Nerd Alert: Geocaching

October 14, 2010

Lately I’ve discovered something that felt nerdy at first, but has crossed over into the world of fun. Geocaching. What is geocaching? Basically, object hide-n-seek, or a never ending scavenger hunt. A cache is hidden somewhere. This cache can be very small (do a Google image search for “Urban micro cache” to see what I mean) to something big. Each cache has at minimum a log. If you find it you write your name…usually your user name on the geocache website where you would then go to log that you found it. If there are trinkets in there it is a take one leave one honor system.

Take a look at this video for the best explanation.

I first got interested when I read Chris Alvarado’s blog entry about running into a geocacher. I did a little internet research and found out a movie a Chicago improvisor was in (Splinterheads…geocache specific trailer below) had geocaching as a theme.

I figured my phone had GPS, and this would be a great way for Deanna and I to go on walks. So, we went for one and…no luck.

I downloaded a free app that gave more accurate GPS readings and we went to a different location and…no luck. Since I had never found one before I didn’t know exactly what to look for. Luckily on the website people log in whether they found a cache or if it is gone. This one was found two days prior so it had to be there. I sent the last finder a message and he gave me some clues but wouldn’t tell me where it was. I went back and pop…found it. A small, black, magnetic key holder with some log sheets. I wrote my name down and went back to log online.

Since then I’ve looked for a couple other unsuccessful caches, and upgraded to a different software (cachesense for the BlackBerry) that has a compass and radar feature, but most importantly, a nice way to connect to the geocache site and load coordinates. No where ever I go I just open that up, search for caches near me, and away I go.

I went out to dinner with some friends and while walking back I was going to explain geocaching to them. When I loaded the nearest caches I realized we were mere feet away from one and we all found it together.

Now, one of the rules is stealth. You don’t want to have people around you noticing you finding a cool thing if they are likely to dig in and not follow etiquette. This can be tricky. The main reason I am writing this post right now is I had some time downtown yesterday and found 3 of 5 caches I checked. While at one (of the unsuccessful finds) I noticed a couple looking semi-suspicious. I could tell they were geocaching and I wish I would have said something so we could have hunted together…but I didn’t and none of us found it.

Later that night I was at another location. The home of the first settlers in Chicago. There was a clue for this find but I wasn’t having luck, partially because I didn’t want to look too suspicious for the security people watching the area. I saw another guy kind of hanging out and did a walk-by to see if I could notice GPS software on his phone. Couldn’t tell. I double checked to see if he was still there, but he disappeared. All along this area were plaques about the first settlers in Chicago, so I read them all while also looking for the cache. As I walked back to GZ (ground zero) I saw that guy again and said “geocaching?” He was. We looked less sneaky since there were now two of us and we found the cache about 3 minutes before security did a walk-by check on us.

Oh, how did I know (besides the plaques) that it was the location of the first Chicago settlers? A majority of the caches I have looked at are placed for a reason. They take you to a place and the website for that cache has info. Whether it is a historical place, a cool place to go, or a nice reason to get out and about, it is great. I’ve been in Chicago 7 years now and I am seeing things I’d never noticed before.

Give it a try! Need help? Message me. And now, the geocaching trailer for Splinterheads.