Everybody wants to “get their steps in” these days, and with good reason. Walking is an excellent way to maintain your health and well-being with consistent, sustainable results. But we have to admit… walking isn’t always the most exciting activity.
What if we told you there is a fun and easy way for you and your family to walk as far (or as near) as you’d like to in the fresh air of the great outdoors, while seeking out a secret spot using digital-age technology and a sense of adventure? Sound like fun?
Welcome to geocaching!
One of the fastest-growing pastimes in the world, geocaching is like a giant, worldwide treasure-hunt game that gets you out of your comfort zone and makes it fun to discover new outdoor places in your community. At present, there are over 5 million people in the world who are involved with geocaching regularly, and untold millions of geocaches out there for you to discover.
And best of all, it’s really easy to get started. Here’s a quick overview of the basics.
Get a journal or logbook
Find a simple logbook for recording names, dates and comments from other geocachers, and place it along with a pen or pencil and (for fun) a bit of decorative swag or a totem inside a water-tight container that can withstand the elements outdoors.
Don’t be afraid to get creative… that’s half the fun! Write a poetic greeting to your fellow geocachers in the logbook, or place a family of plush unicorns inside your waterproof box. You can be as serious or as silly as you like. (But silly is more fun.)
Find the right spot for your cache
You’ll want to hide your cache-stash in a spot that’s not too easy to find, but also not hard to get to. Remember, this isn’t an actual pirate treasure-hunt. You don’t want to make it difficult or dangerous for other geocachers to reach. Just hidden enough to give them an “a-ha!” feeling once they’ve found it.
It’s best to choose a spot that’s accessible by commonly used trails, preferably one with some nice outdoor scenery. A place that will make people happy that they came this way! Oh, and one more thing: it must be a spot that receives a cellular signal or other type of data access.
Record the GPS coordinates
This is the most important step! Use your mobile device to find the exact GPS location of your geocache. For those who don’t know, GPS is a satellite-based system that can specify any location on earth to an incredibly precise degree. GPS uses longitude and latitude position numbers each carried out to 5 or 6 decimal places.
Different mobile devices have different ways to find your GPS location coordinates. . Simply look up “how to find GPS location on _____ phone” and fill in your brand of phone.
iPhone users, for example, can open the Maps app and then click on the little arrow icon in the upper-right corner. A blue dot will show up on the map, showing where you are. Tap on the blue dot and a “My Location” window will pop up. Scroll down this window, and you’ll see your GPS coordinates. Tap on the coordinates, and you’ll get an option to copy them. Easy-peasy!
Post your GPS coordinates
Let others know where to find your geocache by posting its GPS location (and maybe a clever clue or two) to an online geocaching forum or a geocaching app for your device.
A good place for beginners is Geocaching.com. This site contains helpful information on geocaches you can find in your area. It also has resources for downloading the free app and useful tips for getting started.
Wait and see…
Check back at the site of your cache on a regular basis to see if others have stopped by and recorded their visit in your logbook. Some may write a message, or even leave a keepsake or token to let you know they were there!
Start out simple
Before you start creating your own hide-and-seek treasure for others to find, you might want to dip your toes in the geocaching waters by searching for caches already in the wild. Take a few moments to download a geocaching app. Create an account and start searching for geocache locations in your local area. Choose one that looks like fun and head on out!
Use the map function on your mobile device to find to the exact spot of the cache. Most of them can be found near trails and walking paths. So put on your comfiest walking shoes and bring your phone, a water bottle and a friend and go find it. And when you do, remember to write down the date and friendly message for your fellow geocacher!
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