Wednesday, September 27, 2006
Have you ever heard of Geo Caching? No? Well, here is the scoop: Geo Caching is a hobby for people who look for ways to use their GPS. So it is for me. Basically, Geo Caching gives you a bunch of GPS coordinates that a Geo Cacher then finds. There is a little "treasure" at those coordinates. Nothing special. This is not about finding something special. It is about finding it in the first place.
Ellen discovered Geo Caching, and we have now gone to find a few things. It is silly in a way, because ultimately, it is quite a bit of effort (or it can be) to find trivial items. But in same odd way, it is extremely rewarding. And if nothing else, it is a little bit of extra motivation for a good exercise (assuming you go after some of the more difficult caches).
You can find out about Geo Caches on the official Geo Cache web site at http://www.GeoCaching.com. It has a list of all the caches worldwide and various ways of looking for them. You'll be surprised at how popular this is and how many caches there are.
The first Geo Cache we (actually Ellen, my dad, and myself) ever did was in Austria. Surprisingly, there are quite a few Geo Caches around my Austrian hometown of Saalfelden. When Ellen first looked this up on the web site, I would have expected there to be a handful of caches in all of Austria at best, but there are tons! Check out if you find anything for your own area. You will probably be surprised too.
The cache we did was a little unusual in that had a little riddle that sent you to a number of different locations. In fact, we had to do it twice, because the first time around I am ashamed to say that we didn't quite have the art of finding a location accurately down. It went well the second day though, and we were soon on our way through the Austrian mountains. One of the lessons we learned was that "being within a mile" doesn't mean you are really close in the alps. Throw in an extra 2,000 feet of elevation, and you have yourself a hike. But we had the time, and it was great! And once we got to the location, we still had to find the cache, which was pretty well hidden. I am glad we succeeded after a 10 minute search. I think not finding this first cache might have changed my opinion about the whole thing.
It was exciting to find the "treasure", because we were out in the middle of nowhere, yet we knew that quite a few people were there before us. There is a little book in each cache, where everyone that finds it leaves a little note, plus another little item. Nothing fancy. Just a little token to leave a trace. You also take an item out of the cache (a "rhythm egg" in our case) with the goal of depositing it in another cache at some point. The cache we found had perhaps 10 other items in it.
This cache also was a little special in that it had a "travel bug" in it. Travel bugs are items that have an individual tag with which they are registered on the Geo Cache web site. Travel bugs also have certain goals. In our case for instance, the travel bug was a soccer smurf ("Fussballschlumpf") who originated in Germany. The story that went along with it was that it wanted to stay in Germany during the Soccer World Cup, and then afterwards travel to the winner country. It had apparently already made its way from Germany to Austria. Unfortunately, we had no way to take it to another cache closer to Italy, but we attached a little token to it. I am not telling what it is (you will just have to find it for yourself), but it came from the World Cup match we watched ourselves. Surely, the smurf had to be excited about that...
We also took a few pictures. Here we are, holding the box that contains all the items:
I am holding up the smurf, but it is hard to see in this picture. We only let him out for a minute though before he had to go back into his water-proof box.
We took a few more pictures on the way back. Here is one that gives you a little bit of an idea of the area we were in:
The total endeavor took us about 3 or 3 1/2 hours (including the riddle-part). It was very enjoyable, and we will def. do similar caches again in the future. Maybe we will even establish our own cache at some point.
This cache was about medium difficulty. There are others that are very very easy and quick to get to. On the other end of the spectrum, you have caches that can only be reached with special equipment, such as hiking or scuba-diving equipment. Especially the later seems to be pretty exciting. I wonder if we sailed over any Geo Caches on our trip in Greece.
Since we did this in Austria (early September), we have found two other Geo Caches in a park in Houston. They were much easier to get to. However, crawling through spider infested Texan forests where you always might encounter a venomous snake wasn't nearly as enjoyable for me as the Austrian experience. What was neat though was that we were relatively close to other people, yet they had no idea that those caches were there. It is like being part of a secret society and only the initiated know of this secret world. And the readers of my blog of course. Well, and anyone who has a GPS and knows how to use Google. But nobody else. Really.
Posted @ 9:46 PM by Egger, Markus (firstname.lastname@example.org)