Most people I have brought it up to have at least HEARD of Geocaching, even if they aren't entirely sure what it is. Geocaching is a world wide treasure hunting game, and my family has been participating in it for a full decade now.
From what I understand, this began in 2000, when GPS capabilities became available to the general public. To test their accuracy, a man named Dave Ulmer of Oregon, buried a large plastic bucket, filled with toys and other goodies, and posted the coordinates on a website for people to find.
Fast forward 16 years and Geocaches can be found in every corner of the earth! No matter where you travel, you can log new finds.
When you go to the website www.geocaching.com, you can enter a zipcode and up pops all the caches within a predetermined mile radius. Some areas are heavily saturated, some less so. The app also shows happy or sad faces next to ones your have already found or failed attempts, all of which you log to the site as you go.
When you click on a cache's profile, you get a slew of helpful information – some more than others, depending on the person who hid the cache.
Generally you will know what the size you are looking for, and the terrain difficulty. There will be a description or backstory of some kind, and SOMETIMES an encrypted hint if you choose to reveal that.
Also, all the comments from those who logged a find (or an attempt) can help guide you if need be.
One aspect enjoyed by fans of Geocaching is how stealthy you must be while finding the caches. Some are hidden away where no one will see you, but they could just as often be a tree stump in the middle of a crowded park. You don't want those who are unaffiliated watching you dig out a box of goodies because they may go behind you and take it, not knowing what it is.
Those outside of the geocaching community are referred to as Muggles. I love that!
There have even been cases where someone reported suspicious activity involving caches, where the military's EOD Bomb Squad have come in and blown one up (they dont wait and ask questions about stuff like that). So be sure to always practice secrecy and wait for the coast to be clear when checking a spot.
In 2006, I got my first GPS from my mom. It was an old, outdated bright yellow Garmin E-treks. It wasn't the best for accuracy, and usually got us within 15 feet of the inputted coordinates, and from there'd we'd need to hunt.
My then boyfriend, now husband, and I started going out on excursions together. Our very first find was 'FSU 1 Room School house' It was so hard! We didn't know all the tricks of the trade, and what kind of things to keep an eye out for – so we had to go back every day for a full week before we found it! (Fortunately, it wasn't far from my house.)
Spoiler Alert It was a log on the back of a number strip magnet, attached to a huge electrical transformer thing. It camouflaged right in, and we didn't think anything stood out.
We got so into it that when he would get off his night-shifts at work, we'd grab flashlights and head out into the wild wilderness of West Virginia until 3am.
At the time, my dad lived 13 hours away. During a conversation, I brought it up with him only to find out that he had been doing it for years. It ended up becoming something we really bonded over and was a wonderful hobby to have in common.
He bought us our next GPS, a very nice handheld Garmin with superb accuracy.
One year my boyfriend and I were going to fly to Massachusetts to my dad's and drive back in a car we were obtaining on that side.
The plan was to geocache as much as possible from MA-WV. Once we explained this to my dad, he didn't want to miss out on all the fun. Instead, he flew to WV, and we roadtripped back to his house together. It was a lot of fun, and we were able to pick up a lot of states that way.
In the subsequent years in WV, we added many more finds and even accumulated 7 of our own hides. We loved being as creative as possible with our containers and hiding spots. One time, he spent a month carving out a 2 foot log, complete with a hinged top to place in the woods.
|My dad finding our hidden geocache.|
Our favorite find was called “Abandon Hope...(All Ye Who Go To the Can)." (you will need to set up a free account and log in to see the details)
It was by far the most creative and unique find we've logged. The coordinates led us to the opening of a cave at Cooper's Rock in West Virginia.
The profile had an adaptation of a piece of Dante Alighieri's The Divine Comedy. It had enthralling lines such as
By following the riddles, we were led through the cave's maze to locate the cache.“When ye reach the tree which lives no more
On thy knees, make passage ‘neath stony door”
|hidden under a guardrail|
Larger ones can be a little more fun, especially for the kids. These tend to contain a “take something, leave something” grab bag. We've found things like money, toys, baseball cards, and various other small trinkets. We are always sure to carry a ziplock filled with our own contributions, in case we stumble upon one.
One of the coolest things to find, is a GeoCoin or TravelBug. These are trackables. The original owner will register it with a entry code on the site.
As it gets picked up (And placed - they should never be kept) ,each person should be logging its new location.
Some of them have specific missions, like only to be placed in caches with a color in the title, or Get me to Egypt! The idea is that you should only take it if you can assist it in its goal.
Sadly we took about 4 years off starting from the time my oldest was born. But, we came back with a bang a few months ago when we embarked on a cross country road trip starting in Southern California and ending in Maryland.
We attempted to grab at least one in each state we drove through. Unfortunately, we missed Arizona and Nevada - Not for lack of trying. The ones we attempted simply defeated us. While we had some time to kill, we also had a bit of a timeline to stick to.
And after wasting much time on numerous “Did Not Finds” (DNF is what its referred to when logging your attempt on Geocaching.com) we had to give up and press on with our journey.
|That was a fake magnetic wall plate.|
|Geocaching at Cadillac Ranch, Amarillo TX|
|Hailey geocaching in Tulsa, OK|
Now we are living in Germany, with 110 total finds under our belt. I can't wait to multiply that number our of the states! This is our current surroundings!
|That should keep us busy awhile.|
Geocaching.com is free to join. They do have a paid membership available for $30 a year. This opens 1000's of more geocaches up for you to find, as well as other perks, like phone app features that help you navigate easier, route planner, and much more.
However, we operated for many years on the basic side of it, without feeling as though we were missing much, and that was back when app technology was, well, mostly non-existent. So go explore awhile at the free level - if you get hooked like we did, you'll probably want to add on the paid features eventually. Now that we've added it, it'd be hard to go back.
Meanwhile - happy geocaching!