Okay, admit it…a year or so back you purchased one of those handy GPS (global positioning system) hand-held receivers because it was either on sale or your friends had one…so you made the purchase. Am I right? I know I sure did…when used properly they are one of the handiest little devices a sportsman can own. Besides, the magnetic compass is so last Century. Get with it and start letting satellites guide your way through the woods rather than some electromagnetic device which to operate properly you must compensate for with declination factors.
The point is GPS and the technology it makes use of is really a slick thing for sportsmen. The main problem is, unless you use your device somewhat regularly…it can be intimidating and downright frustrating learning about all the modes and functions for your particular model. More often than not…the GPS unit sits at home in the drawer when it could be used much more often on trips into the out-of-doors. I feel if sportsmen are going to own the technology…they need to learn how to use it….and they might as well have some fun doing it.
One of the most exciting and fun ways to learn how to use that GPS unit is by geocaching. Never heard of it? Log on to www.geocaching.com and search for cache sites near your home. Chances are good you will discover dozens if not hundreds of geocache sites within close proximity of your home. Some are near historical markers…others are in the middle of nowhere…yet others have a complex purpose serving as a piece of a bigger puzzle in this geocaching game.
Essentially geocaching is this. A fellow player has taken let’s say an old Tupperware container and filled it with all sorts of trinkets to be placed in some hidden location. Inside there may be some small children’s toys, some dice, poker chips, coins, key chains, bottle openers, patches, you name it. Just about anything of little or no value can be stashed in a geocache container. Then, all of these items are placed in the container…left in a secure hidden location…and entered into the web site called www.geocaching.com.
As a geocacher, your objective is to program your handheld GPS unit with the coordinates, and then head out in search of the cache. The goal is to use your GPS unit to locate the site of the cache…but in most cases that is only half the battle. Even when you arrive at the precise location of the cache it doesn’t mean finding the loot is always easy. Sometimes it is…and sometimes you can search for over an hour with mounting frustrations…until you finally give up and leave.
Geocaching is a fun, family event that can be done at absolutely no cost…provided you already own a GPS unit. In many cases the locations are near parks…so if you plan things correctly you can spend the day geocaching and then plan a picnic, too. You’ll find that the entire family has fun because it sometimes takes many sets of eyes searching for the container…and to the young kids it can be a game with a prize as an incentive.
When you eventually find the container it is proper protocol to jot an entry into the log book (as well as to later come back home and leave a log on the web site), search through the container for a trinket or two to take with you…but also bring a replacement trinket to leave. Visit the web site and learn all about this elaborate system of travel bugs, etc. The bottom line is be prepared to leave something in the container…if you decide to take a prize with you.
This weekend I went geocaching for the first time and discovered just how much fun it actually is. I also discovered just how rusty I was at the proper use of my GPS receiver. As much as I hate to admit it, I did finally have to pull out the owner’s manual to see how I needed to program in the coordinates. At first I was a bit embarrassed to admit I didn’t know completely how to operate some gadget I owned…but after a few hours…and locating several cache sites I was operating my device like a champion.
Right now if I used the GPS I own to mark a location on the lake or to log a site for a nice deer stand this fall…I am completely confident that I could use it with no difficulty. Like anything else in life, the more you use something the more familiar you become with the proper operation of that equipment.
As sportsmen, realize there are times you need to do fun things with the family. Without a doubt, geocaching is a fun activity that the whole family will enjoy…and with a bit of practice and exploring on the website…you can choose just how difficult you want your searches to be. The bottom line is geocaching is a fun activity that, in the process, will hone your navigational skills…and any fun family game that can do that certainly can’t be all bad.
Give geocaching a try…and let me know how it works out for you.
© 2005 Jim Braaten. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction without Prior Permission.