Scavenger hunting has gone high-tech with Geocaching. It wasn't that long ago that a friend told me how much fun geocaching was and my reaction was geo what? For those of you that don't know either, here is the official definition from Geocaching.com. Geocaching is a high-tech treasure hunting game played thoughout the world by adventure seekers equipped with GPS devices. The idea is to locate containers hidden outdoors called geocaches and then share your experiences online. Geocaching is enjoyed by people from all age groups, with a strong sense of community and support for the environment. It is a great activity for groups, families or individuals. It can be as easy as hopping out of your car and finding one easily, or it can be a hike to the top of a mountain. You pick the level of adventure you want.
To geocache (pronounced geo-cash) a person can place a container anywhere in the world, pinpoint it's location using GPS (Global Positioning System) technology and then share the geocache's existence and location online. Anyone with a GPS device can then try to find it. Caches come in all shapes and sizes. We have found some hidden in plain sight because the cache is so cleverly built or ones buried under rocks in the desert. The hunt is part of it and finding a interesting cache is awesome. Some caches are virtual. You will not find anything- you just answer questions or take photos to prove you were there. Some are themed and some are multi-caches that lead you from one cache to another by leaving you GPS coordinates.
My Girl Scout troop got their first taste of geocaching when we went on a camping trip to Calico Ghost Town in the California desert town of Yermo. We spent the day experiencing the old west and then came back to modern times by taking out the GPS and searching out treasure. When I say treasure- well you aren't really going to find anything valuable. Some of the caches are so small that all you can do is sign a tiny log book. Some are larger and have dime store junk in them. If you take something out- you must replace it with something of equal or greater value. We took out plastic toys and replaced them with equal plastic junk. We did find what is known as a travel bug. That was exciting. A travel bug is a trackable tag that someone has attached to an item. They have instructions to where they would like the travel bug to go. We took with us a bug that the owner wanted to go to rodeos all over the world. We placed it in a new cache as close to an upcoming rodeo that we could find. Since we started geocaching we have found 3 travel bugs- one started in Prague and one in Florida and both have been to Disneyland with us before they moved on. That is the fun. Taking photos of the bugs traveling and posting their adventures on the website. (Well fun for us anyway!)
Geocaching has been in the news recently. Since the idea is to hide them in areas that are challenging to find, some people hide them in very busy areas, the thought being that you have to be careful not to let "muggles" or non-geocachers see you. (the term is borrowed from the Harry Potter books) A large area of Downtown Disney in Anaheim was evacuated because a suspicious object was spotted under a bridge. Geocachers need to be careful where they choose to hide them, with the threat of terrorist activity on everyone's minds.
My troop has a subscription on a geocaching website. We call ourselves GirlScout4fun and we can be found on Geocaching.com, where we go to find caches to seek out and where we will eventually log in our own caches for people to find. The troop is going to send out some travel bugs with a paperdoll Girl Scout attached and hopefully she will get taken on a trip to Girl Scout locations all around the world. We will be able to "watch" her travels via the website.
So, if you are interested in Geocaching I have a few things for you to remember.
- Think about what you want to get out of the experience.
- As Girl Scouts we try to leave a place cleaner than when we find it- so we practice CITO, which is Cache In Trash Out
- Be prepared for the day. Make sure you have water, appropriate clothing, first aid kit, food etc...
- Know where you are- don't get lost. Put your car location in your GPS as a waypoint.
Have fun, get outdoors, post your adventures and share the experience with your friends. Whether it's hidden under a rock or hanging from a tree, geocaching is a great outdoor activity for all. Oh and by the way, watch out where you walk or reach into. We recently spotted a huge rattlesnake right on the area where the cache we were looking for was located. Needless to say, we left the cache to the snake.
For more information on Girl Scouting in Orange County go to GSCOC.org