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A Grown Man’s Hobby

May 22nd, 2008 · 7 Comments · dave, family, techno geeks

So there we were, two grown men, crossing a wooden plank in search of treasure. Our location (in normal person terms) would have been about 1500 North and 200 West, west side of the road where a wooden footbridge crosses the canal. In our language, we were at N 41° 45′ 34.6788″ W 111° 50′ 21.9012″ (pronounced “North 41 degrees 45 minutes 34 point 6788 seconds by West 111 degrees 50 minutes 21 point 9012 seconds). I hollered over to the other guy (somebody I have never met before and only know now as “6coondawgs”) that I found it. He quickly came over while I opened the treasure — a tupperware container filled with a notebook, a pencil, and dollar-store junk.

Why was such a find so exciting for us? A philosopher might say, “the thrill is in the hunt.” Much like pirates of old looking for buried treasure, we are 21st century pirates using 21st century maps hunting for buried treasure — except our treasure isn’t so much buried. The title of our game — geocaching.

Geocaching.com defines geocaching as follows:

Geocaching is an entertaining adventure game for gps users…The basic idea is to have individuals and organizations set up caches all over the world and share the locations of these caches on the internet. GPS users can then use the location coordinates to find the caches. Once found, a cache may provide the visitor with a wide variety of rewards. All the visitor is asked to do is if they get something they should try to leave something for the cache.

For the non techno-geeks of the world, GPS stands for Global Positioning System which Wikipedia defines as such:

The Global Positioning System (GPS) is the only fully functional Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS). Utilizing a constellation of at least 24 Medium Earth Orbit satellites that transmit precise microwave signals, the system enables a GPS receiver to determine its location, speed, direction, and time.

A typical GPS receiver calculates its position using the signals from four or more GPS satellites. Four satellites are needed since the process needs a very accurate local time, more accurate than any normal clock can provide, so the receiver internally solves for time as well as position. In other words, the receiver uses four measurements to solve for four variables: x, y, z, and t. These values are then turned into more user-friendly forms, such as latitude/longitude or location on a map, then displayed to the user.

In short, I have this cool toy that tells me precisely and accurately what location and elevation I am currently located. I can program into the device precise locations of “buried treasure” and the GPS will give me turn-by-turn directions (in the case of street maps) or step-by-step navigation (in the case of walking, hiking, or biking) to the destination.

Enthusiasts throughout the world are working together to make this a fun game. Geocaching.com is the official home of such a hobby. Since the precise locations are known, geocaching.com can overlay the locations of the caches over a map of the area using tools like Google Earth. See Cache Valley screenshot below (with geocaches overlayed accordingly):

Cache Valley GeoCache Map

As you see in the map above, some of the locations have smily faces for the symbol. These are the locations that I have successfully discovered. I signed the log in the geocache and recorded the find at the website.

I actually introduced my dad to geocaching while we were on our vacation to California last week. Here are some pictures commemorating our finds:



For those that decide to join our grown man’s hobby, where we track through urban areas looking for hidden treasure chests of junk, you can create a free account at geocaching.com. FYI, our GPS unit is a Garmin Nuvi 200. We actually bought this particular model for navigating roads. The GPS functionality is an added bonus. You can get GPS devices that are better qualified for geocaching than ours. :)

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7 Comments so far ↓

  • Mother of the Wild Boys

    Around how much $$ is a good geocaching GPS device? My boys would LOVE this (not to mention me & Nick)!

  • Dave

    Our Garmin Nuvi 200 cost us $168. GPS devices come in all breeds and forms. The really nice ones work well to throw in a backpack and hike around in the wilderness. These ones have a built in compass to show direction. My GPS uses movement to infer direction (in other words, I have to be moving in a direction for the gps to compare old locations to new locations and decide what direction I’m headed).

    Keep in mind, there is a distinct difference between GPS functionality and mapping software. The GPS’ primary functionality is to uniquely define your global position. The device is usually loaded with maps and then uses Dijkstra’s Shortest Path algorithm to calculate the best way of getting from point A to point B. That mapping functionality varies greatly from one GPS to the next.

    Garmin is the leading manufacturer of quality GPS units.

  • Dave

    If you’d like to come geocaching once before you purchase one, you are welcome to join us some Monday evening for FHE. We’ll go on a geocaching adventure.

  • Mother of the Wild Boys

    I will take you up on that offer, just tell me when and we’ll be there (with a yummy FHE treat)! Thanks. :mrgreen:

  • Sandra

    I think it sounds fun also. Have you found a lot in Cache Valley? How many did you get to in California? Have you thought about creating your own geocaching treasure box to place somwhere? Okay I think thats enough questions for now :)

  • Dave

    1) We have found 4 in Cache Valley.
    2) We got 4 in California.
    3) No, we haven’t placed a geocache yet. We want to, though.

    I’ll let Tina coordinate scheduling FHE (if I ever let her read her blog again!!! I’m having fun!) Just wait until tomorrow when we get to learn about Gummy Bears!

  • Amber

    My parents love to go Geocaching! They went to Colorado last summer and had a great time with it. I haven’t had a chance to go yet but I think it’s very cool. Who doesn’t like to search for buried treasure?

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