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Geocaching: Take a technological treasure hunt through Idaho

Have you tried geocaching, or even heard of it? If you’re looking for something new to do outdoors in the Treasure Valley, you may want to give it a try.

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Geocaching is a real life treasure hunting game.  Using a handheld GPS device and specific geographic coordinates, the goal is to find geocaches (also commonly referred to as “caches”).

Before you get too excited thinking you’ll be finding gold or jewels, let me warn you: This is not a hunt for actual treasure.  Think of geocaching as more of a worldwide scavenger hunt.  It’s a great way to try something new outdoors while also getting some low impact exercise from all of the walking.

You may even be surprised to learn that there are caches all over the world.  More than likely, you may have walked by a cache at some point and did not even know it.

Geocaches are hidden everywhere, both in very public, high traffic areas as well as places very bare like hiking paths.  Caches come in a variety of shapes, sizes and even colors.  I’ve seen them as small as a watch battery and as big as a paint bucket.  Some of the larger caches have little trinkets and prizes for people who find them, and all geocaches will have some sort of log for you to sign and date.

What adds to the appeal of geocaching  is that it’s absolutely free.  The only equipment you’ll need are a comfortable pair of walking shoes and a handheld GPS device.  Traditionally you would need to buy a basic handheld GPS device which can start around $80, but with the rise in popularity of smartphones with built in GPS capabilities, all you need to do now is download the official geocaching app.

You will need to sign up for a free membership at geocaching.com.  This is the official website of geocaching.  You can think of it as a social networking site for geocachers.  Your membership will allow you to access the coordinates of different caches as well as let you log caches that you have found.

A big part of geocaching is the community and friendships that can be made.  You can find geocaching groups for your local area as well as friend people through the geocaching website.  Often people will write about their experience and give hints to help others find caches. 

There are also independent geocaching groups you can find by searching on Google.  While searching “geocaching Boise” I was able to find a few geocaching websites as well as Facebook group pages.

To get started, download the official geocaching app onto your smartphone.  It is available for iPhone, Android, and Windows phones.  The app will not only act as your GPS locator, but will let you log into your geocaching.com account so that you can pull up coordinates as well as leave comments straight from your phone.

If you don’t have a smartphone, you will need to purchase a handheld GPS. Many newer handheld GPS devices allow you to download coordinates straight into the device from the geocaching website.  You can also print or handwrite the coordinates with pen and paper if you want to get it done simple.

For those who do have smart phones, once you’re logged into the app, it will pull up a map of your current location and show you all of the geocaches located within a mile or two.  Pick one to get started, and just like a car GPS, the app will guide you to the location.

The GPS coordinates will typically place you within 30 feet of the actual cache.  Depending on the size of the cache and the surrounding area, it may take some time to find.  While this sounds like it would be frustrating, this is where the real search begins.  Using the clues given to you from the app, you will need to look for something out of the ordinary.  For example, some of the caches that I’ve found in the past were hidden under plants, attached under a park bench, placed inside of a hole in the ground, and one was even placed inside of a retail salon store. Once you find your cache, be sure to sign the log book and mark it on your geocaching app.

If this sounds extremely simple, it’s because it is.  When my friend first told me about geocaching, the thought really did not appeal to me, but after finding my first cache I was instantly hooked.  Give it a try and I bet you’ll be hooked too.  For more information, go to www.geocaching.com.

For an in depth look at the Treasure Valley’s geocaching community and a virtual geocaching adventure, download the first issue of Boise Urban Magazine, coming soon to your mobile device.

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