A few years ago, in a conversation with my local librarian she informed me that she does geocaching with her friends and family members. It sounded like fun but at the time, I didn’t feel like I had time or energy to get involved with some new game. I filed that bit of info away in the back of my mind for future use. More recently, I read some more about this geocaching game and it piqued my interest. So, I returned to find my trusty librarian, Katie and I picked her brain for more info. Katie showed me her log-in page and account on and record of literally thousands of caches logged! Here is a link to the official geocaching site with information for opening a free account, steps necessary to play and how to download the app to your iPhone or Android.
Geocaching is a world-wide hobby and Katie informs that she did some caching while traveling in Austria and Germany 2 years ago. Says the Germans are crazy about it. She has cached in a half-dozen states and from the look of her personal cache map she has them all over the place locally!
The history of how this game got going starts with the 19th Century game known as Letterboxing. In geocaching there is essentially a game of hide-and-seek with a stash box of trinkets a note pad and some way for you to leave a message or exchange a trinket.
With respect to the particular technology in use the whole thing gets kind of complicated, but if I understand things correctly, the Global Positioning System is associated with a satellite system that was originally designed for the purpose of national security and military application. As the technology has advanced and become more available (and affordable) for the civilian market there was a decision made in May of 2000 to allow certain “airspace” or “airwaves” to be freely accessed by the general public. Hence the explosion of commercial availability for these tracking systems in your cell phone, in many new cars or in a hand held GPS unit. You can read a dry and boring blurb on Error Analysis for the Global Positioning System as it relates to Selective Availability. In a nutshell these units are now more accurate, less expensive and widely available.
In this age of high technology a common problem for children is their attachment to tech devices; iPad, iPhone, laptop, game boy, etc. Learning to utilize technology is great, but becoming a slave to it is not healthy and many kids are failing to get enough physical exercise. Obesity among children in the developed world is becoming a problem. One relatively new activity that incorporates new technology with getting outside to play is called geocaching. Geocaching is a fun outdoor activity. The game can be played individually or in groups of people of any age. The game has been growing in popularity since its inception. Go here to read about how to get started.
Back to our trusted librarian, Katie, she informs of the many types of caching games one can play; traditional cache, multi-cache, earth cache (all different variations on the theme). In fact, our dear librarian friend achieved her award for caching every single day of 2016. Players can use cryptograms for clues to other caches and the games can become complex. There are a lot of folks playing this game rather seriously! There are events throughout the year and there is even a Geocaching Vlogger. Previous link may not work in China.
Perhaps geocaching can be used as a tool to help hone land navigation skills.
Of course, knowing how to use map and compass remain useful skills, especially when the high-tech gear craps out. Somewhat related, regular readers may remember this past article about how to Find the North Star. Perhaps Geocaching can be useful as another bit of knowledge in your tool kit of Basic Life Skills.