Today I've decided to talk about one of my favorite hobbies: Geocaching. If you've never heard of it, it a game/sport/hobby in which you use a GPS to locate hidden caches. These caches may be very large or teeny-tiny. Some have trade items inside to swap with when you find it. They all have a logbook which you MUST sign in order to get credit for the find. Some caches are extremely well-camoflauged and may take a long time and sharp eyes to find. Some may be easy to find, but take you to an interesting or beautiful place that you may not have ever been to before. Some are quick "park & grabs" while others may take you on a hike a mile or more.
There are caches hidden all over the world. A "caching" friend of mine is in Qatar at the moment, and there are a few caches there for her to find! People in the Army, etc., have hidden them on bases. I guess it's a good diversion for them and a way to kill some time on those long periods away from home. I have friends who have literally travelled the world looking for caches...from Antarctica to the Rain Forests of Brazil! For another idea of how big this game is, just google "geocaching" and look at all the sites that pop up!
I love caching because it's cheap (after buying a GPS and some gas) and gets you outside. My kids love it! We have found caches in swamps, in cities, in parks, and on islands. Anyone who enjoys being outdoors will love this game!
Interested? The first thing to do is check out http://www.geocaching.com/. This is the mother of all caching sites, the grand poobah, the one that started it all. To sign up and create an account is FREE! When you sign up, be careful choosing your username because this is what you will be known by forever in the caching community. So pick something you like!
Next, on the website, do a search for caches in your area. You will be amazed at how many there are close to your home. I guarantee it. I found out about caching by reading an article in our newspaper about it. I checked it out and saw there were quite a few within 3 miles of my home. We went out the next day and found the closest one and have been hooked on it ever since. That was in August 2003. We are up to 550 finds now.
Ok, so you've checked and see that there are caches nearby. You pull up the cache page of the closest one. Listed at the top are a set of coordinates. Punch those into your GPS, do a "Go To" and get out there and find it! It's that simple. But be prepared - read the cache page carefully. It will let you know the general size of what you'll be looking for, and may possibly give hints to help you. Also note that some caches may be what is known as "multi", meaning there are more than one stage to find before finding the final container. There are also mystery caches which may involve solving a puzzle, a riddle, or maybe doing some math in order to get the coordinates to find the cache. Some can be VERY hard and some are pretty easy. The excitement you'll feel when you find your first cache is something you'll always remember.
Who hides these things? Why, anybody! Sometimes hiding a good cache can be more fun than finding one. Just make sure you have a durable, waterproof container to use and camoflauge it as necessary. Add a logbook, a pen and some "swag" and you've got yourself a cache waiting to be hidden in the perfect spot of your choosing. Read the guidelines for hiding a cache as some land management areas require permission first. Once you've hidden your cache, you go online and fill out an easy submission form. It then has to be approved by the gc.com approver in your area. If they have any questions about it, they'll contact you.
After you find a cache, you sign the logbook, swap items (keep 'em kid-friendly!), replace it exactly as you found it, then go home and log your find on the geocaching.com website. That's it.
I have met some really great folks through this game, and have seen some incredible things. There are people of all ages and from all walks of life that are into geocaching...babies to retired folks... teachers, doctors, pilots, engineers, stay-at-home moms. There are geocaching associations, too. The main one in Florida is the Florida Geocaching Association (FGA). Up north there is NEFGA (Northeast Florida Geocaching Assoc.) and SoFlo down south. There is also Terracaching, which is just another caching site run by a different group with a little different twist on the game. You can check that out at http://www.terracaching.com/
This is also an fun way to get out and see the Real Florida. Sure, there are caches hidden at Disney, but most of them take you to out of the way places, historic places, or places that most "tourists" don't get to see.
I really would like to hear from you if you decide to start playing. I'd like to know it if I get anyone addicted :) Drop me a line here or send me an email. You can also click on the link to my "myspace" page. I have a video about caching on there. Oh, and BTW, my caching name is "Gladeslvr & Crew".
Hope to see you on the trails!