Geocaching for Beginners
Two kids and an adult strode across the mall parking lot. They quickly scanned the area to see if they were being watched before disappearing in a hole in the hedge- a little-known trail down a slope that led to the sidewalk below. They followed the sidewalk to a bench and sat down, trying their best to look nonchalant as a woman walked by with her terrier. As soon as she was gone, they roamed around the bench, feeling underneath the seat, between the bench slats, searching…
“Found it!” The boy cried, extracting a little box from the hollow in the bench leg. The family gathered around as he cracked open the plastic case. The newly minted geo-coins glittered in the Saturday morning sun.
History of Geocaching
As a sport, Geocaching is fairly new, with the first official cache stashed in 2000, but people have been hiding caches for centuries, from pirate gold buried under the sand to love notes tucked into crevices in moss covered garden walls, manila envelopes taped under park benches to clandestine war plans hidden in tree hollows.
Yes, people have been Geocaching forever, but now hiding caches have become a legitimate pastime, not just reserved for secret agents, buccaneers, and lovers. And it’s a sport that has swept around the globe. From that single stash 17 years ago, there are now over one million caches worldwide (and counting) just waiting to be discovered, and more than 9 million people hunting for them.
Caches can be as small as the size of a magnetic key holder all the way up to an ammunition box. But they all are usually waterproof containers. The small caches only carry a paper log which you are supposed to sign and date and return to their position. The larger ones have actual stashes- with little toys, seashells, etc. For those ones, you are supposed to put something you brought into the container and take only one thing out. Some of them have trackables- which are items you are supposed to log in the find and then to take to another cache location. They usually say ‘trackable’on them and can be anything from a geocoin to a plastic toy.
- Some caches you will have to solve a puzzle or decode something for a hint.
- Some caches are off the beaten track- like on rivers and only accessible by kayak or boat.
- Some caches contain a riddle to lead you to the next cache, and so on and so on until you hit the real treasure.
Virtual & Earth Caches
You will not find a physical marker at a virtual or earth cache. These are just geological formations, really incredible views or something in the landscape to marvel over. Take a photo and log it in- enjoy the scenery, but don’t go hunting for a box- because there isn’t one.
How to Play the Game
You don’t have to be a pirate or spy to partake of this global treasure hunt, in fact, it’s easier and more accessible than you can imagine.
Geocaching takes little equipment, making it one of the cheaper hobbies. All you need is an account (Geocaching.com) and a handheld GPS unit or an app on your phone.
- You log into your account, check out the map for the nearest stash or the one you find most intriguing, download the coordinates onto your GPS and off you go.
- If you use the Geocaching app on your smartphone, you simply open the app and find the nearest cache and follow it on your phone. If you are driving- give it to a passenger to direct you.
- Bring a pen to sign the log.
- Carry a little toy to put in the cache if it’s a large cache. You can invest in a bag of plastic dinosaurs, army men, or even bugs at the Dollar Store, or decide on a signature stash. Some people leave only seashells, other decorated rocks. Make it a family decision on your signature stash.
- Log it! Always log your find. Write your cache-hunter name and the date in the cache log and then log it on the website. Online you can just say “Found it!” Or leave a note like it is the end of the log paper, the riddle was impossible, sprinkler turned on and you got soaked, etc, to help others. There’s a whole community discussing these caches, and someone else’s notes may help you through the tougher finds.
How to Get the Kids Geocaching
Geocaching encourages families to get outside and explore together. Those boring parks suddenly become possibilities with hidden treasures somewhere in their depths.
It teaches your kids about map reading, topography, and tracking. It also teaches them to be aware and alert in the environment- where any out-of-place shape may be the cache.
Let your kids be in charge. Seriously, if your kids are old enough, put them in charge of the GPS or app and let them direct the family towards the next cache. If you have more than one child- take turns with the caches. Let them bring their friends along. Treasure hunting can be a social event- in fact, Geocaching holds Geocache Events around the world to unite their fellow hunters.
Start Your Own Cache
Once you have Geocaching under your belt, you can think about creating your own cache stash, with coordinates, a waterproof container, log, and treasure if you like. You can even add a puzzle or riddle. Monitor the finds online and make sure to check your cache to change out the log book every now and then.
Get Started Today:
Choosing a Handheld GPS Unit
If you decide to invest in a GPS unit, Sally Perkins, freelance writer and mom, has some great advice:
Discover the Best GPS to Take on Your Adventures
Being an adventurous soul is a fantastic way to live your life, but when you take your family along, it pays to be just a little more cautious. Whether you are looking for a new fishing spot, a great but little-known area for a bit of wildlife spotting, or your next geocache, it’s a good idea to have a reliable GPS system to help you find your way.
If you are in the market for a new handheld GPS system, there are a lot of them out there. Here are some options:
- Garmin’s eTrex
- DeLorme InReach SE
- Bushnell’s BackTrack G2
- Garmin’s Oregon 650t
To help make your handheld GPS decision that bit easier, here is a comprehensive top ten listing the pros and cons of handheld GPS tech.
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