The urge to hide and seek is universal.
Squirrels hide piles of tree nuts to have a food source in the winter. Fur trappers of the old American west made supply caches for long journeys. The pirate William Kid was said to have buried gold across the world, still inspiring treasure hunters. Only they knew the location of their hidden treasures (though squirrels usually forget) and we love the search.
Today hiding objects has gone viral with the new international hobby called geocaching, an interactive outdoor game that gets people moving.
Within a few square miles of you reading this, there are potentially hundreds of hidden objects just waiting to be found. Over 500 of these geocaching locations are labeled using coordinates around Missoula alone.
All you need is a Global Positioning System (GPS) or a smartphone—geocache locations can be uploaded to either. Then mark your waypoint, read the clues if there are any, and you are ready to start an adventure. Stashes are found both in wild areas and urban settings.
“I always maintained that it was meant to be an outdoors sport that kind of got moved into the city,” Great Falls Geocacher Greg Muich, who has close to 2,000 finds, told The Great Falls Tribune.
Pokémon Go’s format is lifted directly from geocaching and has drawn many comparisons. Seekers for each often run into each other. But if hatching virtual eggs isn’t your thing, there are an estimated 2.8 million caches worldwide to get your real hands on, according to Bloomberg.
Geocaching had its beginnings in 2000 when the Clinton Administration discontinued satellite selective availabilityc, improving GPS accuracy for commercial use dramatically. Within weeks, GPS enthusiasts were hiding fun objects to celebrate.
Objects come in all sizes, but notepads are typically left so seekers can leave notes. Some geocaches have unique toys, games, or knick-knacks that can be swapped or traded. More ambitious hiders will hide multiple objects accompanied with riddles or make the coordinates a puzzle for seekers to solve.
Besides encouraging healthful walks and exploration, random objects (not litter) scattered across the landscape can lead to unintended consequences.
Earlier this fall, concerned Canadian brought a package they found in a park to police, which turned out to be someone’s stash.
Only a week prior, a few Washington state geocachers saved a woman’s life after finding her trapped in an overturned car.
The Geocaching app is the easiest way to get started if you don’t have a GPS. Good hunting!