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When You Geocache, the World Is Your Treasure Hunt

Wandering through the underbrush of a woodland area, you scale the muddy terrain in search of something. An uncanny feeling draws you forward. The search for this coveted object acts like a McGuffin in the plot of a film or a book—it sparks your interest and propels you forward to discover the object behind the mystery.

You arrive at the instructed destination and there's nothing obvious protruding out of any nook and cranny of the landscape: no big flashy logo, nothing to disclose the hidden secrets of the enigmatic geocache. You expected the treasure to be secret, but as secret as this? Maybe you don't know what you've got yourself into. You're about to turn away, utterly disappointed, when some odd-looking cumbersome object sparks your interest.

In your search for geocaches you could find an object that seems totally incongruous to the area (which helped you to spot it in the first place, or the object could possess far more occult qualities; the challenge of finding it is a curiosity and is what drives you to pursue it.

A geocache can range from the strange to the most ordinary of objects. Often geocaches masquerade themselves as rocks, neatly hidden Tupperware boxes and the likes that gamers of this RPG-like phenomena have skillfully hidden from the prying eyes of others. All true except that this is no video game; Geocaching is taking the real world by storm. It is no longer just about people sitting behind their desks all day indulging in the escapism of virtual gaming. No my friends, this takes it up a notch.

Photo courtesy of Geocaching / Facebook

Photo courtesy of Geocaching / Facebook

Geocaching is similar to a 160-year-old game that started it all: letterboxing. Letterboxing originated in 1854 thanks to James Perrott of Dartmoor, England, who placed a bottle in the most unreachable part of Cranmere Pool. Perrott included a calling card in the bottle so that if other curious minds did find his secret stash, they could contact him and add their own calling cards to the bottle, too. Discovering the calling card did not mean finders keepers, but was more of a shared experience of searching for something unique and telling others about it.

These were the pre-Geocaching early years, but in the year 2000 Geocaching came into being. On May 3 of that year, the first geocache was placed by Dave Ulmer, a computer consultant in Beavercreek, Oregon, because he wanted to test the accuracy of the new GPS. He hid a container in the woods and marked its coordinates on a GPS unit and called the venture the "Great American GPS Stash Hunt." Ulmer sought to play the game fairly, placing little prize items of videos, books, software and a slingshot to spark the interest of future in a container in his secret spot, alongside the logbook and pencil placed for keeping a record of those who found his geocache.

Geocaching took the wild world of the Internet by storm and became a global hobby for many eager geocachers who could not wait to start discovering new places and little prizes around local areas they were familiar with, as well as stumbling upon places they had previously never been. Geocaching is a global treasure hunt that has an ever-expanding number of new geocaches being placed by enthusiasts and those searching for them: There are 2,742,880 active geocaches and more than six million geocachers worldwide. The increased capacity of Global Positioning Systems (GPS) to detect smaller objects and containers has vastly improved the precision of Geocaching and expanded the possibilities for hiding places.

I wanted to try this curious little hobby for myself, so I downloaded the Geocaching app expecting that I would have to travel quite far to be able to find a geocache. I was surprised to find that this was not the case: The Boston area alone is flooded with geocaches, eager to be found.

Diana Stanislavova / Gavel Media

Diana Stanislavova / Gavel Media

I ventured out around the Chestnut Hill area in search of my first geocache. My search led me toward Cleveland Circle and into a nearby park where I initially walked around aimlessly, unable to pinpoint exactly where to look. Eventually, the search proved easier than I expected. My first geocache was called "Play Ball," alongside which I was given the clue of searching for a crag in the wall.

Once I approached the wall, the app told me that GPS is only accurate within 30 feet—I had to start looking. This treasure hunt actually requires the geocacher to be curious and persistent. The ball must have fallen out of the crag because I found it nestled among the burning reds and fiery oranges of fall foliage. There was no logbook with this geocache, but as the rules on the Geocache website had instructed me to, I brought a pen along to sign my little treasure.

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