Hide & Seek for the Digital Age

Remember the old-fashioned Scavenger Hunt? That party game that had the tendency to bring groups together via teamwork as well as cause some trouble as your team did “whatever it took” to win…

A newer, and in my opinion much more fun, version of that game is called Geocaching. If you have a GPS unit (or just about any kind of Smartphone) you too can play the Geocaching “game”.

Geocaching History from Wikipedia:

Geocaching is similar to the 150-year-old game letterboxing, which uses clues and references to landmarks embedded in stories. Geocaching was conceived shortly after the removal of Selective Availability from GPS on May 2, 2000, because the improved accuracy[6] of the system allowed for a small container to be specifically placed and located. The first documented placement of a GPS-located cache took place on May 3, 2000, by Dave Ulmer of Beavercreek, Oregon.[7] The location was posted on the Usenetnewsgroup[8][9] as 45°17.460′N 122°24.800′W. By May 6, 2000, it had been found twice and logged once (by Mike Teague of Vancouver, Washington). According to Dave Ulmer’s message, the original stash was a black plastic bucket buried most of the way in the ground and contained software, videos, books, food, money, and a slingshot.[9]

I’m glad I read the Wikipedia piece because I totally forgot about Selective Availability that used to keep GPS units from being very accurate.  The day the US Govt. turned it off is the day GPS became a usable tool for the everyday person.

To get started with geocaching all you need to do is go to geocaching.com and search for caches around your area.  I’ll bet there are a few within 1-2 miles of your location (if not right down the street from you).  Here’s a search of the Indianapolis area:

Every one of those little squares represents a geocache.  As of today there are 1,817,076 active geocaches and over 5 million geocachers worldwide.  This is a popular hobby & one that uses online technology to be successful.

As with any “game” there are rules and variations on the game.  The rules for geocaching are pretty simple and it’s very easy to get started.  This 2-minute video explains the basics:

So what does a geocache look like?  Here’s an example of one my son & I found near the Monon Trail in Broad Ripple:

The coordinates got us to this spot and the compass indicated the geocache was about 50′ in front of us.
We followed the path into the woods and something caught our attention right away…
As we got a little closer we saw it. Do you see it?
This is the cache that was in the plastic tube under the tree. What’s inside?
Success! We found a cache with a lot of little goodies inside (they are not all like this). After signing the log book we took an item and left an item we had brought along with us.

As you can imagine this is a lot of fun for kids (young and old).  It’s a great way to spend the afternoon outdoors and in a lot of cases you get to take part in a bit of nature along the way.  Geocaching can be done on foot, with bicycles, or by car.  We prefer to drive to a general location and set out on foot or on the bikes.

As I found out today it pays to become a paid member of the Geocaching.com website.  You get access to “member only” caches that make the game even more exciting.  You also get email alerts and better search tools to find caches that meet your preferred criteria.

If you’re looking for a great family activity that everyone can get involved in check out geocaching.  It’s popular for a reason and once you find a few you’ll understand why!

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