High-tech treasure huntingPublished 12:00pm Saturday, March 10, 2007
Pronounced “geo-cashing,” it’s like looking for hidden treasure using a Global Positioning System (GPS). Geocaching has been around about five years. It was created by a GPS enthusiast from Oregon who wanted to test the accuracy of his GPS, never guessing it would evolve into a pastime.
John and Amy Barrett of Roseville were staying at a bed and breakfast for their anniversary, when the owner introduced them to geocaching in November 2005.
“He had several caches located on the grounds and GPS’s we could borrow,” John said. “When we got home, we bought a GPS. It’s a fun way to get out as a couple or a family.”
When placing or seeking geocaches, I will:
Not endanger myself or others
Observe all laws and rules of the area
Respect property rights and seek permission where appropriate
Avoid causing disruptions or public alarm
Minimize my and others’ impact on the environment
Be considerate of others
Protect the integrity of the game pieces
Techies who loves treasure hunts will love geocaching.
The word geocaching comes from GEO, for geography. Caching comes from the process of hiding a cache. A cache is a term used in hiking/camping as a hiding place for concealing and preserving provisions.
A GPS is a electronic device that determines approximate location (within six to 20 feet). Coordinates are normally given in longitude and latitude. The unit is used to navigate from one location to another.
Some GPS units have maps, built-in electronic compasses and voice navigation. GPS units can range from $100 to $1,000, depending on its capabilities. They can be purchased at boat supply stores and some camping stores. You can also purchase them online through Amazon.com and camping supply companies.
Besides the GPS, the web site www.geocaching.com is the most important component of the game. Coordinates of hidden caches are listed on this site; when you are ready to go on a cache hunt, type in the mile radius you are willing to go and it gives you the coordinates to caches in the designated area.
“We did 11 in one day,” a Fergus Falls geocacher who goes by the screen name, Traveled, said. “I read about it in an RV newsletter on-line. I thought it sounded like fun, so my daughter and I tried it. Now we’re 100-percent hooked. It’s fun to do something out in nature and once you’ve purchased your GPS, it doesn’t cost you anything, except maybe a tank of gas.”
Just because a GPS is involved doesn’t make cache-hunting a cake walk.
“Some are extremely difficult,” Traveled said. “There’s one I still haven’t found and I fully intend to go back and find it.”
It can also be something of an educational experience.
“It’s a good way to get people to discover the parks and landmarks in their community,” John said.
“You see things in your own area you never noticed before,” Traveled said.
Preparing a cache
Start with the container. Anything water or snow resistant is ideal. Plastic buckets, Tupperware/Rubbermaid containers and film canisters can also be used. Put cache items in zip-loc baggies before placing them in the container, in case it leaks.
Mark your cache so someone who doesn’t play can figure out what it is if they find it. Most cachers mark the container with Geocaching.com, the name of the cache, and any contact information they see fit.
Place a logbook (a small notepad works) and pen so finders of the cache can let you know they were there. A cache can come in many forms but the first item should always be the logbook. In its simplest form, a cache can be just a logbook. The logbook contains information from the founder of the cache and notes from the cache’s visitors.
While not necessary, most like to put some small objects in the cache. For everything the finder takes, he should leave something in return.
“Caches are typically a container that holds a log book and a pen and the finder signs their name and the date and puts it back,” John said. “Some caches have just the log book. Some have video games or McDonald’s toys or other little trinkets. The rules of geocaching are if you take something, you have to leave something in return. But you don’t go through this to find what’s in them. It’s just the fun of it, getting out there.”
Veteran cachers like John and Traveled warn that geocaching can be addicting.
“I gave three GPS’s as Christmas gifts and got others hooked,” Traveled said.
What shouldn’t be in a cache:
Explosives, ammunition, knives, drugs, and alcohol shouldn’t be placed in a cache.
All ages of people hide and seek caches, so use some thought before placing an item into a cache.
Food items are always a bad idea. Animals have better noses than humans, and in some cases caches have been chewed through and destroyed because of food items in a cache.
Cito — Cache In Trash Out: When geocaching, take a bag along to pick up trash.
Cache — A hidden container filled with a log book, writing utensil and maybe prizes.
FTF — First to Find, typically found in the log book.
Geomuggle — A non-geocacher. Based on “muggle,” from the Harry Potter series to identify a non-magical person.
Spoiler — Information that can give details away and ruin the experiences.
TFTC — Thanks for the Cache!
TFTH — Thanks for the Hunt!
TNLN — Took Nothing. Left Nothing. Usually found in logbooks by folks who enjoy the hunt more than the material contents of the cache.
When thinking about where
to place a cache, keep these things in mind:
Use common sense when choosing a location. Do not place the cache in any location where it might be confused with something more dangerous.
Will it be easy to get to? Try to find a place that will take a bit of time to get to, preferably on foot.
Will it be easy to find? If it is too visible or too close to busy roads or trails, there’s a good chance someone other than a geocacher might find it.
Don’t make it too difficult. If you hide it well, give hints on www.geocaching.com as to the location.
If you place it on private land, ask permission before putting it there.
“You can’t bury the caches,” John said. “You can camouflage them. Some are out in the open, some are in the wilderness. Some are funny. You never know what you’re going to find. ”
Hiding the cache
When you reach the location to place your cache, get the coordinates as close as possible to the cache. Some GPS units have the ability to do averaging, but if yours can’t, the best suggestion is to take a waypoint, walk away from the location, then return and take another waypoint. Do this seven to 10 times, then pick the best waypoint.
Once you have your waypoint, write it in permanent marker on the container, the log book, and make sure you have a copy to bring back with you. Write a few notes in the log book if you like, place it in a zip-loc baggie, and place it in the container. Make sure to secure the container with a rock to decrease the chance of it blowing, floating, or being carried away.