Cache This: The Geocaching Experience

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Not all Phoenix fun comes with dim lighting and fancy cocktails. Sometimes, there's nothing better than endorphins, sunshine, and sweat. Lover of all things outdoors, The Outsider explores the more natural side of Phoenix.

Part techy, part geeky, and all part adventurous, geocaching is a unique sport that requires little athletic ability and a lot of determination. With the help of GPS, geocachers set out in hopes of finding the hidden treasure: a "cache" containing a log book where finders sign as proof of their success and often grab some take-one-and-leave-one swag.

The basic principle is to get outside and go exploring, and over a million caches later, the principle has reached participants all over the world. Since we love a good outdoor adventure, we had to give it a try.

Did we find the hidden treasure? Find out after the jump.  

The Spot: Caches, pronounced cashes, are hidden all over the valley. Create a login at www.geocaching.com. Here, you can find hundreds of caches near and far. Download the smart phone app or plug the coordinates into a GPS and your ready for an adventure.

The Price: Geocachers can choose from a free membership or a platinum membership that includes a variety of special features including a search filter and the ability to analyze statistics (for the truly geeky). The platinum membership is $30 for a year or $10 for three months. The free membership allows you to find a cache and log activity, which is enough for us and most novice geocachers.

The Gear: Some type of GPS device is necessary. A smart phone works and a handheld GPS is even better. In many excursions, a comfortable pair of walking shoes is also necessary.

The Sweat Factor: Anybody at any fitness level can go geocaching. There's caches hidden in parking lots and there's caches hidden at the top of mountains. It's just important to pick one at a difficulty level you're comfortable with. Fair warning: trying to find the cache may cause you to break out in a sweat. Some containers are very cleverly concealed. Crouching alone in a parking lot while desperately searching for a small capsule hidden in a prickly bush can be extremely infuriating. We know from experience.

The Ups and Downs: The best part is the hunt. Geocachers rave about the bizarre, beautiful, or frightening places they end up while on an escapade. Our first hunt took us atop a pedestrian bridge, only to find this cache required a 5-foot-8-inch tall (or greater) frame. Our second hunt took us on a three-mile walk through historical downtown. The cache was difficult to find... mainly because we didn't know what to look for. This is why we recommend bringing a buddy. No one wants to be walking around aimlessly alone, and your first few caches can be difficult. You'll appreciate having some one to laugh and hopefully cheer with.

Our journey included a peaceful walk through the neighborhoods and a somewhat unpleasant and thorny examination of a street-side planter. And then, (insert fist pump) we spotted the prize. After a quick sign of the logbook, our journey was complete.

Helpful Sites:
Glossary of terms (you'll need it)
Video Explanation

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