Saturday, November 24, 2007

A Pretty Cool Hobby

My Dad and Mom and their dog have a hobby call "geo-caching." It came about when the Clinton Administration allowed non-military access to the global positioning satellites (GPS) in May of 2000. According to The History of Geo-caching:

On May 3, 2000, Dave Ulmer proposed a way to celebrate the demise of [scrambled access to the satellites]. He hid a bucket of trinkets in the woods outside Portland, Oregon and announced its location in a posting made to the USENET newsgroup sci.geo.satellite-nav. This announcement is remarkable for laying out the essence of the hobby that is still in place today. It's all there. The container. The trinkets. The log book. The rule of take something, leave something, sign the logbook. Dave Ulmer invented geocaching in one fell swoop in that newsgroup posting.

Within a day, the original stash had been found. Within days, more stashes had been hidden in California, Kansas, and Illinois. Within a month, a stash had been hidden as far away as Australia. The hobby was fast on its way to being a worldwide phenomenon.

Essentially, what you do is use a hand-held GPS receiver (see right)- very similar to the ones on cars - to find items hidden by other people. You are told the directions or the actual coordinates in latitude and longitude (for example, my parents' house is at: 41' 40.519N, 83' 37.992W) and your GPS receiver tells you where to go. As the Geo-caching FAQ notes:

It is deceptively easy. It's one thing to see where an item is, it's a totally different story to actually get there.

So I helped my dad hide a new cache yesterday. Most geo-cachers use a site called, obviously enough, to record their caches and announce new ones and contribute to forums about geocaching and all that. You (unfortunately, to my mind) have to have an account on the site to see most things, but the official record of the new cache is here (create an account to see it all). My parents have found 1509 caches others have placed, and have placed 21 of their own (see their log page here). They traipse all around NE Ohio and SE Michigan on the hunt, and when they visited me in Manhattan a year or so ago we found two in Central Park (there are more than that there, of course).

So it's kind of a fun thing, and it was wonderful to participate in what my parents like to do too. We got out and tramped around a bit, and I am thankful for being able to do so.



bls said...

I love this; I'm going to do it, too, I think.

It would be fun to make finding the co-ordinates part of a puzzle, too. Or else use literary references for the places you hide things or something. Or have a series of things to find, where finding the later ones depends on finding the earlier ones.

What a great idea.

RFSJ said...


My parents really enjoy this, and have made lots of friends. There are indeed ways to make it more interesting like along the lines you've suggested, and creativity is admired!