There is a new hobby that has become wildly popular known as Geocaching. For those of you who are unfamiliar with Geocaching, it is basically like real life scavenger hunting. How it works is that people all across the country place small, green boxes known as "caches" in hidden locations. These boxes can be anywhere. Chances are, you are currently within about a mile of one wherever it is that you are reading this post. To find the caches, all you have to do is become familiar with their general location.
This is done by logging into www.geocaching.com. Now, it is required that you register with geocaching.com, but they offer a basic membership that is free.
If you find that Geocaching is a really fun hobby, however, there is the option of a paid membership that provides many more benefits. Anyway, once you are a member of geocaching.com you have two options to find a cache site. The first is you can go out and buy a GPS unit that is equipped for Geocaching (Because Geocaching has become so popular, these devices are very simple to find and buy). The second option is to download a program on your smart phone. I used Neongeo which offers a 30 day free trial. After the 30 day period, it is $10.00 for unlimited use (Data charges apply, so make sure to check your phone plan to make sure you won't be racking up a huge bill of data charges). (Above: Near my first cache site of the day! I never would have gotten this great photo if I hadn't been winding down streets looking for the first location.)
Then, you go out and find the cache! Just like scavenger hunting! Now, it sounds simple, but there are different difficulties of caches and terrain. For example, one cache I was able to find just by pulling into a parking lot (I'm not going to give away which cache this was for in case someone decides they want to go out and find it for themselves **Look for my name in the Log Book!!**) Other caches require a little more hiking (If they do require hiking, wear appropriate attire because there is the always the possibility of encountering all of nature's glories. This includes poison ivy......) Once you have successfully found the cache, which is actually a really great feeling, you write your name in the log book. Each cache also has a handful of little surprises in it. These trinkets fall under the, "take a penny, leave a penny," rule. So if you want to take a trinket to remember your trip, make sure that you leave something of equal or greater value for the next person!
A popular aspect of Geocaching are the Geotrails. Geotrails are a sequence of Geocaches set up with the idea that you find all of the Geocaches along the trail. Once you are done, you can get a cool collectors coin which is basically the Geocaching version of a trophy. And come on, who doesn't want a trophy for their victory?! My Geocaching experiences all fell along the SouthMountain Geotrail which is spread across the Cumberland Valley. It was a great experience because I found myself in places that I would never have traveled to normally. I got to see lots of back-roads and beautiful country side as I sped around looking for cache sites. (Right: That's my Geocaching mobile in all it's glory. I was walking back from one of the caches when I took this photo. Don't want to give away the location!!!)
One thing, though, is that Geocaching is always more fun in pairs! In some cases, too, it is safer. I recommend bringing someone simply because navigating to the different caches is much safer. I went by myself and found that I had to pull off onto quiet side streets because I kept having to refer to the GPS to find my location in comparison to the cache location. Just like using a GPS to find directions, you should never be looking at the screen while driving! It can get you and other drivers into a lot of trouble, and that's not what Geocaching is about. It's about having a great time, and that's just what I got from my experience!
Geocaching in Cumberland Valley!!
April 28, 2012