27 Jan
2016
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Geocaching: Making the World Smaller

Compass Bug geocaching travel bug

We started geocaching as a family hobby several years ago. What started as a fairly inexpensive way to add to our family travels has become much more.

People participate in geocaching by using a handheld global positioning system (GPS) to locate hidden “treasure” (caches) placed by other geocachers. Caches are found by navigating to the longitude and latitude coordinates of their hiding places. There are several types of caches from “micro” that consist of nothing more than a small strip of paper to log visits, to large ammo boxes filled with goodies. The idea is you will find a cache, log your find, take a trinket and leave something in its place. We’ve geocached all over Wyoming and in several other states during road trips. We’ve discovered caches in trees, under rocks and in busy, pedestrian-riddled areas.

There are over 2 million active geocaches worldwide on geocaching.com. Trackables are items that can be moved from one cache to another and logged on geocaching.com to track its travel progress. We like to find trackables near us and take them on vacation to move them hundreds of miles.

We finally planted our own cache in the summer of 2013. We placed it in one of our favorite spots in a rural part of Wyoming. We added a toy compass with a trackable tag (naming it “Compass Bug”) to our box along with several other smaller items to get the cache started. We hoped the trackable would stay active and maybe leave Wyoming. Our expectations were meager compared to the reality.

geocaching travel bug map

The trackable was removed from our cache in July 2013, and we waited to see where it would travel. Nothing. We’ve been slow to log a trackable on the site before, but started to believe Compass Bug was lost. In April 2014, someone logged our trackable and promised to move it on. It was in Missouri, 729 miles from our cache.

The trackable made a handful of stops around Missouri, Kansas and Iowa. No move was more than 200 miles at the longest until May 8, 2014 when it was logged in Kanagawa, Japan, 5,619 miles from its original cache. We’re an excitable group and relish the little things. Receiving the email that said our trackable was in Japan was welcomed with hooting and hollering. That trackable could have ended up lost for good at that point, and we would have deemed the experiment a success. More was in store for our Compass Bug.

Compass Bug made four more cache stops in Japan ending in August 2014. We went almost a year with no further information about where the trackable was placed or if it had moved. In June 2015, the trackable made a a trip to Singapore placing it over 8,800 miles from rural Wyoming. By July 2015, the trackable was on a beach in South Korea and then in Taiwan two months later.

Several people who have discovered Compass Bug posted photos on geocaching.com giving us a glimpse at the places it has traveled. The world seems much smaller when I see a photo in a peace garden in Japan of a man holding a toy compass I placed in a box two years earlier. The remainder of 2015 saw the trackable popping up around Taiwan. On Jan. 24, Compass Bug found its way to Czech Republic, 5,229 miles from our cache in rural Wyoming.

The compass attached to the trackable is cheap plastic and has more international miles logged than I do. It’s been a tangible lesson for our kids on the size of this planet we call home and its different cultures, but how similar we are. Someone almost 9,000 miles from our home shares the same hobby we do. We have greater hopes for that palm-sized compass. We have several friends in England and are hoping now that the trackable makes its way near one of them. If it does, we’re sending someone we know to fetch it and bring things full circle. I look forward to following the journey and planting another trackable to send on its way.

 

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