Modern adventurers unearth fun in geocaching

Kirsten Buchanan

Oftentimes a child will dig for buried treasure, pretending he is discovering gold. Although there are not many treasure chests around Columbia, there are similar boxes called geocaches.

As GPS technology developed, a man named Dave Ulmer hid a box and placed the coordinates in a GPS Internet group. This developed into the worldwide game it is today. Geocachers will place a cache — sometimes as big as an ammo box, sometimes as small as a pill bottle — some place outdoors and record its location on www.geocaching.com. People then can use the information on the website to go find the geocache.

Shannon White, the coordinator of the Missouri geographic alliance, teaches a summer camp for children where they learn, among other skills, GPS reading and geocaching. The children start by geocaching on the University of Missouri-Columbia campus and eventually geocache elsewhere downtown.

“I like [geocaching] because it gets me outdoors. I often go to places that I wouldn’t have gone before. Especially if I visit a new city or a new town, it gives me a chance to see something new,” White said. “I just go to see how someone has been creative and what they wanted me to see because … usually people put geocaches in areas that they want you to see. It’s not like they put them in the trash dump. They want you to go and see or experience something.”

Sophomore Andrew Neugarten initially went geocaching with his family a few years ago as a fun activity to bond with his parents.

“Our first few geocaches were rather easy; there was no rough terrain and very little walking. We chose a few easy level caches to start out with,” Neugarten said. “We found two of the three caches on our first day, and that is not too bad. After all you can’t find them all.”

One of White’s favorite geocaches is in Peace Park. Although sometimes college students will raid the geocache and put inappropriate things in it, she said it is a good cache for families to go and find.

“There are some very challenging [caches] inside of Columbia,” White said. “You have to be really, really creative to think about where it might be hidden in a location where they might be lots and lots of people around.”
By Kirsten Buchanan