Hide and seek used to be just for kids, but now grown-ups have joined in the fun and added a geospatial twist to this juvenile past time. Geocaching is a new hobby that my parents and their friends have become addicted to. In a nut shell, people hide containers in public areas with notes, toys, keep sakes or whatever and it’s your job to find them. Usually when you find the hidden containers, there is a log book inside where you can sign your name to prove that you’ve been there. All you need to join is a mobile GPS unit and a subscription to Geocaching.com. Once there, you can type in your zip code and you will get a list and map of nearby hidden geocaches and their geographic coordinates. The geocaches are posted by the people that have hidden them and often include a clue to help you find it which can vary in difficulty and terrain.
While these geocaches can just be one-offs, there are over a dozen different types of geocaches, like multi-cache, mystery cache, event cache and geocaching challenges. Some are single caches, but they are a part of a theme. Beware of the creepy factor associated with some of these, like the glow-in-the-dark cache, where a few of my parents friends had the police called on them while they were looking for one in a public park at night!
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Some organizations use geocaching as a way to educate people about certain causes or topics. In 2011, the Missouri Botanical Gardens set up a list of geocaches that led people to historic or significant trees in the St. Louis area.They did this in order to raise awareness about forest ecosystems in celebration of the U.N. International Year of Forests. And what was the name of this geocache event? TREEmendous! Participants were encouraged to find at least 15 of the 30 listed trees that can be found in public parks, reservations and urban areas and then to identify their species.
While this event ended in 2011, the Tree Hunt Guide is still available here. The St. Louis Area Geocachers Association has created the TREEmendous Geocaching Series and it can be found on Geocaching.com. Each geocache comes with a brief description of the tree, detailing its history and significance. This geocaching series is a great way to get the family outside to learn about the local ecosystem along with its importance on a global scale.