NOTE: This article appeared in the Berthoud Weekly Surveyor on March 8, 2012 www.berthoudsurveyor.com
The high-tech treasure hunt activity called geocaching caused quite a stir in Berthoud last week. The Berthoud Police and the Northern Colorado Bomb Squad were called to Greenlawn Cemetery on a report of a suspected bomb in the area. It turns out it was a geocache.
Ironically, on the same day, Disneyland was shut down for a few hours after someone stashed a PVC pipe in a tree near the entrance to the California theme park.
In both cases, the suspect item was not lethal.
What is geocaching? It has been described as a real-world outdoor treasure hunting game. Trinkets are placed in a container, usually waterproof, that is called a geocache. The sealed container also has a logbook inside it. The activity was originally referred to as GPS stash hunt or gpsstashing.
The term geocaching was first coined on May 30, 2000. It was a melding of the prefix geo (earth) and cache (a French word meaning a hiding place to temporarily store items.)
The Global Positioning System (GPS) coordinates of the cache are published on geocaching websites. Through the use of satellites your position on earth can be determined along with the site where the geocache was placed. The object of the activity is to locate the prize using a GPS receiver or mobile device. The item is usually not in plain view. Some call it high-tech hide-and-seek.
The cache can range in size from a “nano” or “micro” that is smaller than a fingertip to a five-gallon bucket. Plastic containers, including Tupperware along with surplus military ammunition cans are used by many geocachers. Caching contests held in more urban areas use 35mm film canisters because they are easy to hide.
The prize or treasure is usually secondary to finding the item. They are not expensive. Typically, items in a cache may be unusual coins, small toys, ornamental buttons, CDs, craft items, books and calling cards. The main goal is to write your name in the cache’s log.
In addition to size variations, caching contests vary in difficulty and location. Some are easy to find and have names such as drive-bys, park and grab and cache and dash. Others involved complicated and lengthy searches, and at times travel is involved.
Geocaching is not just a local or United States-only activity. Currently, caches may be in more than 100 countries around the world and on all seven continents. Yes, there are even geocaches in Antarctica. Estimates claim that there are more than five million people engaged in geocaching worldwide.
Chances are, you are probably a muggle when it comes to these activities. This is the term geocachers give to non-geocachers. It is based on a character from the Harry Potter series. This non-magical person usually has a puzzled look about them after befriending a geocacher searching for a cache or when a non-geocacher accidentally finds a cache.
If you are going to hide a geocache treasure, based on the incident in Berthoud, you might want to notify the local authorities if it in any way resembles an exploding device.