Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Adventures in Geocaching

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 It was an old, outdated bright yellow Garmin E-treks.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 
“When ye reach the tree which lives no more

On thy knees, make passage ‘neath stony door” 
By following the riddles, we were led through the cave's maze to locate the cache.

hidden under a guardrail
Caches come in many sizes. Some are called micro and contain nothing more than a slip of paper for you to sign your name. Those can be especially hard to find, as they can be as inconspicuous as a fake bolt on the back of a guard rail! 

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 is nearly free hobby and gets you out walking and exploring both urban and rural areas. You'll need a GPS, of course, and expect to find yourself looking at tiny trinkets with an eye to how well they'll hold up in a geocache container.

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!


  1. What a great post! I need to start doing this with my family as well.
    Who doesn't like a great treasure hung?!?
    (and I don't want to be a muggle lol)

  2. I have heard of this before. And now that all smart phones come with GPS it is easier than ever for anyone to play this game.

  3. My kids love to go geocashing! Thanks for sharing the adventure with us at Brag About It! Pinned and tweeted.

  4. We love geocaching and started out with an old Garmin also! Unfortunately, we haven't made it out of California yet, but now that my husband has retired (finally) we can start travelling more and geocaching more!

  5. I have never heard of this but guess what you just insiped our next summer outing. I cant wait to start this I might pop back by with more questions. Thanks for sharing on Sincerely, Paula.

  6. I am not a die hard geo cacher (is that what you call it?) but I did try this a few times and it was lots of fun. We live on a bike trail so there are quite a few in biking distance from our home. I haven't done it for awhile and this post reminded me how much fun it is!

  7. I came across your post here on the Talented Tuesday Link up and OMG OMG OMG I can NOT express how excited I am about this! THANK YOU! I am a new empty nester, my youngest just moved out and I was looking for a new and exciting hobby! My husband and I used to be gamers - well he still does but I lost interest. Needless to say THIS just may be the very thing we both can enjoy! THANK YOU! I am bookmarking this for sure and looking into the website you linked!

  8. We have participated in the old-school method of letterboxing. Same idea, just without the GPS. So glad you found an activity that three generations could enjoy! It's so much fun when you do find the treasure.
    Thanks for sharing this excellent outdoor post on The Maple Hill Hop!

  9. Hi Jackie, I found your blog via "raising knights and fairies" link-up.

    It reminded me of two things_
    - In 2016 I wanted to take up Geocaching after a pretty long period of being inactive.
    - I started writing a blog post about Geocaching. It must be burried somewhere. If only I had the coordinates! ;-)

    Nice meeting you, I live in Switzerland, so we are neighbors!

  10. This is really interesting information. I hadn't heard many of the details, but this is something we have been wanting to try for a while. I'm not sure how good I will be at it though!

  11. Jackie, this sounds like so much fun! We love a good treasure hunt or mystery so I bet we'd love this. Added benefit, exercise! LOL Seriously what a great thing to do as a family, you get to see the world and look for a treasure! I had never heard of Geocaching before, I love this post!!!

  12. Jackie, this sounds like so much fun! We love a good treasure hunt or mystery so I bet we'd love this. Added benefit, exercise! LOL Seriously what a great thing to do as a family, you get to see the world and look for a treasure! I had never heard of Geocaching before, I love this post!!!

  13. Very nice post, thanks for sharing with Hearth and soul blog hop.

  14. Geocaching is fun! Hubby and I do it when we are hiking and sometimes while vacationing. Although we haven't done it for quite a while. Need to again when the weather warms up. Thanks for sharing with SYC.

  15. Neat. It's quite similar to letterboxing.

  16. We have been doing this for years! I love it! We have made a bunch of our own but had to move and give those away to other people's care.

  17. Hi Jackie! I've never heard of geocoaching would you believe! However, it looks like a lot of fun where you can exercise your body and your mind. Thanks for sharing this and explaining all about geocoaching, I wonder if they have one in Brisbane where I live in Australia. #overthemoon.

  18. This looks so fun! Thanks so much for sharing with the Let's Get Real party.

  19. This looks so cool! Will have to do this with the kids!

  20. This looks so fun, and totally something that my family would love. Thanks so much for sharing on Fitness Friday at Drops of Learning--I had heard of it before, but it is nice to see it in action. I am totally going to check it out and see if it can become a fun past time for us as well.

  21. This looks really fun! Thank you for sharing over at Bloggers Spotlight Link Party, pinned! Hope to see you again!

  22. Like you said, I've heard of geocaching but never tried it. It looks like a great hobby to get the kids involved in. Give them a bit more motivation to get out in nature, have a bit of exercise and fun. Thanks for sharing with the Blog Fair.