Like most children, I was fascinated the idea of buried treasure. It combined the sense of exploring the vast world outside with the promise of finding something not only hidden, but valuable. Whether it is the pirate treasure of The Goonies, the cryptography and riddles of Edgar Allen Poe’s The Tale of the Gold Bug, or the real life mystery of the Oak Island money pit something endears in human consciousness about treasure hunting. There is something special about the unique sense of wonder and discovery that comes with finding something hidden. Without a fedora, whip, and map to an ancient South American temple, where can we experience this feeling? The answer may be a lot closer than you think…
The dictionary definition of a geocache, according to geocaching.com the largest database of geocaches worldwide, is “a real-world, outdoor treasure hunting game using GPS-enabled devices. Participants navigate to a specific set of GPS coordinates and then attempt to find the geocache (container) hidden at that location.” The experience is much more than just a set of coordinates though.
The people who hide these containers, which can be a camoflauged pill container, matchstick holder, or anything really, have a lot of fun developing fun clues and descriptions. One near to me was done in the style of a Star Trek intro
Along with the coordinates (which can be easily plugged into apps available on any smart phone), a zoomable google map of the caches in your area, and the cache description is an additional clue which must be deciphered through a simple letter swapping system (or Little Orphan Annie decoder ring if available). It’s these little touches that make the preparation just as fun as the hunt itself.
Once you have your list of caches planned out, you get to go find them! As much as us nerds love to stay inside and marathon the extended edition Lord of the Rings films, it is nice to experience the outdoors. Geocaching is a also a great way to explore your community. Many caches are found not only in forests or fields but in out of the way parks or places you may have passed a hundred times but never knew existed. In my town there is even one hidden at a local comic shop!
The other thing I was surprised by as I got into the hobby is the sheer magnitude of the treasures. There are hundreds in my city and dozens within 5 miles of my house. Including one hidden in the tree line down a street two minutes from my house I never would have gone down otherwise.
Each cache contains a log to sign once you have found it to mark your victory. Many will contain a prize also. The prize depends on the person, but is often a small trinket that may have meant something to the person who hid it. The idea is for future hunters to replace the prize they find with something they would like to give away. My lego Gandalf now stands hidden in a cache close by, guarding the one cache to rule them all!
So are you in an unfamiliar city on business trip for the weekend and have a couple free hours? Sitting around your house bored one nice afternoon? Looking for an activity to get the kids off their phones? Maybe you just want to explore your city and community a little bit closer. Why not find that inner Indiana Jones or King Arthur and have an adventure, a quest for treasure or to even hide a personal treasure of your own.
For more info or to find caches in your area visit http://www.geocaching.com/