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THE MEDIA CENTER: Geocaching for Fun and Learning

By Mary Alice Anderson - Posted Mar 1, 2008
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Wherever the troops went, he was first." "East of Pennsylvania? But we are south of Pennsylvania." Suddenly, it clicked. "Not the avenue, but the state. The monument’s pillars each represent a state."

My geocaching partner’s GPS brought us to the south side of the World War II Memorial; it just required a little thinking and a few steps east to find the cache. Tucked among the majestic pillars and stars at the National World War II museum in Washington, D.C., I discovered one of my favorite caches—a tribute to Kilroy, the ubiquitous World War II serviceman who scribbled his doodle and text wherever he went.

We recorded our delightful discovery, entered the coordinates of our next destination in our GPS, and followed the directions to the grounds of the Museum of Natural History. The clue "wild oats" brought us to an oat plant and botanical information. Heading west, our GPS led us to an inscription about Button Gwinnett, honored in a memorial to the signers of the Declaration of Independence.

These Washington, D.C., virtual caches taught us bits of science, geography, map skills, and history combined with the fun of discovery and a bit of physical exercise.

You do not have to be in a city with such obvious historical connections to enjoy the relatively new game of geocaching. Caches are everywhere. reported 491,615 active caches worldwide as of Dec. 1, 2007. In the previous 7 days, there were 211,368 new logs written by 33,044 account holders.

In rural Iowa we located a historical marker designating land owned by Abraham Lincoln; in Bardstown, Ky., we found our way to the site of a Civil War battle and hiked in the woods at Stephen Foster State Park. We climbed on a large granite rock resembling an elephant in Duluth, Minn., and learned about the geology of the park. At 44 degrees 18.452 minutes north latitude and 94 degrees 28.364 minutes west longitude, we found a cache along a hiking trail close to the monument of Hermann of Cherusci, liberator of Germany from Rome in A.D. 9. Today Hermann’s statue guards the city of New Ulm, Minn. Closer to home we’ve found caches buried under trees along the Mississippi River and in the woods on top of the bluffs.

Starting the Adventure

We begin our geocaching adventures by identifying potential cache sites listed on There are other sites too—we just chose that one. By entering the ZIP code or address of a potential site we get a description of available caches in that area. Once we select appropriate caches we would like to find, we see if they are on our walking or driving route and read the clues. We also note the amount of time required once you arrive at the general area and the level of physical activity required to find the cache. Some caches may require crawling, looking, and bending to actually find the cache, especially if it’s a physical cache hidden in a small container. After entering longitude and latitude coordinates in the GPS unit, you use the GPS to bring you close to the cache and, if necessary, study the clues again. clues typically contain a helpful phrase to decipher, an activity I sometimes enjoy as much as the hike.

Hidden caches usually contain a logbook and possibly a "treasure" hidden in a container, which is often camouflaged. Most people take one trinket and leave another, except in microcaches that are the size of a 35mm film can or smaller. Virtual caches are real places, typically a landmark, historical marker, or sign that you visit. All of Washington, D.C., is virtual because it is a National Monument and will not allow you to hide things. A third type of cache, a multicache, requires you to read and solve the puzzle or clues at one cache before you can go on to another and solve the "puzzle." A multicache in north central Wisconsin taught us about the lumbering industry and history of the area while we applied math skills to determine dates and addresses of events and places described in the clues. To learn more about geocaching and what is required and how to participate, visit

Geocaching and Your Media Center


This article is available in its entirety in a variety of formats — Preview (free), Full Text, Text+Graphics, and Page Image PDF — on a pay-per-view basis, courtesy of ITI's InfoCentral. CLICK HERE.

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