Let’s Go Geocaching

Last year, my son got swept up in the Pokémon Go craze. While the two of us had a lot of fun hunting virtual creatures, the game left a lot to be desired. Then a close friend introduced me to geocaching. In this column, I’ll talk about how to get involved in this treasure- hunting hobby. Best of all, you don’t have to constantly be on the lookout for Pikachu.

What is geocaching?

Geocaching at its core is simple: Use a smartphone or GPS device to navigate to a given coordinate where a “cache” is hidden. Caches come in all sizes, from small keyholder boxes, to large shipping crates. They can be hidden anywhere, from parks to parking lots.

How to get started

New geocachers should create a free account at geocaching.com. Enter an address, and the map will show caches near you. The site also has some introductory videos, how-to guides, and community forums.

How it works

Chris Ronan, the PR manager for Geocaching HQ in Seattle, says caches are ranked from 1-5, based on how difficult they are to find, and whether they are in tough terrain. “We generally suggest that new players attempt caches of lower difficulty,” he said. “For example, a 1/1 cache should be extremely easy to find, as well as handicap-accessible. A 5/5 cache would be extremely difficult to find and would likely require a kayak, climbing equipment, etc.”

Finding hidden treasure

It’s time to grab your phone or GPS gear and hunt. The app will show you which direction to go. Keep in mind that once you reach a cache’s general location, you will need to do some searching. A cache could be hidden behind a park bench or beneath some rocks. Some caches may send you to one location where you will need to solve several clues to get the final coordinates. For example, a recent cache I found required me to answer some history-related questions.

Congratulations — you’ve found your first cache! You will want to sign the cache’s physical log sheet, as well as record your find in the app. Feel free to also upload a picture, but don’t give away the cache’s location. Geocaching etiquette says you can take any keepsake that you find, provided you leave something of equal value behind. There also are trackable geocoins and dog tags that you are encouraged to take with you to another cache. The website has detailed instructions on how to record these trackables.

Three awesome Eastside caches

“Take a Walk on the Wildside” cache in the Bellevue Botanical Garden.

“The Frog King” in the Redmond Watershed Preserve.

“Bellevue Boardwalk” cache located near Lake Hills Green Belt Park.

TIP: The geocaching app is free, though the premium subscription is $30 a year, and offers access to more caches, as well as the ability to create lists offline and access trail maps. Honestly, newbie treasure hunters will likely be happy with the free version.

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