Geo What?

October 31st, 2011 | By Staci Litts No Comments

My husband and I are wandering in the same spot looking under and around things for about 15 minutes. It almost feels like an hour when you’re trying to remain inconspicuous. We know a secret … something is hidden in this area and we don’t want anyone (muggles) to know.

Unfortunately, someone takes notice of us acting strangely. We’re busted. When asked what we are doing we can’t come up with a good excuse for what we’re doing so we admit that we are geocaching. More often than not we’re asked “What is that?” and then we stumble around for a good way to explain what that means. We still get the “I see a two-headed person” look. Well that’s all part of the fun. We get to share something we love to do.

So, what is geocaching?

Geocaching is often referred to as a high tech treasure hunt using today’s technology to find a hidden cache call a geocache (pronounced geocash), “geo” for earth and “cache” for a collection of items stored in a hidden place.

Using coordinates and a GPS, you search for caches which contain a log book and sometimes little trinkets left for trade called swag. Caches range in size from as small as the tip of your pinky (referred to as nano or micro caches) to caches as big as ammo boxes and larger. There are also tricky caches disguised as screws and other items you would overlook.

Levels of difficulty vary according to the size and terrain where the cache is located. Caches are strategically placed in trees, stuck to things magnetically or under something, but they are not buried in the ground. There are park-and-grab caches which can take as little as five minutes to find, puzzle caches that make you solve a puzzle to come up with the coordinates, and multi-caches for people who enjoy scavenger hunts. This makes it the perfect outdoor game for everyone.

Oh, before I forget, a muggle is a non-geocacher or someone who is unaware that there are secret treasures hidden all around them. Muggle is based on the term from Harry Potter, which is a nonmagical person. After reading this article you will no longer be a muggle!

Where are geocaches hidden?

They are hidden everywhere and anywhere … stuck to a traffic sign, hanging in a drainage pipe by fishing line, in trees, deep in the woods, in the parking lot of your nearest Kroger. You can plan your walking, biking, running route or even vacations around them.

There are more than 1.5 million geocaches hidden around the world. Geocaching is a great way to explore new places while traveling. Some of the hardest caches are hidden in the Middle East. There are geocaches in Antarctica, at the Taj Mahal in India, and my personal favorite is the cache on the ISS (International Space Station). The Athens area alone boasts several hundred.

Why try geocaching?

It’s something you can do for free wherever you go. That’s not the best part though. Geocaching is an activity in which you can share places and common interests with the people in your community and around the world and it supports the environment. There is an abbreviated saying known to geocachers as CITO, meaning Cache In Trash Out. Geocachers go into areas seeking their treasures, and when they leave, they take out any trash they find along the way.

Geocaching is a wonderful way to spend the day outdoors with friends or family. You may find places and see views of your neighborhood you never knew existed. Geocaching combines exercise and fun while enjoying the environment. Finding a cache provides a sense of fulfillment in the hunt, whether it’s the journey, the view, the creativeness of the cache or finding something someone else has hidden that most people don’t know is there.

How to get started on your first hunt?

First, sign up on Geocaching.com, the official geocaching website, to get your free basic membership. Gather up the required gear. You will need a map and compass or GPS. An inexpensive, basic GPS or smartphone is fine; just make sure you know how to use it before you head out. If you go on a long journey bring the map and compass in case something goes wrong with your GPS. Bring extra batteries. You will need a pen or pencil to log your find and paper for taking notes if needed. Don’t forget to bring some swag, items for trade. If you take something from the cache make sure you leave something of equal value.

For more information on Geocaching you can go to www.geocaching.com, watch videos on Youtube, or go to your local library. While getting started, I found the Complete Idiot’s Guide to Geocaching quite useful.

More Geocaching terms and abbreviations:

General:
Cache – A box or container that contains, at the very least, a logbook
Geoswag – The items that can be found in some larger caches
Muggle – A non-geocacher
Muggled – Being caught by a non-geocacher while retrieving/replacing a cache; also, a muggled cache has been removed or vandalized by a non-geocacher, usually out of misunderstanding or lack of knowledge
Smiley – A cache find; refers to the “smiley-face” icon attached to “Found It” logs on some listing sites
BYOP (Bring Your Own Pen/Pencil) – The cache in question lacks a writing device for the logbook
CITO (Cache In Trash Out) – Refers to picking up trash on the hunt
CO (Cache Owner) – The person who is responsible for maintaining a cache (usually the person who hid it)
DNF (Did Not Find) – Did not find the cache container being searched for
FTF (First To Find) – The first person to find a cache container
GPS (Global Positioning System) – May occasionally refers to the receiver itself
GPSr – GPS receiver
PAF – Phone-A-Friend

Logging a hunt:
TFTC (Thanks For The Cache) – Often used at the end of logs to thank the cache owner
TFTH (Thanks For The Hunt or Hide or Hike) – Shares the same purpose as TFTC, but can also be used when the cache was not found
TN (Took Nothing) – No trade or traveling item was removed from the cache
LN (Left Nothing) – No trade or traveling item was added to the cache
XN (eXchanged Nothing) – Combines TN and LN; nothing was removed or added
SL (Signed Log) – Used when the participant visited the cache and signed its logbook
*Note: Various acronyms above are often combined in various ways, such as “TNLNSL, TFTC!”*

Location description or hint:
GRC (GuardRail Cache) – Used in the description on where a cache may be hidden
GZ (Ground Zero or Geo-zone) – General area in which a cache is hidden
ICT (Ivy Covered Tree) – Used in the description of where a cache may be hidden
LPC (Light/Lamp Post Cache) – Used in the description on where a cache may be hidden
MKH (Magnetic Key Holder) – Used in the description on the type of container used for the cache
PLC (Parking Lot Cache) – Used in the description on where a cache may be hidden
POR (Pile Of Rocks) – Used in the description on where a cache may be hidden
POS (Pile Of Sticks or Stones) – Used in the description on where a cache may be hidden
UFO (Unnatural Formation of Objects) – Pile of material that obviously did not form naturally and is a likely cache hiding spot
UPS (Unnatural Pile of Sticks) – Piles sticks that did not form naturally and where a cache may be hidden.

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