Adventures in Geocaching
A coworker of mine recently introduced me to the sport/hobby of Geocaching (pronounced, "geo-cashing"). What the heck is geocaching, you ask? Well, geocaching is sort of like the techno-geek's answer to treasure hunting. Here's the idea: First, you need to have a GPS device - handheld, preferably. Then you go online and join a geocaching site - geocaching.com is the best one out there. Next, select a "cache" (stash) to search for using either the cache listings or integrated Google Map search utility. Once you select a cache, printout the cache's page, which provides you with GPS coordinates and details about the cache and how to look for it.
Now the fun part! Put on your sneakers or hiking boots and get outside to track down your treasure. You'll probably drive to a nearby location, first, then park your car and head out on foot with your GPS turned on and keeping you going in the right direction. Many hidden caches are somewhat easy to find (especially for veteran geocachers, who know where & how to look). But some can be quite difficult and frustrating to discover. But that's all a part of the challenge of geocaching! Once you find a cache, you remove it from its hiding place, open it up, sign the log book that's inside of it, and then put it back the way you found it, carefully hidden away. (Part of the challenge of geocaching is not being seen removing or replacing the cache, since folks might plunder the stash after you leave.) There may also be little prizes inside the cache that you can swap out for a trinket you brought along with you to put in.
Finally, you return home and go online to login your discovery at the geocaching website.
Now, doesn't that sound fun?
My own recent adventures in geocaching have brought me to a number of places I would otherwise have never bothered to visit. Thus far, I've found six caches and failed in my search for three of them. Last Saturday, in the midst of a day-long downpour and high winds, I was out there in the wilderness, tracking down stashes. Bad weather and evening treks are actually good times to go searching, since most [normal] folks are indoors and there's less of a chance of being seen taking out a cache. That's what I told myself, anyway, as I slid down an embankment and tumbled to the wet ground in the middle of Forest Park. All I could picture was the headline in the newspaper: "43-year-old man breaks leg searching for treasure in park."
And my ordeals are bound to be even more treacherous as the winter season approaches....
Geocaching is a worldwide phenomenon. Just stop by geocaching.com and do a search, and you'll be amazed at how many hidden caches are in your community alone. The craze began around the year 2000. I've been searching for caches now for only about two weeks. It gets me outside more often, and gives me something to do on those "nothing to do" days that always seem to creep into my schedule.
How much does it cost? Only the price of a handheld GPS device (starting at $100) and gas in your car.
So there you have it. Now there's no excuse for you to be sitting on your couch on a weekend afternoon, watching TV as life passes you by. Get on out there and take up the hunt!
More info on geocaching:
- A Beginners Guide to Geocaching
- Geocaching Wiki
- Geocacher University