Learning About Your Community Through Geocaching

I’m always shocked to find out that almost nobody knows what geocaching is.  I love it – when I’m not being too lazy to do it.  I learn so much about where I live and the places I travel when I geocache.  Not to mention I’ve lost weight from all the walking.

What is it: Geocaching is a free, real-world, outdoor treasure hunt. Players try to locate hidden containers, called geocaches, using a smartphone or GPS and can then share their experiences online.  Most people use their phones these days with an app; much easier than downloading coordinates into a handheld GPS.  I use a handheld because it’s what we have.

A beautiful example of a travelling geocoin.

A beautiful example of a travelling geocoin.

Why do it: It’s fun! It’s exercise. You learn a lot about your surroundings. This is great for people new to an area feeling disconnected. It’s great for history and science folks. It’s great to learn about “secret” places that others pass by.  It can be an all-day challenge or a quick “park and grab”.

Main caching website: https://www.geocaching.com

At its simplest level, geocaching requires these easy steps:
• Register for a free Basic Membership on geocaching.com
• Enter your postal code and click “search.”
• Enter the coordinates of the geocache into your GPS Device.
• Use your GPS device to assist you in finding the hidden geocache.
• Sign the logbook and return the geocache to its original location.
• Share your geocaching stories and photos online.

Things to Remember:
• Leave the area better than you found it (practice CITO or “cache in trash out”)
• Be careful! Watch out for hazards like poison ivy, thorns, hornet’s nests, cliffs!
• If you take something from a cache, leave something of equal or greater value
• Be stealthy! Don’t let caches get “muggled” (when a non-cacher finds it and ruins it)
• Respect the property you are on; stick to trails whenever possible.

Types of Geocaches (I mostly do “traditional caches”):
1. Traditional Caches: contains at minimum a container and log sheet, but can be any size
2. Multi-Cache: involves two or more locations
3. Puzzle or Mystery Cache: you’ll need to solve puzzles to get the coordinates
4. Event Cache: gathering of local geocachers for discussions or social activities
5. Cache In Trash Out event: social activity with many cachers where the area is cleaned up while finding caches
6. Earth Cache: a location rather than a container, where you learn about the geoscience of our planet

Trackables: Travel Bugs, Pathtags, Geocoins, other Items
Trackable items are like game pieces that move around the globe as cachers find them in one spot and deposit them in another. Each trackable has a unique code so they can be logged (usually to geocaching.com but there are other sites).
• Travel Bug: is attached to an item like a luggage tag. Each travel bug has a goal set by its owner. When you find it, log it and see what the goal is. Sometimes it is to travel to a specific place, or a type of place. Or it could be for it to see as much of the world as possible.
• Geocoins and Pathtags: are customizable coins created by cachers to celebrate or commemorate something. Geocoins are usually larger; Pathtags are smaller and have a hole in the top. You log both in different ways BUT the big difference is that you get to keep Pathtags! Geocoins should be moved on like Travel Bugs, not kept.
• Other trackables: as long as an item has an official tracking code, it can be a trackable. This includes patches, key rings, vehicles, etc…My Mighty Geo has a travel bug sticker on the window, people log it in as “found” from time to time.

Geocaching (5)

Finding a waterproof container dangling in a tree.

I taught my parents how to cache on a vacation in the West Virginia mountains, I’ve cached on the way to Gatlinburg and in the Smoky Mountain National Park.  Caches are EVERYWHERE!  Look up caches by your zip code and you’ll be amazed.  I’m sad when I think of all the places I’ve travelled and haven’t cached, because I would have learned so much more about where I was.  Eventually I’ll get a smartphone and the app (I’m thrifty) and I’ll get more hardcore about it.  Unless you count hiking on a mountain top in lightning, I’ve never had a bad geocache experience.  Actually, that was kind of fun too, so never mind.

Mom reading a cache log found in an ammo box, Dolly Sods WV.

Mom reading a cache log found in an ammo box, Dolly Sods WV.


About deepfriedyankee

I am a parade of one. A seeker of bathtubmarys. A lover of Mardi Gras, bacon and marbles. I have the patience of a saint. A very, very flawed saint.
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