Geocaching… Searching Treasures From Your Wheelchair

By Mason Ellis ~

Do you like treasure hunting? What about the outdoors? I’ve got the perfect FREE hobby that you can even do in a wheelchair… Geocaching!

What is Geocaching?
Geocaching is an outdoor treasure hunt game that uses GPS-­enabled devices. You can use practically any GPS that you can insert coordinates into, including your smartphone! Just download the free official Geocaching app  and you’re on your way.

Participants or “Geocachers” navigate to a specific set of GPS coordinates that the “Cache Owner” has set and then attempt to find the Geocache or cache hidden at that location.

Ready to give it a go? It’s easy… just go to the official Geocache site and follow these eight simple steps:

  1. Register for a FREE Basic Membership (Premium Members get many more features that are not accessible to Basic Members).
  2. Visit the Hide & Seek Cache page.
  3. Enter your postal code and click search.
  4. Choose any Geocache from the list or use the map.
  5. Enter the coordinates of the Geocache into your GPS-­enabled device. If you are on a smartphone, click “Navigate to cache” or “Start.”
  6. Use your GPS-­enabled device to assist you in finding the hidden Geocache.
  7. Once the geocache is found, sign the logbook and return the Geocache to its original location.
  8. Log your find on the Geocacache’s page.

There are many other levels to the game that you can explore on the Geocaching 101 page.

How did Geocaching get started?
On May 2nd in the year 2000, twenty-four satellites around the globe increased the accuracy of GPS technology. This announcement was a surprise to everyone who worked with GPS technology. Now anyone could pinpoint their location with coordinates on GPS devices.

The day after this was announced, Dave Ulmer decided to test its accuracy by hiding a navigational target in the woods. He called it the “Great American GPS Stash Hunt.” His idea was to hide a container and record the coordinates. He posted the coordinates to a GPS user group online. The only rule was to “take some stuff and leave some stuff ” if or when it was found.

This eventually caught on and people loved it! As momentum grew for the “stash hunt,” players became thirsty for new challenges and new coordinates for stuff to look for. The popular search and hunt game is now known as Geocaching.

What is in a Geocache?

  • Logbook (piece of paper to log your find);
  • Pen/Pencil; and,
  • Depending on the size of the Geocache, there could be “SWAG” in the Geocache. SWAG 
stands for “Stuff We All Get” and is a term referring to tradable items that can be found in a Geocache.  (See Glossary of Terms for more info.)

Rules for Geocaching:

  1. Respect the property around the Geocache.geocache logo copy
  2. Respect the Geocache itself.
  3. If you take SWAG from a Geocache, leave something of equal or greater value.
  4. Log your experience in the Geocache real logbook (or at least your name and date).
  5. Log your experience in the virtual Geocache logbook on the Geocache website page.
  6. Return the geocache EXACTLY where and how you found it.

Are there different types of Geocaches?
Yes, there are currently over a dozen cache types, with each cache type being a different variation of the game.  There are difficulty and terrain ratings on each Geocache: 1 being the easiest, and 5 being the hardest.  There are also different attributes such as: kid friendly, available 24/7, and handicap accessible. You can filter Geocaches by type, difficulty, terrain, etc.

What do I need to go Geocaching?
The only necessities needed for Geocaching are a GPS­-enabled device to navigate to the cache. Check out their Guide to Buying a GPS Device.

Other items that you may want to bring include a pen/pencil (some caches might be too small or not have a writing utensil to log your find in the logbook), utility tool, flashlight, extra batteries, SWAG, magnetic pen, retractable mirror, and a first aid kit. Other useful items for the hunt include; a grabber tool, headlamp, and metal poking tool.

Where are geocaches located?
Geocaches can be found all over the world, as Geocaching hit its 2 millionth hide in 2013 somewhere in beautiful Australia. Players often hide caches in locations that are important to them, reflecting a special interest or skill of their own. These locations can be quite diverse, as everyone has different interests. Some even use Geocaching to draw more people to a certain location, attraction, restaurant, or venue.

Here’s some Geocache trivia for you… The highest cache is on the International Space Station. The deepest cache is in an ocean trench off of Europe. I wonder how many finds have been reported on those caches?

I started Geocaching in 2009. I live in a very small town, but there were and still are several around my area! I found 177 geocaches before I got injured on January 19, 2015 and would’ve found several more, but had only had my license for a year. The last Geocache I found was with my nephew two days before I sustained my Spinal Cord Injury. It was a good experience and is one of my best memories before my injury.

Mason's most recent find in his hometown of Bloomfield, IN  (July 2016)

Mason’s most recent find in his hometown of Bloomfield, IN (July 2016)

After being hospitalized for 58 days, I decided to escape the confines of the hospital a couple days before I was discharged to see if I could find a Geocache in a parking lot across the way. I was ready for an adventure, so what better to find it than Geocache? I wheeled myself over and left with a smiley (meaning I found it).

Being newly paralyzed and not used to my injury, I was unable to physically touch the cache and sign the logbook. However, I did see it and logged my find on the Geocache website.

Having a mobility impairment can make several things more difficult, including Geocaching, but it is still possible. If you want to test your scavenger skills, I suggest getting a friend to tag along. They can help you out and have fun along the process!

Geocaches may be at your local park, at the top of a mountain, underwater, or right across the street. What are you waiting on? Get out there and find one or two! Well, maybe three because it’s fun and addicting!

For more information, go to the Official Geocache Website.