“Join the World’s Largest Treasure Hunt”: Geocaching 101

By: Rachel Stewart

Lately, a movement dubbed “look up” has been sweeping pop culture.  This movement urges us , as the name suggests, to look up from our electronic devices and “experience the real world.” I, Rachel, the new-age Henry Clay, “The Great Compromiser” has found a way to appease both sides of this debate with one simple act: geocaching.  Geocaching involves an app on your phone, but it also forces you to venture out into the “real world,” and experience it with a little help from electronic GPS tracking. The best of both worlds, truly.

What exactly is geocaching?- Essentially, as the official geocaching site claims, it’s a worldwide treasure hunt using GPS tracking.  Most importantly, the “cache” in “geocaching” refers to containers of all sizes, usually no smaller than a pill bottle, that are filled with at the least a log for you to sign when you find it, and at the most, small treasures for you to take if you replace it with a treasure of your own.

How do I find a geocache?- The easiest method I’ve found, and the most efficient, is to use the app.  On iPhones, the free app is called “Geocaching Intro.” There is a version that you can pay for, but mainly all it does is give you access to where more caches are hidden, and there’s more than enough free ones that will get you through many finds. Once the app is pulled up, a map will show with green dots everywhere, representing geocaches that you have yet to find. Once they’re found, the green dot will turn into a smiley face.  You can click on a dot to see more information about that cache, the name, description, how far away it is, difficulty, terrain level, and more.  Once you find a cache that you want to find, click the “start” button, and an orange line will show up connecting the cache to wherever you are.  A compass-like line will appear at the bottom of the screen, with an orange arrow or line, depending on how far away it is from the center.  To determine the direction you should go, move your phone to the right or the left, and the orange line should move.  Once you have the orange line in the center, that is the direction you should be headed.  Keep walking wherever the compass line tells you to go, and the number showing how far away you are from the cache should get smaller. Then, once you get about 30 feet away from the cache, the GPS isn’t as accurate and the fun begins looking everywhere you can for this proverbial treasure chest.  Once you find it, open it, sign the log, take a gift and replace it with your own, if applicable, and give yourself a pat on the back for a job well done. Don’t forget to log it on the app! Slide up to the “more information” page of that cache, and click the “log geocache” button on the bottom. Standard vernacular is “TFTC,” or “thanks for the cache.”

How do I hide a cache of my own?- If anyone wants to hide their own cache, the most important step is to first find a good hiding spot.  Then, to make their cache official, they must log it into the geocaching database on their website, www.geocaching.com.  They must include things such as a name for the cache, a description of it, and an optional hint to the hiding place.  Most importantly though, they include the GPS coordinates of where the cache is hidden.  Also, a new cache must be hidden at least 528 feet away from any already-existing caches. This is the hardest part for me personally.  Every single cache I’ve hidden I’ve had to move because it was too close to a cache that was already there.  Then, a volunteer will check the information on the cache-to-be, and if everything checks out, it becomes a real cache and can be logged online.

Geocaching is an extremely fun activity, one that gives you a chance to explore your surroundings while also getting some souvenirs in return.  Some things I’ve received from caches are a card from a “heavy metal church,” a plastic hippo that was cut apart then glued back together but with a spiky purple plastic ball in the middle, and a plastic orange frog.  There are geocaches all over the place, so pick any one that you want, and go for it! Happy hunting!

P.S If you’re in the Centerville area and you come across one called “It’s a bird, it’s a place, it’s a cache!” it may or may not have been placed by yours truly.



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