How to Start Geocaching: Planning
After a week of serious eating and resting around the house, I was absolutely thirsting to get outside and move around a little. My new sister-in-law, Nicole, had never been Geocaching, but when I asked her if she would like to learn how to start geocaching, her face lit up like a Christmas tree. She excitedly exclaimed, “I’ve always wanted to try that!”
This thrilled me, as my husband and children generally do not enjoy geocaching as much as I do. When they agree to go with me, it is mostly out of pity and they can’t wait for it to be over. That is ok – I appreciate when they do things they don’t love just to spend some time with me. It is different, however, when you are able to get out and enjoy a hobby with another enthusiast.
Create a List
Because this was Nicole’s first geocaching experience, I wanted to select caches of different types. I decided to use the “List” feature that is accessible to premium members on the Geocaching app. I opened the app and zeroed in on my current location. Fortunately, there are many geocaches all around. In order to demonstrate what this looks like, I’m going to include screenshots of caches from a different location so as to help new geocachers plan a good trip but without sharing my home location. I mean, I love my readers but I don’t need people knocking on my door without calling first. Let’s keep some decorum, folks.
Let’s say that I live in San Antonio, Texas. I open my Geocache App and access the map feature. It will automatically show me all of the geocaches that are near to me.
The green icons with the box inside are all geocaches that are basic containers, ready for you to find. All of the other icons represent more advanced caches, many involving riddles or puzzles – these are made for geocachers that may spend hours or days or multiple trips solving a single puzzle. Some puzzles are simple, some difficult. You’ll want to click on those icons to determine if you’re willing to play those games.
For a beginner, however, we’re just going to focus on the green geocache icons. You can obtain the same feature at the geocaching website (www.geocaching.com), but I find the app to be simple and easy to navigate. If you are reading this from a computer, go ahead and try the desktop website and decide for yourself.
Check the Geocache Out
The next step in deciding where to begin will be for you to click on the green icons and read a little about the geocache.
You want to know the terrain difficulty, the level of difficulty of the cache itself, whether it has been found lately or if it may have disappeared.
The screen shot shown here is what appears when you click on a green icon. There is a good amount of information that will help you determine whether this is a good geocache with which to introduce a new player.
If you want to find the best geocache, the first thing you’re going to look for is the Activity. The best indicator of a geocache still being where it is supposed to is that someone has found it recently. If the last Activity is a “DNF on 11/28/20” that indicates that the last person could not find the geocache. In that case, you’ll want to click on the “Activity” space and read the latest logs to determine if the geocache is even findable at this point.
Makita SL, the geocache we are looking for, has been found recently. It’s right by where we are looking, so we are going to add that to our list. If you’re a premium member, you can press the button with the three circles on the top right and choose “Add to List” and easily add it to a new list.
I name my lists after the person I’m caching with and the date we are going. “Nicole and Katie and Kelly 12/27/20” Lists will be in the order you added them, so the first add is the first in the list. If you are not a premium member, don’t worry. You’ll just have to make your own list on paper or on your phone. I suggest recording the cache number and then using the search feature when you’re out on the road to find it.
If you want more information about the cache before you add it to your list, read the Description. Try to avoid reading hints and looking at photos if you’d like an extra challenge!
Look for Different Types
The first cache we listed was a “city” cache. It’s located in the heart of downtown San Antonio. Those types of caches are fun and usually good quick grabs. I prefer caches hidden in nature settings, so I want to introduce Nicole to these types, as well.
Next, I went back to my map and scrolled around, searching for green space with a good amount of caches nearby. I see Comanche Park and Southside Lions Park with a good number of caches meandering down a trail. That is exactly what I’m looking for.
The way I’m going to add these to the list is open each one, make sure it’s been found recently and that it is still there. If it is a good one, I’m going to add it to my list.
Check that it still exists
As I’m opening each cache to verify how findable it is, I come across this message under “Activity”
“Maintenance Suggested on 11/5/20.”
This could mean any number of things. First, it could mean simply that the geocache is there but has been damaged in some way. Water, wildlife, or maintenance crews are the most usual culprits.
Second, it could mean that there have been a number of attempts to find this cache by different people and no one has been able to located it.
The best way to find out is to open up the Activity menu and read what the most recent comments say. I click on Activity and bring up the list.
As you can see, this geocache has not really been found in tact for two years or so. I’m going to avoid adding this cache to my list.
As the Activity log here demonstrates, there are different ways to log missing or damaged caches. A few people have decided to log it as “found” – that is what the smiley face demonstrates.
Others have logged it as “DNF” meaning “Did not find.” Perhaps they didn’t see the remaining part of the cache or the damaged part.
“sunshinex” likely saw the other descriptions, found the damaged cache and decided to suggest maintenance. This will trigger a message to the person who originally hid the cache.
No matter how you log the cache is ok – just remember to sign the log if you want credit for a find. Cache owners are supposed to go back and make sure every member logs it has physically signed the log. The owner would have the power here to remove the smiley faces from the users who claim they found the cache with no log.
Fortunately, all the other caches on this trail looks pretty good.
I’ve got a list of eight caches now. We’re going to head out with a small bag of supplies and hope for some adventure.
Giving is the Best Part
Geocaching is like a treasure hunt. In my supply bag I keep two types of “gifts” to leave behind for future geocachers. I keep Lego Minifigs and foreign coins, mostly euros from my travels, and whenever a cache is large enough I leave one or two behind. Some of the souvenirs I’ve found have been pins, spoons, Whataburger table numbers, and a movie gift card. This aspect of caching enhances the treasure hunt feel of the game. My children can only be convinced to come along if I promise that they will find a geocache treasure.
On our trip, we quickly went through the caches on our list located throughout the city, and spent a good amount of time finding several caches at the city park. A man playing the bagpipes played nearby for about an hour, making the trip even more special. We got a good amount of exercise and enjoyed each other’s company. She came home with three souvenirs: A measuring spoon, a tiny charm shaped like a key, and an interesting sea shell. I left behind a minifig and two Euros. I honestly can not wait for the next trip.
For more information on geocaching, check them out at http://www.geocaching.com.