Joan Dorsey
Guest columnist
Winter is upon us and as long as the weather permits, any excuse is a good excuse to be outside. If you are looking for a new hobby or even something to try out on a nice weekend day, why not try geocaching?
What is geocaching?
Geocaching is a real-world, outdoor treasure hunting game using GPS-enabled devices. Participants navigate to a specific set of GPS coordinates and then attempt to find the geocache (container) hidden at that location.This is the definition provided by geocaching 101.
This outdoor activity can be done by any amount of people or you can do it alone. It is basically a treasure hunt. You use cell phones with GPS capability or hand held devices. You enter the longitude and latitude provided with the cache name and you are off. Take as little or as much time as you wish to invest.
The rules are simple. Once you find the cache, open it, log your name or identity on the log book and you may take something out of the container if you leave something of the same or greater value. Always replace the container right where you located it. Be respectful of land and neighbors etc.
If this sounds like it might be fun, go to www.geocaching.com to get started. Sign up for the user name and password. This gives you access to any and all caches, anywhere you wish to hunt.
I searched for the Gardner zip code and was given approx 332 places to search. Be sure to read the comments. The container you are looking for can be as small as a film canister or as large or larger than a shoe box. If they can be sealed tightly and will hold trinkets a log book and a pencil or pen they can be hidden.
Maybe you are wondering why in the world anyone would want to go out and look for basically a needle in a haystack? Well for one thing it is just plain fun. You really don’t need to spend any money on buying gear or special equipment. A phone with GPS or a car GPS will work quite well. Trinkets or trading items can be as close as your kids toy box. Items from the toy machines at the local box store work well for trading. Plus you don’t have to take or leave anything. You should log your name and the time and date.
What if you have looked and looked for a cache and just can’t find it? Go back to the geocaching website. Make a note on the cache description and check for hints. Sometimes hunters will leave notes as to specific natural identifying items. This could be something as simple as “look at the base of the dead tree.” Or “next to a rock that looked like a turtle.” Even the mention of “poison ivy along path”. Might save someone unneeded distress.
I have geocached with my daughter for several years. We always have a good time. We have been in some creepy places, found a few deceased possums and birds along the way. We have climbed the rocks at Olathe Lake in search of a cache we never found. We have hunted and hunted to find a tiny film canister that was almost impossible to locate. In central Kansas we walked a beautiful old arch bridge and took pictures.
How many times do you find a hobby that can be participated in by the whole family that is basically free. You can get locations to search all over the world, or go on a geocaching vacation. You can join other hunters and go to meetings. You can make your own cache’s and post them on the site. You can invest as little or as much time as you want. It is also a good way to teach children how to use co-ordinates and learn to deal with longitude and latitude, math and map skills!
Remember if you decided to embark on this hobby. Leave things the way you found them. Be respectful of private property and hallowed ground. If you take a trinket leave a trinket. Report missing or damaged caches. Once spring is in the air be mindful of plants and animals that you might accidentally come across. Wear clothing appropriate for hiking or camping. Most of all enjoy being outside and spending time with your family or a friend. I think it is a hobby best shared with someone, simply because it is more fun that way.