One….two….three…..four….five….six….seven….eight….nine….TEN! READY OR NOT HERE I COME!!
OK, maybe not *that* kind of hide and seek…but do you remember playing hide and seek back when you were a kid? Trying to find the perfect place to hide so no one could find you, or trying to think of the best places someone else could hide so you could find and tag your friends before they ran back to base? What happened to all the fun we used to have? Sure, as grown-ups we can still play hide and seek but it’s just not the same and most of our friends and family will be thinking we’re few nuggets short of a combo meal if we do.
So what can you do to satisfy that jones for a little hide and seek? Well, maybe if you have an itch for a little adventure, a willingness to think, a little time on your hands and maybe even a little geek in your blood you can try one of several ‘high tech’ hide and seek-type games that have popped up in the past few years. For us its geocaching and a relatively new game called Munzee.
Geocaching got its start in May 2000 when the ‘selective availability’ programming on 24 global positioning satellites was turned off, allowing Global Positioning System (GPS) accuracy to improve tremendously almost in an instant. A day after the big switch, first geocache was hidden and then found in Oregon. Want to read more on the history of geocaching? Check it out here. Given the history of geocaching it shouldn’t be much of a surprise that my favorite description for geocaching is ‘A game using billion dollar military technology to find Tupperware in the woods’.
The basic concept of geocaching is pretty simple. One person hides a container, a geocache (or a ‘cache’ for short) with a piece of paper, or log, inside of it and enters some information about what the container might be and its location, usually in latitude and longitude, into a database on a website. Then…someone else retrieves the data from the website, enters the location information into a handheld GPS receiver, hunts for and finds the container, signs the log, then goes back to the website and adds a note to the data saying ‘Hey, I found it!’
As simple geocaching sounds, it sometimes isn’t. Let’s face it, if caches were always easy to find and easy to get to the game would probably become boring pretty quick, right? The game is set up with varying degrees of difficulty, not only for how hard it is to find the cache but also for how hard it is to get to retrieve it and sign the log. Cache containers can be as simple as a waterproof pill bottle or a military surplus ammo can to something much more elaborate such as a natural object such has been hollowed out to hold a small container inside. Sometimes size matters as cache containers can be as small as a first-grade pencil eraser to something as large as a small car.
So how does one get started ‘caching’? First you’ll need an internet connection. Assuming that you’re reading this blog online, you obviously have that covered already. You’ll also need either a hand held GPS receiver or a smartphone with a GPS capability. Now, go to Geocaching.com and set up a membership account. A basic membership is free and it’s all you really need to play. A ‘premium member’ account is a pay-to-play account that opens up additional caches aren’t available to folks with basic memberships and also give you access to added features that make life a bit easier. Before we go any further let me say this…there are other geocaching clone sites out there…you don’t absolutely have to use Geocaching.com. But…if you want access to nearly two million, yes million, caches worldwide… I’m just sayin’.
If you’re using a smartphone you’ll need a geocaching app of some sort. Geocaching.com has their own app for iOS and Android devices. Only catch…it costs around $10. There are other geocaching apps out there, some have to be purchased and some are free. Normally I’d say you get what you pay for when it comes to quality vs. cost but I’ve actually found a free app for iOS called GeoBucket that I like as well or better than the apps I’ve tried that you have to pay for. As always, your mileage may vary…
OK, so now you have your GPS receiver or app for your smartphone and you’ve set up your geocaching membership. What next? Without going into ridiculous level of detail, find a few caches on the website in your area with relatively low difficulty and terrain ratings and download them to your phone or GPS receiver then head on out to find them! Don’t give up if you don’t find the first one you look for right off the bat. It’s a fairly intuitive game but it takes time and experience seeing different types of caches for your ‘geosenses’ to begin to develop. Here’s another tip for beginners…try going with a friend who is fairly experienced and has a few caches under their belt.
I’ve been going on and on and on about geocaching and haven’t yet said a peep about the newer game, Munzee, that I mentioned earlier. Munzee is similar to geocaching but with a few twists. The biggest twist…Munzee cannot be played with a GPS receiver, only with a smartphone and the Munzee app, which is available for both iOS and Android platforms. Instead of signing a log, the player finds and scans a hidden QR code tag, called a ‘munzee’ which is automatically sent to the Munzee website.
We’ve just started playing Munzee after accidentally finding a couple of the tags during our hike & cache outing last weekend at the Line Creek Nature Area over in Peachtree City. We had no idea what they were until we bumped into a dad and his kids who were playing the game and he explained it to us. Since it seemed like it would be a nice fit with geocaching and our other favorite outdoor activities we decided to give it a try. Will it catch on as big as geocaching has? I have no idea. Since we got started I’ve learned that Munzee has only been around for a couple of years and there are nearly 400,000 munzees out in the wild these days.
Just what we need…another addictio…err, uh…hobby. Yeah, that’s it, a hobby.
So, based on recent archeological finds, who might be history’s best Hide & Seek player?