Hide & Seek

A fine evening to you, good reader. As you may be well aware, I consider it my sworn duty to bring you the juiciest, meatiest, something-elseiest links and stories, fetching them from the murky depths of our Internet. Truly, I have been places mere mortals ought never tread on this vast web, and yet I return to present these living treasures to you, quivering and steaming on a silver platter. The links, that is. Yes, I steam them. It’s an arduous process, but I love you.

Today, friends, I have discovered something so incredibly cool and stupid that it boggles the mind. Geocaching! What is it, you ask? (After I link to an FAQ even? Don’t you people click links?) Let’s say that you’ve got a bunch of people with handheld GPS devices that tell them their exact current location on this planet to within 20 feet. What would they all do with that sort of technology? I’ll tell you what.

They get a small, watertight container of some kind and make a little mini-treasure to put into the container (be it trinkets, a secret message, a CD, anything interesting will do) and they go somewhere. Anywhere. No, seriously, anywhere on the darn planet. But probably somewhere near their home. And they hide the plastic container with the mini-treasure inside it (called a "cache" by the cool kids) and take note of the GPS coordinates at which it is hidden using the handy-dandy GPS device. Then they give their hiding spot a title and post the title and coordinates to the Geocaching site. And then they wait for one of the other people with a GPS device to find it, and there are further opportunities of interaction through the cache by leaving messages to other treasure hunters in a little notebook inside the cache. Do you feel that? That’s what it feels like when your mind boggles!

When I first saw this, I simply couldn’t decide if it was extremely cool or extremely stupid. But as my good friend Andy Fast is fond of saying, it’s “… a little from Column A, a little from Column B.” Yes it is. If GPS devices didn’t cost $100 (at the cheap end) I would jump at the chance to do this. They’ve even got little things called Travel Bugs which I’m still struggling to understand, but treasure hunters who find a cache with a Travel Bug inside it are supposed to physically move the bug to another cache as a favor to the person who first planted there. The bugs eventually move across continents and across the world, in small journeys. And it’s all recorded on the web at that website. It’s fascinating stuff.

The thing I like about this is that it is an entirely original idea (when’s the last time a pirate buried a treasure in the hopes someone else would find it?) and it’s not being pushed by a corporation or even popular culture. The idea has created a little subculture and community on the web (and because of the web) by its sheer merit, and now there are lots of crazy people driving/walking around, GPS in hand, looking for little plastic containers with notebooks inside them, hoping to leave a message. That’s the power of the Internet.

Man, I am so excited about web design. But that’s another entry.

Peanut Gallery questions: What would you put in your cache? If someone gave you a GPS device as a gift, would you participate in the Geocaching community?

12 Comments

  1. Posted September 10, 2003 at 8:04 am | Permalink

    Wow, Josh. I think this is one of the few times I knew about something before you. Long before. I first heard about geocaching years ago. You’ll be saddened to hear that the Mark Wahlburg remake of the Planet of the Apes used geocaching as part of it’s online hype. I don’t know if other corporations have pushed geocaching since, but I wouldn’t be surprised.

    I’ve also heard of lots of parks that are banning geocaching over concerns of leaving junk behind in a park and people trapsing off the trails.

  2. eddie
    Posted September 10, 2003 at 8:20 am | Permalink

    What would you put in your cache?

    Asparagus.

  3. Abby
    Posted September 10, 2003 at 9:38 am | Permalink

    There was a documentary on PBS or the Discovery Channel about this a couple years ago. They interviewed all these guys who were actually quitting their jobs to hunt for this stuff in hopes that someone left a big cash prize somewhere.

  4. Posted September 10, 2003 at 9:45 am | Permalink

    Well thanks for letting me know about it! You know, this happens with my fellow geek friends all the time. I hear about something and think it’s really cool, and when I tell them about it, they’re like, “Oh, yeah, we heard about that a few months ago. We were just talking about it for the hundredth time last week.” And then I’m like, “Why didn’t you tell me about it?” There’s never a good answer for that one. Ah well. I can only hope there is someone out there that hadn’t heard about this.

    Oh, FYI Eddie, food items are not allowed in caches. Because of the smell. 🙂

  5. Neal
    Posted September 10, 2003 at 1:20 pm | Permalink

    Dirty Socks.

    I didn’t know about it either Josh, so don’t feel bad. And I surf. A lot. It seems to be one of our endless ways of entertaining ourselves, which many find dumb, others find cool. I’m on the column A side, just because going out of the house is reward enough in itself. No need to geekify it.

  6. Posted September 10, 2003 at 5:32 pm | Permalink

    I would so do it. It sounds adventurous. The only thing I would have to go on are some coordinates. The region could be a topographic nightmare but I would have no idea until I got there. It could be hidden halfway up a cliff. Now that sounds fantabulous to me.

    I think I would leave coupons for free stuff like DQ or pizza.

  7. Posted September 11, 2003 at 12:48 pm | Permalink

    http://weebl.fluent.ltd.uk/toons/21/

    I told you…

  8. Posted September 12, 2003 at 1:02 pm | Permalink

    What would I put in my cache? A coupon for a CD by the late Johnny Cash.

    Then I would have a Cash cash cache.

  9. Posted September 12, 2003 at 1:04 pm | Permalink

    The most impressive thing about the previous statement is that, if I know Tim, it took him only about five seconds to come up with that.

  10. Mamalew
    Posted September 17, 2003 at 11:20 am | Permalink

    I remember a ten year old Josh Lewis who was fastenated with buried treasure. He made a wood box and buried it in our back yard with a note and a few small toys, hoping to come back 50 years later and find it. Then he thought of leaving directions for finding it hidden in the basement ceiling. Truth to tell, he couldn’t just leave it there and dug up a few yards of yard to find it one day a year later.
    Soggy toys don’t have much appeal.
    And, yes, I would go geocaching, but the ham radio people did this type of thing years ago.

  11. Mamalew
    Posted September 17, 2003 at 11:35 am | Permalink

    Fascinated, fasten, notes, treasure, never mind.

  12. lurking
    Posted September 22, 2003 at 11:30 pm | Permalink

    re: The Man in Black, The Jolly Green Giant, and Mr. Jagger.

    Jumpin’ Jack Flash, it’s a gas, gas gas!

    Which is, of course, what you’d get if you put the asparagus in there. How’s that? Rhyming word association, famous musicians, and still on topic in under 60 seconds. If only I could have come up with two homophones for “gas.” Damn!