Geo-caching, Where’s Waldo for Techies
By Betsy Miller
Unbeknownst to most of us, thousands of tiny treasures are hidden in the woods, and on the highways and by-ways of this area. And not just here. All over the world individuals are hiding containers as large as bread boxes and as small as ink pen casings. Each contains a small item—more a symbolic treasure than the real thing, along with a log-in book, and, in some cases, additional clues to send the hunter on to the next location, in a sort of high-tech scavenger hunt.
Welcome to the wonderful world of geo-caching—Hide and Seek for the digital age. It all started in 2000 when a bucket of knickknacks was hidden in a forest and the coordinates were posted on an Internet GPS users’ group site. The cacher challenged seekers to locate the container using a GPS unit, then, if found “Take some stuff, leave some stuff”. And that was the beginning.
Today, enthusiasts—anyone with access to a GPS— start by going to the geo-caching website. There they can sort through the tens of thousands of listed coordinates to get down to a manageable bunch. A zip code sort found 41 in Hudson, 71 in Litchfield, 25 in Great Barrington, and 238 in Pittsfield. One can choose easily-located caches, historic caches, “one-step” caches, or “nest” caches (a series of several). Other options include “most recent”, and mystery caches.
Caching enthusiast Christopher Parker, who is conducting an “Introduction to Geo-caching” at Hand Hollow Conservation Area in New Lebanon this weekend, did one series he especially enjoyed called Haunted New York. “A guy put out a few caches and, inside, each included information about where the next cache was located. I found one in Cohoes Falls, another in the Ballston Lake area, and another in Saratoga. They each told a story about why that particular place was haunted.”
Parker is interested in local history. He currently has a series devoted to the lost ski areas of New England. “I truly love the ones where you learn something,” he says. “There is information in the cache, but you also can see evidence of the ski area left behind—trails or equipment. I’ve also seen this homage paid to drive-in movie theatres.”
But not all caches are educational. Some are just for sport. Kids can sort through the sites on-line for those with easy “findability”, or those within a close radius of their home. Parker says there are even caches hidden in Wal-Mart parking lots. No location is out of bounds (except those considered dangerous, such as railroad tracks, etc.).
“Finds” can be posted on line. The geo-cache website allows entries from both hiders and seekers. In fact, that’s another part of the fun—reading the comments of other hunters.
Best of all, geo-caching gets us out-of-doors in a whole new way. Deputy Mayor Matt Monahan of Hoosick Falls, NY (Rennselaer County), a cacher himself, is using fellow-cachers to clean up a trail in that town. Participants search for caches and, at the same time, pick up debris. Not surprisingly, it’s called, Cach In, Trash Out.
Introduction to Geo-caching
Hand Hollow Conservation Area
New Lebanon, NY
Saturday, May 14th; 1 - 3 p.m.
Admission/free; all ages
For a complete list of caches, visit the Geo-caching website.