My Strange Introduction to Geocaching
A solitary PVC pole stands next to a transformer box. It’s about six inches in diameter and seven feet tall, capped with a black plastic plug. It seamlessly blends into the Martinsburg landscape and never once caught my eye until the day I saw a family in the backyard of my office. I watched them sift the grass and dig through cracks. They held phones and GPS devices, searching for what seemed like ghosts.
One family member shook the pole, toppling the black plastic plug to the ground. The rest of the family all looked up and clamored with excitement. Inside the plastic cap was a small, transparent sandwich bag. It contained what looked like register tape, tightly rolled and secured with a rubber band.
Curiosity got the better of me when I noticed words scrawled on the register tape. To my amazement, many people from other states and other countries had signed this log. The family quickly added their names and information. After placing the cap back on the pole, they walked to their vehicle, giddy with excitement and full of accomplishment. I called out to them and asked, “What was that all about?” The youngest of them turned and said, “We are on a treasure hunt!” That was the day I learned about Geocaching.
The Geocaching Community
The Geocaching community is a niche culture, with different events throughout the year and all over the world. One event drew over twenty groups to my office, some searching in vain for that black cap. This video outlines the intricacies of geocaching. Using only a phone or global positioning device (GPS), you can track down hidden treasure. By creating an account on geocaching.com, you can find events or even create your own.
I recently met many people from Martinsburg who are part of this community, and I was surprised to find out how many families enjoyed participating in the adventure together. At the time of this article, the website states that there are about 112 geocaches in the Martinsburg area. The Martinsburg-Berkeley County Convention & Visitors Bureau (CVB) and a community member who goes by the geocache handle, WVTim, created several “geotrails.” These trails have attracted ‘cachers from far and wide. The CVB notes that Berkeley County, West Virginia is second in the entire nation as far as assignment of “Favorite Points.”
Registration for the Geocaching website is easy. A free membership provides the following features:
- Access to maps
- Information about terrain, size and membership
- Smartphone apps for both iPhone and Android
Premium memberships are also available that range from $5.99 a month to $29.99 a year. Additional features include access to premium geocaches and additional functionality like search, sort options, and filtered search.
My First Geocache Adventure
My first geocaching experience led me to the Adam Stephen House in Martinsburg. A friend and I drove to the old white house, sitting atop the hill. As we began to wander the property, a door swung open, and a gentleman eagerly invited us inside. My friend quipped, “Today is a good day to be murdered.”
I went first and greeting the man in the doorway. He introduced himself as Dale, a volunteer for the Adam Stephen’s House Memorial Association, and invited us to take the tour. My friend and I looked at each other, shrugged and went inside.
The tour was fascinating, and the house is a time capsule of period pieces. We learned about Martinsburg and its founder. The surprise was well worth it. At the end of the tour, Dale mentioned that geocachers often come by but remained tight lipped about the geocache location. We thanked him and continued on our journey.
We wandered the property, watching the distance tick down on the smartphone app. It was exciting to find the cache because the location was sneaky and unpredictable. The geocache was a small, clear, plastic waterproof container. Inside was a wire bound notebook containing names and dates. The last person to sign the log was there just the day before. We added our names and put it back in its home.
Explore Your Community
The “treasure” promised me by the family outside my office was, of course, the ability to discover new things in my hometown and rediscover old ones. My friend and I went looking for a little notebook and ended up on a much more rewarding journey. Geocaching encourages community engagement by providing a reason to explore the places you normally do not go. It’s an excellent way to learn about your hometown. Our habits and responsibilities often take us down the same roads and alleys each day. Geocaching helps us break free from our routine.
If you want a family oriented activity, Geocaching is right for you. Participation supports child and adolescent critical thinking, communication, and engagement. Critical thinking skills are necessary to locate geocaches, and working in a group requires communication skills to coordinate the search effort. I have always wanted to participate in a treasure hunt, and I doubt that I’m the only one. I love the thrill of the hunt, and finding hidden treasure brings about a feeling of accomplishment.
Happy Caching! I hope to see you on the trails.
Photos and Screenshots by Nicholas Trietsch