www.whyville.net Oct 17, 2007 Weekly Issue

Times Writer

Geocaching: A Modern Day Treasure Hunt

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It's not likely that someone from the twenty-first century would get out a treasure map their father gave them and abandon everything to live on a ship and search the seven seas. In fact, it's not likely that there would even be a treasure map at all.

The fact is, there aren't too many pirates around here in this day and age, and there also aren't many treasure maps or hidden chests filled with gold and precious gems to search for. Being the adventurous sort, this always was a disappointment to me. But then, a family friend introduced me to the wonderful world of geocaching.

Geocaching is, to put it plainly, modern-day treasure hunting! To break it down, the prefix 'geo' simply means 'earth,' and a 'cache' (which is said like cash) is a container stashed somewhere. Therefore, geocaching could be defined as the activity of searching for hidden (modern-day) treasure.

If you are interested in trying out geocaching, you will need the following:

-A GPS, or Global Positioning System (can be bought at a store like Wal-Mart, or an outdoors store like REI or Big 5. Costs around $90, depending on the quality and complexity. I would check out eBay!)
-An account at www.geocaching.com
-A small trowel or digging tool
-A partner

Here's how you find out the location of a cache: the source of all caches is at www.geocaching.com. Once you make a free account on there, you can type in your zip-code and it will list each cache registered within 15 miles of your zip-code. Feeling extra adventurous? You can also search by state and even country! If you're like me and you live in a small town, don't give up! My town's population is under 15,000 people and there are well over 70 caches just within 15 miles of me!

When you find a cache near you that you want to search for, you can click on it to get the following information: a map of the area, the coordinates, and a clue for narrowing it down. The map is a great help; it will list surrounding streets so you can guess the general vicinity. The coordinates are where you will need your trusty GPS. Coordinates are fancy numbers that you luckily won't have to deal with. Simply punch them into your GPS, and it will bring you within 100 feet of the cache. As you get nearer, the GPS will start to beep. When it reaches the loudest beep, you know you are as close as it can bring you. Now, your clue will come in handy. The clues are written in code, so make sure before you leave the house you have either printed off the decryption key or have already decoded it. The clue will be something like 'in a dark hole' (try a knothole in a tree) or 'look up (try on the roof of a nearby building, in a tree, etc,)' or if it is a huge field you're looking in, it might be more specific and longer.

Congratulations! After you find the general area, and then get within 100 feet of it, and then use the clue to find the spot, you've found your cache! It might have been buried, stuck in a knothole, under a rock, who knows. So what does it look like? It is a waterproof, durable container, sometimes tin or plastic, containing two things. A log book, where you write your name, geocaching.com username, and the date you found it, and of course, the treasure!

Keep in mind it won't be gold or jewels, but it will be like something you would get at a white-elephant gift exchange. Something usable but gently worn, that the previous finder wanted to pass on. And the rule is, if you take something out of the cache, be sure to put something in! Be sure to go back on geocaching.com when you get home, because there will be a spot for you to add on to your profile that you found a cache. Also, if the cache wasn't there, it could be because someone found it by accident and kept it or an animal carried it off. Some caches around me are over two years old and it's not uncommon for me to find an empty hole. Disappointing, but it's important to tell the cache-hider so he knows.

I hope you all try your hand at geocaching! Remember, the first step is to make a free account at geocaching.com. After that, they can help you with any questions you have, or you can mail me.

Finding a new cache,

Editor's Note: I strongly suggest you speak with your parents and get permission prior to visiting www.geocaching.com, and as tfklover suggested in this article, always hunt with a partner!


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