Monday, August 14, 2006

Geocaching with your GPS, what is it, and why is it so much Fun?

By Christina VanGinkel

Explaining to others why I find the hobby of geocaching exciting, exhilarating, and just plain fun should be easy, but for the same reason it should be, I have had to face the realization that it is not. I was trying to explain to my mother-in-law this past weekend what the sport of geocaching is all about, and for the first time that I could remember, I was at a loss of words. When I came across an online reference of the word Muggle for those who do not know what the word geocaching means, or that have no idea what it is all about, I could identify with that person's reference to the Harry Potter movies for the term that means the non- magical!

I told my mother-in-law that it was treasure hunting with the help of a GPS. I told her how other geocachers choose a spot for a cache, and fill it with a logbook at the least, for those who find it to record their success. I then tried to explain how other caches might even hold small treasures. What sort of treasures, was her next question. When I mentioned Star War figures, Furbies, stickers, topo maps, key chains, and an assortment of other things, I could quickly see her losing interest, and I knew there was just no way to explain what I found so appealing about this hobby. Until someone actually holds a GPS in hand, and figures out the coordinates, and discovers their very own cache themselves, opening the lid to discover what might be inside, and trading with treasures that they carefully picked out beforehand for just such a purpose, there really is no explaining it all.

Pressed for an explanation, what I did come up with was that Geocaching is a small slice of no nonsense fun, which has the ability to get the mind working. Mixed with some physical activity to boot, that you can do alone or in a group, (we find it to be one of the best ways to get adults and kids actively talking and participating in a task together). It is the perfect activity to get both body and soul rejuvenated and moving, sort of like a jumpstart for the body and senses!

It is hard to explain how you set out with the notion that you have a specific destination, and at that destination is something, be it a log or a cache overflowing with goodies, and that just getting there is a major part of the fun. Sure, the caches themselves are fun; do not get me wrong, as I know that is what motivates my teenager to come along. He loves the thrill of opening up a cache, big or small, and seeing what others have chosen to leave. He loves choosing what he is going to bring along to leave, and he loves to leave something he has chosen, even on those times when there is nothing he finds of interest in the cache himself.

For me though, from the time we set foot on a path, to when we stop for the day and head home, is all-good. It is something that almost any age can take part of. My grandson is only three, yet he loves the hiking to easy terrain caches, and as he has been hiking with his parents since he was a newborn, even some of the moderate trails, with a bit of help from mom and dad that is!

Geocaching offers up some great photo opportunities on occasion too, by the simple fact that you will often go to photo opportunistic places that you might not otherwise travel. Not all, but many caches are hidden is areas that have beautiful views, which are often much better than any other treasure you might find actually in the caches themselves, on tops of mountains, in valleys, along river trails, perched high atop fascinating rock outcroppings, (one of my recent finds!). You might even discover one on your favorite city block, as a big part of the fun is the task of hiding something in plain view where those not participating in the hobby of geocaching never even notice, and some of the ones looking too, for that matter! My most elusive cache so far is in a downtown area, and I know from clues that it is a small 35mm film canister with a log for the successful. I have heard of several others who have found it, but I have yet to find the treasure. The search continues...

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