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Geocaching: The Modern Day Treasure Hunt
Do you love treasure hunts? Enjoy solving puzzles and deciphering clues? Are you looking for new undertakings to enjoy on your next camping trip? If adventure and exploration are in your wheelhouse you should definitely give Geocaching a try.
Geocaching has become a worldwide treasure hunt using GPS technology. Armed with a hand held GPS device and a sense of adventure, outdoors fanatics are taking up this extremely fun and fast growing activity.
Young and old alike can enjoy Geocaching. Many “geocachers” plan vacation routes based around geocaches hidden along the way. Certain campgrounds that have several caches hidden at them are often targeted as destinations also.
The entire treasure hunt aspect of Geocaching revolves around one person hiding the “cache”. They then post the coordinates in latitude and longitude on the Internet. The coordinates can then be entered into your cell phone via one of several geocaching apps and the search is on! The app will direct the geocacher to the “exact” location of the cache. Depending on signal strength at the time, most GPS’s or cell phones will get the user within ten feet or so of the ‘treasure’; then the hunt really begins.
The leading website for geocachers is Geocaching.com. Geocachers can access cache coordinates and log visits to the caches. To date there are over 85,000 users on geocaching.com, and there are over 930,000 geocaches listed!
The caches themselves can vary in size and shape, from as small as a penny to as large as a five-gallon bucket. The caches can be placed in anything waterproof.
Caches can only be hidden with permission of the property. Some caches can be on private property with permission from the property-owner to both place the cache and for others to search for it. Traditional geocaches will contain a logbook where finders can sign their name. The smallest of caches called “micro-caches” or “micros” will often just contain only a log sheet. The larger caches will usually contain trade items along with the logbook. Once a geocacher has found a cache they are encouraged to take something out and leave something behind in its place. These items could be small toys, key chains or other insignificant novelties. The rule is simple; take something from the cache only if you replace it with something else. Many geocachers choose not to take a trade item and only sign the log. Then the geocacher is to replace it exactly as they found it. This keeps the caches well hidden for future finders.
The hiding place for “caches” is only limited by the imagination of the person who places the cache. Common hiding places are often under rocks, in hollow logs or knotholes in trees. Caches placed in urban areas could be under playground equipment or in flowerbeds in public parks. The use of magnets to attach caches to metal objects like bridges, street signs or buildings has become common practice when hiding in the city.
As varied as hiding places for caches are, so are the types of caches. Besides the aforementioned traditional caches there are “Multi”, “Mystery” or “Puzzle” and “Earth” caches.
Multi caches have several phases to them. The coordinates give the geocacher the starting point. The starting point will have a container with coordinates to the second phase. The geocacher must then seek out the second phase, and so on until the final cache is found. The final cache will have the logbook to sign and must be found to get credit for “finding” the cache.
Puzzle or mystery caches will require geocachers to solve a series of puzzles or riddles in order to determine the coordinates for the actual cache location. These types of caches are only limited to the skill of the hider.
Earth caches do not have a physical container or a log sheet. These types of caches will lead geocachers to particular places on Earth that has geological significance. The geocachers will normally have to accomplish some sort of task to prove finding the cache. These assignments commonly include uploading a photo of the area.
Using traceable items such as Geocoins (A special coin created by individuals or groups of geocachers as a kind of signature item or calling card Like Travel Bug® Trackables.) is becoming more popular with geocachers. These items are stamped with a serial number and registered online at geocaching.com. The holder of the Geocoin will enter the serial number at geocaching.com and report which particular cache they left it in. If the next geocacher wishes to take the Geocoin, they are to enter the serial number and post the cache they put it in. This way the owner of the Geocoin can check online and see where their item is as it moves from cache to cache. The owner of the Geocoin may give specific instructions as to the desired movement of the object also. For example an owner may want limit movement within the state of Washington, or they may want the item to travel to Arizona and back. When a Geocoin holder enters the serial number online they will see if the item has specific instructions. Some Geocoins have travelled over 5,000 miles and visited hundreds of caches.
Dave Ulmer of Oregon is credited with inventing Geocaching. (Because some of the best things have come out the Northwest!) Ulmer placed the first cache in May of 2000 near Beaver Creek, Oregon. He used a five-gallon bucket for the cache and listed the coordinates on an Internet GPS users group. Within a few days, two other GPS users had found the cache and posted details of their visit on the website. By fall of 2000, Geocaching.com was launched. The phenomenon has spread rapidly, and today there are geocaches all over the United States.