During our Adventure Geek walk on Monday evening, I got chatting to a fellow walker from Spain. I am not sure how the conversation arose but I soon found myself talking about another outdoor hobby of mine which is geocaching. I thought most people knew about this hobby as it has been around since 2002, but it appears not.
What is Geocaching?
Geocaching is an activity in which an item, or a container holding a number of items (trinkets), is hidden at a particular location for GPS users to find by means of coordinates posted on the Internet. My husband often says “Julia is popping out to find plastic boxes in the woods again!”. It's a bit like finding a Pokemon but with actual items that are hidden in trees, walls, bushes or under piles of sticks. In short, it is a technical treasure hunt and they can be found all over the world.
I have been finding these plastic boxes since boxing day in 2009! I got a group of family and friends together to help me as I had no idea what I was looking for! Ten of us spent 30 mins looking for our first geocache in Tescos Car Park in Towcester on that cold Christmas morning! Needless to say, we couldn't find it and moved on to the next one feeling rather disheartened. But we found the first one hidden in a tree by the river and that is when people got excited. This is real and the boxes are actually there… we just need to find them! I was hooked!
After the chat on Monday, I was motivated to organise a geocaching night trail which I think will be fun for the walkers in our club. If you are in our walking club then let me know if you like this idea (just comment below the blog).
In the meantime, here are five reasons why I love this hobby.
#1 – Walking with a purpose
I love walking, but adding variety certainly makes it more interesting. Geocaching is a great way to explore new places and see new things. Within the app you can not only follow the trail and find the boxes, but you also learn something new about the history or the area at the same time. I often load up the app on a Sunday morning and head out into the countryside to collect a few caches. I am always surprised by something that I just didn't know before – like the history of a well, or a monument that I hadn't realised was there.
I will never forget finding an “earth cache” which means that you have to answer a question about the item when you find the location, take a photo and submit this as evidence of finding the cache. I remember following the compass that led me to a small path that took me behind the Hard Rock Cafe next to Universal Studios in Florida. To my surprise,
the cache was a slice of the Berlin Wall! No-one would know that it was there unless they were following the geocaching trail.
#2 – Geocaching keeps me entertained when I'm on holiday
My husband enjoys the type of holiday where you sit by the pool and lap up the sun. I am happy to do nothing for a few days but then I get itchy feet. Whilst he is topping up the tan, I usually have my little backpack on and my iPhone out with the geocaching app loaded I can have a little adventure of my own! I have cached all over the world. From the Carribean to Iceland, from New York to Dubai. From Northampton to Daventry! There are geocaches on your doorstep – download the app for free and take a look! You will be amazed how many little green dots there are to find!
#3 – Geocaching is addictive
When you find a geocache you simply log the find on the app. I like to set myself goals of finding XX geocaches a year and it is great to see the little green dots turn into yellow smiley faces on the map. I know this sounds rather sad, but I have found 1077 geocaches so far and I am hoping to secure at least 1100 by the end of the year.
This is a tweet from a while ago when I was on my 1000 geocache challenge. I collected all of the caches in this series.
— Julia Doherty (@JuliaDoherty) April 24, 2016
#4 – Knowing a secret
I often smile to myself as I am walking by a place that I know is hiding a geocache. For example, on Monday evening 30 people walked by four geocaches and they didn't even know were there. I try and stop myself from saying “there is a geocache there” when I am out and about because people tend to think that you are a bit strange!
Here are two geocaches that I walk by on a regular basis with my fellow Nordic Walkers. There is one behind the sign, and another one tucked in the water pump!
— Julia Doherty (@JuliaDoherty) March 19, 2016
#5 – Problem-solving
Some geocaches are extremely difficult to find. Not all geocaches are small Tupperware boxes, often they are less than 1 inch in height (nano caches). I was once getting very strange looks as I was busy looking for a magnetic nano cache, which was painted red and attached to a telephone box in the middle of Bourton on The Water (in the Cotswolds). There were people everywhere and I was getting some very strange looks as I was running my hands all over this telephone box looking for my treasure! I remember squealing with delight when I found it and the person that I was with said: “is that it?”.
With nearly every geocache entry on the app, you have various bits of information that will help you find the box. A built-in compass to guide you to the location, a description of what you are looking for, level of difficulty and a hint. The hint is encrypted, so you have a choice if you would like to see the hint or not. An example hint would be something such as “This is not an ATM machine” – and you know that it will be located in a hole in the wall somewhere. The compass will only direct you to within 20 ft or so of the location, so you then need to put on your problem-solving hat and go looking for it.
Here is a geocache that we found from within a rusty padlock!
— Julia Doherty (@JuliaDoherty) December 26, 2015
If you like to solve problems and have a sense of adventure then consider having a go at Geocaching. If you are interested in attending a Geocaching Walk with Adventure Geek then let me know and I will organise an event. If you wanted to have a go yourself, then simply visit the app store and download the official geocaching app, or visit the website on www.geocaching.com to find out more.