Geocaching as a family sport

On a sunny Saturday afternoon, I was trying to find someone to play with, and I called one of my best friends, Andrew Klino, to see if he was available. He told me he was out geocaching, and asked if I wanted to go. I declined, and I sure wish I hadn’t. I didn’t know what Geocaching was, and honestly it sounded silly. Here we are a couple of years later, Andy has found hundreds of Geocaches, and I’ve only found a few, but we both enjoy the hunt!

I asked him if I could interview him for regarding his affinity for Geocaching, and thankfully he agreed.

Andrew holding a found Geocache (from Deep Thought)

Andrew holding a found Geocache (from Deep Thought)

Ken: What is Geocaching?

Andrew: Geocaching is a GPS based hide-and-go-seek game where someone hides a “cache” and post the coordinates to it online. The cache itself can be one of an infinite number of containers. Typical cache containers are 35mm film canisters, ammo cans (everyone’s favorite), pill bottles, condiment jars, etc. Some cache containers can be very creative, and are made to blend in with its surroundings. For instance, we’ve found caches that look like hornet’s nests, a nail in a plank of wood, a length of rope, road reflectors, and even a hollowed-out acorn hanging on an oak tree. Contents of a cache can vary, but the one item they all have is a log book/sheet.

When you find the cache, you sign your name to the log and replace the cache exactly as you found it. If the cache has other items in it, you’re free to take anything you like as long as you leaving something of equal or greater value.


Ken: How did you find out about Geocaching?

Andrew: Shortly after I purchased my first iPhone, I was looking for some cool GPS apps, when I came across the Geocaching app. It looked cool, so I downloaded it. Since I was still at work, I searched for a cache near home and I picked up my girlfriend (now wife) and kids to go try this Geocaching thing out. We didn’t really know what to expect, so we kinda poked around for a minute when my wife said “FOUND IT!”

Upon opening the cache (a peanut butter jar), we found all kinds of trinkets, stickers, etc. We reveled in the length of the logbook (a simple 3×5 spiral notepad). It was pretty surreal to see a plastic jar that was so popular. Hundreds of people over the course of several years, from all across the globe had come to visit it.

Looking at the names in the logbook, we realized we needed a team name. We had no idea what to call ourselves, so we combined our last names (Klino and Woodward), and called ourselves “Team Klinward”. The name stuck, and now we often refer to ourselves as The Klinwards!


Klino Girls with cache (from Deep Thought)

Klino Girls with cache (from Deep Thought)

Ken: Do you need any special tools for it?

Andrew: Not really. Ultimately, it depends on how involved you want to get. For the majority of suburban caches, you don’t really need a GPS receiver.

Google Maps is so accurate at mapping GPS coordinates that frequently you can just look at the map on your computer, read the description (and maybe the hint), and look around in that 10’ radius. Having a GPS devices helps immensely though. Smartphone apps are my recommendation for anyone trying out the hobby. iPhone, Android and BlackBerry all have apps of varying quality that will do just fine for suburban geocaching. Big city and edge of town caching can start to get a little more challenging with a smartphone, as the GPS receiver generally isn’t very strong, and/or data reception may be of poor quality. In those cases, you’ll want to upgrade to at least a simple standalone GPS receiver. They can be found for under $50.

If you like to go find caches way off the beaten path, you should upgrade to a high end device. Good ones start around $250, and can go up to $500 or so.


Ken: Are geocaches generally all the same?

Andrew: NO!!! This is the most interesting part of geocaching to me. If all the caches were the typical suburban “Traditional” caches, it’d get boring in a hurry. Although there are a dozen or so types of caches, the three main ones are Traditional, Multi and Puzzle. We’ve already covered the traditionals — multis and puzzles are just variants. A multi cache has two or more stages.

The initial coordinates will take you to a place where additional information will be found. This is usually a plaque or a sign, and you have to obtain information from that to find the next stage. Puzzle caches generally have something cryptic to solve in order to find out the coordinates of the cache. In fact, our hometown of Livermore, CA is fairly well renown in the geocaching world as “Spy City”. There are an excessive amount of puzzle caches in the Livermore area, and they are created by some of the most brilliant minds in the world. Several geniuses (physicists, cryptologists, et al.) from Lawrence Livermore Nat’l Laboratory are geocachers, and they have made some of the most creative and brutal puzzles out there!


Ken: Does it take a lot of time?

Andrew: This again depends upon how involved you want to get. If you just like picking up a simple traditional while traveling through a town, no. If you like solving puzzles, can be very time consuming. There are puzzles I’ve been working on for three years, and still haven’t made any traction! If you like to hide caches, they take time to build and hide properly, and they must be maintained.


Ken: Where are Geocaches?

Andrew: A better question is “Where aren’t geocaches?” They are literally EVERYWHERE! There are nearly 1.5 million active geocaches, and that number is growing daily. There is even a geocache on board the International Space Station, and one that is two miles under water!


Ken: What is your favorite Geocaching story?

Andrew: There are too many to list! One that immediately comes to mind however is a puzzle in Livermore titled “Deep Thought”. The cache itself is 16 feet under water (2 atmospheres), and hadn’t been found in over a year at the time. After I solved it (a year in the making), I arranged with other local cachers to take the family boat out to go find it. Four teams in total went on the trip – including the cache owner (a physicist), and a licensed scuba diver. After finding the cache, the boat died! We were about 1.5 miles from the marina, and NO ONE was around to help. None of us had cell reception…It was a disaster. The cache owner happens to be a very accomplished endurance swimmer, and literally tied a rope to his waist, and started towing the boat! The rest of us jumped out the back of the boat and started kicking, while my wife piloted the vessel. We made it about 1/2 of a mile before another boater finally came by and towed us back in. It was embarrassing, but certainly made for a very memorable afternoon geocaching.


Ken: That’s hilarious! How can the average person get started Geocaching?

Andrew: Well, first things first, check out and sign up for a free account. A free account will get most people started, but the paid account gets you a couple of extra features that are handy if you get serious about Geocaching.


Ken: Awesome. Thanks Andrew.

Editors Note: I read through the comments on “Deep Thought” and am thoroughly impressed with the camaraderie exhibited by everyone on that thread. Makes me happy to be a human.

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Filed Under: featuredHusband & FatherReal Life Stories

About the Author: Ken Jamaca is a twice married father of two. "When I can't sleep, I think of fun, interesting things to add to the inter-webs." Mr. Jamaca noted "But my best ideas come to me in the shower...or in traffic. I'm not sure why that is." As the founder and chief editor for GoodHusbanding, he takes his role very seriously. "I've been both sides of the coin, and everyone is happier when men are good husbands!"

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