BY BRIAN WHITMORE
Remember as a kid that thrill you got when you found an Easter egg.
I’ve got that feeling again.
My family and I are now geocachers.
Geocaching (noun, jee•ow•ka•shuhng): the recreation activity of hunting for and finding hidden objects by means of GPS coordinates posted on a website.
I first learned of geocaching while researching local hiking trails. Still wasn’t sure what it was until I tried it recently on a Sunday afternoon with my family — the perfect Sunday afternoon activity.
First, I registered on geocaching.com and downloaded an app for my phone. You can use your own name and photo or make up a name and use an avatar for your picture.
The app uses my smartphone’s GPS to show me the location of geocaches that are hidden everywhere by geocachers.
A geocache can be as small or smaller than a 35mm film canister. It can be as large or larger than an army ammunition box. Inside the geocache is a log to sign when you find it. There also can be small items to trade and trackable items to move along to another geocache.
That in a nutshell is geocaching. Hide and seek, just like when you were a kid, only cooler.
My wife, Jane, drove and I navigated, as we started our first geocaching adventure at Presbyterian College. There are three geocaches on campus. I’m not telling you where, you’ve got to find them yourself.
The first one was a little tricky. You see the GPS gets you close, but you still have to hunt for the find.
My family found all three. My daughter, Lydia, enjoyed every minute — hollering, “Wait I found it,” excessively. Not stealthy like most geocachers.
We found all three hidden objects and headed into town. Yes, Clinton has a handful of geocaches to find.
Some sites, like PC’s, get you on campus to see all the school has to offer. Some sites teach you about history, like the old Bailey Mill. You get informed reading the description on the app, which also gives you a difficulty rating, terrain rating, the geocache size and many times a hint. The app also includes the last time the geocache was found and attributes of the location (parking, accessibility, etc.).
At the end of the day we went 5-3 — five finds and three did-not-finds. Lydia found one all on her own. She loved trading, but wanted to take and not give. I explained that we always must leave something of equal or greater value when we take a trinket from a geocache.
We left tiny seashells on the first outing and I’m thinking about leaving small crosses in the future, maybe with a Bible verse. Lydia came away with a small red heart. Treasures can be anything that will fit in the canister.
I’m planning to hide my first geocache soon and register, so others can enjoy. I also look forward to finding my first trackable, which can be tracked all over the world.
Geocaching is addictive. I spent 30 minutes looking for a cache that I did not find in Clinton and can’t wait to go back.
Another did-not-find was muggled or raided by a non-geocacher that took the cache and ruined the fun for everybody.
The final one that I chose not to search for was not in the best part of town. Safety first.
The best part is geocaching, as a hobby, costs me nothing more than gas. You can buy a handheld GPS, but you don’t need to, because every smartphone has GPS. You can buy geocaches to hide, but you don’t have to, as a film canister or pill bottle will do. You would have to buy trackables to place them, but you don’t have too.
If you get advanced, you might want a premium membership at www.geocaching.com to get info on more difficult to find caches, but you don’t have too.
This could be the cheapest hobby I’ve ever got into and among the most fun. My next adventure: Musgrove Mill State Historic Site.
So, join me for a high-tech scavenger hunt.
Brian Whitmore is the publisher of The Chronicle. The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of The Chronicle. Whitmore can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.