BY IRENE MIDDLEMAN THOMAS
“OH, WOW,” I shouted gleefully upon
finally spotting the blue box peeking out
from the dead leaves. I had just found my
first geocache. I quickly realized why millions all over the world are geocachers.
This very low-cost (even free) hobby is
challenging, exciting, accessible to almost
anyone and, best of all, fun.
Brian Lang, a web developer from
Abbotsford, British Columbia, says he
geocaches alone and with friends. “For
me, it’s the thrill of the hunt. When you
head out to look for a geocache, you may
have some idea what you’re looking for,
but you never know for sure until you have
the container in your hands,” he says. “For
children, it’s the thrill of finding a toy of
some sort in a box in the woods—a genuine treasure hunt!”
How it all started
Geocaching was created in ;;;;, when
“selective availability” of GPS (global posi-
tioning system) technology was upgraded
around the world. A GPS device is an elec-
tronic navigational tool that determines
the approximate location (within around ;
to ; metres, or ; to ;; feet) anywhere on
earth, giving coordinates in latitude and
longitude. Dave Ulmer, an inventive com-
puter consultant, hid a cache (container)
in the woods near Portland, Oregon. He
posted the coordinates on a GPS internet
users group site, calling it the “Great
American GPS Stash Hunt.” His cache was
a black bucket filled with a logbook, a pen-
cil and some inexpensive “prize” items.
Sure enough, geocaching became an
instant success—within one week, several
people found his geocache, while others
hid their own and posted coordinates on
the internet site.
Within a short time, ;; geocaches
were posted on the site, now called geo
caching.com, and CNN and The New York
Times ran stories on the new phenomenon, which today attracts approximately
; million active participants worldwide.
The estimated nearly ; million geocaches
are found in every province and every
country except North Korea; there is even
one on the International Space Station.
Geocaching for the masses
Costco member Sandra Forbes, of
Ottawa, clearly recalls how she became a
geocacher: “Even though I learned about
the game in the fall of ;;;;, it was another
year and a half before I finally took the
plunge and ordered a GPS. I found my first
cache on Good Friday in March ;;;;. I
found almost ;;; caches on my own in
that first year. That number doubled the
following year and doubled again the year
after that. When I started dating another
geocacher in ;;;;, we would find over
;,;;; geocaches in a year.”
As of now, she has found over ;;,;;;
geocaches, in every Canadian province
and the Yukon, as well as in all ;; U.S.
states, Ireland, New Zealand and Iceland.
A final note: It’s not about the items in
the cache, which are typically fast-food
toys, stickers and other inexpensive
things. It’s all about the hunt! C
Irene Middleman Thomas (
a Colorado-based writer, earned money as a
child by hosting treasure hunts in her backyard.
the 21st century treasure hunt
Who: All ages, all physical conditions.
What: You’ll need your cellphone or a
How: To become a geocacher, simply
register for free on
account/register. Or, download the app,
for Apple or Android, at
•Sign the logbook with the date and
your “GeoNick” (username).
•Leave something of equal to or greater
value than what you take (not food items),
and keep them family friendly.
•Rehide the cache in the same spot, and
leave it and the area as you found it.
• Log your visit electronically (preferably
from a computer to best access the site’s
•Don’t bring tools (unless specifically
instructed to do so).
• Don’t disassemble sprinklers or other
things (unless specifically instructed to do so).
•Don’t let others see you: Stealth is
OUR DIGITAL EDITIONS
Click here for a video about how to
get started with
(See page 7 for details.)
A variety of GPS devices, as well as containers and items that can be used
as geocaches, are available at Costco and