By OLIVIA POUST
Treasure hunting is a concept everyone’s familiar with, and although our minds may automatically think of pirates scouring the seas, millions of people around the world let their curiosity take them on a more lawful adventure.
While trekking across the globe in search of gold isn’t quite what these people are doing, they still experience the thrill and excitement of a treasure hunt, often in their own backyards, thanks to geocaching.
The concept of geocaching is simple: use a GPS to find items, or caches, that were hidden by other geocachers. Most caches are a container of some sort with a log inside for the finder to write their name, but others have objects to be taken in exchange for a replacement.
Geocaches range in difficulty, with some being easy to find and others being miniscule and incredibly well-hidden. Each cache is ranked by its difficulty from one to five, so it’s recommended that beginners start with a low-difficulty cache and gradually work their way up.
Since it was created in May 2000, geocaching has evolved alongside modern technology. What once required a separate GPS device can now be managed with ease on a smartphone.
The official website for geocaching, Geocaching.com, is simple to use. The user just needs to create a free membership, and from there, they can input their location and receive local coordinates for numerous caches. Once the cache is found, the user can return to the website and track their experience.
Locally, there are many caches. They can be found hidden throughout neighborhoods, along the Albany County Rail Trail, or at more scenic locations, such as Five Rivers Environmental Center or Thacher Park.
“The world is our game board,” explains Andrew Rickert, an English teacher at Bethlehem Central High School and a geocaching enthusiast. “I enjoy being outside with my family and going on hikes, and this kind of gives the outdoors a game to play, a purpose.”
Benjamin Gagnon, a senior at Bethlehem Central High School, has just recently gotten into geocaching due to a seminar given by Rickert. Even though Gagnon’s only been caching for two months, he already has 70 finds and hopes to reach his goal of 200 by the end of the school year.
“It’s a good way to get out into nature and also do something that’s put there by people,” said Gagnon. “I think it’s connecting people and the environment.”
Standard caches are only one of many forms of geocaching. Virtual caches are popular in scenic locations, and in these instances, the location is the cache, not an item. Since there is no physical log, the finder has to take a selfie with a pen and their GPS at the site and post it to geocaching.com as their way of logging the find.
Trackables are another variation on a typical cache. These are small mementoes or key chains that have a trackable code on them. When someone finds a trackable, they can take it to their next cache, log its movement, and watch online as it makes its way from location to location; some have traveled hundreds of thousands of miles.
Multi-caches are an option that mimic time-honored scavenger hunts. The first cache will have coordinates that lead to another site, that cache will have coordinates that lead to another, and so it continues until they lead to the last location. These are extremely common and offer a nice twist to traditional caches.
Geocaching is popular for a reason — it’s a feasible and fun outlet for people to embrace our natural desire to explore the world around us.
Olivia Poust is an intern for Spotlight News and is a senior at Bethlehem Central High School.