Geocaching…until last week (July 2009), I’d never heard of it. (Yes, I know, someone like me not knowing?) My husband and I were out to dinner with another couple, and, as we crossed the parking lot, my friend’s husband walked over to a brick wall and started fiddling around with it.
I wondered, “What the hell is he doing?”
Seconds later, he lifted up a metal canister in triumph, “Got it!” We gathered around him to watch as he twisted off the top and pulled out a curled up scroll with names and dates on it. What was this? We all wanted to know.
“It’s a geocache,” Ray explained. “See?” He showed us his GPS and the coordinates that were given on the geocache website, and explained that people worldwide were playing this ultimate global treasure hunting game using their GPS systems!
The “treasure” can be anything from a log of people who’ve found a cache like the one he was holding in his hands (including dates and notes/messages – a real “message in the bottle”) or cool goodies like a CD or a book or anything fun that players can pick up or leave for the next person (there’s always something to find – if it’s an actual item, then each person who discovers it should leave something new for the next person when they grab their discovered treasure).
The origin of the name geocaching is simple: “geo” comes from geography, and “caching” comes from the part of the game when you hide the treasure. If you’re a camper or hiker, you’ve probably already heard of this term – campers and hikers use the word “cache” to refer to hidden supplies of food or other provisions.
So, how do you join in on this awesome new GPS road trip game?
- Get a GPS system if you don’t have one (obviously).
- Log in at the official site to play: Geocaching.com (opens in a new window). Get coordinates for locations along your next road trip route (or day trip, or whatever) using either the zip codes/states along your route or the website’s clickable map.
- Pack along some fun treasures to leave behind (waterproof them just in case the cache container is too small, or bring something naturally waterproof). Use your common sense about things you leave: perishables and potentially offensive items should be avoided.
- Find caches along your road trip route using your GPS.
- Claim prizes and record each discovery in the geocache’s logbook. Leave a new prize behind for the next treasure hunter to find.
- Continue your adventure as you have fun GPS treasure hunting along your route.
If you decide to create a cache, make sure that the location is challenging, but not impossible to find. Also, make sure all your geocaching locations are inappropriate places (not on the top of a chain-link fence or on private property – make it doable and legal). Be sure to log your geocache location at the geocaching website above using the online form. The cache must include a pen and a log in a water-tight container at the very minimum.
Geocaching is completely free, so no worries about spending money on this amazing new road trip game. You don’t have to leave/bring treasures – it’s just a really fun thing to do. If you don’t have the money, just record your discoveries in each cache’s log. Get ready to use your GPS system for more fun than you ever imagined!