Get the whole family out exploring and learning about Lewis County with geocaching. It’s easy to do and you can use a simple smart phone app to find little hidden treasures.

oly orthoGetting out and getting exercise is always more fun when there is some sort of game involved. One of the most fun games you can do is any type of scavenger hunt. And one of the easiest of these is called “geocaching.”

Back in 2000, military satellites were declassified and became available for public use. One visionary man named Dave Ulmer decided to create geocaching as a way to use the satellites and GPS coordinates. He then posted the information online. A second visionary man named Jeremy Irish found one of the caches and started the website as a way to connect everyone interested in this new hobby, and it exploded in popularity.

When you pull up the geocaching app on your smart phone, you’ll see all the caches in that area. The numbers indicate the number of caches, and you can zoom in on it to see individual caches. Photo credit: Nancy Keaton

In the beginning, you had to use a handheld GPS unit, but now you can download information through an app on your smart phone. This has made geocaching much more user-friendly and has made the hobby much more available to more people.

Geocaches come in all shapes and sizes, from “nano” caches that are so small that they’re about the size of a thimble, to larger ones that can hold many trinkets. The larger ones are more traditional, containing a log book for the finder to sign, and the trinkets to trade. For these caches you can take out one of the trinkets, but then you are supposed to leave one in place of the one you take. Sometimes a cache will contain a “trackable,” which is a trinket that the creator places and asks others who find it to log it then pass it on to another cache so that it can travel around the world.

The hobby has grown from the traditional caches to a variety of other caches. A multi-cache is where there are several caches involved and the first one contains a hint to the second one, and so on until you find the final cache. Mystery or puzzle caches are where the geocacher has to solve some sort of puzzle to either find the cache or open it.

Nano cache
If you really want a challenge, choose to look for a nano cache. They are so small that they can easily be missed, so require looking closely in tiny spots. Photo credit: Nancy Keaton

Caches can also be placed to help you learn about an area, leading you from one cache to another to learn the history of a town, or to see multiple sites such as around a national park. There are even geocaching events, where a group of people will participate in a single event.

Geocaching is something people of all physical abilities can do. Each cache posted tells the size of the cache, the difficulty level of finding the cache, as well as the difficulty of the terrain, based on a scale from 1 to 5. If you know that wouldn’t work for you, you would simply move on to another cache on the list.

There are some important rules to follow when geocaching:

  • If you take something out of the cache, replace it with something of equal value. One easy, inexpensive way to do this is just go to a dollar store and buy some little trinkets to exchange.
  • Sign the log book.
  • Log-in your find online. This is very easy from your smart phone, you can log in and report your find right from the field.

Other important considerations:

  • Always put the cache back exactly as you found it so that the next geocacher can find it.
  • Respect private property and local laws.
  • Caches are never buried so you don’t need to dig for them.
  • Contents of the caches should be family friendly and safe so never take a trinket and replace it with something dangerous or inappropriate.
  • Never leave food in a cache as animals will try to find it.
Finding geocaches
Geocaching is a great activity for kids. Encourage them to run the app and follow the directions to the cache. Brothers Preston and Payton Floreck make a good team when searching for caches. Photo credit: Becky Floreck

After you’ve found a few, you may be interested in hiding a cache yourself. You can do this very inexpensively, from purchasing a nano cache to hide, or creating your own cache for less than $5.00 out of dollar store items. You will need to go through the website to have the type of cache and location approved, but it’s a simple process.

To begin, simply go to the website and register. You can then begin your search. You can actually see which hunts are close to you without registering but you can’t find out the exact details without registering. However, it’s free for the basic account. The website is also full of very helpful information for you, such as a glossary of terms used.

There are now over 2.8 million geocaches hidden all around the world, AND over three million people looking for them! Geocaching is a great way for the whole family to get out, learn about navigating, get exercise and fresh air and maybe learning something new about your area. So get out there and start searching!

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