Do you wish that your children or significant other would get off that computer
and get outside?
Get started in Geocaching! It's a workout plus treasure hunt with enough of
a technological challenge to keep computer fans happy. Using a computer website
and a GPS (Global Positioning System) unit, you can hunt for geocaches all over
the United States, and in 190 countries!
A geocache is a hidden container, usually made of plastic, which contains
several items. They can contain books, CD's, videos, foreign coins, games, gift
certificates, T-shirts, and many other prizes. You use a GPS to find it.
Zip Code Helps Find Local Cache
Using the website geocaching.com, enter your zip code, or the zip code of an
area you'll be visiting. Soon, you'll be looking at a list of geocaches in that
area. The website is updated frequently and may list new caches in spots
ranging from California and Missouri to the Czech Republic and Sweden.
I first heard about geocaching while I paddled on a river journey organized
by the Schuylkill River Greenway Association in Pennsylvania. The paddlers
heard a presentation about the sport one day during our lunch break.
I was surprised by how many of the other travelers had already heard about
it, and had tried it. Back at home, I went to the website and typed in my zip
code. Wow! There were at least a dozen of them right in my area, including one
location just off a path where I routinely jogged on a weekend.
And there are more caches, and more participants, every day.
The caches are rated 1- to 5 for difficulty and terrain, with 5 the
toughest. A 1/1 could be a cache located in a city park; a 5/5 could be tucked
into an underwater cave.
Some geocaches have themes, such as the "Starbuckian Dream" which
is always filled with coffee delicacies. A geocache might focus on a certain
type of music, book, or hobby.
You don't have to be able to understand all the features of your GPS, either. Each
cache has some basic directions to the starting area, and treasure hunters need
to be able to enter the "waypoint" into the GPS, which gives you the
starting and ending point of the treasure hunt. Using the GPS, you can get to
within 6- to 20 feet of a cache. The cache will be hidden, but it can't be
Some geocaches include a travel bug, which is an identification tag placed
on a hitchhiker, such as a stuffed animal. Travel bugs go from cache to cache,
and can be tracked using the geocaching site on the Internet. There's a Mr.
Potato Head that has been all over the country, and a candle that's traveled
from Arizona to Australia.
Travel bugs may have a travel goal, such as getting to a certain state or
cache location. They have separate logs, which read like code: "Tandem
biker retrieved Eyes Wide Open from Chicken Broil," or "Perfect Tommy
retrieved Croc Hunter from Birthday Cache."
Put Your Findings On Website
You also use the website to update your geocache finds, noting what you found
and what you took along with you. When you find a cache, you should take an
item and leave an item, and sign in on the cache's logbook. Then back home, log
on to update the results of your visit to that cache.
Geocachers usually use a nickname, such as "GPS Dan" or "Trinket Hunter."
The nicknames often list the number of geocaches each person has found.
Once you get comfortable, you can start your own geocache; directions are on
the website. There are few rules about contents; but the geocache should be
intended for "G" audiences, and should not contain food items.
Note: Although GPS units can range in price from $100 to $1,000, long-time
geocaching participants recommend the Garmin eTrex GPS and the Magellan GPS
315, which are relatively inexpensive models.
For a selection of GPS units, click here.