Geocaching: Treasure-Hunting for Techies

These days, screens are a staple of our culture. Because of the constant distractions caused by our phones, computers, and televisions we are forced into sedentary, often hedonistic lifestyles. According to the Council for Research Excellence, the average American spends about 8.5 hours in front of a screen every day. At this point, it would be unrealistic to suggest that we all go back to board games and free ourselves of our screen addictions. But what if we could use our screens for entertainment that gets us outside, makes us think, and makes us move.

Geocaching has been around for quite some time, but has recently become a bit more extreme. Geocaching involves typing latitudinal and longitudinal coordinates into a GPS that guide the participant to a box (or cache) that is filled with a log book and strange trinkets. There are plenty of geocaching websites upon which coordinates to caches can be found.

Once the coordinates are entered, you simply follow the blinking dot on the screen of your GPS over, under and through any obstacles that might be between you and your treasure. There are currently geocaches in 200 countries, on all seven continents, and even on the international space station. If you’re not the type who likes to venture too far from home, you’re in luck. Cities and suburban areas tend to be saturated with caches, but if you want to follow the dot on your screen to more exotic locations, more remote geocaches are constantly being placed in difficult terrain.

Something for Everyone
The cache on Bronco Butte in Arizona is considered one of the most difficult to locate; not because it’s hidden, but because it is so hard to reach that it had to be put in place by a helicopter. Geocachers have to hike, scramble, and free-climb to reach the treasure atop Bronco Butte. Caches are rated by difficulty on a scale of 1-10, so you’ll know what you’re getting in to.

Sans GPS
There are ways to go geo caching without a fancy GPS. If you have a fancy phone, you can download one of many geocaching apps that will use the existing GPS in your phone in order to find the coordinates that you select. If you’d like to go treasure hunting without any screens guiding your way, you can go ahead and do it the old fashioned way. Plenty of folks are successful at finding caches with only a map and compass. You just have to make sure that you have the navigation skills and detailed maps required to make it happen.

If geocaching seems a little kitschy to you, maybe letter boxing is more up your alley. It’s like the older, wiser brother of geocaching. Instead of ending the hunt at a sole cache, Letterboxes contain clues that will lead you to the specific locations of more caches. The boxes aren’t filled with silly trinkets either, instead, letterboxers each carry a stamp (often hand-made) and will leave their print within the ledger inside of the cache. Traditionally, the letterboxing community looks down upon the use of GPS, requiring hunters to rely upon cartography skills rather than screen-watching skills, which is why clues are given in order to narrow the search once hunters reach their destination.

By Robin Johnson