Geocaching

My daughter is really excited about the upcoming new children’s TV show, “Cache Craze”, premiering Saturday.  YTV is cashing in on the very popular high-tech treasure hunting game of geocaching.  This program will pit family teams against each other as they search for and unlock virtual caches after they complete an obstacle course.  It should be fun to watch.

This past fall my daughter asked me what geocaching was.  I had heard about it but didn’t really know any of the details.  So we researched it and found that geocaching is a treasure hunting game where you use a GPS to hide and seek containers with other participants.  It really is a simple game to understand, but one that you don’t always get to complete.

That day we signed up for a free account at Geocaching.com, and determined that there was a cache nearby that we wanted to find.  We printed off the information required to find the cache: the GPS co-ordinates and the description/story/clues to the cache.  There are smartphone apps, as well as handheld GPS devices that can connect to your computer and download the cache information so you can take it with you.  This is called paperless caching.

We were off on our first adventure the next afternoon.  We drove to the forest near our home; turned on the GPS functionality of my smartphone and headed towards the cache.  Once we arrived at the co-ordinates we had to use some detective skills along with the clues we were given.  It took us a while but we finally found the treasure.  Back home we logged our find on the Geocaching.com wesite.

Since then we have ventured off on a few hunts, but since the snow fell, we haven’t been out.  On some outings we would pretend we were pirates; on others we were spies.  Altogether we have found a few caches but occasionally there is the disappointment of caches that we DNF.  For you muggles, that means “Did Not Find”.  Yes geocaching comes with its own lingo.  A muggle is a non-geocacher.  There is a certain amount of secrecy surrounding this game in that if a muggle found a cache, not knowing what the cache is, they may move, take or destroy it.

Below are a few geocaching terms.  For a more complete list see the Geocaching Glossary:

  • DNF       – “Did not find” the cache
  • FTF        – “First to find” the cache
  • GZ          – “Ground zero”.  This is the GPS co-ordinates and the detective work begins
  • Muggle – Non-geocacher

This winter my daughter is working on a cache that she is going to hide in the spring for others to find.  She has determined a hiding place; is compiling a cache; and writing a story with clues to go along with it.

Geocaching is such a family friendly adventure.  It is a great opportunity for everyone to get outdoors for exercise and fun; develop planning, observational and technology skills; and learn to solve puzzles.  Children love a secret, especially discovering one.  And who doesn’t love pretending to be a pirate or a spy.  If nothing else it is a trail activity that gets you out exploring, perhaps to places you would never consider visiting.  Get a sense of what it is by watching this video on Newbie Geocaching 101.

Don’t have a GPS device and want to try one out?  The Central Lake Ontario Conservation Authority in Durham Region will loan out a GPS device for five days, at no cost, for a deposit of $250 on your credit card.

How popular is it?  Just recently the number of active caches worldwide has surpassed the 2 million mark.  There is a thriving worldwide community built around this game.  For example, there is an annual weekend event this June on Lake Couchiching near Orillia, hosted by the Central Ontario Geocachers.  There are even organized cruises to the Caribbean to geocache on island destinations.

Take a look at this video on Extreme Multi-caching to see that it is as extreme as you need it to be.   There are many different types of geocaching such as night, underwater, traditional, multi-cache, earth, photo, webcam, puzzle, virtual geocaching and more.  Find one that suits your personality and level of comfort, and at the very least …. Get out!  Have fun!  TrekOntario!

TrekOntario
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