Courtesy of Stephen O'Gara and Geocaching.com Stephen O'Gara of Team Ventura Kids geocaching in South Hills Park, in Glendora
In La La Land, the home of movie magic, we're used to our surroundings being not quite what they seem. But did you know, at this very moment, you are surrounded by thousands of tiny containers of various shapes and sizes, camouflaged in bushes, hidden in fake electrical boxes, attached by magnet to the bottoms of bar stools and perched atop stop-signs? You might need an ultra-violet light to discover the final clue to find them or wait for low tide to wade out to a cave at the beach, but they're there. That creepy guy at the bus stop who keeps looking around suspiciously might be totally nuts...or he might be a geocacher.
Geocaching is a worldwide treasure hunt that began in May 2000 when the U.S. government gave up "selective availability" and allowed civilians to use GPS devices with almost perfect accuracy for the first time. Computer consultant David Ulmer was one of many GPS enthusiasts brainstorming how this newly available technology could be used. The day after "selective availability" was lifted, Ulmer decided to hide a bucket in the woods near his home in Beavercreek, Oregon filled with prizes and post the coordinates online for anyone to find. He called it "The Great American GPS Stash Hunt" and its one rule was, "Take some stuff; leave some stuff."
Within three days, two readers had found Ulmer's bucket using personal GPS devices, and more readers had begun to hide boxes and post coordinates online. By September 2000, there were 75 caches across the country. Now there are 2 million around the world. One hundred seventeen thousand of those are in California and over 300 are within a 5 mile radius of our own 90012.
Today, Geocaching.com is the hub of all things geocache and the place to find the coordinates of caches around the world. Geocachers can use the gps on their smart phones and download an app that identifies the caches closest to them at any given time. The app provides maps, comments from fellow finders and clues. Even though the coordinates lead you to the cache's location, the real trick is is finding the camoed pillbox hanging in a nearby tree or knowing which sprinkler head is actually a hidden geocache filled with booty.
Los Angeles has become a world hotspot for geocaching, partly because of our year-round mild climate, partially because of our tech savvy population and partially because of our varied and intriguing terrain. "Whatever geocaching experience you're looking for, you can find it in L.A.," claimed real estate broker and geocacher Andy Perkins in a phone interview. "On the same day, you can be digging for boxes at the beach, grab easy urban caches through the city, then head up to the mountains or out to the desert."More »