Leisure Activities - Geocaching Treasure Hunt
What is Geocaching all about then?
We enjoy Geocaching - a pastime using Sat Nav and the internet to find hidden items around town and country.
It's best described as a fun and educational recreational activity; a treasure hunt that uses a GPS receiver or smartphone + app to find, typically, a box with goodies in. See the entry on Wikipedia for a full description.
Here at micbinks we contribute to the geocaching community on the global GPS cache hunt website: www.geocaching.com - check us out under our ID which is, of course, 'micbinks' - and we enjoy searching out locations both locally and when on holiday.
Geocaching can be environmentally friendly - 'cache-in trash-out' - where participants clear rubbish from the geocache area (like The Wombles?). It's a family friendly pastime and healthy for both mind and body, what with all the walking/searching/thinking that's required. And it's highly educational - knowledge of navigation, topography, land use, GPS, mapping and the grid system is gained (oh, and where the local pubs are!). As an environmentally responsible pastime, accepted practice guidelines are published by the geocaching community. Geocachers monitor PMR channel 2 or 8 to listen for other cachers who may happen to be in the area.
So how do you go Geocaching?
Follow the electronic compass on your Sat Nav device, keeping in mind that, unless you have wings, you can't always navigate 'as the crow flies'. When you get to within, say, 10 meters, start looking around for any clues as to where the geocache might be hidden. It helps to keep in mind the cache container type you're looking for, description, previous finders' logs and, if needed, the additional hint. This often gives it away with clues such as 'bottom of fence post', 'under seat', 'hole in wall', etc, so be careful not to spoil the fun!
When you've (hopefully!) found the cache, open the container and fill in the paper log with the date and your geocaching name. Larger caches contain small items you can swap if you wish. Seal the lid and carefully replace the geocache back where you found it, covering with sticks, stones, etc. ready for the next geocacher. If you wish, take a photo of something interesting nearby, taking care that it doesn't give the hiding place away.
The final stage is to log your find(s) on geocaching.com: log in, browse to the relevant geocache page and add a sentence or two describing your find (try to make it interesting) plus upload your photo if you took one. And you're done!
So who places geocaches in the first place? Why, other
geocachers of course! Here's some we've placed:
Let's look at one of our geocache finds...
Now, if we haven't put you off(!), read on for more on Geocaching...
Other geocaches require the solving of simple - or involved - clues such as noting dates on, say, a building, notice or gravestone then using these numbers to work out the coordinates by following a given formula. Now this may sound like too much trouble, but once you've tried one you'll find it's quite straightforward and a lot of fun, especially for the kids. Some can involve a trail of many caches!
The larger lunch box caches contain small items to swap, the idea is one item is taken and one left which is noted in the cache and website log. Items thus travel from cache to cache, often great distances and overseas too. The next stage on from this are Travel Bugs where particular items are tracked as they travel around the country - or the world! Now, where's that tiny tatty teddy auntie gave me all those years ago...
Other types of geocaches include:
Muggles – what are they then?
Look out for the (usually) helpful cachers trail when within spitting distance of the geocache you're searching out. This provides tell-tale evidence that the geocache is nearby, such as downtrodden vegetation or unnaturally positioned stones. But also be aware of a false cachers trail, indicating others have been looking... in the wrong place!
Let's look at some unusual geocaches we've found...
Geocache equipment and software
A small digital camera is handy to take an interesting picture in the cache vicinity which can be uploaded when logging your find. Be careful not to create a 'spoiler' and reveal the cache location though! Other useful items to take are gardening gloves (for rummaging around all those prickly plants) and a poking stick as you'll never find one nearby when needed of course!
An increasingly popular option is 'paperless
caching' using a mobile
device - a smartphone + geocaching
app that does it all in one unit - Sat Nav, web access, camera,
mapping - we've heard some even have a phone thrown in too! This
allows you to locate caches 'on the fly' in the field and log your
finds straight-away (subject to Wi Fi or network coverage of
course). There's many applications available to assist, varying
from the free to the rather pricey (some are listed
below). Groundspeak have an all-in-one app for a certain very
popular mobile device and several cache info formats (premium
Post caching we like to look at our finds and breadcrumb trail by loading these from our Sat Nav device onto a user generated Google Earth overlay.
Looking at some typical cache hidey holes...
Geocaching has a social aspect too. Apart from the social network provided by the website, many local groups of geocachers get together, say, once a month in a pub; automatic notification of upcoming local meets are given when logged into the website.
It's an international hobby with many overseas travellers finding and logging caches in countries they're visiting. Expect to see log entries from visitors from abroad, particularly in popular tourist areas. We've searched out some rather scenic caches in recent years while visiting Gower, the Cotswolds, Cornwall, Isle of Wight and Wiltshire.
Here's some 'guardians of the cache'...
GPSr Global Positioning System receiver (AKA a Sat Nav device)
Here's some Geocaching resources
you may find useful:
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