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Geocaching 102: More fun with Geocaching!

by Carolyn K. director, Hoagies' Gifted Education Page

New to Geocaching?  Start with Geocaching 101: Finding Your First Cache.  Need a refresher on the acronyms and terms of Geocaching?  Visit Geocaching Acronyms

I've found a couple geocaches.  What else is there to do in Geocaching?

There are many different kinds of geocaches.  You've probably found a few traditional geocaches, and perhaps you've found a multi-cache. 

What's a Multi-cache?  It's a cache where the lat/long in the cache description leads you to the first stage, and there you find a hint for the next stage.  Sometimes multi-caches are only 2 stages; other times they may be many stages taking you all over a park or town. 

Puzzle (Unknown) caches involve solving some kind of puzzle to find the exact location of the geocache.  Puzzle caches can be as simple as "site caches," visiting the location and observing the site.  Sometimes there's math involved... count the number of rungs in the fence at Ground Zero (GZ) and subtract the number of lightening rods on top of the historic building in front of you. But that's only the beginning of puzzle caches... and puzzle caches are probably the most gifted-friendly aspect of geocaching, because they're all about problem solving.  More about Puzzle Caches below...

Event caches come in three flavors: Events, Mega Events, and CITO Events.  An event is any gathering of geocachers... a dinner, a picnic, or a special event like a zip-lining picnic, and that's just in my area in the last year. Mega events are events with more than 500 people... the annual GeoWoodstock event is the prime example in the U.S., but there are more and more of these super-sized events popping up.  CITO events have a specific purpose: Cache In, Trash Out.  A CITO event is a great way to help clean out a local park or other caching area!

Earth caches are geocaches with a purpose: to teach us something about the geology of the earth in the location of the cache.  Did you know there were Stromatolites formed in the stone millions of years ago, as in Valley Forge Park in Pennsylvania VFEC2: Parking Lot Stromatolites? And there's Quite a bit of gold in them hills in California?  An Earth caches is defined "A special place that people can visit to learn about a unique geoscience feature or aspect of our Earth" by Earthcache.org.  Learn about all the earth caches near you!

A Letterbox Hybrid cache is simply a Letterbox and Regular (or Multi-) cache in the same container. Visit Letterboxing North America to learn more about this "intriguing pastime combining navigational skills and rubber stamp artistry in a charming "treasure hunt" style outdoor quest."  And if you'd like to, bring your own rubber stamp and logbook along when you find Letterbox Hybrid caches, so that you can stamp your stamp in the Letterbox's logbook, and the Letterbox's stamp in your logbook, the signs that you've visited a Letterbox!

Wherigo caches require a Wherigo-enabled GPS device or a Whereigo app on your Android smartphone, to play a Whereigo "cartridge."  A Whereigo cartridge is a set of locations or interactions that you must accomplish in sequence to get to the final location, in order to log the cache.  For more on Whereigo, visit Whereigo.com

There are a few other special cache types: is the Geocaching.com Headquarters near Seattle, Washington.  Cachers must schedule their appointment to visit this very special cache, which is not located at the lat/long in the cache description.    GPS Adventure Maze caches represent attendance at a GPS Adventure Maze exhibit, designed to teach folks of all ages about GPS technology and geocaching.

A Virtual cache is about discovering a location rather than a container. Proving you have visited a virtual cache usually involves answering a question about the site you've visited, or provide a picture of yourself at the location holding your GPS device. Virtual caches are no longer added to Geocaching.com, however they are still accepted on other websites.  And existing Virtual caches are searchable on Geocaching.com, so you'll still find them. Virtual caches can have the same variety of difficulty and terrain as traditional caches, as Mint Spring Bayou Falls in Mississippi certainly proves.  Virtual caches are now considered Waymarks, and are played through the Waymarking.com website.

Webcam caches are also no longer added to Geocaching.com; they too are a category of location in Waymarking.  There are still a number of webcam caches in geocaching, and you'll find these fun caches in nearly every state. And with portable computing devices including smartphones and tablets, webcam caches are even easier to catch.  Simply go to the location of the webcam, visit the website where the camera image is displayed, and capture the screen picture of yourself on camera! Upload your image with your cache log, and Voila - you're on candid webcam-era!

Puzzle Caches solved...

Puzzle caches may be the greatest challenge of geocaching.  A puzzle cache might require... well, just about anything!  Simple "site puzzles" have questions that can be answered by going to the location specified in the geocache, and then adjusting the lat/long based on those answers.  Easy enough.  But Puzzle Caches can be FAR more complicated.  Read Geocaching 103: Puzzle Caches to learn more and find tools to help you solve Puzzle caches.

Let's go geocaching!

A friend's caches always remind us, "Caching is fun. If you're not having fun, find another hobby."  If you don't want to get get outdoors, get muddy sometimes, think hard sometimes, encounter a few prickers and ticks sometimes (at least in my neck of the woods)... Geocaching is not for you.  For the rest of us, let's go have some fun!

Geocaching... a social activity!

While you can spend all your geocaching time alone, it is also fun to geocache with others.  Some caches really need a team; we did one that took one person to pump air into a pipe to pop the cache to the surface of the lake, and another to grab the cache while it was bobbing above the surface.  It can't be accomplished alone! But how can you find other geocachers in your area?  Geocaching Events!  Some events have a geocaching goal.  CITO Events are specifically held to clean up an area: Cache In, Trash Out. CITO events may be held in conjunction with a local park or property owner, where many hands can make light work of a messy situation.  If you're going to a CITO event, remember to bring gloves, bags, and wear heavy pants and shoes. 

Other events may be just for fun.  We attended a picnic event at a zip-line park.  It wasn't required, but the geocachers got a special deal on zip-lining that day. Turns out, it's a lot of fun!  Many of our local geocaching groups sponsor monthly get-togethers at local restaurants for dinner.  Here you can meet other cachers, exchange tips on difficult caches, arrange group caching adventures, and trade trackables and pathtags.  And don't worry about being the oldest, youngest, beginner, unemployed or the out-of-shape geocacher at the event... there's always someone else just like you, or more so. 

If you're on Facebook, search for and join local geocaching groups. Around here, there's SEPAG (SouthEastern PA Geocachers), B.E.S.T (the Berks Explorers Seeking Tupperware), L.O.S.T. (Lancaster Organization for Seeking Tupperware), or S.T.R.A.N.G.E. (Second Thursday Royersford Area Neighborly Geocaching Events). Each has a Facebook group, and three of four have monthly or bi-monthly events.  You can attend caching events on the third Wednesday, first Tuesday, or second Thursday each month or two, or you can Storm the Castle, Picnic on the Brandywine, and attend other annual events!

Challenge yourself...

Geocachers love to challenge themselves and each other.  One popular challenge is to log a large number of caches in a single day; a century - 100 caches in a single 24-hour period - is a common goal. To meet the "Jasmer challenge" you must log at least one cache that was placed in every month back to the start of Geocaching (May 2000).

Other caching goals include logging at least one cache from every state in the U.S. or every province in Canada, or logging one or more caches on every calendar day of the year... including February 29th!  Once you've completed your caching calendar, there's another calendar challenge: be the First to Find (FTF) on a new geocache on every day of the calendar.  This is a much harder challenge, since you not only have to compete with other local geocachers for the FTF honors, you need geocachers near where you live or work to place new caches that are approved on all 365 for you to try and find first! In some areas, it's easy to be First to Find even a day or two after a new cache is placed; around my house, even a 1/2 hour delay from when the cache is published often puts you into second or third place.

The Difficulty / Terrain (D/T) ratings of caches lend themselves to another popular challenge: log at least one cache of every one of the 81 different D/T combinations.  Finding a difficulty 1, terrain 1 cache is easy enough, but where can you find a cache with difficulty 5, terrain 5... and what "specialized equipment" will it take to retrieve it?  Climbing gear? Snorkel? Boat? Terrain 5 caches are never boring!  One of ours required a paddleboat from a local picnic park.  Yup, that's specialized equipment too.

Caching streaks are another challenge... can you log at least one cache each day for 30 days?  90 days?  365 days?  We've managed a caching streak of 182 days... and then there was a snow-delayed flight, and the end of our caching streak.  Streaks are much easier to do when you're a new geocacher with plenty of caches around your home, than later when you've found many of the caches in your local area.

U.S. county challenges and Delorme state map challenges are popular challenges.  Find a geocache in each of the counties in a state, or a geocache in each of the squares that make up the Delorme map of your state.  It's harder than it sounds, unless you live in Delaware or Rhode Island!  The Delaware state county challenge is the only one of these we've completed; there's only 3 counties in Delaware.  For more on Challenge caches, visit Geocaching 103: Puzzle Caches | Challenge Caches.

Statistics

Now that you're becoming a hard-cord geocacher, chances are you are going to want to see your results.  Statistics.  Tables, charts and graphs.  A new project offers statistics both for you as an individual, and on geocaching in general.  There are 887,547 caches enabled in the United States and 139,063 in the United Kingdom as of March 20, 2013.  Vacationing to Bermuda?  There are 240 caches enabled there, and 201 unique caches have been found since New Year's Day, and 26 new caches hidden.

Looking for your own statistics or the top geocachers in your country?   These facts and lots more can be yours, free, using the Project-GC website.  Sign in with your Geocaching.com nickname (and a unique password), and you'll have access to more data and statistics than you can imagine. 

How Geocaching saved a town!

Yes, the hobby of Geocaching saved a town... the town of Rachel, Nevada, along the E.T. Highway... and home of the E.T. Highway Geocaching Power Trail.  Geocaches were set up along this highway, because it seemed like a neat place to have a geocaching power trail, but after a few run-ins with geocachers and other travelers, geocachers and snow plows, the Nevada D.O.T. disagreed.  The E.T. Power Trail was removed.  And the newly flourishing town of Rachel, Nevada nearly died.  Soon after, through agreements with all parties, the E.T. Highway Power Trail was replaced, this time with each cache safely at least 50 feet off the highway.  The town of Rachel was restored, fed by hungry, thirsty, tired geocachers looking for a place to spend the night and recharge for another day of geocaching on the power trail.

Don't believe me?  Read all about it in Nevada UFO town cashes in on 'geocaching' game. And read about the E.T. Highway Power Trail, and plan a trip to the Geocaching Power Trail of the Gods!

What's next?

Looking for more challenge?  Try your hand at Puzzle Caches!  Read Geocaching 103: Puzzle Caches and check out the puzzle caches in an instructional series, or puzzle caches near your home or travels.

Learn how to use the advanced features of a Geocaching Premium Membership.  Read Geocaching 105: Using Geocaching Premium membership features...

Updated July 01, 2016


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