GEOCaching Fills a day with Fun

January 19, 2012 · 0 comments

in Road Trip Ideas, We Got Sidetracked

Geocaching … More than a craze … it’s crazy fun!

Here’s a popular new pass-time which you can learn in minutes and enjoy for hours. GEOCaching is rapidly growing in popularity.

If you reach a point in your road trip where you need a diversion, here’s a great idea that you can do almost anywhere. Geocaching is a real-world outdoor treasure hunt, using GPS-enabled devices. We recently took our AmericaRoadTrip.net gang out on an afternoon adventure. Most of us had heard of this game, but had never actually participated in Geocaching!

You are probably asking what is geocaching? It is sometimes spelled as two words like this geo caching. A full explanation will not fit into a blog post, so let me share a few basic facts that may remove some of the mystery out of that strange sounding name. Hopefully, this brief post will stir some interest in an exciting game that is becoming a national pass-time and fascinating hobby for hundreds of thousands.

This is a great new activity you can discover and  which you can enjoy almost anywhere in the world. After you purchase the initial equipment it only costs you some time and travel … but it repays you with car-loads of fun.  Participants navigate to a specific set of GPS coordinates by following the instructions on their GPS device. Next you get out of your car and attempt to find the geocache (container) hidden at that location. The fun is in finding the hidden container, which holds an item. Geocache-hunters do not take the item from its location. You sign the list in the container and leave it for future enthusiasts to find on another happy day. We found three “treasures”. One was near a parking lot, one was on a bridge rail and the other was about 300 yards off the road in a field near The Clarion River.

Geocaching, pronounced (gee-O-cashing), is easy to learn and lots of fun. I first heard of this game when my wife took a graduate school technology course which had Geocaching as an afternoon assignment and class activity. The class was divided into several small teams. Each were given  coordinates to geocaches located in widely separated areas across the Mississippi Gulf Coast. They were then sent out with GPS (global positioning satellite) receivers with instructions to find the treasure, sign the sheet and return to class. They used the coordinates and the GPS devices to locate the caches. My wife was hooked. Even with relative strangers this was an enjoyable afternoon.

It’s come a long way baby!

Back then, small hand-held GPS devices cost several hundred dollars and were relatively rare. Something happened in May, 2002, to make these searches easier to perform and therefore more enjoyable. They upgraded the GPS system by adding several new satellites. The capability was improved ten-fold for the capability of these small hand-held devices.

Nowadays most smart phones are equipped with a GPS system built right into the phone. It is possible that smart phones made geocaching popular, but it may also be true that the popularity of Geocaching helped make the GPS feature a hotter item in the phones. So … if you own a smart phone you probably have the basic equipment needed to go Geocaching almost anywhere in the world.

This is the same feature that helps you find a favorite restaurant or restroom when you are in a strange area. Any GPS device can be used, it doesn’t have to be in a smart phone.

To begin you go to the internet site, www:geocaching.com. Choose sites in the area in which you are located and with which you want to experiment. Just follow the directions from your smart phone. When you go to this website you can “read all about it,” just like the newsboy use to shout!

You will need to register for a free membership in order to receive cache coordinates. If Geocacing becomes a highly interesting thing you will may want to become a Premier Member for about $30.00 a year. The perks of upgraded membership are explained on their site.

Get some family, close friends or folks you want to know better and jump in!

On a recent visit to our children’s home in western Pennsylvania we decided one cloudy,

The real prize is having fun with people you love!

windy, somewhat chilly afternoon to go Geocaching. We picked out 3 locations in the area, loaded 7 warm bodies into a cold van and took off on a grand adventure. The smart phone we used had voice capability which we put into speaker mode and followed the hollow-voiced directions to destinations that were previously unknown to any of us.

We found all three of our treasures in about one and one half hours. One cache was hidden on the perimeter of the parking lot at a Jiffy Service Station. Another was found about 300 yards off a dirt road, in the woods, in an old metal US Army Ammo box. The final one was found on a bridge spanning a raging river.

The person who placed this ‘button’ is an enthusiast of GeoCaching!

The “treasure” you locate is not usually a thing of value, although the items you find hold a very special kind of interest. One of the geocache items we found was a wooden token. The token gives a zip code and suggests that you might find interesting searches for your quest in that area.

Keep in mind that other searchers will also look for the item you have just found. Sign it, return it to its container and place it back where you found it. And the fun goes on, and on, and …

The real interest  is the fun of finding. But that’s OK. We aren’t looking for Gold Bullion, we were just looking to have a good time. I highly recommend this semi-new, high-tech activity. Let’s just call it a game, because it has the same element of excitement as a game, although you aren’t competing with the people in your group.

You could gather two or more groups and give each of them the same assignments, then have them begin doing the searches in reverse order of the other group or groups. The group finishing first would be the winner.

There are enough caches hidden and marked in some areas that it would be easy to plan a day long event with multiple teams searching for the caches.

To learn more about geocaching, go to www.geocaching.com/. You will be at the official site for all things pertinent to this new sport. Take time to look at the advantages of becoming a Premier Member for only $30.00 per year. The extra benefits of a Premier Membership make this seem like a paltry sum, especially if you enjoy the sport of this outdoor treasure-hunting game.

After you have had been geocaching, you are encouraged to share your experience online at the official site. I hope you enjoy this entertaining outing as much as we did that cold day in Pennsylvania when we put 7 warm bodies in a cold van and took off for parts unknown. Now that’s a real America Road Trip.

As with almost all things, much more can be learned about this fascinating hobby. I hope you enjoy your first experience and join the widely dispersed multitude. There are so many searchers, but there are so many places to search … you may never encounter another searcher in the field, parking lot or hollow stump where your treasure is located.

Keep rolling up the miles and dialing up the smiles, because at AmericaRoadTrip.net we don’t count the miles … we count smiles.

Bill

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