Saturday, February 4, 2012

My Latest Interest: Geocaching

I was out looking for a bald eagle's nest at Fountainebleau State Park when a Texas auto pulled up. The driver asked if I'd found it and having been there before, helped me locate it through my scope. When I asked if they were birders, he replied, "No, we are geocachers from Biloxi."

Well, I knew what geocaching was since our grandson, Mac, had just gone on a Cub Scout geo outing. When my new friend asked, "Want to see one?" I followed him up to a little path into the underbrush. He reached down and lifted up a root, showing me the drilled hole in the underside, with a small cylinder inserted. He showed me the rolled up log sheet inside - and I was hooked. I went to his website (Gulf Coast Geocachers)read up a bit, downloaded an iPhone app, and was off and running.

Here's a little of what I learned (from Wikipedia):
Geocaching is an outdoor sporting activity in which the participants use a Global Positioning System (GPS) receiver or mobile device and other navigational techniques to hide and seek containers, called "geocaches" or "caches", anywhere in the world.

A typical cache is a small waterproof container containing a logbook where the geocacher enters the date they found it and signs it with their established code name

Larger containers such as plastic storage containers (tupperware or similar) or ammunition boxes can also contain items for trading, usually toys or trinkets of little value.

Geocaching is often described as a "game of high-tech hide and seek", sharing many aspects with benchmarking, trigpointing, orienteering, treasure-hunting, letterboxing, and waymarking.

Geocaches are currently placed in over 100 countries around the world and on all seven continents, including Antarctica. After 10 years of activity there are over 1,532,000 active geocaches published on various websites. There are over 5 million geocachers worldwide.

So, I've done some geocaching at Fountainebleau and Lake Fausse Pointe in Louisiana and at Village Creek annd Goose Island state parks in Texas. I find that it goes well with dog walking, biking, and birding and like the fact that it gets you outside. I also like the geeky aspect of gps and online record-keeping and tracking objects around the country and the world. I also like the inter-generational potential of it; kids love it.

So for now, it's a "give it a try" activity to check out. When the birds are resting, it is a chance to get out the iPhone and see where the closest geocache might be. And perhaps, there's a new bird waiting there as well.

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