Geocaching: A Modern Day Treasure Hunt

Ever been wandering around in the woods and thought it would be cool find some treasure there? Maybe you could stumble on a treasure map somewhere and follow the dotted line to the end to find a chest of gold waiting for you?

I can’t promise anything about the old paper treasure map and the pot of gold but there is tons of hidden treasure out in the woods just waiting to be found. They’re called geocaches.

What the heck does Geocache mean?

It sort of means a cache or supply of stuff is hidden somewhere geographically. That doesn’t make much sense literally but when you think of geography and using maps to find the locations of the caches it makes a bit more sense. If you want to get really geeky you can look into the computer-related history of the word cache and it’s relation to this new sport.

Where are these things hidden?

They’re everywhere! Not quite everywhere. Caching etiquette says you shouldn’t put them too close to each other. Exactly how far that means kind of depends on the area and your GPS. Recommendations are .1 miles apart. That’s about .15 kilometers or 150 meters. While it is fun to be able to log a ton of caches in one area, you don’t want to start stumbling over them! Some people might think they’re garbage and throw them in the trash bins.

How do I find them?

You’ll need a GPS device of some sort. Lots of phones these days have GPS capabilities and you can get great geocaching apps that give you all the information you need. You can also grab one of the dedicated GPS devices like what Garmin or Magellan make. I’m currently using a Garmin Montana 600 but I’ve other old Garmin’s or my iPhone before. You’ll need cell reception to use your phone so you can’t take it out that far but you’ll be surprised at how many caches are within your city limits.

What do they look like?

Geocaches have a wide variety of shapes and sizes. Most of them are fairly small, so that you can hide them without problems. You’ve probably seen on hidden in the woods and just haven’t noticed that it’s there. The smaller ones are small tubes with a little cap on the end. They need to be relatively waterproof to protect the things inside. Most are about medium sized, about the size of a tupperware container or a plastic peanut butter container. All you need is enough space to fit a log book and a few treasures. Some of the caches can be quite large if there is a large hiding spot for them. Ammo cases are a popular choice as they’re tough and if the seals are good, are fairly waterproof. Sometimes the cache descriptions will let you know the size of what you are looking for and sometimes they won’t. Be prepared for anything.

What do I do when I find one?

Arrrr! You’ve found buried treasure, matey! Well it might not have been buried and it probably doesn’t have any gold in it (I’m still holding out for one that does) but it should have some other goodies in it. Most geocaches will have a visitor’s log of sorts that you can write a note about when you were there. They will also have all sorts of other goodies inside. The standard practice is to take something and leave something. I’ve had all sorts of random things in the caches I’ve seen from little cars, plastic dinosaurs and animals, bubbles, cat toys, money, foam airplanes and dolls. You can find almost anything. Most of them are going to be quite small.

Some of the caches don’t have anything in them except for a piece of paper. They could be just a visitor’s log or they could be one part of a multi-part cache. The paper gives you the hint for the next cache. You have to find the rest of them before you get to the mother-load at the end. Usually the geocaching websites will tell you when the cache is a multipart.

Can anyone find these things?

Yup, anyone can go out and find all these geocaches. You don’t have to pay anything for a special membership or have any kind of special gear. All you need is a smart phone or a GPS and you’re off to the races. Take care when you find a geocache to hide it again carefully. The whole system relies on the caches being hidden again carefully so that the next person can find it. It’s not very fun looking for a cache that’s been stolen or moved.

Ok, that sounds cool. What do I need to start?

You might be ready to go already. All you need is something that’s got a GPS in it. A handheld unit or a smart phone will do. Then you’ll probably want some shoes to wear outside and that’s it really. It’s basically just exploring trails and looking for treasure. You can even go out when it’s pouring rain or snowing outside. Waterproof outdoor gear is very nice to have if you’ll be outside for long. It might also be hard to do with a lot of snow on the ground. Doable but tough!

So, what are you waiting for? Get out there and do some geocaching!

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