06 August 2008

Geocaching: sport, hobby, obsession

On the last day of last year I learned a new trick. Actually it's a hobby. No, it's a a sport. It can be an obsession, especially for gadget freaks who like to go for walks.

I've taken up geocaching, (pronounce it Geo-cashing, like cashing a check) an activity spawned by the opening up of the satellites to recreational users. Anyone can now buy a GPS and figure out where they are, or where the cache is!

Not sure if it was the chicken or the egg, but of course, someone turned it all in to a game.

One guy hid some stuff in the woods and then put up a notice online with the coordinates. His buddies took it as a challenge and went in search of it. Upon finding it, they signed the log book and sent him a message online. They then proceeded to hide some stuff too. Let the games begin!

Now there are podcasts for geocachers, special gear, events and websites.

Read on and then let me know if you are interested. I love it and it gets me out exploring areas I wouldn't otherwise have gone.


What is Geocaching?

Geocaching is a worldwide game of hiding and seeking treasure. A geocacher can place a geocache in the world, pinpoint its location using GPS technology and then share the geocache’s existence and location online. Anyone with a GPS unit can then try to locate the geocache.

What is the meaning of the word Geocaching?
The word Geocaching refers to GEO for geography, and to CACHING, the process of hiding a cache. A cache in computer terms is information usually stored in memory to make it faster to retrieve, but the term is also used in hiking/camping as a hiding place for concealing and preserving provisions.

What is a GPS device?
A GPS unit is an electronic device that can determine your approximate location (within around 6 - 20 feet) on the planet. Coordinates are normally given in Latitude and Longitude.
Each GPSr receives signals broadcast from GPS satellites. A receiver needs to read signals from at least three satellites at a time to calculate its general location by a process called trilateration.

With signals from four satellites, a GPS receiver can get a more accurate fix that includes altitude and the exact time, as well as latitude and longitude. The more satellite signals the receiver reads, the more accurate the position it reports to you.

You gave me coordinates to a specific cache location. Seems pretty easy.
It is deceptively easy. It is one thing to know where a location is shown on a map; it is another to actually try to arrive at that location. Sometimes you cannot navigate directly to a cache by going straight in the direction your GPS receiver points - there might be a river or other obstacle in the way.

What are the rules in Geocaching?
1. If you take something from the cache, leave something of equal or greater value.
2. Write about your find in the cache logbook.
3. Log your experience at www.geocaching.com.

What is usually in a cache?
In its simplest form, a cache always contains a logbook which contains information from the owner of the cache, notes from visitors and can contain much valuable, rewarding, and entertaining information. In smaller caches, a logsheet may be used.

Larger caches may contain a items which turn the cache into a true treasure hunt. You never know what the owner or other visitors of the cache may have left there for you to enjoy. Remember, if you take something, it is only fair for you to leave something in return. It is recommended that items in a cache be individually packaged in a clear, zipped plastic bag to protect them from the elements.

Quite often you may also find a trackable item.
A Groundspeak Travel Bug is a trackable tag that you attach to an item, and which travels from cache to cache with the help of people like you. Each tag is etched with a unique code which the finder can use to log its travels on this website. Every Travel Bug has a goal given by its owner, so if you think you can help it along on its journey feel free to take it with you. Geocoins are special trackable coins created by other Geocachers to commemorate special events or as a signature item to leave in caches.