By Cristina Parry
Treasure hunting for the young at heart.
I was introduced to geocaching by a friend and had no idea what to expect. But I can well and truly say I have been bitten by the bug! We went along to Shotover, six kids in tow and GPS in hand, and scrambled through bushes and trees searching for a small box. You would have thought we'd found a rare missing treasure by the way we jumped around congratulating each other when we found it! Meanwhile, we had walked a fair bit and not once had the children complained, said they were bored, or suddenly needed the toilet. As a parent of three energetic young boys, it ticked all the boxes!
Geocaching is a worldwide affair and is often likened to a "treasure hunt". It is a way to enjoy the great countryside and get out into the fresh air, and many find that it is a gentle and easy way to get some exercise, and kids love it too. There are 782,763 active geocaches around the world and about 100,000 of these are in the UK alone.
Let's go back to the beginning... it all started on May 3rd, 2000 when Dave Ulmer placed a five gallon bucket near a wooded road about one mile from his home in Portland, Oregon. Inside the bucket were a logbook and some trinkets for trading. He dubbed the game The Great American GPS Stash Hunt. By May 6th the cache was visited twice, and logged in the logbook once. Mike Teague was the first to find the container, and built his personal web page to document these containers and their locations that were posted to the sci.geo.satellite-nav newsgroup.
In July 2000, a man called Jeremy Irish found Mike Teague's website and found his first cache outside of Seattle, Washington. Recognising the potential of the game (but never expecting the growth), Jeremy approached Mike Teague with a new site design, used the name Geocaching, and developed a new website adding virtual logs, maps, and a way to make it easier to maintain caches as the sport grew. Since the launch of the website, the Geocaching sport has grown to caches in over 100 countries.
The GPS Unit
It works like this: a Geocacher will go to a location which has usually some special interest or beauty. This is often one of their favourite places to visit. They will hide a small waterproof box containing a few varied bits and pieces (usually of little value) a logbook and a pen or pencil. Using a handheld GPS receiver, the cacher records the coordinates of their cache and returns home to log its existence on a website. This is where you as treasure hunter comes in... you go to the website and download the coordinates into your GPS receiver. When you find it you can take something from the cache and leave something in return, and for posterity, enter a log in the logbook. You then revisit the website and log that you have found the cache. These logs are important to the cache hider as it acts like their "reward" for hiding the cache.
Bob from Merton is a cacher of 5 years experience and has set 140 caches of his own all over Oxfordshire and has found 4,500. He travels around south of the country as part of his job and says he always tries to mix business with pleasure: “Once I finish a day's work, wherever I happen to be in the South of England, if I have time before I have to travel somewhere else, then I’ll pop in and do a cache on the way through.”
So is it really a solitary hobby? “Admittedly I do most of my caching by myself,” says Steve, “but today I have been out with 3 other people and now I’m in the pub with 50 people having a chat and some food, and this is the 92nd meet I have been to so it’s solitary, but I have been to the pub 90 times with it so it can’t be all that bad can it?”
I was surprised at the mini community that exists in the geocache world when I went along to a gathering at a pub in Wendelbury. There were people there from all corners of the county as well as other parts of the country. People with kids, dogs, by themselves, in couples... and they obviously knew each other quite well. Bex from Bicester was there with her dog: “I used to be quite subdued in my outlook until I started Geocaching and it sort of opened my eyes really to a whole new social scene that I never experienced before and I’ve made lots and lots of new friends.”
I am still a novice, but I can see how it can become a very addictive pastime. It really is something to suit kids of all ages and I don’t need much of an excuse to get out into the country with my boys and indulge my childish side!
last updated: 29/04/2009 at 14:52
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