Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Geocaching - a high tech treasure hunt

My love of delicious roadside meats is what led me to meeting DB~, but it was our mutual love of geocaching that got us together for our first "not-a-date" get-together.

My friend was delivering campaign signs in Oct 2008 and asked if I could help him. I agreed on one condition...if we saw a delicious roadside BBQ stand, the kind where a guy is cooking something that was walking around a few hours ago (preferably in a carved up 55 gallon drum), we had to stop for lunch. My demands were met.

One of our first early morning stops was to his friend's house...for purposes of this blog, she is known as DB~. As the two of them talked, I quietly observed that she had 10 Garmin E-Trex units laying about her living room. I asked if she cached, as the Garmin E-Trex is the go-to unit for geocaching. She did and we agreed to meet up a few weeks later. The rest is...well, history is being written. And the historian is happy.

As for geocaching itself, what is it? Geocaching uses hand-held GPS units, like the Garmin E-Trex (only around $99), to locate hidden objects by a worldwide group of users. You go to Geocaching's home page and download latitude/longitude coordinates for your home area...or an area that you may be vacationing/travelling for work.
You're able to use the GPS unit for this type of activity thanks to the military de-militarizing the geosynchronous satellites orbiting above our heads in the late 90's. Some tech guys pounced on this opportunity and created geocaching in the late 90's/early 00's. It has exploded in popularity in the decade since.

Once you get these coordinates, you program them into the GPS unit and you track the location to its endpoint. The majority of caches are in woods, so it provides great exercise as you track these down. A growing number are urban caches...usually smaller containers that you may only have room to sign your name to a log sheet.

Once you locate the cache, you sign the log sheet and if it is big enough, you search through the contents. Most of the time it is worthless trinkets. But as I say, it's not the "there", it's the "getting there". Some caches do have additional challenges associated with them....another step you have to complete and some do have more valuable types of prizes (geocoins, travel bugs).

After you locate it, you then sign it in on Geocaching's homepage for all the world to see your conquest. Caching is a great way to get out of the house, get some exercise, and it's a great activity to do with the whole family. Or your hot, yet tech-y, girlfriend.

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