If a high-tech treasure hunt in the great outdoors sounds fun to you, it’s time to try geocaching, and what better place to start than an Iowa state park?
In geocaching, a container (or “cache”) is hidden in a public area with its coordinates posted on the Internet. Then, using a handheld global positioning system (GPS) device or smartphone app, you locate the cache, and sign the log book inside. Often, you can take a little prize from the cache and replace it with a trinket of your own.
Here are some tips to get started on your own Iowa scavenger hunt:
1. Try out the technology.
Get to know your GPS unit or smartphone app before you head out into the woods. Try using the unit to find a few places in your neighborhood first, to get a feel for how it works. And don’t forget to bring extra batteries or have a fully-charged phone.
2. Find a buddy.
The best way to learn the ropes of geocaching is to partner with someone with experience. Look for geocaching events in your area, and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Many cachers will be more than willing to help.
3. Start simple.
At first, choose caches that are located on easy to traverse terrain and have a low difficulty level. Have fun and don’t give up. Each cache will be labeled for difficulty and terrain using a five star system. For a beginner level cache, look for those marked 1/1.
4. One thing at a time.
It might be tempting to hide your own cache right away, but wait until you’ve located about 40 or 50 other geocaches. That helps you get a better feel for what type of cache to hide, what to place inside and how to label the cache’s size and difficulty level. Keep in mind that there are rules and regulations for placing a geocache on DNR-managed property.
5. Be prepared.
Caches won’t always hide right along a trail. Be sure to wear long pants to protect from ticks and poison ivy, and have bug spray, sunscreen and a hat, too. You may need a flashlight to locate some caches, and it’s a good idea to bring your own pencil to sign the logbook or take notes.
6. Respect the land.
While hiking, keep to public land, unless you have the landowner’s permission to be on privately owned property. And no matter where you’re at, be sure to leave the area as you found it (or better!) by carrying out your trash. Consider bringing an extra bag and gloves to pick up trash you may find.
Once you have the basics down, a whole world opens up for you to explore with geocaching. Be sure to bring the camera to catch all those beautiful state park views, too.
To explore Iowa’s state parks, check out our Iowa State Parks board on Pinterest or our state parks webpages.