Saturday, April 4, 2009

Cache Me If You Can

Last month I took a seminar on how to use the GPS unit I received for Christmas. Today I was back at the same location to learn how to geocache.

According to Wikipedia:
Geocaching is an outdoor game in which the participants use a Global Positioning System (GPS) or other navigational techniques to hide and seek containers (called "geocaches" or "caches") anywhere in the world.
Today's class was organized, and taught, by members of the St. Louis Area Geocachers Association (SLAGA). There were about a dozen members seated at the back of the room. Instead of introducing themselves with their given name, they gave their user name, which is the primary way many of them know each other. I found out later in the day that many of them were husband and wife teams who pursue the hobby together.

The class started with a PowerPoint presentation. I learned that:
  • Geocaching started in 2000, shortly after the Global Positioning System (GPS) satellite network was made available for civilian use. There are caches in just about every country of the world.
  • Geocaches vary in size, difficulty, and location. Geocache containers range in size from film canisters (microcaches) which are too small to hold anything more than a tiny paper log to five-gallon buckets or footlockers. A cache can be in plain sight or well-hidden. They can be placed in easy-to-access locations, or in the middle of wilderness.
  • A traditional geocache consists of a waterproof container containing a log book and sometimes trinkets. After a cache is placed, its latitude and longitude coordinates are posted on a website, along with any additional details or hints for finding it. Other geocachers obtain the coordinates from the Internet and seek out the cache using a GPS receiver. The finding geocachers sign the logbook, and note their find on the website. Geocachers are free to take objects from the cache and leave something of similar or higher value, so there is something for the next person to find.
  • Another type of cache is the multi-cache (or serial cache), which consists of multiple waypoints containing the coordinates for the next stage. The final stage contains the log book and trade items.
  • There are also virtual caches, which are located in places that aren't conducive to a physical container.
  • Also common are objects that are moved from cache to cache, called Travel Bugs or Geocoins. They have a unique serial number and can be tracked online.
  • There are specific rules and etiquette for people who want to hide caches for others to find.
At the end of the presentation, they put in a plug for joining their group.

The next activity was to load coordinates for several close by caches into our GPS units. After the data was loaded, we went out into the park with an experienced geocacher and found the caches. Arriving at the correct point was easy; finding a hidden cache wasn't always. They were well-hidden, and I don't think I would have been able to find them if there wasn't someone to assist me.

Geocaching seems like a fun activity. There are almost 150 caches within 5 miles of my house. I'm going to start looking for the easy ones!


  1. You sure took good notes during the class. Welcome to the hobby, noob!

    Paul Konopacki (konopapw)
    SLAGA webmaster

  2. We're glad you enjoyed our Geocaching 101 class. We'll have the GPS class and the Geocaching class again in the fall. Hope to see you on the trails soon!

  3. konopaw, it wasn't was the handout :-)

    L Frank, you WILL!

  4. Kathy,

    Glad you enjoyed the course. We enjoy giving these classes and seeing the enthusisam of the attendees. You'll enjoy the sport/game/hobby.

    Welcome aboard.

  5. Oooh, I've been thinking about doing this. Give updates on your treasures!