled a year earlier, began restoring the site. In consultation with Morris, a wooden pathway, constructed of reclaimed fir beams, was built leading to the basin, to direct visitors, and discourage erosion on the terraces. Wooden benches were also added and the blackened tree stumps from Morris’s “ghost forest” were replaced. Despite the restoration, ongoing maintenance remains challenging. The reclaimed fir beams chosen for the 1994 improvements have deteriorated rapidly in the Northwest climate, and are nearing the end of their life span.

The site is fenced and 4Culture, a cultural services agency created in 2003 to replace the King County Arts Commission and the County Office of Cultural Resources, hires staff to open and lock a gate to the parking area each day (at dawn and dusk). The public art program also pays for a landscaping crew to keep out invasive plants and to empty trashcans; unfortunately even with these precautions the site suffers from illegal dumping on a regular basis, and has also been a target for vandalism.

more info from 4culture
and king county
and the cultural landscape foundation

*update* August 2021: listed in the washington heritage register!
*update2* October 2021: listed in the national register of historic places!!

Virtual Reward - 2017/2018

This Virtual Cache is part of a limited release of Virtuals created between August 24, 2017 and August 24, 2018. Only 4,000 cache owners were given the opportunity to hide a Virtual Cache. Learn more about Virtual Rewards on the Geocaching Blog.

Additional Hints (Decrypt)

sbyybj gur fvtaf naq jngpu lbhe fgrc

Decryption Key


(letter above equals below, and vice versa)