Cache Reward Exciting adventures await you on a GPS enabled expedition that's sure to bring you, your spouse and technology a bit closer. BY APRIL Y. PENNINGTON
Kaia Lai (www.kaialai.com)
Punch in the coordinates and you're off on your next date.
For your next date, rather than watching an adventure on the big screen, how about you take your spouse on a treasure hunt of your own? All you need is a GPS, some coordinates and an affinity for excitement. The result is called geocaching, and the process could put you on rugged terrain or open your eyes to roads you already travel on a daily basis. Geocaching can take you back to the "treasure hunts" of your youth, but this time around the booty can range from the elementary and silly, like a pencil or action figure to serious treasure like money or jewelry.
Minimally armed with just a GPS and coordinates, it is possible for you and your spouse to successfully seek out a cache (typically a hidden container with an item of some sort). Visit sites like Geocaching.com for the coordinates of hunts galore, searchable by a variety of factors, including proximity to your home. Their "Guide to Finding a Cache" (www.geocaching.com/articles/finding.asp) is extremely thorough and is a must read for newbies.
You can go on a geocaching date with your spouse that’s quick and local or crazy expeditious, as in deep-into-the-desert-or-wilderness-crazy. Either way, this date is definitely unlike your run of the mill variety and can be relatively budget minded provided you have a GPS—many vehicles with a navigation system already have the ability to accept coordinates. Anthony Hicke, a Southern California geologist and geocaching enthusiast says, "When you go to the movies you’re silent, but here you get to hang out with the person and talk. And you get to find a treasure and that’s awesome."
There are different types of caches and ways to find it, like riddles and multi-cache hunts. Hicke says pursuing a "virtual cache" is a good option for a date. "Virtual caches aren’t anything tangible," says Hicke, such as a location. "Sometimes it’s finding a funny sign, or someone’s favorite place in the park," he adds. And unlike traditional caches where you take the item only to leave one of your own, a virtual cache's "reward" is finding the location itself.
GPS prices have dropped to affordable levels for the everyman, with handhelds going for as low as about $100. Renting a GPS can be a cheap route and there are several online rental stores like LowerGear.com. Car GPS systems that allow you to enter coordinates will work for geocaching sites that you can drive up to, but it won’t work if you plan on heading out to areas where you must find the actual cache on foot.
Of course, couples need to know how to use a GPS, though Hicke says geocaching sites function like "trading posts for information" and can help familiarize you with the cache location. Before heading out, you might want to consider bringing a map of the area if it’s not in the city, drinking water and other necessities if you're heading out into the wild.
"Go online and plot something based on the coordinates," says Hicke, and warns "don’t get stuck in the middle of nowhere, and definitely know where you are going." Adventure, treasure, the unknown and your first mate—what more could you want on a date?