By Vickie Moon Merchant
Friends of the History Center for Aransas County
Geocaching is an outdoor recreational activity, in which participants use a Global Positioning System (GPS) receiver or mobile device and other navigational techniques to hide and seek containers, called “geocaches” or “caches,” worldwide.
A typical cache is a small waterproof container containing a logbook and a pen or pencil. When the cache is located, the geocacher enters the date the cache was found and signs the log with their established code name. After signing the log, the cache must be placed back exactly where it was found. Larger containers such as sealed, plastic storage containers or ammunition boxes can also contain items for trading, such as toys or trinkets, usually of more sentimental worth, rather than financial. Geocaching shares many traits with benchmarking, trigpointing, orienteering, treasure hunting, letterboxing, and waymarking.
For the traditional geocache, a geocacher will place a waterproof container containing a log book with pen or pencil and items which can be traded. The cache’s coordinates are then recorded along with other details of the location, and are posted on a listing site. Other geocachers obtain the coordinates from that listing site and seek out the cache using their GPS handheld receivers. The person finding the geocache records their activities in the logbook and online and then returns the cache to the same coordinates so that other geocachers may find it. Geocachers are free to take objects, but not the logbook, pencil, or stamp, from the cache in exchange for leaving something of similar or higher value.
Typical cache “treasures” are known as swag in the geocaching world. These are not high in monetary value, but may hold personal or sentimental value to the finder. Common cache contents may be unusual coins or currency, small toys, ornamental buttons, CDs, or books. Although not required, some geocachers leave signature items, such as personal Geocoins, pins, or craft items, to mark their presence at the cache location. Geocoins is a metal or wooden coin minted similarly to a medallion, token coin or wooden nickel and can be logged and followed online.
Objects moved from cache to cache are called “hitchhikers”, such as Travel Bugs, that look similar to a dogtag. The tag is stamped with a tracking number and the Geocaching.com website address. A travel bug can be attached to another item by using a chain on the Travel Bug. Examples may include such items as teddy bears, toy cars, or golf balls.
Cachers, who initially place a Travel Bug or Geocoins, usually assign specific goals for their trackable items. Examples of the goals are to be placed in a certain cache a long distance from home, or to travel faster and farther than other hitchhikers in a race. Higher-value items are occasionally included in geocaches as a reward for the First to Find (called “FTF”), or in locations, which are harder to reach. Dangerous or illegal items, weapons, food and drugs are not allowed and are specifically against the rules of most geocache listing sites.
If a geocache has been vandalized or stolen, it is said to have been “muggled,” which plays off the term, muggles, from the series of Harry Potter Books, since geocaching began around the same time as this popular book.
There are more than 150 geocaching sites in the Aransas County area. Download the app from geocaching.com and you are on your way to a new type of Scavenger Hunt.