by Betsy Natter
If you’re all tapped out on Pokémon Go, the latest virtual seek and find game, perhaps a real world navigational game that’s been around for nearly two decades may be the answer. Geocaching is a high-tech outdoor treasure hunt where participants use GPS coordinates to locate hidden items anywhere in the world.
There are many kinds of available caches and literally thousands hidden throughout Montgomery County. Items are hidden in some kind of box or container and their location is marked with the global positioning system (GPS) coordinates. Hunters can then find the caches by using the coordinates, accessible on a GPS device or a GPS enabled smartphone. Caches may be hidden in a tree along a hiking trail, somewhere in a park or on a city street. Participants locate the hidden cache, sign the logbook and follow any additional instructions the owner may leave. Caches often contain items that hunters may take with them, but it is standard geocaching practice to leave an item behind as well.
If you are new to geocaching, checkout the Geocaching 101 page at www.geocaching.com for a crash course and everything you need to get started. A free, basic membership provides access to the locations of caches hidden within a 10 miles radius of your home. There are simple caches as well as multi-step, and mystery/puzzle options. Some hunts are designed particularly with families and kids in mind. The site also includes ratings for the difficulty of the hunt and the type of terrain where the cache is located.
In order to participate you will need some type of GPS device. Units can be purchase at camping or boating stores or online. If you prefer to use your smart phone, a variety of apps are also available. Once your device is enabled you can enter coordinates and be on your way!
If you are not quite ready to head out on your own, there are a few local group led options. Grab a group of friends and head over to Spring Mountain Adventures in Spring Mountain, PA for a Geo Race Party. Teams race against each other and the clock to find a series of hidden caches all over the mountain. All GPS devices are provided and there are three course levels available. Contact the staff at 610-287-7900 to make a reservation and see http://spring.springmountainadventures.com/geo-caching for more information.
Another option for group outings is to check out some of the state parks located just outside our county lines. Both French Creek and Nockamixon State Parks are within easy driving distance and offer free beginners instructions, a guided walk and GPS devices to borrow during the events. See the Pennsylvania State Park website at http://events.dcnr.pa.gov/event/geocache_walk_909#.V44wzvkrK70 for more info.