Ever since the first cache was placed, people all over the world started putting strips of paper inside plastic containers and hiding them in interesting places. All you need is the coordinates, which are easily obtained from a GPS handset or Google maps. Once the cache has been logged on geocaching.com, subject to approval, it will get a unique GC code then the Geocache is live for the world to seek.
My first Geocaching experience was my first date with my girlfriend. We met on Dartford Heath. In the weeks before we had chatted many times about our interest in the outdoors and the various hobbies we had. I had to admit I had heard of the hobby but hadn’t actually tried it. Two years on, nearly 500 caches found, we go caching whenever we get the chance. We recommend that if you are going to meet someone you have never met before that you do not do it in an isolated place, always meet up in populated areas. For a bit of fun do not tell your partner where you are meeting up just give them the coordinates and surprise them with the location.
On one of our recent trips in Kent we travelled to Grain Tower Battery (GC1DKZ6) AKA ‘No1, The Thames’ this is an extreme cache and an Urban Explorer’s heaven. It is a 150 year old fort, based in the Thames estuary, you can only access it by foot at low tide across a half mile causeway. It has gun towers on top of the main rotunda and a crumbling concrete 5 story look-out tower. Not for the faint hearted.
We were half way up the tower when we saw another couple walking across the causeway; he was an explorer and she a photographer/writer researching an article on the Tower. We greeted them and exchanged pleasantries. Once they were safely up the ladder we shook hands and got chatting. They said that they probably would not have climbed up had they not met us. We all enjoyed exploring the historic building and said we would keep in touch and look for more places to explore.
The world of Geocaching is literally that, treasures are hidden in the most amazing places. Nano caches are tiny magnetic metal cylinders no bigger than the end of your little finger often stuck to sign posts or telephone boxes. Church micros can be wedged behind railings in remote countryside locations The next cache you discover may be a bison tube hidden four meters up a tree, one of a series of thirty caches that takes you on a ten mile hike through a picturesque valley, steeped in history, offering local facts that you would have otherwise missed.
You will find caches in the most extreme of places, under water or on a mountainside where a search can only begin once you have learnt to use the appropriate specialist equipment and techniques to negotiate the most difficult of terrains. The locations can be remote or right in the hearts of the world’s capital cities. A few years ago when I worked in London I joined a project called Chromaroma, the team would analyse TfL travel data and record all your journey details. The players would be allocated team colours, and when we touched in and out of stations with our Oyster cards we would clock up high scores and win points for our teams and gain ground over the other players.
In and around London new games are be devised all the time. People join teams to fight the good fight against enemy alien forces invading our streets; according to Ingress.com “They aren’t coming – they are already here”. The game uses Augmented Reality (AR) to superimpose game play using the phone’s camera over the real world images. You point your device to a statue in London’s Trafalgar Square and it reveals a portal to another world.
Personally I prefer the more relaxing pursuit of walking/cycling around the London Capital Ring using high tech gadgets to locate points of interest. I often used to walk the sections planning how to link rural beauty with modern emerging technologies. The 78 mile green land route around the capital connects parks, walks and other places of beauty. All along this route could be AR then-and-now photographs, complimenting detailed historical plaques, fact sheets and sign posts each with a cache not far away. The series could have many levels of advanced technology and conventional features to enhance the experience.
When we are out walking we often say how wonderful it will be to look through our phone screens and stare back to a point in history, with Augmented Reality overlays of high quality animated characters recreating famous historical moments. As we follow a cache series from one location to the next we could be learning the grisly goings on of the notorious East End killer Jack the Ripper. We could be touring London’s long list of Victorian graveyards and viewing all their sinister dealings or be looking up at gallows as you watch a public execution.
The GPS will always guide you to the cache. Once the clue has been solved and the log found the next part of the puzzle could be revealed. We could be following in the footsteps of Sherlock Holmes as he darts around London solving a murder with enlightening analysis of the clues in those early days of forensic science.
In the future the integration with technology will be even greater. Our phone’s cameras will have augmented reality viewers built in. We will be wearing watches that can double up as compasses. Our glasses will even have display screens built in. On family days out in times to come the next generations will be scanning the QR codes to sign the cache log. Some will not even be signing the cache at all, they will be playing spy thriller role play or fantasy games with mythical creatures all around. The parents will be learning all about the historical aspect of the area they are walking in. Dad will be fascinated by the virtual models of the machinery of yesteryear that powered the mills, while Grandad signs the log with good old fashioned pen and paper. Mum will be laughing with Grandma remembering when film pots really were just film pots as Nan struggles to get her newfangled phone thingy to take a photo.