Thursday, February 08, 2007

More on Geocaching

After I wrote my Getting Started on Geocaching post, Mathmom commented:
Your post was very convincing about how much fun geocaching is, but I'm still not really sure how to get started. Do you just go to a website and pick a cache and find it? What kinds of things do you bring along to put in when you take something out? What do the littler kids do on an outing? What else do I need to know?

Ah, those are good questions, I now see how I mostly talked about acquiring a GPS, not much about the practical aspects of the hunt.

How do I know where the heck the caches are?

The easiest way to find out about local caches, is to go to the Geocaching website. In the upper right corner, you will see a 'Search for caches' 'By Zip code' option. Fill in the zip code of your town and see what comes up. It will show a list of caches starting at your zip code. There are more and more caches around nowadays. When we got started, there were only a handful of local caches.

How to read the 'Nearby geocaches' table?

  • First column: direction and how far away;

  • Type of cache. There are normal caches, multi caches, puzzle caches and more. Click here for descriptions of different types of caches. For the rest of this post, I'll just cover normal caches, you can read more about the other types on the geocaching website. This column also shows whether a cache has special things like travel bugs or geocoins in it.

  • Cache rating. The first number is the hide, scale 1 to 5. 1 is easy hide, should not be too hard to find. 5 can be very very tricky hide. Second number is terrain. 1 is wheelchair accessible. 5 is 'needs special equipment, which might be a boat or rock climbing equipment or who knows what.

    Terrain 3 or 4 would be longer hike or more elevation changes. Usually the description of the cache will tell more about the type of terrain, but not always. So the terrain rating is additional help when you try to figure out which caches to do.
    This column also shows cache size, from micro (just a log, no trading items) to normal or even big.

  • Other columns are things like cache name, date placed, date last found, and such.

How to read the cache page?

The cache page is mostly self explanatory, good things to notice are the links to maps, and the coordinates (somewhere at the top once you have registered). It also shows logs of people who have found the cache, which will give you more of an idea how hard it is and such.

Choose a cache and Go for it!

Look at the list of caches and find one you want to do. If it's a normal cache, bring some trading items, which can be any cheap plastic crap little things you find around the house or in your kids toy box. McDonalds toys often are popular and the most lame trading item is a golf ball. We usually let all the kids bring a trading item, so they all can trade if they want to.

Find the cache, trade, sign the log and go home to log the cache on the computer, so it will be counted as an 'official' find. About the littler kids, in our family they do exactly the same as the older kids. They help find the cache, and they fight about the trading items ^^. Oh, and bring a flash light :p

What is a travel bug???

Sometimes there are special items in a cache, either a travel bug or a geocoin. The travel bug will have a so called travel bug dog tag with a number on it, the geocoin has a number too. Those are not normal trading items, but items which are supposed to make it to another cache. So don't pick those up unless you are willing to put them in a different cache. We as a family have a bunch of travel bugs out there, some have made it to France, Germany, Australia, Spain, and other places.

Hope this helps. Let me know if you have any more questions. If not, grab your GPS and go find your first cache! Please leave me a comment if you do so :)


Anonymous said...

I SO want to do this!!! Hope I can talk Jake into it. How long have you all been doing this?

Jen (MM99)

Wendy said...

Your check for all the great advertising is in the mail.

The Geocaching Creators

Anonymous said...

I'm "the friend" who got Karen into this, years ago now. My family has done over 1000 caches.....and still going strong! The things we've seen and found, right in our own community, still amaze me. If you aren't geocaching, you are missing out on a whole world of beautiful places, hidden treasures and secret handshakes :)

I'm commenting so as to not neglect *practical* aspects of you can avoid some of Karen's more daunting adventures with a few simple precautions :)

First off, your car needs an emergency kit. Yes, one of those medical ones is good (bring bee sting and poison ivy sticks), but I mean a "we're stuck here and it's dark" kit. Blankets, towels, dry clothing (I have t-shirts and sweatpants in a range to fit multiple kids), socks (lots!), water bottles and energy bars. During the winter include hats/gloves etc. I pick things that can just be left in the car for several months at a time.

Secondly, flashlights, flashlights, flashlights.........and more flashlights.

Thirdly, batteries, batteries, batteries.........are you getting the idea? Good, then repeat with the words cell phone and maps too lol

Lastly, be willing to give up. Sometimes you have to call it quits and I've found if the giving up thought crosses my mind, we really need to begin seriously considering it right then and there. Some caches and some locations are challenging. It's good to know when to stop and try again later. Sometimes we've gone back a different day and immediately found a cache we'd searched high and low for the first time there. Be *okay* with not scoring. Just like with life, some days suck :)

Sorry for jumping into your show, Karen, but you've had far too many *special* adventures for me to sit back and watch you lead a pack of trusting newbies lol

mathmom said...

Thanks to "our deer baby's mom" and the anonymous friend for all the practical advice.

We are semi-experienced hikers, so we do know what to take out into the wilderness with us, at least.

If you geocache in the winter, do you have issues with caches being buried in the snow? We might wait until spring to start up. I'm feeling wimpy about winter these days.

mathmom said...

We finally did go out. Had a handful of DNFs that we didn't log because our GPS had no reception the whole time, so figured it wasn't a fair attempt. ;-) Got a better GPS and grabbed a quick micro park-and-grab in a wilderness area we're pretty familiar with, so we're on our way.

Now to get initiated into the world of pocket queries, paperless caching, etc... Our first was a micro, so we still haven't found any "treasure" yet...