By Irene Middleman Thomas
“OH, WOW,” I shouted gleefully upon finally
spotting the blue box peeking out from the
dead leaves. I had just found my first geocache. On my first excursion with veteran geocacher and Costco member Roby Sherman, I
quickly realized why millions all over the
world are geocachers. This very low-cost
hobby is challenging, exciting, accessible to
almost anyone and, best of all, fun.
Sherman, a Denver-based IT professional, and his wife, Heather, geocache some
300 times each year, with their two small
children in tow, and Sherman teaches geocaching classes. “It’s a great mini-adventure,”
he says. “It’s diverse, you can play anywhere
and you find places you didn’t know existed.”
Indeed, that day we found two caches in the
park, one in a nearby parking lot and another
indoors at a library.
How it all started
Geocaching was created in 2000, when
availability of GPS (global positioning sys-
tem) technology was upgraded around the
world. As a navigational tool, GPS determines
the approximate location (within around 6 to
30 feet) of anywhere on Earth, giving coordinates in latitude and longitude.
Dave Ulmer, a computer consultant, hid a
“cache” (container) in the woods near
Portland, Oregon. He posted the coordinates
on a GPS Internet users group site, calling it
the Great American GPS Stash Hunt. His
cache was a black bucket filled with a logbook, pencil and some inexpensive “prize”
items. Within one week, several people found
his “geocache,” while others hid their own and
posted new coordinates on the Internet site.
Soon, 75 geocaches were posted on the
site, now called geocaching.com, and CNN
and The New York Times ran stories on the
new phenomenon, which today attracts an
estimated 15 million participants worldwide.
An estimated 2. 8 million active geocaches are
hidden worldwide, in every U.S. state and
every country except North Korea; there’s
even one on the International Space Station.
Geocaching for the masses
“Geocaching exploded in popularity
when smartphones began to be more widely
used, some five years ago or so,” says Chris
Ronan of Geocaching HQ (geocachinghq.
com), the Seattle-based website listing service
for all the world’s geochaches. “It has become
a much easier game to get involved with.”
Cathy Hornback, a Costco member in
Kent, Washington, bought her husband a GPS
unit for his birthday in 2003. “We went out on
our first hunt that weekend and found three
geocaches in the park behind our house,” she
says. “I couldn’t believe I had been visiting that
park for years and never knew there were
secret boxes hidden there! I felt like Dorothy
opening the door to Oz. Since then I have
found over 14,500 geocaches in 17 countries.”
A final note: It’s not about the items in the
cache, which are typically fast-food-place
toys, stickers and other inexpensive things. It’s
all about the hunt! C
Irene Middleman Thomas ( irenethomas.com),
a Colorado-based writer, earned money as a
child by hosting treasure hunts in her backyard.
OUR DIGITAL EDITIONS
Click here for a video about how to
get started with geocaching.com.
(See page 15 for details.)
Geocaching: the 21st century
Who: All ages, most physical conditions.
What: You’ll need your cellphone
or GPS device.
How: To become a geocacher, simply
register for free at geocaching.com/my
account/register (advanced tools and
features incur a $30 annual charge). Next,
enter the postal code for which you are
seeking caches, choose a geocache from
the list, enter its coordinates into your GPS-enabled device and set out on the hunt.
The Costco Connection
A variety of GPS devices, as well as containers and items that can be used as geocaches,
are available at Costco and on Costco.com.
• Sign the logbook with the date and your “geonick”
• Leave something with a value equal to or greater than
what you take (not food items), and keep it family friendly.
• Rehide the cache in the same spot, and leave it and the
area as you found it.
• Log your visit electronically (preferably from a computer).
• Don’t bring tools (unless specifically instructed to do so).
• Don’t disassemble sprinklers or other things (unless
• Don’t let others see you; stealth is vital!—IMT