Yates County 4-H starts geo-caching group

Cornell Cooperative Extension
Special to The Chronicle-Express
4-H Geocaching

Cornell Cooperative Extension of Yates County and the Yates County 4-H Program have announced the start of a 4-H Geo-Caching group. The first group meeting took place on May 2, with the next date set for June 26.

4-H Spotlight

Geo-caching is a fun family activity, combining outdoor exploration, GPS technology, and orienteering skills. With the use of handheld GPS units or via an app downloaded on a smartphone, participants are able to take part in a modern day treasure hunt, using GPS coordinates to find hidden treasures, called caches.

Geo-caching got its start on May 3, 2000 in Beavercreek, Oregon. This coincided with May 2, 2000, when President Bill Clinton made the decision to cease the use of Selective Availability, making GPS technology readily available for civilian and commercial use. This meant that anyone could pinpoint a specific location using GPS coordinates.

Computer consultant David Ulmer wanted to test this technology. He hid a “navigational target” in the woods, calling it “the Great American GPS Stash Hunt”. He shared the coordinates on-line, challenging other GPS users to locate the item using only their GPS receivers. The cache was a black bucket, containing a logbook, pencil, and various prizes. He stated that finders should “Take some stuff, leave some stuff.” Within three days, two fellow GPS enthusiasts had located his cache and others quickly gained interest and excitement for the idea.

The name geo-caching was coined on May 30, 2000 by Mike Teague, the first person to find Ulmer’s cache, with "geo" meaning earth and "cache" meaning both a hiding place, as well as the use of technology. For the first few months, geo-caching was limited to those with high level GPS knowledge. However, web developer Jeremy Irish got wind of this activity and through collaboration with Teague; they formed and launched geocaching.com on Sept. 2, 2000. At this time, there were 75 known caches in the world. Today, there are millions of geocaches registered worldwide. For more information, visit https://www.geocaching.com/about/history.aspx.

To take part in geo-caching, participants create a free account at geocaching.com. They can then search for caches, obtain cache coordinates, and find additional information on the cache, such as size, difficulty, terrain, a description, and sometimes clues shared by the cache owner. Once you have an account, you are also able to hide and register your own caches. Before a cache is registered and shared with others on-line, it first goes through a review and approval process through geocaching.com. For example, depending on the location, a permit or permission from the property owner may be required.

Caches are hidden in places of significance to the area or of importance to the individual hiding the cache. Common cache sites include parks, cemeteries, rest stops, areas of historical importance, or places highlighting the beauty of the area. Caches range in size from nano (a container less than 10 ml) to large (a container more than 20 L). Each cache contains a logbook, allowing cachers to record the date they found the cache and their name. Depending on the size of the cache, there may be small trinkets for trading. The rule of the game is that if you take a treasure, you must leave a treasure for someone else to find and enjoy.

There are all types of caches to explore, ranging from traditional caches (those mentioned above) to mystery or puzzle caches, multi-caches, EarthCaches, and more. Caches can be found locally, as well as worldwide. According to geocaching.com, there are 86 registered caches in Yates County. Geo-caching is a great way to enjoy and explore your local area, learn about mapping, get some exercise, and have fun.

The Yates County 4-H Geo-Caching Group plans to meet monthly throughout the summer and into the fall. To date, the group has explored the Keuka Outlet Trail, with plans of exploring additional local trails throughout the Finger Lakes.

Geo-Caching and geo-spatial science is just one area youth can learn about in 4-H. For more information on this group, or to stay up to date on 4-H offerings in Yates County, be sure to like it on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, @Yates County 4-H. For more information on the Yates County 4-H Program, go to http://yates.cce.cornell.edu/4-h-youth or reach out  at (315) 536-5123 or jja26@cornell.edu.