Geocaching: A sport with no out of bounds

Anyone who is interested in creating their own Geocache can get an official box from Geocache.com or use any type of water-tight container that can survive the harsh winter elements. Photos by Ashley Snyder.

Adventurous. Exciting. Fulfilling. Time-flying.  These are all words to describe the fast-growing sport of Geocaching . For those who are unfamiliar with the term, Geocaching is an outdoor adventure that involves getting a set of coordinates, using GPS to travel to those coordinates, and then searching around the area to find a cache that someone has hidden there. It is a great way to get outdoors and it is even more fun to partake in with friends and family.

 

Geocaching can be a daunting task for the beginner. Where should a novice begin?

First, figure out where you would like to Geocache. Geocaching.com is the authoritative voice on all things Geocaching. You can sign up with a free account, type in your zip code, and it will show you a map full of areas around your location where you can Geocache.

Next, decide how hard you want to search. Geocaching is very popular veering off trails and hidden deep in the woods, but if you aren’t too big on getting down and dirty among the spider webs, dead leaves, and abrasive tree branches, you might want to start out in an easily accessible area like a park.  All of the Geocaching entries have ratings for how difficult they are to find, how difficult the terrain around them is, and how big the container is. For your first few caches, it is advisable to go with a larger item in the easy to moderate categories, to get used to how to search for a cache so as not to get too frustrated.

If you do not want to shell out $200 for a GPS device, most Android and iPhones have downloadable GPS apps available for free. While it is more convenient, these apps are not as accurate as a fully-fledged GPS device and usually have a plus or minus 3-4 meter accuracy. This means that you will have to do a bit more digging around because your phone will only get you so close, especially in dense woods where a GPS barely works at all.

A list of items essential for a fulfilling day of Geocaching in Alaska are as follows: A completely charged electronic device that supports GPS, a bottle of water, bug spray, fully functional shoes, a pen or pencil to sign the log, and optional trinkets to leave behind for the ‘take one/leave one’ caches.

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There are many different kinds of caches to search for, and most of the Geocaching sites will have a description of what kind it is so that it is easier for you to know what to look for. A few of the most popular caches are:

Log caches which are caches that are usually small metal canisters that contain a roll of paper for people to sign. These are harder to find because of their size, which can be as small as a Fourth of July confetti-popper. Some people like to hide the smaller object into a larger object like a piece of wood to give it a little more challenge and to stop people from accidentally kicking it out of location.

Take one/leave one caches are just as they sound: a small box or container filled with trinkets from dice, to VHS tapes, to medallions. You can take an item while leaving one of your own behind, add an item to the collection, or just look through the items to see what people have left in the past but not take or leave anything.

Multi-Caches are caches that give you one set of coordinates which usually leads to a tag or a small box with another set of coordinates, which will lead you to the next set of coordinates, and so on until you find the final item. These can be a little trickier because they are micro-caches, which are small items in meticulous places.

Mystery caches take a little more work because in order to figure out the coordinates, you have to first answer riddles or questions that will give you numbers, and then you put those numbers together to get the coordinates.

Almost all Geocaches contain a logbook or scroll of paper for people to write down their name and the date they found the cache. It is incredible to see the vast list of names dating years back, so don’t forget to put your own name on the cache so that in the future someone can look back and see your name and your accomplishment. Most caches contain a pen, but for some of the smaller ones that can hold nothing more than a scroll of paper, it is a good idea to your own so that you can sign it.

After you find the cache, it is essential that you put it back and camouflage it so that the next person that comes can have as much fun as you did trying to find it. There are some people who will disable the cache if others do not hide it properly so that the random passerby doesn’t just happen to see it and take it not knowing what it is.

Heading on a road trip to Homer or Seward? Or even up to Fairbanks? There are plenty of Geocaches hidden along the way, allowing you to take pit stops and stretch your legs while having fun searching for hidden caches.

Just because we live in Alaska doesn’t mean that the Geocaching fun has to stop when the snow starts. Many Geocaches are located in places that are reachable in winter- just look for the ‘winter accessible’ tag on the Geocache post. It also is a good hint because you know that the item has to be off the ground so that the snow does not cover it up in the winter.

Creating your own Geocache is extremely simple; all you need is a watertight container that will stand up to the harsh winter and all of the other elements that will be inflicted upon it. Decide if you want to include anything in your cache besides a logbook. Some people even put a small prize for the ‘FTF’ or first to find. Scout out a good location where the cache can be well hidden and write down the coordinates. Go online and post them up for all avid Geocachers to find.

Excited to get started? Here are some coordinates to a Geocache right here on campus to get you started on your first adventure. N 61° 11.511 W 149° 48.755