Gordon Dewis is a research analyst with the federal government. He grew up in Ottawa and counts among his hobbies geocaching, rock climbing, photography and dragonboating.
Do you want to play tourist in your home town but don’t feel like going to the typical tourist attractions, such as Parliament Hill or Rideau Hall? Do you like knowing something that the vast majority of people around you are completely oblivious to?
If so, then you might want to try geocaching.
Geocaching involves using a GPS to find containers that are often full of trinkets that have been hidden all over the world.
In fact, there’s more than 1.3 million geocaches hidden in the world, and Ottawa is home to more than two thousand geocaches hidden by local geocachers who are passionate about the hobby. Some of them are hidden in the urban environment, while others are hidden out in nature.
So how does it work?
In its simplest form, you enter the coordinates of the geocache into your GPS and follow the arrow to the cache. More complex geocaches can see you looking for tags with coordinates on them leading you to the geocache (known as multicaches), or having to solve a puzzle – sometimes quite evil ones – to discover the coordinates (known as mystery caches or puzzle caches).
Many geocaches are camouflaged, so you might have to search at “ground zero” for a bit before you find it.
Once you’ve found the cache, you sign the logbook that’s in the container and trade a trinket if you’d like. Be sure to hide to container in the same place that you found it!
To get started in geocaching, you need a GPS. There are many different models out there, ranging from basic ones that tell you the coordinates of where you are an an arrow pointing to your destination to sophisticated ones with colour touch screens, maps, and geocaching-specific functions. When you’re just starting out you probably don’t want to go for a high-end model just in case you decide that geocaching isn’t for you – though almost everyone I’ve introduced to it has gotten hooked.
Alternatively, most smartphones have GPS receivers in them now so you can probably download one of the many geocaching apps available for your BlackBerry, iPhone or Android, but if you decide you like it, you’ll want to get a GPS receiver specifically for geocaching.
You’ll need to register for an account on geocaching.com (free). Once you’ve chosen your geocaching name (mine is Keeper of Maps), you just need to follow these steps:
- Click “Hide & Seek a Cache.”
- Enter your postal code and click “search.”
- Choose any geocache from the list and click on its name.
- Enter the coordinates of the geocache into your GPS Device.
- Use your GPS device to assist you in finding the hidden geocache.
- Sign the logbook and return the geocache to its original location.
- Log the cache as found on the geocaching.com website and then start planning your next adventure.