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Miscellaneous A Geocaching Primer

What is Geocaching?
Geocaching is an electronic treasure hunt. One finds caches at listed GPS co-ordinates.

Why Geocache?
Many geocaches are in interesting or picturesque places. I would have missed once in a lifetime views had I not hunted geocaches. Most memorable is the panoramic view I was treated to high above Ephesus.

If one has children or grandchildren, it is a way to engage the whole family in an activity. Some geocaches are listed as “child friendly” and contain small toys.

There are numerous meets throughout Europe and the Americas where one can exchange ideas and establish new friendships. Many cities have local clubs that meet regularly. Some sponsor events.

One requires a GPS unit or a smartphone with GPS capability. I have a Garmin E-Trex that has served me well for many years. Sales personnel at outdoor outfitters' or electronics stores can advise on a suitable device. There are also stores specializing in GPS units. Some are better suited or are exclusively for geocaching.

I carry a spare set of batteries for my unit. Also be aware that the smartphone apps are energy hogs so a recharging unit in the car is advisable.

Since some caches are in hidey-holes I like to have a stick handy to roust out any creepy-crawlies that may be inside.

I carry a small bag with trinkets (e.g. coins from home, golf markers, key chains, lapel pins) to exchange for something in the cache. Etiquette requires one to leave something of equal or greater value then what one takes. I have purchased geocoins and travel bugs to place in caches and watch their travels around the world. I have one travel bug that has been traveling through Europe for 8 years.

A pen or pencil may be needed to sign logs in caches.

There are numerous caching and smartphone apps available.

The granddaddy of them all and the one that initiated geocaching is www.geocaching.com . A basic membership is free and sign-up is uncomplicated. Paid membership gives one preferred access to new caches, customized itineraries, access to privately-listed caches. I have found the unpaid membership adequate to my needs. The website provides comprehensive tutorials, equipment suggestions and FAQs as well as a shop where GPS units and all manner of tat can be purchased. Geocaching.com also has a smartphone app for download.

Most phone apps link to Geocacaching so membership there is a prerequisite.

On my phone, I use the app c:geo . A search of apps will bring many others up. Find one that you are comfortable with.

Common Geocache Types:
  • Micros: small containers that hold only a small log paper to record one's visit. Think photo film canister. One of the more inventive ones I encountered was a fake bolt on the submarine outside Barcelona's Maritime museum

  • Regular: any container from a small lock-lid sandwich box to an ammo box that can be hidden. Some are camouflaged; others are home-made; others are purchased (e.g. imitation rocks)

  • Puzzle: involve solving often complicated puzzles to determine the actual cache location.

  • Multi: a cousin of the puzzle cache, these involve visiting two or more locations to determine the final caches' location. As an example, In Sant Sadurni d'Anoia there were two: one had me visiting various cava bodegas; another highlighted modernist buildings.

  • Earthcaches: These caches lead one to unique geological formations. To log the cache one usually has to email answers to questions about the particular phenomenon.

Getting Started:
  1. Join Geocaching.com

  2. If you intend on using your smartphone download an App that you are comfortable with. Try out a couple. c:geo is free and is suitable for my needs. You may differ.

  3. View the tutorials at Geocaching or just wing it.

  4. If using a GPS unit download program from the manufacturer that enables one to download cache info from the Geocaching site. Note Geocaching will prompt you if you need a special program.

  5. Download geocache locations from Geocaching to your GPS unit.

  6. Be surprised that there will probably be at least one cache within 500 metres of your location.

  7. Follow the locator arrow to your cache.

  8. At GZ (ground zero) look around. Caches can be up to 3 metres from GZ. Look up in tree branches, under rocks, in holes in trees, behind bushes. Examine small cairns and carefully stacked branches closely. Look under benches.

  9. Log your visit and leave/exchange items if you wish.

  10. Don't be discouraged if you don't find the cache. It may have been moved, washed away or vandalized (muggled).

  11. Log your visit at Geocaching or on your phone App. In the comments, list any special cautions such as an ant hill, wasps' nest or other concern that will warn/assist other cachers.

  12. If you took a geocoin or travel bug log your find and commit to moving it on as soon as reasonably possible.
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