Pennsylvania Geocaching

If you hang out with me long enough, particularly in a somewhat exotic location, eventually you’re going to hear about geocaching.  I started doing it some months ago when I was bored in Cleveland and have had a lot of fun with it- in short there are over a million hidden containers on all seven continents (like the one above), and you use GPS to find them.  Definitely a great way to get you out and about, and I love it because I love an excuse to wander and find all sorts of places I’d never have known about otherwise.

I’m not joking about the all over the world aspect by the way.  I shot this picture looking from a cache just a few meters away from the entrance to the Louvre museum, one of the busiest museums in the world!  Thinking back on my round the world trip, it sure would have been fun to get into the hobby then… Anyway, because I unfortunately don’t travel too far from home these days you’ll have to make do with me going over an adventure in Pennsylvania to get a feel for it-

To start with, we go to a park.  It’s kind of amazing how many parks seem to have caches these days to the point where I can’t think of any near me that don’t!  The one pictured here is Hartwood Acres north of Pittsburgh and not far from the house I grew up in there, which is so big it has several caches in the woods.  You select a cache from your trusty GPS (there’s a geocaching app for the iPhone but it’s not terribly accurate in the woods!), which will bring up a compass showing how far away you are and off you go!

An interesting tree I couldn’t resist snapping a picture of while on the hunt.  The guardian of the forest perhaps?

Anyway, eventually a BEEP! from the GPS lets us know we’re close to the cache site so it’s time to start looking for what’s out of place- sometimes the cache comes with a hint but that’s not something you can rely on!  The ends of tree logs are a pretty common hiding spot in the woods however, and such a search comes up with the log pretty quick-

You can spot the lid of this cache off on the right side of the picture, which is being guarded on the left by a GIANT SCARY SPIDER.  I’d argue that my time in South East Asia killed off any squealing I might have possessed regarding creepy-crawly things especially when they can’t kill you (and Africa was a refresher course in that), and I’m pretty sure one is safe in the woods of southwestern Pennsylvania.  Plus who would get pissed off at a spider for building his web in the woods at the end of a hollow log anyway?  After a gentle shake or two of the piece of wood in front he scampered, so I could finally get out the cache.

Finally woohoo, the contents of the cache!  Other than the logbook where you can sign your name and leave comments there are little trinkets in bigger caches that are up for trade.  One of the things people make a big deal about when they’re starting out is how caches contain swag items that you can trade for, but unfortunately they’re usually not that interesting as over time they end up being cheap little toys for kids and the like as few seem to strictly follow the “trade for something equal or better” mantra.  So I’ve only traded for a few things- a small water pistol, a watermelon chapstick still in its packaging, and a rubber duckie dressed as an astronaut come to mind- preferring instead to move along Travel Bugs whenever I come across one.

Travel bugs are little items that move from cache to cache and have a tracking number on the back so users can record each move.  The four above are ones I sent off into the wild a month ago actually with missions that they should travel to four of my favorite countries- left to right Thailand, New Zealand, Hungary, and South Africa– and no word on if or when they’ll make it but I’m optimistic!  Plus hey they’ve been out a month and while two are in Ohio the penguin’s made it to Maryland and the monkey was last spotted in Florida, and I’m optimistic about what sort of adventures they’ll have without me!

And that’s my little summary about my latest hobby.  You should try it as it’s quite fun- there’s an app for smartphones these days in case you don’t have a GPS already, or if I’m local just ask to go on a cache run as I’m usually up for one.  Just be sure to watch out for the spiders!

2 responses to “Pennsylvania Geocaching

  1. Loved your article in S&T on Dwingeloo & can’t wait to read your Astronomy cover story! Went to your great website & had to add it to my bookmarked astro-blogging sites, ( Yes Yvette, you are a writer! And a good one!). And I must also now also thank-you for informing me of the iPhone geocache app that I had not yet discovered. Safe Travels & good luck on your PhD!

  2. Yvette Cendes

    Aww, well thank you very much for your kind words- I appreciate it! And have fun geocaching- when you’re starting out try your best to pick ones that are “small” or “regular” sized if possible as they’re easier to spot, and don’t forget that iPhones can have bad accuracy when under a lot of tree cover.

    Thanks again!

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