The thrill of discovery is hard to resist. Whether people are beachcombing with a metal detector and uncover the mother lode or finally locate that rarest of coins to complete their collection, they enjoy that feeling of a quest fulfilled. Combining this challenge with Global Position System technology has created the relatively new activity known as geocaching.
It can be a great family activity, said Sequim geocacher Caroline Stuckey, who has more than 2,400 findings to her credit. Its a great way to explore the natural beauty of our area.
Simply put, geocaching is a worldwide treasure hunt, appealing to people young and old, male and female. After acquiring coordinates of a cache waterproof containers typically housing a logbook to sign and other items such as toys and money online and downloading them into a GPS locator, the challenge lies in tracking and discovering the elusive treasure. Traditional caches have one location to travel to directly. Each person who discovers the cache has the option to take any item within and replace it with something of equal or greater value, or sign the logbook and move on. After finding a cache, people have the
opportunity to post their findings online at any geocache site and compare their discoveries with other members of the geocache community.
Geocaching is participated in globally, however its roots can be traced to the Pacific Northwest. Dave Ulmer, of Beavercreek, Ore., hid the first documented geocache in the spring of 2000. A mere three days later Mike Teague, of Vancouver, Wash., discovered it. This initial cache was a black bucket buried under ground, containing books, money, food, software and, for a final touch, a slingshot. Despite these humble beginnings, eight years later there are more than 800,000 geocaches in more than 100 countries and all seven continents. Caches are rated on a five-star difficulty level for terrain and overall difficulty of discovery, lending the searcher some hint of the challenge that lies ahead. One-star caches are wheelchair accessible and not terribly taxing to find. More stars can mean climbing, hiking, swimming and any number of Indiana Jones-esque adventures.
There are even variations to the caches themselves. Traditional caches are most common but there are caches that involve multiple checkpoints to travel to and complex puzzles to solve. Night caches require the searcher to use reflections of light, typically from a flashlight, to point them in the right direction. Virtual caches dont have the typical logbook and other spoils but instead require the geocacher to find a certain described item. A valid cache find requires the searcher to e-mail specific information such as a date, a name on a plaque or a picture of the object to the cache owner. Many other variations exist but the object remains the same: Locate a hidden treasure. The addictive potential is obvious; discovering an impressive list of caches can be akin to owning a display case full of baseball cards or a book of priceless stamps. Beyond the treasure itself lies what appears to be the true appeal of geocaching to many locals, the exploration.
Many caches are hidden in places of significance to the person hiding them, such as favorite places in nature, impressive landscapes or great topographical peaks and valleys. Partaking in geocaching can be similar to a guided tour of rarely seen natural scenery.
Stuckey is attempting the Southeast Washington Oldies Challenge, an event featuring 20 caches located throughout the southeast Washington region, providing her with many beautiful pictures of that area.
We located a cache within a museum. The instructions have specific times for finding it and afterward we were able to spend a day at a museum; it worked out pretty well, Stuckey said.
For those less willing to travel, there are more than 200 caches located within 25 miles of Sequim, so theres no shortage of places in our immediate surroundings.
There is a strong sense of community among geocachers. Stuckey has a cache hidden just outside her business in an effort to meet others sharing in her interest. It is not uncommon for geocachers to come across each other searching for the same cache. This sense of camaraderie is best exemplified by the Cache-In Trash-Out event. This is a coordinated event for geocachers focusing on trash pick-up and environmental maintenance. Geocaching also can be a family activity since less difficult caches dont involve the occasionally dangerous outdoor activities associated with more advanced levels.
Geocaching has become a global activity and an entertaining hobby that can be picked up easily by anyone, regardless of ability or experience; all it takes is a free membership at www.geocaching.com and the purchase of a GPS locator. With hundreds of thousands of caches to discover, a staggering amount of adventure awaits. With the serene natural beauty of the Pacific Northwest all around us, what better way to enjoy it than by exploration with treasure at the end? Just remember that fedora in your closet for the full Indiana Jones effect.