Tuesday, May 11, 2010

How-to: Geocaching

By Kelly, aka kellybot

One of my favorite outdoor activities is
geocaching, which is kind of like hide and seek with a GPS. With all our wonderful weather lately, I start itching to get outside and go for a good hunt. I documented one of my trips in St. Paul, MN -- it might help you get started on this super fun activity!

First we arrived using the GPS via car. I switched the GPS to pedestrian mode, with off-road navigation, which should enable us to walk straight to the spot. We were at a city park with paved trails so we started down the path.

The next photo is a close-up of the GPS. The start point is where we parked the car and the checkered flag marks the coordinates. The blue arrow in the middle shows where we are and the direction that we are heading. We're on a paved path so we're not making a direct line - we kept thinking that the path would curve back towards the flag. In the bottom right corner of the GPS you can see that we're .1 miles away. Once we get within about 40 feet, it will tell us we've arrived. Then we watch the time in the bottom left corner and try to get it as close to 0 seconds as possible. The GPS is supposedly accurate only to within 30 feet, but if we get it below 5 seconds, we're usually on top of the cache.

We got to a point where we were getting farther away from the flag and we found a little trail off the paved path, so we took it. We walked along the hiking trail, running into big pieces of metal and getting assaulted by mosquitoes.

The GPS led us to this area and a more experienced geocacher probably would've made a beeline for this downed tree. It took me a few minutes to look in there, which is where we found the cache.

It was tucked way into the hollow branch and covered with another piece of wood.

Here's what the container looked like. Depending on the size of the container, there is usually a log and pencil inside. Being so large, this one held a bunch of trinkets. The idea is that you are free to take something from the cache, and should replace it with something of equal or greater value. We keep a sack of plastic toys and such for exchanging.

We ended up taking a travel bug and left a large fluffy pen. The travel bug has an ID number on it and if you take it, you need to log it on the geocaching website and then deposit it in another cache. We also log our day's activity on the geocaching site, which gives us a record of how many caches we've found and keeps us from searching for the same one twice.

Have you ever been geocaching? Are you feeling inspired now? Let us know in the comments!


Maggie said...

Great intro to geocaching! Nice simple explanations. I've got almost 70 finds under my belt and I'm helplessly addicted - such a great hobby!

Theresa B said...

My husband would LOVE this!

Angie said...

We love to do this as a family!! Great how to!!


Anonymous said...

Sounds like fun!

michellend said...

We've done some letter boxing at the Witch's Tower and at Minnehaha Park. It's a nice way to be out in nature and something fun for the family =) Michelle from Little Red Designs

Teri said...

My husband and I have been looking at geocaching. We've been on 1 unsuccessful hunt. But it still allowed to explore an area that we were not familiar with and it was pretty cool.
Thanks for the post~full of good info. We will keep trekking on!

Samantha said...

My husband and I LOVE Geocaching! It's a great hobby and allows us to explore parts of where we live that we wouldn't have otherwise gone. :-) Great info for beginners!