13th SC(E) NCO Participates in Global Hobby
Story and Photos by Sgt. Joel F. Gibson
13th SC(E) Public Affairs Office
FORT HOOD, Texas — What started in May, 2000, as the “Great American GPS Stash Hunt” shortly after selective availability was removed from Global Positioning System Satellites has evolved into a worldwide hunt for nearly half a million items.
When the term geocaching is used, the general reply from a non-cacher is, “geo what?” Interestingly enough, a lot of geocachers get started by accidentally finding a cache while hunting or doing some other type of outdoor activity, said Staff Sgt. Chris M. Breaux, the G3 land range ammunition Noncommissioned Officer for the 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary).
Geocaching is what people do when they get a set of grid coordinates of a specified location where a cache is hidden, input the numbers into a global positioning system receiver and find the hidden cache.
The hobby has a rich and colorful history.
On May 3, 2000, a GPS enthusiast, Dave Ulmer in Beaver Creek, Oregon placed a bucket containing books, videos, and software in the woods near his home. He marked the location of the “stash” on his GPS and shared the waypoint online. Within days of the posting several readers used their own GPS receivers to find the container and shared the experience online.
The widespread use of the internet created a forum for these hobbyists everywhere. The original name for this hobby was the “GPS Stash Hunt.” The word stash was eventually replaced with cache and finally the name geocaching was born.
Many newcomers find themselves hooked after their very first outing, said Breaux.
“I actually got started in September of 2006, and believe it or not, it was while helping my daughter with her geography homework,” said Breaux.
Breaux added that servicemembers make up a large amount of geocachers he knows.
With the current deployment rotations military personnel face, geocaching has spread to the war zone with more than 200 caches located in Iraq and Afghanistan, and nearly 100 caches spread between Qatar and Kuwait.
Prospective geocachers certainly don’t have to travel to the Middle East to participate in the hobby.
“There are six geocaches around the Killeen Mall alone,” Breaux said, “There are some out on the islands on Stillhouse Hollow Lake, so obviously some caches require special equipment to retrieve.”
According to Breaux, geocaching can be a challenging solo hobby, or it can be fun for the entire family.
“They have terrain difficulty ratings where if you’re the lone wolf, thrill of the hunt type geocacher, you go for the level five difficulty,” said Breaux, “If you like going with the family, you can search for the level one caches.”
Breaux has set up 23 caches of his own and has 523 finds, though he has some competition from his own house, “My daughter, Ariel, already has 47 finds,” said Breaux.
Breaux said there are only two rules when it comes to geocaching, “First, if you take something out of a cache, you have to put something back in. Second, you have to write down on the log that you visited.”
Geocaches vary in size, location and difficulty, but all of them, from a 50-gallon drum down to pill-sized containers that cachers call nano-caches contain a log, a running journal of the cachers who have found it.
One of the problems cachers run into is something they call muggles, which are basically people who stumble across caches and destroy them because they don’t know what they are.
“Some cachers do it for the numbers,” said Breaux, “One cacher down in Austin has more than 10,000 caches that she’s found.”
Breaux said anyone who wants to get involved with geocaching should visit the website www.geocaching.com.
Breaux added this for anyone who gets involved with the hobby, “Cache away, just watch out for muggles.”