Did you know?
The first geocache (or GPS stash) was planted near Portland, Oregon, on May 3, 2000.
As of March 2003, there are over 50,000 geocaches (or GPS stashes) scattered around the world.
About 74 percent (over 34,000) of them are in the United States.
With about 160 geocaches, Hawai`i is home to less than one percent of those. But when ranked by density (caches per 10,000 sq. km.), Hawai`i ranks near the top ten.
There are many variations on geocaching, including geodashing monthly races to points on Earth chosen randomly by a computer and benchmark hunting seeking out historic government surveyor's marks.
What is GPS Hawai`i?
GPS Hawai`i is a serious-sounding name for a fun-minded group of people in Hawaii who use GPS technology, most commonly for an outdoor recreational activity known as geocaching. Many other cities and states have geocaching groups (like Georgia and Washington State).
GPS Hawai`i has similar goals: to help geocachers get together, trade stories and tips, and collect and share local information. We also try to help people here and elsewhere who are interested in picking up the sport. Finally, because Hawai`i is a popular destination for globe-trotting geocachers and home to many geocaches whose owners live elsewhere, GPS Hawai`i serves as a geocaching-centered hospitality group, welcoming geocachers from around the world, helping them get around the islands, and even adopting some of the geocaches they leave behind.
The scope of GPS Hawai`i is pretty broad, however, and includes many recreational and professional application of GPS technology, from sailing to hiking to aviation and education.
What is GPS?
GPS (the Global Positioning System) runs on satellites put into space by the U.S. military, and is still used in military applications such as the recent conflict in Iraq.
But the possibilities of everyday use of GPS signals from ocean navigation to in-car navigation systems exploded after President Clinton decreed that they be made fully available (i.e. without deliberate "jamming" to reduce accuracy) to civillians on May 1, 2000.
Geocaching is a global treasure hunt. Geocachers look up coordinates to caches (or GPS stashes), then head out to find them armed with GPS receivers, compasses, and maps. Caches are hidden in a number of creative ways, and in addition to a log for visitors to sign, they often contain trinkets and other special objects to trade. Some of these objects (known as "travel bugs") are tagged and purposefully taken from cache to cache, and you can track their movements across the globe.
For many, geocaches are synonymous with nature trails, hiking, and mountain climbing. But they are also often placed in urban areas, or neighborhood parks making them suitable excuses for a family outing or even underwater for the enjoyment of SCUBA divers.
Some caches require you to solve a riddle or puzzle to find them, and some have specific requirements as to when to visit them, how to re-hide them, and even what kinds of things should go in them (i.e. "themed caches"). Other caches require a series of geocache visits (multi-caches), are very small (micro-caches) or have no physical aspect at all (virtual caches).
Being a relatively new sport, the rules are few and still evolving. It bears noting, however, that regulatory and cultural awareness and environmental stewardship are an important part of the geocaching culture. Geocachers are expected to respect all applicable laws and rules when it comes to public and private property, be aware of historic or other sensitive areas, follow "Leave No Trace" principles, and even make environmental clean-up activities a part of their programs.
On a more basic level, when it comes to visiting a traditional geocache, the established custom is to (1.) sign the log, (2.) add an item to remove an item, and (3.) report your visit and item exchanges to the cache owner (usually on Geocaching.com).