Family treasure hunt
| June 6, 2010 9:00 PM
Looking for something a little bit different to do this summer, something that will spur your whole family to get outside and "go wild?" Try geocaching. This fun-for-all-ages game puts an exciting new spin on traditional scavenger-hunting expeditions. It can be played just about anywhere in the world, and since players can also log on to a website to record their findings, the game offers the added thrill of connecting outdoor adventurers around the globe. Geocaching requires the use of a Global Positioning System (GPS) unit, but don't let the technology turn you off. GPS units are affordable these days, and using them is simple enough to be mastered by even the most technically challenged among us.
What is geocaching?
Geocaching is a game in which people use a GPS unit to track down the location "caches" of interesting items that have been hidden outdoors. The GPS unit is designed to help navigate one's way through unknown territory by using latitude and longitude coordinates, but it offers a whole new element of outdoor fun when used to search out mysterious treasures in the woods.
The first documented geocache was stashed in Oregon 10 years ago, and today, there are geocaches hidden in over 100 countries around the world and on all seven continents. There are well over a million geocaches worldwide, and you're probably within striking distance of one right now. I checked out Idaho and found a bunch within the city limits of my town alone, not to mention the hills and valleys beyond!
A typical cache is a small waterproof container containing a logbook and "treasures" for trade. The items inside aren't worth much money. You may find coins, toys, buttons, books or handy implements like fishing lures, flashlights and pocketknives. These trinkets are priceless for the sense of mystery, history and the joy of the "I found it!" experience involved in the hunt.
Get ready to geocache
n GPS unit that accepts custom waypoints. Find one at stores that specialize in electronics, camping or hunting and fishing. There are also new cell phones that support geocaching via applications like Geocache Navigator or Groundspeak's Geocaching iPhone Application.
• Extra batteries for your GPS
• Item(s) to trade
• Pen or pencil to sign the logbook
• Coordinates of a geocache
Since geocache locations range from city parks to mountaintops, the world is your oyster. If you're new to the game, though, pick a spot close to home by searching your area at www.geocaching.com.
When you find a geocache
Finding a cache is cause for celebration. But before you open it, make a mental note of how the cache was hidden so you can replace it "just so" when you leave. Now it's time to delve into the treasure trove! Look for the logbook. Half the fun of geocaching is reading the entries of others who have been there before you. Feel free to add your own entry, which you can choose to sign, or remain anonymous. Once you're signed in, enjoy perusing the goodies within. Often, you'll be able to match items with the people who left them by reading the logbook entries, giving each one a sense of character. Find one that feels special to you, one that will be a memento of your first geocaching adventure. And then tuck your own treasure trade into the cache container, replace the logbook, seal it all up tight, and restore the cache to its covert location, just as you found it.
Logging your find online
When you get back home to your computer, you can sign up for a free membership at Geocaching.com, where you can log your find for other members to see. Of course, some geocachers prefer to cache anonymously, keeping their tales and treasures to themselves. The choice is yours and the trail awaits!
Copyright 2010, MaryJane Butters. Distributed by United Feature Syndicate Inc.