The entire world is captivated by Pokémon Go, a game that mixes real life and virtual reality in the quest for digital creatures scattered all over the world.
But before this craze swept smart phones everywhere, a different GPS-based game quietly permeated parks, forests, street signs, tourist attractions and many other public places around the globe: geocaching.
A technological outdoor hobby, geocaching offers the thrill of solving puzzles, trekking distances and finding treasure on a global scavenger hunt. Local and global explorers alike have used the site not only for recreation, but also a great way to learn more about a familiar place or new destination.
But how does it work?
Geocachers hide caches—from minuscule film canisters to large Tupperware containers—in various locations. Caching decorum dictates that they can be hidden or covered, but never buried. Think tall grass, tree nooks and magnetized poles.
They then list the cache's coordinates along with hints about how to find it online.
Curious seekers use the geocaching app or load this information into a GPS and set out on the hunt.
Once seekers find the cache, they sign the logbook located inside. Then, if the cache contains treasures (ranging from bouncy balls and action figures to disposable cameras and playing cards), seekers can take one treasure and leave another. A crucial aspect of the process is that the seeker must return the cache to the original spot to ensure future geocachers can locate it.
After the find, seekers return to the website to log it. More complex geocaches even involve geotrails or multi-caches, with clues leading to each several destinations. Depending on the cache creator, clues can range from word scrambles or riddles to information located on local monuments or historical plaques nearby.
In addition to promoting local history and healthy activity, Geocaching also touts its Cache In, Trash Out initiative that encourages litter cleanup, building trails, and revegetation efforts.
These events are scheduled every year, but are also interwoven with the core values of the geocaching community. On the Geocaching website, it encourages users to bring a trash bag on their adventures and clean up any litter they notice during their adventures.
X Marks the Spot
People often assume that geocaches can only be found in rural areas, but they actually live anywhere from the countryside, to suburbs to the densest of cities. Both wild and urban geocaches offer their unique sets of challenges.
Curious about the geocaches in your area? Check out your local geocaches here, or equip yourself with some advice about geocaching for beginners.
Currently, about 2.8 million geocaches exist, with about 3 million active geocachers seeking them.
Those who take a break from building a digital Pokémon army can be part of the millions of seekers searching for real-life treasure that's hidden in plain sight.
Gotta cache 'em all.
All photos courtesy of Geocaching.com.
Let's change the world.
Who wrote this?
Gina Edwards, Impact Explorer founder and lover of all pun jokes, making a positive change in the world, Stephen Colbert, Jif Peanut Butter, and staying inside on rainy days. Order may vary.