My secret passion (ok, obsession) is Geocaching.  It’s kind of like hunting for Easter eggs or looking for buried treasure.  It’s a modern day game of hide and go-seek.  Generally speaking, you are looking for containers, called geocaches, in the great outdoors. 

This is a sport, or hobby, that can be enjoyed by just about anyone from 4 - ??  Well, my dad is  82 years old and he does it with no problem.  This is a world-wide game, so no matter where you live or where you are going, the chances are pretty good that you can find a geocache hidden nearby.  They are hidden on every continent and yes, that includes Antarctica.  They can be hidden in parking lots, parks, under benches, in the woods, in the water, in a cave, in a tree, along a fence.  You can access them by walking, by car, a boat, by canoe, by hiking, by skiing or by climbing.  Caches are listed by terrain and difficulty level, so there is really something for just about every fitness level.

This is a bunch of us outside a cave.

Some caches are pretty straight forward – you just go look for it.  Some are called puzzle caches, and you have to work out some kind of a puzzle to get a clue before you go look for the cache.  Some caches have multiple steps and will take you to multiple locations before you can find the final cache.  Earth caches take you to a geological location where you have to research something before you can claim the “find.”  See, I told you there were lots of different types of hides and certainly something for everyone.

Caches are made of a variety of containers and some of them are pretty darn creative.  Geocache containers are usually grouped as Micros, Small or Regular.  Caches can be ammo cans or made out of wood, pill bottles, buckets, peanut butter containers, coffee cans….  The possibilities are only limited by your imagination.

Here is a creative cache container:

Here is the basic premise: 

·         Go to the official geocaching website and register for the basic membership.  You even get to pick a geocaching name – make up something fun that pertains to you.  It’s easy and free!
·         Select Hide and seek a cache.  Put in your zip code and choose search.
·         Choose one of the geocaches that pops up and open it.  Each geocache also has a GC number that identifies it.  You will get a description of the cache, its basic size, see a map and get GPS co-ordinates of where it is.
·         Go find it!
·         Sign the logbook inside the cache.  Re-hide it immediately!
·         Come back and log your find on that same geocache page.  You can write a story about how you found it, or just say you found it or you can even post of picture of yourself.

Having a GPS unit for geocaching is helpful and makes finding the geocaches a little easier – but having a GPS isn’t necessary.  My sister found her first 100 without using a GPS unit.  Just look at the satellite views of the area and sometimes you can narrow down the spot to look in.

For your first couple of times, I suggest looking for a cache that is listed as being a “regular” size.  These tend to be about the size of an ammo can and are generally easier to spot.  Also, a park or parking lot might also be easier to start with.

Now, there are just a few rules:
·         Put the cache back like you found it after you sign the logbook inside it.  It’s important that you understand that you don’t keep the cache.  Find it, sign it, put it back!
·         This is a secret game.  People who don’t cache are commonly called muggles.  It is imperative that muggles do not see you find the cache.  That is how caches disappear and it ruins the fun for everyone.

We’ve been geocaching for over 6 years and have found over 3100 caches.  I know people who have found over 10, 000 so far.  Geocaching has taken us to places we would never have gone to otherwise because we would never have heard of them.  We have met some wonderful people and made some fantastic new friends.  Geocaching can be done completely alone, if that’s your preference, or you can go with other people.  Most kids love it.  It promotes teamwork.  It gets you off your butt and out into the fresh air.  You prod, you poke, you explore.  You see new things, go to new places, re-discover old haunts.

This sculpture was at a cache site:

Geocaching is a fun game.  And in case you were wondering, it's totally legal!  There are over 1 million caches hidden in the world and over 5 million people playing the game.  If you are interested in it, then check it out.  You play at your own risk and to your own physical abilities.  Just be careful – you might get obsessed!

Geocaching Handbook:  Click here to check it out.
The Complete Idiot's Guide to Geocaching:  Click here to look at this one.
Looking for a handheld GPS Unit for geocaching?    I have the Oregon 450 which I don't believe is available any longer.  Garmin has an updated version.  I haven't personally used one yet, but many people love this one.   It's the Oregon 700

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