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It’s Not Espionage, It’s Geocaching

“I’ll watch the crowd while you make the grab,” Laura whispered to me. We’re standing in the midst of nearly 1,000 people at Rome’s Trevi Fountain. Looking out at the crowd, I reached my arms above my head simulating a stretch. With visions of James Bond 007 stamped into my brain, my fingers ran along the ledge above my head until they grasped a 35mm film canister. “Got it,” I said.

Every day, all over the world thousands of people are engaged in the dance of deception. They’re not spies. This is not an effort to smuggle secrets around the world. There is no malice in their motives. Instead, they are playing a game called geocaching.

Lance and Laura geocaching at the Pantheon in Rome
Geocaching at the Pantheon in Rome;
selfie picture

Geocaching is a recreational activity that involves the finding of hidden objects by means of GPS coordinates posted on a website. These can be physical objects such as a small film canister hidden on a ledge in plain sight of the Trevi Fountain or as large as a five gallon bucket partially buried in the ground in the New Jersey Pine Barrens.

These geocaches can also be places with a unique physical geology, like an area where fossils can be seen in the rocks. Most geocaches involve some educational aspect or objective, but it is always designed to have you exploring the world. There are also small coins (called trackables) that are designed to move from cache to cache.

A few years ago, Laura discovered geocaching and introduced me to the hobby. Since then we have incorporated geocaching into our travels from California to Egypt and everywhere in between. Geocaching is perfectly designed for travel. When we travel, we know we’ll be in a certain area – such as the Old Town of Prague. We’ll download the relevant caches to our handheld GPS. When we’re in the area, we will seek out the caches. We log our successes and failures on the Geocaching website. We find it makes a nice addition to our travels.

On a cold January day a few months before we discovered geocaching, we were out for a late night walk in Salzburg, Austria. I wandered around the square looking for the best angle to take some night photos of the churches and the castle. A man stepped out of the shadow and approached us. “I think we’re looking for the same thing,” he said to us with something like a mobile phone in his hands.

We explained we weren’t looking for anything. He looked as puzzled as we felt. He apologized and left us alone. Only months later, after having discovered geocaching did this bizarre behavior make sense.

Geocachers – we’re everywhere.

Cactus in the Arizona desert
View at a Geocache in the Arizona Desert

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