Adults who have long since outgrown the annual Easter egg hunt but still seek the adventurous thrill of treasure hunting have a fun alternative: geocaching.
What is geocaching?
Put simply, geocaching is technological treasure hunting. The term comes from the combination of “geo” for geography and “caching” for the process of hiding a cache. By definition, a cache can either be stored digital information or a hiding place for concealing and preserving provisions. Geocaching is the process of searching for and locating a cache via its geographical coordinates. The activity is popular with all age groups, but nature lovers and families with younger children will find it particularly enjoyable.
When did geocaching start?
Geocaching started in 2000 with a computer consultant named Dave Ulmer. Ulmer began with the simple idea of hiding an item to test the accuracy of a GPS device, posting its coordinates online and inviting GPS users to search for the item. What began in an online GPS user group as “GPS Stash Hunt,” turned into geocaching within a month. The website, www.geocaching.com, was born out of a need to centralize cache location listings in a searchable database. At the time the site was launched, on Sept. 2, 2000, there were 75 known caches in the world. Today, there are more than 1.4 million geocaches hidden around the world.
How do you geocache?
Using a GPS device or by downloading the official geocaching app, geocachers locate the geographical coordinates of a geocache. Often, each geocache’s coordinates are provided alongside a clue in the cache’s title, such as “no rocks here,” as well as a short description of where and how to find the cache and two ratings: one for difficulty and another for terrain. Geocachers then head toward the cache’s coordinates. Once there, they search to uncover a previously hidden item or items. Geocachers sign the logbook, and if they choose to take an item from the cache with them, they should replace whatever is taken from the cache with an item of equal or lesser value.
After uncovering a number of caches, you are ready to hide your own. Determine where you would like to hide your cache; if it will be located on Columbia Parks & Recreation property, you will need to fill out an official geocaching permit and have the Parks & Recreation office review and sign it. Your treasure container must display the words “Official Geocache,” and can be an old ammo box, plastic food storage box, waterproof box with a lid or another water-resistant container. You then hide your logbook and item, log the cache with www.geocaching.com and give the exact coordinates of the cache’s location to the Parks & Rec office. It’s to attach a photo of the container in its hiding place when you submit your permit application. Permits are valid for one year and must be renewed. Multi-caches are limited to five total sites, but treated under one permit. Event caches are given a permit valid for one month from the event date.
Remember, no dangerous materials or items are allowed in geocaching containers. Do not hide caches in recreational areas such as golf courses, athletic fields or sensitive archeological, historical or ecological areas.
What do you need to geocache?
You need a sense of adventure, a GPS device or the geocaching application for your phone, and a bit of patience. Often geocaches are hidden off the beaten path, so light-to-moderate hiking equipment may be required. Other times you may need to climb a tree or don your scuba gear. Take a cellphone, some bug spray and a small first-aid kit with you (just in case), and don’t forget a pen and small items to exchange for any items you might wish to take.
Most of all, geocachers need an open mind and the readiness to explore their surroundings with new eyes. The most remarkable outcome of geocaching is the discovery of a new place or setting, or at least a fresh way of interacting with the environment around you.
Where Do You Geocache?
Geocaches are hidden all over the world, from the most rural areas to the most densely populated. There are even a few geocaches in Antarctica. For example, there were 406 geocaches hidden within 25 miles of Inside Columbia magazine’s offices (located at 47 E. Broadway) in July. In the state of Missouri, there were 11,422 caches in mid-summer.
What are the types of caches?
There are 12 types of cache, ranging from traditional (a container and a logbook) to an event cache (which aims to create a social gathering). Larger, traditional caches typically contain an item or items for trade. Nano or micro caches contain only a logsheet. A multi-cache, or offset cache, involves two or more locations. A mystery or puzzle cache requires the seeker to solve complicated puzzles in order to locate the cache. Find the full listing of the types of cache available to geocachers on the geocaching website.