Tuesday, February 01, 2005


NSilico and I finally made our first foray into geocaching today. It was a lot of fun. For those of you who aren't complete nerds and don't know what geocaching is, it's basically a high-tech treasure hunt (without any real treasure). All you need is an internet connection, a GPS, and some hiking boots.
Apparently, a few years ago GPS enthusiasts started hiding little treasure-troves at random out-of-the-way locations, then posting the "cache's" coordinates on the internet - daring others to try and find it. It caught on like wildfire and now its a worldwide sport. I'd known about it for some time, but not having a GPS I'd never tried it myself. But nSilico actually bought a GPS last week, and he was itching for an opportunity to test it out.
When I finally started looking up geocaching online I was blown away but the sheer number of caches. They're everywhere. It turns out it doesn't matter where you are - chances are someone has placed caches nearby. Geocaching.com has a great search engine that lets you identify caches by zip code.
We picked a simple hunt, which turned out to be in nearby park. He'd bought a decent but very basic handheld GPS, and it turns out that's all you need. Anything more sophisticated isn't really necessary.
The hike was easy, but finding the hidden cache wasn't. The only clue was that it was in a hollowed out tree. The GPS coordinates were only accurate to around 30 feet and that left us with an alarmingly large number of trees to search. It seemed almost every tree had a hollow or nook that might be a good hiding place. We looked and looked but it didn't seem to be anywhere. After searching for almost 45 minutes, neither one of us willing to admit defeat, we finally found it in the hollow of the very first tree we had searched. I had to reach my arm waay up into the tree in order to discover a small container on a hidden ledge in there. Inside the container was a disappointing assortment of little toys and trinkets and a log book. We didn't take anything (the rules are if you take something, then you should leave something too). We just signed the log.
Of course the thrill is the hunt not the treasure, and we really did have fun. There are all sorts of caches, some simple like the one we did, and others that form elaborate chains of complicated puzzles. And there's something wonderful about discovering there are these secret little places all around us that most people don't know about.
We ended up attempting two more caches. One we found almost instantly, the other we never found. But it was nice to be outdoors, and we've resolved to try for the failed cache again someday. I'll send the 'owner' of the cache an e-mail just to make sure it's still there, maybe get a better hint - and then we'll try again.
It's my first day - and I'm already hooked.