couple of years ago, we read three articles in three different
magazines about geocaching. It sounded like fun so we decided to try
it. The only equipment required is a GPS unit. We did a bit of shopping
and found a new GPS unit for $50.00. In general new GPS units cost from
about $100.00 to about $1000.00 so this was quite a deal.
GPS is short for Global Positioning System. There are 24 satellites
that are the basis of the GPS system. Each of these satellites
transmits a radio. All the GPS unit does is receives the radio signal
from some of these satellites and calculates the GPS coordinates for
its location. At least four satellite signals must be received for it
to calculate a location. The GPS unit will display the latitude,
longitude, and altitude of its location. You can enter coordinates for
a specific point and the unit will tell you the direction and distance
to the location from where you are.
Geocaching is kind of like a scavenger hunt, except
you are looking for some kind of cache. You are provided with the GPS
coordinates of the cache and perhaps some hints of exactly where to
look. There are several different kinds of caches. Most of the caches
are either traditional or virtual. Traditional caches have some kind of
container that is hidden, typically either a tupperware container or an
ammo can. The container will contain little trinkets,
and a log book. You are to sign the log book and, if you take one of
the trinkets, you need to replace it with another trinket. There are
also micro caches, a very small container (usually a 35 mm film can)
that only contains a paper log book to log your find. Virtual
caches have no physical container, you will be taken to a location and
asked questions about the location. Once you find the location and can
answer the questions, you send an email to the creator of the cache
then you can take credit for finding the cache.
The best way to get information, and cache
locations, is from www.geocaching.com.
This is a membership web site but, membership is free. Once you join,
you can enter a zip code and it will list all the caches within 25, 50,
or 100 miles of that zip code. When we started geocaching, we were in
Manchester California, a small very rural community on the Northern
California coast. Within 50 miles of Manchester, there were over 200
caches listed. So, there are plenty of caches. As of the time this is
being written, there are over 389,000 caches listed worldwide! Right
now we happen to be in Crescent City California and there are 450
caches within 50 miles.
Geocaching has been a lot of fun. One of the
interesting aspects is you will be taken to areas that you would have
never seen if it weren't for geocaching. The challenge is always to
find the cache, not what you find in the cache.
There have been several very interesting places we've visited because
of geocaching. One of them was a Manzanar, a World War II Japanese
Relocation Camp in the Owens Valley of California. Now, we have visited
Manzanar a number of times; however, not in recent years. In 1992,
Manzanar became a National Historic Site. Since then the National Park
Service has erected signs, graded a road, developed a self guided tour,
and erected a Museum in an old building. The site has really come to
life and is fascinating. It tells a sad story about American History
and something that should be remembered. Geocaching brought this to
life for us.
Another interesting place we discovered because of geocaching is the
"Center of the World," in a small community in Southern California.
This is a "funky" place that really proved interesting. It's also a
place we never would have visited if it weren't for geocaching.
Those are only two examples of places that geocaching has taken us.
There are many others. When we have time to explore, we visit the
geocaching.com web site and look for caches nearby and try to visit
them. it's a great hobby, it's inexpensive once you have a GPS unit,
and will take you to areas you never would have normally seen.