“Time for some bush-bashing! Don’t worry, it’s less than a two.”
This is what my friend said as we peered into a steep incline of densely grown trees and shrubs off the side of a highway near Halifax, Nova Scotia. She meant that the difficulty of finding the oldest geocache in Canada was considered to be “relatively easy” (within 30 minutes) and “along well-defined paths with no significant elevation change or overgrowth,” as per the standardized geocache rating system.
“Where is the well-defined path?” I asked.
My friend smiled. “It’s a joke among geocachers that you find the path to the cache on the way out.” Then, she disappeared into the bushes.
My friend “Alispice” (her geocacher name) uses a GPS and/or mobile device to find hidden containers called geocaches at various outdoor locations. Since global positioning technology first became available to the public after May 2, 2000, (a.k.a. Big Blue Switch Day), there are over 3 million geocaches around the world. A free and family-friendly activity, geocaching offers a combination of treasure hunt, recreational activity, and exercise.
Caches are hidden everywhere. It’s likely there is one of over 20 different types of caches within 161 metres of you right now. A geocacher places a cache, shares location information and maybe a hint, then other geocachers search for and log the cache when they find it.
The more caches you find (especially the ones that are hard to get to), the higher you rise in the geocacher rankings. Geocaching apps are used to track global rankings, personal stats, and other information, such as progress on “challenges” that involve finding multiple caches according to specific criteria.
A Crash Course in Caching
I learned about geocaching during a short holiday with Alispice in Nova Scotia. It’s not all “bush-bashing.” We found caches on the downtown Halifax harbour front, in the nearby town of Dartmouth, and on the rocky shale and sandstone of Peggy’s Cove on the Chebucto Penninsula.
It was a delight for me to pause on the discovery of a cache, read the names of those who signed the log before us, and ponder over the trinkets that are sometimes left in the containers. While I was musing, Alispice got promptly back on her device for the next cache. As of this post date, her highest number of caches in one day is 172.
For some, geocaching can be a hobby and a lifestyle. Because caches are everywhere, I suspect that seasoned geocachers like Alispice have to make a concerted mental effort to stop thinking about finding caches when they are going about their daily lives.
I also learned that caches can draw attention to special places. For instance, there were a few simple caches at the Africville museum and park. As we walked around and read the information plaques in the park, Alispice explained that the caches there may have been set up to attract geocachers visiting Halifax who would not otherwise know about the history of this mostly Black Canadian community.
What Geocachers Do (and Do Not Do)
When geocachers are not caching, they may be stocking up on supplies (purchasing log books, travel bugs, O rings, etc.). Or, they may be meeting together at local and international geocacher gatherings called “events,” and participating in Cache In Trash Out environmental initiatives; these activities help to preserve existing cache areas, beautify outdoor spaces, and minimize the stereotype that geocaching is “littering.”
Such events also build community for people participating in a recreational and largely self-organized activity. HQ and volunteers together encourage geocachers to follow etiquette and courtesy rules when placing and locating caches. In what is described as the geocacher’s creed, respect for place, property, and other people is of the highest importance.
More About Geocaching
The best way is to learn more about geocaching is to get out there and try it, but here are some general info sites for Muggles (what geocachers call non-geocachers like me):
- How to Geocache (Geocacher’s Compass)
- Geocaching (National Geographic)
- What is Geocaching (Official Blog)
I had a great time, and got plenty of exercise, trailing a geocacher for 3 days. I’m not quite ready for the cognitive load of a ever-present, never-ending, world-wide treasure hunt. But I will be sure to cheer on the next people I see searching the bushes in unexpected places, hoping they are close to their geocache discovery!