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Geocaching gives hiking a purpose

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On May 3rd, 2000, the day after President Bill Clinton gave civilian users of GPS devices access to the same near pinpoint accuracy as military-grade devices, a plastic bucket containing various trinkets, a logbook and a pencil was placed in the woods near Portland, Oregon. The coordinates of the bucket were determined with a handheld GPS, posted on the internet, and others were invited to use their GPS receivers to try to locate the bucket and to sign the log inside. And the sport of Geocaching was created.

Part treasure hunt, part detective work and part outdoor recreation, Geocaching uses your powers of deduction and observation to locate the hidden containers. The cache container may be as big as a five-gallon paint bucket or as small as a repurposed pill bottle — has to be waterproof — and in most cases placed in forests, parks and other open spaces, but sometimes in urban settings, too. The containers are hidden from plain view in order to remain undisturbed by people not searching playing along (called "muggles").
Some of the many varieties of geocache containters - GROUNDSPEAK.COM
  • Groundspeak.com
  • Some of the many varieties of geocache containters
Geocaches are rated from one to five stars in two categories: terrain and difficulty. Terrain ratings refer to how intense the trip to the geocache is; difficulty refers to how hard it is to actually find the container once you get to the location. Though non-competitive, geocaching still has rules: containers can't be placed in national parks or monuments, nor can they be placed in wildlife refuges or in designated U.S. Forest Service wilderness areas. They can't be buried underground, but they can require rappelling down a cliff side or scuba diving to get to it (those would be a "5" in terrain rating). Users are discouraged from placing containers near bridges and high voltage power line towers so as not to cause alarm, and they can't be filled with food or weapons.

Locally, geocaches are allowed in Colorado Springs and El Paso County parks — in state parks it's up to the park manager.

For the outdoors enthusiast, geocaching gives you an added purpose to your hike or bike ride. Not only are you enjoying fresh air and getting exercise, the thrill of the hunt to find the next geocache adds to the experience. There are millions of containers around the world, and thousands in Colorado Springs. If you've hiked in any of the city or county parks, or in the forest, you've likely passed a geocache and didn't even know it. Geocaching is also a great family event, with kids and parent's working together to find a well-hidden cache.

Next time you go out, give some thought to what you might be passing by, and give geocaching a try.

Happy Trails!

Bob Falcone is a retired firefighter, photographer, hiker, college instructor, business owner and author of Hiking Bob's Tips, Tricks and Trails, available via his website. He has lived in Colorado Springs for 25 years. Follow him on Twitter (@hikingbob), Facebook (Hiking Bob), Instagram (@HikingBob_CO) or visit his website (Hikingbob.com). E-mail questions, comments, suggestions, etc to Bob: info@hikingbob.com.

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