Geocaching crazy – join the hunt!
I’m a self-confessed technophobe. I have never sent a text message or taken a photo with a cell phone; played a video game or watched a movie on a personal DVD player. In fact, I never quite mastered working the video machine so I could be a lost cause altogether. But not quite…not since I discovered geocaching – the latest outdoor craze to hit treasure hunting enthusiasts across the world. Because, to be successful at geocaching you need to be familiar with a global positioning unit or gps for short…and I am pleased to say, I not only have said unit, but I can use it!
So what is this activity that crumbled my technical resistance? Well, to start with it’s a great way of getting out and about with the family, the dog, or just for a solo outing. And it’s a treasure hunt as well.
In hundreds of thousands of locations across the globe, people have hidden small containers in which they’ve put a logbook or notepad and a few trinkets such as small toys, key rings, fridge magnets etc. The co-ordinates of the cache locations are then recorded online so that geocachers can download the information into their gps units and go out and search for them. Seems simple? Not always the case as some caches can be tucked away in some very obscure spots. And as gps units are only accurate to around 7 metres, it can be challenging when you are looking for a cache in a heavily wooded or rock strewn area.
We spent 2 hours with some friends, in a California redwood forest on a sun drenched day in September, scrambling up trails and around rocks, searching for what turned out to be an Altoids tin tucked into a hole in a tree. You would think we’d found real buried treasure with the whooping and hollering that went on. Neatly folded inside the tin was a thin strip of paper to record our name and date of the find, a little brass dog and a Grand Canyon key ring. After much consideration we took the key ring, and left in its place a CN Tower fridge magnet. Back at the car we made a note of what we had taken and left behind in the cache for later recording on the geocaching website.
Finding a Travel Bug adds interest and fun for all. This is a dog tag obtainable from Groundspeak, the company behind geocaching.com. Movement of these traceable tags from cache to cache is recorded online so they can be tracked around the world. We brought a tag back to Ontario, Canada that we found on our California vacation that had originated in Hawaii. It’s now been placed in a new location for the next geocacher to find. We left a bug of our own in a cache in Jenner, California. When we recorded its location on the website we gave it a goal to find its way back to Ontario via at least 5 US states. Each time it is moved, we get an email to let us know where it is now. This is such a great way to get the kids learning geography!
Geocaching has an etiquette of its own and enthusiasts are careful not to disturb the environment. Here’s a few steps to get you going.
Log onto the geocaching website – www.geocaching.com – and look for caches near where you live
Never move a cache, and if you search for one and find it damaged or can’t find it at all, let the cache owner know.
If you take something from a cache, always leave something behind.
Caches are graded in degrees of difficulty of terrain and access – start with the easy ones.
If you find a Travel Bug don’t hang onto it for long. They should be traveling, not sitting in a glove box or drawer at home.
Enjoy geocaching. It’s great fun and will get the whole family out into the countryside whatever the weather. And if you come across a Travel Bug called Ice Cube, last reported in a cache in northern California, please help him on his way back to the frozen north.
Heather Bayer is a writer and owner of CottageLINK Rental Management , an Ontario based cottage rental agency http://www.clrm.ca
As a geocaching enthusiast she has researched the best sites for learning more about this fascinating hobby. http://www.squidoo.com/lensmaster/workshop/ontariogeocaching
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