Warm weather means time for geocaching


Kenna Peters

The temps are supposed to be warmer this weekend and I plan on hunting for Tupperware in the woods. Yep, I’m a Geocacher. The standard reply to that statement is “Geo-WHAT?”

Geocaching is a hobby, a sport and a game all rolled up in one. It is a high-tech treasure hunt utilizing the network of satellites orbiting the earth. Basically, someone hides a container somewhere, records the longitude and latitude and posts it online. Geocachers download those coordinates to their GPS units and go find the container.

The most common caches are micros. They are the hardest to find and contain only a slip of paper, or log, to be signed by anyone that finds it. The most popular is the “regular” sized ammo can cache.  These caches usually contain a log book and “swag,” which is either treasure or junk, depending on how you look at it. Swag can be anything small: costume jewelry, key chains, Happy Meal toys and other small games are favorites.

The rules of the game are simple: Use stealth when searching for the cache; if you take something out of the cache, replace it with something of equal or greater value; and re- hide the cache exactly as you found it.  While not an actual rule, picking up the trash at the location is a common activity.

According to the official Geocaching website, Geocaching.com, there are currently more than five million geocachers and more than 1,330,000 active caches hidden world-wide.

I was recently asked how far someone would go to find a Geocache. While I didn’t go that far just to find the cache, the cache I have found furthest from my house was 1,283 miles, as the crow flies, from my house. It was an ammo can located in a boulder field in the desert near Palm Springs, California.  My brother has been taking his grandkids and his dogs to that area for years and had no idea the cache was hidden there.

Another memorable cache I located was just a log rolled up inside a pen on the ground under the edge of a step at the Branson Landing. The largest cache I have found was a large plastic container full of books hidden under logs in a clump of trees in Rogers, Arkansas.  The smallest was the size of a hearing aid battery stuck to a metal box. That one took a while to find. There are also multi-caches which consist of more than one stage. You have to find each stage to obtain the coordinates for the actual cache container.

Geocaching is for everyone. Caches are rated by terrain and the amount of difficulty to find. The cache owner can also mark attributes on the cache’s page, such as if dogs are allowed or if it is wheelchair or stroller accessible. Some are park-and-grab and some require hiking some distance. Some can only be found at night and some even require scuba equipment.

The best thing about Geocaching, in my opinion, is that it takes you to places you may never know about otherwise. My family has found some of the coolest locations right here in the Four-State area. For instance, I grew up in Joplin but never know there was a monument marking the location where Kansas, Oklahoma and Missouri meet. We have found bridges to nowhere, awesome land formations, caves and pocket parks we would never have expected.

You don’t have to have an expensive GPS unit to get involved in Geocaching. There are several inexpensive GPS units available, phone app s, and even the good old fashioned map-and-compass method.

So if you see me out and about with my GPS unit, looking suspicious, I’m probably looking for a cache. If you help me find it, I’ll let you choose the swag!