When I was young, I used to love scavenger hunts. I think I was first introduced to hunts at Girl Scout Camp and from then on, I was hooked. I remember asking my parents to organize a scavenger hunt for my birthday party that year and the trend took off. Several of my friends followed suit, and we had loads of fun racing around gathering random things. Eventually we got too cool to run around the neighborhood gathering stuff, and the scavenger hunt craze fizzled out among my pals.
I had not given my scavenging days much thought until I ran across an article about Geocaching. According to The Official Global GPS Cache Hunt Website, geocaching is a free real-world outdoor treasure hunting game using GPS-enabled devices. Players try to navigate to a specific set of GPS coordinates and then attempt to find the geocache (container) hidden at that location. Players may then share their experiences with an online community of cachers. Currently, there are about 122,615 active caches in more than 210 countries.
Geocaching is a compound word including GEO for geography, and CACHING, which refers to the process of hiding a cache. This is not to be confused with cache in computer terms, which usually refers to information stored in memory to make it faster to retrieve. In this context, cache refers to a term that is also used in hiking/camping as a hiding place for concealing and preserving provisions. Geocaching containers are usually weather-resistant vessels holding a logbook along with an array of coins, plastic toys, key chains and other small items for trade.
Geocaching enthusiasts are including their dogs in the adventure, according to an article in The Bark magazine. Years ago, Sandi Pearce and her Border collie hid a treasure in Dublin, California. Since then, about 40 people, many with their dogs, have gone in search of the cache. The pair enjoys geocaching so much that they’ve hidden 15 boxes so far. Pearce fills her boxes with dog-related items and hides them in places where she and her dog like to hike.
After learning about geocaching, I was curious if any of my friends were into it. The responses surprised me. One friend had a geocaching coin that she put into circulation in the USA years ago. The coin made it to England and then moved to remote parts of the world, turning up here and there for quite some time. Nobody has logged her coin in a while so she’s lost track of it, but she still enjoys the activity.
Not surprisingly, many of the game’s participants take their dogs along while caching. Dog lovers know how satisfying it is to have a hobby that you can include your dog in, and geocaching is that magic combination of treasure hunting, playing outdoors, and bonding with your best friend.
You and your dog can participate in the game regardless of where you live; caches are hidden in rural and urban areas. There are some that require hiking and some that even require climbing, swimming or boating. Even so, each cache is rated for difficulty, based on how hard the cache is to find and on the terrain in which it’s hidden, so you can choose your level of comfort. At this time, there is no official dog-friendly rating in the cache descriptions, but since the activity is on the rise with dog-people, many cachers are now putting notes about dog-appropriateness in the online log.
If you are a seasoned cacher or just starting out, here are some tips for caching with your canine companion:
• Know your dog. If your dog is easily distracted, you probably won’t enjoy caching with him in urban areas. If you’re caching in rural areas, respect your dog’s physical fitness level. Know if your dog is willing to get wet crossing a stream and if not, whether you can carry him over it. Take time to consider the possibilities before striking out.
• Bring water and snacks for you and your dog – something easy to carry like trail mix for you and CANIDAE PURE kibble for your dog.
• Dress appropriately. If you’re caching at night, be safe. Florescent or illuminated vests and/or collars are a good idea.
• If you hide a cache, consider mentioning in the log if it is dog-friendly.
For more information about geocaching, visit Geocaching—The Official Global GPS Cache Hunt Site.
Top photo by Alex Pearson
Middle photo by Nick Ellis
Bottom photo by Jon Hurd
Read more articles by Langley Cornwell