Wednesday 17 June 2015

Geocaching: A Different Kind of Hobby

When I first came across Geocaching, I had no idea what it was about. After reading up on it, I quickly discovered it was really interesting and something that takes place all over the world. It's an outdoor recreational activity, in which participants use a Global Positioning System (GPS) receiver or mobile device and other navigational techniques to hide and seek containers. Only recently, within the last fifteen years has it been called "geocache" or "cache" for short. Similar to letterboxing, where someone would hide small, weatherproof boxes in publicly accessible places (like parks) and distribute clues to finding the box in printed catalogs, geocaching is paperless and utilizes GPS and mobile phone tracking to find the hidden containers.

There is a lot unknown about this treasure-hunting activity, most people have never heard of it even. I went out a few afternoons to try and find some geocaches that were in Pueblo West. I was a little unsure of how I was going to do by myself since I tend to get lost easily, but thanks to the Geocache website, I was able to get GPS ordinance, but what was really helpful was being able to use my smartphone and they have a system like Google Maps build into their website that pings where you are in relation to the geocache.

My first attempt was to find one that was only a mile from my house. I walked to where it was mapped. About twenty feet from the road, near a historical sign. When you're looking at the geocache site, there is an option for the person that hid it to put a hint. The hint for this was that it was magnetic. That was a weird hint since there was basically just the sign with gravel all around it. Nothing really metal to stick something to. I spent twenty to thirty minutes walking around the place, but didn't find anything that could be a cache. I was a little disappointed, but I just assumed it was either moved/taken or maybe got washed away from the storms. So I decided to go to another one not too far away.

The second cache that I attempted to find was actually located on private property. On the hint for this one it said that it was hidden in a shed. Being by myself, I wasn't sure if I wanted to trespass and break into someone's shed in their backyard. I was a little confused as to why someone would hide something when it wasn't on public land. I'm pretty sure that's a requirement for the website, but I decided I would try looking in town rather than the bad luck I had in Pueblo West.

The third geocache I looked for was on the CSU-Pueblo campus. It was said to be hidden in a log cabin. I have never seen a log cabin on campus before so I thought it would be fun to see something new on the campus. When I drove around to where it was said to be, I saw that there was a fence and a sign saying it was under maintenance. I was a little frustrated after that. So just out of spite, I looked up one more.

The fourth one wasn't far away, still located on campus. I knew the area didn't have any buildings, so surely it wouldn't be too hard to find. I walked to where it was pinging on my phone's map. There wasn't a hint, so I thought it might be something easy. I as mistaken. It was difficult to get to where the dot was on the map. It was down a really steep bank right off the road. There was a perfect little hole in a group of rocks that it might have been, but where it said it should have been, nothing was there. I just assumed it had gotten washed out by the rain, especially being right by a small stream and on the steep bank.

After four attempts at finding anything, I decided instead to just make my own. I wrote an interesting message and put a little chain bracelet in a bottle. I hid it at my favorite tree about mile from where I live.

Hoping for some advice, I corresponded with Jack V. who has been geocaching for about seven years. He lives in Texas, but says whenever he goes on a road trip, he has the app on his phone so that he can look around any city when he has spare time.

Photo credit to Jack V.
Why do you like doing it?
It's just a hobby that I found through a friend some years ago. I guess it's something to do that you don't have to pay for and there's usually quite a few to found near by no matter where you are.
What do your children think when you bring them along?
My kids love it. I got them interested in it by saying they could go looking for treasure with me. I do all the work, but I let them decide what to bring to trade items for. 
 What got you first interested?
My friend introduced me when we were on a business trip in another town. It was a little harder then, the apps and stuff for my phone wasn't available and we had to use an actual GPS. I thought it was interesting that people would hide little stuff randomly and it wasn't a popular thing to go out an look for it.  
Camel near found cache. Photo credit to Jack V.

What was the most interesting cache you found?
The most interesting one I did wasn't interesting so much for what was in it, but the location. They had hid it next to a fence where on the other side there were camels. My kids were excited to see the camels. I don't remember what was even in the cache.
How long do you think you'll continue to hunt for them?
I think that it's something I'll be doing as an easy hobby for a long time from now. It isn't stressful or really strenuous. I can take my time looking for them and just enjoy the weather as I'm hiking. 
What's the most frustrating part about geocaches?
Sometimes the people before you that find it, don't put it back in the same spot and then they don't update where it is on the website. So you basically spend a lot of time for nothing. But the time I found a used condom in one was the most disgusting time. Luckily I was out with a buddy and not my kids that day. Because of that I always open the caches and check before I let my kids take a peak. 
What was something you're willing to share that you put in a geocache?
I've put all sorts of stuff. Nothing really worth anything. My son put a small keychain monkey once, usually we just put paper notes with nice messages on it in them. Sometimes I go to thirft stores and buy cheap little things, $1 for a handful of beads and put those in a box. It's not supposed to be anything valuable. 

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