On May 3rd, 2000, computer consultant Dave Ulman wanted to test the United Stakes GPS system. He hid a bucket containing prize items, a pen, and a notebook in the woods near Portland, OR. He then shared the GPS waypoint of his container on an internet GPS users group, calling it the “Great American GPS Stash Hunt.”
He had one rule: “Take some stuff, leave some stuff.”
The “stash” was found in three days. Inspired by Ulman, other people began leaving items hidden across the globe — treasures that could found using a GPS. Mike Teague, who found Ulman’s original “stash,” eventually created a webpage that posted the coordinates of these stashes. They changed the name from “stash” to “cache” and Geocaching was born.
Today, using GPS, people continue to hide millions of caches all over the world — from remote beaches, national monuments, local parks and train stations, to state parks, cemeteries, and libraries. Geocaches are found just about anywhere, and they’re great fun for both kids and adults alike.
And, best of all, in a few simple steps your family can become a part of the world’d largest treasure hunt.
Top Reasons to Start Geocaching
- For traveling families on vacation, objects found in some geocaches make unique souvenirs.
- You can leave items in a cache that might travel the world (and you can track it).
- It’s a great way to learn about a location as there’s often trivia clues and history about the cache itself.
- It’s an activity that kids can lead.
- You can find them in your own town — they are literally everywhere.
- You can make, hide, and log your own geocaches into the global network.
How to Begin Geocaching
- Start an account on Geocaching.com or through the app.
- Set up a single profile to use as a family (recommended if you have young children) or as individuals (if your children are older).
- Gather small items you would want to leave behind, such as coins, beads, toys or trinkets.
- Bring a pen or pencil. Most, if not all Geocaches have logs to sign.
- Use the app to locate a cache you want to find. Follow the clues, and use the GPS coordinates to locate your treasure.
- Log the cache you found using Geocaching.com.
The Rules of the Road
- If you take an item, swap it for another item that has equal or greater value. It’s important that everyone has the opportunity to find treasure.
- Geocaches hide in public spaces. The game is to find and replace the caches without being seen.
- NEVER leave anything scented or edible. It will harm an animal if found and eaten. It can also reveal the location of the cache.
- Always put the cache back where you found it, well hidden. Moving a cache makes it hard for other people to find.
Almost 20 years after it began, geocaching is a worldwide phenomenon. Your next hike in the woods could contain unexpected treasure. The next out-of-town trip could involve learning about a city in a whole new way. Even your own town has a field trip waiting to happen.
So, go out — explore!