Geocaching 101

I’m going to start by saying that I’m in no way an expert at geocaching. I’m not sure if there actually are experts, but if there are, I’m not one of them.  I don’t know everything there is to know about the hobby,  but since Jon and I started doing it, I’ve had a lot of friends ask about it. A couple people said it sounded interesting but they weren’t sure where to start, so I thought I’d put together this little informational post for anyone who’s curious about doing it or just wants to know what I’m talking about when I blog about geocaching.

1. What is geocaching and what exactly is a geocache? – Geocaching is an activity that uses GPS coordinates to help you find a container. That container is the geocache. Geocaches come in several sizes, and ones that can hold stuff will have small toys and treasures for trade. All geocaches will have a log to sign, though it’s recommended to always carry a pen on you since really small caches can’t hold a writing utensil.

2. So I can find the cache and take all of the stuff? – I suppose you could, if you were a jerkface. The main rule of geocaching etiquette is that if you take something, you leave something of equal value. We have a stash of small toys from garage sales and happy meals that we leave at caches. We also tend to take toys from one cache and put them in another one later on. It’s not always toys either. Some caches have themed items and items that will help you make your own cache.  You can leave stuff without taking anything as well.

3. I live in a city.  If people are hiding stuff, all the caches must be out in the woods, right?  – Nope. There are geocaches everywhere.  Nature caches can be found in woods, in fields, on bridges, along nature trails. City or urban caches can be found in the same kinds of spots, along wooded park areas, on bridges, along walking trails. There are even caches hidden in lamps and parking lots.

4. But not in the middle of nowhere in my tiny town, probably? – Dude…they’re everywhere. Having said that, we have traveled through a few really small towns that didn’t seem to have any, at least none that came up in our app search. That doesn’t mean they weren’t there. Even if by some chance you’re immediate town doesn’t have any, you’ll likely be able to find some within a 25 mile radius.  Geocaches are all over the world and more are being hidden every day. There’s even one in space!

5. Okay, I’ll bite. How do I out if there are any near me? – Go to and sign up for a free account. Then you can do a search for nearby caches using your address or zipcode. While you’re there, explore the site. Read some articles and watch their tutorial videos. They’ll give you a lot more information on geocaching rules and types of caches you can find.  If you do start geocaching, this is the site where you’ll log all your finds.

6. GPS involves satellites. I currently don’t own a satellite. Exactly how much money will I have to put into this? – That depends. The best tool for geocaching is a handheld GPS device. These devices start at $70 and go up from there depending on how many bells and whistles you want. You can find them cheaper on eBay, and if you’re just starting, a cheap one is all you need. If you don’t end up liking geocaching, then you can re-sell it. However, $70 is still an investment. If you have a smartphone, there are apps that will give you a compass and ways to log your finds, so you don’t need to invest anything new. We use our smartphones. The GPS isn’t always great, but it gets us there. We just have to be aware of our battery power, so we always carry a charger with us.

7. Are those the only costs? Really? – You’ll probably spend more in gas.

8. I have a GPS for my car. Will that work? – We use ours to get us to the general cache area, but our Garmin Nuvi isn’t great for taking us right to the cache spot. Sometimes a short hike is needed to get to “ground zero” (the spot of the actual coordinates), and you can only get so close with a car and an auto GPS.  A handheld or smartphone is the way to go.

9. You said “hike.” I hate exercise and I’m not fond of the outdoors, so this probably isn’t for me. – Geocaching has definitely helped us increase our activity level, but that’s because we wanted it to. We try to find places to hike and walk to get to certain finds. But somedays all we do is drive around, park for a couple minutes to make the find, then get back into the car.  As for being an outdoors person, you may find that geocaching isn’t your thing, and there’s nothing wrong with that. I’ve developed a better appreciation for the outdoors since we started, and now I love going out on adventures.

10. Running around and looking for containers sounds weird. Where’s the thrill? – I wondered that when I first started, too. I decided I wanted to geocache at a time when I couldn’t geocache due to physical issues, so it seemed like a thing that would prove I was better if I could do it. When I finally got brave enough to try it, I figured I’d try it a couple times and then be done. I didn’t expect it to be so addicting.  Finding the cache itself is a thrill, like solving a puzzle or uncovering a treasure. Beyond that, finding caches takes you to really cool places and pretty scenery. I’ve seen so many things I didn’t even know existed because the coordinates took me to a place I wouldn’t have otherwise known about or thought to explore.

There are a lot of other details in geocaching, like travel bugs, premium accounts, and pocket queries, but I’ll save those for another post. If anyone reading this has questions, please post them in the comments and I’ll answer as best I can. I wanted this to be starter’s overview, and I would definitely invite anyone with even a touch of interest to give this a try.


Snow Days and Technology

The end of a year is drawing near, so inevitably I feel the need to brush off my blog and start rambling again to anyone who’s still listening. Considering I always say I like to write and blog, you’d think I’d do it more frequently.

Now, at 11pm at night, I have the urge to update, an urge borne of sleeplessness resulting from an afternoon nap and too much Mountain Dew. This is what I get for ignoring consequences. And while others are waiting for the end of the world (which may or may not happen in an hour…and I’m leaning heavily towards may not), my topic is way less exciting.

Today, I took a snow day.

Since I haven’t blogged here in awhile, I should mention…in case I haven’t already…that J. Felbs and I moved at the beginning of summer to a small town about twenty minutes away from where we work and go to school. The commute hasn’t been bad and I like living in a small, quiet town much more than living in the louder college town. However, winter weather was something we knew we’d eventually have to tackle.

Snow came through last night and it had already been determined that if roads were bad, people could use their judgement to stay home. And I started thinking about how things have changed between now and when I used to work and go to school in Michigan. Some of it has to do with my age, some of it with the fact that I’ve passed some time in an area that doesn’t get as much snow as the UP. Some of it has to do with technology.

Back then, I’d listen for the weather report on the TV or radio. If school wasn’t called off or work closed, I just went, braving the roads, driving slowly without a cell phone, walking carefully on the ice. Sure, I’d complain about it all day long, but there never seemed to be another option unless I wanted an absence (school) or loss of pay and an irate manager and co-workers (job).

Now, I can get online and check the weather and the road conditions. I can message and email friends to see how the roads are. I can read other Tweets in the area to gauge what’s going on. If I venture out, I’m armed with my cell phone, and I text when I leave and when I arrive so friends and family know I’m safe. If applicable, I can work from home.

Which is what I did. And it worked out okay, but it felt weird. When we lived in the larger town, a snow day wasn’t a huge issue since everything was only five minutes away. But this morning I was scared to drive the twenty minutes on the highway without doing all kinds of research on what was going on out there. Even after I got several pieces of informational feedback, I waited for it to get light and then I tried to venture out only to be thwarted by the ice on the outside stairs. While there was a time when this too would have been defeated, it got the best of me. I went back in, turned on the computer, and proceeded to take full advantage of the joys of technology and telecommuting.

I’ve seen memes and posts that insinuate how much better people were for surviving those times without internet and cell phones, and of course I “Like” them or “Retweet” them if they’re particularly clever. I’ve been known to get my own pretentious on about living in Michigan where a little snow never frightened us, not like it does down here where people aren’t “one with the snow.”

But to be completely honest, I like the current way of things. I like having all the info, I like the security of having my cell phone with me wherever I go, and I like knowing that I can work offsite and still be productive when it’s needed. I know not everyone has that with their job, but even taking into account the access to more information and the ability to make better decisions about staying or going is definite progress from the early morning weather updates and school closing lists from my youth.

I do hope, however, to be able to get out tomorrow, because I haven’t progressed enough to beat cabin fever.