Double checking his GPS coordinates, my husband Robert crawls behind a bush and peers under the rim of a transformer box. We are off the pathway and drawing unwanted attention. The nearby museums and zoo are popular tourist destinations and the area is swarming with “muggles” (geocachers term for nosey non-geocachers). Out-of-towners wearing flip flops and toting cameras, cast curious glances our way. We try to appear inconspicuous, but it isn’t working, especially when Robert suddenly shouts, “Found it!” and pulls a small matchbook case from under the transformer box. Normally, a grown man crawling through the bushes is cause for alarm, but there is nothing to be worried about today. We are geocaching.
What exactly is geocaching? It’s a modern day treasure hunt-style game that combines creativity, intelligence, a GPS (Global Positioning System) unit, and a bit of luck on the seekers part. The term ‘geocaching’ originated in 2000 and is a combination of words. The prefix, geo, meaning Earth is used to describe the nature of the activity and cache refers to a hiding place. Players are given nothing more than a set of navigational coordinates and maybe a cryptic clue, which have been posted on the Internet (a popular geocaching website is Geocaching.com).
Before a cache can be found, however, a cache must be concealed. This is where creativity comes into play. From micros – small caches the size of Altoid tins or film canisters – to traditional caches – usually the size of coffee cans or ammunition boxes – they are hidden under rocks, in cracks of trees, in fence posts, and even in the ground disguised as sprinkler heads. Its estimated there are over 800,000 caches hidden worldwide, and hiding places are limited by only the hider’s imagination. Depending on the size of the cache, it might include small toys or trinkets, cds, gift cards, or whatever else the hider wants to include. Usually there is a special reward for the first finder of the cache.
Sounds easy, but it’s not. Although GPS coordinates are given, caches are not always easy to get to. Caches are rated based on both the difficulty in finding the cache and the difficulty in getting to it. To reach some, hiking or scrambling boulders is required. There could be dense brush, buildings, or hills between you and the cache. A bit of detective work is needed along with a lot of patience, but sometimes it’s not finding the cache that’s most exciting, but in the journey we take to get there.
Back behind the transformer box, Robert signs the small log book inside the cache and replaces it in exactly the same location for the next geocacher to find. He dusts off his pants and after a few adjustments to our GPS we’re off to find the next one, which is about a ½ mile away. On our way we stop at a nearby vendor’s cart to buy sodas and spend several minutes watching a street performer. Eventually we head in the direction of the next cache, but why hurry? It’s such a beautiful day and this is our journey after all.