September 9, 2012
Geocaching Addiction Anonymous
Do you remember scavenger hunts when you were a kid? How about hide and seek? Did you ever take a treasure map and try to find the pirate’s gold?
If any of those memories fill you with delight, Geocaching just might be the sport for you.
So what is Geocaching, you ask? WELL… let me tell you all about it.
In a nutshell, geocaching is a worldwide treasure hunt using your GPS (or if you are old school / hard core, your compass). That still isn’t really clear, is it? Hold on, I’m getting there.
Picture this. In July of 2005, I was a graduate student at the University of Oklahoma. A friend and I were discussing a fiction writing class he was taking at the time. His teacher had asked them, “As writers, what’s the plot that comes to mind when you think about geocaching?”
I had never heard of geocaching, so I had to learn more. I started asking around, and looking online and that’s when I found Geocaching.com. Now, they don’t own the sport, but they are the be all / end all word on how to play and where to start looking.
Geocaching is a worldwide treasure hunt that got started on a lark. The government removed selective availability from GPS satellites in May 2000. To test out the new accuracy, a computer programmer named Dave Ulmer buried black bucket halfway in the ground, filled it with “treasures” and posted the coordinates he had taken with his GPS on a Usenet group (sci.geo.satellite-nav). Three days later, two readers had found his “stash” and the game was afoot.
The word, geocache, is a portmanteau. Geo means earth. Cache has two meanings, which both work really well for this game. According to Geocaching.com, “the original definition referred to a hiding place someone would use to temporarily store items. The word cache stirs up visions of pioneers, gold miners, and even pirates. Today the word is still even used in the news to describe hidden weapons locations. The second use of cache has more recently been used in technology. Memory cache is computer storage that is used to quickly retrieve frequently used information. Your web browser, for example, stores images on disk so you don’t have to retrieve the same image every time you visit similar pages. The combination of Earth, hiding, and technology made geocaching an excellent term for the activity.”
In the last 12 years, geocaching has grown from that one bucket in the woods near Beavercreek, Oregon, to caches being hidden in over 200 countries, on all seven continents, AND the International Space Station. (I REALLY want to find that one).
Well, I was intrigued. Before I could answer the question about a plot, though, I had to go find one of these caches. I bought myself a little handheld GPS and away I went.
My first cache was called the Rusty Hoop Bridge in Norman, Oklahoma. Since then, I have geocached in about seven states, and I’m totally hooked. If you want to find me on Geocaching.com, my handle is TheTravelingTexan.
What I want to do with this blog is talk about the different aspects of Geocaching; types of caches, reviews of GPS devices, interviews with cachers (other than myself), let you know about smartphone apps, look at some of the gear and fun things that you can buy, brag about my own caching adventures, and maybe inspire you to join in. I’m even going to talk about some of the other geocache “style” games out there, like letterboxing.
If you have suggestions, or comments… or want to brag about your own geocaching fun, please join me.
Tomorrow, I’ll be defining some terms for you, and talking about the geocache I’m headed out to find right now.
P.S. I never did tell you my plot idea for a geocache, did I? Hmmmm.. Stay tuned.
Image Credit: Gunnar Pippel / Shutterstock