People come to Hostels in Ireland for a number of different reasons. One of the latest activities that attracts people is geocaching. This is a high tech global scavenger hunt which involves looking for hidden treasure while following directions from satellites in space. Our hostels are perfect bases for this new pursuit.
Flip the Switch
Geocaching started on May 2 2000 when President Bill Clinton decided to turn off the encryption signals from satellites. This allowed civilian GPS to increase in accuracy from 100ft to 30ft. The next day, a fellow by the name of Dave Ulmer decided to hide a can of beans in the woods in Oregon and challenged people to find it using his GPS coordinates. This was the first cache in history.
There are now more than 3 million caches hidden around the world. They are pretty much everywhere, apart from odd places like North Korea and Syria where GPS technology is in the hands of the military. There is even a cache on the International Space Station! Of course there are plenty of caches near hostels in Ireland.
Geocaching has continued to grow since Bill flicked the switch and Dave hid the beans. This is due to the growth of smart phones and the improvements in GPS technology. Maps have also improved so it is easier than ever to get out there and log a cache for yourself.
Caches in Ireland
In typical head-of-the-pack fashion, Ireland was the first country in Europe to have a cache. It was hidden in Wicklow on June 3, 2000. Since then thousands of caches have appeared in Ireland. It is perfect geocache country as we have easy access to the outdoors and plenty of places to hide caches.
Along with attracting those who want to find the first European cache, Ireland is one of the easiest countries in the world to acquire a souvenir. This is a piece of virtual art that you receive if you find caches in all the provinces of a country. For all the latest information on geocaching in Ireland we recommend Geocaching Junkie.
We like geocaching because it is a great way of engaging with the outdoors, especially for young people. Geocaching gives people extra motivation to get out there. It can transform your local environment into a thrilling game play platform. It can bring you to places you would normally never think of going. A lot of times caches are hidden in remote spots that are off the beaten track. The reason they are chosen is because someone thought it was worthy enough of a visit. So you can discover some secret locations that have yet to be discovered by Google Street Finder and Fáilte Ireland.
Geocaches sometimes involve extreme hiking. Mountaintops are favourite locations for caches. There is even one on Carrauntoohill. It is not all rural treasure though. Geocaches are hidden in most local towns and villages and often cleverly in plain sight. Sometimes they involve solving clues or discovering historical sites so there is an educational side to it too. Sometimes they involve taking selfies at the Spire in Dublin. Mostly it is just good fun you can have in the outdoors with family, friends and a map.
What do you need to get involved in this outdoor scavenger hunt? Most people need access to GPS technology to get involved in geocaching near hostels. Not always though. You can log onto the geocaching website and discover where caches are on a map and then go out and look for them.
Most people use mobile phones to get as close as they can to the location. However the GPS coordinates will only bring you within 20ft of the cache and if you are in a forest area that leaves you with about a million places where it could be hidden. So you are left to depend on your own hunting and finding skills. You will need them because the type of people who hide things in global scavenger hunts tend to be extra sneaky. The first time we did it we got a DNF (Did Not Find), so it can be quite challenging. Some people get really competitive and there are a few who have logged over 5000 caches worldwide already
Muggles and Caches
What to do when you find a cache? Caches come in all shapes and sizes. You can have tiny microcaches which are no larger than your thumb. You can find ammo containers, flasks and boxes. Most are watertight plastic boxes containing a log book and often some assorted mementos left by other geocachers.
The first thing you have to do when looking for geocaches is avoid Muggles. They are normal folk who get suspicious of geocachers. The problem with Muggles is they will stop you finding caches or they will move caches. Muggles get suspicious of anybody having fun in the outdoors. Sometimes they bring them to the authorities with well-meaning motives.
Once you have avoided the local Muggles and have found the cache it is good practice to leave a note in the log book for the owner and perhaps swap one of the mementoes for one of your own. Then carefully replace the cache EXACTLY where you found it and move on with your global scavenger hunt.
We are always interested in hearing what others get up to in the outdoors near our hostels. We will be investigating more of these activities in our upcoming blogs.
In the meantime, get out there and log yourself a cache!