GEOCACHING

This is an international treasure hunt sport "where you are the search engine."
Geocaching was created several years ago when the government relaxed the sensitivity restrictions on civilian GPS units permitting greater accuracy, down to 9 feet or less, depending on overhead and electrical interference.
GPS (geopositional satellite) is a device that monitors multiple satellites in stationary orbit providing a signal triangulation to the unit permitting it to inform you where the unit, (and you),  are on the earth's surface within a few feet. The sensitivity is usually displayed as being within 10 to 30 feet but actually it is almost always more accurate.
This is done in several formats but generally in N(orth); latitude and W(est); longitude, numerical designation, or co-ordinates.

You can purchase a unit for as little as $100.00 or up to several thousand dollars, depending on how many bells and whistles you want or can afford.

Of special interest, most smart phones that have GPS capability built in, can be loaded with an 'app' that will permit you to play the game directly from the phone. They work extremely well. Just do a search for "geocaching apps".
A couple are free (one of the best ones in fact) but most are only 99 cents or so.

You can look at the geocaching site without being a member, however, to play the game, you must become a member, which is free.
There is a $30.00 Premium Membership available, however, this is not necessary to participate in the game.
Go to the site <www.geocaching.com>, click on "my account" then click on the url to "create a new account". That will take you to the membership application page.

The game is played in more than 200 countries including Afganistan and Iraq where our military have carried the game.
The object is usually a container of various sizes, as small as a match box  (or smaller, I have seen them as small as a lima bean, these really small ones are called "nanos")  (SEE PHOTO TO THE RIGHT, the cache is the two small pieces of metal with screw threads, the long piece of paper, which looks like an old fashioned ticker tape is the log) or as large as a garbage can, depending on what the owner decides to place in it.
The owner places (hides) the container, and marks the coordinates of the spot, then publishes the site or 'cache' (pronounced 'KASH' from French-- "a place in which stores of food, supplies etc. are hidden") on the geocache web site, http://www.geocaching.com.

You can identify the cache sites near you by going to the geocaching home page and typing in your zip code. This will then provide you with a list of geocaches located near you.
You can view the caches without membership, however, to have their locations revealed, you must become a member.
After locating the cache, you must sign the log which is required to be in the cache, then go back to the web site to claim credit for the 'find' by clicking on 'log your find'.

The photo to the right is of me in front of a light house on the Texas coast holding my GPSr unit, this photo was required to claim credit for locating the cache as it is a 'Virtual Cache" which are logless. These type of caches, without logs, are no longer permitted though the old ones are  retained under a grandfather clause

Geocaching is FREE other than the expense of obtaining the GPS reciever and any cost associated with creating a cache if you decide to do so.
I presently (6/03/2015) have1361 caches to my credit, from 31 different states and 7 foreign countries, including Ukraine. I was geocaching in Romania, attempting to add the one at "Dracula's" castle (Castle Bran), but unfortunately, the week I was there the area where the cache is located was 'off limits'.
One of my goals is to locate caches in every state!
I also have placed 82 (66 active) caches. Please note, when you place a cache you are obligated to maintain it. This usually only involves replacing the log when the old one is full or becomes wet/soggy. However, the containers sometimes become damaged or wear out and need replacing or, all to frequently, get muggled (stolen, or otherwise removed).
I used to use surplus military ammo cans which make excellent weather tight containers, however they are valuable (around $15.00) and are frequently stolen.
I have found that plastic pickle or mayonaise jars and medical urine collection bottles ;-) make excellent water tight containers. I wrap them in camouflage tape, or paint them with camouflage paint. (please note, the containers must be thoroughly cleaned out as any food odor may attract hungry animals). I strongly do not recommend old peanut jars, You just cannot get all of the odor out.

Cache owners (CO) have become extremely cleaver in placing their containers so "muggles" (uninvolved passers-by) will not inadvertently discover them. Be prepared to spend some time and effort to locate some of the more artfully camouflaged and placed containers.

To review my caching history  go to www.geocaching.com, (URL above)
click on "Hide and Seek a Cache" then type in my geocaching 'handle' txrancher in the "found by user name" box about 2/3rds of the way down the page.
I was pleased when one of my 'travel bugs' (The Spotted Frog) was placed in the geocaching headquarters cache in Washington (state). It presently 6/3/15, is in Belgium.
I suppose visiting the original home of geocaching should be a goal, but not very high up on my 'to do' list. That's a long way to travel.

Please note: respect property owners privacy and rights. COs are not allowed to place a cache on private property without the owners permission.
The federal government prohibits the placing of caches on US property.
No caches can be placed near security sensitve positons, ie; under bridges, near dams or near railroad tracks etc.
Most police officers are by now familiar with geocaching, it is their job to investigate people who are "snooping' around, most will just wish you good luck and leave you alone when they discover what you are up to,  however, there are a few that will give you a hard time. Don't argue, apologize and leave.
If searching in rural areas be alert for various dangers, (these are usually identified on the cache page) but steep cliffs, deep and/or rushing water and snakes are of particular concern.
Wear sensible clothing, sturdy shoes and carry a hiking stick when caching in rough terrain.
Use common sense and be careful, don't become a statistic.  X-(


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