Geek Hideout
Geocaching and Me

Geocaching and Me

Sometime in late spring of 2001 I bought myself a Garmin eTrex. The last time I thought about buying a GPS, they cost several hundreds of dollars, so when I saw the eTrex at Wal-mart for $100, I knew I had to have it.

I justified its purchase because I had recently blown a tire on some unknown back road. My cell phone was able to get me talking to a tow-truck service, but not knowing where I was made it difficult to explain to them how to find me. I had to explain which roads I took to get there, which in itself was a challenge because I am horrible when it comes to remembering road names. I figured that with a GPS should I ever be in the same situation I could simply read off my coordinates to them and save everybody a great deal of frustration. Of course, I don't really know if tow-truck services make use of GPS, but if they don't, they definitely should.

Like most gadgets that are justified in such a manner, this one sat unused, unloved, and dusty for nearly a year. Sure, there was an initial surge of excitement where I figured out which route to work was the shortest, even though this route turned out not to be the fastest. I also got a kick out of knowing when sunset and sunrise were. But these interests faded quickly.

Then I discovered the joy that is geocaching. In truth, I discovered it sometime after I first discovered it. For several months prior to participating, I was aware of geocaching. I saw articles and references, but I didn't bother to read, much less understand, what geocaching actually was. Actual realization of it came while reading Wil Wheaton's web page. I clicked on a link and was taken to the main geocaching site. And I read. And read some more. And kept on reading for many hours. I knew this was for me.

Geocaching is a hi-tech game of hide and go seek. It's not people who are hiding, however, it's a weather-tight container full of goodies (although some geocaches don't involve goodies at all). This container is known as the cache, and is hidden somewhere by someone. After hiding it, that someone notes its coordinates with his or her GPS unit and posts them to the geocaching site. Other people, also armed with GPS then go and try to find the hidden cache.

So I dusted off my GPS and reaquainted myself with its features. The interface of the eTrex is a little non-intuitive. At first I thought It was't possible to enter waypoints unless you were right at the location, but this turned out to be wrong. When you create a waypoint, you can edit to coordinates, even though there are no visual indications that this can be done. Once you know this, it's no big deal. Judging by the message board, this is a common mistake that people make.

Entering coordinates is a little awkward and takes a few minutes to enter just one. Not really that big of a deal if you just want to visit a single cache per trip, but if you want to visit several it can become frustrating and error-prone. I have a cable on the way that will allow me to enter coordinates into my computer and then upload them to the eTrex. This will make life a lot easier.

I entered the coordinates of the first cache manually and saw it was only ten miles away, as the crow flies. As the person drives, it was more like 15. Then I had to wait for Sunday.

I was full of anticpation, but it wasn't excessive because I didn't really know what to expect. Once I got to the cache location, a state park, the pirate treasure hunter in me came alive.

The first path I went down brought me very close to the cache. About only one hundred feet seperated me from it. That and the river. Had to backtrack and go across bridge to the other side.

Then I decided that because the pointer of the GPS was pointing up a woody hill that I should go in that direction. If I would have stuck with the path I was on, this would have been unnecessary. The cache was actually located maybe 20 feet from the path.

So yeah, some first time mistakes. But it was fun.