High-tech scavenger hunters find treasures with help of GPS
Posted: Thursday, June 3, 2010 7:41 am
By: Emily Williams, Messenger Intern
By EMILY WILLIAMS
Like most everything else today, even treasure hunts have gone hi-tech — it is called geo-caching and involves a hand-held GPS, a website and adventure seekers of all backgrounds.
To begin your first hunt, all you do is log on to the website geocaching.com and create your free username. You can then enter your zip code to see the coordinates of the hidden caches in your area. With the given latitude and longitude, you take your handheld GPS and begin your search. The “treasures,” called caches, have been hidden by fellow geocachers. They can be anything from a Tupperware container to an ammo box to a film cartridge. These containers have a logbook which the finder takes out and signs. He then logs the find on his or her account.
Philip Casey of Union City got interested in geo-caching about four years ago after reading an article about it in The Messenger. Now he and his wife, Sally, have found over 500 caches. Casey explains that hunting for these virtual treasures has given him something to do with his grandchildren that they all really enjoy. Caching has also taken him to some really interesting places. Even though he grew up in the area, Casey says he has discovered parts of Obion and Weakley counties he never knew existed.
The first Geo-caching adventure began May 3, 2000, when Dave Ulmer proposed a way to celebrate President Clinton’s decision to open up the Department of Defense’s GPS, or Global Positioning System, for civilian use. Ulmer hid a bucket of trinkets in the woods outside Portland, Ore., and announced its location in a posting on a website. Within a day, the original stash had been found. Within days, more stashes had been hidden throughout the country. Within a month, a stash had been hidden as far away as Australia.
Today, there are more than a million active caches around the world, between three and four million geo-cachers and hidden caches on all seven continents. The rising popularity of geo-caching has taken the hobby to a whole new level. Geo-cachers might also find “swag,” tradable trinkets accompanying the cache. Avid geocachers take “geo-vacations,” traveling far and wide to find the hidden treasures. There are finds that require scuba badges for their finds. And, of course, iPhone has “an app for that.” As those involved know, the possibilities for the hobby are endless.
In addition to traditional caches, there are many other variations of cache hunts. A “multi-cache” involves two or more locations. The first cache contains a hint used to find the next, which contains a hint for the next, and so on, with the final location being a physical container. The “puzzle cache” involves complicated puzzles the hunter must first solve to determine the coordinates before searching for the cache. A “virtual cache” is a cache that exists in the form of a location. It is usually an interesting spot which the finder takes a picture of and uploads to his or her account. “Reverse caches” are the opposite of a traditional cache. Instead of finding a hidden container, the finder is given a task to locate a specific object and then logs its coordinates.
There are also multiple events associated with geo-caching. A “Cache In Trash Out” event is an activity where those out on a cache hunt collect litter along the trails and properly dispose of it. “GPS Adventures Mazes” are geo-caching events designed to educate people of all ages about GPS technology, such as a current exhibition at Turtle Bay Exploration Park in Redding, Calif., where visitors simulate a GPS adventure using a unique stamp card that leads them to their own Treasure City. By collecting all four stamps, visitors simulate how a GPS unit locks into four satellites to determine your exact location on Earth. Along the way, participants must navigate around obstacles including waterfalls, cliffs and ravines.
While geocachers recently celebrated the 10-year anniversary of the hobby and despite its growing popularity, many people are still clueless about it. But geo-caching is worth trying out for anyone who seeks good, old-fashioned treasure hunting with a modern twist. All the information you need, from GPS reviews to helpful hints, can be found on geocache.com.
Editor’s Note: Emily Williams, the daughter of Roger and Juli Williams, is a senior at Rhodes College in Memphis. She is interning at The Messenger this summer.
Published in The Messenger 6.2.10