Trea­sure Hunt: Equicaching

Sad­dle up, and search for hid­den trea­sure through equicaching — geo­caching on horse­back.

Trail Rider - - FEATURES - BY JENNY SUL­LI­VAN

HHow many of us dreamed as a kid about se­cret pi­rate maps and find­ing buried trea­sure? Well, dream­ers unite! Now you can live out this child­hood fan­tasy in real life. And for horsepeo­ple, it’s even bet­ter, be­cause the trea­sure hunt takes place on horse­back.

Trea­sure Trekking

Trea­sure hunt­ing in this day and age is called geo­caching, and it’s a world­wide phe­nom­e­non. Ac­cord­ing to the sport’s of­fi­cial web­site, Geo­caching.com, founded in 2000, there are more than two mil­lion geo­caches set up around the globe and more than five mil­lion geo­cachers — both those who hide and those who seek.

Here’s how it works: In­di­vid­u­als and groups have set up trea­sure troves in all man­ner of sizes and places, then posted their geo­caches’ lo­ca­tions on Geo­caching. com us­ing Global Po­si­tion­ing Sys­tem co­or­di­nates. In­ter­ested trea­sure hun­ters then use hand­held GPS units to fol­low the co­or­di­nates to the geo­cache.

Geo­caching was orig­i­nally de­signed for hik­ers. Eques­tri­ans have found that equicaching (geo­caching on horse­back) is a nat­u­ral ex­ten­sion of geo­caching, es­pe­cially since many geo­cache-rich hik­ing trails are mul­tiuse trails that al­low horse­back rid­ing. Equicaching can also be part of a group trail ride or horse-camp­ing trip.

Tech Meets Trail

Equicaching sounds easy, right? Kind of a high-tech hide-and-seek. Well, it’s a bit more chal­leng­ing than it sounds, since GPS tech­nol­ogy only gets you within the range of the geo­cache. You still have to find the geo­cache, which is hid­den.

The easy part is that you can ex­plore the wide world of equicaching with just the ba­sics: a trail-savvy horse; a way to trailer your horse to the trails near the geo­cache (if needed); and a hand­held GPS unit or a geo­caching ap­pli­ca­tion on your smart­phone or tablet.

GPS units cost be­tween $100 and $1,000, depending on how fancy you want the func­tion­al­ity to be. Well-known brands in­clude DeLorme, Garmin, Magellan, and Rand McNally. (For con­tact in­for­ma­tion on top GPS unit man­u­fac­tur­ers, along with selec­tion tips, see page 28.) You can also rent a unit. (Go to www.tek 4travel.com.)

The Geo­caching.com app for an An­droid or Ap­ple mo­bile de­vice is about $30 per year; or you can sign up for a three-month mem­ber­ship for $10.

What’s in a Geo­cache?

Geo­cache con­tain­ers can range from a tiny me­tal cylin­der hid­den un­der­neath a rock to a re­cy­cled high school me­tal locker cam­ou­flaged in­side a dead tree trunk.

Geo­caches usu­ally in­clude some type of log for you to record your find. The log may be any­thing from a note­book to a small tightly rolled slip of pa­per, depending on the size of the geo­cache con­tainer. Some geo­caches hold only the log; these are marked “Log Only” on Geo­caching.com.

Some geo­cache con­tain­ers may also hold sur­prises that have been left for you to en­joy, such as homemade items, lit­tle plas­tic or rub­ber knick­knacks, or even gift cards.

As an equicacher, you can leave some­thing equine in na­ture, such as a horse­shoe-nail ring, a small horse-ori­ented token, or a bit of braided mane hair tied with a rib­bon.

When you’ve fin­ished cel­e­brat­ing your find and sign­ing the log book, close the geo­cache con­tainer tightly to keep out the weather, and re­place it ex­actly as you found it. Then log your find on Geo­caching.com.

Con­sider hid­ing a sep­a­rate geo­cache

for a seeker to find. (For how to hide a geo­cache con­tainer, go to www.geo­caching.com/ play/ hide.)

Equi caching Eti­quette

Geo­caching has been around long enough that it has de­vel­oped its own rules of eti­quette. Here are a few rules that also ap­ply to equicaching: • If you take some­thing, leave some­thing of equal or greater value. Most items should be placed in zip-close plas­tic bags. • Never leave a per­ish­able item in the cache

con­tainer. • Re­place the con­tainer just as you found it so the next ex­plorer has the same chance you had to find it. • If you can’t find a geo­cache, no mat­ter how hard you search, log that in­for­ma­tion on Geo­caching.com, as well. It’ll in­di­cate to the geo­cache owner that it’s time to make sure the geo­cache hasn’t dis­ap­peared or been van­dal­ized. • Clean up the area around the geo­cache. • Reg­u­lar folks who don’t geo­cache or equicache are called “mug­gles.” Be care­ful if they’re around while you’re search­ing — you don’t want them to undo the magic of equicaching!

Know Be­fore You Go

As in any trail-rid­ing ad­ven­ture, there are safety pro­to­cols to keep in mind as you pre­pare to head out on your first equicaching es­capade. Here are a few you need to know.

• Never go equicaching alone. This type of ad­ven­ture is al­ways more fun with friends. What if you get to the geo­cache lo­ca­tion, but you need to climb a rock or go bush­whack­ing through the un­der­brush to find the trea­sure? Hav­ing an­other pair of hands to hold the horses on the trail while you ex­plore is the best way to op­ti­mize the ex­pe­ri­ence. Then, af­ter dis­cov­er­ing the trea­sure, you can re­turn to the trail and let your rid­ing buddy ex­plore.

• Con­sider the weather. Satel­lite sig­nals can be af­fected by in­clement weather. This means your GPS unit may not be com­pletely ac­cu­rate. Be aware of this as you head out for your ad­ven­ture, and maybe con­sider a backup op­tion if your GPS unit isn’t work­ing when you get to the trail.

• Plan your route in ad­vance. GPS mea­sures dis­tances as the crow flies, not as the horse trots. A geo­cache that’s sup­pos­edly 500 yards ahead may re­quire you to go a much greater dis­tance by the trail to reach it. Re­search the trail in ad­vance, and even print out maps, so you’ll know where to park your rig.

• Mark the trail. As you head down the trail, use some method to mark your way (such as stack­ing three rocks). This will help you find your way back af­ter the ex­cite­ment of the trea­sure hunt has worn off, and you, your rid­ing bud­dies, and your equine friends are ready to head home.

Now, load up your trusty trail horse, sad­dle up, and go make those child­hood trea­sure-hunt­ing fan­tasies come true! Discover equicaching!

JENNY SUL­LI­VAN PHOTO

As an equicacher, you can leave some­thing equine in na­ture in the geo­cache, such as a horse­shoe­nail ring, a small horse-ori­ented token, or a bit of braided mane hair tied with a rib­bon.

Eques­tri­ans have found that equicaching (geo­caching on horse­back) is a nat­u­ral ex­ten­sion of geo­caching, es­pe­cially since many geo­cache-rich hik­ing trails are mul­tiuse trails that al­low horse­back rid­ing.

AN­DREA BARBER PHOTO GPS tech­nol­ogy only gets you within the range of the geo­cache. You still have to find the geo­cache, which is hid­den and some­times clev­erly cam­ou­flaged.

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