Imagine yourself in a group of two or three people, and your mission is to find a can or a large box filled with collectible trinkets. You go into the woods, hack through some brush, crawl over a few logs. After about 10 or 15 minutes (and a few cuts and scrapes), your GPS lets you know you've arrived at your desired location by making a beeping noise.
Confused? A treasure hunt like this one is known as geocaching. Geocaching is known all over the world. It's played by teenagers and parents alike, with no age limit. It involves the great outdoors, and some necessary supplies include a compatible geocaching GPS, dry socks to change into and a bag to carry your SWAG (stuff we all get). SWAG consists of trinkets and little junk hidden within the cache. Cachers, or people who geocache, collect SWAG and trade it when they find a new cache.
There isn't only SWAG located inside a cache. Keychains and coins known as trackables hide out in caches as well. Trackables contain a secret code that is used when you log onto your geocaching account on geocaching.com. After typing in the code, you can view the amount of miles that particular trackable has traveled, as well as the caches it has visited.
One particular trackable's destination is to travel to the happy place of everyone who comes across it before returning to its original cache. The trackable is a large blue smiley face attached to a wooden smiley face. Another example of a trackable is a small, plastic dog that traveled from New Zealand; its mission is to meet other dogs all over the world.
You can purchase trackables on geocaching.com or create your own. It's easy; just purchase a dog tag on the website. Each comes with two tags, one to attach to the trackable, one to keep as a reference to the trackable's code. Once you have the code, log onto the website and click on Trackables (Yours). There are step-by-step instructions on how to activate the code.
Michael John Hockwater, a senior at St. Mary's High School in Lancaster, discovered geocaching over the summer.
"Geocaching is a world of adventure that I never knew existed," Michael John said. "I feel like Indiana Jones when I hike through the woods and uncover caches. It's a live-action treasure hunt that everyone in the family can enjoy."
But why do you need a compatible GPS? Why not just use one you already own? A regular GPS is fine for getting you to and from anywhere you want to go. A geocaching GPS lets you gather coordinates that are within landmarks, not only on roads. For example, if someone hid a geocache in his or her backyard and typed the coordinates into a GPS, they would receive directions on how to retrieve the cache. The GPS also can be hooked up to a personal computer and you can download caches through the website.
Michael John purchased a new kind of GPS that has many different features. It lets you access the geocaching website and log onto your account right on the GPS and much more.
To get started with geocaching you have to create an account on geocaching.com -- it's free. There is another account option called Premium Membership, in which you can get more features with the maps and uncover caches that only come with premium membership. It costs $30 per year.
After you have found one or more caches/trackables, log in to your account and record that you've found the cache or trackable.
There is also a question-and-answer section in case you're still not quite sure what to do, plus videos on geocaching and how to do it.
Daniel Golinski, a sophomore at Cleveland Hill High School, has been geocaching for three years. He usually goes with his dad. They have many memories, but this is Daniel's favorite one: "We went to go find one of the geocaches [at Letchworth State Park]. It was on the side of a really big hill. And as we were looking for the cache, whenever we got close, we noticed that it seemed to be pointing up this really steep hill. So I ran ahead of him and I ran all the way up; I didn't fall or anything. But then I looked down and he was still going up slowly, tree by tree. The next thing I know all I see are his feet slide right out [from under] him, flat on his stomach, only holding onto a tree. Next thing I know he's standing up and asking me to help hold his stuff for him. It was really fun. We did find the cache eventually."
Daniel has about 10 or 15 caches and collectibles in his collection.
"I go with my dad; I've gone with some of his friends from work. They tend to bring their children and family because it's a nice family thing. It's for any age."
There's a world of caches out there; all you have to do is grab your GPS, some friends and have an afternoon of adventure.
Michael John's collection of found caches and SWAG is growing day by day.
"Indiana Jones couldn't have done it better himself," he says.
Sara Chriswell is a senior at Maryvale High School.