Geocaching is a GPS (Global Positioning System) hide and seek game, where hiders hide containers (called ‘caches’ or ‘geocaches’) anywhere in the world, record the coordinates, and post a listing on a website for hunters to seek. Hunters can use a handheld GPS unit to get close, but then must use their wits to find the cache and log the find. A typical cache can be any size and may be camouflaged, in order to make the hunt more challenging, and usually contains a logbook for the hunter to sign and usually some small trading items of little monetary value.
In May 2000 the government announced their decision to stop the intentional degradation of GPS signal accuracy. In effect, this made civilian use of GPS systems much more accurate and many times more useful than it had been previously.
On the day following this announcement the first geocache was placed by David Ulmer in Oregon. Ulmer’s idea was simple:
The hider would hide a container; note the coordinates with his GPS unit.
The seeker would locate the container using the given coordinates, make a note in the logbook, and then trade items.
It only took a few days for the cache to be found and reported online, and a new outdoor sport was formed.
The sport has grown considerably since its humble beginnings. At this writing there are well over ¼ million caches hidden around the world. Odds are that there is a cache close to you. I found my first cache after discovering that one was hidden less than a mile from my home. I guess you could say that I got hooked immediately, since I have found many since then and even hidden a few.
Our family likes to go geocaching as a family activity. The weekends will usually find us in one of our local parks wandering the woods looking for caches.
Here’s how we normally do it:
1. We go to GeoCaching.com or TerraCaching.com to find a good cache close to the area we want to hunt.
2. We print out the cache pages (or alternatively load it into our PDA).
3. We load the coordinates into our GPS unit and set our GPS unit to navigate.
4. We load up our cold drinks (we go caching in Texas, so we have to stay hydrated) and our trade items.
5. We drive to the coordinates and start looking. The cache listing and log entries usually have some hints and can tell us what kind of container we’re looking for.
6. Once we find the cache, we log our find in the cache logbook.
7. We trade a few trade items (usually inexpensive trinkets and toys).
8. Once we get back home, we log our find on the listing website.
9. I also like to write a blog entry about our outing on my geocaching blog at CachingAdventures.com so that I can tell interesting stories about our outing that just don’t fit into the regular log entries.
It’s not unusual for my family to find 3 to 5 caches in one outing. Other more aggressive cachers will do 10 or 20 or more.
An enjoyable cache might be in an unknown park, an urban wilderness area, or a mind-bending puzzle. We have enjoyed getting our sedentary, internet-connected, couch potato bodies out into the great outdoors breathing some fresh air.
Finally! A good reason to go outdoors again!