Monday, February 24, 2014
G is for Geocaching. If you are not familiar with Geocaching, It is a modern day treasure hunt powered by a GPS. Participants navigate to a specific set of GPS coordinates and then attempt to find the geocache (container) hidden at that location.
Geocaching got its start in May 2000 when the U.S. government allowed greater GPS accuracy. Tens of thousands of GPS receivers around the world had an instant upgrade.
For GPS enthusiasts, this was definitely a cause for celebration. Internet newsgroups were filled with ideas about how the technology could be used.
Dave Ulmer, a computer consultant, wanted to test the accuracy by hiding a navigational target in the woods. The idea was simple: Hide a container out in the woods and note the coordinates with a GPS unit. The finder would then have to locate the container with only the use of his or her GPS receiver.
On May 3rd he placed his own container, a black bucket, in the woods near Beavercreek, Oregon, near Portland. He shared the waypoint of his "stash" with the online community on sci.geo.satellite-nav.
Within three days, two different readers read about his stash on the Internet, used their own GPS receivers to find the container, and shared their experiences online. Throughout the next week, others excited by the prospect of hiding and finding stashes began hiding their own containers and posting coordinates.
Geocaching.com began operating on September 2, 2000. With a worldwide membership the website claims millions of caches and members in over 200 countries.
I have been geocaching since 2004. One of my favorite things about the sport is that it gets you to go places and discover things that you wouldn't otherwise.
On of my most memorable experiences was while geocaching in Tyler, Texas. I had found the geocache that I was searching for, and was finding my way back to my car when I got a bit lost. I had forgotten to put the coordinates of my cars location in the GPS, so I was just trying to remember my way back through the woods. I came into a brushy clearing and was trying to decide which way to go. There was an area that looked a bit wet and muddy, so I stepped carefully across it to avoid getting my shoes dirty. Imagine my surprise when the "solid" ground gave way, and I sank up to my armpits in stinky mucky quicksand. At first I was just angry that I was filthy, but then I started trying to get out and realized that I was in a serious predicament. Fortunately I was able to reach a small shrub than was strong enough for me to pull myself out.
I was now on the opposite side of the quicksand from where I needed to be and was trying to decide how to proceed. I layed out spread eagle and "swam" to the other side. It wasn't until I thought back on the experience as I was driving back to the condo that it dawned on me how much trouble I had actually been in. I was by myself, and my wife had no idea where I was. I never saw another person while I was out in the woods.
This is what I looked like after I got out.
If you have never tried geocaching I can recommend that you check it out. Wherever you live, I'm sure that there are some caches in your area. Just go to Geocaching.com and enter your location to see what is in your area. I use the geocaching app for iPhone and since I always have my phone with me I can quickly look for caches anywhere I am at. This weekend I found a number of caches in Conroe, Texas where I was visiting my son. Geocaching is a great family activity; give it a try.
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