Anyone that ever played hide and seek as a child can remember the exhilaration and excitement of the game. Geocaching is like a 21st century adult version. Worldwide adventurers of all ages enjoy this high tech treasure hunt as a hobby and as an outdoor sport.
According to The Official Global GPS Cache Hunt Site, the phenomena started with one simple event on May 2, 2000. Around midnight Eastern Standard Time Global Positioning System (GPS) receivers around the world were upgraded, dramatically improving their navigational accuracy. The following day GPS pioneer Dave Elmer hid a GPS navigational target in the Oregon woods to test the new accuracy. The container was filled with a logbook, pencil, videos, books, software, and a slingshot. He shared the navigational co-ordinates of the prizes with the on line community and called his idea the “Great American GPS Stash Hunt”.
Armed with a GPS receiver loaded with the navigational coordinates, seekers went hiking in the woods to look for the prizes, found them and went on line to share their experience. The hide and seek process was repeated and the adventure evolved into geocaching.
Today on the Official Global GPS Cache Hunt Site players can find cache locations, and enter locations where they hid cache. Cache locations are rated as to difficulty of the hike and the terrain. The site also has a place for hunters to log information describing the cache, the location and their experience.
A GPS navigational device costs on the average $100USD. There are approximately nine most commonly used GPS receivers. Groundspeak the private company behind The Official Global GPS Cache Hunt Site offers a Geocaching iPhone application. New technology and devices are constantly being introduced as well as supporting products like “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Geocaching”. The resource center of The Official Global GPS Cache Hunt Site provides information and links for geocaching related items.
Currently there are 14 different types of cache including event caches like the Cache In Trash Out event where cachers pick up litter along their trail. As the game advances, more challenging caches develop like the Mystery or Puzzle cache. Sometimes tracking devices like bugs and coins are left in the containers. The Official GPS Cache Hunt Site lists all the different types of cache and the corresponding symbol.
Cache can be stashed in historic towns, national parks, the mountains of Hawaii or Abruzzo Italy. Cache logs describe unique locations and unusual sights like a canyon wall covered with petroglyphs.
Geocachers have an unofficial code of ethics. Sometimes the cache contains a goodie that is free to take only if another goodie equal to or greater is left in its place. Geocachers are discouraged from putting illegal, immoral and food items in the cache. Private property is considered off limits and the cache is always to be left where it was found.
As with any sport there are achievements and geocaching is no exception. According to the official GPS site the current top three treasure hunters have found 80,507 caches to date.
Teachers and scoutmasters use Geocaching as a teaching tool. Families, friends, communities and organizations enjoy geocaching. State and local geocaching associations are springing up everywhere.
The Chinese proverb, “the journey is the reward,” describes geocaching.
This truly is the heart of the sport. It is families, friends, communities and solo adventurers discovering nature, places and themselves along the way.