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Geocaching is a Great Way to Enjoy the Outdoors While Hunting for Treasure!

By John Neale ~ Old Navy, President of the Northern New Jersey Cachers ~ NNJC.org

Geocaching is the most common term used to identify the sport of caching, often described as a "game of high-tech hide and seek." A geocache (pronounced “geo-cash”) is a hidden treasure that one locates by using a GPS device. Geocaching is for adventure seekers of all ages around the world who want to get outside and enjoy the hunt.

Geocaching shares many aspects with benchmarking, orienteering, letterboxing, and waymarking. All have a common theme of utilizing GPS technology to hide and seek caches or locate virtual locations in different forms. In your daily travels you probably pass by many of these treasures waiting to be discovered. They’re all around us: hidden in towns, main streets, shopping centers, street signs, and along scenic hiking trails throughout County, State and Local parks. Geocaches can be found in virtually every town and are placed at many important locations throughout the world.

A "cache" comes in a variety of sizes, from an ammo can, or plastic water - tight container, which contain trade items and a logbook to sign in your name…to a very small container the size of your fingernail called a "nano" which simply holds a micro - log to sign. After you find a "cache" and complete your adventure,     write about your experience and log in the caches on your geocaching profile.

Searching for geocaches can be very exciting as they are often located in very interesting locations. This gets people exposed to new areas they never explored before, whether it is an urban setting where you learn something about the history of an area, a vista with a scenic overlook, a ruin of an 18th century homestead to explore, an old abandoned railroad tunnel, an historic Revolutionary battleground, NJ largest bat cave, or a nature center to learn about the environment and endangered species.  Geocaching will take you to these interesting and historic locations that perhaps you never knew existed.

Geocaching was born May 1, 2000 after the Clinton administration decided to stop scrambling the Global Positioning System (GPS) signal from a series of orbiting satellites which allowed people to pinpoint positions anywhere on earth.  On May 3, 2000 the first Geocache was placed in Oregon and within days geocaches were placed around the country and as far away as Australia.

Geocaching.com is the oldest and largest website which lists over 1.5 million caches in over 200 countries around the world, and 5 million registered geocachers.  Currently New Jersey has over 10,000 geocaches. The new Opencaching.com, owned by Garmin Intl. and Terracaching.com are other websites which also offer geocaching listings.

Geocaching serves a powerful information tool by spotlighting tourism, environmental and historic location throughout the world. Many geocaching organizations partner with the National Park Service, State, County, local, non -profit groups, Conservancy groups and other organizations to help promote and enhance a variety of programs.

Geocaching can also be a great teaching tool, to promote and educate folks about the importance of an area where the caches are placed. An example is the geocaches at the GSWA CMA, as they represent environmental themes and give an explanation of the importants of this great area, such as the silver brook, vernal pond, cattail marsh, barred owl and endangered painted turtle.

The Northern New Jersey Cachers (NNJC), a non-profit organization, is very active in New Jersey to offer support and partner with many organizations. NNJC designs and installs trail systems, promotes environmental issues, cleans up parks including the meadowlands marshlands, and teaches geocaching benefits to promote good land stewardship. NNJC has been partnering with The Great Swamp Watershed Association since 2010, when it helped build a elevated boardwalk across the marsh at the CMA. There are currently 7 geocaches throughout the CMA, all themed to promote the Watershed.  NNJC will continue to promote the Watershed this year with the new trails and new theme caches in the expanded property. This spring NNJC will also join the GSWA to participate in the Great Swamp Watershed Scavenger hunt where folks will travel to different locations to gather clues to complete the challenge.

Recently NNJC has also partnered with two organizations to promote environment theme caches.  At the Morris County Outdoor Education Center in Chatham, caches educate about the Lenape life, pond life, endangered species and invasive plantings. At the Doris Duke Estate Foundation in Somerville the caches will include an historic and environmental themed geocaching challenge when this beautiful park opens to the public later this spring.

Another recent program in Maryland called "The Captain John Smith Geotrail" which was designed and created by geocachers from the Maryland Geocaching Society, working with the Chesapeake Conservancy and the National Park Service. Geocaches were placed at nearly 40 sites on five rivers representing particular stories or scenes from John Smith’s adventures on the Bay 400 years ago. Here in New Jersey we are currently looking to develop a similar New Jersey Geotrail with the State Parks and a theme of "NJ Crossroads of the American Revolution.”

Geocaching is a great family outing that takes you on an adventure to discover new places and learn about things you never thought you would learn about. It gives you a purpose to take a long drive to a destination you would not normally know about, and adds some excitement and adventure to your vacation as you learn and explore a previously unexplored area. It gives you a connection to the environment as you get back to nature, find those special places and create stories along the way. There is a geocache adventure out there for everyone, so grab your GPS and join the quest for adventure to discover our great outdoors again.

Lets go geocaching!