Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Geocaching in Maynard, MA

Logbook and cache contents at It Ain't Everest (Maynard)
It's pronounced "geo-cashing." And the word cache, for the singular of what is being sought by people engaged in geocaching is pronounced "cash." Late fall is a perfect season to take up this pastime because hard frosts have reduced the risks of deer ticks and poison ivy, but the caches will not yet be hidden by snow.

Geocaching is a modern outdoor hobby with historic roots. First the modern: in May of 2000 the worldwide Global Positioning System (GPS) was accuracy-upgraded to within 10-20 meters. Within days, people were experimenting with the idea of hiding a marker or container, then posting GPS coordinates on the internet and seeing if searchers could find it. In September 2000 the website was created to provide a system of hiding caches and logging finds. Massive publicity followed.

As of October 2013 there are over two million caches and six million Geocache members worldwide. According to one on-line listing, Maynard is host to 10 (11?) caches and Stow to 30. All of Massachusetts has a tally a tad under 12,500. Some members have taken it upon themselves to find one cache in every city and town - the Massachusetts 351 Challenge. Maynard's oldest, "Grave Calculations" - near Glenwood cemetery - was created in the first year of geocaching.  

The rules are simple. Any member (basic membership is free) can use a computer to find existing caches. Next step is to home in on the site with a GPS device - either a dedicated GPS device such as Garmin, or a smart phone with a geocaching app. Premium membership provides on-line tools for cache selection and access to a set of members-only caches.  

August 2013 geocachers at the Summer Hill site logged
 that they were unable to complete their visit because
as they approached the tree near the cache they were
viciously attached by hornets, ending up with ten stings
amongst them. A November (post-frosts) visit found
this remnant of the hornets' nest.

There are no valuable treasures in this treasure hunt. The containers at these cache sites range in size from a marshmallow to a gallon milk bottle. Caches will have a logbook to write an "I found it" entry. Most will contain trinkets of nominal value - small toys, foreign coins, etc. The idea is to take something out and add something you brought. Once home, geocachers log in to enter that they found (or failed to find) the cache. Geocachers can also add notes and photos to be viewed by those considering visiting the site. 

Members can also create caches. provides extensive guidelines, as do various books on the hobby, such as The Complete Idiot's Guide to Geocaching. Once a reviewer has approved a proposed cache it is posted on the website.

All caches are rated on a one- to five-star scale for difficulty and terrain. The former applies to both the difficulty of puzzling out the GPS coordinates, if encoded in some way rather than just given, or in actually finding the cache once on location. Small caches can be disguised as a rock, or perhaps a hollowed out golf ball in the woods near a golf course. Terrain ranges from child- and handicap-accessible to extreme. If instructions suggest rappelling equipment, spelunking expertise or the existence of a waterproof cache, a cache chaser might assume cliffs, caves and SCUBA gear will be involved!

Pastimes generate their own lexicon and geocaching is no exception. TFTC is Thanks For The Cache. YAC stand for Yet Another Cemetery (common cache sites). CITO refers to the practice of going in to place or find a cache and taking trash out on the way out. Non-cachers are referred to as muggles (borrowed from the Harry Potter books' term for non-wizards) and a cache that has been taken or vandalized has been muggled. The cache creator can either restore the cache or delist it if expectations are high that it will be damaged again. 

As with any hobby, participation can be recreational and/or competitive. Once a Geocache Reviewer officially publishes the existence of a new cache there is a mad rush to be FTF (First To Find). Some people specialize in extreme geocaching, meaning they focus on caches in the most difficult terrain. Others prefer night searches. The latter require flashlights to detect nail head sized reflectors attached to trees. Or even a UV flashlight.    

Historically, there were systems of hiding and seeking caches that predate GPS-aided geocaching. "Letterboxing" refers to boxes hidden in outdoor public places. Finders follow clues which involve deciphering puzzles, map reading and orienteering. This all began in Dartmoor, England, circa 1854.


YEAR     LAST        D/T*         NAME
2001       8/13        3.0/1.0       Grave Calculations
2006       12/13      3.0/3.0       Mom's River Cache
2008       11/13      1.0/3.0       Summer Hill
2010       10/13      2.0/2.0       2009 Red Sox Roster - Wakefield
2010       10/13      1.5/2.5       Oogity Boogity Buggity
2012       11/13      2.0/2.5       It Ain't Everest
2012       11/13      2.0/1.5       Tour of Maynard
2012       7/13        2.0/2.0       Togo's Trail
2012       10/13      1.5/2.5       Tripletree (starts Acton but may end in Maynard)
2013       10/13      1.5/1.5       HeatWave & Jayden
????        ????        1.5/2.0       Beetles Bracelet Exchange (Premium members only)

* Difficulty and Terrain on a 1.0 to 5.0 scale; 5.0 = hardest



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