(WJHL) – Behind the typical twists and turns of Tri-Cities roads and destinations, there lies a hidden world that’s just waiting to be discovered.
While it may sound strange, that’s the exact premise of Geocaching.
What is Geocaching?
The first sentence you’ll see on Geocaching.com is “Join the world’s largest treasure hunt,” and every piece of supplementary material follows that mission. Geocaches can take a variety of forms, but the most common are small containers tucked away in unassuming or difficult to find hiding spots. Each cache has a description, rough location, difficulty rating and digital log of those who have visited it in the past. If you find a cache, more often than not you’ll find a handful of trinkets inside left behind by other hunters and a paper logbook waiting for your signature.
The trophies found inside a Geocache aren’t to be taken lightly; the entire Geocaching world runs on an honor system. If you take something, you must leave something of your own behind to offer something to the next explorer behind you. Cache items can vary wildly but are limited by what will fit inside the container. For that reason, you’re likely to find coins, small toys, marbles and other items that might occupy a catch-all bowl at home.
The central policies and platforms that make Geocaching possible are run by Groundspeak Inc. in Seattle, Washington. The stated mission of the project is to “inspire outdoor adventure, exploration, and community.”
How do you Geocache?
The first step of Geocaching is you don’t talk about Geocaching. Within caching culture, there’s a certain secrecy behind the process. When reading comments on cache logs you’ll often read the uninitiated referred to as “Muggles,” the Harry Potter term for those that aren’t aware of the magic at work around them.
When searching for caches, you’re encouraged to remain nonchalant and avoid attracting too much attention to the site. If someone who doesn’t understand the game gets ahold of a cache, they may throw it away, vandalize the site or take the items found inside. If someone asks, hunters are encouraged to explain the process.
To start caching properly, one will need to download the Geocaching app or browse the game’s site to make an account. Once you’ve picked out a nearby cache, your phone’s GPS will take you near its location. When you’re close, you’ll need to consult the description of the container and included hints that may make the process easier.
When you find a cache, you’ll need to sign the logbook to enter the long line of hunters that visited before you. Taking a trinket is optional and should only be done if you can replace it. You might even find an engraved item called a trackable that can be signed in and located online.
Often you’ll find caches in plastic containers like pill bottles and sandwich boxes, and you’ll want to make sure the whole assembly is properly sealed before returning the cache to its hiding spot.
Geocaches can be found in hiding spots off the beaten path, so everyone who wants to be involved is responsible for their own safety and liability.
Where are the Geocaches in the Tri-Cities?
In a five-mile radius around the center of Johnson City, the online Geocaching map lists 296 different caches. There are at least 470 currently scattered throughout Kingsport. Bristol sports around 230 entries.
Many caches follow local roads like Highway 11E and are easy finds. Geocaching lends itself to road trips and day visits to local destinations, and there are achievement badges for those who visit new places and geocache while they’re there.