Have you heard the term geocaching? Do you know about this urban (and not so urban) treasure hunt? Well, here’s a quick look at what has, in a very short period of time, exploded as the world’s newest hobby.
First, a quick history. On May 1, 2000, President Bill Clinton ordered GPS satellites to be de-scrambled. This meant that the private sector could access global positioning technology. A mere two days later, Dave Ulmer hid a bucket somewhere outside Portland, Oregon and posted its location (latitude and longitude) on a USENET newsgroup, with these rules:
- Take something.
- Leave something.
- Sign the logbook.
In the ten years since then, an abundance of caches have been stashed. As of today, there are 1,206,309 caches hidden worldwide. That’s a LOT of growth for 10 years, eh?
And all you need to play the game is a GPS, a compass, and a desire to search out hidden treasures, simply for the honor of signing the log. Oh, and a computer to find out where the caches are hidden. They can be hidden in a tree outside your local YMCA, or require a hike into the hills. They can range in size from the tip of your little finger, to a 5 gallon bucket. And some of them are downright sneaky in how well camouflaged they are. It’s all about making the hunt interesting.
Here’s what you do to get started:
Go to www.geocaching.com and sign up for a free account. (TIP: make your user name short – you’ll be signing logs with it).
Then search the site for geocaches near you. One of the ways to do this is to click on “Hide and Seek a Cache”. Input whatever search criteria you want or click “Search with Google Maps”. If you haven’t looked at how many geocaches there are in your area, you’ll be amazed at all the treasure chests located on the map.
You’ll have to load the coordinates (latitude and longitude) into your GPS. You can do this manually, one at a time, or by downloading them one at a time to your GPS. Premium members (annual cost around $35) can run queries for groups of geocaches and download the entire group to their GPS at one time.
Once you’ve got your GPS loaded, it’s time to go out and search. Here are the basic things my husband and I always carry when we go caching:
- Printed description of the caches we seek (or go green and look it up on your phone. We are old-school and download info to our Palm.)
- Water bottle
- Cheap bling for trading
Use your GPS to help you zero in on your quarry. Generally speaking, it should be able to get you within 50 feet. If there are a lot of clouds or tree cover, it may not even get you that close. At that point, you need the description/clue the owner put on the website and some geosense. Once you get a few “finds” under your belt, your geosense will strengthen.
Now, this may or may not sound like a silly thing to do, but it’s an amazing rush when you find something someone else has hidden. And have I mentioned it’s all for the privilege of signing their log book and maybe trading a little bling? 🙂
Oh, and when you’re done, remember to go back to geocaching.com and log your experience. It’s fun for the cache owner to see and just might help the next cacher.
My husband and I started geocaching in 2007 to get a little urban exercise. Since then, we’ve helped with CITO (Cache In Trash Out) events to clean up local parks, we’ve met entire families that love to cache together, and we’ve cached in a lot of different states. We’re looking forward to going international in our hunts one of these days. And one of these days, we’ll branch out and hide our own treasure chest.
So if you haven’t tried it, I recommend it. If you have, then maybe we’ll run into you one of these days while out searching for not-so-buried treasures. Look for team “Rianthe”.
by Laurie Ryan