Walking is great exercise, but, it can be a bit dull hitting up the same roads or parks over and over again and, without a destination in mind trying to find inspiration to go somewhere different can take as long as the walk itself. Join the world of geocaching though, and every outing can be a quest for adventure…
What is Geocaching?
It’s basically, treasure hunting for people with smartphones!
I first heard about this during the Disneyland Half Marathon. Lily, a member of the WISH team, the Disney based running team that I’m a member of, do it would hop off to cache between races….at this point I had to google to see what on earth that meant, and it was fascinating.
It seems that all around the world people have put little boxes of ‘stuff’ for other people to find – and, unless you are a member of the Geocaching community you don’t even know they are there.
And, they aren’t just in forests or woodland trails either – they are all over cities tucked away on high streets, in parks, even by some of the world’s biggest tourist attractions (I’ve discovered there is one steps away from Sydney Opera House that I need to check out next time I’m down there)
I did my first cache in the UK and I’d run past the place where the first one I found was hidden hundreds of times with no clue there was a small box of excitement just waiting for people to discover it.
How to Get Started
To get started you download the geocaching app from iTunes, sign up for an account
Then you type in your postcode.
A quick search later, two little boxes came up within a short distance of my house (at this time I was living in Chelmsford in the UK).
One was in the church down the road (but a quick check of people’s comments seemed to say that it might have been moved as no-one can find it) but, there was another one, about 12 minutes away that had ‘suitable for beginner’s written on it’ I popped on my shoes and headed out the door.
If you’re caching in a new city the app synchs with google maps so you can get clear directions to the approximate location of your treasure.
I didn’t need this on my outing as I knew where I was going – however, when I got there I admit I wasn’t really sure what I was supposed to do to find the item itself.
But then I realised there’s a compass on the app and it basically tells you which direction to look in and, tells you how close you are in metres, which is the technological equivalent of ‘hotter, colder’ or ‘left a bit, right a bit’ depending on your own parents preference when hiding your birthday presents.
Thankfully there are also clues if you get stuck or I might still be walking around a car park waving my phone – I knew I was within a metre of the geocache but all I could see was an electricity box.
I didn’t think it could be that, but then I checked the clue which showed me that, yes, that was it.
I Found My First Cache
I admit, I still wasn’t sure that I was in the right place.
Closer inspection revealed a geocache sticker on the side….now, when you reach a geocache, I’d read that there should be a little box and a log book that you sign (I’d bought my pen out specially), sometimes there’s even little trinkets to trade…
Now I’m not sure if someone has pinched that box, whether it was hidden somewhere else in that area (I did have a hunt but couldn’t see it) or, if I was supposed to open the power box, but when something says ‘Danger: 230 volts on it’ my fingers are staying, far, far away – I found the sticker and so as far as I’m concerned, yay,,,,,I win.
NB: I have now gone online and checked the pictures and it seems you can open the box. It’s a dummy one…considering the name of the quest is ‘Shocking Lie’ so, that would make sense. Still, better safe than sorry.
Tips for Your First Geocache
I’ve since done a bit of further reading on hints and tips for beginner geocachers and, asked some of my WISH buddies for their input too – so, here are a few top tips if you’re heading out for the first time…
‘When you get “close” to your target zone don’t be upset if you have to look around some. The GPS is not always exact,’ says Lily.
Look for things that don’t look quite right – they’re either not supposed to be there at all, or they look newer or shinier than something you’d expect to find in the area.
Remember you’re looking for something people can hide something in – so think boxes, shells, bricks, rocks, stones. This video shows how inventive cachers can be – and helps you hone your caching skills. Apparently, you can even buy fake gum to hide things in – and garden gnomes!
‘Notice the size of the cache. Looking for a micro is different than looking for a regular!’ says cacher Anne. It will tell you when you click on the cache what size it is so you know if you’re looking for something small or a bit bigger.
Also, check for difficulty and terrain scores – when you’re starting out, it’s better to go for beginner level on both so you don’t get frustrated. If you’re fitter, you can obviously go for slightly trickier terrain.
The person who placed the cache will describe a bit about the area in which is placed – which is great for finding out a bit about where you are if you’re caching on your travels. But they might also give hints and tips about where it is. The big hint that helps you find it isn’t shown unless you actually click on the ‘hint’ link though so don’t look for that unless you’re really stuck
Right now, I’m updating this article in August 2020 while the world is, rightly, rather, erm, germ-phobic – obviously, when you geocache you’re touching things other people have also touched and so, there’s now some safer caching rules to follow like making sure you bring your own pen to sign the logbook and wipes or hand santiser to clean down what you’ve touched – and your hands after you’re touched it. Geocaching.com have a good list of things to think about here.
‘We have a local geo group or few that you can also seek advice for some things. We also have some of our crew in a FB group. Always a way to get help if needed,’ says Lily. When we’re all allowed to gather again, you might find your local group also does outings to help newlings (as Lily called them) get the hang of things. Check Facebook for Geocaching and your local area. I found heaps of groups in Sydney, New South Wales and Australia that I could join.
If you do start to join more geocaching groups or chat to people about it, you’re going to find a whole load of phrases people use. Here’s a handy link to a geocaching lingo guide so you can keep up.
I admit, I hadn’t opened the app since I moved to Sydney, but I walk a lot here and it seems there’s heaps of caches here for me to find … this could be fun. Or, I could explode in a big pile of enormous geekdom, which also works for me….if I do, do you think I’ll catch the ability to code. I do hope so.
If you want to find out more about geocaching visit geocaching.com to sign up and find the caches nearest to you. The site is also full of useful hints and articles on caching – I went into a total rabbit hole while doing this update and am now itching to go out and play.
Oh, and if you join in too and ever meet a lady called Lily, tell her I said hi.
Check Out This Idea Too
If you like having things to do when you walk, you might also want to check out this post on the 10,000 steps photographic treasure hunt.