Geocaching is the perfect activity for family adventure. Young and old alike can enjoy this “treasure hunt” together, seeing new places and new things in old places. You can geocache while traveling to new places or you could find one less than a mile from your home. Geocaching is an engaging adventure that combines technology, the outdoors, treasure hunting and exploration!
Geocaching has evolved over the past nine years. There are over 1.2 million caches hidden around the world. Chances are that you would not have to go very far to find a cache and finding that first cache is usually not very difficult. The first step is to go to geocaching.com and use the search function to search for caches in your area. It is simplest to use your zip code to begin your search.
The search results will be a list of caches in the chosen area. Click on one of the links and the cache page will load. The cache page is where you will find all the information you need to find the cache, tell you what kind of cache it is, and the logs of other cacher’s that have found the cache.
The GPS coordinates are at the top of the cache page. You will have to create a free account to see the coordinates and other cache information. Then, it is simply a matter of entering the coordinates into your GPS receiver and finding your way to the hidden cache. Sounds simple, but many times getting to within 5 or 10 feet of the cache is not the end of the story. Many caches are cleverly hidden, making the hunt even more challenging.
After you find the cache, you will find a logbook inside, at a minimum. Additionally, you may find any number of other items, commonly referred to as SWAG. Cachers will leave “trade-items” as well as “signature-items” in caches. Feel free to take things out of caches that you find and replace them with new trade-items. Most cachers will try to “trade-up”, making the cache better than they found it.
Geocaching started in 2000 when a GPS enthusiast, Dave Ulmer, posted the coordinates on the Internet for a container hidden near Portland, Oregon. Within a few days two individuals had read his post online and went looking for the “cache”. Over the next few weeks, others who were interested in the new technology and the exploration hid their own containers, posting their coordinates. It became a mailing list type of bulletin board and by September of that same year, geocaching.com was launched.
Geocaching.com is very well designed and easy to navigate. It costs absolutely nothing to open an account and begin your caching adventures. On the website you can search for geocaches, determine what type of cache it is and the difficulty of the hide (how well the cache is hidden), difficulty of the terrain, look at their location on integrated Google maps, read the logs of others that have found the cache, as well as logging your finds.
Your account will keep track of the geocaches that you find (or don’t find if you log them as “did not find”). It will keep track of the types of caches that you have found and you may even earn digital badges called souvenirs. You can keep track of your “travel bugs” and their travels. You can also post pictures of your adventures on the website for others to see.
Travel Bugs and other Trackables
Travel bugs and coins are items that are trackable through the website. You can purchase travel bug tags via Groundspeak , the parent company of geocaching.com. Each one comes with its own unique serial number which you register on the website. You can then attach the tag to any item you wish, creating a travel bug. There have been many items turned into travel bugs and many get very creative with their travel bugs such as bricks, hubcaps and other unique items. Once the travel bugs are logged into a cache, another cacher will pick up the travel bug and log it into another cache, thus moving the traveler around. You can create goals and missions for your travel bugs. “Go to all 50 states” is a common goal. There have also been travel bug races, where two travel bugs race for a specific cache.
Travel bugs are especially great for the children. You can release a travel bug into the “wild”, and track its travels all over the world. You can give your travel bug a goal and as other cachers move the item, you can watch your item travel! Kids learn about geography, maps and the use of technology, just though watching a travel bug’s adventures.
Geocaching is an inexpensive activity to participate in yet there are a couple of essential pieces of equipment you need. A GPS receiver, compass, cache bag (backpack or fanny pack), and of course a computer with Internet access is the minimum gear you will need. It is also recommended that every time you go off the beaten path, always take the 10 essentials as recommended by the Mountaineer’s.
As you continue in the sport, you will be able to tailor the items you prefer to take and figure out what works best for you. Other common gear geocachers carry might include a walking stick, personal digital assistant (PDA’s) or smart phone and signature items, something that is personal to you or your family that you leave in every cache. These signature items range from items you make to personal geocoins you have minted.
Geocaching is not always about the find (or the numbers!), it is about the hunt; the travels you experience while looking for caches. When I began geocaching, I had lived in the town I was in for 12 years. Geocaching showed us MANY places within a few miles of my home that I never knew existed. Beautiful places that I would have otherwise never enjoyed. Geocaching will get you off of the beaten path when traveling. Road trips become much more interesting. Geocaching is about adventure and families exploring together. It is about the hunt!
Geocaching For Dummies
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