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Celebrating Geocaching’s Sweet 16!

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.

Dave Ulmer and the Original Stash
Dave Ulmer and the Original Stash

Geocaching.com

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.

From right to left: Founders Bryan, Jeremy, and Elias
From left to right: Founders Bryan, Jeremy, and Elias

Historic Dates

March 24, 2001: The first Geocaching Event takes place in Austin, Texas.

The first geocaching event
The first geocaching event

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.

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September 20, 2001: Moun10Bike places the second Geocoin in a cache near Deception Pass, Washington. He keeps the first Geocoin in his personal collection.

The First Geocoin
The first Geocoin

April 26, 2003: The first CITO (Cache In, Trash Out) is held outside of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

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First CITO crew

January 10, 2004: The first EarthCache is published in  Australia.

First EarthCache
First EarthCache

May 27, 2006: The first Mega-Event, GeoWoodstock 4, takes place in Texas.

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October 14, 2008: The first geocache hidden in space is published.

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First geocache in space is hidden in locker 218 on the ISS

March 8, 2010: Geocaching.com reaches 1 million active geocache listings.

February 26, 2013: Geocaching.com reaches 2 million active geocache listings.

 

Sixteen Years Later

Sixteen years and over 2.8 million geocaches later, the game is larger and more diverse than it’s ever been. Happy birthday geocaching! It’s been a pleasure watching you grow.

 

How do you think geocaching will change in the next 16 years?

 

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Cooper River Cleanup — Geocache of the Week

CITO Event
GC60W3J
by ODragon
Difficulty: 
1
Terrain: 
1.5
Location: 
New Jersey, United States
N 39° 56.132 W 075° 05.233

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.

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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.

Geocachers pirateducks had fun, got muddy.
Geocachers pirateducks had fun, got muddy.

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.

36 standard tires and 3 truck tires were pulled out of the mud.
36 standard tires and 3 truck tires were pulled out of the mud.

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.”

View from the "Sign up and stay dry" tent.
View from the “Sign up and stay dry” tent.

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.”

The geocacher who found the skull giving a statement to the police.
The geocacher who found the skull giving a statement to the police.

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!

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The group together.

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.

 

Amazing View from Germany

4 Geocaching Lists with Breathtaking Destinations from Around the World

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:

Geocaching’s Greatest Hits (Bookmark list here)

Greatest Hits
Greatest Hits

Geocaches with Amazing Views (Bookmark list here)

Amazing Views
Amazing Views

5 Dreamy Beaches with Awesome Geocaches (Bookmark list here

Dreamy Beaches
Dreamy Beaches

7 EarthCaches on 7 Continents (Bookmark list here)

EarthCaches
EarthCaches

What geocaches do you most want to find? Share your wish list on Facebook or Twitter using #geocaching and it may be featured on the Geocaching Blog.

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When Fools Rush In

Article by Reid Kuennen

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:

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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:

  1. Delight the geocaching community
  2. Be informative and/or drive the game forward
  3. Be funny

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:

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Here is a photo-op I couldn’t resist during someone’s pitch.

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.

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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.

And thus, I leave you with my humble advice:

  1. Invite your friends over
  2. Provide snacks
  3. Warm up with some fun games*
  4. Pitch some geocaching Story Worthy Moments

You never know what you might come up with.

 

*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.

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Kittiwake — Geocache of the Week

Traditional
GC4BAC0
by Hindl.com
Difficulty: 
4
Terrain: 
5
Location: 
Cayman Islands
N 19° 21.716 W 081° 24.060

Geocache “Kittiwake” is a Terrain 5 geocache, which means special equipment is required to reach it. In this case, that special equipment is a Self Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus, AKA, scuba gear.

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Some trackables and a geocoin on a watery visit

The cache can be found 40 feet below the water’s surface in the Cayman Islands. For most people that means getting SCUBA-certified and doing a dive (though, as the cache owner points out, some people choose to free-dive). As is common in geocaching, the logbook isn’t the only prize to be found at the cache site. Between the cache and the seabed, slowly becoming an artificial reef, is the cache’s namesake: the USS Kittiwake, Chanticleer Class Submarine Rescue Ship. Learn more about the Kittiwake on the geocache page.

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The CO is Hindl.com, who’s been a technical SCUBA instructor for a decade, regularly leads tourists on dives to the Kittiwake, and thought geocaching would make an extra special addition to an already exciting exploration for many people. But he’s been careful about his choice of underwater cache locations: “I would not allow myself to put any geocaches on the historical sites or pristine reefs, but I felt like it was ok at the artificial (man made) wrecks.” Which the Kittiwake is.

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Photo by dfx

Hindl.com spoke to us about SCUBA, pen-swallowing seas, decompression, and Buzz Aldrin.

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Photo by Ondrej Hindl

Are you a regular diver?
I am a technical instructor teaching from Trimix to CCRs (closed circuit rebreathers) and my favorites are wrecks and caves. I have done many dives on this wreck, which is an amazing deco stop (series of mandatory decompression stops before being able to ascend any shallower) after a deep technical dive on the wall. My first dive here was in the summer of 2012.

How often do you have to maintain the cache? What does that normally entail?
Given the limited time most visitors have at this GC, there is not much maintenance needed. However the ocean seems to be eating pens, they need to be replaced more often than in other land based caches. It usually takes just a quick stop on a regular dive. It can be done free-diving too, but not everyone can free-dive that deep, for that long.

"Fish In Mirro" by Hindl.com
“Fish In Mirror” by Ondrej Hindl

What has been your response to all of the great comments on your cache?
I can not describe how happy it makes me that people like this cache and mark it as their favorite. Not only because of the geocache, but I also see behind each of these geocachers, comments or logs a diver, snorkeler, free-diver but mainly an sea/ocean lover and someone who wants to protect the creatures we still have left in the seas.

 

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Photo by Ondrej Hindl

What was your most memorable dive at this site?
I was lucky enough to guide Col. Buzz Aldrin (Apollo 11) on few dives during my diving career and the best one was through the Kittiwake wreck. He spent most of the dive “walking” upside down through the wreck, later claiming it is the closest he can get to walking on the moon again.

 

Do you have anything you’d like to share with the geocaching community in general?
Thank you to all who keep this great project going. Keep it up 😉

 

 

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Photo by dfx

 

 

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.