So, you’ve read my previous posts about Geocaching, and you’re up with all the lingo and how to read the Geocache listing page, and ready to try your first cache. Let’s walk you through finding that elusive first find.
Start by reading everything you can before you leave the house. Read the attributes, ratings, description and possibly the hint (if your confidence is low). I’m going to assume you’re attempting a Traditional cache with a fairly low difficulty and terrain rating.
As a result, you won’t need to take much with you, besides perhaps a print out of the cache listing or your smartphone, which you can use for ‘paperless caching’. It’s also a good idea to take a pencil or two (bring a spare to place in the cache, if the one provided is missing), a few cheap trinkets to swap (especially important if you’re taking children) and it’s probably worth taking a drink bottle.
Arrive near the listed coordinates, and find somewhere nearby to park. Now, head on over to the rough location. Take a look around, and see if there are any people nearby – part of the geocaching game is to not be caught, so you need to be ready to abort the hunt if there are people nearby. Fire up your geocaching app, or your GPSr if you have one, and wait a few moments for the coordinates to settle.
Then, walk in to where the device leads you (if you’ve got the excellent Geocaching application for the iPhone, it features a handy compass and map). Once there, remind yourself of any clues to where the cache could be hidden. Perhaps the clue is ‘down low’ or ‘in the abvious place’. For many caches, the obvious place to start looking is at the base of a tree or underneath a bush.
Be careful! There may be broken glass, spiders, snakes or other refuse to keep an eye out for – you may want to resort to using a stick or heavy duty gloves to hunt. Look for anything that could be out of place; an unusual pile of twigs or leaves, or a stack of stones are a good giveaway.
Be careful with the environment though – the purpose of Geocaching is to enjoy nature, not destroy it. Trampling over plants and throwing rocks and sticks every which way isn’t taking care of the environment.
Another good hint is to consider where you would hide something. That’s helped me find a number of elusive hides before. Could it be up in a tree, underneath some rocks, or hidden inside a log?
If you don’t immediately find it, start to widen your search area – some devices (especially the iPhone) could be out by a few metres at least.
Assuming you find it (and face it; many first hunters don’t, so please don’t despair), pull the container out a distance, open it carefully, and pull out the logbook (typically an exercise book or notepad). Find the first blank page, and sign the log – something along the lines of date, your caching username, and a comment or feedback, such as ‘Thanks for the great cache – love the location!’.
Now, if you have kids, they’ll want to look through the trinkets and perhaps swap something. The key here is to swap to approximately equal value. Don’t go putting in a 10 cent coin in exchange for a watch, for example. It’s also worth noting you shouldn’t place food items or any perishables in, either, as this could go off, and attract wildlife.
If the log book or pencil needs replacing, feel free to do this – leave the original log book in there though. Experienced cachers often bring spare pencils, plastic ziplock bags, etc for this very purpose. It’s a nice way to help the community and the cache owner.
Once you’ve gotten over the excitement of the find, replace the container exactly where it was. Hide it well (so take note how it was originally hidden) and head back home. Once back at your computer, revisit the listing page, and click the ‘Log this cache’ link. Even if you didn’t find it, this is a step to take regardless. Choose the appropriate choice ‘Found it, or Did not Find’, choose the correct date, and then leave your comment or feedback.
Hit save, and that’s it! You’ve found your first cache. Now, there’s plenty more to find in the future – many of us have thousands of caches available within a few hours drive!
Best of luck finding that first find!