Intro to Geocaching (jeeo-kashing)
When I’m out camping, or traveling, or even just sitting around on a nice day, one of my favorite activities to do is geocaching.
Geocaching is a relatively new outdoors sport. You might have heard it mentioned here or there. It came about with the internet and GPS technology. It’s often described as a modern day treasure hunt. The official geocaching website describes it as the following: “Geocaching is a worldwide game of hiding and seeking treasure. A geocacher can place a geocache in the world, pinpoint its location using GPS technology and then share the geocache’s existence and location online. Anyone with a GPS device can then try to locate the geocache.” The geocache can be many different things, but some of the more common ones are ammo cans, tupperware containers, or film canisters. If you want to see some pictures of geocache containers check out Mad Cacher’s GeoCaching Blog. Each geocache contains a log that the player can write their team name on once they’ve found it.
What’s this I hear about ‘treasure’?
Some geocaches may contain small items inside. There are usually trinkets or toys, mostly for the kids. It’s all based on the honor system, but the golden rule of geocaching is if you take something, leave something. That way there’s always something for someone else to discover. The more figurative treasure would be the geocaches location. Typically, a geocache is hidden to take people to a neat spot. It could be a lesser known scenic view or it could be a really odd monument of some sort. This is what makes geocaching such a great sport when you’re traveling to new areas. Geocaches have often taken us to some really amazing spots that we never would have found otherwise.
So how does one get started… geo-caching, is it?
First visit www.geocaching.com. You’ll need to set up an account. It’s free of charge unless you want to become a premium member (try it out for free and see if you like it first). Then you need to come up with a team name. For example, my wife and I are “there&backagain”. Once you’re done with set up you’re ready to search for caches in your area. On the website, search for a few that are close by and then either write down the details or print off the page. If you have the right gear, you can also download the information (we’ll save that one for another time though). Now all you need is a GPS.
GPS… as in Grilled Pork Sandwich?
In case you have been living under a rock for the last five years, GPS stands for Global Positioning System and it pinpoints your location based on communications with satellites. The GPS will take you right to the area where the cache is hidden, but it usually won’t take you right to the cache container itself. GPS units can be expensive, but they last a good 3-5 years depending upon how much you use it and the quality of your unit. The first GPS that we bought was the Garmin eTrex Legend. It’s a little blue handheld GPS and it served us well for the first three years of geocaching. We know several people that have bought this same model and unfortunately for them, ours has lasted the longest. Last year we decided that it was time for us to upgrade. We found a great deal at Dick’s Sporting Goods during a day-after-Thanksgiving-Day-sale. We ended up purchasing the Garmin eTrex Venture HC. This would be my recommendation for anyone starting geocaching. The color screen, satellite connections, and the fact that it offers USB connection makes it a much better unit than the Legend. The other thing to consider when buying new is that the Venture HC is actually a little less expensive than a new Legend. That could be why Garmin discontinued the Legend (although you can still find them for sale).
Why do I like geocaching so much?
I get outside more – There are days when I want to do something outside, but I just can’t think of what. Geocaching always gives me something to do and somewhere to go that keeps me enjoying the outdoors.
It’s inexpensive – Aside from the days when gas was $4 a gallon, geocaching isn’t a very expensive hobby. After the cost of the GPS unit, you really only need to pay for gas to get to the geocache.
It’s family friendly – Geocaching was made for all ages. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a young family with two kids or an elderly couple, you can enjoy this sport all the same. It’s a great way to spend time together as a family as well.
It’s good exercise – Most geocaches require you to walk or hike a ways before you get to the cache, but if you want more exercise just park further away.
You see things you might not have seen otherwise - For me, this is my favorite part about this sport. When we travel, we will usually seek out some geocaches. Often times they will lead us to areas that we would not have seen had we not been geocaching. To finish up this post, here are a few examples of sites we’ve seen and the geocaches that took us there:
This was one of the most out of the way geocaches we have found. It was in Northern Wisconsin, way out in the middle of nowhere. Although we never did find this geocache, we really enjoyed the trip. It took us to a lookout that was clearly not very well known or visited. There was no garbage or graffiti. Just us, nature, and a beautiful view.
This geocache is also in Northern Wisconsin. We had to travel about 3 miles on gravel roads to reach a beautiful overlook of Lake Superior and the Apostle Islands. The geocache was along the rocky shore. After we found it and started back to the main road, we saw a black bear run across the road. As we drove by slowly we saw two bear cubs run up a tree. It was a real treat to see them and even more so to get some pictures of them. We didn’t stick around long though because the mother bear was hiding close by.
Geocaching really helped us explore Scotland when we took a trip to visit the Highlands. This area is known as the Silver Sands of Morar. There is a frequently visited beach just off the road that seems to be the main spot that people visit. However, this geocache took us to a different spot about a mile down the road. We had to hike about a tenth of a mile through tall grass and sand dunes, but it lead us out to a beautiful beach surrounded by volcanic rock! And the best part about it was we were the only ones there.