St. Charles Herald-Guide

Oh no! Barb’s gone ga-ga over a futuristic travel game you need a satellite to play ...

By Barbara Munson - February 28, 2007

On our recent trip to Colorado, I found myself with a few unscheduled hours, and I was most pleased. Geocaching time!

Whenever I travel, I always bring my geocaching gear with me. This time I was fortunate enough to be able to go caching through the snow - not something that I could say about caching at home.

For those who don't know, geocaching (pronounced "G O cashing") is a high tech adventure game. Someone hides a cache container, enters the satellite coordinates of the container online, and other "cachers" hunt for the container by entering the coordinates into a GPS unit. When you find the cache, you sign a log to show you've been there and sometimes trade small items.

Geocaching is a relatively new game; it started in 2000 just after the government removed the classified status from the GPS satellite system.

Although it's only been around for seven years, geocaching's popularity has spread.

As of today, there are currently 363,310 active caches worldwide. That's right, WORLDWIDE. There are 252 countries listed as cache sites, including Iraq (thanks to our military personnel who cache in their spare time) and Antarctica! Can you imagine hunting for something in Antarctica?

Geocaching is NOT a treasure hunt, and you won't win money for finding cache containers. Some people would say, "Then what's the point?"

Geocaching IS a great game for the entire family, a good way to get the kids outside away from the TV and the computer, and an easy way to challenge yourself mentally and sometimes physically. And many of us think it's just plain fun.

Containers can be any size, as long as they're weatherproof. I've actually found containers about ˝" long, which contained only a few strips of paper for people to sign. People put a lot of time and effort into hiding caches.

I've found some that were so cleverly hidden that I spent many days, and earned many gray hairs, trying to find them. Some containers are well hidden, and some are right out in the open and disguised to blend with their surroundings. My all-time favorite cache is so ingeniously designed that you have to pour a certain amount of water into the cache holder in order to cause the cache container to float to the surface. That was cool.

So far I've cached in five states and Washington, DC. I've hunted for caches in parks, along nature trails, at rest areas, in suburban areas (my least favorite), in swamps, in rain, heat, and now snow, and I still love the game.

If you think you might like to try your hand at geocaching, you should log onto the Geocaching website at www.geocaching.com. Click on "Getting Started" and read the Frequently Asked Questions. If you still want to play, you'll have to set up an account on the website so you can find out where the caches nearest to you are. It's free, but if you find you enjoy the game and will be playing it for a while, you can pay for a premium membership which comes with a lot of handy perks.

The metro New Orleans caching community is an active one and a friendly bunch of folks. We meet the second Wednesday of each month at 7:00 pm at Café Du Monde on Veterans in Metairie. New players are always welcome.

If you have questions about caching or anything else I've written about, please drop me an e-mail: bmunson4@yahoo.com