gps for fitness

December 15, 2014

Geocaching – Find Hidden Treasures Using Your GPS Device

Once in a while, we encounter something new and interesting, which turns out to be fun, too. Geocaching is actually one of them. Don’t feel uspet if you have never heard about it, because I myself only joined in the fun just a couple of months ago.

Geocaching originated in Portland, Oregon and has now focused on the use of the Global Positioning System or more commonly known as the GPS which was developed by the Department of Defense. The military limited GPS accuracy accessible to civilians to only about 328 feet before the end of the century. In May 2000, President Clinton modified it and now anyone can determine their exact location as close as 30 feet and anywhere around the globe.

There was this story about a man named Dave Ulmer who hid a bucket of goodies in a forest outside of Portland, Oregon and then announced its position on a USENET newsgroup afterwards. This event gave birth to geocaching. He posted the location of the goodies he hid by its global coordinates. Coordinates come in units of latitude and longitude and can further be measured into degrees, minutes, and seconds which are the information you will be able to see and use to determine different locations using the GPS.

Basically, geocaching can be compared to a scavenger hunt which happens all over the world with the use of GPS devices as the ultimate tool to find treasure. In most cases, these treasures have little or no monetary value, but the joy and fulfillment it brings is more valuable than any treasure.

The GPS receiver most of us know is the one we commonly use and see in the car in order to know the directions to get from one place to another, but it is not what we need to be able to geocache. What we need is the handheld GPS tracking devices that hikers and fishermen use. They are less expensive and can be bought at Wal-Mart and most fishing and hunting suppliers. eBay is also a good place to look for these gadgets. You can use the keyword “GPS Exsplorer” and then you can start checking and comparing prices. Now let us assume that you already have your GPS unit and you are now ready for a geocaching game. The next thing you need to do is to log on to www.geocaching.com, and in the top right hand corner of the main page you will see the option “Search for Caches”. Type in your zip code, state and/or country and it will come up with lots of search results within or around your area.

When I used the zip code 47591, I found hidden caches at the Sonotabac Historical site, William Henry Harrison mansion on the VU campus, George Rogers Clark Memorial, Kimmel Park and Quabache Trails Park. This only means that the hidden objects could be found in any of these various locations. By clicking on one of the listings, it will show you another page with more information about the cache.

For an example, there was a cache hidden by the Sonotabac Indian mound located less than a mile from my residence. The coordinates of the cache are at N 38 40.213 and W 087 30.431 as shown by the GPS although it is possible to convert them to UTM if necessary. In addition to that, there are also street maps showing the general area where the cache is hidden. If it is a necessity, some additional “clues” are given. By checking the complexity of the terrain ratings, you will have an idea if the cache is easy or difficult to find. Once the people have found some caches they immediately post comments to inform the people of what they thought of the cache as well as the area surrounding its location on the website. Some would say “This is great cache, it took me quite a while to find it because it was very, very well hidden. It was great to see the Indian Mound.” There are some people who have already found hundreds of cache, like the person who wrote the post we just mentioned. A couple of posters have already found 250 and 317 caches, respectively. There are some enthusiasts who really can’t get enough of geocaching!

If you enjoy outdoor activities and would love a unique scavenger hunt, then you should definitely try geocaching. It is an absolutely wonderful way to spend an afternoon or even an entire summer vacation!