S1E3: The History of Geocaching

If you’ve been in geocaching for a while, you may have heard reference to the day they “flipped the switch.” In this episode I look into the history of geocaching and learn how “flipping the switch” got the game started and how it’s grown into a world wide game.

Places and Things Mentioned
International Space Station Cache

– “The History of Geocaching” by gpsgames.org
– “Geocaching” by National Geographic
– “The History of Geocaching” by geocaching.com
– “Fast Facts” by geocaching.com
– “Selective Availability

Cache Highlight: “My First Mystery Cache


Welcome to geocache adventures with Me, shadowdragn1, where I talk about geocaching and my adventures with it.

For this episode we take a look at the history of geocaching and how it got started.

The Global Positioning System, commonly called GPS, was originally developed by the US Department of Defense for use by the military.  The signals where originally scrambled, known as Selective Availability, which was used to degrade the accuracy that was allowed for civilian use.  On May 1, 2000, President Clinton gave orders to disable Selective Availability and on May 2nd, satellites processed new orders that allowed civilians improved GPS accuracy. 

On May 3, 2000, Dave Ulmer, who was a computer consultant, decided to test the new GPS accuracy with what he called the “Great American GPS Stash Hunt”.  He hid a black bucket I the woods near Beavercreek, Oregon and posted the coordinates of it’s location on the internet.  To locate the bucket, the finder would have to use his or her GPS receiver.  There was only one rule, “take some stuff, leave some stuff”.

Within three days, two different people used their GPS devices to find the stash and posted about their experiences.  Soon after, others started to hide their own containers and posting the coordinates online and a hobby was born.  Mike Teague, one of the original finders of Ulmer’s stash, created an emailing list and home page to document and share coordinates and discuss about the game.  One such discussion was for name ideas.  About a month after Dave Ulmer’s initial hide, a man named Matt Stum coined the term geocaching to avoid any negative connotations from using the term stash.

A few months after it’s start, a web developer named Jeremy Irish stumbled across Teague’s website while researching GPS technology.  After discovering that a cache was near by, he went on his first hunt.  After experiencing the thrill of his first find, Irish decided to use his web developer skills to make a site for the hobby and created geocaching.com.

Until this point, geocaching was confined to existing experienced GPS users who were already using the technology for outdoor activities.  Tools for determining if a cache was nearby were scarce if existent at all.  Thanks to Irish’s site, cache listings were now held in a single database that helped to standardize listings and allowed players to search for caches by zip codes.  When the site was launched September 2, 2000, there was 75 known caches in the world.  The geocachiing.com website, host an online community and shop along with it’s searchable cache database.

Today, the hobby has grown to a world wide game with more than 3 million caches in 191 countries throughout all 7 continents.  There is even a cache on the International Space Station. 

Warning: This part of the show contains spoilers for the cache that is about to be discussed.

For this week’s cache highlight, the story of the first mystery cache I tried to find

The cache was called “My First Mystery Cache”

Cache ID: GC2W3WD

Difficulty rating 2.5, Terrain rating 2

The description read:


This is my first attempt at making a mystery cache, before this i have had help in making mystery caches. I hope that this one is a challenge for some and fun for others.

This cache is located in the woods, you will need to do a little bit of bushwhacking to reach GZ.

Please do your best to rehide the cache aswell, or better than you found it. Thank You

The cache is available from 7a – 12M Apr. 1 – Nov. 14, 8a – 10p Nov. 15 – March 31.

No hint was provided.

I’ve always liked puzzles and mysteries, so when I learned about mystery caches I want to try one out.  I looked on the geocaching app for one in my area that seemed like it had a reasonable difficulty rating for my first one.  I came across “My First Mystery Cache” and it seemed fitting.  I read the description and was lost at first.  There didn’t seem to be any puzzle.  I did some googling and came across some tips for solving mystery caches, link in available in the show notes.  The tip that suck out for this situation was to highlight the text for hidden messages.  I followed the tip and pulled up the cache on my computer and highlighted the text in the cache description and sure enough, there was a hidden message.  The message said, “The real cache coordinates can be found in the source code.”  So to the source code I went and found the coordinates.

A few weeks later I went out on my own in search of the cache.  The coordinates lead me off a walking trail down a hill into a wooden area.  I searched for a while but couldn’t find anything.  I went though the cache activity logs and found and entry that said the container was an ammo box that was covered in mirrors to camouflage into its background.  I searched and search some more but couldn’t find it.  I looked at the geocache app again realized I was looking in the wrong spot.  The coordinates I had pulled up were actually the coordinates of the pin location.  I had pulled the wrong coordinates from the source code.  I left empty handed and went off to find a different mystery cache across town, which I did manage to find.

After returning home, I went back to my computer to search the source code again.  I finally came across the correct coordinates which were in a park a few miles away from the pin locations.  It was a couple of months later before I had a chance to go back out to find this cache.  This time I was found myself in the woods off of a different walking path, and to a fallen tree where I found the mirrored ammo box tucked along side it.

In the end, the first mystery cache I tried to solve ended up not being the first one that I found or solved correctly.  But I did find it because I kept trying and I think that’s the most important part of mystery caches, to just keep trying.  As the old adage goes, if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.

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