I know I’m being biased when I say this, but I’ve found the best hobby I could personally dream of. It’s a hobby that; reminds me of my carefree childhood curiosity; allows me to explore places I would never know existed; gives walking and hiking a purpose and; it keeps my wellbeing and overall health in check, by keeping me fit and active.
What is geocaching?
I was first introduced to Geocaching in 2012, by a now ex-boyfriend. I used to live in the beautiful north Norfolk countryside and, back then, we would regularly go on walks close to home, with his children.
He had already discovered Geocaching and when he tried to explain the concept of this worldwide game to me, I couldn’t quite understand what he was talking about. That was until I found my very first geocache.
The definition of what Geocaching is comes direct from the official website (geocaching.com): “Geocaching is a real-world, outdoor adventure that is happening all the time, all around the world. To play, participants use the Geocaching app and/or a GPS device to navigate to cleverly hidden containers called geocaches.”
How does it work?
You first must download the official Geocaching app. You can either have a Basic subscription, which is free, or a Premium subscription, which is approx. £22/year. The Premium subscription allows you to access so many more geocaches, so it’s well worth the money if it becomes a regular hobby for you.
Once you have created an account and username you can start searching for caches. All of them are hidden by other geocachers who play the game. There is a map on the app which shows you where all the geocaches are in each geographical area you search. The best place to start is where you live and see how many are close to home. You are likely to be surprised!
By clicking on a cache, on the map, you will find out more about it. You’re given a ‘Hint’ (if you want to use it), told what size it may be, difficulty level and terrain level, so you can gauge how difficult it might be to find. There may also be some background information about the local area, or some history related to the site that the cache is located at, which is provided by the Cache Owner. You then use the navigation system on the app (or a separate GPS device) to help you get to within 5-10 meters of the cache.
It could be very well hidden (in disguise) or a box tucked under a bush or up a tree, so being alert to your surroundings is important. Being considerate of your surroundings is also important as no one wants the natural world to be trashed by people hacking away at the flora or fauna.
Once you have found it, you need to extract and sign the logbook it contains, which is basically a piece of paper that you need to date and sign with your username as proof that you have found it. You then put it back for the next geocacher to find.
It sounds straight forward but some caches have been carefully and creatively designed to brilliantly blend in with their surroundings, making them very challenging to find. That’s part of the fun though. You get to find some very sneaky and well camouflaged caches that most people would walk straight by, or possibly even touch without knowing that is a geocache.
There are other types of caches too, like Multi-caches, Puzzle caches and Earth caches, for example. All using a different method and difficulty rating to find them.
It’s a worldwide game that is kept relatively secret because those who don’t know about it, basically don’t know about it and, like me, it’s a hard concept to grasp if you’ve never done it before. You must experience it to understand it.
To make it more secretive, when you’re searching for a geocache, the etiquette is to not look suspicious. The rules encourage you to wait for any passing person to leave the area before you go looking for it. Non-geocachers are referred to as ‘Muggles’, so it’s recommended that you are stealthy and secretive when you go looking, so as not to draw attention to yourself or raise suspicion from Muggles. By the way, I have no idea if that term was stolen from Harry Potter or not.
Why do I love it so much?
The first thing that immediately appealed to me was this big sense of adventure, with something you had to find at the end of it. It very much reminded me of being a child and taking part in a scavenger hunt or treasure hunt. The curiosity and mystery of the unknown is exciting. The feeling of taking part in one of the most secretive games in the whole world is intriguing and thrilling!
The second thing that I love is that it gives walking a sense of purpose. Not only am I getting lots of walking crammed into my regular exercise routine, but I am also exploring and experiencing beautiful countryside and scenery that I would never have come across if it wasn’t for this hobby. By mapping out my route, to find a series of geocaches along the way, I am creating purposeful walks that have a sense of meaning and gives me something in return (if I find the geocaches!).
The third thing that I am noticing more and more, is the benefit to my health and a sense of wellbeing that it gives me. This is my go-to ‘happy place’ activity; it allows me to switch off any negative or anxious thoughts I may have about life and health challenges.
For me this is very important because I was finally diagnosed with Endometriosis in 2022. This came as a relief after a 20+ year battle to be taken seriously by the medical professionals I have spoken to over the years. Walking helps ease my symptoms and reminds me that being outdoors is one of the biggest things that makes me happy, even when I don’t feel particularly well. By getting outdoors and exploring, I am getting my body to move with gentle exercise, along with the feeling of being connected with nature, which we all know is proven to release endorphins.
There isn’t any advertising for the game that I’ve seen, however there are millions of geocaches everywhere! The chances are that there’s at least one very close to where you live. This is all part of the charm for me, it makes me feel like I’m in some secret, exciting club.
A few years after I found myself single, I downloaded the app for myself, so I could continue this hobby I had discovered and go on my own adventures. I like the nostalgic connection with my childhood that it invokes. It reminds me so much of being a child of the countryside where I spent many years living in the middle of nowhere with my faithful dog by side, making secret hideouts, climbing trees, and paddling through streams. I get to do all this again, in my adulthood, by playing this game and exploring the outdoors. It’s like nature playing hide and seek with you.
Geocaching and hiking
Now when I plan a walk, I always look at the map on my geocaching app first. I plan my route based on where there are some caches that I want to find. Some of the most beautiful places I have seen have been a result of walking where I have never been before or didn’t even know existed. The number of gentle, meandering streams and dappled woodland areas, secret picturesque walkways and cosy pathways there are that I would never have known about before keep me coming back for more. Visiting somewhere new on a regular basis is so much more interesting than sticking to the same few places to go and walk repeatedly.
Since taking up this hobby I have walked more than I have ever done. It was great training for me when I decided to take part in the Macmillan Might Hike in May last year – a 26-mile marathon walk to raise money for Macmillan Cancer. My ability to walk long distances now has contributed to a huge change in my fitness levels and stamina which, in turn, contributes to my wellbeing and overall health.
Walking with my dog
I take my dog, Biscuit, with me whenever I go geocaching and on my long walks and hikes. We think he is a Tibetan Terrier Cross. We have no idea what he’s crossed with though. As part of my Mighty Hike training he has done 21 miles in one go with me, twice, and he only has little legs. Geocachers call their dog companions “Geodogs” and he’s the perfect sidekick for me to do this hobby. Not only does he keep me company, but he waits patiently for me when I am searching for a cache. Combining dog walks with geocaching is a no-brainer. Luckily, he’s not the type of dog to go running off when he’s off the lead, so he is very easy to get on with in that respect. He even has his own Instagram account @biscuit_the_romanian_dog.
Over the last few years, I have become a little bit obsessed with it. I’ve introduced a few other people to the world of geocaching and have started focussing my Instagram account on it too (@jojo_loves_adventure). The most rewarding comeback I’ve had for sharing my passion on Instagram is receiving a photo and message from a few people and families who were inspired by my posts and have started doing it themselves.
Quite remarkably a couple of my videos have gone viral, with one clocking up just under 5 million views! Some of my other videos are in the 6 digit viewing figures, which I still can’t quite believe. I think people don’t quite understand what I’m doing so they find it intriguing.
Geocaching marriage proposal
On New Year’s Eve 2021 my partner proposed to me in the best way he could have done. We had gone out for a hike with our friends. As it got dark, we headed back to our friend’s house across the fields and rolling hills of the Vale of Belvoir in Leicestershire, which is where I now live. As we started heading towards a tree in the middle of nowhere, I noticed that the tree had fairy lights all around it. Our friends had already got settled under the tree with champagne and music playing (which was Prince, my favourite) and then they prompted me to find a box with “JoJo Cache” written on it. They all started jeering me on to open it and, as I did, I realised it was an engagement ring. My partner got down on one knee and proposed in front of our friends. I couldn’t have asked for a better, more romantic gesture! He knows me well enough to incorporate my most favourite hobby into his marriage proposal which, for me, is the most thoughtful thing he could have ever done. We’re getting married this May.
My next ambition
The next step for me and my hobby is to become a Cache Owner (CO for short). I am now planning on setting my own little geocaching trails around where I live, so that other geocachers can find my caches. I’ve got a few creative ideas up my sleeve to make the finds exciting and interesting, so that is the latest thing I am working on. The purpose of this is also to share the beauty of the local countryside where I live with other people who enjoy walking and exploring, and who may not necessarily have thought about exploring this area. I can’t wait to get the trail set up and see what people think of it.
Top tips for geocaching
If you fancy giving it a go, I recommend packing a little bag. You’ll need certain ‘tools of the trade’ to help you with this hobby. Here’s a few must-haves that you will need:
- A few pens to sign the logbooks (in case one runs out)
- A pair of tweezers or, better still, a bulldog clip (the metal bits help with extracting the tiny logbooks from their containers)
- Antibacterial hand gel, because you’ll find you are rummaging around a lot
- Gloves – same as above
- A small notepad
- A power charger and charging cable for your mobile
If you know anyone else who geocaches you can also connect with them through the app and follow their progress. My username is Joogie, which was a nickname given to me by my nephews.
To date I have found 1,772 geocaches in total. In the grand scheme of things that is not much. Some people have found hundreds of thousands. I am looking forward to my next milestone achievement which will be 2,000 finds. I can’t wait for my next outdoors adventure!
Author: Jo Artherton (@jojo_loves_adventure)