We’re geocachers and during our last trip to Florida we completed a 4 year quest: Finding a geocache in every county of Florida. This means that we have found a “hidden treasure” in each of the 67 Floridian (First time I’ve ever used that word in a sentence!) counties.
What is Geocaching?
To quote geocaching.com, “Geocaching is a real-world, outdoor treasure hunting game using GPS-enabled devices. Participants navigate to a specific set of GPS coordinates and then attempt to find the geocache (container) hidden at that location.” Others say it’s a hobby that uses multi-million dollar satellites to find Tupperware in the woods. For me, it’s simply a treasure hunt using GPS technology.
How do I start?
There are a variety of ways to start finding geocaches and become a “geocacher”. One of the most common ways is to go to geocaching.com. There, you can sign up for a free account, create your geocaching name and begin searching for geocaches near you. You then load the coordinates of the caches into a handheld GPSr (Global Positioning Satellite Receiver, commonly called a “GPS”) and head out to make your finds.
Others prefer to use their smartphone’s GPSr features and use apps that they’ve purchased/downloaded. These applications are multi-purpose, allowing you to use your smartphone to find the cache and to log your find. Typically, smartphones aren’t as accurate as a GPSr, but they are generally good enough for almost all geocaches. We geocache using our smartphone almost all all the time.
All geocaches have a terrain and difficulty rating assigned to them. A terrain rating of 1 means that the cache is wheelchair accessible and a terrain rating of 5 means you may have to climb a mountain, hike a good distance, or even use a boat. Difficultly ratings also range from 1 to 5. A cache with a difficulty rating of 1 typically can be found in just a few minutes. A difficulty of 5 means that the cache will likely require a significant amount of time to find. I recommend that you start geocaching by looking for caches that are 2 or less in difficulty and 2 or less in terrain.
What am I looking for?
Geocaches come in all sorts of shapes and sizes ranging from the size of a pencil eraser to the size of a telephone booth. There are also several different kinds of geocaches, including puzzle caches, geology caches and mystery caches, but most are “traditional caches” which are a small container with a log sheet for you to sign.
Geocaching.com also gives you a clue to the size of the geocache you’re looking for. A size of 1 means that the cache is small, the size of a film canister or even smaller. A cache size of 5 means that the cache is large…maybe the size of a 5 gallon bucket or even the size of a telephone booth!
Keep in mind that in geocaching everything is not always as it appears. Is that really a rock, or is it a geocache? Maybe that’s a real birdhouse, but maybe not. You just really don’t know for sure until you’ve found the cache.
Finding the geocache.
Okay, you’ve got your geocaches picked out and you’re off to find one. You park your car near the cache and follow where your GPRr points you. Once you reach the GZ (Ground Zero) you begin your search. Sometimes, the cache is obvious and sometimes it’s cleverly camouflaged to blend in with its surroundings. After a search you find the cache and open it. Inside you’ll find a log sheet to write down your geocaching name to prove that you made the find. You might also find SWAG, inexpensive items to take and trade. You now return the cache to its hiding spot for the next geocacher to find. Your final action is to log your find on geocaching.com or on your smartphone. This helps you keep track of all your finds. You’re now a geocacher!
There are over 6 million people geocaching all over the world, some of who have found thousands of geocaches. In fact, one of our Central Illinois friends (racer2814) is one of the world’s top geocachers having found over 68,000 caches….amazing!
We started geocaching in 2010 and have cached with all of our grandkids starting when they were as young as 3 years old. We’ve also cached with an uncle who is 78 and he likes to geocache the hard way, without a GPS!
Geocaching is a great hobby for travelers. As I said, there are over 2.7 million caches throughout the world and there always seems to be one nearby, wherever you are. We’ve found caches in 50 states, in 20 countries and even in Vatican City. This is a hobby that goes wherever you go!
Back to Florida!
As I said, we have now found a geocache in each of Florida’s 67 counties. This required us to get off the beaten paths of I-10, I-75 and the Florida Turnpike and get out into the rest of Florida. What we saw were huge cattle ranches, sugar cane farms, vast swamps, and fruit farm after fruit farm after fruit farm.
We also got to see a lot of wildlife while geocaching….and most of the encounters are amazing. We saw alligators, huge herons, sea gulls, dolphins, manatees, egrets, and so many other animals while geocaching. We saw snakebirds (Anhingas) but not a single snake that I can recall. There was one geocache where the log said to beware of alligators, but the gator was out to lunch while we were there. In fact, the only bad animal encounter we had was with ants, angry red ants. In that encounter I found the geocache, did my ant-dance as I tried to get the biting ants off me and then went on to find the next cache!
We also got to meet a wide swath of Florida’s people, from the southern-accented panhandle, to the Spanish-accented Miami to the quirky residents of Key West. Sometimes we met fellow geocachers when they happen to be looking for the same cache at the same time. Other times we met new friends after they saw us acting strangely and they asked what were doing. It’s always fun…well, almost always. There were a couple of times when we got to teach local law enforcement officers about geocaching…and then it was fun again!
Geocaching in Florida is awesome! Big cities, rural communities, seaside caches, swamp caches…incredible diversity and awesome fun!
I hope this article inspires you to geocache. If you do start geocaching, please look us up on geocaching.com. Our geocaching name is MNM1011.