I started Geocaching way back in 2001, when I’d bought myself a GPS receiver and was looking for something to do with it. Interestingly, I read about it in a computer magazine.
Back in 2001, there were only about 60 caches hidden in the UK, whereas now, it numbers in the tens of thousands.
My first find was in Ashridge woods, with my mate, Cliff, and it took an age to find as I wasn’t using the GPSr correctly. In truth, it’s a wonder we found it at all!
My first hide came later in the year. Hidden on Blows Downs in Dunstable, it received dozens of visits, before it was ‘muggled’, twice. At that point I archived it.
People soon wanted to make things a bit more difficult/interesting and started placing puzzle caches, where a puzzle – or several – had to be solved before giving you the correct coordinates required to find the cache.
It was at this point that I came up with Mission Impossible – a puzzle cache of four separate parts, each of which had to be completed in order to get the final coordinates. The difference was, that each puzzle was electronic.
Whilst some of the puzzles were fiendishly difficult, the electronics inside them were surprisingly simple, usually consisting of arrays of switches and and some LEDS.
I think it’s safe to say that Mission Impossible was a big success. It was different to anything else out there – I’d wager that (at the time) it was the only cache in the UK that involved any kind of electronics.
Sadly, it too got ‘muggled’ and had to be archived, but not till after it had received some pretty high praise.
For a long time after, I had the urge to do a second puzzle cache, in the same vein as the first, but… well, better.
But, some of the ideas I had in my head, were far cleverer and more involved than what I was capable of building and so nothing happened. For ten years. Admittedly, children came along and played a big part in my Geocaching break.
In 2010, for want of something to do, I started playing around with PIC microcontrollers and quickly realised that here was something that might allow me to realise my dream of doing another electronic puzzle cache.
For two years – on and off – I sat and tinkered and dreamed and soldered and drank copious amounts of tea. Then, late last year, I released Mission Impossible II, a six-part electronic puzzle cache.
In an attempt to prevent it being trashed like the last one, I spent ages looking for hiding places where the general public would be unlikely to stumble across it. I also made it a Premium Members only cache. Sadly, this has probably contributed to the paucity of Geocachers who have actually completed it.
Hopefully, Mission Impossible II will have a long and fruitful life and bring much enjoyment for those that play it.
My next cache Open Sesame has gone a step further and uses an Arduino clone to do all the clever stuff. I find the Arduino a bit easier to work with and program, compared to the PIC micros. I’m not a strong programmer, so anything that makes it a bit easier…
For some, caching can be quite addictive.
Mrs Masher would often give me the skunk-eye whenever I donned my caching togs at the weekend and she always refused to go with me. Until the one time – after a heavy lunch – I persuaded her to come with me “just for the walk”. She actually found the cache and was hooked from that day on. Whenever we go on holiday, it is she who suggests that we go caching.
But we’re not addicts. In the twelve years that I have been partaking in this particular pastime, I (we) have found just over two hundred caches – in half a dozen different countries, but mainly in the UK. Some others though, have been doing it for a lot less time and have finds that number in the thousands. The top cache finder in the UK – a retired policewoman, I believe – has 30,000 finds to her name. That’s pretty impressive!
The kids enjoy it too… as long as it’s not too much of a walk! There are times when we have left Harry locked in the car, playing on his DS, because he is (or claims to be) too tired to walk the last 500 metres to the cache.
But, the thing I like most about caching is that it has taken us to places we wouldn’t have gone to otherwise: interesting places; beautiful places and places that have made me sit down and think.
To find that elusive tupperware box, I have walked for miles, climbed trees and rocks, jumped over streams and waded through others. I have been stung by nettles, bitten by insects and wounded by Mother Nature. And I have even stripped completely naked in front of other people, just to get to a cache that, ultimately, I never found.
Of course, I can understand that perhaps it’s not everyone’s cup of tea.