Geocaching: Tracking ‘Treasure’ Around the World

My handle is Adventure Gal, but now I’m beginning to think it should be the Huntress…thanks to my new obsession: geocaching.

If you’re not familiar with geocaching, consider it a worldwide scavenger hunt, navigating via a specific set of GPS coordinates. All you need is a GPS unit or GPS-enabled device, and you’ll be wandering around parks, trails, city streets, monuments, natural landmarks, shopping malls — just about anywhere! — trying to find treasure caches.

Geocaching.com – an excellent resource for information, cache locations and logging found caches — says there are nearly 1.5 million active geocaches and more than 5 million active geocachers. Explaining on its web site that “it is common for geocachers to hide caches in locations that are important to them, reflecting a special interest or skill of the cache owner.”

Can you see the cache?

Caches can range in size from small canisters the size of a nickel or a film canister to larger Tupperware-like containers or ammunition boxes. All caches have a logbook of some sort to record your find, and larger containers have small items, like toy figurines, mini flashlights or Trackable game pieces, that you can trade for something of equal or greater value.

Now I blame my fixation on my friend, T. She’s been geocaching for a few years and has almost logged 200 caches. She’s trying to figure out a special geocache to commemorate her 200th find. She tried to get me hooked about a year ago, but it didn’t take at the time.

Why? We were both using older Garmin GPS units. While they’re very handy and easy to use, we had to do a lot of prep work before we even stepped out the door. We not only had to use a computer to find caches in the area we were visiting and download descriptions and other pertinent details, but also had to load coordinates into the GPS units manually.

It just didn’t allow you to look for caches on a whim, and searches had to be planned out in advance. Rather primitive for today’s fast-paced, give-it-to-me-now world. Geocaches seem to be just about anywhere nowadays, so if I was unexpectedly in an especially cool or notable area, but hadn’t taken the time to download a few cache details, I was outta luck.

That all changed on a recent trip when T suggested I download Geocaching.com’s app on my iPhone. I’ve had the phone for only a few months and I’ve barely tipped the app iceberg.

“There’s an app for that…?” Heck, if there are apps for flashlights and fart noises, why not a geocaching one, too, I suppose.

Lickety-split, I had the free app downloaded and, man, were we in business. Using your location, it finds the closest three caches and provides the same details as found on the computer. It offers up a map or compass on the screen, honing in on the cache the closer you get. As caches are found and your location changes, you just hit refresh and it provides new cache sites.

Suddenly, we found we were within one-third of a mile of multiple caches. While T drove, I would nonchalantly mention, “You know, there’s a cache just down the street…”

Hiding spots expose geocachers to a plethora of locations.

In an afternoon, we easily beat her former record high of four caches in one day. We located 12 geocache locations that day, but only actually logged 10 cache finds at those spots. T said that, technically, since we didn’t find the cache containers (you’d be surprised at how ingenious some hiders are with their caches), the location doesn’t count. Semantics-schemantics, isn’t finding the mother spot half the battle?

Traveling back to my house the next day, I knew I was hooked when I logged 10 finds and stretched the more than two-hour drive to nearly double. I’d text T updates and photos along the way, and she finally texted, “You are out of control, lol.”

Maybe I was. I usually don’t take anything from the cache once I find it. I get my high from the hunt, cornering my prey and logging my data once it’s found. Yup, just call me the Huntress.

Traveler’s Notebook

  • Geocaching.com’s free app and free basic online membership are all most geocachers need. It offers considerable amounts of information and resources, as well as the option to log your caches.
  • What you should bring: a GPS unit or GPS-enabled device, a pen/pencil, items to trade. I also found a sturdy pair of shoes or boots were helpful when walking around wooded areas and trails.
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