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My Life Outdoors

What is Geocaching? – A Guest Post

The following is a guest post by John Koster an avid Geocacher! You can find out more about John on his blog: Cachin’ In.

In 2005 I was home for a summer internship with the Alabama Geologic Survey when some of my friends asked if I wanted to “go look for something hidden, with a GPS?” I said OK, but I honestly had no idea what we were doing. We ended up at a war memorial near the mall and the coordinates on my buddy’s phone were telling us to look at an Army Jeep. We looked in the wheel wells and the seats, along the bumper and tires, and found nothing. After looking at some papers he said, “try the dashboard.” Soon enough we had a tube of Army-issue anti-fog goggle cream with a magnet glued to it in hand. Inside was a scroll of paper with loads of strange nicknames. We had just found our first Geocache! As of this writing I have found over 4300 in six years time.

What is Geocaching you ask? It is a game created on the internet in 2000 after Bill Clinton signed an order demilitarizing the Global Positioning Satellite System. This made GPS receiversaccurate to around 20-30 ft. Within days of this act someone hid a ten gallon bucket full of assorted items and posted the coordinates in an online message board. Soon there were several more, then hundreds, thousands…. These are geocaches, or just ‘caches’, and they can be as large as buckets or as small as the eraser on a pencil. The current number of geocaches hidden across the globe, on every continent, on Geocaching.com is 1,422,665 hidden by over 5 million active geocachers.

How does this game work you ask? It’s actually pretty simple. Create an account on geocaching.com (the largest geocaching site around) it is totally free! You will then be able to search by latitude and longitude, zip code, city, state…. Find a cache near you, and off you go! Well not just yet, you need something to tell you when you get to the cache site. Any device that can read lat/long should do the trick whether that is a handheld GPS, your car navigation system, many smart phones, some people even use paper maps for added challenge.

Input the coordinates and look at the cache page to see if there are any tricks to getting to the spot or preferred parking. Then navigate with your device till you are about 20 feet from ‘ground zero’ as this is when the accuracy of the unit begins to come into question. The next step is to look and see what is the size of this geocache? A micro will be smaller than a 35mm film can, a small could be a sandwich size Tupperware, a regular could be a military ammo can, and a large could be one of those infamous 10 gallon buckets. Start with the larger caches until you get the hang of it.

You’ve now hopefully looked around under rocks and limbs, leaves, mulch, in hollow trees and found the cache. (These should NEVER be buried!) There are three steps to logging your cache. Sign the log with the name you registered on geocaching.com. If there are items in the cache feel free to take one just replace it with something of equal or greater value. Then return the cache to the hiding spot you found it and make sure it can’t be seen by non-geocachers that happen by the spot. That’s it! You found your first cache, now return to the web site and log an online log about your adventure for the cache’s owner to read. It is really that simple. Geocaching will take you to places in your home town you never knew existed. It’s a great way to entertain children on road trips or long hikes too. Remember, people play the game different ways, but it should always be about the adventure!

Guide to the Game

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  • Trout Magee

    July 7, 2011

    Thanks for the lesson on Geocaching. I once found an item by stumbling upon it. At the time I had no idea what it was. I guess the person didn't hide it very well. Thanks. Tight Lines.

  • RED

    July 17, 2011

    Great post. Now that I have an iPhone, I want to get into this. I'm amazed at how many caches are very near my home!

  • ZSandmann

    July 17, 2011

    Many thanks to Steven for allowing me to write this guest blog. Geocaching is one of the things that helps keep my love of the outdoors fresh and interesting even when my surrounding may not seem all that spectacular.

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