Spice up the drive with Geocaching!

By Wina Sturgeon ,
Sunday, November 25, 2007

Geocaching is catching on everywhere. It is even allowing a family’s deceased mother to travel around the world.
“It’s huge, absolutely huge,” says Tom Kelly, who teaches classes in the exploding hobby, adding, “To give you an idea, I would say that in a typical week, worldwide, there are over 300,000 hidden geocaches, and 40,000 people every week who log in (that they have found them).”
Geocaching is a high tech sport/hobby/activity where participants go online to learn about a hidden item, and are supplied with the precise longitude and latitude of where it is hidden. They then use a GPS (global positioning system) to find the coordinates. It takes creativity in both the hiding and the finding of each item. Once the item has been discovered, the finder logs in to Geocaching.com to register the find. The item can be kept, changed for another item, or left as is.
Kelly, who geocaches with his wife Carole, explains, “The U. S. government put up a system of 24 satellites in 1974 that were designed for military use. The signals were encrypted. President Clinton took off the encryption in 2000 and allowed the public to use the system.”
Within hours, the first geocache item was hidden and its coordinates announced on the Internet. A new recreational activity was invented. It’s basically a form of physical Sudoku. But it takes much more cleverness. It’s also a free activity that everyone in the family can enjoy. The only thing needed is a computer and GPS system. Registering on the Geocache.com site is free.
Kelly describes one of his and Carole’s finds: “The title of this cache was “High Five.’ So I used the GPS to go to the location, which took me to the base of a five story parking lot. I used my intuition and went to the fifth floor.” They found the cache.
A GPS unit only tells the place on earth where something is, but not how far up or down it is. The unit will give coordinates to within 15-30 feet of the spot, but the geocacher must use the hints and clues to figure out where the item could be hidden.
A typical container is a military ammo box or Tupperware container. But Kelly describes the newest variation, micro caches.
“They can be pill boxes or 35 millimeter film containers. We like them because they are smaller and harder to find. that’s what’s interesting about them. You look for something that’s just a little bit out of place,” he explained.
He and Carole have half a dozen geocaches near their home in Park City, Utah. “We now combine it with our travel and outdoor exploration. It used to be that we would go out driving and looking at the scenery. Now, when we go out, we always take geocache locations, and it always adds a whole new dimension to all of our travel. We do it when we travel overseas, out of the state, or when we just go out for the afternoon,” Kelly says.
Another variation is the “travel bug” geocache, where someone finds a hidden treasure and takes it to another place. The “travel” of the item is tracked online, sometimes all around the world. And that is one of Kelly’s most charming stories.

The couple went to Slovenia and Croatia on a business vacation, and of course, looked up various geocaches.
“When we were in Croatia, we stopped at a geocache that had a travel bug in an old castle. As we looked at it, we found that was a little memorial to someone’s mother. It was a little keychain with her picture on it, with a note that said, “Our mother just died, and she always liked to travel.’ So what we did … was take her with us as we traveled. Every time we stopped, we would take a picture (and post it online).

“We took a picture of her in Slovenia, we took a picture of her in Montenegro, and then we took her to London. We cached her in London. Within an hour, someone picked her up, and took her to Germany. She stayed in Germany for about two months, then someone took her to China. We thought she would be there for months before someone found her. But two weeks later, someone took her to Australia. She has now traveled almost 17,000 miles in five months. She became a part of our trip,” Kelly says.

To the geocaching couple, the most amazing thing of all is that the deceased woman, who is now part of their memories, lived about 30 miles from the Wisconson town where Kelly grew up.For the latest in adventure sports and physical conditioning, visit Adventure Sports Weekly.

 

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