Geocaching: Finding a Needle in a Haystack
There is a sport that has gained a lot of popularity in recent years. While it has been around for quite a while, geocaching has started to take off because personal GPS’s are becoming much more affordable and easy to use. There is a good chance you have heard of the activity but have not fully taken the time to look into exactly what it is. If you have a GPS and are interested in exploring a little, geocaching may be the activity you are looking for.
The first geocache was placed in Oregon back in 2000. In 12 short years it has spread to 1.8 million geocaches that are spread across all 7 continents and to the international space station. The geocaches are made up of a waterproof container. Inside the container are generally a log book and a writing utensil so that those who find the cache can record when they found it and at what coordinates their GPS indicated that it was located. Along with a log book are souvenirs that previous hunters have left before them. While some are just sentimental items, such as a baseball card, an action figure, or a postcard of the person’s home state, those who are serious about the sport will have a customized card, travel bug, or geocoin that they leave behind. It is best practices to only take something from the cache if you leave a memento behind. The item you take should be taken to another cache and left there.
To get started in the sport head over to www.geocaching.com and create an account (it’s free). From there you can seek out others in the caching community, and learn more about the sport. You can look up the caches that are close to you, and then start your journey to find them. If you really want to get into it, have an item printed up with your username on it so people can get in touch with you if they find the same cache. With 1.8 million of the sites around the world, and hundreds of them in Montana, you will never be at a loss of where to look for your next cache.
The only equipment you will need is a GPS. Many of the sites are located right in town or close enough to town that you will not need to hike very far to find them. So just wearing regular clothes, and knowing how to find a location via coordinates will be enough for you to find the caches. If you want even more of a challenge get a map and try to figure out the location that way. It is possible, but some of the caches can be very difficult to find even with a GPS.
The biggest precaution with geocaching is to make sure you respect the sport. Do not go out raiding the caches, and try to be discrete if you are hunting in a populated area. There are many people that seem to think these caches are just a free-for-all, and I know of at least one that was hidden on the rimrocks only later to be thrown off the cliffs onto the rocks below. If you do decide to become a geocacher, follow the code of ethics, and have fun caching!
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