I know I’ve talked a bit about it before, but…
Geocaching, in its barest, simplest form, is a real-world treasure hunt.
Armed with a set of GPS coordinates and a device of some kind to tell you how close you are to those coordinates, you go out into the world and find the secret treasure, the geocache. It could be very large. It could be very small. It’s likely small and quite probably camouflaged in some way. Not always. It may have little things to trade inside. Probably, but there’s no guarantee, there’s a slip of paper or a small book or something for you to sign and date.
The whole point of the hobby is that there’s something hidden in plain sight that most people don’t know is there, but you do.
If you can find it.
At least, that’s the point of the hobby for me.
It’s also a great way to get outside when just going outside doesn’t hold a lot of appeal on its own.
My youngest daughter and I used to go caching fairly regularly, or as regularly as I could get her to come with me. I had permission, when she was younger, to find a cache or two if I was traveling significantly away from home some. Last year, recognizing that it was something that she only like to do occasionally, but I wanted to do a lot more, it became much more my honey than just our hobby. My wife, who’d been joining in occasionally, had started to get more interested in it, and is now happy to go caching with me once or twice a week, a little more often with short trips. Me, I might be turning into an addict. Last summer, I decided I wanted to step up my geocaching game and go for a real Streak.
The basic Streak is to find at least one cache every day for some determined amount of time. I started with the idea for three months and quickly rounded that to 100 days. As I got closer to 100, I thought, well, 100 days isn’t too hard, really, because I live in a cache-rich area with big event every year and lots of people who are actively involved. So, maybe, I could go longer. Maybe, just maybe, I could keep it up for six months.
Caching in the winter is harder in southern Ontario, but not impossible, and a lot of things are hidden above the likely snow levels. Still, the shorter daylight hours make things more difficult. You have to work and plan a little bit to keep the Streak alive. Twice during the winter, I found myself looking for a cache not just in the dark (which happened regularly) but during a heavy snowfall, refusing to go home until I had the cache in hand.
As this publishing on March 28, I haven’t been out yet today, but I’ve found a cache every day since the 5th of August last year. That’s 236 days in a row.
Things are getting harder now, with Covid issues, but even with the limits we’re setting on ourselves because of that, outside of full isolation, I’m starting to think it might be possible to make 365 days. Or maybe 366 because it’s a leap year. That will take me to the first week of August, deep into the caching season, and maybe it can go farther.
I’m also trying to get more involved in other aspects of the hobby. I recently finished placing a series of quick and easy to find caches close together along country road in the small town I live in. At the moment, I have 39 active hides and three that have been retired.
And I have plans for more.
I’ve also offered myself as a possible volunteer to help out with big event that happens every summer. If they need an extra pair of hands, or someone to put out a few extra caches for this is, I’m absolutely available. And I’ve thought about hosting a small themed event of my own.
Yeah, addicted is a good word. In combination with my wife and youngest daughter, I’ve found 2,211 geocaches as I write this, but that number will only go up. Last year, and mostly because of the Streak, was my biggest caching year to date with 577 finds. This year will, I hope, be bigger.
How much bigger depends on a lot of things, some of which are personal and some societal.
It’s a fun hobby. It gets me to go outside, exploring places around me in nearby, even in the dead of winter. I found myself on a trail walk in January when the temperature was -15 Celsius with a windchill warning not too many weeks ago. Yes, I was cold, but there’s no such thing as bad weather (to a point), only bad clothing. It was fun.
And right now, it’s helping me keep focused and active, and getting me outdoors.
Be well, everyone.by
by When I was a kid, for a bunch of years, I collected stamps. Lately, I think it’s called. I still have most of the box, having tried twice in adulthood to go back to it, but not since my oldest child was very, very small, and he’s almost 20 now. I used to love it, the detail put into many of them, the old printing processes, the tiny variations that could happen just from some little flick of the machine, things being printed backwards or upside down, stamps from all over the world. I have a couple of boxes full of albums and envelopes. Thousands of stamps. Tens of thousands.
I have a stamp collection, but I don’t collect stamps anymore. I don’t know why, it still seems like it should be interesting to me, but there’s only so much time.
In my mid-20s until my early 30s, I was seriously into backyard astronomy. I had a decent, if not particularly high-end telescope, and I still haven’t actually, and most clear nights would find me in the backyard, even living in downtown Toronto, trying to see everything I could see. There was a surprising amount in the washed out urban sky. They’re probably still is. When, at the end of 2002, we moved to the small town that we currently still live in, I was very much looking forward to darker skies, but the box that contained all of my telescope lenses somehow went missing during the move. I think it was the only thing we lost during the move, although even at the time I couldn’t remember what else it was packed with. Clearly nothing else I missed.
I wanted to replace the lenses, spent the whole first winter shoveling off the cement pad behind the house that was going to be my personal observatory, but money was tight, and I never quite found the couple of hundred bucks to do it. Somehow, it didn’t occur to me to try to scrape together enough for one good lens and go from there.
I still read things about astronomy, online and in books. I still have that telescope. A few years ago, during a super sale, I bought another telescope, this one with some tracking and a battery-operated motor, hoping to maybe interest my children and it, but I never got any of them in the backyard more than twice, and guessed that that ship had sailed. If I’d started trying with them sooner, it might’ve worked. And, at this point in my life, I can only justify so many activities that don’t involve my kids. The ones left home, that is, and those two are in their mid-teens. That’s starting change as they don’t need me right there as much as they did when they were little, but I still haven’t gotten back to the backyard astronomy in any significant way.
Unlike stamp collecting, however, I still have the desire to. That desire just needs the right focus. It needs to ramp up high enough in me to actually pull one of those telescopes out into the backyard and point it at the sky.
There have been other things over the years, but hobbies come and go, and don’t always sticking in your life. Circumstances and conditions change, and your life changes with them.
At one point I might have considered writing a hobby, even if I aspired to become a published author. I’ve long since stopped thinking that way. Even though I’ve had times in the last few years, stretching weeks or even months at a time, when my primary focus has been on other things—always family, but often career to support that family—writing is still there, and I always come back to it. It’s not a hobby, it’s part of who I am.
I could say something similar about karate. With apologies to Funakoshi-sensei, it may not be my way of life, but it’s an integrated part of my life, and does color how I see many other things, affect how I deal of the things. Having put it that way, maybe shouldn’t apologize. Maybe, in a way, it is my way of life. However I might squint at it, karate is certainly not a hobby. It may have started as one, something fun with my oldest child, for a while, and for a longer while my wife, and for a while my oldest daughter. But they’ve all moved on of the things. For them, karate was a hobby. Me, I might be less than a year away from testing for my third degree black belt. Not that I think I know nearly enough yet, but that will be true as I walk into that grading, whenever it happens to be.
But karate and writing are not hobbies anymore.
I think the only actual hobby I have left that I can call a hobby is geocaching, which is done sporadically and at varying frequencies with my youngest daughter. Her interest in it seems to be waning this year, but not all at once and she enjoys it when we go out. My wife enjoys sometimes do, and it’s still a very fun activity for me. Not something that’s going away anytime soon.
Actually, geocaching is certainly my only hobby. My only hobby in a life that has been full of hobbies and interesting pursuits, and maybe it’s the third one that will somehow integrate itself in my life, become part of who I am. Feels that way right now. I can manage to not do it for a while, but I miss it.
Somehow though, I feel like everybody should have at least one hobby, one leisure activity that lets them put aside the stresses of regular life for a little while. I don’t think our society has evolved to the level where that’s possible for everyone yet, but perhaps that’s still coming.
If you have a hobby, enjoy it as much as you can. If you don’t, I hope you find one that suits.
In the meantime, be well, everyone.by
by So with the sadness and horror all around about the US election (even I posted about it, and I probably will again as some of the horror begins to morph into real-world shapes), it’s time for something a little lighter.
Youngest and I are taking our geocaching to the next level.
We’ve been talking hiding more of our own caches about it for a while, and since we decided to celebrate our thousandth find by placing ten new ones of our own, it’s time.
But she wants to do more than just basic caches. She wants to place interesting, strange, entertaining, or bizarre caches. I think we should do a few of traditional caches as well, but there’s no reason we shouldn’t have a great time with all of them. So we’ve planned a bunch of things.
Weird kinds of camouflage, Lego, birdhouses, funky multi-stage caches that are a little different than “go someplace and find the redirect so you can find the cache”, though they’ll still amount to that, just with a slight twist. She’s less concerned with making things hard (though a couple of them will be) than with making them cool. I mostly agree with that sentiment, but I do want to throw a couple of hard ones into the mix.
There are a lot of geocaches in our County and surrounding area—it’s a great hobby to have in our county—but there’s still plenty of room for more. Were going to find a few empty spots and see if we can entertain a few people.
The first cache of those ten is already in place. It went live late the night before last and no one has found it yet. Two people have not found it, however. I’m worried I let youngest talk me into a too-low difficulty rating, but we’ll see.
Our second cache with a Tolkien them, I regard it as both creative and sneaky. Here’s the listing: “GC6WMCR – Curse Him, Root and Branch!”.
The next one to go into place is in honor of our giant dog, and because Oliver is a giant dog, this will be a giant cache (Yes, a true size 4 for the cachers out there): a plastic bucket now empty of cat litter, which does seem a little bit odd for a canine-related cash, but that’s okay.
We already have selected locations for four other caches so just have to prep the containers. And three nights ago, we found a semi-secret trail that may be long enough to support a tiny series of four or five related caches, which we’ll do all at once. Plus I really want to do a water cache, although that might have to wait until spring.
Happy caching, everyone.by
by My youngest daughter and I like to go Geocaching. It’s not a super serious hobby, although we could certainly spend a lot more time on it if we wanted to.
Geocaching, by the way, can be described in a number of ways. My favourites are, one, a real-world treasure hunt using a GPS capable device, or, two, using multi-million dollar satellites to find plastic containers in the woods. Neither of these is completely accurate, but both give you a vague starting place. A better summary can be found in a one-minute video on the homepage of geocaching.com.
We’ve been caching for three and a half years, really, though we went out the first time the year before, and yesterday we found our thousandth cache. Many people have done it faster, but it’s always been more about the journey than the destination.
That thousandth cache was this one: GC62ZYM, A Recycled Micro. There’s a pun in there, but I won’t spoil it for you in case you want to go find it for yourself. Difficulty rating of 4.5 (this is on a scale of 1-5, so not an easy one), Terrain rating of 3 (also ranges from 1-5, in this case elevation changes, rough ground, bushwacking may be necessary), and Size 1 (actual cache has a volume of less than 100 mL). Here’s the link to see the listing.
To mark this momentous occurrence, we’ve decided to celebrate in several ways.
First, there’s the traditional photo for the thousandth find itself.
Second, we’ve decided that we will release three travel bugs into the wild. These are special little tags/coins/figures that people move from cache to cache and log that they’ve done so. You can vicariously travel with them by tracking them online. Picked these up at an event and just haven’t decided what to tag them with or what their goals should be yet, but we’re going to and by the end of the year.
Third, we’re going to try to place (at least) ten caches, one for each hundred finds, between now and the end of the year. We’ve kind of been prepping for this for a while, with containers available ranging from a Nano (picture something the size of your smallest fingernail, or even a little smaller) to a true large (minimum 20-litre container). We just need hiding spots and proper coordinates for them.
We don’t cache every day. Once a week is doing well considering how busy life is sometimes. But if you want to catch what we’ve been doing lately as far as our favourite hobby goes, you’re looking for NinjaRock, and you can find our profile here.
Be well, everyone.by
by If you’ve never heard of Geocaching, you’re not alone. And that’s okay. It’s a fairly recently development, coming about not too long after the advent of reasonably affordable handheld GPS devices. And reasonably affordable gets more so every year, depending on the bells and whistles you want. Of course, these days you can go out with a smart phone. As long as you have data access, you have a working GPS device, and there are apps for every platform.
But I’m getting a little ahead of myself. I haven’t actually told you what Geocaching is it. And while it would probably be easier just to steal some copy from the Groundspeak website, where’s the fun in that?
To my mind, Geocaching is a real life treasure hunt. It’s about finding things no one else knows are there, a secret shared with only a few. And all you need are a set of coordinates, and something to write with. The coordinates will be fairly precise latitude and longitude. And in its simplest form, that’s all you need to get to a cache. Well, that and a GPS capable device to direct you there.
That’s it. Well, aside from a willingness to go play outside.
Groundspeed refers to the search for a cache as hide and seek or a real world adventure game. For us, and by us I mean myself and my 11-year-old daughter, team NinjaRock, it’s certainly about the thrill of the hunt, and sometimes that includes figuring out a puzzle or doing a little research, but more importantly, it’s about finding something that most people don’t even know is there.
And it really is that simple.
Bring back the joy of hide and seek as a child, or a secret treasure hunt. The joy of the hunt, the discovery the secret. Both of these things can speak to anyone on a very fundamental level. And your smart phone has GPS. Of course, you have to be willing to actually leave the house and venture into the great outdoors, and that’s something our modern society appears to be slowly losing. We like the fact that there is an outside, and all those plants and things in there making oxygen and soil and a livable world for us, but we really don’t want to go out and experience it directly. Far better to watch it on TV, where you don’t have to do more than look at it. No other senses required, no other activity, just sit in your comfortable chair and watch the screen.
But you miss so much doing that.
Geocaching is not an expensive. Oh, like everything else, you can spend a tonne of money, but you don’t need to. Geocaching.com will get you started, so you need an Internet connection, a GPS device, and a pair of shoes. I recommend some sunscreen and insect repellent.
But even more, I recommend that if you have children try taking at least one of them with you. Some caches have things in them to trade and kids love to find stuff, and they love to hang out with their parents, at least until they become teenagers. And if you get them when they’re young, they might even enjoy it once in a while as teenagers.
I’ve made the recommendation before but you should play with your kids. Consider Geocaching a game. A game of hide and seek, a game of treasure hunt, a game of exploration. Go out and find something you didn’t know was there.
Oh, and on a personal geocaching note: today is the second anniversary of the first time we went caching. We’re going out for a little caching adventure to celebrate. You can find us on geocaching.com as NinjaRock. We’re not piling up the finds really quickly, at a mere 253, but we’ve hidden two of our own caches as well.