Sunday, May 07, 2006


I decided that I need to do something new - seeing as I am an Earth Science geek as well as a computer geek, this seemed like it might be an amusing idea.

Amusing isn't the half of it. First, I sort of vaguely snuck out because heaven forbid I should announce I was going off to try this and come back empty-handed, not having been able to find my way to the corner, let alone someone's artfully hidden cache.

For thos of you who don't have a clue what
geocaching (geo-cashing, like cashing a check) is, it's definitely a sport and it can be done alone, with a friend, or in a group. I suspect I will do much of mine on my own as I tend to have a fairly random schedule.

What is it and where'd it come from?

Prior to May 2, 2000, Global Positioning Systems had a built-in error known as
selective availability which intentionally degraded the GPS signal that private citizens were able to receive. On that day, however, the White House changed policy. Twenty-four satellites around the globe processed their new orders, and instantly the accuracy of GPS technology improved tenfold. Tens of thousands of GPS receivers around the world suddenly saw an upgraded, and very precise signal change.

By the following day, of course, a computer geek named Dave Ulmer apparently thought, "Whoo-hoo - now I can really use this multi-billion dollar satellite system for something worthwhile!"

He decided to test the accuracy of GPS by hiding a small container, a little black bucket in fact, out in the woods and noting the coordinates with a GPS unit. He called the idea the "Great American GPS Stash Hunt" and posted it in an internet GPS users' group. The idea was, someone else would then have to locate the container with only the use of his or her GPS receiver. The rules for the finder were simple: "Take some stuff, leave some stuff."

On May 3rd he placed his own container, a black bucket, in the woods near Beaver Creek, Oregon, close to Portland. Along with a logbook and pencil, he left various items including videos, books, software, and a slingshot. He the posted the waypoint of his "stash" with the online community on sci.geo.satellite-nav:

N 45 17.460 W 122 24.800

The stash took three days to find, and the "winner" was Mike Teague. From there, geocaching took off and now there are well over a quarter million caches world-wide.

The rules are very simple:

1. Take something from the cache (not strictly required).

2. Leave something in the cache (not strictly required).

3. Write about it in the logbook - and very often, online as well (pretty much required).

I took a sheet of Tigger stickers - whoo-hoo! I left two campaign buttons from Michigan's 2004 election cycle and an oyster shell I found on the beach on Ocracoke Island in North Carolina. I then proceeded to write the wrong darned date in the logbook! But I had a great time and felt decidedly victorious.

When I decided to give this a shot, I simply went to Google and googled up geocaching + Michigan and went from there. You should, too. Good day, out in the fresh air and sun - and what a rush when I actually found the cache! Life is an adventure - if you wish it to be.