First published in Saltwater Girl 15.4 (May 2013)
Did you know that right this very second a worldwide treasure hunt is going down? Well you wouldn’t if you aren’t part of the ‘secret club’, so come a little closer we’re about to invite you on a non-stop outdoor adventure where buried treasure exists and spy tactics are mandatory.
Going for a run, hiking or exploring new territory is fun, right? Well thanks to GPS technology these everyday activities can be turned into more than just a work out. Ladies, may we introduce you to Geocaching, an outdoor activity that uses co-ordinates, maps and an incredible online social network to hide and seek treasure boxes (waterproof containers, known as ‘caches’, that are filled with trinkets, a logbook and a pencil). Once you have signed up online at www.geocaching.com the game is on, you can hide and seek these caches, trade the trinkets you find for knickknacks of your own and record your finds in the hidden logbook and on your online profile.
Sound confusing? It’s not. Geocaching is a global phenomenon that uses the principles of a treasure hunt to involve strangers in a non-stop game of hide and seek, the one thing that connects these people is the Geocaching website, where you can access information about where these caches are hidden. By typing in the area code you are in, lists of hidden caches will appear, pick one at the difficulty level you think you can handle, take down the GPS coordinates and your almost set.
Although the person who hid the cache will hook you up with the co-ordinates, this is a treasure hunt, so a fair bit of riddle unscrambling and clue deciphering will be required of you too. Although you will have the location of the cache, you still have to be able to find the exact place it is hidden. Using the clues provided you could find the cache buried under a pile of rocks on the edge of a mountain, under a thick bush at the seaside or even wedged under a brick at your school, university or local shopping center, these things are hidden everywhere, so use your secret spy skills to crack the code.
The variety of hiding places is almost matched by the assortment of cache types that are stashed away from the eyes of Muggles (people who don’t know about Geocaching). The most common cache is a Tupperware type box that holds a small logbook and pencil for finders to record the date of the find and the conditions, difficulties or surprises they encountered while searching for the cache. They typically hold some ‘treasure’ too, items of little value like buttons, plastic jewelry and foreign currency are placed in the box by the person who first hides the cache and the people who find it thereafter are encouraged to swop one item from the box with a trinket of similar value. It’s best to start off on these simple caches, but once you’ve got the hang of it you can start searching for micro-caches (tiny containers hidden in tight spots), travelling caches (that are picked up and moved to new locations by other finders) and even super difficult ones like caches hidden under the sea, we told you, these things are hidden everywhere!
There are over 5 million people who Geocache around the world, from Antarctica to your very own neighbourhood, millions of hidden caches are just waiting to be discovered. And the best part about it? This is an incredible way to see the great outdoors, discover new areas and keep fit. Go online and chose a Geocache that is hidden in an area you would like to explore, invite some friends along and turn it into a trail run or a mountain bike excursion. Just be sure to let someone know where you are going before you leave.
You can also Geocache while you travel, a lot of the caches are hidden in places of interest, so before you head out on holiday take down the coordinates and clues of a few caches that are hidden at, or nearby, places you are likely to visit on your trip, we promise it will make sight seeing a whole lot more fun.
Read more about Geocaching and sign up for free at http://www.geocaching.com
Geocaching: know the lingo
Cache: a waterproof container that holds the logbook, pencil and ‘treasure’
Muggles: People who are not a part of the Geocaching community or are unaware of its existence
Muggled caches: When a cache is removed or vandalized by someone who is not aware of its purpose
BYOP: If the online clue says this it means Bring Your Own Pen
DNF: ‘Did Not Find’, state this on your online profile if you don’t manage to find the cache
TN: ‘Took Nothing’, write this down in the logbook and on your profile if you did not take any of the ‘treasure’ out of the cache
LN: ‘Left Nothing’ If you did not put a trinket in the cache box state this in the logbook and on your profile