Geocaching: A modern twist to scavenger hunts

Garmin Colorado 300 GPS - None

http://youtube.com/watch?v=LMHZcgM11GU

This weekend, I took thirteen members of the club I sponsor from school to San Diego on our first trip out of town. I talked my secretary and my co-worker in going along as drivers and chaperones.  While most people would shudder at that thought of taking thirteen teenagers anywhere, these two brave soul was enthusiastic and excited about the trip. 

Brian, one of my chaperone, is also a history teacher.  He was excited about going with us because the trip would provide him with the opportunity to do some geochaching (pronouned ‘geocashing’). The kids and I asked Brian what the deal was and he said it was a scavenger hunt using hand held gps systems to locate “treasures” people hid all over the world in different places.  In order to get clues to where the “treasures” are, people can go to geochaching.com.  Once at the site, people can get the clues as well as the coordinates left by others as a guide to the items left. Here’s a history behind geocaching from geocaching.com that better explains it.

On May 3, [GPS enthusiast], Dave Ulmer, and a computer consultant, wanted to test the accuracy [of GPS systems]by hiding a navigational target in the woods. He called the idea the “Great American GPS Stash Hunt” and posted it in an internet GPS users’ group. The idea was simple: Hide a container out in the woods and note the coordinates with a GPS unit.

The finder would then have to locate the container with only the use of his or her GPS receiver. The rules for the finder were simple: “Take some stuff, leave some stuff.”

On May 3rd he placed his own container, a black bucket, in the woods near Beaver Creek, Oregon, near Portland. Along with a logbook and pencil, he left various prize items including videos, books, software, and a slingshot. He shared the waypoint of his “stash” with the online community on sci.geo.satellite-nav:

N 45 17.460 W 122 24.800

Within three days, two different readers read about his stash on the Internet, used their own GPS receivers to find the container, and shared their experiences online. Throughout the next week, others excited by the prospect of hiding and finding stashes began hiding their own containers and posting coordinates. Like many new and innovative ideas on the Internet, the concept spread quickly – but this one required leaving your computer to participate.

Within the first month, Mike Teague, the first person to find Ulmer’s stash, began gathering the online posts of coordinates around the world and documenting them on his personal home page. The “GPS Stash Hunt” mailing list was created to discuss the emerging activity. Names were even tossed about to replace the name “stash” due to the negative connotations of that name. One such name was “geocaching [geo meaning ‘earth’ and cache meaning ‘hiding place”].

So far Brian has found 575 geocache, two of which he found on  our trip to San Diego wth my club kids.  Number 574 he found in Balboa Park in the Butterfly Garden, close to this huge tree.  He used the clue and his GPS unit to locate the items left by another geocaching enthusiast.  We witness his discovery of the waterproof brown plastic zip bag with butterfly items in it.  There was a rubber butterfly stencil and a little butterfly notebook inside.  He wrote: number 574 founded with the IFEC (my club) from Kofa, Yuma, AZ. The kids and I were excited as him for this “treasure”.  When we went to Coronado Island, he found number 575 on the beach. 

If you love scavenger hunting and have a GPS unit then this could potentially be the next great adventure you are looking for.  This idea of ” sharing things” by ” taking some stuff and leaving some stuff” is brilliant because we all love a good “treasure” hunt because it tests our own cleaverness. For more info in case you would like to start your own hunt, go to geocaching.com.

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