What the heck is Geocaching?
Infuse your favourite childhood game of “Hide and Go Seek” with a little technological marvel called a GPS and you have a craze that is literally being discovered across the world.Though, in this adventure sport called geocaching, it’s a hidden container that someone else has hidden and that you’re trying to seek.
Enter the GPS, or Global Positioning System– a high-tech way of tracking down the container, or cachethat has its own coordinates and description on a master website for all who are game to try out geocaching. Once you’ve found a cache, it’s important to sign the logbook inside. Next, should you choose to do so, swap one of your own items for one of the items in the geocache and log the exchange in the logbook!
When did this all start?
At one point in time, GPS units were unable to track a particular set of coordinates to closer than 100m due to a military controlled signal scramble– now, due to a lift of this signal– GPS units can almost pinpoint an exact location– within 10 metres. The day after the descramble, a computer software engineer named Dave Ulmer hid the very first geocache in Oregon. This pioneer cache contained a variety of objects, including a can of beans and a $5. Then, he posted a message to an online newsgroup the GPS location of his cache and within one day it was found and thus geocaching was born!
How do I know what a cache will look like?
That’s part of the fun– caches come in all shapes, sizes and colours– some are even virtual! Some canisters are quite large and contain many items. An example of a cache is this canister. This was our first find and after a good twenty minutes of looking through brush, under bushes, we found it tied to a tree and sneakily camouflaged… those tricky little cachers.
Trickier still are the smaller caches, called micro caches, are often as tiny as a film canister and contain nothing more than a logbook. The logbook is an essential component to any cache as it’s a place to record a list of its ever-changing contents but serves also to proudly display the names (sometimes team names and code names, as some people have taken on geocaching as a full-time hobby) of those who have found this cache and when. On occasion, some will also include how many caches they have found or will attach a geocaching “business” card!
How do I get started?
Visit the Geocaching official website– this is your “one-stop shop” when it comes to all that is geocaching! The site offers a country-by-country search of all registered caches and users can download coordinates, maps and commentary from other members about caches. Also, there is a comprehensive list of frequently asked questions and an explanation of all of the different kinds of caches and trackable items that are found in some caches. It is really amazing to find out that there are so many hidden treasures so close to your own home!
A few of the really cool items that you might find in a cache in your neighbourhood:
No, it’s not something that will have you keeping the tissue companies in business– it’s a tag that is attached to an item. The tag has a number on it that allows for the item to be tracked as it moves from one cache to another. There are thousands of these travel bugs in existence moving across the world– one cache at a time. The first travel bug we found started off in Washington, D.C. with the hope of making it to Africa. We tracked the little Timone keychain travel bug along his journey by logging on to the geocaching website and by typing in his tag number–last time we checked he was in the U.K.! Check out where Timone is on his way to Africa!
A GeoCoin is a specially minted coin with a tracking number on it. These coins come in all sorts of themes and can be ordered online. They look similar to little bronze medals and are hidden in caches all over the world. Usually, the coins have a national flair so they are even more special when found abroad!
Each cache contains a logbook (as we’ve already discussed). We feel that it’s worth highlighting the importance of signing the logbook when you find a cache and most notably when you swap an item in and out of a cache. Part of the fun of this adventure sport is noting the ever-changing contents of the cache and the rare and unique items that some people leave behind! Some people have created their own signature stickers, geocaching cards and cool team names and it’s really neat to check them out in the logbook.
Reflections on our First Geocaching Experience:
To be honest, we just couldn’t get over the fact that there were hidden treasure boxes all over the place! When Rob’s parents told us that they had found a cache not more than ten minutes from our place, we just looked at each other with dumbfounded looks on our faces. When we logged on to the official geocaching site prior to heading out on our first cache hunt, our interest grew ten-fold. This geocaching thing was EVERYWHERE– not only nearby but aroudn the world. Suddenly, we found ourselves putting in familiar postal codes from our places of work and homes of friends, just to see how many caches were hidden in the areas. It just blew our minds how many caches were out there and how big the geocaching community was!
We set off in search of the Mullett Creek Repeat Cache with Rob’s parents and their GPS. Getting to know the GPS proved to be a task onto itself at first– learning how to input the coordinates of the cache, figuring out all of the buttons and then seeing how the different screens could show us the way to the cache.
Here is a list of the geocaches we have found so far:
Mullett Creek Repeat: Our first experience with Geocaching. My parents took us on this first one, and it was a blast!
DEVIL ducks IN DE SKIES have landed! Ok, the only geocache we have ever gone looking for and never found. This was our second one, and man were we pissed! It’s a micro-cache, so it’s smaller than normal (or so we are told!)
Kilally Cache Great Hike through Kilally meadows. we had a great time finding this one. Hidden really good! Check out the Killaly Meadows hiking review
Birthday Cache Great first cache we found with Nancy’s parents. really fun, and easily found (well it should have been… we were too much into the deceptive thinking)