If you remember what my geocaching handle is, you'll see that the first geocache listed is mine. You can tell because my username is posted after the name of the cache, which is "My Neck of the Woods", or maybe it's that nifty red arrow with the word "mine" underneath that give it away! LOL The ones with the red check marks are caches I've already found. As a PM there are options to keep your own and the ones you found, as well as others, out of your search results so you can just get right to ones that you want to look for. Starting all the way to the left, you can see the direction and distance that cache is from your search criteria, which was my physical address. If you have a GPS, you can get your home coordinates from it and enter the numbers under your profile, that way every cache you look at will be calculated automatically and let you know how far it is from your home coords. Remember, the distances here are by satellite, not by road, so unless you have wings or know it's a straight shot via a known road, add a few miles. The next column is Icons and this tells you what kind of cache hide it is. The green one is a traditional cache. On this page you don't know what size it is yet, but a traditional hide is either a nano, think thumbnail, micro, usually a film canister or a pill bottle, small, sandwich size, regular, usually an ammo box or coffee can and large a bucket. The next column, the (D/T), are for numbers 1-5 for the Difficulty of the cache and the Terrain rating. Pay attention to those, especially when you first start out. You're first attempts should not be micro's with a D/T rating higher than 2. I don't want you frustrated or injured before you have a chance to give geocaching a good try.
The next column is the date the geocache was published into the system. New geocache hides are reviewed, NOT VISITED, by volunteer fellow geocachers. There is a criteria you have to follow to get one put on the website. Sometimes it take a few days and sometimes it's the same day, it all depends on the reviewer. Also, you might find a log with a lot of names in the cache, but back on the site, not so much. This annoys me greatly. If you find it or don't find it, please log it online. People learn about the hide not only from the cache information page, but also from the logs of other geocachers. If you get stumped, reading past entries might help and as a cache owner myself, I love to hear how my hide went for another geocacher. A cache owner (CO) won't know it needs maintenance or that the D/T rating should be changed unless you post a log, so do it!
The next column is the Description. It holds the name of the hide, which is what you click on to get more information, the person who hid the cache, the code it is saved under on the website and the state the hide is in. These are all important for their own reasons. The name is often times a hint to how to find the cache. My second hide on the screen shot I took is called "A Nelson Red Spot". Nelson is part of the name of the park it's hidden in, a Red Spot refers to the trail mark on the tree, which is right above the hiding spot. As you geocache, you'll recognize other usernames in the game. You might attend events and be able to put names to faces, but, in an example for me, there is a fellow cacher near me who hides nothing but micro's in the woods. For that reason, I often just skip over his hides and go on to others.
Whether you participate in paperless caching or not, it's important to include the GC (geocache) code with the information on the cache. Let's say you come back from a hunt and want to log your find and comments on the website. All you remember is the name; Bob's Fishing Hole. You type that in the Keyword text box on the Hide & Seek a Cache page. Nothing comes up. Why? You know that's what it was called! You end up going a round about way to find it and when you finally do, you see it's called Bob's Fishin' Hole. The apostrophe instead of a "g" is all it takes to get zero results! Jot down the numbers after the GC to make finding that cache on the website easier. You must include the GC in the search box.
The last worded column is called Last Found. Those are the dates the most recent cacher found that hide. If there are two dates, it's the date it was last found and the date YOU found it. The last two are for GPS units. If a cache on this page is one you want to find, you check that box and it will be downloaded to your GPSr (receiver). Right now I believe that option is only available if you have a Garmin GPSr. I have a Magellan and have to take an extra step to get the info from the website to my handheld, but I'm OK with that. I've used both types of units and prefer the Magellan. I'll get into that later.
Also in that screen shot above there are a couple other icons you might be curious about. The one with two yellow cache icons is the symbol for a multi-cache hide. The coordinates you get on the cache info page are for the first hidden box and inside that one are the next coordinates or a clue to get to the next one in the series. I've done a two part multi-cache and I've done a five step one. Some geocachers don't like multi's because you only get one smiley face, which is the symbol used when you log a find, when you actually made more than one find because it was a multi. Most multi's have a goal in mind. For example, I did one that was called 70's One Hit Wonders. I found micro's in about eight cemeteries and inside these micro's was a lyric of a song that was a single hit for a band in the 1970's. I had to find what year in the 70's and that number I put into a mystery coordinate. Once I had all the finds I was led to the final, which was an ammo box cache. Multi caches are their own category, so if people were to look at your stats, they don't just see how many finds you have, but how many of what kind. There are also mystery caches identified with a question mark that are usually puzzles that involve some brain power with the cache coords in the solution.
Virtual caches, known for their ghost icon, aren't published anymore. I don't remember the reason why, but the ones that are out there have been grandfathered in, but no more can be created. These caches were created by users who had found something man made that they found interesting and wanted to share. I've only been to a few vitual's. One was an old stone foundation with an Indian head embossed in it. I had to send an email to the cache owner of what I saw for credit for the find. Another was a time capsule in a flower garden at a place of business. I sent the two dates to the CO and one other was a bench placed in remembrance of someone. That virtual required the name of that person. The other cache type, which you can see the icon for in the picture I shared, is for earth caches. These are always interesting. My fave earth cache is in the same park I hid A Nelson Red Spot in. It's called the Devil's Ice Box and to get my smiley face I had to take the temperature in the parking lot, find this Ice Box place with my GPS (it was a cave below cliffs) and then take the temperature in there. I was to send that info in an email. It was over a ten degree difference!
Always when in the woods, look out for little critters scurrying around, spider webs you might walk into, and those poisonous plants! "Leaves of three? Let them be!" I don't know all the plants related to poison ivy, so I don't go into the woods anymore without pants and closed toe shoes on. Glance at your GPSr now and then, but don't stare at it. I don't want you walking into a tree or falling off a cliff. Always keep an eye out for muggles and when you make the find, no whooping or hollering. If there are muggles around, take the container away from it's hiding spot so if you are seen and someone is curious, they won't know exactly where to look. If it's raining, try your best to keep the contents dry and if you take something out, put something back in! It's no fun at all to go to a cache with kids who have things to trade and find an empty cache or it's full of movie ticket stubs, rusty screws or a comb. This is a family friendly game, so please no matches, lighters, knives or anything of that nature. Also, don't leave behind any food, candy or gum. Raccoons have good noses and even better hands and they don't put the cache back together after they get the goodies out.
There are some interesting caches out there. This is the one I found the day I took the picture of Ferdie above. Geocaching rules say you can't bury a cache, but this one is acceptable and people bend the rules anyway. The CO partially buried a PVC pipe in the ground and hollowed out a log and made that the top of his geocache. What you see in the lid there is a notice saying that this is a geocache and inside the tube is a plastic bag that holds the log book, a pen and some tradeable items. This isn't your typical cache find. Most hides are just Tupperware or Lock n Lock containers covered in camo paint or spray painted and hidden under downed trees or in stumps. Not too many are as creative as this and some are just annoying. One I did while in N.C. on vacation last week was just a red Folger's coffee can. It's location in a bush at the end of a dead end trail was the only way it wasn't being being mistaken for a piece of garbage. Some hides are memorable, some not so much, but no matter what the container or the junk you find inside is, always the drive there, the walk to it and often times the location of the cache itself makes it all worth while.
I hope you enjoyed this tutorial! I enjoyed writing it and am already looking forward to my next search for Tupperware in the woods!