Do You Geocache?
Last weekend, in the scorching heat, I thought I would sneak out for a quick kayak. It is one of my favourite things – so peaceful and relaxing on the water. Generally, I end up taking pictures as I paddle. What can I say, it is beautiful on the water. I have been taking photos since I got my first camera around the age of 10 and this outing was no different. There I was, in the middle of the water, taking photos with my phone and instagramming away, oblivious to the world around me. (Follow Travel Destination Bucket List on Instagram for more photos from Ottawa and around the world!) Totally engrossed in instagram while floating along, I didn’t even notice a small group of kayakers coming my way. One of them paddled right up beside me and excitedly asked “are you geocaching?”
To be honest, I know little about geocaching. My understanding is that there are GPS coordinates for geocaches globally and that people search them out like a treasure hunt or orienteering adventures, sharing their finds on the web with fellow Geocachers from around the world. It’s like the outdoor adventure equivalent to online games with multiple players! I once thought I found a Geocache by accident when snowshoeing although it was more likely a treasure hunt for a local fitness group – it wasn’t that well hidden, just a challenge to get to.
My question is this – is geocaching something I should be doing? I am so incredibly directionally challenged (remember my confessions of a travel-aholic – I can get lost in a grocery store. No kidding!) Perhaps this would be a fun way for me to work on my map reading skills while discovering new places. Figuring I should do a little research on the subject, I started poking around on line – I got nearly 22 million hits!
According to Geocaching.com, there are over 5 million geocachers worldwide and 2,142,233 active geocaches. It is incredibly family friendly – I found a number of family oriented sites sharing their experiences (Suitcases and Sippy Cups had a couple pieces including Finding Fun with Geocaching) and it is suitable for all levels of skills from beginner to super adventurer. They say it is a fun way to explore the world and all you need is a GPS or a smartphone. Who knows, this may just help improve my sense of direction!
Do you Geocache? If you do, I would love to hear more about your experiences. It sounds like a fun way to explore and the links between Travel and GeoTourism are growing. Search on your next travel destination – they may just have a geocache waiting for you. Sounds like a great way to explore places off the beaten track!
This is what I found on the web – by no means a comprehensive research piece – but an introduction to the whats and hows behind the growing trend…
|Ins and outs of Geocaching|
|What is Geocaching? It is a free, outdoor treasure hunt with hidden containers (geocaches) found all over the world. People use a smartphone or GPS to find the treasures and then share their experiences online. This is your chance to use your skills and GPS enabled device to get out there and explore. (oh boy, I may have travelled around the world…but this could be a real challenge for me!)|
|How do you play? There are 8 simple steps according to the Geocaching website: Register for a free basic membership, visit the hide & seek cache page, enter a postal code for your search region, select a geocache, enter the coordinates into your GPS device and search. Once you find it, sign the logbook and return it to the original location. Share your stories and photos on line.|
|Are there any rules? It looks quite simple – if you take something from the Geocache, leave something of equal or greater value. Write about it in the “cache” logbook and log your experience in on the website. If you are unable to find the cache – log it as such. There is a possibility it has been moved and it is the responsibility of the owner of the cache to check on it and maintain the site.|
|Where? The “caches” are found all over the world. They range in difficulty levels from quite simple to much more complicated or adventurous hiding places. That way, anyone from a beginner to highly advanced can play. They could be in a park, in the forest or even under water. Multi-tiered caches mean that the clues build on themselves as you move location to location until you find the ultimate location. It all lends to the adventure and challenge.|
|Types of Geocahes. Start with the original or traditional cache (a container and a log book/logsheet), as your skills develop, try the multi-cache (aka offset cache). This often has 2 or more locations with a physical container as the final location. 20th Century Fox created the Project A.P.E. Cache in conjunction with the movie Planet of the Apes in 2001 – each cache had a prop from the movie however there may only be one cache that still exists today. The final challenge – the mystery or puzzle cache sounds intriguing. It involves complicated puzzles as clues to discover the GPS coordinates.|
|Getting Started. Check the cache listing for caches in your area. The caches will be listed with a difficulty rating and a cache type. It is recommended, when you are first getting started, that you look for a cache that has been found recently. The logs will show when it was last found. With more recent log-ins, it is more likely that the cache is still in place and findable.|
|What do they look like? Geocaches come in all shapes and sizes, ranging in difficulty from a large, clear plastic container to a fake rock with a secret compartment and anything in between.|
Digging a little deeper, I found that Geocaching is very similar to the 150 year old game of “letterboxing”, with clues and references to landmarks embedded in stories. It really is a more sophisticated form of the old fashioned treasure hunt with satellite technology to help you track down your target.
I also found it quite interesting to read that it has not been all fun and games for some geocachers – attentions of the police have been alerted to the suspicious behaviors of people who place or search for the caches, especially in highly public places. A bomb scare was reported in downtown Auckland when a suspicious person was reported “planting a device around a railing”. The bomb squad was called in and the area was blocked off (Hide and seek game causes Auckland bomb scare). Perhaps I will stick to the more outdoor adventure places that include hikes in the woods or along the shores of a lake – don’t want to be the cause of an international scandal!
What do you think? Have you tried Geocaching? Would love to hear about your experiences.