Geocaching (pronounced geo-cashing) is an activity that combines technology and the great outdoors. It was invented in May 2000 when Dave Ulmer hid the first “treasure” in the woods outside of Portland, Oregon and announced it on an internet newsgroup as a way to celebrate the new public access to the government’s Global Positioning System (GPS.) Within a day, the cache was found and within a month caches were being hidden around the world. A new age of treasure hunting was born and the phenomenon spread.
How Geocaching is Played
The game of hide and seek is played when seekers look for the hidden cache by typing the coordinates of its location into a handheld GPS. This usually puts them within 6-20 feet of their intended target. At this point they cover the area looking for the specific hiding place using intuition, experience, and clues given by the cache hider. The excitement grows with the first find. Caches can vary in their appearance but they are usually Tupperware containers, ammo boxes, or other watertight plastic containers with the word “Geocaching” written on the outside of it. A cache contains a logbook and a pencil and usually small trinkets for trading. Sometimes a trackable item is also enclosed. These items are referred to as “hitchhikers” and will come with instructions from the cache owner on what their goal is for that particular object. Hitchhikers are usually designed to be taken along with the seeker and dropped off at another cache site. Its new location is then updated on the Internet by the one who helped it on its way.
Getting Started with Geocaching
Before setting out on a first hunt, do a little research to get familiar with the terms and acronyms that are specific to geocaching such as: muggle- a non-geocacher, TFTH- thanks for the hide, TFTC- thanks for the cache, or ground zero- the point where the GPS says that you have arrived at the cache. Read about other’s experiences to get an idea of what to expect and for helpful tips. Once familiar with the activity, all you need to get started is a handheld GPS, a basic (free) membership to geocaching.com, a sense of adventure, and a small bag of trinkets to replace those collected. Tradable trinkets can be just about anything and range in value—music CD’s, pocket size flashlights, key rings, small books, kid’s toys, action figures, etc.
The rules are simple. Rule 1: Replace every item you take from a cache with an item of equal or greater value. Rule 2: Log your find in the logbook or log sheet that is inside the cache. Rule 3: Write about your experience at geocaching.com.
Basic consideration of the environment and for fellow seekers should be practiced as well. First, keep in mind that geocaching is often a family hobby so family friendly caches are a must. Second, leave the area better than you found it. If you see trash, please take it to a trash receptacle. This helps to ensure the continued enjoyment of geocaching. Last but not least, do not move the cache from its original position and make sure to conceal it the same as or better than how you found it.
A Family Adventure
Geocaching can become addicting and is a perfect family bonding experience. It gets the kids and parents up off of the couch and outside for some physical activity and exploration. Memories will be made as each member of the family gets into the spirit and excitement of the hunt. It is also the perfect opportunity to teach children about the environment, following directions, and technology in a new and fun way.
To host your own geocaching event, become familiar with geocaching through research and by attending several events, then turn on the creative juices. Consider the following points when designing your event. Find a place that you think would make a great cache hiding spot, then check the official geocaching.com website to make sure that it meets the placement guidelines. You can also find helpful tips at: www.geocaching.com/about/hiding.aspx. Be creative when putting together your cache. Use a watertight container that is big enough to include your logbook, pencil, and enough trinkets for your intended group. Hide your cache(s); find its coordinates with your GPS; make maps, tip sheets, or anything else that your group may need on their hunt. Advertize your event or send out specific invitations to selected cachers. Provide a start and stop time so your group knows when to begin and when they should gather together to compare notes and end the seeking process. If you would like help in designing and organizing an event, there are many sites online that sell affordable do-it-yourself products. Most also offer to design the whole event for a fee. Events can vary in difficulty, theme, and purpose; ranging from just for fun or promoting support for charities. The options are limitless.
Geocaching at Our Campgrounds
Jellystone Park™ campgrounds are the perfect location for your geocaching event with plenty of space for a hunt and various accommodation options. Remember to obtain permission from the park management before planning your event to make sure they can accommodate you and your group.
Some Jellystone Park campgrounds host events for their campers. Check out what geocaching events are planned on our camping blog.