September 1 2010 by Julie Drossos
Remember being a kid and excitedly embarking on scavenger hunts through your local park or camping destination? I still remember my 11th birthday party when my mom had arranged for a treasure hunt throughout the expansive park behind the house I grew up in. The thrill of seeking out unknown treats and the challenge and thrill of the chase made for a great time.
More recently I've been learning about the trend of Geocaching... Think along the lines of a global scavenger hunt of sorts, for kids or adults alike. It's a fast-growing activity that over 4 million people around the world currently take part in. "Geo" refers to geography and "caching" to the process of hiding a cache, which historically means a "hidden treasure" or concealed food, provisions or cash.
Geocaching is a free (yes, FREE!) high-tech treasure hunting game played around the world by adventure seekers utilizing GPS technology, billion-dollar government satellites and the internet. Seriously - how cool does that statement alone sound! First things first you have to visit the official Geocaching website - create your account, and then search for caches in your area. You may be left with simple plain-as-day hints of where a treasure is located (such as the precise latitude and longitude coordinates, which you can then use your GPS to guide you to). But the more difficult (and more fun) caches come with puzzles to solve. Very "Amazing Race". The fun is always in the challenge, and even though you might have the coordinates to get to the location, you still have to use your brain and senses to locate the cache once you get there. You'll be surprised at how cleverly hidden many of the caches are.
Fun for all
What I love about geocaching is anyone of any age can play this game, and you can make it pretty much a lifetime hobby. It's a wonderful activity to take part in as a family and you can make it as easy or as hard as you'd like to (by selecting the area you are going to search for caches in). It is also an excellent way to keep you and your family fit and active, and allow yourself to get out and explore and travel the world, all the while on your very own geocaching adventure.
Experiences in geocaching and cache locations are shared online and it is known for fostering a great sense of community that literally spans the world through thanks to its passionate online "family". And like I said earlier, it's free! All you have to do is go to the official geocaching website to open an online account, and take care of the initial investment in your GPS device (warning - GPS devices can be way too much fun and can truly bring your inner-nerd to the surface).
What are we looking for?
The "caches" can vary in size and contents. Regular caches can be as small as a little film roll case (this would be called a nanocache) or as large as a 5 gallon paint pail. The smaller caches normally contain only a log - people that hunt for these sorts of caches are doing it for the thrill and challenge of the hunt. Larger caches may contain trinkets or other random items. It's important to note that Geocaching is about the thrill of the chase and the journey to get there more than anything. You locate the cache and sign your name in the log (somewhat of an "I was here" mark), and you'll be amazed at the simple satisfaction you get just from finding what you were looking for, even though you're not necessarily gaining anything tangible. It is all about the experience! Now, if you do find something in a cache and keep it, please note that the etiquette is to replace that item with something of equal or greater value.
Here's a list of "must-haves" for a pleasant and successful geocaching adventure:
- Sani wipes
- headlamp, pen light or flashlight (personally I love the headlamp, it makes me feel like a REAL explorer)
- duct tape
- small zip lock bags
- local maps
- trinkets for trade (i.e. if you take an item from a cache, you can replace it with one you brought)
- trash bags - respect our beautiful earth and don't litter
- digital camera
- extra batteries (for you GPS and flashlights)
- extra writing instruments for the logs
- tweezers for removing logs from nanocaches or hard to reach areas
Check out this great clip on Geocaching that pretty much tells you everything you need to know to get going on your adventure.