I have to be honest – I thought when we decided to become full timers, I would spend a lot of time sitting outside reading and maybe a little bored because of the lack of things to do. In the (almost) six months that we have been doing this, there’s always been something to do – people to meet, restaurants to try, areas to explore, blog posts to be written, photos to be edited, bicycle trails to ride, paths to walk…the list goes on and on! And all this has to be done in conjunction with the more mundane tasks that everyone has to deal with – errands to run, meals to be made, laundry, cleaning, repairs to be made – there’s always somethin’! Sitting around reading a book all day – HA, that hasn’t happened yet. But despite all this busy-ness, somehow we’ve managed to try something new and fun!
During our stay at Carrabelle Beach RV Resort and Topsail State Park, our new friends, Lee and Denise, had told us about one of their favorite hobbies – Geocaching. I had heard about this a long time ago but never really delved into it. And Rob being involved with GPS since its inception also knew about it, but never had the time to play with it. Well, after listening to them talk about all the fun they were having, we decided to give it a try.
Huh, what the heck is Geocaching you are probably asking! For those of you not familiar with it, you can learn all you need to know at the Geocaching website where it is “a real world treasure hunt with over 2.3 million active Geocaches and over 6 million Geocachers worldwide”. The cache can be anything (usually a bunch of inexpensive trinkets), hidden anywhere and in any type of container – too involved for me to describe here but if you are interested it’s best to read about it on the website. Be sure to check out the different types of caches before you begin – in some instances you are not looking for a physical cache but just a particular place as is the case with an Earthcache. You should also read the Geocaching 101 Section (under Learn) and watch some of the videos.
Since the ability to find a Geocache requires GPS, the first step was to download a Geocaching app to our GPS enabled Android phones. There are a number of apps available, some free while others have to be purchased, we downloaded a free app recommended by Denise – c:geo. This app is for Android phones, if you have an iPhone you will need to check on iTunes for an equivalent app or Google it.
Once the app was installed, we could see all the nearby caches in a list or on a map along with the level of difficulty, how far away it is, the GPS coordinates of where it is hidden, a description of the cache and the comments made by the people who searched for it in the online logbook. Lee and Denise gave us a helpful hint – before searching for a cache, you want to check the logs to make sure the cache had been found recently. If there are no log entries for months or years, then most likely the cache is no longer there so you shouldn’t waste your time with it. You need to be discrete, because sometimes the Muggles (a non-geocacher) will be suspicious of what you are doing and maybe even take a cache after you leave (or call the cops).
Once you select which cache you want to look for, switch to “compass” mode and as you move toward it, your GPS will show the direction of the GPS coordinates of the cache and how far away it is. Realize that the GPS is not 100% accurate so the challenge is to search in the surrounding area.
With a little hint from Lee, eureka, we found our first cache near Topsail. You wouldn’t think finding a camouflaged plastic jar with trinkets stashed inside would be exciting – but it was! On the log inside the container, Rob made the comment “woo hoo, our first cache”! The rule is that when you find a cache, you put it back exactly where you found it and if you decide to take something from the cache, you must add something else of equal or greater value. In addition to signing the paper log, be sure to log your find on-line on the Geocaching website so others can read your comments.
Since our first find, we’ve successfully found several others near Blackwater River State Park and spent over an hour looking for another before finally giving up. Being new to this, that was particularly disappointing and frustrating. My guess is that as we gain experience, finding a cache will become easier (??).
In the short time we have been doing this, not only is Geocaching fun and challenging but it also takes you to places you normally might not go and in some instances, especially with Earthcaches, you learn a lot about the area or a particular topic. The people who set up or hide the Geocaches often provide extensive information in the description about the physical attributes of the location or the history of the place making it very educational. Great for kids!
You might be thinking that only people who travel can Geocache but that is not true at all! Using your phone or on-line, check out all the caches hidden near where you live, near where you shop, near where your kids go to school – caches can be anywhere nearby just waiting for you to find them.
Give it a try! Happy Geocaching!