Geocaching for the First Time: Logan Square
Last weekend, I went geocaching for the first time. I’ve heard about this activity since maybe 2001 (when the only way to get a GPS device was to buy one for $100), and was always a bit intrigued. Here’s my layman’s summary of it:
In the early 2000’s, GPS devices began to become more commonplace. As more and more folks began to buy their own, and as the technology became more ubiquitous… the concept of geocaching began to take off. In a nutshell, it’s a bit like a treasure hunt. But instead of a map, you only have a set GPS location to go off of.
Participants create their own geocaches, hiding a box or small “list” in a public location. Then, they share the GPS location with others, and invite them to locate the cache. In some cases, there are prizes or gifts in the cache (the rule being that if you find something, you leave something for the next person). Other types of caches are list-only, where the “prize” is you locating the cache, and adding your name to the other discoverers.
When I first learned of it, I assumed it was people trading things like candy and CD’s and such. Nowadays, the whole “list” concept seems a lot more popular (with the search and discovery being more of a motivator than the actual prize itself).
Last weekend, after an early morning brunch at Lula’s with Liz… we set off to find a cache that was really close by: located somewhere within the Logan Square circle (near Milwaukee, Logan and Kedzie).
It was tough to get a shot of my iPhone with the sun, but here we were somewhat outside of Lula’s. The app tells me I’m about 239 feet away from the cache.
Liz, looking around the nearby information/sign.
View of the Illinois Centennial Monument. For a while, I was looking around in the nearby trees, looking to see if I could find something hanging from a branch.
As a GPS device, I think that the signal is accurate up to about 50 feet or so. While the app got us in the general area, the actual finding of the cache was ultimately up to us.
Success! The cache itself was a magnetic keyholder, and attached to something metallic in the area. Was it a lamp? A sign? A park bench? You’ll have to go and find out for yourself…
Here’s the list of others who found it before us…
Felix and Liz, 3/7/2010.
This is from a little later on in the day, when we were running errands over by Target. Turns out… there was a cache hidden near there as well! It’s surprising to see how many caches there really are all over. Some are hidden way out in remote areas like wilderness paths and within parks and such. But there are a lot of hidden/public caches, even in highly populated areas.
Sadly, we couldn’t track down the Target cache. We looked around for a good while, but couldn’t find anything anywhere. FYI the coordinates had us somewhere near the Target sign in the NW corner of the parking lot.
Going on my first geocaching hunt was an interesting experience. Walt told me that oftentimes if there’s metal in the area, the cache is a magnetic keyholder. If there are trees… look out for film canisters. And for some of the heavy duty caches, some folks use old Army ammunition holders (and bury the caches).
I love the technology side of this, and I love the fact that people are, ultimately, the ones who make the whole thing possible. There’s a childlike discovery process with looking for a cache, and I like how it forces you to look at the world a little bit differently than everyone else.
Geocaching seems to train you to look out for things that other people might miss. Which, honestly, is a pretty great reason to give it a try… don’t you think?