Geocaching; A Grown-Up Scavenger Hunt
Did you know there are over 5 million people participating in a world-wide scavenger hunt? Yup. Five Million folks do this.
This grown-up scavenger hunt is officially called "geocaching," and if you've never done it, you're missing out. "Why?" you ask. Three reasons:
- The hunt is a free, family-friendly activity that can be done anywhere.
- The activity, by its very nature, gets you outside exploring.
- Your efforts bring tangible results that make everyone feel as if they've won something.
So what is geocaching? Good question.
The term "cache" means a storage place that's hidden and secure. As you know, "geo" is a brand of small cars made by General Motors. I kid. In this context, "geo" refers to the earth. So, combine the two and you get the fun which is geocaching. I could go to the trouble of explaining what the activity is, but why do that when our good friends at Wikipedia have already done the hard work? Take it away, WP...
Geocaching is an outdoor sporting activity in which the participants use a Global Positioning System (GPS) receiver or mobile device and other navigational techniques to hide and seek containers, called "geocaches" or "caches," anywhere in the world.
A typical cache is a small waterproof container containing a logbook where the geocacher enters the date they found it and signs it with their established code name. Larger containers such as plastic storage containers (tupperware or similar) or ammunition boxes can also contain items for trading, usually toys or trinkets of little value. Geocaching is often described as a "game of high-tech hide and seek"...
Geocaches are currently placed in over 100 countries around the world and on all seven continents, including Antarctica. After 10 years of activity, there are over 1,532,000 active geocaches published on various websites. There are over 5 million geocachers worldwide.
Now that Wikipedia has explained it so well, I'll tell you how Team Phenix rolls when we geocache... keeping in mind that we are a team of four...with two of us aged nine and seven. In other words, we wont be scaling rock cliffs to find geocaches, and we go for the ones that are pretty family friendly...and ones near potties.
Here's the steps we recommend to get going:
1. Kick around on www.geocaching.com. This is where you find maps and/or coordinates to tell you where geocaches are found. (They also have a great video found HERE that explains what it is in two minutes.) When I say geocaches are everywhere, they really are. They are in the country, city, suburbs, and likely near you right now. (One is hidden in the parking lot of our local grocery store!)
2. Secure a GPS system to lead you OR (and more easily) download the official geocaching iPhone app (the free one is OK, but the $9.99 for the full version is completely worth it!). If you want to go old school and use mapping coordinates, buy a handheld GPS, and there is a way to do that (I think).
3. When you are ready to go, allow the app to identify your current location and then push "find a cache" button. A map pops up, and you just need to follow the arrows to the area of the cache. The GPS or app will lead you close to the hidden cache (usually within 15 to 20 feet) You should know that geocaches are typically placed out of plain site but are never buried in the ground.4. Look - look - look for the "cache." The app usually tells you the size and general description of the cache. It can be as small as a pill bottle or Altoid can, but it can also be a large tupperware container or army ammo case. The cache can be hung from trees, stuck on a metal guardrail, inside a fake rock, or down a hollow pipe. 5. If you can't find the cache, check the app for any hints and also check the online log (viewable through the app) to see if anyone's found the cache recently. If the last time it was found was during the Reagan administration, that doesn't bode well.6. When you find the cache, sign the log book (bring your own pen). We find it fascinating to scan the logs and see all the different people and dates when the cache was found. 7. Exchange trinkets. Often there are little trinkets or takeaways in a cache. The intent here is exchange one of the trinkets you've brought with one that's already in the cache. The items are never expensive, but often creative. (The trinket thing is optional. However, this is the highlight for our kids, so we always carry a little "prize" to exchange along the lines of a shell or dice...or those confounded silly bands.) Occasionally, you'll find a "trackable" souvenir (pictured). Your responsibility with these is to move the souvenir to a new geocache and then log on to the website printed on the trinket, then enter the number of that souvenir and log where you moved the trinket. The owner likes to see how far their token travels. We recently found one in aVentura Beach cache and replanted it in the small North Georgia town of Clayton, Ga. I like to think the owner is a bit confused about how in the world that move happened.8. After you replant the cache, enter your find with the official website from your phone or computer (optional). Feel free to leave a note for the next guy.
After you've hunted a bunch of these caches, you'll likely start planting them - which is a subject of another post. Until then, jump on into the hunt. It's great fun!
Let me know what you find...