Adventure is for Everyone, The Secret World of 'Geocache'

It’s 5PM on a Tuesday and you’re driving through the back roads trying to get home after a stressful day at work. There you are traveling the same familiar street, reaching the same familiar corner making the same left hand turn. Again, honking your horn at some guy with out-of-town plates who doesn't know the stop and roll policy that applies to your save-5-minutes route-to-home. We can relate to the idea that it’s enough to drive someone a little crazy! So, we offer an alternative. Imagine that same road you always drive, the same parking lot you stop to run errands in being something of big red X-marks-the-spot on the treasure map of life! Welcome to the world of Geocaching.

GEOCACHING will turn what you know about the places and roads that you frequent upside down. And in the modern world of GPS enabled cell phones, everything you need is already at your fingertips. From the website: Geocaching is a real-world outdoor treasure hunting game. Players try to locate hidden containers, called geocaches, using GPS enabled devices and then share their experiences online.

To get your game on, visit the site www.geocaching.com Get yourself a free account (the usual e-mail and password deal)

Log-in and then use the drop-down navigation at the top of the screen: play → hide & seek a cache → and then put in your zip code. We think you’ll be blown away when you see how many of these things there are within 10 square miles!

The next step is getting to them. We used our cell phones to download the Geocache App

Just to mix it up

-  on the Android we found a FREE 3rd party app

- on the iPhone we bought the OFFICIAL app for $9.99.

Note:  Both of the apps killed our batteries and both of the apps got us within a few meters of the cache*

ANDROID Free App: Enable GPS on your cell phone. Log-in to your online account. Click on nearby caches to find ones in your geographical area. Click on one – any of them will do! Observe the info – things like 'difficulty rating' and 'obstacles' you will encounter are listed for your convenience. A description of the area and all of the comments other online users left will help you. The compass feature in the app will be the best way to get as close as possible to the cache (within 5 meters).  The hint is crypted in the free version so that won’t be a big help unless you’re great at word puzzles!

iPhone Groundspeak Geocache app : Same as above, enable GPS and sign-in to your account. The iPhone map is pretty excellent, the app actually eliminates a lot of the mystery by bringing you to a pin-point location and revealing the clue that is otherwise crypted. This came in really handy especially for those of us who are just starting out!

Some helpful tips: Enabling GPS seems to kill the cell-phone battery so make sure you bring your car charger. Dress for the occasion. A lot of these hidden items are located in wooded areas. Bring a flashlight – night-time geocaching in stealth mode is very thrilling! There is an understanding among geocachers not to be obvious to the surrounding public (called muggles on the message boards) as to what you're doing. So be discreet - a lot of these caches are in well-traveled areas. 'Grab-n-Go' means it’s an easy find, nano means the thing you're looking for is no bigger than your thumb nail.

Test ahead for kid-friendliness on particular sites, but the adventure is for all-ages! Some of the items are in officially marked geocache boxes, some are do-it-yourself containers. Bring a pen. Geocaches usually contain a log you sign after you find the cache. Register a short name when you’re making your online identity – makes logging easier on the tiny piece of paper. There is a removal/replacement policy in large caches - replacement must be as good or better than what you take. No digging rule applies to the hide and also the seek.  (That tip will come in handy!)

Major retailers sell hand-held GPS that start at $150. You can always upgrade later on!

You may think I have said too much by telling everyone about this wonderful secret, but the geocaching possibilities are actually endless! Geocache is a world wide phenomenon.  Happy hunting!