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Geocaching: The Grown-Up Version of Hunting for Eggs

Give the Easter Bunny a hand.

The Easter Bunny is known for cleverly hiding eggs for children to find, but he’s not alone in his ability to conceal treasures in almost plain sight.

Geocaching is a year-round opportunity for people to participate in a grown-up version of hunting for eggs.

Geocaching takes hide and seek to greater heights through GPS technology and clues provided in the quest to find the cache. It also expands treasure hunting to a larger geographic scale. 

Essentially, this involves someone hiding a cache and providing clues for others to find it. Anyone can hide a cache, which is another name for whatever the “treasure” might be. The clues to discover where the cache is can be either written down or given by longitude and latitude with Global Positioning Systems (GPS). The people who look for caches are known as geocachers.

Currently, there are geocaches all across the globe. Websites such as www.geocaching.com list active caches, which recently numbered almost 2 million, and approximates the number of geocachers at over 5 million.

In addition to websites, there are mobile apps for Android and Apple devices to make it easier to pursue discovery of caches while you are on the move.

Caches are kept in outdoor locations.  Small caches are concealed in waterproof containers and usually have an accompanying logbook, where you enter your information. Logbooks can be physical or digital.

Large caches have the same sort of thing as in small ones plus a trading option. If you find one, you can take an item and replace it with something of your own. When geocachers find a cache, they sign and date the logbook. Some use their real names; others have code names.

The Fairfax County Park Authority provides a list of parks where geocaching is allowed and a form for requesting permission to geocache at other county parks. 

Geocachers enjoyed a record-setting day this year on February 29, Leap Day. Nearly 84,000 caches were logged online. Geocaches in the United States include both public and copyrighted information. The cache coordinates are in the public domain. The description of and what’s in the cache are copyrighted. Important considerations for geocaches on public land, such as park land or public buildings, are to avoid negative impacts on nature and potential distress to the public.

So this Sunday after you’ve successfully found all the eggs hidden by the Easter Bunny, do a bit of geotrekking for some prime geoswag.  Remember to abide by the cornerstone tenant “cache in, trash out” or CITO.

Kate April 04, 2012 at 12:20 PM
What a treat to wake up and find an article about geocaching at the top of today's Burke Patch news in my e-mail box! I've only been geocaching once around here (one of my BookCrossing friends introduced me to it), but it was fun!
Jennifer K. Wall Smetek April 04, 2012 at 01:31 PM
Geocaching is a great family activity and way to enjoy the outdoors, the local wildlife, get some exercise and learn some tricks of navigation! We are local geocachers (TeamRJJO and now CA) and there are many local caches for preschool and school age children in this area (some of them are even ours!). Last I checked, there were about 15-20 caches around the lake loop trail at Burke Lake Park. There are also caches hidden near the trails at Lake Mercer, Huntsman Lake, Hidden Pond Nature Center, Fountainhead Park and South Run Rec Center. You can find local caches on the www.geocaching.com website by entering your zip code or lat/long coordinates. Modify your search for terrain and difficulty to tailor your searches for younger, less experienced cachers. Puzzle caches add a fun twist to using multi-million dollar satellites to find tupperware hidden in the woods. NOVAGO - Northern Virginia Geocaching Organization (www.novago.org) always welcomes new people and children of all ages to the sport! The website lists the NOVAGO Spring Event on April 29 at Riverbend Park in Great Falls. This is an excellent opportunity to learn the sport, meet new people and have fun! Geocachers are some of the friendliest and most fun people we have met anywhere!!
Jennifer K. Wall Smetek April 04, 2012 at 01:37 PM
Before you begin caching, it is always a good idea: 1. To familiarize yourself with the website, rules of the sport (CITO, logging caches, trading items in caches, travel bugs) and also the acronyms used in caching and 2.To familiarize yourself with the area and terrain surrounding the caches you are seeking and exercise appropriate safeguards and caution, especially if you are bringing children. Also worth noting is that most Geocaching in done with a handheld GPS receiver since most car GPS systems don't display the proper information needed to geocache effectively (lat/long coordinates, ability to program waypoints). Have fun and enjoy!!!
Josh Doe April 04, 2012 at 02:20 PM
I'd just like to make a shoutout for OpenStreetMap (OSM), the Wikipedia of maps (i.e. anyone can edit the map). Geocaching.com uses OSM data for their map, as does Patch.com. Many geocachers also start editing OpenStreetMap because they go so well together, as both use GPS devices and often involve walking trails not commonly appearing on services like Google Maps. I've edited the map quite a bit in the Burke area. If you see something wrong or missing, either fix it yourself by starting here: http://wiki.openstreetmap.org/wiki/Beginners%27_guide or let others like me know about it by clicking on the map to report a bug here: http://openstreetbugs.schokokeks.org/?zoom=15&lat=38.78949&lon=-77.29463&layers=B0T After a little while (day or so at most), it will appear on sites using OpenStreetMap data, like Geocaching.com.
Josh Doe April 04, 2012 at 02:59 PM
In case anyone's interested in doing both geocaching and OpenStreetMap, the easiest way to start is to print a map of the area you'll be doing your geocaching here: http://walking-papers.org/ Then you take it with you, mark changes on the paper (e.g. adding in paths), then scan or take a picture of the paper and upload it to that same site. People like me (or yourself!) can then "trace" the information and add it to OSM so others will know what paths are available around a geocache.

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