Geocaching: otherwise known as treasure hunting in the digital age, or a good walk made even better. Thousands of people have taken up geocaching in Devon in the past couple of years because it provides another good way to enjoy the great outdoors, and the digital/treasuring hunting element is excellent bait when it comes to getting children to join in too.
Official Devon asked its very own geocaching expert, Laura Holt, to explain how to do it, what you need, and where to go.
What exactly is geocaching then, Laura?
Geocaching is basically treasure hunting, where you and other geocachers use a GPS to hide and seek containers. There are 2,247,888 active geocaches and around 6 million geocachers worldwide – and a good number of these are in Devon.
What makes Devon such a good place to go geocaching?
We’ve over 25,000 geocaches in Devon waiting to be discovered, many of them in stunning locations off the beaten track. Devon also has the advantage of hundreds of miles of public walkways, cycle routes and bridle paths, which are perfect geo-caching territory. You can visit www.geocaching.com to find caches in Devon, and organisations such as the South West Coast Path and Devon Wildlife Trust also offer ways to get involved.
How do you get involved?
It’s really simple – you just need a smartphone and a pair of walking boots. First, go to www.geocaching.com and create an account. Then download the geocaching app onto your smart phone. Using the app you can then search for geo-caches near you or by specific location, save them to your itinerary, and start geo-caching. When you go, take a pen and a few treasures for swapping (the kind of little toys you get in Christmas crackers are perfect).
Here’s a quick rundown of how to do it:
- Download a geocache app to your iphone or android phone.
- Enter a postal code or place and click “Search” or “Search for nearby geocaches”.
- Choose a geocache from the list and click on its name.
- Use the clues and your geocache app to help you navigate to the hidden geocache (you’ll often drive to a starting point first).
- If you take something from the geocache, leave something of equal or greater value.
- Sign the logbook and return the geocache to its original location.
- If you like, then share your geocaching stories and photos online.
What’s the attraction of geocaching?
In short – it’s free, it’s fun and you get to explore new places. Usually at the cache site there’s a logbook to sign, and sometimes trinkets that can be swapped for something of equal or greater value. But caches rarely have value beyond the thrill of the find, which you can tally on your geocaching.com profile page. Some sites have geo-coins which are little treasures on a mission and you take those, move them to another cache, and log their progess on your profile page.
What do you have to think about safety-wise?
Some geo-caches are quick and easily accessible, but others are more challenging, and will require some basic kit to ensure you have a safe experience. Walking boots whatever the weather, shower proof jacket or suncream or both, water bottles and snacks, and take a torch: several times we’ve been caught out seeking a rather elusive geocache, only to struggle back through fields in the dusk.
What’s your most memorable geocaching adventure?
It’s got to be our first family hunt on Exmoor. With several successful Devon finds under our belts, we chose GCQCP7 (or White Water Cache), which was near Simonsbath. We were worried that perhaps we were being a bit ambitious – after all it would be a 4 mile round trip from the starting point of the car park of the Exmoor Forest Inn – but there’s no better way of encouraging two small boys to go on a long country walk than the prospect of being able to periodically dive off the footpath and hunt for treasure, and happily we were proved to be right! Having downloaded the directions to the iPhone we were off, with our enthusiastic boys leading the charge.
An hour and a half after starting our adventure, having scaled two stone walls and (much to delight of the boys) wading barefoot across a shallow river, we arrived at the location of the geocache. With only the clues available via the geocache app, the boys were off, searching through shrubs and under walls. Within five minutes, amidst cries of glee and a short tussle for ownership, the boys reappeared triumphant and brandishing the geochache. This one took the form of an army ammunitions box, filled to bursting with ‘treasure’ and a notebook to record our find.
After entering our details into the notebook the boys chose a treasure each, carefully swapping it with one of the items that we had brought with us. I spotted that the geocache contained a geocoin, and we decided to take that too as I was visiting Southern Spain in a few weeks time, and could place it in a geocache there. A quick photo call and we were off on our return journey.
Back at home, we logged onto geocaching.com and recorded our find. On looking up the geocoin we discovered that it was travelling from Australia, and wanted to visit Sweden. In less than six months it had made it across the world – carried by dedicated geocachers, each one moving it on to another cache.
A few weeks later, I planted the geocoin in a cache just outside of Malaga in Spain, following a rather challenging solo climb. On my return to Devon, I visited geocaching.com to log the new location, to discover the geocoin had already been picked up and was now in a cache in Frankfurt. It was so fabulous to see the full geocaching experience in action – from the excitement on our boys’ faces as they hunted in bushes on Exmoor, to the thrill of being involved in a worlwide community of like-minded people.