By Denise Porter and PDX Parent Staff
What is Geocaching?
Part treasure hunt, part outdoor adventure, geocaching is the real-world Pokémon Go! hobby for families, hikers and those who love to explore off the beaten path. The level of difficulty can be matched to the age and physical ability of the hunters. It is also an inexpensive hobby—requiring only the purchase of a handheld GPS unit or simply downloading an app to a smartphone.
“Cachers” select a cache to find from the website www.geochaching.com, type the latitude and longitude coordinates into their GPS tracking unit. While hunting, the GPS unit gives the geocacher a near-precise location for the hidden object, but won’t bring the person directly to the cache.
The next step is to search the area for the hidden cache. After finding the cache, the seeker then logs back onto the website and marks that cache as ‘found.’
Part of the fun of finding the cache is discovering how creatively it is hidden. Often, right off a path traveled by hundreds of human feet will be a small, everyday object such as a canister used for holding camera film, or a metal lunch box hidden under brush.
Most caches are small containers with a simple paper registry inside. With these types, the cacher simply signs the registry and returns the container to its hidden location. Be careful putting the cache back—one of the rules of the hunt is to be certain non-cachers, known as ‘Muggles’ do not see you finding or hiding a cache.
Other caches contain small, inexpensive trinkets. The rules are simple: take a trinket from the cache and leave a trinket of your own in its stead.
Each cache is rated on a difficulty scale; some are easier to find than others.
Rules of the Hunt
Geocachers take seriously courtesy rules posted on the official geocaching website. Damaging property is not acceptable. Neither are leaving garbage, breaking trespassing laws or harming the environment in any way.
Geocaching in Portland
Excited to try it out? There are hundreds of geocaches located around the Portland area, including at familiar locations like the Oregon Zoo and Pioneer Square.
If you’re ready to make a morning of it, head to the Oregon Gardens. You can download a passport online with pubic coordinates for finding your treasures. For $10, you can purchase the coordinates to several private caches as well. More information is available here.
Geocaching Fieldtrip: Explore the Coast
If you want to get outside of Portland, geocaching is a great excuse.
The Tillamook County Quilt Trail has a special geocache hunt designed to follow the trail’s beautifully painted quilt blocks mounted on buildings and barns from north to south Tillamook County. Jennifer Johnston of Tillamook and her daughter, Rachel, 7, have found eight of the 32 caches in the quilt trail hunt. Each time, says Jennifer, she finds something new to love about the coast.
“I have always loved treasure hunting,” says Jennifer. “Geocaching is something great both Rachel and I can do.” The cost, she says, is “free, other than gas to get you near and far.”
Check out the Tillamook County Quilt Trail at http://www.tillamookquilttrail.org
Denise Porter is a freelance writer and photographer living in Tillamook, Oregon. She is proud to be from a generational Tillamook dairy farm family. Denise crafts feature stories and takes especial delight writing about farmers and their families. She and her husband have a small acreage farm where they grow berries and vegetables as well as raising pigs, chickens and cattle.