|A GPS device, 2 legs and a sense of adventure are needed for Geocaching.|
Retiring in cottage country has always been a lifetime dream of my husband and I. Three years ago our dream came true and we have settled comfortably in our modest cottage. Photography, fishing, hiking, swimming and gardening have kept both of us very busy. Burning wood is also a time consuming activity with all the cutting and storing. The recent hook up of the Internet and satellite TV has kept us connected to the outside world. We thought we had it all until we were bitten by the Geocaching bug!
In a nutshell Geocaching is a high tech treasure hunt using a GPS. Geocaching is a game for gps users. Participating in a cache hunt is a good way to take advantage of the wonderful features and capability of a gps unit. The basic idea is to have individuals and organizations set up caches all over the world and share the locations of these caches on the internet. GPS users can then use the location coordinates to find the caches. Once found, a cache may provide the visitor with a wide variety of rewards. Most caches are hidden on hiking trails or places of interest with great views.
Our first find was very exciting. The coordinates were right on the mark but actually finding the cache was difficult. After a few minutes however we spied a tiny glimmer of white in the base of a partially uprooted tree. Inside the white plastic bucket was the traditional items found in a cache, log book, pencil and several trinkets The rule is if you take something, you must leave something. Pleased with ourselves we found three more caches in the area. Famished we lit a small fire just off the trail and had a good old Newfoundland boil up!
The great thing about geocaching is that you have the choice of hiking, using an ATV or in many cases simply driving close to the cache. Most geocachers will place their caches so they are accessible year round. You can combine a day skiing, snow shoeing or skidooing with the sport of geocaching.
All you need to get started is a Global Positioning System GPS. We bought ours at Canadian Tire for 100 dollars. You also need access to the internet to find coordinates for hidden caches and to log your finds.
Check out www.geocaching.com for information on how to get started!
A love of the outdoors and a curious adventurous spirit completes the prerequisites for a great activity!
The Origins of Geocaching
Geocaching, first coined by Matt Stum on the "GPS Stash Hunt" mailing list on May 30, 2000, was the joining of two familiar words. The prefix geo, for Earth, was used to describe the global nature of the activity, but also for its use in familiar topics in gps such as geography.
Caching, from the word cache, has two different meanings, which makes it very appropriate for the activity. A French word invented in 1797, the original definition referred to a hiding place someone would use to temporarily store items. The word cache stirs up visions of pioneers, gold miners, and even pirates. Today the word is still even used in the news to describe hidden weapons locations.
The second use of cache has more recently been used in technology. Memory cache is computer storage that is used to quickly retrieve frequently used information. Your web browser, for example, stores images on disk so you don't have to retrieve the same image every time you visit similar pages.
The combination of Earth, hiding, and technology made geocaching an excellent term for the activity. However the "GPS Stash Hunt" was the original and most widely used term until Mike Teague passed the torch to Jeremy Irish in September 2000
The following is a sample of FAQ taken from www.geocaching.com
What is a GPS device?
A GPS unit is a electronic device that can determine your approximate location (within around 6-20 feet) on the planet. Coordinates are normally given in Longitude and Latitude. You can use the unit to navigate from your current location to another location. Some units have their own maps, built-in electronic compasses, voice navigation, depending on the complexity of the device.
You don't need to know all the technical mumbo jumbo about GPS units to play Geocaching. All you need to do is be able to enter what is called a "waypoint" where the geocache is hidden.
So if I have a GPS unit, someone can track where I am (and where I'm going)?
No! GPS devices do not actually broadcast your location. The satellites using radio frequencies actually broadcast their own position. Your GPS unit takes that information to figure out where you are (triangulation).
Unless you have a tracking system implanted by aliens, you should be safe from the satellites above. As an extra precaution, however, you can put aluminum foil on your head to deflect the "gamma" beams.
How much does a GPS unit cost, and where can I get one?
GPS Units can range from $100 to $1000 depending on the kind of capabilities you are looking for. The author uses a Garmin eTrex , which runs for around $100, and can get you to within 20 feet of any geocache (depending on the location). The next step is one with a built-in electronic compass, has topographic maps, more memory, etc.
What are the rules in Geocaching?
Geocaching is a relatively new phenomenon. Therefore, the rules are very simple:
1. Take something from the cache
2. Leave something in the cache
3. Write about it in the logbook
Where you place a cache is up to you.
What is usually in a cache?
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 and nothing else. The logbook contains information from the founder of the cache and notes from the cache's visitors. The logbook can contain much valuable, rewarding, and entertaining information. A logbook might contain information about nearby attractions, coordinates to other unpublished caches, and even jokes written by visitors. If you get some information from a logbook you should give some back. At the very least you can leave the date and time you visited the cache.
Larger caches may consist of a waterproof plastic bucket placed tastefully within the local terrain. The bucket will contain the logbook and any number of more or less valuable items. These items turn the cache into a true treasure hunt. You never know what the founder or other visitors of the cache may have left there for you to enjoy. Remember, if you take something, its only fair for you to leave something in return. Items in a bucket cache could be: Maps, books, software, hardware, CD's, videos, pictures, money, jewelry, tickets, antiques, tools, games, etc. It is recommended that items in a bucket cache be individually packaged in a clear zipped plastic bag to protect them.
What shouldn't be in a cache?
Use your common sense in most cases. Explosives, ammo, knives, drugs, and alcohol shouldn't be placed in a cache. Respect the local laws. 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. Please do not put food in a cache.
Where are caches found?
The location of a cache can be very entertaining indeed. As many say, location, location, location! The location of a cache demonstrates the founder's skill and possibly even daring. A cache located on the side of a rocky cliff accessible only by rock climbing equipment may be hard to find. An underwater cache may only be accessed by scuba. Other caches may require long difficult hiking, orienteering, and special equipment to get to. Caches may be located in cities both above and below ground, inside and outside buildings. The skillful placement of a small logbook in an urban environment may be quite challenging to find even with the accuracy of a gps. That little logbook may have a hundred dollar bill in it or a map to greater treasure. It could even contain clues or riddles to solve that may lead to other caches. Rich people could have fun with their money by making lucrative caches that could be better than winning the lottery when you find it. Just hope that the person that found the cache just before you left a real big prize!
Can I move a cache once I find it?
Unless there's a note in the cache containing instructions on moving it to a new location, don't move the cache! Responsible cache owners check on their caches occasionally and would be alarmed to find theirs missing.
An alternative would be to have a hitchhiker, which is an item that you can move from cache to cache. An example of this is a candle that has traveled from Australia to Arizona, and a Mr. Potato head that leaps from cache to cache. All you need to do to create a hitchhiker is to attach a note to it for folks to move it to a new place.
You can also purchase a Groundspeak Travel Bug , which is a hitchhiker you can track through this web site.
How long do caches exist?
It all depends on the location of the cache and its impact on the environment and the surrounding areas. Caches could be permanent, or temporary. It's up to the cache owner to periodically inspect the cache and the area to ensure that impact is minimal, if not nonexistant. When you find a cache, it's always a good idea to let the cache owner know the condition as well.
Periodically, Geocaching.com will review each cache to ensure that everything is still current. We cannot guarantee that a cache will exist at any given time, but we'll do our best to ensure the list is as current as possible.