Friday, April 18, 2008

Geocaching

I had lunch with my friend La Donna today. As we gnawed on our chicken on a stick (we're fancy like that) she told me about an adventure past time I'd never heard of: Geocaching (pronounced "geo-cashing").

The concept is simple: participants use a GPS--Global Positioning System--which costs anywhere from $100 to $1,000 (depending on your level of nerdliness and budget) of one sort or another to locate the coordinates of a hidden, sometimes buried, cache or package. Coordinates are given in Latitude and Longitude.
Once a cache is found, the rules are simple:
1. Take something from the cache.
2. Leave something in the cache.
3. Write about it in the log book. (All caches must contain a log book at the very least.)

According to the website, there are caches to be hunted world-wide. Here are a few of FAQS:
Where are caches found?

The location of a cache can be very entertaining indeed. As many say, location, location, location! The location of a cache demonstrates the founder's skill and possibly even daring. A cache located on the side of a rocky cliff accessible only by rock climbing equipment may be hard to find. An underwater cache may only be accessed by scuba. Other caches may require long difficult hiking, orienteering, and special equipment to get to. Caches may be located in cities both above and below ground, inside and outside buildings. The skillful placement of a small logbook in an urban environment may be quite challenging to find even with the accuracy of a gps. That little logbook may have a hundred dollar bill in it or a map to greater treasure. It could even contain clues or riddles to solve that may lead to other caches. Rich people could have fun with their money by making lucrative caches that could be better than winning the lottery when you find it. Just hope that the person that found the cache just before you left a real big prize!
Can I move a cache once I find it?

Don't move the cache! Responsible cache owners often check on their caches and would be alarmed to discover that it is missing.

An alternative would be to have a trackable item, which is an item that you can move from cache to cache. An example of this is a candle that has traveled from Australia to Arizona, and a Mr. Potato head that leaps from cache to cache. For example you can purchase a Groundspeak Travel Bug , which is a tag that you can attach to an item so you can track its movements through this web site.

Are there any variations in the game?

YES! We strongly encourage it, actually. Geocaching is a game that constantly reinvents itself, and the rules are very flexible. If you have a new idea on how to place a cache, or a new game using GPS units, we'd love to hear about it.

Some examples -

Offset Caches - They're not found by simply going to some coordinates and finding a cache there. With the Offset Cache the published coordinates are that of an existing historical monument, plaque, or even a benchmark that you would like to have your cache hunter visit. From this site the cache hunter must look around and find offset numbers stamped/written in or on some part of the marker site, or continue based on instructions posted to geocaching.com

Multi-caches - The first cache gives coordinates (or partial coordinates) to the next location, or multiple caches have hints to the final cache.

Virtual caches - A cache is actually an existing landmark, such as a tombstone or statue. You have to answer a question from the landmark and let the "cache" owner know as proof that you were there.

How long do caches exist?

It all depends on the location of the cache and its impact on the environment and the surrounding areas. Caches could be permanent, or temporary. It's up to the cache owner to periodically inspect the cache and the area to ensure that impact is minimal, if not nonexistant. When you find a cache, it's always a good idea to let the cache owner know the condition as well.
Periodically, Geocaching.com will review each cache to ensure that everything is still current. We cannot guarantee that a cache will exist at any given time, but we'll do our best to ensure the list is as current as possible.

If you do find that a cache is missing/defaced, please let the cache owner know as soon as possible!

***

One can start and hide their own cache and there are instructions for that too.

It just seems to me that if this whole concept doesn't appeal to your inner treasure hunter, you might not HAVE an inner treasure hunter. Additionally, this would mean another great excuse for a girl to lace on her hiking boots and set off with her camera.

On the down side, the other image that springs to mind is that of Ralphie Parker in "A Christmas Story" when for weeks he anxiously awaits the arrival of his Secret Decoder Pen only to FINALLY decode his first "exciting" message: "Eat Your Ovaltine." Ahem.
Still...there's something to be said for the thrill of the hunt, right?

I'm considering adding this activity to a play day agenda. I'll keep you posted. Interestingly, I notice on the Geocaching website an event at Lake Cumberland that actually is beginning today---a weekend of geocaching. According to the itinerary, there are over 50 caches located within the park.
Meanwhile, if you have any first-hand knowledge of the sport and insights to share, please feel free to comment or e-mail me. [An unrelated formatting side note? I DO KNOW where I should be double spacing, ESPECIALLY BETWEEN paragraphs. Blogger, for whatever reason, has chosen not to allow me to do this. VERY annoying indeed.]
[Updated to add: I'm finding 365 geocaches within the 42001 zip code alone. Perhaps I am the last to learn about geocaching?]

5 comments:

Norm said...

The only problem with geocaching is, it's really addictive!

The idea of finding hidden treasure (even worthless treasure) is a thrill to most people. My wife and I have been geocaching for less than a year. We have found over 200 geocaches, and we are having a blast.

I would encourage your readers to give it a try. It's really fun.

We have a blog about geocaching at The Northwoods Geocats. Stop by and say hello. we always like meeting new friends online.

Brenda said...

I've never heard of it either, but it sounds like fun!

Hick@Heart said...

I've heard geocaching be described as, "The fastest growing phenomenon that no one has ever heard of." Give it a try. Geocachers place caches in places they find interesting. You will discover things and places you never knew existed right in your own backyard. It is a great way to find places to point your camera.

Geocaching With Team Hick@Heart

P.J. said...

Don't feel bad if you are new to the party (I just started about a month ago) as the geocaching community is really nice and fun. Though the treasure isn't always great, the hunt and find is wild and fun. And as a photographer, I can say you get taken to some really wild places.

Jump in, but beware -- it's addictive!

HooHaa!

Bubble Girl said...

We looove geo-caching! The Lake Cumberland weekend sounds fabulous...wonder if they do anything like that in Austin???