During the COVID-19 emergency, public health officials are encouraging people to enjoy time outdoors, as long as they’re still observing social distancing precautions. But let’s face it...how many walks around the neighborhood can a person take?
Enter Geocaching, the outdoor treasure hunt that allows users to explore conservation areas and other public lands, stretching their legs and exercising their brains. A variation on letterboxing, Geocaching first appeared in 2000, when the global positioning system (GPS) was made available to the public for fine-scale navigation. Volunteers hide caches of various sizes outdoors and publish the GPS coordinates and hints online to guide participants to find them.
Even a few years back, Geocachers needed a dedicated GPS unit to play, putting the game beyond the reach of many. Now, with smartphones that have excellent GPS receivers, the Geocaching app can bring even new users within finding distance of a cache.
Like any game, Geocaching has rules, with easy video tutorials posted at www.Geocaching.com. And with a free account, users have access to listings of hundreds of local caches, ready to be discovered. Once a niche hobby, Geocaching has grown steadily in popularity, and there are dozens of caches around the Lower Cape.
Caches are cleverly hidden containers, often the size of a shoe box but sometimes small enough to fit in the palm of one’s hand. Inside, there are tiny trinkets provided by other Geocachers, and finders are welcome to take a trinket if they leave one of their own. Also inside is a logbook for recording visits. While some of the treasures in Geocaches are special—including badges and objects designed to travel from one cache to the next and tracked online—the real prize is the location.
Volunteers typically hide caches in locations that bring their own reward: a scenic overlook, an enjoyable walk, or sometimes a bit of history or a lesson in earth science. The details are included in descriptions published on the Geocaching app.
Because it can be done alone or with a small family group, Geocaching is well suited to the current requirements of social distancing. Caches are often located off the beaten path, and aim to bring players to see locations they might otherwise never have discovered. There are even versions of Geocaching that can be done without leaving your home, by solving puzzles.
Learn more at www.Geocaching.com.