If you are looking for a new hobby that will not only get your brain working, but will get you out into the fresh air as well, then geocaching could be exactly what you need. It’s an exciting, thrilling, sometimes exasperating, always entertaining way to explore not only new places, but your own doorstep too.
by Lisamarie Lamb
Geocaching is a worldwide treasure hunt that uses GPS technology (through a mobile phone app or by using a specialist GPS device) to allow people to locate ‘caches’ that have been hidden by others. These caches can be hidden in trees (or up trees), on fences, behind lampposts, under piles of leaves, on gravestones and under rocks in woodland, parkland, cities, or towns. They can be on a circular looping walk, so you can hop from one to the next following the trail as you go or they can be in the middle of nowhere – the only one of its kind in the area. They can be various sizes too, from the nano caches (perhaps no bigger than a 5p coin) and micro caches (something like a plastic film canister), to much larger boxes (a Tupperware container is ideal). Some will contain little trinkets and toys known as geoswag; these can be swapped, so it’s always a good idea to bring a stash with you when caching (keyrings are a great example), and all should contain a logbook. Once you find the cache, you should date and sign the logbook with your geocaching name, and then replace it exactly where you found it for the next geocacher to come along. Logging can also be done online, but you should always complete the physical log where possible.
An extra piece of fun that is sometimes added to caches is the trackable or Travel Bug. These little items all contain a code which, when entered into the geocaching.com website, will tell you where the bug, coin, or toy has come from, and where it wants to end up. Your mission is to get it there – or at least on its way. You can ‘discover’ (spot it in the cache and leave it there); ‘retrieve’ (take it from the cache to move on); ‘dip’ (log it in a cache, then take it straight out again); or ‘drop’ (put it into a new cache) a trackable, as long as each movement is logged online so that its progress can be tracked.
The benefits to geocaching are numerous. Getting out of the house is one, of course, but the fact that geocaching is all-inclusive, and everyone in the family can join in is also an advantage. Moreover, if you happen to be the only person you know who loves to get out there and discover these caches, the online forums and local meets will point you in the direction of likeminded people who would love to join you for a day’s hunting. Thanks to many caches being in urban areas, even those who might have mobility issues can join in – it really is for everyone.
It’s educational too – many caches are located near to sites of historical interest, or have a story behind them that will give you more of an insight into the area. These details can be found online or on the app in the description of the cache, along with hints on where to find it, photos, and previous logs.
In addition, there are the puzzle caches. Just like traditional caches, it is all about following co-ordinates, but with the puzzles, you have to work them out first. And being just one number out can mean a long, fruitless search in the wrong place! But that’s all part of the fun – and a DNF (Did Not Find) is no problem, as you can always go back and try again.
To get started on this awesome way of having fun, getting fit, and exercising the brain, just go to www.geocaching.com and sign up for a free account. You’ll be amazed at just how many caches are near you, and how many of those you may pass on a daily basis!