CONTRIBUTED BY KELLY
Well, it’s that time of year again…geocaching time! Actually, it’s always geocaching time, especially here in Okinawa. Many of you may be familiar with this past-time, but if not, I’d like to share some information with you that might inspire you to get out there and try it for yourself. It’s really a lot of fun. Interested?…Read on.
Geocaching is basically a big ‘ole scavenger hunt, but more technologically advanced, as you need to use a GPS to find the treasure, or “cache”. Usually the cache consists of little trinkets like keychains, erasers, and stuff like that and also a log book where you log in your name, date, and any notes after you’ve found the cache. It’s often a pretty modest affair. The fun is in the finding – being outside and discovering new places on the island. After searching high and low for several minutes (or hours) for a cache, finding those little baubles is actually quite thrilling! And, you can take an item with you, as long as you leave something in return for the next visitors. (My friend geocaching in Hawaii, once found a pair of Dave Matthew’s Band tickets! Me, I’ve gotten a full stamp card entitling me to a free Dunkin’ Doughnuts coffee…hey, it’s something.)
There are all different kinds of caches in all kinds of places. Families go geocaching all the time, couples, older folks, health nuts…as such, you can find a range of difficulty levels to suit your particular tastes and abilities. Just choose the cache that works for you!
So, what do you need to begin?
1. Well, you need a handheld GPS first of all. If you don’t have one, you are on an island full of military folk who like to know where they are going. Ask a friend if you can borrow theirs. If you’re in a big group, try to get more than one GPS. They take a couple of minutes to learn to use, but hey, if I can do it, anyone can. Seriously.
2. Go to one of the geocaching websites. Here’s the address for Okinawa’s local geocachers http://www.okicache.com/index.php You can do some research and get a better feel for what it’s all about. Also, be sure to check out this website: http://www.geocaching.com/seek/nearest.aspx?lat=26.346867&lon=127.78285This is a list of all the caches in Okinawa (and their GPS coordinates) that have been registered on www.geocaching.com(the worldwide big daddy of geocaching websites.) If you click on the “map it” icon in the upper right corner, you can see where all the caches are on the island – so, if you wanna check out places near your home, you can easily see which ones are right there. In addition to the GPS coordinates of the site, you’ll find information about the difficulty of the hide and the terrain, whether or not the cache is recommended for kids, comments from people who’ve found the cache already, etc.
3. After you decide which caches you want to find, print out the information for them and log the GPS coordinates into your GPS. Select several, so that if you can’t find one, or find one really quickly, you can have a couple backups. We usually do about 3 or so in a day.
4. Load up your car with kids, food, GPS, rain gear, snorkel stuff, whatever you think you might need. Remember to bring the printouts though, ’cause they have additional clues on them that can help you if the coordinates are not enough. (The GPS will usually get you within a few feet or so…but even that close, they can be surprisingly hard to find if hidden well.) And also bring your little do-dads to add to the caches. We usually make a day of it and maybe picnic, snorkel, explore or do whatever in between caches.
5. Get out there and start a huntin’. Oh…but one thing, just be sure to be somewhat covert when you find the cache so that outsiders (“muggles” in geo-speak) don’t break into the loot after you leave and ruin the hide for others. Ahh! It’s all so cloak and dagger!
Any questions or comments, just let me know! Happy caching! -Kelly