Although I first heard the term “geocaching” way back in 2006 (thanks to my local film festival!), I hadn’t thought about this high-tech treasure hunt much since then. Then I ran across an article about a month ago that referenced geocaching as a fresh way to get outside and I was intrigued enough to download the app and, for the last month, I’ve been driving around, parking stealthily, and looking intently at hollow trees, in the hopes of signing my name to a piece of paper and leaving behind a plastic dinosaur.
Allow me to explain.
Geocaching came into being with hand-held technology (your phone has the ability to read GPS coordinates, after all) and is sort of a descendant of the navigational sport of orienteering which is conducted using only a compass and a map. Shortly after May 2, 2000, ordinary folks had access to accurate GPS coordinates for the first time (prior to that, it really was reserved for the military) and a fella named Dave Ulmer hid a bucket in the Oregon woods, posting the coordinates online. Three days later, Mike Teague found the cache and geocaching was officially launched.
By using the app (found in all app stores that I know of), geocachers can locate literally millions of caches. Many of these are in the teensy-to-little (pill bottle sized) size, usually containing only a small log to sign in to document your find, while others are more generously sized (Army surplus ammunition cases are popular), containing small souvenirs to take-and-leave for other cachers. Once you start, you will never look at the lights in a parking lot the same way again.
It’s a great thing to do with friends, but I also enjoy going out by myself. I don’t always find everything I’m looking for – sometimes caches get “Muggled” (meaning that they’re found by non-cachers who think they’re just junk and throw them away) and sometimes, they’re just really hard to find, even if you’re right on top of the coordinates (“Ground Zero”). That’s why having extra sets of eyes can so often be fun. When you begin, you can look for particular caches to “complete a set,” beginning with Modern Wonders of the World (so some caches are designated as “Taj Mahal” or “Machu Picchu”). Once you complete that, you can move to the Ancient Wonders, so right now, I’m trying hard to find the “Lighthouse of Alexandria,” so I can move on to the next level, which will have me searching for Natural Wonders.
It’s a great way to get some exercise, it’s totally suitable for kids, and you wind up learning about wherever you are – I’ve found two parks in my own county that I didn’t even know existed and caches are everywhere, so you can always go looking. Click here to get started!
Maybe it’s not for everyone – and people can ruin anything, so be nice – but I’m finding it brings me joy and really, that’s the name of the game, isn’t it?
Seek joy, Divas!