Today I spent 90 minutes geocaching. I could have spent less time by driving to a pair of neighborhood parks, but I wanted the exercise of walking a mile or so to the parks and then walking back to my apartment.
Geocaching (geo-cash-ing) is basically techno-geek hide and seek. Using a GPS receiver and coordinates provided at sites like www.geocaching.com, participants find plastic containers of trinkets that other participants have hidden in parks and elsewhere. There's a lot more to how it all works, but that's the simple explanation. Other than the cost of a GPS receiver, it's free to play, for the most part. I have never spent a dime to participate in the activity and if I won the lottery this week, I could spend my next 50 years geocaching and never run out of places to go and geocaches to find, and I wouldn't have to spend any money to do it. (Other than for gas, batteries, snacks...) Perhaps I won't be able to make that claim in 10 or 20 years, but as the six-year-old activity stands today, it has always been free, and I'm confident it always will be.
I am one of many people who wrote a story about the activity, which I discovered nearly five years ago. It made for a nice feature story. I liked the concept enough that I bought a GPS receiver and have been at it ever since.
Some people have spent thousands of hours discussing geocaching on forums, both regionally and nationally, hiding trinket boxes for others to find and chasing down new trinket boxes whenever they show up anywhere close to their neighborhood. It's amazing how much free time some people devote to it.
While it's essentially a game of hide and seek, actually finding the treasure chest can take a lot of time. Some people create elaborate, multi-step geocaches, while others have you walk a fair distance to accomplish your goal. And some caches can only be found by solving a logic puzzle first. (I'm not too quick to figure those out, typically.)
All three geocaches I found tonight were close to each other in a pair of city parks and relatively easy to find. (GPS receivers aren't pinpoint accurate, there is a margin of error, sometimes more than 30 feet.) One geocache was a creative hide, the other two were traditional containers hidden in a hollow log/tree. As I was walking, I realized I didn't even mention in my previous blog that geocaching is one of the reasons I have pondered the "is it a sport" question more than once.
Some people like to refer to geocaching as a sport. The website even suggests it is: "The sport where You are the search engine." Since geocaching is an activity, then yes, it is a sport, just like fishing. Anglers use a GPS receiver just as geocachers do. It takes skill to hook a bass, and it takes skill to find a tiny container hidden in the woods. Fishing, however, better lends itself to competition. It's easy to weigh a bunch of fish and determine who did better in a two-hour period. You could set up a geocaching skills test with multiple competitors, but that would be a bit silly. Yet calling geocaching a sport is no less silly to me than calling fishing or hunting a sport. But none of them are particularly sporting to me. It takes physical energy and stamina to hike into the woods and sit in a tree, but shooting a deer with a gun is hardly a sport.
Sport or not, geocaching is a physical activity that can be enjoyed by the whole family, can be challenging if you choose it to be and will help you discover new parks all over your city, and beyond. (Geocaching is the reason I found the Batcave from the 1960s Batman TV series.) I sometimes go months without doing it, but it can be enjoyed year round, and after nearly five years, I still make time to do it now and then. I highly recommend it.