In the 15 years since satellite technology opened to the public, geocaching has gathered steam as an all-ages hobby that can even get addictive! So just what is this geocaching thing, you ask? Imagine a modern-day treasure hunt where you can join in with thousands of others to locate “caches.”
Cache coordinates are posted online for you to find using a GPS device or smartphone GPS app. Caches come in every shape and size. Thousands are hidden world-wide. You might need to sift through a few stones or even climb a tree to find one. They hide in city streets, old houses, bus terminals, and –yes– in your Washington State Parks!
Sound fun? It sure is! And your state parks are still holding the Centennial Geo Tour Challenge! You can earn the much-coveted “geocacher” prize of geocoins for visiting your state parks!
Ready to get started? Let’s go cache them all…
Searching for a geocache can take you to places you might “never have
otherwise seen, places off the beaten track,” says Tina Dinzl-Pedersen. A
Cama Beach State Park ranger, Pedersen is an avid geoacher and loves to
share her knowledge with others.
Pedersen suggests starting with your smartphone, if you have one. Geocaching.com
has a reliable app to download, but there are many others as well. A
phone may not have as strong a signal or as long a battery life as a GPS
unit, but it is a reliable and inexpensive option until you are ready to purchase a device, Pedersen says.
Once you have your app (or GPS unit),
you are ready to start looking! Caches will appear as dots on a map.
Touch on a location, and the app gives you GPS coordinates. It also
provides vital information about the cache such as what type it is, how
difficult the terrain is, how hard it is to find, and a few clues about
When you get within about 20 feet of the cache, it’s time to put down
the technology and pick up your thinking cap. Where could it be? You
will have to think like a geocacher. It will not be buried, but it could
be under a few sticks, in a bush, underneath playground equipment or
even up a tree! The cache may be a tiny little tube. It may be a box. It
could be something really … weird. Geocachers often have pretty good
senses of humor. Just make sure when you look there are no “muggles” (non-geocachers) around to spoil the game!
Did you find it? Good job you!
Open the container and usually you will find a notebook or a few loose
sheets of paper with dozens or even hundreds of cacher usernames
scribbled on it, along with corresponding dates letting you know when
they were there. Log your own username and date. Occasionally, caches
contain souvenir objects for you to trade and swap out for one of your
own Sometimes people even track those objects. If you take one be sure to leave one in return.
If you find a “trackable,” you need to be willing to log it in and take
it with you to other destinations so its owner can track where it
travels. Finally, stash the cache back where it was hidden so others can
experience the thrill of the seek. Then go online and mark your
Washington state parks are full of caches and
new ones crop up to keep you busy searching! If you’re interested in
creating your own for other geocachers to find at a state park, be sure
to read about the necessary guidelines and the steps you need to follow before you plant a cache in public lands. But first, you may want to know about the basics of hiding a cache (or even finding one).
Centennial Geotour: 100 Caches in 100 Parks to Celebrate 100 years!
This geotour started in 2013 as part of Washington State Park’s 100th
birthday. Even though your parks have now turned a venerable 102, the
tour is still going strong! “It’s really popular and there are plenty of
coins left,” Pedersen says.
Why not try it yourself! Simply download a Centennial Geotour Passport,
and each time you visit a state park on the list, find the cache and
use the unique stamp to fill it out. Once you hit 50 parks, you can get a
silver geocoin. Visit 100 or more parks and you qualify for the rare
Geocachers have a language of their very own! Learn your terminology and you’ll have way more fun deciphering cache clues!
Interested in taking a free class on geocaching? Pedersen does a short how-to course every Wednesday at 1:30 on the beach at Cama Beach State Park.