"I think I found it!" came the cry from the edge of the clearing.
My son pulled the box out from between the rocks as the others came running over.
"Okay, gather around," Uncle Frank told the kids as he released the latch on the lid.
Many exclamations were heard when the treasure box was tilted so the children could look inside.
"Everyone have something to trade?"
In went a jack, a McDonald's toy, and a marble. Out came a baseball card, a six-inch plastic beetle, and a key chain. Uncle Frank logged their find on the book inside, closed the lid and allowed one of his nieces to replace the container in its hiding place.
"Can we do it again?"
"How far to the next one?"
Thus our family entered the realm of geocaching. Today more than a million people worldwide participate in this high-tech game of hiding and finding unique little treasures.
Geocaching in General:
Geocaching was launched in the year 2000 when a man living in Oregon hid a box of toys in the woods, posted the geographic coordinates on a Web site, and issued a challenge for others to locate it. Using Global Positioning System (GPS) receivers to find his treasure, people became excited and many others began hiding and posting their own treasures. Thus geocaching was born.
Since 2006, our family has visited points of interest far removed from our normal adventures. We've been introduced to different parts of major cities, fascinating sculptures off the beaten path, and unique spots of nature just out of reach of the average hiker. This "treasure hunting" even makes old locations new and exciting
Not only is geocaching fun, it provides additional exercise, opportunities to improve communication skills and promotes various levels of cooperation. This kind of treasure hunting requires practical thinking skills, directional awareness, and sometimes just plain determination and perseverance. It also teaches responsibility to your children -- because there are rules!
Caches can be as remote as a backwoods Rocky Mountain hiking trail or as accessible as the local Chamber of Commerce parking lot. Caches can be as large as a trash container or as small as a business card. It is the ultimate adventure game.
There are often hints that go along with the geographic location to help one find the hidden cache. Decrypting hints can be just as much fun for the older seeker as the simple opening of the cache is for the younger ones.
Geocaching can be educational in other ways. It might be necessary to learn more about Sam Houston's days as a school teacher, search out historical clues within the Jefferson Memorial Expansion Museum, or understand the origin of the distinctive phrase, "Slamalamadingdong" in order to find certain caches. A number of navigational techniques, like map and compass reading, are also beneficial.
As of October 2009, there are more than 915,000 active caches in over 200 countries. During an average week, more than 89,000 geocachers log their finds on the official website. If there are so many treasure boxes (caches) out there, why haven't you seen any? Because they are carefully camouflaged. There are several different types and sizes of caches: the Traditional Cache, the Multi-Cache, the Mystery or Puzzle Cache, as well as Wherigo Caches, Event Caches, EarthCaches, Virtual Caches, Webcam Caches, and others. Geocaching also has a plethora of terms all its own.
One other exciting aspect of geocaching is the tracking of a Travel Bug or a Geocoin. These are "hitchhikers" with identity tracking numbers. Similar to the "Where's George" tracking system, many geocachers are able to track these items around the globe as they move from cache to cache. One general rule of thumb: If you take an item, leave an item, and always sign the log book.
Each individual cache has a sponsor. It is the job of the sponsor is to register and maintain the cache by following the guidelines on the website.
To be a sponsor, one has to have some sort of a GPS receiver and access to the Internet. To find out more, access the Official Global GPS Cache Hunt website.
When you find a cache, put it back just as you found it while keeping the investigative eyes of passers-by from seeing what you're doing. Most caches have a warning notice to give unaware finders information as to why this waterproof container filled with little gems is hidden under a bush, behind an electrical box, in a hollow log, or inside a miniscule hole in a concrete wall.
Have fun, and be sure to follow these two important rules when out there seeking: STEALTH and DISCRETION. Remember: it's a secret!
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