Modern day treasure hunting might be an accurate description of the world of geocaching. All around you, probably within a mile of where you sit right now, there are literally millions of these cached treasures cleverly hidden among your daily routine. And this community-started, community-driven adventure platform is continuing to grow, gaining momentum, and stashing new caches every day.
To get a little insight on the world of geocaching, from where it began to where it’s going, Christy Weckner from Geocaching.com (the leading platform for the geocaching community) was happy to shed a little light on these hidden treasures.
The Clymb: How did the idea for Geocaching begin?
Christy Weckner: Most people think that the sport is brand new but geocaching came to be in the year 2000 when the US government allowed civilians to access the satellite GPS Data, that’s when people were able to get more accurate with the destinations they were seeking.
A gentleman in Oregon was the first noted person to hide a geocache (Matt Stum), he put the coordinates online and within 3 days someone had found it. The creator of Groundspeak at that time had the idea of creating a hosting service where you could post similar coordinates, so that’s what he did, and the site went live with 75 posted geocaching locations in the year 2000.
The Clymb: Celebrating their 15th year anniversary in 2015, Groundspeak (the business name that operates Geocaching.com) now has 2,676,238 active geocaches and growing, coupled with over 6 million users that participate in the sport. What’s your role in the world of geocaching?
CW: Geocaching was started by the community, and we certainly don’t take credit for starting the idea, we like to think we are here to support the community of geocachers, and we try to provide tools and resources to help them make geocaching more fun and easier.
The Clymb: While Geocaching is community driven, Geocaching.com seems to be the piece that connects that community. Is there anything else you do to get people outside and searching?
CW: Cache In Trash Out events are amazing environmental initiatives, which are again hosted by the community, and we create a platform for people to post their event details, and members of the community then host these hyper-local events to either pick up trash, remove invasive species, or plant some new flowers to beautify the land. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a trash pick-up, just something that is good for the environment. A lot of times organizers will work with the local parks department to make these events a success.”
And besides the Cache in Trash Out (CITO) events, there are many different ways to get involved with the geocache community through Groundspeak, including the events posting page, social media outlets, and by simply finding a geocache and writing your name down in the log book. And as for the people who can participate, not surprisingly with the number of geocaches out there, there’s little limit to the demographics of the geocaching world.
Gecoaching is really for anyone, when we look at our users it is really full of everyone. It attracts families, couples, and retirees, and recently we have seen an increase in the millennials. Geocaches range from difficulty across the board including wheelchair accessible locations to the most difficult geocaches requiring navigation across hard terrain, which are known as T5 and comprise 2% of the total geocaches.
Christy spoke about a geocache near Groundspeak’s office in Seattle that consists of an old telephone booth, and to access the cache, one needs to type in the correct passcode on the dial-pad, and while not every geocache is as reminiscent of a James Bond movie, they all have their own amount of creativity and engineering. Ranging from the size of a thimble to a large geological formation, geocaches are as unique and varying as the community that hides and finds them.
With the advent of smartphones in nearly every pocket across the world, Geocaching has never been easier. All one needs to do to start is head on over to Geocaching.com to create your free account and search for geocaches near you, and prepare to be surprised as to how many are within a short bike ride away. While you are at the website, you can check out the community forums, geocaching blog, or the 75-second Geocaching 101 Video: