Geocaching: the popular name given a relatively new internationally enjoyed activity - a hobby to many - combining the fun of spending time in the out of doors with the classic components of traditional treasure hunting or scavenger hunts.
Key tools needed are a handheld GPS unit and a map.
When it comes to geocaching, enthusiasts say the fun and excitement it can bring is not based on the idea they will find a priceless pirate's treasure trove that has been simply waiting to be unearthed, uncovered, or noticed while hiding in plain sight. But, that it is really about enjoying the process, being in the out of doors and spending time simply doing something you choose to do just for the fun of it.
Key tools needed for geocaching, a treasure hunting activity that is growing in popularity, are a handheld GPS unit and a map. Enthusiasts say the fun is about enjoying the process and spending time outside as participants work to locate treasure left behind by others.
Getting started in this hobby can be done at almost no cost if you happen to know someone with a handheld GPS or Smartphone who would allow you to borrow it.
Handheld GPS units are available on a broad basis today, and can be had for as little as a hundred dollars.
Bridgeport residents Marvin and Sharon Husarik have been enjoying this activity for several years, often including selected geocaching adventures in the itinerary of family vacations or weekend outings.
Husarik was introduced to geocaching through a coworker, and was quickly hooked
"It never hurts to go on a couple hunts with someone who has some experience with geocaching," offered Husarik. "That way you can have a better feel for what you want in a GPS unit before you decide to purchase one, and you will have some firsthand knowledge about how the whole thing works.
"There are all sorts of ways on the Internet for people to get all the information they need to successfully get started geocaching. The details are easy to access and can be enjoyed for free," he said.
His personal favorite among the many public websites available to geocachers of all experience levels is www.geocaching.com.
"It has everything anyone will need in the way of information, helpful hints on how to prepare for a geocaching adventure; the essentials of geocaching etiquette, basic rules and guidelines, product reviews and more," he offered.
Information on the site is easy to access and to understand, even if you are a complete newcomer to the experience, he said.
Another popular site is www.OpenCaching.com
Specific details about each registered cache include easy to understand indicators about four standards: how difficult it will be to actually see the cache in its location; how unique or routine the cache is and is often a comment on whether or not the location is itself inspiring; how easy or difficult the terrain is; and how large or small the cache itself is.
As an activity, the rules of geocaching are basic and easy to apply.
The must have equipment list begins with a handheld GPS unit or Smartphone.
It is into these GPS equipped units that information about a site's map coordinates are downloaded for those wanting to go in search of a cache."When you locate a cache you will want to go back to the site where you got the initial information about the location and log your information about finding it," he said.
But after having discovered a location there are traditions to be observed to make the experience enjoyable for the next person coming in search of that specific cache.
"I always tell people to carry small pencils -like those short ones traditionally used to keep score during golf, a small piece of paper - though there might be one in the site already - and little things like keychains and other small keepsakes that might share something about where you are from or who you work for," he shared.
Those wanting to add a new cache site for public use can upload details to these type of sites so information can easily be found about what it is they have added and where it can be located.
Making sure the container is weather proof and will not be mistaken for trash when left in its identified site are key details, he said.
Among items to consider using for geocaching containers are watertight containers, ammunition boxes and plastic containers suitable for use while boating, say experts. They also say the most important thing to put into any geocaching container are paper and pencil.
"Whether you are familiar with the area where you will be looking for a cache or not, it is always a good idea to input your vehicle's location into the unit's memory as a waypoint, so finding your way to exactly where you want to be at the end of the hike is part of the information the handheld GPS unit or your Smartphone are going to give you," said the experienced geocacher.
He recommends getting well acquainted with your GPS unit before beginning any geocaching activity for safety reasons as much as to help ensure successfully finding your way - from the beginning to the end of an adventure.
Here's a quick checklist of things you might want to consider bringing along: A hiking buddy, hiking shoes, bug spray, sunscreen, flashlight, extra GPS batteries, a pen and notebook; camera; plenty of water; snacks or quick meals; something to leave behind in the caches if you want to take something, and always your own hiking skill level and general outdoor experience.
The History of Geocaching
(Based on excerpts from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Geocaching, Second Edition)
The history of geocaching - On May 2, 2000 24 satellites around the globe processed their new orders, and instantly the accuracy of GPS technology improved tenfold. Tens of thousands of GPS receivers around the world had an instant upgrade.
It was the moment in time when our government officials acted - years earlier than they had been expected to do so - to remove selective availability.
They had until 2006 to do so.
Now, said the White House, anyone could "precisely pinpoint their location or the location of items (such as game) left behind for later recovery.
For GPS enthusiasts, this was definitely a cause for celebration. Internet newsgroups suddenly teemed with ideas about how the technology could be used.
On May 3, one such enthusiast, Dave Ulmer, a computer consultant, wanted to test the accuracy by hiding a navigational target in the woods. He called the idea the "Great American GPS Stash Hunt" and posted it in an internet GPS users' group.
The idea was simple: Hide a container out in the woods and note the coordinates with a GPS unit.
The finder would then have to locate the container with only the use of his or her GPS receiver.
On May 3rd he placed his own container, a black bucket, in the woods near Beavercreek, Oregon, near Portland. Along with a logbook and pencil, he left various prize items including videos, books, software, and a slingshot. He shared the waypoint of his "stash" with the online community on sci.geo.satellite-nav: N 45 17.460 W 122 24.800
Within the first month of the game's public unveiling the word, geocaching became part of the American vocabulary and it has become a recognized recreational activity .
The rules for the finder were simple: "Take some stuff, leave some stuff."
The rules include getting advance permission from property owners and making sure to leave the cache area in better shape thatn it was when you arrived.
The Husarik family has enjoyed getting involved in geocaching hunts in locations from Mexico to Canada.
Like many new and innovative ideas on the Internet, the concept of geocaching has spread quickly - but there can be a certain lagging behind when it comes to keeping pace with the need for new caches.
This makes it the perfect time to consider coordinating you own cache construction effort to gather and hide a container of some small - but unusual trinkets.