Last night with the cub scouts we went geocaching. One of the leaders is fairly active in it and knows lots of good spots. If you don’t know what it is, geocaching is a game you can play with your GPS or smart phone. The idea is to download data on where a particular cache is hidden, then use your GPS to work your way to it. The people we went with would see a compass and a distance, indicating in which direction the cache lay, and how close you were. Most GPS are only accurate within about 15 feet, so once you get that close you just have to do some old-fashioned searching.

They can be anywhere, depending on the size of the cache. One we found used an old ammunition box. Another was little more than a film canister. The small ones usually only hold a small book or paper where those who find it can sign their names. The larger ones may hold small prizes.

What is particularly impressive is that it all works on the honor system. Geocachers are to minimize their impact on nature while in their quest. They’re also expected to keep the caches secret from “Muggles”, or non-cachers who might pillage the cache without playing. And, if you find a cache with prizes in it, you are expected to leave a prize for every one you take. None of the ones we found were empty, so people must be doing well at keeping the rules.

Finding the caches can involve some creativity. One was hidden in the top of a tall post used to protect against trucks turning too tightly near a store. Another was concealed in a parking lot light pole. They’re not always easy to find.

The group I rode with were mostly not impressed. I suspect that was because geocaching is not a particularly good team sport. Small groups, perhaps, but not the dozen or so we had. Only a few few got to even see the GPS, let alone operate it, and once we got close it became a mad scramble to search the area. I suspect it would be a lot more fun if they were able to do all the hunting themselves. As it was, it seemed more like a mobile easter-egg hunt. But still, it was interesting.

I occurred to me that geocaching is a relatively new sport–only around since about 2000, though there have been similar games conducted in different ways through history. It used to be a fairly exclusive–only those who could afford hand-held GPS units could play. But with the ubiquity of smart phones, just about everyone can.

There is, of course, a website: There you can learn more about the ins and outs of geocaching (I presume, as I haven’t checked it out myself). There you can register your own geocaches, and people can log their visits to them, etc. It seems like it could be fairly interesting. Except my phone is stupid.

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5 Responses to Geocaching

  1. Try doing it the old fashioned way, with obscure clues left by a bunch of dead white men with vicious treasure hunters and the FBI on your tail. Then see how many scouts you lose to bottomless pits …

  2. Very cool! Friends of ours do this around Boise. After a few trips, you’ll start to create and leave your own treasures out for the world to find.

  3. You had me worried there until the last line, Bill. Suddenly I saw “feature” instead of “problem.” No, seriously, my scouts are good kids. Some days, though…

    I suspect much of the fun would be on that side, Kim. It’s probably a challenge to create a cache that is sufficiently out of the way to make it interesting but not too difficult.

  4. I have a couple of friends that do it a lot. Everything from local urban ones to middle of nowhere. Some of the caches have items that travel too. If I had free time, think it would be fun.

  5. Dan Stratton says:

    Try the analog version called “letterboxing”. We would make our own stamps from erasers and follow the clues left on the website. No GPS coordinates. So many feet to this tree, etc. The clues were sometimes cleverly disguised in stories. The payoff is nearly the same. Most have stamps in them to stamp your own book and a book to stamp with yours. It was fun. More fun for Denise and I. The kids didn’t always think it cool.

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