It's easy to reminisce about a time when scavenger hunts brought joy and excitement to our childish hearts. There was nothing better than finding that item and checking it off your list, instilling a sense of accomplishment and pride. While traditional scavenger hunt days might lie in the past, there's a relatively new game in town that can satisfy every Philadelphian's craving for adventure and mystery solving. Enter geocaching—the most popular and exciting outdoor activity you never knew about.
Geocaching is essentially modern-day scavenger hunting using GPS devices and smartphones. Geocaching began only 15 years ago in 2000 after GPS signals became public to citizens around the globe. The day after the signals went public, a man named Dave Ulmer tested GPS accuracy in the woods of Oregon and recorded the coordinates. Later on, he shared them with others and publicly on the internet, and thus geocaching was born.
Today, geocaching brings the outdoor world and technology together into one sport. The seeker visits a geocaching website such as Geocaching.com and finds the cache they want to physically search for. Then, they enter the GPS coordinates into a GPS device or smartphone, and follow the signal until they find the cache.
The cache can be any size from a small film canister (remember those?) to a large bucket and everything in between. Obviously, the smaller the cache, the more difficult it is to find since GPS coordinates have about a 10 to 15 foot accuracy level. The cacher might find various “treasures” inside the cache, but most often they are inexpensive knick knacks that are free to take, but must be replaced with something of equal or greater value. The cacher should also sign the logbook in the cache, and share results online.
There are more than 2.6 million geocaches around the world today, and more than 6 million geocachers seeking them. A quick search on Geocaching.com proves that there are at least 900 active caches in the Philadelphia area today. Some of the most popular caching spots include Kelly Drive, Wissahickon Park, and Pennypack Park. But the search is not limited to Philadelphia’s parks, caches exist in urban environments as well.
Geocaching has become especially popular with younger kids and older adults, offering a fun, adventurous way to stay competitive at one's own pace. The beauty of geocaching is that, barring any disruption or vandalism from non-cachers, the caches will always be there waiting to be found. It's a wonderful way to teach young children to use technology in a meaningful way, while also exploring their natural surroundings. Kids love the hunt of the chase, while parents love teaching and watching their children using critical thinking and orienteering skills.
So whether you're a kid, adult, or senior citizen living in or around Philadelphia, geocaching is a low-key way to enjoy a Saturday or Sunday, easily moving from one cache to the next. Chances are, you've already walked, biked, or run by several caches that you didn't even know existed. To get started, sign up at geocaching.com today. Happy hunting.