A few posts ago, I mentioned some of the activities you should be engaging in before summer vanishes and you start complaining about the cold. They revolved around activities outside. That’s right, outside, as in not in a buiilding.
Even in the great outdoors, we can’t seem to leave our electronics home. It wasn’t that long ago where if you said you were going camping for the week, that’s the last anyone heard from you for a couple days. Now you’re expected to blog, text, tweet, call and face time every step of the way. There is hope for us.
Richard Louv expertly argued in his books Last Child in the Woods and The Nature Principle the importance of nature in our lives. While technology has often improved our lives, it can be an impediment, especially through the “entertainment” it brings with it. So it’s with certain irony that geocaching has brought tech to the woods and let millions become explorers again.
In the old days, you would use a compass and map to engage in the sport of orienteering. Find hidden caches or capture the opponent’s flag, it could be quite the weekend adventure. Then came GPS and someone said, “Let’s hide stuff in the woods and others can try to find it with their GPS.” Years – and millions of hides and finds later – geocaching continues to grow. In spite of that, it lives a strange existence of many still not knowing about it, to being almost a secret society to others.
Paul and Dana Gillin chronicle the sport in their book The Joy of Geocaching. They write how it dovetails with many other outdoor hobbies, is an inexpensive way to spend time with friends and family, brings enthusiasts together from all walks of life, among other points. Perhaps most importantly, geocaching appeals to the “restless and inquisitive” and as one geocacher wrote that he found, “most caches were placed in these out-of-the-way places. It’s not what the tourism office thinks you should see; it’s what people in the community think you should see.”
Indeed, many parks and communities have embraced geocaching, while some government entities (no surprise here) have seen it has something to ban or regulate. I once had a cache in a very scenic, but oft forgotten, corner of a state park. Over the years, many of the cache finders commented on how they didn’t know about the place so close to home or had forgotten it. But apparently increased business on tax-payer funded lands didn’t sit well with the parks and they made it harder for caches to be put in place. Most were pulled out.
Regardless of such irrationality, geocaching still a perfect way to ignite the explorer in all of us. You can armchair it all you want in front of the tube, but that will never be the same as putting on your Indy hat, lacing up your boots and heading out the door. Even if it’s just discovering what you have been missing in your own community, it’s like discovering a lost world.
The Space Age has put the power to explore in your hands. What are you waiting for?