What do hollow logs, guardrails, and street lamps have in common? They’re all places you’ll find geocaches. That’s right, muggles (if you don’t know what a muggle is, you must continue reading…you’re missing out), there’s a massive treasure hunt game happening around you. Beaver County has THOUSANDS of geocaches, and if you’re not looking for them, read on to find out why you should.
A few basic key terms:
- Geocaching: A worldwide game in which players use GPS devices to locate hidden objects at specific coordinates.
- Geocache: The “treasure” – usually a watertight box filled with SWAG (see next definition) and containing a log book that geocachers must sign to validate the find.
- SWAG: “Stuff We All Get” – this is the best part (especially if you have kids). SWAG items can be anything from baseball cards to Matchbox cars, or if you’re lucky, something super cool. SWAG can be traded, but for whatever you take out of the geocache, you must replace with something better.
- Muggles: If this is all unfamiliar to you – you’re a muggle. Don’t worry, it’s not derogatory! It just means that if you aren’t in-the-know about geocaching, you’re likely to think the people wandering around looking under park benches and rocks have a few screws loose. We try to look cool when “muggles” are around so that you don’t think we’re up to no good, ‘cuz we’re not.
You know I love the outdoors. So does the rest of my family, and when the weather behaves, you can bet we’re in the woods. My hiking pack is stocked with snacks, first aid supplies, a knife, tick spray (don’t want Lyme disease) – and a cloth case full of SWAG to trade.
There are plenty of urban geocaches (downtown Beaver has a bunch), but we like to stick to the ones along the miles of Beaver County trails, enjoying the fresh air and wildlife. Bradys Run Park is LOADED (there are 77 geocaches in the park to date), and there are a handful in Sahli Nature Park that are perfect for beginners – easy terrain and lots of fun SWAG!
So how’s it work? If you’re just starting out, download the Geocaching app from iTunes/Google Play and set up an account. A map shows you the location of nearby geocaches, and each one has a description and coordinates. You can use the GPS on your phone to lead the way (just press “Start”), or plug the latitude & longitude into another device. We use our Garmin watches – they’re a little more reliable than my smartphone.
Once you get close to the coordinates, start the detective work. Look around – where would be a good place to hide something? This is called using your “geosense,” & it’ll get better as you keep playing. Hollow logs are popular, but the cache could be anywhere – hanging in a tree, in an Altoids can with a magnet on the side of a bridge…
These fun containers are all hidden in Bradys Run. Some are bigger, some are smaller – the tiniest ones are called “micros” or “nanos,” and they’re usually little metal containers with just a log to sign rolled up inside. They’re challenging, but sooo satisfying to find! [My favorite nano is at Bridgewater Crossing at coordinates N 40° 41.827 W 80° 7.450; this one took us awhile but it’s a clever hide!]
The search is fun, but getting to see what fun trinkets we can add to our SWAG jar is the best part – for me and our little one, at least. His daddy likes to check out the log and see how many people have been there before us. We keep everything that we’ve traded for in a glass container. It’s like a hermit crab that’s about to outgrow its shell, though – so if anyone has easy plans for a shadowbox, let me know!
Best SWAG I’ve found? A pair of new EARRINGS in a cache in Bradys Run. Alas, I had nothing better to trade for them. Now I carry some “higher end” items just in case. 😉
If you’re already a geocacher, hello from [S3]! Post your favorite Beaver County caches & stories to help turn some muggles into explorers!