I first heard about geocaching from a colleague a few years back. It was spring; she had two children old enough to know what “bored” meant. So outside they went, each weekend, exploring state parks and other public places in search of hidden treasure.

Well, it’s not exactly treasure, but geocaching is a gem of a concept.

If you aren’t familiar, geocaching is a recreational activity that allows you to use GPS coordinates and rely on clues to find “caches” hidden by other participants.

The game emerged in 2000 as folks increasingly relied on GPS technology to find their way around.

The geocaching concept is derived from a century and a half old British activity called “letterboxing”, another hobby that relies on clues for visitors to find hidden boxes that contain log books for visitors.

What do you need to geocache?

Geocaching Equipment
Image courtesy of J.smith via Wikipedia

Not much, some comfortable shoes for walking and GPS receiver or mobile device. Like any outdoor activity in South Louisiana, insect repellent and sunscreen are usually required.

So, what’s inside a cache?

Geocaching Box
Image courtesy of i_am_jim via Wikipedia

Each waterproof container holds at least one item you may take and a few items you must leave for the next geocacher. Those hiding the caches often leave small tokens or “trackables”, which are free to take home. But you must also leave something similar behind. Like its much older British cousin, this hobby relies on a communal logbook for visitors to jot down their findings and then leave it for the next geocacher.

Geocache 101

Acadiana Geocachers
Image courtesy of Facebook.com/AcadianaGeocachers

Never leave food in a cache. Though stumbling upon a perfectly good granola bar is often a sign of good fortune (at least in my book), sadly, it is how you get geo-ants. Over the years, enthusiasts have gotten clever with their “geo-swag”, leaving tokens, badges and trinkets specially designed to celebrate the hobby. So you may find a surprise. Last spring, local group Acadiana Geocachers held a white elephant cache swap to exchange some of their more unusual findings.

How do I start?

For starters, visit Geocaching.com. It’s a free membership that allows you to search geocache locations wherever you are. Here in the Lafayette/Acadiana area, there hundreds of caches to find, even in the heart of town. “Not just another tribute to the giant egg,” one geocacher hinted about their recent hidden cache. Local folks know this is an obvious reference to the Louisiana Immersive Technology Enterprises (LITE) on Cajundome Boulevard, which indeed is known for its glowing, giant egg. There are also geocaches hidden in Moncus Park, Lafayette’s 100-acre central park, as well as in the downtown area.

Now, I’m only going off geocacher’s reviews about some local areas to hunt for a cache, but they come with a similar warning. No, it’s not mosquitoes, the barista at the nearby coffee shop or flora you may encounter during the search.“When you get to the cache, you will be looking at one of the tallest and strangest looking ‘trees’ in Lafayette. There are two such places that we have found in Lafayette, although there are probably more. These were created because cell phone companies wanted to put cell towers in populated areas. Some people complained about towers that were basically in their backyard, so cell phone companies complied by creating these structures. Enjoy! And please watch for muggles.”

Muggles folks. Watch for the muggles, and enjoy the hunt.