The Adventure: Geocaching

August 14, 2015

Will you cache the geocaching bug?

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…
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The Adventure...

The basics…

For getting started, a smartphone works great as a GPS device
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. 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 the surroundings.
You never “gnome” where you will find a geocache! Novel containers like this one make the game even
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 successful find!

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!

Ranger Tina Dinzl-Pedersen (far right) with the latest family to complete the State Parks Geotour Ch
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 gold geocoin!
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