It’s like hide and seek or, better yet, a treasure hunt via technology.
I hadn’t heard of it — shows you how up on the latest technology trends I am — but I got a call the other day from someone asking me if I had tried out Geocaching.
This person — let’s call him “Skinny Sasquatch,” since that’s his Geocaching name — was telling me how much fun he and his young son have been having using their Global Positioning System (GPS) to take part in a great outdoor treasure hunt.
“It’s a way to remotely get in touch with like-minded people,” Skinny said. “It’s creativity through the sky.”
From what I understand, those who have GPS or other similar navigating tools can log on to Geocaching.com with a call name — “Skinny Sasquatch,” for example. An online “clue” is left for locating a cache, or “treasure,” or sometimes another clue.
“You can rate if it’s hard, say climbing a ladder, going to the top of a barn, fighting a raging bull,” Skinny joked. While he and his son recently tracked down a dud — a note at the end of the rope in a river that said basically said, “No prize here,” most of the treasure hunts end happily.
Sometimes the prize is a gift certificate, or some other smaller find.
Geocaching has apparently been going on since 2000 and is all across the globe. Now it is in this area, although gas prices these days might curb the enthusiasm somewhat.
The idea of Geocaching is similar to that of letterboxing, which dates back to the moors of Southwest England in 1854.
Letterboxing, similar to orienteering, involves solving clues, walking the outdoors and finding hidden boxes with a visitors book and rubber stamp.
In 1854, James Perrott left a bottle with his calling card in it along the fairly inaccessible banks of Cranmere Pool so future visitors could contact him.
Off to a very slow start, letterboxing evolved somewhat in 1888 with the addition of a tin box and self-addressed postcards to be mailed. In 1905, a zinc box was added, along with a logbook. In 1907, a rubber stamp was added to the box so visitors could stamp proof of their finding.
After 122 years, 15 letterboxes dotted Dartmoor. A guidebook was developed in 1976, and the hobby took off, with letterboxes numbering in the thousands within just a few years. It was 2001 before letterboxing made its way to North America, and there is even an online log to mark findings.
Although it is unlikely the Geocachers developed their idea based on that British hobby, the concept is much the same: Find the cache, take something from it, leave something in it and write about it in the logbook. All ages seek them, so participants are, of course, urged to use common sense.
Letterboxing. Geocaching. Treasure Hunting. So it seems there is nothing new under the sun in this case, just the technology to make it happen.
Jana Adams Mitcham is features editor of The Jackson Herald.