A different way of exploring Stoke-on-Trent

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I’m your not-so-average 39 year old – sick of the gym, fed up of ‘Adults Only’ swim to find I’m the youngest there and not having the energy to carry an exercise bike up to the bedroom to compete against Sir Chris Hoy each day!
So enter the world of Geocaching. Geo-whating I hear you say – Geocaching? Sounds very high-tech and nerdy and, to some, it is whereas to others, it’s a good fun way of getting out and about and making a walk a lot more interesting.
Simply, geocaching uses a GPS device to track down hidden items that over five million other geocaching enthusiasts of all ages have left in one of over one million locations throughout the world and often within walking distance of your home.
Many enthusiasts use a GPS designed for walking to guide them rather than one used for driving; with Garmin being a popular and cost effective brand you can purchase on the high street.
New enthusiasts are discovering the hobby using their mobile phones as the iPhone or BlackBerry have a GPS built in and cheap software enables them to be used to geocache with very little effort.
A website – www.geocaching.com – brings all enthusiasts and locations together into one place and enables you to discover and log your finds, share your experiences with other geocaching enthusiasts and realise you’re not the only person who can’t find things or have gotten wet searching for something that you walked past two minutes ago.
Geocaching began in the Year 2000 thanks to the US government allowing public access to their satellite navigation networks and, while guiding
drivers to their destinations, also appealed to walkers, many who marked their destinations on maps and used handheld GPS units to get there.
Teams of American computer enthusiasts realised they could have some fun using the millions of research dollars spent on developing the system and began to hide items for others to find – and the first geocaches were born.
A geocache is often contained in a sealed container, usually a Tupperware lunchbox, and contains a logbook to sign to say you have found the item, a few small items to swap – often toys or trinkets – and items that move from location to location.
Some geocache enthusiasts make their ‘caches smaller – using 35mm film containers or even smaller that hold a log to sign and nothing more. I
discovered carrying a pencil helps. Some geocaches are more cryptic and require some brain work to solve a puzzle at the geocache site to finally
discover the hidden prize.
I often combine geocaching with a walk – starting by visiting the geocaching website and discovering what is nearby – and take my walking bag that contains things such as water, a snack, waterproofs in case the heavens open, a few small items to leave in caches such as key rings and a pencil; grab a walking pole, fill a flask of coffee and go outdoors.
Firing up my GPS often will show a number of geocaches hidden nearby and all I do is select one and follow the compass and directions.
Arriving at ‘ground zero’ where the ‘cache is hidden, a simple search around – under rocks, beneath trees, in a crack in a wall, beneath a seat, etc – will reveal a geocache hidden or, in some cases, not but that’s the fun of finding. A short circular walk close to home revealed four geocaches that we sought and found and added to our tally of ‘finds’. We have only just started and are ten years behind some people who have found literally thousands and tens of thousands of caches and also have hidden hundreds for other to find.

What’s stopping you from having a go? Very little apart from obtaining a GPS, joining the geocaching.com website for free, packing a bag and choosing where to go.
Many friends have asked me how can they start and others have revealed that they often grab the kids, put the dog on a leash, put on their walking shoes and go out using a GPS to discover Tupperware hidden in the woods. For me – it’s helped me to re-discover the joys of walking, finding new places to walk, realising I can walk and geocache practically anywhere while my health is benefitting at the same time.
Who knows, I might just walk past you while following my GPS or discover that I’ve just visited the geocache you’ve found while exercising through walking and enjoying the fresh air.
Happy Geocaching!

1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Dave
    Jan 02, 2011 @ 17:28:10

    A great read, nice blog post. We must get up north to do some geocaching 🙂


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