I searched for buried treasure today and rescued a fair damsel from a steel box where she’d been held captive for days.
Yeah, I feel pretty good about myself, even though today wasn’t the first time I’ve been a hero. Okay, so maybe this was the first time I’ve rescued a damsel, but I’ve also rescued a lion and a penguin, among other things. I still have the penguin. Right now he’s trying to calm the damsel, who’s understandably still distressed from her ordeal.
Praise me if you want, but I’ll just shrug it off because I know it was nothing special. Anybody can be a hero, even you!
Welcome to the strange world of geocaching, where you can hunt all day for someone else’s worthless junk, never spend a dime of your own money and love every minute of it.
Maybe you’ve heard of geocaching, but a surprising number of people I’ve talked to haven’t. Briefly, here’s how it works:
People hide “caches” in public places, list the GPS coordinates at geocaching.com, and it’s up to you to find them, though it’s not quite as easy as it sounds. The cache will still be hidden, and X does not mark the spot.
If your treasure hunting is successful, what you’ll find inside depends on the size of the cache. Almost always there will be a strip of paper where you’ll write your initials and the date, but there might also be other loot — a toy or a marble, for instance — which you can take and replace with something you brought with you.
Sometimes you might find a “geocoin” or a “tracking bug,” which are stamped with a code that allows you to see where its been, and it will be up to you to move it along to a new location after signing its internet log. Some of these trackable devices are on “missions” to reach a certain place or travel around the world, and you’ll do your bit to assist it on its travels.
Want to give it a try? There are thousands of geocaches all over the world, and there’s likely one within a mile or two of where you’re sitting right now. All you need is a GPS-enabled smartphone, some bug spray and a big dose of patience. Your GPS will only get you within 10-20 feet of a cache and it will likely be hidden, meaning you’ll have to root around to find it.
Caches are hidden in order to keep them out of the hands of “muggles.” If you’re a Harry Potter fan, you can probably deduce what that means, but for the uninitiated, a muggle is a non-geocacher who might see you discover a cache without knowing what you’re doing. This muggle might then destroy the cache or call the cops because he thinks you’re a suspicious character. So while geocaching, be advised to keep an eye out for muggles, especially when you’re getting close to the treasure!
Also be advised that nobody ever said finding buried treasure was easy. It’s dangerous out there! Other hazards include ticks, mosquitoes, sunburn, marauding bears, dehydration, poison ivy, falls, bumps, scrapes, sprains, bruises, overzealous Homeland Security cops and gnome encounters, so be sure to take all that into account before seeking your first cache.
Take some time to explore the geocaching web site before you start, as there are certain protocols that you’re supposed to follow in order to keep it fun for everyone.