Geocaching: Incentivized Adventuring

You know those days where the weather is gross and you’d rather stay in? Or the times you feel like getting outside but can’t decide on a destination so you stay on the couch? Or those days were you do feel like getting out into nature but you just can’t convince anyone to go with you? I’ve been there. And then I discovered Geocaching. Why wasn’t this a thing when I was a child??

It is an understatement to say that my parents love outdoor adventures, and have passed the need to be outdoors on to their children, but perhaps not quite to the same degree. And growing up in Southeast Alaska has definitely twisted my definition of weather that’s just fine for a day outside. If you don’t go out in the rain, you’d almost never go out at all. However, sometimes even I need a little incentive to get myself out there. Having a destination makes hiking much more enjoyable if you, like me, don’t get much out of reaching the end of a trail just to turn around. And then there’s the problem of getting my “transplant” friends (those that have moved here from anywhere else) to go with me. Some of them haven’t yet adjusted to the weather issue. But what if I told you we’re going on a treasure hunt?

Geocaching is a world-wide GPS based game. Locals have hidden containers all over the world and provided the GPS locations of each container at Geocaching.com.

Geocaching.com map showing Geocaches covering each continent
Geocaching.com map showing Geocaches covering each continent

Your goal is to find these containers and take/leave a trinket or a Travel Bug. A Travel Bug is an item with a tracking number that has been sent off into the world, usually with a destination goal, and it relies on Geocachers to move it from one cache to the next.

Travel VW Bug Coin
Travel VW Bug Coin
Travel Bug Parrot
Travel Bug Parrot

All you need is a GPS or an iPhone with the Geocaching app installed. And a pen. Don’t forget your pen. You’ll need a pen to write your name in the cache log to prove you’ve been there.

Checking the direction before heading forward
Maeghan checking the direction with the iPhone before heading forward

The containers range from ammo cans and food-saver sizes to small magnets. The larger containers are generally hidden away from public spaces, for instance on a trail in the forest. The smaller containers are often used for city caching in order to remain hidden from those not searching for them. Caches are often hidden by their owners at locations thought worth visiting for one reason or another.

Ammo can size Geocache
Ammo can size Geocache
Food Saver container Geocache
Food Saver container Geocache
Can you spot the Cache hanging in the tree?
Can you spot the Cache hanging in the tree?

Each Geocache usually has a “hint” to help you find it, as GPS locations can be somewhat off by several feet (especially in Southeast Alaska where we rely on only 3 out of 4 satellites). The “hint” I come across most often in Alaska says “under tree root.” Which is usually not helpful at all. Do you know how many trees there are in a rain forest?? This is why I often take a team of helpers with me, the more people to search under the millions of trees. Sometimes we regretfully have to give up, but more often than not we’re able to find our quarry.

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‘Caching in Southeast Alaska often includes some obstacles that I haven’t encountered while ‘caching anywhere else…

We’ve had to dig down into a snowbank…

Caching in a snowbank
Micah caching in a snowbank

and ford a flooded stream where the bridge washed out…

iphone import 7-2015 001 (5)

and…

Creepy abandoned old mining town building
Creepy abandoned old mining town building

just kidding! Thankfully we didn’t actually have to enter the creepy abandoned building!

Sometimes the ‘cache owners create a series of caches in which you have to find each cache because every one contains part of a clue to help you find the last cache. For the better part of the last two years my friends and I have been working on a series of caches based on the game Clue. Each cache contains two clue cards from the game. By crossing each of the clues off as we find them, we’ll be able to narrow down which cards are in the last cache. These cards will relate to numbers provided by the cache owner to help us fill in the GPS coordinates of the last cache. Each of these caches have been placed farther out on trails than many of the caches we usually go after, which is why we haven’t been able to complete the series yet. (Unfortunately I cannot show you any photographs of these without ruining the game.) So if anyone needs me, I’ll be out on a trail looking under tree roots!

If you’re curious what treasure is hidden in your own backyard, head on over to the Geocaching website and start your search!

Have you Geocached before? Are you interested in starting now? Get out there and report back in the comments below!

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