Geocaching leads to adventures at BYU

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BYU nursing professor Renea Beckstrand’s geocaching hobby via a GPS device once led her to hunt for clues along an old, partly collapsed bridge known as “Deathbridge.”

Like many others in the BYU community, Beckstrand had begun finding geocaches, game pieces in an international treasure hunt that uses technology to take people outdoors and into the wild on a search for adventure that can start even on the BYU campus.

Geocaching began when a single cache was hidden in Oregon on May 3, 2000, according to blog author Eric Schudiske on Latitude 47, the official Geocaching blog. After someone found it a few days later, the idea of using satellite technology to hide and find treasure boxes took off. There are many types, but the classic geocache is a small, weatherproof plastic container that contains a logbook for finders to sign and a few small “treasures” to trade.

Geocaching can be done without leaving campus, and some BYU students have even found geocaches on the way to school.

“Sometimes I’ll find one on my way to classes in the morning,” said David Blake, a freshman studying mechanical engineering. “I’ll leave 20 minutes early so I can get that in. Or there’s others on campus that I’ve found between classes.”

Beckstrand’s husband introduced her to the hobby. He began geocaching roughly 10 years ago when a group at work started. “Instead of eating, they’d go geocaching over lunch,” she said.

Beckstrand is now a veteran geocacher who has found thousands of caches. She downloads coordinates from geocaching.com to her GPS device, which then points her to the nearest treasure box. Next she “logs the find,” geocaching lingo for reporting a cache successfully found on the website. Beckstrand has even hidden several tiny “microcaches,” which can be smaller than a little finger, on campus. Hiding geocaches includes the responsibility to maintain the geocache and check on it periodically, which Beckstrand does on her way home from campus.

Some BYU students have made geocaching an adventurous way to spend time together. Jeremy Lindstrom, a recent BYU graduate, and Alyssa Lindstrom, a senior at BYU, began geocaching while they were dating, and they still do it together now that they are married. They have enjoyed searching for some of the 30 caches on campus.

The Lindstroms like to fit geocaching into their vacations, and they say that recent road trips to Texas, Colorado and Arizona took twice as long as they should have because they kept stopping on the road to find caches.

“Normally we would have raced … to the end,” Jeremy Lindstrom said. “But we stopped four or five times on (the interstate highway) and found all these cool things. And it was just more fun that way.”

The Lindstroms’ favorite find was a cache that took them off the beaten path of the interstate, away from the gas stations or tourist traps where people usually stop on trips. They took a hike through the dusty sand dunes of Arizona, where they found the rusted remains of an old car, a hidden geocache, and some petrified wood, which they took as a souvenir.

Many geocachers say the appeal lies in how geocaching takes them places they would never otherwise go. In a busy, fast-paced, technology-driven world, geocaching gives them a legitimate outlet to really enjoy the journey.

“It’s like a real-life treasure hunt,” Blake said. “And you can do it as an adult.”

Blake has been geocaching since he got his own GPS at age 15. He geocached coast-to-coast last fall and found a geocache in every state, from his home state of Massachusetts to California.

At BYU Blake has converted his neighbors to geocaching. He was doing homework late one night when he saw that a new geocache had just been “planted” in Orem. He called his friends, and they set out at midnight to find it before anyone else could.

Geocaching does require some caution. Blake usually only geocaches on campus late at night in order to avoid being seen by “muggles” — geocaching lingo for non-cachers. He has also been stopped by the police several times, because slowly stalking a stationary object can look suspicious.

Blake and a friend once decided to find a few caches at 2 a.m. in a Pennsylvania field across the street from the sheriff’s office. Several police cruisers stopped to ask what they were doing because their wanderings around the field hunting for treasure boxes looked suspicious.

Beckstrand’s husband has similar memories, such as when a police officer found him slowly circling a pine tree at a cemetery in the middle of the afternoon.

Blake said that police are usually understanding, though, and geocaching is a wholesome pastime and good exercise.

“It’s like a giant Easter egg hunt except you’ve got bigger clues,” Alyssa Lindstrom said.

Want to discover the thrill of geocaching? The Universe, just in time for Easter, is sponsoring its own on-campus geocaching contest. Please follow the instructions below:

1. Sign up. You can create an account at www.geocaching.com for free.

2. Find a GPS. There is an app for smartphones, or GPSs are available to check out in the “Maps” section on Floor 2 of the Harold B. Lee Library. Be sure to ask for a cord as well.

3. Get the clues. There are instructions on the site to help you download all the local geocaches onto your GPS.

4. Go forth and find. Sign your name on the log, and take a small item to trade out if you want anything from the cache. Be sure to hide the cache again before you leave, and don’t let any “muggles” see you.

To read more about Geocaching and opportunities to find caches abroad, click here.

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