What is Geocaching?

Some of you may be asking yourselves, "What the heck is 'geocaching'?" Don't feel bad. People ask me this all the time.

Geocaching is a treasure hunt of sorts, using GPS (Global Positioning System) technology. You can use a GPSr (GPS receiver), or a GPS-enabled phone (though I've heard that the phones don't get you to the exact coordinates like a GPS does). You get the coordinates online from a site like geocaching.com. Once you get to the location that the container is at (which can be any kind of container), then you look high and low. Check trees, bushes, rocks, anything that may look like a likely hiding spot. Once found, the container could contain tchochkeys or small toys. You may trade an item for an item. Take a little thingie, and leave another thingie in it's place. There's often a log inside to put the date and your name or online alias. Then you put the cache back where you found it, and continue on to the next one if wish. The true fun is in getting outdoors, getting a bit of exercise, and of course, hunting for and finding the cache. If my explanation made no sense to you, try this video:

Here are some commonly used Geocache terms:

Benchmark - A point whose position is known to a high degree of accuracy and is normally marked in some way. The marker is often a metal disk made for this purpose, but it can also be a church spire, a radio tower, a mark chiseled into stone, or a metal rod driven into the ground. Benchmarks can be found at various locations all over the United States. They are used by land surveyors, builders and engineers, map makers, and other professionals.

CITO - Cache In Trash Out. As you look for a geocache, it's a good idea to pick up any trash found at the site, or along the way. Some caches have plastic bags that can be used to put the trash in. Fill the bag with trash, empty it... and then place the bag in the next geocache you find.

DNF - Did Not Find. Self explanatory. The cache was not found. Either it was very cleverly hidden, or it has been removed or damaged in some way.

EarthCache - A cache that promotes geoscience education. Visitors to EarthCaches can see how our planet has been shaped by geological processes, how we manage the resources and how scientists gather evidence to learn about the Earth.

GC Code - A unique identifier associated with every geocache listing. The GC Code starts with the letters "GC" and is followed by other alphanumeric characters.

Geocoin - These are specially designed coins that travel from cache to cache. They are not items to be traded, but rather moved on to the next cache. Some of them are meant to travel a certain distance. Others are meant to get to a certain destination. They are tracked by means of an ID code printed on the Geocoin. See also Travel Bug.

GPSr - As noted above, Global Positioning System receiver. A GPSr pinpoints your approximate location. If you enter in it's location (longitude and latitude data), you can home in on a cache.

Ground Zero (GZ) - The point where your GPS device shows that you have reached the cache location. At Ground Zero, you are zero feet or meters away from the cache. Since GPSr's can only be relied on to get you a few feet from the exact location, this is when you put the GPS down and start looking high and low.

Micro Cache - This is a cache that is so small, it usually only contains a logbook, as most items are too large to fit inside it. These can be anything from a fake rubber bug, to an eraser, to... just about anything small. As you can imagine, they can be very hard to find.

Muggle - Some say it was adopted from the Harry Potter series of books and movies, others say the phrase had been used before that. Either way, this is someone that doesn't know what Geocaching is, or what the heck you're looking for out there in the woods/desert/parking lot/what-have-you.

Multi-Cache - A multi-cache involves two or more locations, the final location being a physical container. There are many variations, but most multi-caches have a hint to find the second cache, and the second cache has hints to the third, and so on.

Latitude - Latitude is the angular distance north or south from the earth's equator measured through 90 degrees.

Longitude - Longitude is the angular distance of a point's meridian from the Prime (Greenwich) Meridian.

Mystery Cache - This form of cache can involve complicated puzzles you will first need to solve to determine the coordinates. Examples include complicated ciphers, simple substitutions, arithmetical quizzes and clues cleverly hidden within graphic images.

SWAG - An acronym often referred to as standing for "Stuff We All Get." It's the stuff you find inside a geocache.

TFTC - Thanks For The Cache.

TFTH - Thanks For The Hide.

TNLNSL - Took Nothing, Left Nothing, Signed Log.

Traditional Cache - This is the original cache type. It consists of (at least) a container and a logbook. Small, medium or large containers can have items inside of them. Even smaller containers, called micro caches, are usually too small to contain anything except for a logbook.

Travel Bug - These are silver colored dogtags with the image of a barcoded bug on them. They travel from cache to cache, and are usually attached to an item. They (and the items they're attached to) are not to be traded, but rather moved on to the next cache. Some of them are meant to travel a certain distance. Others are meant to get to a certain destination. They are tracked by means of an ID code printed on the Travel Bug. See also Geocoin.

Virtual Cache - A virtual cache is a cache that exists in the form of a location. Virtual caches have no cache container; the reward for these caches is the location itself and sharing information about your visit.

Waypoint - A reference point for a physical location on Earth. Waypoints are defined by a set of coordinates that include longitude, latitude and sometimes altitude.

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