Today, May 2nd, marks the 16th anniversary of the geocaching phenomenon. As we reminisce on all the wonderful geocaching moments we’ve experienced over the years, it’s fun to journey back to the year 2000 to see how it all began.
A Look Back in Time
The year was 2000. Y2K had come and gone. A dozen eggs cost 89 cents. “Survivor” was in its first season. The Summer Olympics were held in Sydney. Traditional outdoor activities at the time included hiking, bird watching, and camping. But then everything changed.
The Big Blue Switch
On May 2nd at approximately midnight, the “big blue switch” was pressed and selective availability on civilian GPS receivers was removed. Twenty-four satellites around the globe processed new orders, and the accuracy of GPS technology improved tenfold. Prior to this date, only the military had the ability to receive accurate GPS readings. Now, the world and all its wonderful people could pinpoint their precise location.
The First Geocache Hide
In celebration with this new-found freedom in global navigation, a computer consultant named Dave Ulmer started The Great American GPS Stash Hunt. The idea was simple: hide a container out in the woods and record the coordinates using a GPS unit. On May 3rd, he placed a black bucket in the woods near Beavercreek, Oregon along with a logbook, pencil, and other various trade items – the first geocache. He shared the coordinates of his “stash” with an online community on sci.geo.satellite-nav and the “game” took off.
For the first few months, the stash game was played mostly by experienced GPS users who already used the technology for outdoor activities. Mike Teague, the first person to find Ulmer’s stash, began to gather other users’ posted coordinates and document them on his personal website.
Jeremy Irish, Founder of Geocaching.com, stumbled upon Teague’s site while researching GPS technology and was intrigued by the idea. He purchased a GPS device and went out on his first geocaching adventure that weekend. After an enjoyable experience, Irish decided to start a website for the activity. Adopting the newly dubbed term “geocaching” and putting his web skills to good use, he launched Geocaching.com with only 75 geocaches.
–March 24, 2001: The first Geocaching Event takes place in Austin, Texas.
–August 30, 2001: The first Travel Bug® is released by Jeremy. TB1 is a rubber ducky named “Deadly Duck: Envy.” Fun fact: The image on the Deadly Duck’s Trackable page is Photoshopped to replicate this mug shot of a famous Seattle-area entrepreneur and philanthropist in his younger, “wilder” days.
–September 20, 2001: Moun10Bike places the second Geocoin in a cache near Deception Pass, Washington. He keeps the first Geocoin in his personal collection. Watch him tell his story.
Last Saturday, 120 people from the Philadelphia, PA and Camden, NJ area found themselves in the unlikely position of being consumed by mud from below, and drenched by rain from above.
Plastic ponchos were given out, and individuals who’d been roughly human-shaped their whole lives were suddenly transformed into large blue flying squirrels.
Soon, the people picking up the garbage became nearly indistinguishable from the garbage itself. And still they worked, until 10,151 pounds of trash was scraped from the banks of the Cooper River.
How does a person create an account for a GPS treasure hunt game and end up cleaning up a muddy river on a rainy April morning?
A CITO — or Cache In Trash Out® event — is a type of geocache. But…instead of using an app or GPS to find a hidden container, you’ll need to attend a CITO event in order to be able to claim the geocache “find”. CITO events aim to improve the geocaching game board (Earth) by bringing people together to pick up trash, remove invasive species, restore greenspaces, or build trails. It’s geocaching’s ongoing environmental initiative, which people can participate in year round.
Last week’s CITO was hosted by ODragon, a veteran CITO organizer, Community Volunteer Reviewer, and 12-year geocacher. For the fourth year in a row, ODragon tacked his CITO event on to a large community cleanup organized by United By Blue. The apparel company puts on community events all over the United States (find one near you), out of which any geocacher can create a CITO event.
ODragon estimates roughly a third of the 120 attendees were there because of his CITO listing. And attendees at this event got more than they’d bargained for, in many ways. All cleanup supplies were provided, and the United By Blue organizers took care of disposing of all the collected garbage. Everyone who attended got t-shirts free of charge, as well as pizza for lunch.
CITO attendee and geocacher GerIRL said,
I’m almost ashamed to admit it, but after 11+ years of geocaching, this is only my 1st ever CITO attended. I promise – I’ll try to do better over the next 11+ years! Anyway, I perused all the NJ CITO’s, and decided to drive the 80 minutes down the turnpike to come here. It was really a lot of fun – the weather was nasty, rainy and chilly, but I wore my waders and went on tire patrol, pulling out 5 tires from the tidal mud flats. Then I grabbed some bags to pick up regular trash. I was really impressed at the turnout – there must have been about a hundred people who volunteered. I waited for the weigh-in, and left before the pizza arrived. 10,000+ lbs of trash is amazing. The park looks a whole lot better now than it did yesterday. Thanks to ‘O for organizing.”
The cleanup was cut short when a geocacher pulled a human skull out of the mud. The police were called, the skull confiscated, and the area roped off with police tape. Logs on the cache page are littered with similar sentiment: “We hope that this find brings closure to someone somewhere.”
Despite the turn for the dark and grisly, ODragon says this is his most successful CITO cleanup event yet, in terms of pounds of trash removed and number of attendees at a Cooper River event. And for that reason, Cooper River Cleanup is the first ever CITO Geocache of the Week!
Continue to explore some of the most amazing geocaches around the world.
Check out all of the Geocaches of the Week on the Geocaching blog. If you would like to nominate a Geocache of the Week, fill out this form.
The world is filled with millions of great geocaches: hidden gems in the city, peaceful vistas, trees to be scaled… With so much adventure out there (and so little time), what’s a geocacher to do?
The first step: make a list! Whether you’re planning a hike with friends or your dream vacation, lists help keep your geocaching life organized. And since the most recent update, planning your geocache outings just got easier. Premium members can now create and edit lists of geocaches directly from the Geocaching® app.
Lists can also help you track those geocaches that you want — nay, need! — to find one day. Here are our some of our favorite geocaching wish lists:
Imagine this: It’s January in Seattle. It’s a dark, rainy Monday and you roll into work at Geocaching HQ. On your desk is a mysterious letter, addressed to you:
Intrigued, you neglect your first sip of coffee to immediately inquire about the contents within. You discover a simple note:
You are receiving this message because we think you are funny. As in, a good joke maker.
It is January. Which means April 1st is basically tomorrow. This is a big deal as Geocaching HQ has come to be known around the globe for its April Fools shenanigans. From geocaching workouts, to T.I.N.Y. caches, to being DNFing awesome – we’ve made an impact on our Gross National Hilarious (GNH).
This is where you come in. We need you to help make this year’s Geocaching April Fools joke even more epic than the rest. If you choose to accept, you will send us an email that says something like, “Duh,” or “I laugh in the face of laughs,” etc. Then, you will patiently await further instructions.
And this is how April Fools begins at Geocaching HQ.
A few weeks later, the 10-15 envelope-receiving comedians have a meeting to get down to some serious funny business. Each person is tasked to prepare two pitches for an April Fools story that will:
Delight the geocaching community
Be informative and/or drive the game forward
Sometimes being funny is hard… and vulnerable, so we start the meeting off with setting a safe and playful tone by playing improv games.*
Next, everyone takes turns confidently pitching their ideas as if they are the best April Fools jokes the world has ever seen. Let’s just say the 2016 pitches were… varied:
We narrowed down the stories to pick the most funny yet feasible theme. And #spoilernotspoiler alert, we went with Galaxy Search, caching in the new frontier. You can learn more about how it all played out here.
Serendipitously, we were able to tie-in this award-winning piece from the 2013 Geocaching International Film Festival:
And speaking of GIFF…
The 4th annual Geocaching International Film Festival is on. This means now you have the opportunity tell your own geocaching story that could be seen by the worldwide geocaching community. And if we’ve learned anything from our annual April Fools process, it is that geocaching is ripe with story. It is full of funny, heartfelt, adventurous, and inspiring moments that are waiting to be captured.
*Categories Here is the improv game we played this year:
Person A gives Person B a category, such as ‘Types of Trees.” As quick as Person B can, they have to name five types of trees—the weirder and less accurate the better. (In fact, someone actually said, “Canadian trees.”) Each time they name a new item, the rest of the group counts them out in a congratulatory manner, “One!” “Two!” etc. up to “FIVE!!!” Once they’ve listed all five, Person B gives a new category to someone else and hilarity continues to ensue.