Geocaching: A perfect activity during the winter months
Winter is one of the most active seasons in Bozeman when it comes to recreational sports, but what if you do not enjoy snowboarding or skiing? For these residents, it may be hard to find a hobby during the winter, but I may have the answer, and that is geocaching.
Geocaching is a scavenger hunt game that has recently gained a lot of attention. This is an activity that is great for the whole family because it encourages kids to get outside and explore. While geocaching, you have the opportunity to explore places that you may not have considered exploring in the past while also becoming a part of a unique community. This activity is free and also allows you to collect interesting items that another person may have not wanted. Bozeman holds over 200 locations for caches that can be found in parks, near businesses, and even by statues. In fact, you may not even realize that you pass them every day.
I will always remember the first time I went geocaching. The cache was located in the middle of three bushes and you had to crawl into them to find it. When I first found the location, I realized that it was next to a building in the middle of the day, so I was nervous about someone seeing me dig around in a bush. Let’s face it, any unsuspecting person would think that someone crawling in a bush was crazy. So, I decided to go back when it was dark because there would most likely not be a lot of people there. So I’m in a bush, in the dark, getting frustrated because there were maybe four feet of space where this could be (this is where I found out about the duct tape trick) and out of nowhere comes a large group of muggles (people who do not know about geocaching). Yes, they all saw that my head was in a bush. Although it was slightly embarrassing, I look back and laugh every time I think of the memory.
A concern that you may or may not have is whether you can find caches in the snow. Usually, geocachers take this into consideration while hiding their caches. They choose a container where the weather will not damage any of the items in the cache, or they place it in a spot that the snow will not cover. If you are finding that this is not the case, whether you can not find the cache due to the snow or some of the items in the cache have been damaged, then you will have the ability to message the owner of the cache. This will allow you to update them so that they can either replace the cache or restore the items in the cache. When looking at profiles of caches on the app or website, there are usually icons that tell you if you can access these while it is snowing. Some other icons that may or may not be on cache profiles include whether or not kids can access them, if you can find it in under an hour, wheelchair accessible, etc.
How to Get Started
Geocaching is relatively easy to start as a hobby. All you need is a mobile device that can access geocaching.com or its app. Then you will want to create an account so that you can log the geocaches that you find. Upon opening the app, you will see a map of all of the caches as well as your current location. You can either choose to search for caches that are close to you, or you can browse across the map to see if there are any other locations that you want to explore. A lot of times, I like to plan hiking trips around cache locations to add some extra adventure.
Although you do not need any of the following items for geocaching, I feel that they may make the experience more enjoyable. I like to carry a pencil case with a variety of things. One of the main items is pens or pencils because a lot of the caches do not have the room to hold a writing utensil. Along with this, I carry tweezers for the micro caches. Tweezers help you pull logs out of bison tubes (water-tight, metal containers that are about an inch to two inches long) so that you can sign your name. There have been times where I could not remove the cache’s logs and I had to leave without signing. You can also carry small items that you can switch out for SWAG (Stuff We All Get). I collect items from previous caches and save them for the next ones I visit. I also carry items that I personally purchased (currently I have ninja cupcake toppers!). Other than those items, I carry paper and baggies in case I find caches with minimum damage that I can fix on the spot. If the damages are small, it would most likely be easier for me to fix them rather than messaging the owner to take a separate trip.
Along with the location, you will have access to a description of the cache. Depending on the place, usually, there is a description of the history that could be helpful in locating a cache. If the description is not helping, there usually is a hint as well. These provide a couple of words that explain how to access the cache.
How to Hide a Cache
Along with locating other caches, you also have the ability to hide your own. Personally, this is one of my favorite parts of geocaching. When creating and placing caches, you have the opportunity to create whatever you want. You can place different sizes, create different themes, and place them in unique locations that many people may not know about.
First, you want to explore some other caches that are hidden in Bozeman. This will allow you to explore different ideas before you plant your own. After you feel that you have a good understanding of what you like and what you do not like about the caches in your area, you want to start to prepare your own. Then you want to take into consideration the location that you want to place it. You want to avoid putting it on private property, but if you decide to go this route, then make sure you have permission from the owners and make sure that they understand that strangers will be coming onto their property.
Next, you want to decide on a container. The best container for Montana would most likely be water-resistant. Plenty of people use Tupperware, pill bottles, or coffee cans. You can also buy geocache containers online. Another thing that you may want to do is camouflage your container. Some containers will be found with foliage on top but another more common way to hide a cache is to purchase camouflage duct tape and wrap the container with it. Along with camouflaging the cache, this allows an extra layer of protection that keeps water out of your container. You can also buy containers that may look like other objects, for example, a birdhouse or a screw.
After you pick a location and your container, go ahead and place it. Usually, you would want to include paper and objects to trade if there is room. Then you want to go home and immediately go to the geocaching website to log what you hid. The application will ask you for the exact coordinates, the cache name, difficulties of terrain and location, description, and other attributes of the cache. Then you will submit another description that describes the cache and location so that a volunteer of the community can judge if your cache fits the parameters. You want to leave the cache alone while the volunteer reviews your request. After about seven days, you will either be accepted or denied to leave your cache there.
Geocaching is a great way to become a part of the Bozeman community. Along with collecting different items, you meet new people and learn about the history of Bozeman. So, if you are trying to kill a little time or are wanting to go on an adventure with friends, then I encourage you to go out into the community and try geocaching.