Publix GreenWise Market Magazine - Spring 2011
High-Tech Hide & Seek
|Get your family moving on a treasure hunt filled with exciting mind and body challenges. |
Though Karen and Larry Farris have lived in Knoxville, Tennessee, for 21 years, it wasn’t until six years ago that they began to explore the city and its surroundings in minute detail. That’s when they discovered geocaching, an outdoor pursuit that turns a simple hike into a treasure hunt.
Armed with latitude and longitude coordinates found on a geocaching website, the couple uses a portable GPS unit to hone in on the prize they’re searching for—a weatherproof container holding a logbook (and, in many cases, various trinkets).
|The caches the Farrises seek are typically the size of a shoe box, and geocachers can hide them almost anywhere with public access. Parks are especially popular locations. But a big part of the sport’s lure comes from finding uniquely shaped caches in unexpected spots, such as a “nano” cache, no bigger than the tip of a pinky finger, taped to the underside of a city bus stop bench. |
Most GPS systems will get you within 10 to 20 feet of the cache, says Dana Gillin, coauthor of The Joy of Geocaching (Quill Driver Books, 2010). And that’s when the fun really begins, especially if you have kids along.
“In the beginning, you just hunt around, turning over rocks, examining a pile of sticks that doesn’t look quite natural,” Dana says. “After you’ve been geocaching for a while, you get to know where it might be placed.”
When they succeed in finding the cache, the Farrises sign the logbook and return the cache to its hiding place so another hunter can have the pleasure of discovering it. Upon returning home, they’ll record their find online.
Geocaching lets families spend time together outside, says Paul Gillin, Dana’s husband and coauthor. He thinks of it as stealth exercise.
“It gets you outdoors, and because you have a goal in mind, you don’t even notice you’re exercising,” he adds. “We can do six or seven miles and hardly realize it.”
|Getting Started with Geocaching|
Geocaching.com, with 5 million members and 1.2 million caches worldwide, is a great place to plug in to this hobby. Basic membership is free, and the site includes plenty of tips and general information.
Any portable device with GPS capability can be used, including a smartphone equipped with free or low-cost geocaching apps. Most hobbyists, though, recommend a handheld GPS (such as those made by Magellan or Garmin). Paul Gillin suggests searching for a used device for as little as $50.
Caches are rated for difficulty of finding the object and negotiating the terrain, with 1/1 being the easiest and 5/5 the hardest. Ratings make it easy to choose caches that will provide just the right level of challenge for your family.
Once you’ve mastered the basic cache hunt, give yourself a challenge with a more difficult subgenre. Here are four to try:
Power cache: Endurance, timing and good planning are key to finding as many coordinates as possible in a small period of time. Some hunters attempt to locate as many as 1,000 or more caches in a 24-hour period. It’s good for variety, but it can be physically demanding, according to Paul Gillin.
Mystery cache: These caches require you to solve a puzzle, some of which are very difficult, to get their coordinates, notes Paul. “How to solve the puzzle is often a puzzle in itself.”
Extreme cache: Some geocachers desire more than a leisurely stroll through the park looking for a cache. They seek out the small number of caches that involve specialized equipment and intense physical challenges. Searching for an extreme cache could require scuba diving, rock climbing or kayaking.
Multicache: Similar to a scavenger hunt, each location in the multicache chain provides a clue to direct you to the next location and so on, until you find the cache.
Caching in on Earth Day
Geocachers around the world team up on or around Earth Day (April 22) each year to preserve the beauty of natural spaces by gathering for trash pickup/geocaching events in parks and other public places. Find a list of local events at geocaching.com/cito/calendar.aspx
or organize your own. Of course, you can take a trash bag every time you go on a cache hunt too.