Boise Sports and Outdoors

Geocaching the Boise Area - The Safest Way to Find Booty These Days

Have you ever been on a scavenger hunt and realized you were having more fun than you really should be? Have you ever thought it would be really cool to find hidden treasure? For most folks, the answer to at least one of those questions would be yes, and the reason is simple: we all love going on adventures with the promise of some unexpected discovery at the end. It's in our DNA, and it's what caused dudes like Erik the Red, Christopher Columbus, and Meriwether Lewis to leave everything they knew, venture into the wild, and discover something grand.

Sadly, all of the continents have been discovered by now, and I'm pretty sure you'll never be able to set out on horseback and discover a hitherto unknown tribe of natives. However, if you find yourself overflowing with a healthy amount of wanderlust and curiosity, there's an activity called geocaching that can fill a little bit of the adventure void in your life. And as long as you're the sort of person who is mindful of private property, I guarantee you won't have to worry about dodging spears, arrows, or bullets while you do it.

Tools of the trade

If you're not familiar with geocaching, it's more or less a high-tech game of hide and seek, and it's happening all over the treasure valley as we speak. In fact, there are hundreds of hidden containers, called caches, around here, and a lot of them are stashed in places you've been visiting for years and thought you knew well. Heck, you probably drive by a whole passel of them on your way to work. There are even some stashed in places like the Costco parking lot, Veterans Memorial Park, and around Ben's Crow Inn. Seriously, they're all over the place.

A large cache with lots of goodies inside

The concept of geocaching is simple. Someone hides a container somewhere, and inside this container is usually a log to sign. Many times there are small trinkets or other items inside the cache that can be exchanged for items you have of similar value. After the cacher creates the cache, he or she records and publishes the cache's exact latitude and longitude coordinates so that you can use a GPS device to navigate to the same general area. It sounds simple, but there's a catch to the game. Unless you can spout off the longitude and latitude of any given area, you'll need to get caches plotted on a map. And after you get to the general vicinity, you still have to know what to look for because caches can vary in size and they are always well camouflaged to keep them from being carried off by what the geocaching community refers to as muggles, who are people who don't know what's going on. I'm told the term 'muggle' is originally from Harry Potter, but I'll have to take Wikipedia's word for that because I'm not really into the wizard thing.

Getting a list of caches and seeing them on a map is the easy part. You can go to websites such as geocaching.com and look up all of the caches in your area. Because geocaching is a worldwide activity, you can even look up all the caches in Luxembourg if you're so inclined. Just type in a zip code, a city, a state, or a country and all the nearby caches are displayed on a Google map, complete with their GPS coordinates and other details. If you create a free account, the website will also let you log the caches you've found so they can be removed or noted on the map. On geocaching.com it's free to create an account, so go ahead and do it. It makes keeping track of all the stuff you find a lot easier.

Plenty of treasure in this valley

However, like I said earlier, finding geocaches is not always as simple as you might think, even though you have GPS coordinates. Some caches are micro caches that are as small as the tip of a finger. In addition, a lot of people who create caches have become quite adept at hiding them very well in plain sight. It really is an art that you can't appreciate until you actually find a few well-crafted caches, such as a magnetized bolt that looks exactly the same as the real bolts on a structure, or a small fake tree stump made out of the same wood as the trees it is next to. The ingenuity of cachers is nothing short of amazing, which means that the best way to find some of the not-so-obvious caches is to look for something out of place, such as an extra piece that breaks the symmetry of a design. It takes some experience to know what to look for, but it's the thrill of suddenly finding one of these well-hidden caches that makes geocaching unexpectedly fun.

A clever magnetized cache with log inside

Because a GPS is all you need, geocaching is an inexpensive activity. A simple handheld GPS device can cost as little as $90 these days, and you might even be able to borrow one from the hunter in your family who bought one because he thinks it'll save his butt the next time he gets lost during elk season. Geocaching is also great for the whole family because kids love going on treasure hunts, and they really like trading for the trinkets and whatnot you'll find. Plus, geocaching is an activity you can do year round, unless we're in the middle of a blizzard or deluge. So give it a try. You just might find it to be a jolly good time, and you just might find yourself looking up the nearby caches the next time you visit your extended family in Omaha. Hey, it sure beats sitting around and listening to them talk about how cousin Mickey took first prize at the county fair last year in the swine judging.

Particulars
Activity: Geocaching the Boise area
Where: Everywhere around you, hidden in plain sight
When: Whenever you can
Cost: You'll need a GPS device, but other than that it's free.
Website: geocaching.com
Why I love it: A little bit of scientific knowledge and sticktoitiveness will get you some booty.