Because as anyone who does it knows, it IS an obsession.

If you aren’t familiar with geocaching, it’s a kind of treasure hunt played with GPS devices. You’re given a set of coordinates where some kind of container—the geocache—is hidden, and you use your GPS-enabled unit to get there. Once you get to ground zero, the real hunt begins. This game is played all over the world with over a million caches hidden (this is not an exaggeration), and chances are good that there is a geocache hidden somewhere that you pass by every day!

Although I remember reading about the game many years ago, it was my neighbour who got me really interested. She told me that there was a geocache hidden near a path that was part of our regular morning walk. I was fascinated by the idea that there was a secret treasure waiting, but only for those in the know. I HAD to find it. I’d recently acquired a Garmin unit for my car, so using that we started hunting.

Of course, the road navigation GPSrs (that’s “GPS receivers” for short) aren’t really meant for use off-road, and tend not to have the kind of accuracy needed for geocaching. It’s sort of like trying to hammer in a nail with a pair of pliers—you can do it, but it’s not the right tool for the job. (I’m now using an iPhone, which is great for most things but I still want to own a dedicated and more rugged GPSr.) It took us three or four trips of coming back to comb over the landscape, and finally a couple of hints from the fellow who placed the cache, before we found the cache. It turned out to be a small metal tube craftily hidden in the tree, and when you opened it up there was a small roll of paper that you signed to prove you’d found it. That was our first signed log.

I became a member at, which is the most well-known site for geocache listings. When I typed in my address I saw on the map that there were literally hundreds of geocaches hidden within ten miles of my house! And that, pretty much, was the start of the obsession.

Caches are hidden by other geocachers. Often they choose to hide a cache at a certain location in order to show people a particularly interesting spot. Maybe it has a beautiful view, or maybe it has some historical importance. One cache I found while visiting friends in New Jersey brought us to a rock formation with petroglyphs carved into the surface. Another that we found just this past weekend led us to a tree where you can see the local beavers have been hard at work. When you ask a geocacher what they like most about this game, they usually talk about all the wonderful locations they’ve visited. Often these places are right in their own town– they just never knew were there until they came to hunt for the geocache.

While some caches are just a small “micro” container with nothing but the log book inside, many are large enough to hold items to trade. This is the part my kids love. We bring little toys so that they can trade for new things that they find in the caches. Each hide is different. You may think—like I did, at first– that following your GPSr to a set of coordinates where a container is hidden can’t be much of a challenge, but even the best your GPS units only reliably get you within about 5 metres of ground zero, and then you have to look carefully. For difficult hides I can spend 30 minutes trying to find it, and sometimes I end up not finding it at all. But the feeling of elation when you finally discover the cache makes it all worthwhile.

I’m still a newbie at this game; I’ve been caching for only a few months and with less than a hundred finds to my caching name. There are still so many caches waiting for me! At my last comic convention (which was TCAF in downtown Toronto), I arrived early enough to grab a couple of caches within walking distance of the building before the show began. You can bet that whenever I travel to an out-of-town con, I’ll leave time to go find whatever is nearby.

You can find out more about the sport/game/obsession at If you are already a cacher, you can look me up—my cacher name is SurveyContactTeam. I’d love to hear your stories and favourite must-find geocaches. And if you ever see this button in a cache, you’ll know I was there!